Saturday, December 31, 2011


I have discovered that there are certain moments and places when I feel so “secure”, so “safe”, so “loved” that I just don’t want to lose it at all. But like everything in this world these are things to be “glimpsed” rather than fully lived. They are places of refuge in a chaotic world.
One of those places is the arms of a child. Whoever would have thought security could be found in such a small circle? I have discovered that when one of my grandchildren gives me a hug I would rather just stay there. With their arms around my neck, and their head resting on my shoulder I can find no good reason for me to move. I want time to stop right there.
It was the same way when my daughters were little. Even now as adults I find that simply knowing that I have their enduring love and trust inspires me to greater things. Two of the greatest feelings I think a parent can have is when a child simply puts her arms around your neck and holds on, and when they fall asleep in your arms. It shows that someone is willing to put their complete trust in you whether you feel worthy of that trust or not. When a child falls asleep in your arms you realize at some fundamental level that they have just placed their life in your hands. And at that same level you make a commitment to protect his or her life at the cost of your own if necessary, just because you know they trust you. This is why the betrayal of a child’s trust is so horrendous, and why the punishment for it should be just as severe.
When a child asks the big questions in life that occur to them (usually at inopportune times) they trust that we will have the answers regardless of their difficulty.
Our children do not consider whether we deserve their trust, they simply give it. They do not understand that our answers may be incorrect, and that they are based on our own limited knowledge of the creation in which we live. We are the sole source of their knowledge until they reach a point where they obtain the tools to gain it on their own.
I have to wonder if this is one of the things that Jesus was talking about when He admonished the disciples for attempting to keep the children away from Him. He asks us to be like children in order to come to Him. He is, in effect, simply saying, “Trust me.” And when He called the His most frequently used phrase was made up of two words, “Follow Me.” And they did. They left everything they knew because they suddenly knew Him better. They trusted Him for the simple fact that they recognized Him as the One Who Loves Us.
He will never victimize you.
His love for you will never be less than complete.
We begin a new year. My prayer for you right this minute and throughout your life is that you will begin again with the knowledge of His limitless love for you. That you will learn to live a new life according to His view of you rather than your own.
His image of you is perfect.
He sees you as He made you to be.
I pray that you will see the love in His eyes as He gazes at you while you fall asleep in His arms.
I pray for you, and for me, that we will learn to live His life as our own.
©2011 Dan Bode

Thursday, December 15, 2011


There were so many unknowns right from the beginning.
Mary was a young woman, unmarried and pregnant in a culture that, in many cases, stoned to death those caught in adultery. Still, even knowing and accepting this practice as a product of this same culture, her first response is not one of fear but puzzlement, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah’s birth for thousands of years. Most women wanted to have the honor of being the one to give birth to Him, but I doubt they thought He would come in this manner.
Even after time to reflect on the situation where most would agonize over it her response was one of the most beautifully heartfelt paeans of praise recorded in scripture:
The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56)
And Mary said:
"My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
"For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name. …”

Joseph, a carpenter, well liked in his community, stops to wonder how his betrothed could possibly have done this? Did he wonder how she could come up with such a story? Did he look around with suspicion at the other men in his community and wonder which of them could be the father?
And yet, after just a dream, he believes God, and in turn chooses to believe Mary. His trust in the reassurances of God led to his trust in Mary.
“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25) He “kept her a virgin” implies that he believed she was a virgin still, and therefore believed what God had told him in his dream.
What a truly astounding man Joseph must have been to be chosen to raise the Son of God! I have so many questions for him!

And after all of this they are forced to undertake a journey to Bethlehem for a census. When they started their journey to Bethlehem did they see the star? Did they look at the sky in awe, or did they have their eyes constantly on the road ahead? Were they aware that it had anything to do with their child? Did they realize it was a sign for others?

The birth of Christ was the greatest Gift ever given, but for all of us, not just for Mary and Joseph. I wonder sometimes just when did they start to see this unfolding series of events as the Gift? Did they understand what it cost God to give it as they dealt with all its ramifications in their own world?
Do I?
Not a chance.

The list of the gifts of God in scripture is rather long, and generous as well if you look at them merely from the standpoint of numbers. God gives us gifts that are a part of His essence. He gives us something that is not separate from Himself. The Gifts of God are a living part of Him, and they remain alive within us.
When we give gifts they are not predicated on any sacrifice of ourselves. We spend money to buy something someone wants (hopefully). Our concept of “gifting” does not generally include giving something that is precious to us. We take something that exists somewhere and pass it along. We rarely make it our own. It is really more like a transaction than anything else.
Yet when God gives us gifts we are empowered on His behalf to make something ultimately better in this world for someone else, but in His case the gift is never separated from Him, and therefore maintains our connection to Him whenever we use it.

Perhaps it is not so much what we give, as it is that it be given willingly. When the Wise Men came they brought gifts fit for a king, but I wonder if they realized that what they offered was something He already owned?
What is precious to us is precious to Him only in the sense that we have become willing to let something go, or embrace something more fully, in order to draw nearer to Him. And so what holds value to me becomes more valuable to Him because I gave it up for Him.
My pain.
My grief.
My sins
My talents.
My joys.
My loves.
And the gifts He gives to me are tools that ultimately improve my relationship with Him.
My ultimate question in this regard is this: What is the quality of the gift I give to Him?
If it all belongs to Him anyway what is the difference?
What do you give to the One who has everything? We keep applying the human concept of gift giving to God. We can never fully understand the value of the gifts of Christ. He gave us Everything, but we can only give back what He has already sacrificed everything to give us.
The greatest gift I can give to Him is to use what He has already given me for His glory up to, and including, my life.

When I was a child I wanted to give my mother a Christmas present. I had no money of my own to buy one so I had to ask her for some. And of course she had to approve the purchase, so she knew everything about my gift to her before she received it. I remember agonizing over my choice as I stood in the hardware store aisle. I bought her a clear plastic bin with a blue lid that I presented to her as a “bread box”. I don’t think that was how it was advertised as I couldn’t read at the time, but that’s how I thought it could best be used. It sat on the kitchen counter as a bread storage bin for quite some time. She chose to use the gift for the purpose it was given. In a sense my gift to her was something she already owned by the time she received it, yet what gave it worth in her eyes was the simple fact that it came from my hand with the heart of my intentional love for her.

Christ’s birth was an intentional event. It was planned to have the impact it had on Mary and Joseph. God knew what it would do to their lives. He is not oblivious to the impact His actions or gifts have on us. It takes on even greater value when we individually realize the overwhelming love for each of us that went into the choice of that Gift.
I have to wonder if God chose the Messiah to come as a baby just because the birth of a baby will always change your life. Always. He could have had Jesus just appear as an adult, but no one really likes to wait for their gift do they? If Jesus had been accepted as the Messiah by everyone from the day of His birth I have to wonder how patient the world would have been if they knew they had to wait 30 years before He would do anything. Even though they had been waiting for thousands of years already I’d be willing to bet they would have complained about it. I’m pretty sure I would have.
We never know what impact any event will have on our future, but like Mary and Joseph, we know God can take ownership of it if we let Him. In their case God had ownership from the beginning, but they acknowledged it knowing how far beyond them true understanding was.
A true gift to someone, even in human terms, has some basis in our affection for the other person to varying degrees. This is also true of God in the gifts He gives to us.
The difference is that there is no variance in the degree of love He pours out on us. His love for us is complete, total, and unconditional. When God says He loves you there is no doubt that the one and only Maker of All Things is ready and willing to cradle you in His arms.
And when He gives you The Greatest Gift, your greatest gift in return is to simply accept it. All you have to do is say “Yes”.
I look back on my childhood concept of gifts and realize that I had very well defined standards of what qualified. It all revolved around two key concepts: “need” and “want”. If I needed it (like clothes) it didn’t qualify as a gift in my mind. A gift could only be something I wanted. God, in His Gift to us, combined these concepts so that we might “want” what we really “need”. And, like the child I often still resemble, I fall asleep eagerly awaiting Christmas morning where my most desired gift will be there under the tree, the wrapping still pristine. I will tear through the wrapping and my need will be satisfied eternally. And I will fall asleep again and wake up the next morning to the same gift, wrapped the same perfect way, and open it all over again, so that my eternal “need” will be daily fulfilled with what I really “want” and just didn’t know it.
Every day is Christmas.
Merry Christmas.
©Dan Bode 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Silent and Holy Night

