Monday, December 22, 2014

We're Gonna Go Get a Christmas Tree (Words and Music by Josh Tate but it really ought to be performed by someone else)

O we're gonna go get a Christmas tree
We're gonna go get a Christmas tree (2 X's)
And bring it home tonight!

Running through the rows of trees (3 X's)
Shouting with delight!

Put one up on the minivan (3 X's)
Tie it down real tight.

Driving home through the busy streets (3 X's)
Hey, let's grab a bite!

Set it up in the living room (3 X's)
And string it all with lights.

Decorate the Christmas tree (3X's)
Such a beautiful sight.

O we're gonna go get a Christmas tree
We're gonna go get a Christmas tree (2 X's)
And bring it home tonight!

Things I thought today but didn't share with anyone (until now)

1. Every time I witness a fender bender I feel a certain amount of survivor's guilt.

2. If I was working on the marketing team of a department store I would recommend that for the Christmas season we advertise that our bags are not see-through. Every year it strikes me as a major oversight that shopping bags at Christmas don't better disguise their contents.Don't they know?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014


 I miss this place. I need a zone that is bummer-free.
 I'll open all the windows. Then I'll sweep, dust and fix the screen door.
Once the place is ship-shape again, I'll invite everybody over. Please, come.


Several years ago God began speaking to me about the problem of pride in my heart.
How I came to that point is too long a story to recount here, but suffice it to say that God used some circumstances and relationships in my life, as well as some good Bible teaching from my pastor at the time, to begin opening my eyes to the problem of pride in my life. I was cut to the heart and resolved to do something about my pride problem. Anyone who has ever made greater humility the petition of their prayers and the aim of their Christian pursuits knows that it is a very slippery thing to acquire and an even more difficult thing to measure.  Any “achievement” in humility instantly becomes the basis for pride, and round and round we go. It's a vicious cycle. Perversely, the pursuit of humility often gives birth to new depths of pride.
Humility is a funny thing. It seems that the harder you try to focus on it the fuzzier it becomes. The harder you try to lay hold of the more it slips like water through your fingers. I have been surprised at times by humility when it has shown up in my heart unannounced. At such times I have found surprising words suddenly spilling from my lips like I was returning a borrowed thing. However, when I seek out humility it always seems elusive and just beyond reach.
Recently, I was listening to a radio preacher speak on the topic of pride and humility and he made the claim that as a result of God’s sanctifying work in His life he could now look back on his younger self and see how he had become more humble over time. At the time, that was a very discouraging thing for me to hear. After all, I had been sincerely praying for God to grant me more humility for the past ten years, and I had done everything I could think to do within the scope of human power to foster greater humility. I had memorized scriptures on the topic and sought to behave in ways that outwardly demonstrated humility even as I remained suspicious of the purity of my inner motives. However, as I reflected over the past ten years I did not feel less prideful than I was when I began this journey, but only more aware of the depths of my pride.
Those thoughts led me to the following questions, which are not convictions masquerading as questions. These are honest questions. How would you answer? 

Three Questions on the Topic of Humility:
1. As a Christian grows in humility, will increased humility in his/her life be marked by a corresponding decrease in prideful inclination or rather an increased awareness of one’s prideful inclinations?

…or to put the question another way…

It has been observed that courage is not absence of fear but rather the mastery of it. In much the same way, can it be said that humility is not the absence of pride, but rather the capacity to recognize and reject it?

2. Are these good working definitions for humility and pride?

Humility- Recognition of who God is and who man is in relationship to Him.

Pride- A desire for the place of God.

