Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I dreamed two nights ago of men working stone on a plain beneath the sun. They were covered in dust. Everything- their hands, their hair, their clothes- it was all white from working with the stones. Only their red-rimmed eyes and the dark holes of their gaping mouths broke up the monotony of the scene.

I watched a man fumble among the rocks; shoving them aside, picking them up, turning them, examining them, then dropping them again. He withdrew an egg from the heap of stone which, by some miracle, had come to be buried there. The egg broke in his hand and the yolk flowed yellow over his fingers.

Monday, February 18, 2013

LUKE 18:18-30

The rich young ruler was told to sell all that he had because in his heart he had made an idol of his wealth. In luke 14:33, Jesus says, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." This, to my mind, is a rewording of the first of the ten commandments, "You shall have no other Gods before me." Of course, not everyone must sell all their posessions in order to follow Christ, just those who have made an idol of their possessions.

Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son because that was the place in his heart where he was tempted to idolatry.

Gideon was asked to climb up out of a wine press and lead an army of three-hundred against the Amalekite host because he was tempted to make an idol out of safety.

God selected Jonah as his prophet to Nineveh precisely because Jonah was tempted to worship before the idol of hatred he had erected in his heart.

The rich young ruler's heart was naked before Jesus who wasted no time in challenging the hidden idol he had erected inside. My heart, like that of the rich young ruler, is also naked before my Lord. In what areas am I tempted toward idolatry? What will he ask of me to challenge those idols? It's an important question because that is precisely what God will do. It's scary.

My kids?


The opinion of others?

Money stuff?

"Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."


My brief tenure as a police officer proved formative in some unusual ways. For example, I am almost incapable of folding my laundry today any other way than I was taught at the Academy (Although, Sarah made me stop tri-folding the towels), and it still feels deeply wrong to park a vehicle so that you need to back out when you leave again. I also completely abandoned writing in the lower case during my academy experience, as directed by my superiors, and I have yet to take it back up again. However, the biggest change came to my official signature. On most days police officers will sign their signature dozens of times, and often dozens of time in a row. Consequently, my flowing, pre-2001 signature was reduced to "JBT squiggle." Recently, I encountered a pre-2001 document with my signature scrawled upon it and I thought it was superior to the post-2001 version.
Pre-2001 signature.
Post-2001 signature.
I am thinking about changing my signature back to its pre-2001 form, but the JBT squiggle is on the back of my bank and credit cards as well as on the signature cards of three different bank accounts where I am an official signer. Maybe I'll just change it back for correspondence and such for now, but whenever I move and set up shop in a new place I will change my signature back and leave the JBT squiggle behind forever. I have also decided to start writing with lower case letters again. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


"Let's explore a little before we head back."

Twenty-something, white mail speaking over his shoulder to an Asian female of like age as they approached a cross walk. They then held hands as they jogged across the street together so as not to further inconvenience traffic which had stopped for them in both directions. They waved their thanks to the operator of the vehicle who had stopped below the crosswalk, but they did not wave to me who had stopped above the crosswalk.
Idyllwild, CA


Several years ago I became aware of a calling on my life, which, at this time, I understand as a calling toward pastoral ministry. Toward that end I am enrolled in a MDIV program to get some formal Bible training and equipping. (Learn how you can help with this goal by clicking HERE.) The local church I attend is also great about giving me opportunities to serve and put legs to God's calling on my life.

I decided to share all of this at that time with my boss, Keith, and told him that I felt God would eventually take me away from Camp Maranatha where I am currently employed as Assistant Director. Keith was very gracious and supportive. Not only did he not fire me on the spot, but he has been extremely supportive of how God is directing me.

This past summer Keith even came to me and offered for the camp to send me to a Pastor's Conference in North Carolina at the end of February. I told him I would think about it. In January he revisited the issue with me, and again offered to pay my way to the conference, which is very generous.

I told Keith "No." I had given the matter some thought and decided that because I didn't feel at peace about going to the conference, God was probably directing me not to attend it.

Keith asked me to pray about it some more, and I said I would.

Having said I would pray about it, I set out to do that. I even called a couple of people and asked them to pray about it as well. By the end of the day, I not only felt at peace about going to the conference, I even felt excited about it. I told Keith I would take him up on his offer, which was a 180 from our earlier conversation.

So here's my take on what happened...

I'm embarassed to admit this but I was guilty of thinking about wether or not to attend the conference but not really praying much about it. I had mentioned the matter in prayer a time or two, but it could not be said that I had really sought God about it. That's my big takeaway. This early in my ministry career (for lack of a better term) I couldn't afford to fall into patterns of thinking about things when I needed to be praying about them. Once I put God at the center of the conversation and sought His direction he was pleased to give me a clear answer.