It was indeed a Silent and Holy night.
There was little left to do but watch. The animals had long since fallen asleep. The small town activities had for the most part ceased, and those who still escaped the realm of dreams were oblivious to the occasion to which they were not witness. Most were merely puzzled by the Star never seen before even though it seemed to hover right over this little town of Bethlehem, a town whose very existence was based on the industry of providing sacrificial lambs for the temple in Jerusalem.
The only sounds were the moans of a young, soon-to-be mother in the final hours of a labor that had begun in the Garden so long ago. The will of her body was overcome by the need of the moment as contraction after contraction contorted her features with pain. But she had known this was out of her control from the moment she became aware of His presence.
The only other person aware of the import of this moment is the man at her side. The one on whose shoulders fall the responsibility of helping to bring into this world He who will be the Flesh of God.
All the questions that race through their minds are pushed aside as the symphony of the birthing process reaches its crescendo, and suddenly the Life of Man is Present in this world.
I find myself envious of their perspective. They were there at the beginning, and all they knew of the child at that moment was the name of His Father and His role as Savior of the world. They could take joy in the grasping hands and the baby’s laughter.
I, on the other hand, have the historical perspective as well.
I can look back at His birth, and look back at His death as well.
And there lies the difference..
I cannot see the newborn babe without the grown man on the cross.
I cannot see the grasping hands without the nails piercing His flesh.
I cannot see the smooth brow without the thorns.
What I can see is the mercy of our maker.
Some would say we deserve only His pity for what we’ve done with what he’s give us, but pity is merely mercy without action, and God can never be described as complacent.
He has always been active in His love for us, even undeserving as we are. And because of all this I will always see the whole life of Christ as the Great Substitution. Completely undeserved.
Undeserved by Christ for suffering penalties not meant for Him.
Undeserved by me for being unable to make the necessary sacrifice. It took so long for me to discover that I truly needed a Savior.
And so I sit as the world goes by around me; almost everyone once again oblivious to the occasion to which they are not witness.
So, into this Silent and Holy Night I have these three things to say:
God have mercy.
Joy to the world when you recognize your Lord.
Happy Birthday Jesus!
©Dan Bode 2002

Friday, December 2, 2011

What did the shepherds think?

What did the shepherds think?
Their part in the life of Christ did not end on the night of His birth.
How did they feel when the angels told them of Christ’s birth?
Certainly they were awestruck. They were most likely quite shocked to be chosen to receive this announcement. They were, after all, fairly low on the social scale even though they were the guardians of the main resource of the towns’ primary industry. They were perhaps not well known for their social skills. They were out in the hills by themselves for long periods of time, and human interaction seldom occurred. The appearance of angels announcing a birth would be shocking enough, but they must have wondered at the significance of their inclusion in it at all. They were, as a matter of course, avoided by the general population.
Perhaps it was later that they began to understand the significance of their role in Jesus’ life. Perhaps even years later, when Jesus’ ministry was in full swing, and if they realized that this Jesus was the same babe they once honored, when John the Baptist announced Him as the Lamb of God, maybe it was then that they began to see the implication of their presence in the stable. For the reality of their job, their vocation, one that was often passed on from father to son for generations, was to raise these lambs for sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem.
This was the industry of this little town of Bethlehem.
They were raised to be laid across the altar as atonement for the sins of the people. The perfect lamb was chosen and killed from the flocks they raised! Not since Abraham had stretched his own son Isaac across the stones had a human ever laid upon the altar, and he had been spared. Simply taking the title of The Lamb told the world who He was, for those who had ears to hear.
Did they perhaps hear of this and cover their mouths as they gasped in surprise? This babe, this Man, the Lamb?
How could this be?
And again, how did they feel when this same man who called himself the Son of God, also named Himself the Good Shepherd? Did they straighten their spines with the implication of the honor He gave them? Did they plant their shepherd’s staffs a little more firmly and let the light of pride shine in their eyes? Did they smile and think, “I knew Him! I was there when He was born!”?
Would they not also bow their heads in sorrow, and let a tear roll down a weathered cheek when they new the final destination of the unblemished lamb?

And how is it that He was both lamb and shepherd?
As the Lamb He knew He needed a caring and watchful eye on Him to insure His safety and fulfill His needs.
As a Shepherd He knew exactly what a lamb needed when He took them to the still waters, He knew how best to protect them; by laying down His life for them on the altar where they were meant to lie.
As a man He knows our needs.
As our God He knows our needs.
But all of this must have come later to the minds of the shepherds. They could not have known all that He was as they beheld Him in the manger. All they knew was the joy His birth brought the world that day, overwhelming as it was. They saw and heard a heavenly host, and found a King in lowly circumstance.
And in so many ways and so many times I am left to wonder what it must have been like to be a shepherd, kneeling before that bed of hay bringing with me the only gift I had available to me and saying,
“I am but a lowly shepherd and I have so little, but here, I have brought for you this perfect lamb….”
©Dan Bode 2004

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I wrote this back in 2000. A friend recently reminded me of it and I thought it was worth putting it out there again. I hope you like it.

Our lives are often marked by moments.
We do not remember every day of our lives, but there are some that stand out as milestones that are indelibly etched in our memories. Whether they are good or bad, they play a role in shaping us as persons. Sometimes our entire lives revolve around one single moment. It can take years before we live in another moment that impacts us like the last one.
A friend of mine related a story of a moment in a young man’s life that he had the opportunity to witness.
My friend’s son is on his high school’s basketball team, and they were playing their last game of the season. There was a boy named Patrick who is the student-manager. He is a special education student, and always enthusiastic in his role. He has tried to make the team in the past, but he never qualified so he shifted his considerable energies to supporting his team in the best way he could. He apparently had a positive attitude and spirit the team appreciated, always there to pass out towels and water. Always there to encourage the players in open admiration of their abilities. As a means of expressing their appreciation of him the team approached the coach and asked that he be allowed to wear a team jersey and go out on the court to participate in the game. The coach agreed.
When the team gave Patrick his jersey on the day of the game he put it on and proudly wore it all day at school. It was the beginning of his moment.
The game began that evening and the coach spoke to the opposing team’s coach to tell him of his team’s intentions regarding Patrick. The other coach agreed to help. At a certain point in the game Patrick was sent in. His team had the ball and it was passed to him. The opposing coach called off his guards and Patrick took a shot from the 3-point line. It fell short, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he got to play.
Later in the game, just a few minutes before the end, my friend’s son Ryan signaled the coach indicating that he should take him out and send in Patrick.
The other team had the free throw and they were ahead by several points. There was no way his team was going to win, but that didn’t matter. He was in the game and he was going to play his best. It was his moment.
As the other team made their free-throw Patrick was sent down to the other end of the court. Two of the guards started to follow him down, but their coach waved them off and Patrick found himself by the basket alone. One of his teammates rolled the ball down the court to him, and he looked up at the basket and took the shot.
The ball went through the hoop just as the final buzzer sounded.
Everyone went wild. His team rushed him and hugged him. The other team cheered him too. The crowd chanted his name, “Pa-trick! Pa-trick! Pa-trick!” His team, whose jersey he proudly wore, had lost the game, and yet they cheered for him. They lost, yet they won. By allowing him to play they had contributed to his worth and affirmed his spirit with dignity. They had given him an instance of greatness, and in the gift had attained a greatness of their own.
They gave him his moment.
And don’t for one minute think he will ever forget it.
He will be defined as a person by knowing that others thought enough of him pass him the ball, and truly be a part of the team. Something he had longed for.
I suspect everyone else in that gym watching the game will remember it too. It was a moment for them as well. A moment when joy was suddenly present in what would have been a less than boisterous instance. A moment when the good in this young man was acknowledged as each of us wishes to be acknowledged.
But this is just one moment out of a countless multitude of them.
Consider the moments in your own life. Try as you might you probably can’t remember them all right now, but the ones you need come to you when you find yourself in a situation that reminds you.
Here are some of the moments in my life:
My big brother Bill coming home on leave from the Air Force.
The big family Christmas gatherings.
The day my mother told me she and my father were getting a divorce.
The last time I saw my mother before she died.
The day I met my best friend Shawn.
The last time I saw my father before he died.
The day I became a Christian.
The day I married my wife.
The day my first daughter was born.
The last time I spoke to my childhood friend Ron before he died of a brain tumor.
The day my second daughter was born.
The games I used to play with my daughters when I woke them up on Saturday mornings.
The day my youngest daughter had surgery to remove her adenoids.
The day my oldest daughter had her gall bladder removed.
The day it was discovered my wife had a brain tumor.
The day she had surgery to remove it.
The overwhelming support we received from our family and friends and the strength I gained in my faith.