3. Is pride roughly synonymous with our sin nature?

Thursday, May 1, 2014


"The choice is yours. Will your life be a sermon or a cautionary tale?" J. B. Tate

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


When it comes to our struggles with sin, lonely defeats will one day bring lonely victories, and God is not glorified in a lonely, hidden victory. “Why would the victory be hidden?,” you might ask. Because, for someone who has hidden their defeats, telling of a victory would be a tacit confession to the “shameful” battles they have been fighting. It would be like discovering that your house was infested with rats. If this was embarrassing to you it is unlikely that you would announce proudly to your friends, “This morning when I opened the cupboards I found two rats dead in the traps I had set there!” Although you are glad to have exterminated two rats, you know that the first thing your friends would probably think is, “Disgusting! I didn’t know he had rats in his cupboards,” so you keep that bit of news to yourself. The prelude to most every sin is “No one will ever know,” and its epilogue, “No one must ever know.” But when we resolve to let no one know about the rat-infested nature of our hearts a perverse thing will inevitably happen- for when, by God’s grace, we are given victory in a moment of temptation, that story of God’s strength, provision and faithfulness in delivering us from sin must necessarily be hidden away because of its shameful association with the very acts of wickedness from which we were delivered. This denies man his highest good, for we were made for the very purpose of worship that the glory of the Creator might be revealed in His creatures, and, perversely, it denies God the praise and glory which are His due. This is the first and most compelling reason for entering an accountability relationship. God spoke the world into being, and created man in His image, that His glory might be revealed through them, and if we have no one in our lives who we have invited into the reality of our struggles we will, by implication, also have no one with whom to share the stories of His goodness. God desires man to experience victory over sin, yes, but primarily He wants to give us such victories that He might be glorified in them.  If we have bundled our defeats and victories together into one shameful package we will never know the kind of practical sanctification that we long to see in our lives, for it reveals that we are not properly motivated by a high concern for God’s glory to be revealed in and through our lives.

A concern for God’s glory should be the first and most significant motivation for entering an accountability relationship. However, if we continue the analogy of the rat infested house I think we will see some additional ways that accountability relationships can be a very practical help in our struggles against sin.

When you confess to a close friend (one who has proven himself faithful, and who you trust to handle the information you share about yourself with grace and discretion) that your house is infested with rats, your friend might surprise you with his response. For example, he might say, “Me too!” This can be very encouraging, and it has often been my experience that in sharing my "big ugly" that I have learned I am not alone. Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 10:13, says that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” One of Satan’s tricks is to make you think you’re the only one with rats in the attic, but Paul makes it plain that those areas where we struggle are “common to man.” In other words, you’re not alone. However, as long as you labor under the impression that yours is the only rat-infested heart in the neighborhood Satan will continue to draw you into a double life where the sin you habitually harbor and act upon is hidden away in a secret place. Over time the gulf between who you are in reality and who you are trying to appear to be will widen to into a shocking and unsustainable chasm. Much of the power of sin is broken when it is spoken out loud to a brother or sister who will receive that confession with love and grace. Satan’s modus operandi is always to get you alone with your sin, and God’s strategy is to draw that struggle out to be shared within the context of loving community (1 John 1:7-8).

So your friend might say, “me too,” and if he does you will be greatly encouraged. Or he might say, “I know exactly what you’re going through. I used to have rats.” And that is even more encouraging for now you know a more enduring victory can be achieved. As you listen to his story, you will gain some hard-won perspective and expertise in the matter at hand which you can bring to bear in your own efforts to kill rats. Or perhaps your friend knows nothing of rats and has no personal experience with them, but he is a true friend who loves you sincerely. If that is so, he will most likely respond compassionately by offering to come over after work, and with flashlight in hand go up into the attic with you to see what can be done about this problem, and by this you will have gained some much needed support and help. Every time I have shared sin with a carefully chosen accountability partner I have received one of these three responses- “Me too,” “I used to struggle with that,” or “how can I help?” And each time it was a blessing and a help to me in my efforts to fight sin.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Come away
A golden day
When you was seen with him
Walking long
Singing song
A rough-hewn, country hymn
Make such sounds
As now abounds
In newness of the day
Nature sings
And round us rings
When we are come away


A common sentiment in the church today is that it is difficult to find the time for Bible study and prayer. Most often I hear leaders in the church counter this line of thinking by saying it is all just a matter of priorities. That’s true, it is, but in my experience such lecturing is largely ineffectual. We need to speak the language of worship, for that is what man hungers for in the quiet places of his heart. Man doesn’t hunger for duty, obligation and strategizing. He was made at the first for worship. It is his design, and that design finds expression in a desire after God.  If we understood things perfectly, coming to the conclusion that our job kept us from being in God’s word we would quit our job. Nothing of temporal concern should trump the eternal. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you, but, for one reason or another, the priorities lecture doesn’t seem to get the job done.