It was the process I was using to make decisions that resulted in my lack of peace.

The cool thing is that shortly after telling Keith I would go to the conference, the President  of the So. Cal. conference, Dave Crimi, offered for the conference to pay Sarah's way to the Pastor's conference as well. That was completely unsolicited! I had never even thought about that as a possibility. Midweek babysitting for the kids quickly fell into place as well. All of this was great confirmation, and now Sarah will get to come along as well. Wowzers!


This morning I used some hot water out of the tea kettle to rinse out a used-up jar of peanut butter before tossing it in with the recycling. As the piping hot water dissolved the peanut butter clinging to the sides of the jar an appealing aroma met my nostrils. I wondered, what would it taste like? I raised the steaming experiment to my lips and took an exploratory sip. It wasn't awful, but to be fair it wasn't really good either, but for the first time I entertained the possibilities of a hot peanut butter drink. I think this idea has promise. I've directed the BFZ's scientists to create a hot peanut butter drink that is delicious in a superior sort of way. To be continued...

Monday, February 11, 2013


Whenever women dress up for a special event, such as the wedding I attended this past Saturday, they always seem vaguely uncomfortable to me. Of course, special occasions call for a special outfit, but nevertheless I have always been aware of a certain air of discomfort which hangs over women who are dressed up, which, in turn, makes me feel uncomfortable as well. I'm sure that most of it is born of uncomfortable comparisons between themselves and other women or even their younger selves, but it may also come from a dress that is too tight or high heels that pinch and blister. My own Sarah always strikes me as the loveliest specimen in the room, and much of her beauty is owed to her self-assured nature, but to me she is most lovely when she is most comfortable, and, in truth, I am most comfortable in her presence when she is most comfortable with herself.


A Mexican woman gathering mustard greens in an almond grove.

The wasted bodies of coyotes littering the way, each a monument to indiscretion.

A vast, fruited plain- the earth subdued into neat, orderly rows.

The lights of a farm like streamers in a flooded field.

Homeless men quietly crossing paths with the industrious, each with coffee in hand.

Four-hundred sets of eyes on a bride and groom whose eyes were on each other.

Broken glass and bare feet on a dance floor.

Bleary-eyed men watching women and them pretending not to know.

Five-hundred crows gathered in a naked tree like a raucous, black foliage

Broad avenues deserted in the pre-dawn of a Sunday morning.

Waxy green hedges bordering sidewalks all spatter-dashed with pigeon droppings.

A Russian Orthodox church, green and white, behind a wrought iron fence with a golden onion on top.

I-pod deafened joggers nodding at each other in passing, but ignoring me because I walked.

Police cruisers on the side of the freeway like crocodiles on a river bank.

Rows of green hills, close-cropped by cattle, and criss-crossed by tractor trails.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Who likes asking for money? Nobody, that's who. I would almost rather steal.

However, my continuing education towards a Masters of Divinity degree is resource hungry, and God has willed, for the present, that I remain resource deprived. It is humbling to not be self-sufficient, to confess need, but even in this my education is being furthered. When I first stepped out in faith towards this goal I had concerns about the cost of such a venture, but I felt strongly that if God had called me to pursue it He would not  leave me hanging financially. Over the past several years I have been excited to see how God has confirmed my calling by generously providing for my schooling through people such as yourself.  Right now, I'm praying that God would continue to reveal how He wants me to join Him in the work He is doing, and to provide for my schooling. God has put on my heart a burden for pastoral ministry, but I trust God to reveal the fullness of His plans for me in His timing.

So I will stick my pride in my back pocket, and ask you to prayerfully consider contributing financially toward the equipping work of my education.

If you feel so led, and I hope you do, you may send your gift directly to my school Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, made payable to "TRINITY COLLEGE OF THE BIBLE." Please write my student ID # in the memo line- 2090132903- and ask that your contribution be put toward Josh Tate's account. Your gift is tax deductible, of course, and Trinity will send you a receipt in the mail.

Trinity College of the BIble and Theological Seminary
4233 Medwell Drive
Newburgh, IN

You may also send a donation directly to me, but such a gift would not be tax deductible. I will be faithful not to spend checks sent directly to me on lickies, chewies, gasoline, diet pepsi or anything other than tuition, books, and other school-related resources.

Josh Tate
PO BOX 618
Idyllwild, CA



Before leaving for work in the morning, call all of your children to you, and, after mustering your sternest voice and your fiercest, most brooding expression, say "Kids, when I get home today I don't want to hear from your Mother that you were smiling or laughing or having any fun! (spit out 'any fun' with contempt) If I hear that you so much as snickered or grinned you're gonna be in big trouble! Understand?" Then turn on your heel, stomp off and let the door slam behind you.