One after another the moments of my life come to me. All of them are related somehow. If my parents had not died I would not have met and married my wife. I would not have the privilege of being her husband and being the father to two wonderful daughters. If I had not been there to watch Ron die I never would have developed the appreciation of my faith that I have. If I had not seen my parent’s relationship, I would never have known what to avoid in a relationship.
There are many others that I have not named, but I could fill many pages and still not name them all. Some are painful and some are full of joy. There were times when a certain moment eagerly consumed all of my resources. I would examine and reexamine it for what seemed like ages. Many times I would not stop thinking about it until another came along that derailed my scrutiny of the previous one. God used each one to create in me something He could use, and I may never know His full intention in His use of me. I no longer have a need to know it all. What I do know is that He is not creating me in a casual manner. He is doing it deliberately and lovingly. He is taking His care with me to make me into someone valuable to Him. We are infinitely more valuable to Him than we are in any human eyes. It is not just a simple sketch He draws with us, but a full painting using every color He has created; a masterpiece that will always have His full and undivided attention as He perfects every detail. Every stroke of the brush on the canvas is a defining moment in our lives. When the moment comes I am astonished at the notice He takes of me, and I either weep at being humbled, laugh with joy, or both. All of my expectations and values are suddenly suspended. I abruptly find myself looking at life with no preconceptions. All of my expectations become meaningless. All of my good intentions are worthless. My reaction to His touch is never indifferent. Neutrality is simply impossible when dealing with God.
Now I tend to live my life moment to moment, and sometimes there are significant intervals of time between them. But given the reaction I usually have each one gives me plenty to work with until the next one comes along. There have been plenty of times when the moment was not welcome. His touch upset my plans, or brought to light some aspect of myself I had been comfortably ignoring. But even as I acknowledge these attitudes I am forced to recognize that before God I have no rights. He holds all the cards. He made all the rules. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," (Isaiah 55:8). He is perfectly within His rights and abilities to interrupt me whenever He wishes.
And so I lay here on the ground staring at a night sky so vast I get lost just looking at it, knowing that behind it all God, in His most intimate knowledge of me and my needs, is preparing to send me my next moment.
©Dan Bode 2000

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I’ve been learning a lot about the “D” word lately.
I recently had surgery on my right foot and Achilles tendon which requires a lengthy recovery period. I can’t put any weight on it for six weeks and I have to keep it elevated. This means that have to sit around with my foot in the air and let everyone else do a lot of the stuff that I would normally do myself. I recently noticed that the cushions of my couch are starting to conform to the shape of my backside. Of course it had to be my right foot so I can’t even drive.
It’s driving me up the wall, but I am very reluctantly learning a few things.
Allowing yourself to be served is as important as allowing yourself to be used as a servant.
Being served by others has forced me to recognize my limits. I’m one of those people who really just hate to ask anyone to do anything for me. I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t want to be needy. The real disadvantage to this is that all of us will eventually come up against some task that will overwhelm our individual resources. When this happens to me I then fail to fulfill my obligations because I don’t want to depend on anyone else by asking anyone for help in doing a job that was never meant for just one person. The task then remains incomplete or inadequately completed. The ironic twist in this situation is that the ability to depend on others actually makes me more dependable when a group of individuals comes together to complete the task as one.
This is the essence of fellowship. The members of the Body are supposed to depend on each other.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:23-25)
We each take up a little bit of the slack in each others’ lives to make it less of a burden, because life is truly a burden for some. Dependence requires contact with others that prevents us from retreating into our shell of isolation that we are naturally prone to do, and which, by the way, Satan uses to great effect. Dependence allows us to appreciate the gifts of others. We see skills and abilities in others that were previously unknown to us.
This is also an area where many churches fail. We each see ourselves as caring individuals, and we see others as being just as caring. The problem is that we assume all of our caring friends are acting on their caring motives, while they quietly assume that we are doing the same.
And no one does anything, and a quiet sigh of lonely resignation is breathed over the phone that does not ring, or the knock on the door that never comes.
Waiting to say “Hi” to someone or pray for them when you see them at church is not enough. If no one seeks them out between Sundays there is simply no reason for them to return. Thinking good thoughts about someone does them no good unless I tell them I am thinking of them to find out what’s really happening in their lives.
Several years ago I read a news account of a man in Germany who was found dead in his apartment. The saddest part of the story was when they noted how they knew the approximate date of his death. He died sitting at his table reading the TV guide for a date seven years before the day anyone noticed he was gone. All that was left of him was a skeleton in rotting clothes. His monthly stipend had been automatically deposited in his bank account, and his rent automatically deducted. He depended on no one, and no one depended on him. No real value was assigned to his life by others so he was simply forgotten.
We live in what is becoming an increasingly “virtualized” world where electronic and social media have expanded our social “reach” by allowing us to communicate instantly with anyone in almost any part of the world. This is not a necessarily a bad thing, but it does promote an illusion of social intimacy that does not exist in reality. We need to hear a real voice. We need to see a real face. We need to feel the touch of a real hand.
We need to be familiar to someone else.
And the word “need” is correct. We were made to “need” and be “needed”.
The concept of “need” in human interaction is meant to nullify the effects of our inherent forgetfulness.
Dependence is a big deal.
It is a core concept of the Christian faith.
We depend on Christ for our eternal salvation.
Christ depends on us to carry out His desires here on earth.
But there is a world of difference in the type of dependence that is expressed in these two aspects of that concept.
Our dependence on Christ develops out of our inherent need. Our survival depends on the salvation that only He provides.
His dependence on us develops out of His desire to save us from ourselves. He calls upon us to give to others what He has given us to benefit everyone. He doesn’t need us to accomplish this, but He gives us the opportunity knowing that it will benefit each of us as much in the giving as in the receiving of the gift.
I have come to understand that my desire for independence makes me a lesser person. In terms of my faith and fellowship it separates me from those I need in order to be complete. In the words of John Donne,
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.
I cannot be an adequate servant if I am unable to allow myself to be served. I will never understand the needs of others if I only look at life through my own eyes.
Give yourself up.
Be Dependent.
©Dan Bode 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


God is Sovereign.
This is a fact that will affect every one of us in the end whether we like it or not. The word “Sovereign” is typically used in reference to royalty. It means the person in royal authority has the final say and complete control over those subjects within the kingdom. While the word does describe God’s authority over His creation I think it falls short of the full implication His presence means to us. For God to be Sovereign means that He does not delegate or diminish His own authority to anyone. For God to be Sovereign means that He has full authority over everything. That means everything. Every person, every animal, every blade of grass, every molecule of oxygen we breath. His Sovereignty permeates every aspect of every moment of our lives. Because of this He can be seen in every aspect of His creation, He can be heard in every expression of joy and every cry of pain because He knows them all.
The human limitation to sovereignty demands that we acknowledge the sovereign ruler in order for him to have authority over us.
The Sovereignty of God knows no such limitation. My belief or acknowledgement of His authority has absolutely no bearing on the reach of His power. This has never stopped man from trying to express himself as his own highest authority. From the beginning man has striven to prove his autonomy. In every society that is known there has always been some evidence of worship offered to some deity, but there is always some way to manipulate that deity to reflect the will or characteristics of the people who “serve” them.
This is not true of God. God gave us absolutes that would reflect His sovereignty. Yet the hallmark of man’s existence is in his desire to look at everything in terms of a relativistic mind-set.
God created us with a need for His presence, but the moment God showed us His authority we began to seek the means of our independence from Him. We rebel against Him because we want equality with Him, not submission to Him. The Tower of Babel was built by man’s desire, and destroyed by God’s Sovereignty. We demand proof of God’s power with miracles, yet when faced with the facts of those miracles we still refuse to acknowledge His power over everything. We call the miracle a great trick, but we choose to ignore the power of a God who would pierce the wall of creation to directly intervene. Our rebellion originates with our discovery that God cannot be manipulated. God alone once ruled the nation of Israel, yet they decided that they would rather have a human king. They wanted a king who had the same frailties and faults as they themselves did. They, being as human as you and I, wanted a king who could be manipulated.
The story is told of how man one day decides he no longer needs God. Man looks upon his scientific abilities and accomplishments and determines that he is self-sufficient. Man can create life on his own and God is no longer necessary. So, man comes before God and says, “God, I have reached a point where I no longer need you. To prove my point I am going to create life just like you did, and you can create a life too and we can compare the results.”
“All right”, says God, “let’s get started.” He then picks up a hand full of dirt.
“Ok!” says Man. Man also bends over and picks up a handful of dirt, but God stops him.
“Wait a minute,” He says, “you go make your own dirt.”
This really is the essence of where man is today. Man thinks he can stand on his own, yet he fails to realize that no matter where he goes or what he does God is already there. God already knows all the facts, God has already been through all the joy and the pain, God already knows all the circumstances, and God already knows all the outcomes.
His Sovereignty will be our saving grace, or our ultimate condemnation. The choice between heaven and hell is ours, but they are ultimately the only choices we have. No matter what we do or say in life our final disposition will always be in the hands of God, not Satan, not angels, not people. Only God will ever have the final say. He has always reserved that for Himself.
Another fact about the Sovereignty of God is that He never forces it upon us.
In human terms if you are a citizen of a true monarchy you are subject to that monarchies rules. There is no vote on whether you think the laws are worth adhering to or not. You must follow those laws or face some form of condemnation.
God, on the other hand, never forces Himself on us.
We have a choice to follow some other teaching if we wish, or just go off on our own. We have a choice in this life to do whatever we want. However, His Sovereignty is proven when we discover at the end that while He gave us free will our only choices are:
1) God
2) Not God.

And if you choose door number two, no matter what name you put on it, whether it be Satan, money, power, oneness with the universe, sex, etc., if the name you fill in the blank with is not God then you will not be in His presence in the end.
God’s Sovereignty is final, and it is our only hope. It is a fact during every moment of our existence whether we are doing the dishes, or kneeling piously at the altar in church.
When I was 15 my father committed suicide.
The day of his funeral I came home and found a letter from him in our mailbox addressed to me. It was only two lines:
“Things have been a little crazy lately. I’ll be all right in a few days when I get my head screwed on straight. Love, Dad.” It was postmarked the day before he shot himself.
I still have that note somewhere. It’s packed away where I don’t see it unless I am looking for something else in the dust covered boxes packed in storage. Though it’s not always visible, the words are always there in the back of my thoughts to remind me of the consequences of waiting until the end to deal with the inevitable. My most fervent hope is that my father’s last thought was “Jesus help me…” because it is only with God’s help that I will ever see him again.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans 14:11-12 we are told:
It is written: "`As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Paul is not vague. He says every knee will bow. Our desire to stand on our own arrogance and accomplishments will mean absolutely nothing in His presence. He completely overwhelms all that we are or ever will be. There is nothing else.
This is the Sovereignty of God, and because God in his Sovereignty is all powerful, and just, He also extends to us His Grace.
His Sovereignty demands justice, justice determines guilt, and guilt demands punishment, so He meets our punishment with the sacrifice of His Son, which gives birth to Grace. And it is His grace alone that insures our ultimate survival; I have nothing to contribute to my own salvation.
God doesn’t operate on the same principals as we do. The wisdom we think will save us is nothing compared to His power, His sacrifice and His love. We want the benefit of heaven without the cost. We assure ourselves that everyone we love will be in heaven without acknowledging what we really deserve, and in doing so we are attempting to tell God who is deserving of His reward as though we are worthy. We waste our energies by listening to, and participating in, things that demean those whom we don’t think are living correctly. Because God is Sovereign it is His determination not mine. Our job is not condemnation, for we are ourselves condemned; our job is reconciliation, for we are truly reconciled who have accepted Him as Sovereign. We must learn to set aside all that we know – our highest wisdom – to allow God to fill us with His foolishness.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1Cor 1:25)
As I write this many things are happening in the world around me:
A popular high school student is killed in an auto accident,
A high school student kills several classmates with a gun he brought to school,
A baby is left in a dumpster,
A high school girl chooses to become a missionary,
A young couple joyously prepares for the birth of their first child,
A man is coming home to a wonderful family he loves with all his heart,
A broken marriage is being mended.

As far apart on the spectrum of human experience as these events may seem they are all happening in the same world, a world in which God is still Sovereign no matter the circumstance. A world in which as the ultimate Sovereign Lord, He can still heal the pain that is the result of man’s “wisdom”.
I want everyone to think of me as a nice guy, but all those whom I allow to think this don’t see me as God does. Most people see only certain facets of me rather than see me from all sides at once. They don’t see my hypocrisy, they don’t see my sin, they don’t see that I am simply as human as they are and that despite every flaw of my human condition God still allows me to call Him my Sovereign. I couldn’t even do that without His permission. Because of His power, authority and love I must always be aware that I cannot treat this relationship in a casual manner.
Because of who He is, and all He has done, I cannot give him anything less than my entire flawed, broken, and tumbledown life and say, “This is all I have to give.”
And, because of who He is, after He has stepped down from His throne and lifted my head to look in my eyes He replies with a smile brighter than the sun,
“This is all I ever wanted.”
And with those words begins a relationship that is characterized by the names of God:
King of the Jews
King of Heaven
King of Glory
King of Peace
Abba (Daddy)
Dan Bode©2001

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who Am I?

I ask many questions in life, but that’s the way I learn.
If you ask no questions you get no answers, and then you know nothing.
Now I must admit that I can wax philosophical on any number of issues, and if I listen to myself too much I start picturing myself sitting around in a sixties beatnik coffee house wearing a black beret, a turtleneck, and a goatee spouting big words whose definitions escape me while drinking carrot juice (produced from organically grown carrots of course).
Scary picture, huh? I think so too, but that doesn’t stop the questions from coming. And then my test anxiety kicks in and I can’t remember the answer! It’s not like I consciously go out of my way to ask them either. They just pop up out of nowhere. Like this morning.
I was driving into work like I do every other weekday. I was approaching the freeway on ramp minding my own business and all of a sudden I get hit with a Question. These are capital letter Questions too, not just run of the mill everyday stuff. I have no idea where they come from, but once they form my mind just runs away with them and for the rest of the day everything is viewed in the light of that Question.
So what is the Question of the day you ask?
“Who am I?”
Seems simple enough most of the time. Usually a name and Social Security number is sufficient, but this time there was a need for a deeper answer. It was as if there was suddenly a need to quench a deeper thirst that had been neglected for too long. I began to wonder if the answer is tied up in all the relationships that I am part of. I am a husband, father, brother, son, uncle and cousin. Friend and spiritual brother to numbers that time has rendered uncountable. Many relationships are close, but many are more casual as well. Regardless of the proximity of the relationship though, each one has contributed something to my life. I have learned something from everyone I know whether it is good or bad and I have contributed in the same way to others. The lessons are endless, and although the lessons and the contributions of others in my life are valuable, I am not the sum of the parts of other people.
What else is there to make me who I am? I suppose my life experiences in general could be a part of me. Many of my actions are determined by my past, yet that alone is not who I am either.
Food? Well, if we are what we eat then I’m everything, but mostly red meat, potatoes and chocolate, but that’s not the answer either.
Some of us get caught up in our possessions, and there are times when we might feel that we are owned by them rather than their owners. However, there is nothing I own that defines who I am. They may reflect some of the values I hold, but they do not define me.

The kicker is that the reality of who I am does not lie within me. My actions or philosophical viewpoints do not create my identity. In fact, at the most basic level it really has nothing to do with me at all. As a creation I take on the value my creator ascribes to me.
A potter creates something for a specific purpose, and it becomes valuable to him because of how and why he made it. It is the definition of his purpose. Anyone else’s opinion on the matter is irrelevant, because the image cast in the clay is the expression of the potter’s purpose and no one else’s. The value is in the hands of the potter.
My value lies in the hands of God. My God brought me out of nothing and made me someone. From the first He has never ceased to be devoted in His care of me. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
He knows who we are and He loves us because He created us to be loved by Him. No one among us is capable of His level of love, and so our greatest value, our most intimately understood secret, is in relation to Him alone. It is to Him we must look for our self worth rather than man.
If we look at the results of our value in the human race and our value in His eyes there is no comparison.
We have striven for independence from the beginning, and it has gotten us nothing. Our search for independence means we must find value in ourselves aside from God. So we search for some new standard, and most of the time we settle for the standard of the society in which we live. God forgives; the problem is society does not.
If you are not physically attractive by society’s standards (and every society’s standard is different) then you have less value to them.
God is not swayed by society’s values.
If you have made mistakes society will shun you.
God willingly sent His son to die in your place to cover your mistakes.
You in your supposed independence have scorned others who needed Him.
Christ was still there to welcome you with open arms when you finally acknowledged your need of Him.
All of these things are true because your identity and your value in His eyes never changed. Never.
Not at any time, nor in any circumstance.
The fact that He created you never altered. Your strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies, and mistakes are all known to Him, and they never diminished your value in any way, because nothing you did changed your value in His eyes. He has already determined your value from the beginning. While my actions may cause me to drift away from Him, His love has never diminished with distance. His attentions did not leave you when you first walked upon the earth. He has stayed with you all of your life whether you have acknowledged Him or not.
I can complain about how unloved I am by the world, or I can take comfort in the fact of God’s overwhelming love for me. He gave me purpose when no one else could give me anything.
I am constantly confronted with the idea that man seeks independence from God.
The question “Who am I?” seeks purpose, but gaining purpose comes from outside of ourselves. Therefore we have to acknowledge someone else’s authority over us, but at the same time this threatens our search for independence. This becomes a vicious circle that leaves us purposeless, without definition. If we have no definition, no purpose, then we are simply wanderers, truly separated from the love of God.
All this because we seek a complicated answer to a simple question. We refuse to realize that the One who created us did so for the simple reason that He wished to love us.
Man in his prideful attempt at independence claims, “I think, therefore I am.”
God in His loving and gracious patience with us says, “I AM, therefore you are.”
And so, at last, we come to the simple answer to the simple question that we make complicated.
Who am I?
I am…
Loved By God.
©Dan Bode 2001

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Skipping Rocks

When I was a kid my father would sometimes take me and my brothers or friends down to the marina by our house to do some fishing. An inevitable activity that occurred at some point was skipping rocks. My dad could really skip rocks well. When he taught me how to do it I can remember my excitement as I watched that first skip over the surface of the water. That activity seemed to occur whenever I was near a water source with rocks nearby from then on.
When our kids were younger my wife and I would often go out to the river that winds its way through our town to take our kids for walks along the banks. As always I continued to automatically search for rocks that I could skip. After the kids saw me do it for the first time they were suitably awed at my skill, and wanted to see it again, and again, and again. It became a custom to automatically search for rocks for dad to skip anytime we went to the river after that. Even when I didn’t really feel like skipping rocks I would find myself standing there with handfuls of rocks that my family had gathered for me. It’s not that I was that good, they just hadn’t seen anyone else skip rocks before. It’s kind of like being the first one to play a new video game, no matter how bad you do you still get the highest score on the score board because no one else has played it yet.
I taught the kids to look for rocks that were best for skipping. It had to be flat on at least one side, preferably round and not too big. I had to make the size limitation after they tried to bring me rocks they could barely carry with both hands. One day as we were on one of our outings at the river, during the inevitable rock search one of the kids found THE perfect skipping rock. It was perfectly round, just the right thickness and weight, and fit my hand just right. This was the rock David would have kept as he searched for rocks to put in his sling against Goliath. It wasn’t possible to mess up a throw with this rock. Anyway you threw it this rock would skip!
“This is a PERFECT rock!” I exclaimed.
I don’t know of anyone who ever got that excited over a rock. My kids looked at me smiling in expectation. My wife laughed. “It’s a rock!” she said.
“Yeah, but it’s a PERFECT rock!” I replied in defense.
“Throw it dad, throw it!” the kids yelled excitedly.
I set my feet for the proper throwing stance. There is a science to this after all.
I hefted the rock in my hand to gauge the weight, and took the proper grip. I swung my arm experimentally a few times just to make sure I had the right angle.
Then came the throw. I brought my arm back and pivoted as it swung forward, and let the rock fly, almost loathe to let it go because I knew I would never see a rock like this again. It flew toward the surface at great speed, and I wondered just how many skips I could get out of this one.
There was a little splash as the stone hit the water, and sank straight to the bottom. Ripples radiated out from the surface where it hit.
There was a stunned silence before I heard Kaytie say, “What happened Daddy?”
“How come it didn’t skip?” asked Jennifer.
I could hear my ever-graceful wife stifling a laugh behind me.
“I messed up!” I whined.
Somewhere along the way I had miscalculated. I had failed to use the rock in a way that would bring out its greatest potential. Now I realize that this rock was not created just for me to skip it, but its presence on that shoreline taught me a lesson.
There are a great many tools that God has placed at my disposal which I often fail to use in the proper way, or even fail to use at all. My life is one of them.
I have a great potential in the hands of the living God. Unlike the rock, which simply sits there to be used for anything that the mind of a wholly uncoordinated individual like me can come up with, I must choose to put myself in the hands of Him who has the ability to use me best. All the yesterdays I look back on will not change them. All the things I think I could have done better will not change the past, however, God is fully capable of using my worst days for a future good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28. By giving Him our past He can change our future, and when we still make our mistakes, or fail miserably at things, or experience the proverbial “trial by fire”, our greatest strength is not in the way we pick ourselves up and go on. Our greatest strength is our ability to recognize our inabilities, to recognize that out of the lump of coal we have produced He can make a priceless diamond.
The real issue then, becomes one of ownership, because I have to give Him my life in order for it to be transformed. I cannot expect the coal to become a diamond if I do not first put it into His hands in order to apply the correct pressure at the right time.
After my failure to skip that perfect rock, I picked up another, and skipped it successfully. I skipped several more and my children forgot about my failure, as children often do. They were more than willing to leave me up on a pedestal because I was their dad, even though I did not deserve that honor. As children they were more than willing to dismiss my faults, and I tried to show them a better side of myself, even while I moped inside at my loss of that perfect stone. Now they are adults, and I find I have to try harder to show them that honorable side. They are more astute at recognizing my failures, but at the same time just as willing to forgive them. “You didn’t come to a complete stop there dad.” “I don’t think you’re supposed to make a aU-turn there, dad.” Needless to say I become more conscious of some of my less than stellar habits.
The more willing I am to come down off that pedestal, the easier it is to gain forgiveness. As I put God on the pedestal more often, instead of claiming ownership of that position for myself I give Him the authority to make the necessary changes in me. He is not the God who gives me what I deserve, but who gives what I desperately need. My survival in Him is painless for me to gain, because it was painful for Him to pay the price. So I am more than content to merely sit at His feet. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10
It’s funny sometimes, but not surprising, that when I step down and He takes His rightful place on that pedestal He looks a lot bigger than me, and the best that I can do is just a feeble imitation of Him. I suppose the humor lies in the fact that I thought I could adequately fill that space at all. I have discovered that my role in the lives of others is a tool as well. I can do damage in that role or I can be a healing, comforting and joyful presence.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15. There are times when I struggle with how I should accomplish those things. It is often easier to lash back in anger than to reach out in love. It is easier to sit in judgement than to offer forgiveness. Frankly, the bottom line is that it’s easier to be an idiot than it is to be vulnerable. Putting myself in God’s hands for His use almost guarantees that I will wind up being used in a way or a place that I do not prefer. I will likely wind up somewhere outside of my own “comfort zone”. I have my own ideas of what I should do in this world that I have thought through pretty thoroughly. If things go as I want them to then all will be well, but there are plenty of examples in my lifetime of the best laid plans gone awry. And, every so often, my preferences actually fall in line with His when I actually spend time listening to Him before I make my plans.
So now I have a choice when I skip rocks. I don’t have control over the physics that cause them to fly in a given direction or angle once they leave my hand. So I can make a big pile of perfect rocks and stare at them wondering at their potential, or I can just start throwin’ em and see what they do. They will all eventually wind up where God needs them to be regardless of my influence.
©Dan Bode 2000

Saturday, June 18, 2011


John 12:8 “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

There are some things we will always have, both good and bad, but Jesus overcomes all things. He is more important than the best and the worst that we experience. We devote our time and energy to those things that have the greatest impact on our lives. We see sickness and health, wealth and poverty. All these things have a great impact on us for good or bad, and all of them can, by their impact, distract us from Christ. The essence of our relationship with Christ is that while all these things affect us at different levels we need to deal with Christ first and all other things through Him, not before or after Him.
The sequence of events in how we deal with any occasion in our lives determines the impact they have on us for Christ.
Occasionally, in some form or another the question is asked of me, “With all that you have been through why do you hold on to your faith?”
I think the answer to that question lies in what my priorities have become. I simply cannot bear to imagine my life without my faith. I’ve been there and done that. I have changed too much to go back and find satisfaction in a world without God. It would be barren and lifeless. I can no longer tolerate the world’s value system. I think about what offends God and I care about it. These things were once the furthest things from my mind. At the same time I have also reached a point where, while I love, fear and respect God, I have also come to understand that He allows questions. He allows challenges from us, for that is how we learn submission to Him. He can overcome any challenge. It is we who fear challenges to God, because we fear that He cannot meet them. We apply our own limits to God which automatically makes Him inadequate for our needs.
In his book “Reaching for the Invisible God.” Philip Yancey quotes Kathleen Norris.
“One so often hears people say, “I just can’t handle it”, when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross. I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: if we seek a God we can “handle”, that will be exactly what we get. A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size”.
In ancient times it was common practice for a farmer to worship gods that were representative of the things he had to deal with. Hence there were gods of the soil, of the sun, the rain, the harvest. He sacrificed to it in the way he saw fit and made up his own priestly rules. His god’s influence ended at his property line.
By cutting God down to a “manageable” size we attempt to make Him into someone who is our individual ideal of “enough” to satisfy our personal needs. Yet God, being limitless, is more than enough; our need, also being limitless, can never be filled by a god of our own making.
I don’t love God enough.
I don’t love my wife enough.
I don’t love my children enough.
It can never be “enough” when the source that satisfies your need is limitless.
A limitless source supplies a continuous need. A limitless source will also provide a limitless means of expression. There is always more available to give through Christ.
We are the Beloved of God. We must never desire less than He offers us. We must not maintain a minimal faith.
When our faith reaches a point where we have had “enough” then we have begun the slow and painful spiral down to death. A real faith recognizes that there is never “enough” to satisfy our thirst. True faith is never satisfied. It always searches for one more thing to believe, one more wonderful piece of evidence that proves for me once again that God loves me.
Sometimes that search takes us into areas of our lives that we would rather not go.
In the midst of my selfishness and pride I discover that my humility gives me value.
In the midst of my anger I find that a peaceful heart will accomplish more.
In the midst of all my wonderful “Christian Activities/Ministries”, I find exhaustion that forces my dependence on Christ.
In the aftermath of a cruel and bloody crucifixion, I find the pearl of the Resurrection. The latter is not possible without the former.
Sometimes the greatest treasures are the ones left unused and forgotten in the corner of the attic, covered with dust. They are the things of my childhood that were left behind with the advent of “maturity” in my social lexicon.
Many times when I am helping to care for some of the children in our church nursery, I will attempt to get them interested in some of the toys in the arsenal. Sometimes they can be a pretty hard sell, but most of the time there is something that will catch their fancy. In the process of using a random toy to catch their attention I have to admit that it gets my attention instead. Sometimes I use a particular toy to get their attention because it’s a toy I want to play with. I keep thinking to myself, “Why didn’t we have toys like this when I was a kid?” (Although I have to admit that if Elmo doesn’t shut up soon he’s gonna get his batteries yanked.) And for a little while I give up the weightier theological/social/important matters that occupy my thoughts and try to pretend that I barely know how to walk. I try to learn all over again instead of rehashing the same old information. The “big” things will all still be there when I get back to myself, because “You will always have the (fill in the blank)…” But Christ is bigger.
My priority then is to become the child Christ called me to be. To regain some of the purity of spirit that I had before I was influenced by the rest of the world. When Christ called us to be like children, I don’t think he necessarily meant for us to be blindly trusting. He wants us to trust Him completely, but He wants us to come to Him with no regard for the limitations this world would place on our relationship to Him.
When the children wanted to be near Jesus the adults were trying to hold them back. He told the adults to let them come.
“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” Matthew 19:13-15. If there was one sound that I had to think of that inspires joy in me I would have to say it is the sound of a child who is just learning that he or she has a voice. They have not yet learned to form words. Every sound they make is an experiment. Every sound is the embodiment of wonder. God knows what kids are like, and He enjoys it. Children are capable of understanding the intimacy that God desires to have with us while still acknowledging Him as the Creator of all things.
Children first want to be loved.
Christ first wants to love us.
Be like a child.
I want Him to enjoy my presence as well, and so I attempt to be the kind of person He is making me to be.
Our lives take on a weird cycle. We start out as children wanting to be adults so we can do more, and then we become adults who want to be children so someone else can take all the responsibility and we can go back to enjoying life.
Christ calls us to exactly that life, but the joy of life He desires for us is based on Him rather than the empty, selfish pursuits of the world. By the world’s standards we need “things” and “stuff” to be “happy”. We must be “visible” and “prominent”. And when we have bought all the “things”, and got all the “stuff”, and become “visible” and “prominent”, we find ourselves withered, dried up, and lifeless, dying for nothing.
The world wants me to have a relationship with Christ on its terms not on God’s terms. The world doesn’t want to actually know anything about our relationship with God. It’s enough for them to know I have that relationship as long as they don’t have to hear it. That’s enough for them.
It’s not enough for God. God is not silent about what He wants from us. “You will always have the …”, but you have God first. He wants you more than any need anyone else has, and your satisfaction in life will be greater when you seek out His desires for you before your own, or the world’s.
I don’t always want to do that though. Sometimes my desires are in direct opposition to my faith. Sometimes I collide with my faith, and it shakes me to my core. Because while I am fickle and flit to and fro amongst all the “things/stuff/values/…garbage” that the world offers, my faith being a gift of God, remains firmly fixed on God. I drift further and further from it at times, but I remain attached with this “spiritual rubber band” called my conscience that can only stretch so far before all of my justifications for doing the things I do can’t be stretched any further and I get yanked back to that rock hard and fast. I collide with my faith. After I have slammed into it and the stars have cleared from my eyes I finally get back on top and realize, “Wow! The view is so much better from here!”
It’s much easier to see the benefit of my faith in the aftermath of a crisis than in the midst of it, but it’s always what I hold on to the hardest in the difficult moments. Anything else would crumble beneath me. I know this from experience.
So now instead of trying to be a child of this world, I strive to be a child of the next, sitting in the lap of the God of Wonder…
©Dan Bode 2004

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sewer Golf

I had dinner with an old friend that I hadn't talked to in a while last week. It reminded me of a story I wrote a few years ago that was actually inspired by him. No deep spiritual truths here, just fun...a lot like my friend.

There is something going on in the underworld of cities all over the world. I don’t think “conspiracy” would be the right word, but maybe “secret society” is appropriate. Let me tell you how I know about this.
One day a few months ago I was talking to a friend of mine who was doing some work on a house he and his wife had just purchased. He said he needed a powerful toilet to replace the one in the bathroom his sons use. When I asked him why he said, “Because I have four sons. They are very “productive”, and I’m tired of plunging their toilet all the time.” He said the toilet salesman that he got the new toilet from told him that it was so powerful that it could actually flush 12 golf balls at one time!Now I have to admit that this sounds like an impressive standard to me. Especially when you realize that toilets don’t flush like they used to. The old toilets used to be able to use somewhere around 2000 gallons of water per flush. It was about enough to fill your pool (if you had a pool that you needed to fill in a hurry and about 200 gallons of chlorine to sterilize it with). Then someone said we were using way too much water to flush our toilets and they made a national standard that said you couldn’t make toilets with tanks on them bigger than somewhere around 1 gallon. This of course led to the creation of a black market in old toilets that everyone wanted to buy because they had to flush 50 or 60 times anyway with the new toilets. I personally think this also led to the drop in the level of the world oceans as well. I mean, think about it for a minute. One day we’re dropping 2000 gallons per flush, and the next we’re down to 1! That’s land mass water retention! How could it not have a global impact?
So now you can understand how impressed I am to hear about a toilet that can flush 12golf balls in one flush!
The discovery of this “flushing standard” caused me to start wondering: Why are golf balls being flushed to measure the toilet flushing power in the first place? Why would anyone think that one perfectly good golf ball would be useful in a toilet let alone 12 of them?! Now I myself am not a golfer. I used to play a little in high school (sometime in the last century), but it just never took. It’s a little too sedate for me. About the only real “action” I saw was when the incredibly fat geese that hung out at the pond by the 9th hole attacked my partner and he had to defend himself with a 9 iron. I had never actually seen anyone run on a golf course before. And even the most ardent supporters of the game have to admit that it’s not really an exciting sport. I mean sure things get a little tense toward the end of a high stakes tournament when the purse (there’s a manly term) is a million dollars and the player realizes that he might not be able to make that next yacht payment if he misses this final 10 yard putt for the birdie or bogey or palmer or nicklaus or whatever they’re going for, but for most of us who play on public courses where the squirrels steal the balls before they get to the green it just ain’t that big a deal. Even the announcers on television whisper about everything. It just seems too stinkin’ calm and quiet to be called a “sport”.
Anyway, I started thinking about all the stories I’ve heard about the stuff that’s found down in sewers by the guys that work down there. One of my own brothers used to do that and he came back with some valuable pieces of jewelry. I’d be willing to bet there’s a pretty good sized wild goldfish population down there too (they probably all mutated into carnivorous koi or something). So who would benefit from flushing golf balls? The sewer maintenance guys! They’re playing golf in the sewers! You may think I’m way off on this, but next time there’s a construction crew replacing the main sewer pipes in your town you should look at how big those things are! The average person could stand up in them! It would be easy to set up a tournament too. Just imagine the salesman after he has completed the sale standing in the back room on his cell phone:
“Hey Smitty, it’s Ralph.” (Smitty is the tournament coordinator who works for the city sewer system.)
“Hey Ralph, did you get those balls delivered?”
“Yeah they’ll be around the intersection of 9th and B St. on the east side.”
“Perfect! Thanks for setting that up for us.”
“No problem, and the customer wanted a second demonstration so there should be 24 Top-Flites instead of the usual 12!”
“Way to go! Thanks man! Now remember we’ll be going in at the manhole on 6th and C St. at 6AM tomorrow. It hasn’t rained for a while so the methane buildup shouldn’t be a problem this time.”
“Methane? What’s methane gas got to do with it?”
“Didn’t I ever tell you about that? After it rains sometimes the methane gas builds up in the pipes. That’s probably why you got so light headed last time.”
“Was that it? Wow, I never knew that!”
“Ok well, we’ll see you tomorrow morning!”
“Ok Smitty!”
And I’ll bet the rules are pretty straightforward too. You’re probably not likely to lose the balls very easily. I remember from all the ones I hit into the water that golf balls don’t float, so I’m thinking they’re pretty easy to retrieve from the shallow water running at the bottom of the pipes. It’s probably more a matter of whether you want to put your hands in it or not, I mean those balls were delivered through toilets after all. Infrared goggles are optional, but recommended in case you lose your light and can’t keep track of the other players in the dark. A miner’s headlamp is a must. All players wear rubber boots with special non-skid soles. All players are required to have a functional GPS locator on there person at all times. No smoking or flame producing devices are allowed due to the occasional aforementioned buildup of methane, a flammable gas.
Drivers are rarely used since your shots all consist of putts and bank shots off the wall. Divots do not exist here; therefore they do not need to be replaced. The tee is a specially constructed portable platform that is transported with the group through the course. Its height is adjustable to accommodate for the varying depths of water in different sections of the pipe network.
The course is configured on the morning of the game, and is sometimes made up as you go along. The actual “cup” will be the opening from one of the residential or commercial sewer mains that drain into the main pipe, or a bucket laid on its side according to player preference.
Penalties accrue when your ball ricochets down the wrong tunnel or when your ball takes out a light. Penalties are also awarded if you take your shot after the other players have started to advance into the field of play. If your ball hits another player the rest of the group will determine how many strokes you are penalized. If the player is rendered unconscious you are penalized the maximum 5 strokes. If he does not regain consciousness within 2 minutes the game must be post-poned and the injured player transported above ground and left on a public park bench while an anonymous 911 call is made for an ambulance. This is necessary to retain the required anonymity of the players. When the player recovers and the game can resume the player who made the debilitating shot is awarded 1 additional stroke for every hour it took for the injured player to recover his memory after regaining consciousness.
You are awarded a deduction if your ball takes out a rat or any other resident sewer animal.
I could go on, because the rules get pretty detailed, but I won’t. I think they are actually going to form a club and write by-laws and everything. I’m not really sure where they would build their club although I suspect it would be “tubular” in design.
It is truly amazing how something so simple as flushing a golf ball down a toilet can lead to the development of an entire subculture!
What a country!
© Dan Bode 2006

Monday, May 23, 2011

Trials and Failings

My initial reaction to trials has always been rebellion. I think I can always say that I eventually learn my lesson in these trials, but it almost never comes quickly.
When I am faced with a trial that threatens myself, I am usually quicker to see the light. If, on the other hand, it threatens those I love I come to the conclusion of my lesson in a more pedestrian manner.
When someone I love is threatened it is my immediate reaction to do everything I can to fix it myself. Now I suppose this reaction, in and of itself, shouldn’t be considered bad. We should all be doing what we can to help each other. For me, however, it becomes more of an issue in that I fail to recognize when all of my resources have failed to obtain the desired result. I fail to recognize when I have failed. I have become an expert in whipping dead horses.
When I have reached the end of my resources, and failed to accomplish what I set out to do, I sit back and rail against my God for not doing it right, in spite of the fact that somewhere inside I am fully aware that it is I who has done it wrong. Pride is a harsh mistress.
When I come to the end of my limited resources, I am forced to admit to a sense of inadequacy that inspires in me an incredible fear. I fear not being “good enough”. If I am not a “good enough” husband and father my family will dislike me. If I am not a “good enough” friend no one will be interested in my needs as a person. If I am not a “good enough” employee I will be out on the streets with my family.
The paradox in all of this is that my definition of “good enough” sets a standard of expectation that no human is able to reach. In addition, I find that no one else sets standards that high for me, however they do set standards too high for themselves as I do. So we are all jumping for the bottom rung of the ladder that we ourselves have set too high to reach.
God also sets a high standard. He asks us to be holy, as He is holy. He asks us to become perfect. God has set for us a standard that we are unable to reach just as we do for ourselves. The unique, and crucial, difference between us and God is that He is willing and able to give us the means to attain His standard, while we constantly fail to meet our own. One of the reasons for the very existence of Christ is that He alone can lift us to the standard of God. He completes our journey toward perfection. A greater wonder still is that He allows us to reach that goal while we remain in our imperfection.
Human nature has always been to strive for control of our environment and our destiny. Rather than acknowledge God’s authority we strive against our own humanity. We seek to exceed our own limitations, and in the end, our entire lives become stories of unending failures that leave us weary, thirsty, struggling to draw our next breath. Our efforts are meant, like the Tower of Babel, to make us equal to God rather than to draw near to Him. We assume that we have some place as divine beings rather than acknowledge that we are subject to God’s divinity.
It is when I have to sit by and watch helplessly as one I love suffers that I become so acutely aware that I am not adequate to the task of reaching the standard I have set. My standard requires that I end the suffering of others, but my humanity proves that I am unable to do so.
This is where I learn the most. This is where I finally figure out that I ultimately control nothing. This is where I finally realize that my choice is to trust that God alone knows the ultimate good that will come out of a given situation, or to leave my faith in Him behind and live with the inadequacy of my own strength.
It’s a lesson I have learned before, I just wish I could remember it for the next time.
©Dan Bode 1999

Trials and Failing

My initial reaction to trials has always been rebellion. I think I can always say that I eventually learn my lesson in these trials, but it almost never comes quickly.
When I am faced with a trial that threatens myself, I am usually quicker to see the light. If, on the other hand, it threatens those I love I come to the conclusion of my lesson in a more pedestrian manner.
When someone I love is threatened it is my immediate reaction to do everything I can to fix it myself. Now I suppose this reaction, in and of itself, shouldn’t be considered bad. We should all be doing what we can to help each other. For me, however, it becomes more of an issue in that I fail to recognize when all of my resources have failed to obtain the desired result. I fail to recognize when I have failed. I have become an expert in whipping dead horses.
When I have reached the end of my resources, and failed to accomplish what I set out to do, I sit back and rail against my God for not doing it right, in spite of the fact that somewhere inside I am fully aware that it is I who has done it wrong. Pride is a harsh mistress.
When I come to the end of my limited resources, I am forced to admit to a sense of inadequacy that inspires in me an incredible fear. I fear not being “good enough”. If I am not a “good enough” husband and father my family will dislike me. If I am not a “good enough” friend no one will be interested in my needs as a person. If I am not a “good enough” employee I will be out on the streets with my family.
The paradox in all of this is that my definition of “good enough” sets a standard of expectation that no human is able to reach. In addition, I find that no one else sets standards that high for me, however they do set standards too high for themselves as I do. So we are all jumping for the bottom rung of the ladder that we ourselves have set too high to reach.
God also sets a high standard. He asks us to be holy, as He is holy. He asks us to become perfect. God has set for us a standard that we are unable to reach just as we do for ourselves. The unique, and crucial, difference between us and God is that He is willing and able to give us the means to attain His standard, while we constantly fail to meet our own. One of the reasons for the very existence of Christ is that He alone can lift us to the standard of God. He completes our journey toward perfection. A greater wonder still is that He allows us to reach that goal while we remain in our imperfection.
Human nature has always been to strive for control of our environment and our destiny. Rather than acknowledge God’s authority we strive against our own humanity. We seek to exceed our own limitations, and in the end, our entire lives become stories of unending failures that leave us weary, thirsty, struggling to draw our next breath. Our efforts are meant, like the Tower of Babel, to make us equal to God rather than to draw near to Him. We assume that we have some place as divine beings rather than acknowledge that we are subject to God’s divinity.
It is when I have to sit by and watch helplessly as one I love suffers that I become so acutely aware that I am not adequate to the task of reaching the standard I have set. My standard requires that I end the suffering of others, but my humanity proves that I am unable to do so.
This is where I learn the most. This is where I finally figure out that I ultimately control nothing. This is where I finally realize that my choice is to trust that God alone knows the ultimate good that will come out of a given situation, or to leave my faith in Him behind and live with the inadequacy of my own strength.
It’s a lesson I have learned before, I just wish I could remember it for the next time.
©Dan Bode 1999

Monday, May 16, 2011

Everything Changes

I don’t suppose anyone can be expected to expect the unexpected.
Isn’t that why it’s called the unexpected?
I mean, everything changes right?
For some reason I recalled an incident, out of the many from my childhood, that proved this statement valid.
A few miles from my home there was an industrial park that always had some construction going on one of the lots. A necessary part of the construction process was moving excess dirt off of the site being prepared for any new building. There was one particular lot that, for whatever reason, was used as the dirt dumping ground. As the weather imposed itself on the dirt on this lot it was slowly transformed into a very hilly landscape. There were hills of a variety of sizes here from small bumps to the “main hill” as my friends and I used to call it.
The Main Hill was apparently the first load of dirt that was dumped on this lot. It was located fairly close to the center of the property and it was by far the highest hill there. Without diluting my memory of its size I would say its peak was probably about 30 feet high, which to a grade school kid is relatively high. The Main Hill had uniform slopes on all sides of about 40 degrees.
The thing about this park and this lot in particular was that it was on the route that we took almost every Saturday to get to our favorite candy store. It was the late ‘60’s and my allowance of .50 cents could buy a whole bag of assorted candy back then. I can still remember how mortified I was when they raised the price of my favorite candy bar, the Big Hunk, from a nickel to ten cents. They almost boosted it right out of my price range. I had to ask for a raise in my allowance. The cost of living affected even me. In addition to candy we would also get a canned drink called “Apple Beer”. It was basically carbonated apple juice, but when you poured it into a glass it looked like beer and formed a head like beer. We would slam a can down and have belching contests afterward. It made us feel manly.
Anyway, the usual routine that developed once Main Hill was created was to ride our bikes through this lot on the way to the candy store and ride over the hills. We would go over the smaller hills first and then launch our mobile assault on Main Hill once we worked up enough speed. We would pedal as fast as possible up one side and keep pedaling over the top and all the way down the other side. The speed was wonderfully exhilarating. Coming down the other side at full speed was kind of scary, because you knew if you had to stop for anything you simply could not. It was a great feeling.
One Saturday we were on our way to the candy store, and we approached the hill lot from the far end like we always did. I was in the lead. I had the biggest bike that my Grandma had bought for me used. I was the biggest kid and could always get the highest speeds. I hit the trail for the Main Hill going as fast as I could. We had been doing this for months. It was always the same. I built up speed and went up one side and down the other. This was always how it happened. Unfortunately I had never heard the phrase, “everything changes” at this point in my young life. It never occurred to me, or any of my friends for that matter, that anything could be different about this day.
I approached Main Hill going as fast as I could go. My friend Pete was about 15 feet behind me and Ron was right behind him. Over the top I went, and like always my tires left the ground for the briefest of moments, the wind whistled through my crew cut. It was here that I discovered a new facet of the construction process that I had heretofore no reason to believe existed.
When a new building is being constructed the ground is made level to accommodate an even surface on which the building is meant to stand. Usually, this requires excess dirt to be removed. What I had failed to realize was that sometimes dirt needs to be added to fill in existing holes. This in turn requires that the dirt has to be retrieved from somewhere. The lot on which we found ourselves playing daredevil happened to be “dirt source”. I found that no matter how much grass is growing on a hill, and no matter how well packed the dirt is, it can’t stand up to a bulldozer. I also discovered that Main Hill, being the largest hill on the lot, was also the most obvious source to go to for dirt.
We always approached Main Hill from the same side. Looking at it from our regular approach I could see no difference.
It wasn’t until I crested the hill that I saw that Main Hill was now only half the hill it used to be. It was simply gone!
A bulldozer had come in during the week and stolen the other half of Main Hill!
Worse yet was the fact that not only could I do nothing about it, but I didn’t even have time to express my outrage before I became completely and totally airborne! I let out a wordless scream as my tires left terra firma for the great unknown. I suppose I should clarify that the unknown did not refer to where I was going since the spot where I was going was rapidly filling my field of vision as I unwittingly flew down toward it. No, the unknown in this case was what my condition would be once I physically found that newly ploughed piece of earth with the combined mass of my bike and my body.
I ran across a quote once by Douglas Adams that says “The art of flying is to throw your self at the ground and miss.”
I can honestly say by this definition I failed utterly. I hit the ground with almost wild, yet reluctant, enthusiasm. I have vague memories of multiple impacts. The front tire of my bike hit first, and after that all I really remember is being tangled up in my bike frame as I tumbled over and over. I finally came to rest lying on my back. My leg had somehow worked itself between the spokes of the front wheel. The wheel was completely bent out of shape and the tire was flat. I looked up at the cliff that marked what was left of this side of Main Hill and saw that Pete and Ron had had enough time to stop the only way they could by basically dumping their bikes off to the side of the path at the top. They were lying on the ground looking down at me.
“Are you ok?!” yelled Ron.
“I’m not sure.” I said. I took a quick inventory of myself and found that I didn’t feel any serious pain. “I think I’m ok, but I’m stuck!”
My bike was lying on top of me and with my leg sticking through the spokes movement was not easy. Ron and Pete came down as fast as they could. I waited until they got there before I tried to move. I just laid there on my back contemplating the clouds drifting across the sky, and life in general. It was one of the few genuinely philosophical moments of my childhood. When your life passes before your eyes how does God make it so you actually see your whole life in a split second? Does it take longer when you get older, or is it always the same length of time? I’m gonna ask Him when I get to heaven.
Pete and Ron got there and helped extract me from the tangle of my bike. The spokes of the ruined front wheel were spread apart so I could pull my leg out. It was sore but still functional. Nothing broken. Lots of bruises were starting to form, though, and there were several areas on my body where swelling would be evident in the near future.
The guys sat down and just stared at me.
“Are you really ok?” asked Pete.
“Yeah.” I said.
“Man! You should have seen yourself! You just flew right out into the air! We heard you yell and had just enough time to stop before we went over too!” said Ron.
“Hey, look at your leg!” said Pete.
We looked down at my leg to see the imprint of the spokes very clearly impressed onto my calf. It would serve as my temporary badge of honor for surviving the ordeal.
We walked the rest of the way to the candy store. I wasn’t seriously bleeding and no bones were broken so there was never a thought in any of our minds that we should go immediately home. Nothing short of death would have kept us from our candy and Apple Beer. We ate our candy and drank our Apple Beer and belched. It had never felt better than it did that day.
When I got home with my damaged bike and told my mom what had happened (while wearing a carefully rehearsed stunned look on my face and with appropriate exclamatory embellishments from Pete and Ron), she was concerned enough to make me sit down and make sure there was indeed nothing broken. She brought us all milk and cookies which, was the ultimate cure all for me, and life was good again.
After my dad fixed my bike (I think even he was impressed with my survival after he saw the damage) we went back to the Hill. Another big chunk had been taken out. We could no longer attack the heights there, an activity which I was secretly happy to give up. We had to content ourselves with all the smaller hills. Whenever I get on a rollercoaster now I still feel a twinge when it goes over the hump that makes me feel weightless. I’m just never quite sure if I’m gonna miss the ground this time or not. Of course that doesn’t keep me off the roller coasters.
But because of that I discovered that, even though I may not have realized the full implications of this at the time, everything does indeed change. I also discovered that we are amazingly adaptable creations. And though we do not care for the change that may occur, we make our choices as to how we go on. But we do go on one way or another. I would have preferred that they had added dirt to the top of Main Hill rather than taking it away, but I survived and that is how I measured success in those days. Back then survival was all I needed to be concerned about. I could sit in the back seat and let my parents drive never having to worry about the idiot who cut me off. My responsibilities were limited. So nowadays when I remember the Charge of Main Hill, it is still a good memory despite the pain.
Heck, I’m just glad I survived my childhood.
©Dan Bode 2003

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For My Mother -

It was Mother’s Day, 1980. The second one since I had become a Christian.
My mother had died seven years before, but it was this day that I began to understand the impact she had on my life.
I was new to the church I was attending, the one where I eventually met and married my wife and raised our daughters. I was speaking to a lady after church explaining in one of those awkward situations where I was asked what I was doing for my mother for Mother’s Day. When I explained my situation there was often a brief silence followed by, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know!” I would then try to give them an out by asking what they were doing for Mother’s Day and wish them well.
This time it was different.
This lady asked, “Was she a Christian?”
I thought about this in that second before I answered. Being a Christian had taken on a new meaning for me. I now understood that is was so much more than going to church every Sunday, and growing up in the church “culture”. I had wandered spiritually for many years before finally understanding the differences between “belief” and “commitment”, “observation” and “relationship”. When I was asked that question I looked back on all the expressions of faith and belief from my mother I could remember. I remembered the stories and plays she wrote for church productions and the themes that ran through them. I remembered the times she would answer my questions, which more often than not had nothing to do with God (or at least I didn’t think so) with, “Because Jesus would (or wouldn’t) want us to do that.” I understood that her expressions of faith were not superficial answers. Her faith was intimately intertwined in her life.
So when I was asked that question, “Was she a Christian?”, I could answer without reservation that, yes, Virginia Bode, my mother, was a Christian. She gave me the seeds of faith that germinated years later and opened my eyes on my past, my spiritual heritage.
“Yes, she was.” I replied.
It was at that very moment that I remember starting to think of my mother in a way that had simply never occurred to me before. It was something I had taken for granted without realizing its true impact. My mother had Faith!
There are times when someone says something to me, and I know it is absolutely Correct. It actually fits somewhere in my soul. It is one sentence that actually changes me.
Her next statement was one of those.
“Well then, you know that she was always praying for you. That’s why you’re here now.”
That one sentence rocked me to the core.
This woman who barely knew me, and didn’t know any of my family was right.
As sure as my mother was a Christian, she was praying for her children. I suspect probably even more for me given the trouble I had a tendency to cause.
I was there because of the prayers of my mother. Even then she could reach me.
I will never fully understand the commitment she made to me, or adequately appreciate the sacrifices she made for me. But I do know now without a doubt that even though I was just a boy when she died it was she who made me a better man.
I will always be grateful to that lady in church for that short conversation. I praise God for that moment when He let me know that my mother knew where I was. That I had finally read that unwritten line in her will where she left me her faith, my legacy.
It has always been one of my greatest regrets that my wife, and children, and now my grandchildren, never knew my mother. I can only hope that they see enough of her in me to recognize her when they meet her in heaven.
When I left church that day I went home and wrote my mother a letter. I’ve reproduced it here. My writing style has changed quite a bit since then, but I’m leaving it as originally written so you see the sentiment more clearly through the eyes of that day.

Dearest Mother, 5/11/80
Since you’ve been gone, there have been so many things I’ve thought to tell you, so much love I’ve wanted to give you. Recalling the commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother”, I realize how many times I did not honor you.
All the times I’ve wanted to call you to share something with you, only to remember that speaking to you is no longer as easy as a phone call, all those times are not easy.
The time when your prayers were finally answered, and I finally made your God my God, I wanted so to speak with you, to tell you that His love was my love, to come to you and give you the honor that I had never given.
I felt so empty when I found I couldn’t.
Yet I know that it was because of you that I had finally reached that point.
How joyful I was when I looked back and was able to see God’s hand upon you as you patiently taught me all that He had shown you.
How immeasurably happy I was to know that you are there with Him.
I thank you dearest Mother.
I thank you for nurturing me in your womb, for giving me birth, for guiding me as I lived my life, for sharing Him with me.
And Mother, know that because you did share Him with me, when He comes again, I will be able to stand beside your empty grave and love you and honor you as no child has ever loved or honored their mother.
Dearest Mother, I love you.

Your Loving Son,