Someone might say I have trouble finding time for studying the Word of God and prayer, and instead of speaking about priorites, I say remember the widow and her one small coin that she put into the offering (Mark 12:41-44). She had very little money Just as you may have very little time, but when she gave what she had, though it was scarce and hard to come by, it was received by Jesus as greater than those who gave vast amounts out of their abundance. So you may be a busy person with very little time to spare for studying your Bibles and praying, but think how much it will delight your Father in heaven that you gave out of your time-poverty to worship Him in that way. Yours is a more precious offering to bring. Some with an abundance of spare time might even envy you.

Or someone might say, “I have never been much of a reader. It’s harder work for me to read and study than for others.” Rather than speaking of priorities, point them to Zacchaeus who, though he was a short man, climbed a tree to see Jesus above the crowds.  Sometimes it might require more effort to rise above the crowd of temporal concerns between us and Jesus as well as the limitations of our own design to get a better look at Him, but it is always worth it.

We must learn to speak the language of worship because it is worship that man hungers for and responds to. Such reasoning will bear the weight of wonder and desire in a way that speaking of priorities will not.


"For the Christian laborer, thinking that something can be done without prayer is the same as thinking it can be done without God." J.B. Tate

"I do not believe in the power of prayer. I believe in praying to a God who is powerful." J.B. Tate

Friday, February 7, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014


At Houghton college I eavesdropped through a partition once on a workshop for English students whom I presume aspired to be writers. The man leading the session was a published author, but I don't remember anything else about him except that he wore a brown corduroy suit jacket and jeans. I had no interest in the topic at the time. I was just present in the same vicinity doing homework and I couldn't help overhearing snippets of what they were saying. As I recall there was a fair amount of navel gazing on the far side of the petition. It is always so with creative types. I recall that one of the students, a girl I think, asked the question, "How do you know if you have what it takes to be a writer?," and without hesitation the author fired back, "Writers write. Writers must write." At the time I remember thinking that was a perfect answer.

I think what the girl was asking was how do you know if you have the chops to write professionally, to be published, but the man's answer brushed that aside as a secondary consideration. Whether it is well-received or not, he was saying,  "Writers write. Writers must write."

I have never built a stone wall, but someday I would like to. Several years ago I even read a book on the topic. It had the unimaginitive title of "Building Stone Walls," but it offered numerous insights into the art and method behind the construction  of stone walls, which I would not have thought of otherwise. I love the looks of an old stone wall. They are beautiful to me in a way that no other border can rival. They have a settled, heavy feel about them, which I enjoy, and I think they scratch an itch inside all of Adam's sons and daughters to exercise dominion over the earth. It's satisfying to see a straight and orderly line made from so many rough, irregular pieces. 

I remember that the book recommended collecting a large pile of rocks before getting started. The reason being that often times you will need to find a rock that has just the right shape, weight and size to fit a niche as you build, and it helps to have a large collection to select from.

I sometimes think of my posts like that- a collection of rough, irregular thoughts varying in shape, weight and size- and the BFZ is my rock pile, but what will I eventually build with them?

I'm not sure, exactly, but I think the time has come to start incorporating them into something straight and orderly. Do I have the chops to be published? I don't know, but writers write. Writers must write.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


This Sunday is the Super Bowl, and As the big day approaches I have encountered a number of articles criticizing football as bloodsport. On the one hand the concerns about the cumulative effect of concussions and other injuries on player health are decidedly legitimate, but if they change the rules any more the game will cease to resemble the football which our forefathers enjoyed. It is just one more nail in the coffin of masculinity and our great republic.