Monday, February 4, 2013


''Let's pretend we're poor kids who have to work for money.''

My daughter, Lucy, speaking to her two younger brothers, Jack and Miles at bath time.
Tate House- Idyllwild, CA

OVERHEARD- with special BFZ correspondent, Lisa Diane Tate.

''Pipe down, Fathead!''

Forty-something man with three days growth and cammo jacket to one of his three small children.
Burger King- Lexington, VA


The origins of the Matthew River begin several miles above the cut at the foot of the Maro Mountains where a seep forms near the base of a sandstone cliff. Beneath the cliff a greenish-brown pool, choked with decaying leaves and crowded about with willows and cottonwood trees, gathers in a low spot. A small trickle of water escapes over the lowest rim of the seep and drips down into a rocky stream bed. This marks the spot where the river begins its journey to the sea. A wooden sign with weathered yellow lettering placed by the forest service alongside a nearby hiking trail, advises passersby that this spot is the source of the mighty Matthew River. For two miles below the seep the Matthew starts and stops in fits. A small algae-choked pool will mysteriously appear among the rocks and for a ways a modest little stream will flow above ground, negotiating its way between the boulders, before disappearing altogether again into the sand.  Motorists driving down  S.H. 206 cross a dry, sandy wash not far from the town of Henderson. A small sign next to the bridge says ''MATTHEW RIVER'' in large, black lettering. No water is in sight. A mile below the bridge the river begins flowing in earnest, and even from a long ways off can be clearly discerned as a thin, thirsty ribbon of green winding its way across the arid plain.

On the expansive Henderson ranch, for which the nearby town of Henderson is named, the river flows down into a narrow canyon known to locals simply as ''the cut.'' There the water's course follows a channel, over a hundred yards deep at its deepest and over a half mile long, cut into rock as black as charcoal. The walls on either side, close enough in places to touch with both hands outstretched, have been worn smooth over the millenia and the stone floor beneath the ankle-deep water is cold and slimy.  Only for a brief while, when the sun is directly overhead, does sunlight reach the bottom of the cut.

At the cut's deepest point the river flows out into a slow-moving, knee-deep stretch of water beneath sheer, near-vertical walls. Far above, the sunlight at the rim of the cut appears as a jagged tear running the length of a back-lit curtain. A waterfall, which does not originate from the plain above but from an opening fifty feet above the stream in the side of the cut, crashes down into the slow-moving water. The opening, perhaps thirty feet wide, ten feet high and roughly oval in shape, is the entrance to a shallow cave. Water flows out of cleavage planes along the back wall and collects in a pool, called ''The Bathtub'' before flowing over the lip and down into the inky darkness of the cut. Some forgotten primitive people had carved channels into the floor of the cave to direct the flow of the water into the bathtub which itself had apparently been carved out by human hands at some point. For what purpose no one could say for sure.

Any other evidence of the cave's ancient inhabitants had long ago been washed away by flash floods, which had also deposited drift wood and other debris across the floor of the cave. Such severe floods were not common but perhaps once or twice every fifty years a really good gully washer would send torrents of water into the narrow confines of the cut and the waters would rise above the cave. The destructive force and sheer power of such floods is difficult to comprehend.

The Henderson family, who were fiercely protective of their property rights, kept the secret of the cave until this past year when young Bruce Henderson wanted a memorable place to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Jenna Utherfoot. He packed a picnic lunch and guided Jenna down into the cut. He had strategically tethered a canoe to a spur of rock at the point where the river deepened, and with their flashlights dancing off the water and their voices echoing off the walls they floated along in the canoe until they came to the spot where the waterfall crashed down out of the cave into the river. Bruce tied off the canoe and encouraged Jenna to precede him up into the cave via a rope ladder.

In the weeks before, Bruce had painstakingly transported a number of things including a table, chairs, and lantern to the cave so that when he lit the lantern everything had been neatly arranged for their romantic rendezvous. In the warm glow of the lantern they ate, and then Bruce took Jenna's hands and without ceremony asked her simply if she would marry him. However, before she could answer they heard a crashing sound from down below in the cut. Bruce shoved back his chair, and with his flashlight in hand he directed its beam down toward the river, which was rising rapidly. The crash had been caused by the canoe which had become wedged between the walls of the cut and rent in two by the rising torrent.

''Bruce, what is it?'' shouted Jenna as a great roar began to fill the narrow canyon.

In the light of the lantern Bruce's face was a perfect mask of terror. Jenna began sobbing, ''What is it?!?!''

Then with surprising speed the roiling water came growling at the lip of the cave. They ran to each other, embraced, and before the waters snuffed out the lantern and swept away table, chairs, Bruce and Jenna she looked steadily into his eyes and with a slow, deliberate shake of her head she said, ''No.''