I have a solution, however, to propose to NFL league commissioner, Roger Goodell. Let's get rid of the pads and the helmets. It may  sound counter-intuitive but if you take away the helmet nobody is gonna be leading with the head. As things stand now, the very equipment intended to make the game safer has made it more dangerous. The players are throwing their bodies around like missiles, and it is the pads and helmet which have dulled their natural instincts toward self-preservation. The helmet especially has evolved into a formidable weapon and is possibly the biggest problem.

If I were Goodell I would make the bold move of getting rid of the pads.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Yesterday, I took the kids fishing at Watertown Lake. Like all the lakes here in north Florida its waters are dark as molasses. They say it’s from all of the tannic acid in the oaks. I think it’s beautiful- like a tea that has been steeping for a thousand years. The lake has a long, L-shaped fishing pier that goes out beyond its weedy fringes into deeper water, and after the kids spilled out of the van, Bowden led the charge, clomping out over its rough wooden boards. He ran the length of the pier, with his younger siblings trailing out behind him like a sled dog team.

I watched as he baited his hook and expertly cast a line into the water. His younger siblings also watched, and then they came running back to me clamoring for their own rods, which I had been carrying for them. I had set up shop near the middle of the pier. Lucy moved a few yards off to my left and gave her new fishing rod, a Christmas gift, its inaugural cast.  I was busy untangling Jack and Miles’ fishing rods and baiting their hooks while they peered over the side of the dock looking for “alligator bubbles.” Going fishing with small children requires a lot of patience. Their lines are forever getting tangled, and they can't bait a hook or cast or wait patiently. Basically, they can't fish. Fishing with little kids is really more of an investment in the future. The hope is that they will grow up loving fishing with Dad and that when they are older it will become something for me to do with them. Perhaps one day fishing will provide us with regular opportunities to talk in an unforced and natural way. I am already strategically approaching their teenage years. I had finally gotten their lines untangled and was busily baiting their hooks when I heard our littlest, Miles (4 years old), say something about “bubbles.” I looked up just in time to see him slip head-first off the side of the pier into 10 feet of coffee-black water.

Jack instantly began shrieking at the top of his lungs, “He fell in! He fell in!” while jumping up and down in a tearful frenzy of fear and desperation. Lucy dropped her rod and yelled, “Daddy! Daddy!” A woman, who was also fishing just a few yards to my left and who had also seen Miles fall in, cried out “O, dear Lord, have mercy.” The black water suddenly looked sinister as it swallowed Miles up. As quick as you can say “take your I-phone out of your pocket,” I jumped into the lake after him. As I cleared the side of the dock I caught a glimpse of Miles struggling near the surface. The adrenaline took over completely. I didn’t feel the cold of the water or the weight of my clothes. In that moment I existed for just one purpose. I found him in the water and lifted him up to the waiting arms of the woman who was reaching over the edge of the dock 3 feet above me. With the help of another man who had also been fishing nearby they hefted Miles back up onto the fishing pier. By the time I had regained the pier myself, Sarah had already whisked Miles away to the van where he was being dried off and wrapped in a blanket. A toothless man congratulated me on having the presence of mind to take my I-phone out of my pocket before jumping in. My heart threatened to beat right out of my chest. I went back to fishing.
But later that night, after I had put the kids to bed, I opened the book I was reading and found a bookmark that Miles had made for me earlier that morning. He had drawn a cross on a piece of paper and had proudly presented it to me. “The cross stands for Jesus,” he had explained. “You can use it for a bookmark if you want.” My heart ached as my mind filled with dread at the thought of what could have been. Then it flooded with relief that Miles was tucked safely into his bed down the hall. It felt like when you wake up from a nightmare and for a few moments you are not sure which world is real.

What if he had died? What if I had been on another part of the pier? What if nobody had seen him fall in? What if? That was too terrible a thought to entertain, and too ugly to look at for long. If Miles had died yesterday I’m not sure I would have had it in me to come back to the house. I would have wanted to seal the place off and never go there again. I can’t imagine the pain of seeing his bath toys gathered quietly near the drain, or his pajamas hanging out of the side of the hamper, or the spot near the front door where he had scribbled on the wall, or that bookmark he had given me. My life came all too close to being divided into before and after we went to that lake. Fragile.
On Sunday, a friend of mine lost his 23 year old son who died unexpectedly following an accident. I called him this morning to see how he was doing, and he said “About like you would imagine.” Even if I could imagine I'm not sure I wanted to. That reality is too horrible to look at for long. I thought of Miles. Today my friend was planning to drive over to his son’s apartment to go through his belongings and start cleaning the place out. Before hanging up I promised to pray for him. As I did I couldn’t help crying for my friend and his horrible loss. His task today was going to take a lot of strength. “Lord, surprise him with the goodness of your presence," I prayed, "For Your glory and for Your name’s sake work this for good.”  

The Lord has promised a day when there will be no more crying or pain, no more death. He always keeps his promises. Sometimes we grow too fond of this world. Our eyes grow too accustomed to the dark, but today I lived and walked in the hope of His return. O, Lord, come!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Whenever I receive letters from the kids’ school addressed to their “Guardian” I always feel like a superhero or something. "Guardian? Who, Moi? Oh, do go on!"

Guardian. It has a certain ring to it, does it not? The only title I would prefer more is “Lord Protector,” like Oliver Cromwell. Still, “Guardian” isn’t bad. It would be a good name for a superhero whose mild-mannered alter ego is a non-conventional caregiver.
Sometimes I think that the Kratts brothers are like the youth pastors in the church of Gaya. “Creature Power!” “Go Wild!”

 Walking through cemeteries always inspires me to start planning my funeral.
 If NJ Governor, Chris Christie, goes on to prove a contender for the Republican nomination in 2016 he would be wise to steer clear of Corpus Christi, TX while planning his campaign stops. From one fat man to another, speaking in a place called Corpus Christi could only invite jokes about the corpus of one Governor Christie. I wonder if that would be a difficult conversation for an aide to have with Governor Christie. “Sir, we need to talk about this plan to stump in Corpus Christi.”
What’s up with spatula design? They always have slots, holes, or squares in them, and that despite the fact that they are used most often, in my experience, to scoop and flip batter and eggs which inevitably becomes stuck in the aforementioned slots, holes and squares. Why are they there to begin with?  What is their function?

If I could trade voices with anyone I would, without a moment’s hesitation, swap voices with Gene Hackman. I love that man's voice.

I think if Stinker the Tinker is ever to take his place in popular culture he must have a catchy Christmas Carol to propel him into national consciousness. When my ship comes in I will commission such a song from Gordon Lightfoot. I wonder what he's up to.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"LIKE SMOKE," COMING TO A LIBRARY NEAR YOU! (If you happen to live in Lake City, FL, that is.)

 The local library in Lake City does not have a copy of my book, "Like Smoke," so yesterday, on my day off, I set out to remedy that sad fact. You're welcome, Columbia County!
 You'll find it in the American Poetry section just past a number of inferior works by some dude named Shel Silverstein. His mediocre efforts will look all the more lackluster because they have been shelved next to mine- not unlike like the ugly sister at a dance. I am sorry Mr. Silverstein. It is a sad bit of fate that an alphabet-based filing system caused us to be juxtaposed so harshly. Couldn't be helped I suppose.

 I even brought an extra copy to be sold in their little used book store. Fifty cents for all paperbacks? Wow, that's a bargain, especially considering that this little beauty was signed by the author.
 Let's just move that old, crummy copy of "The Hobbit," out of the way so this masterpiece can be properly showcased.
 "There, that's better."

Sunday, January 5, 2014


"Gifts from God are not for us, but rather through us to others."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The rain today has given way to a misty afternoon. Various kinds of tree frogs are joining their different songs. They remind me of my favorite Robert Frost line,

"That sang in the mist a month ago,
A ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow"