Wednesday, December 23, 2015

be in the moment--recognize the world around you!




I work in a school and thus, have many chances to take note of what the kids are doing, saying and wearing. I find it wonderful to use those moments to make a comment that can turn a child's day around. For instance, young children can be somewhat dramatic. They come to the lunch line with tears, with shoes untied, with "issues that need tissues", as I say. I look them in the eye when I say, "I just love that color of your shirt! It is so pretty!" or "those shoes! They are so neat!" It gives them the chance to open up, to take in what has just occurred and then, they beam. Their sweet faces light up and they go from sadness to happy in nanoseconds.

That is all it takes! A kind word. A simple gesture, such as when I tie their shoes that are always in need of being tied. Of holding their shoulders when I catch them in the act of saying an unkind thing to another child and really making them know that what they did caused sorrow to another. "...and how would it feel if that happened to you?" I query. It teaches them about empathy--about showing kindness to another instead of sorrow. Believe me, they get it.
Ah...life.

My point is  that people love to be recognized. In this world where technology has taken over, where everyone walks with their heads down as they look at the latest Tweet, I encourage you to look UP...see what is happening around you! RECOGNIZE what is happening! Be in the moment and then...act upon it! How can you see that old man who needs help to cross the street? "What old man", you ask. Why...the one you just rudely brushed passed, because maybe his shuffling step was slowing you down. That lady in the grocery store, the one who only has coins and is taking forever to pay her bill with all of her nickles, dimes and quarters...what would you do? Do you become angry because your precious time is more valuable than hers? Or that driver ahead of you who just missed  the light changing from red to green...you just honked at him in anger because he isn't going "right now, damn it!" Perhaps...if you had looked in his window, you'd have seen tears running down his face. He is distracted because he just found out his mother is ill and needs care...or his friend passed away...or his job was just downsized.

Do you presume to know everything about everyone, thus you are above everyone?

No. Even Jesus, when He gave His attention to the children, was castigated. His response: "let the little children come to Me and do not try to stop them...for the Kingdom of heaven is for such as these!"

Ahhh....so it goes back to the little children...those same children that I see on a daily basis with all of their "issues that need tissues" some days.

Today...call someone by name...it is  said that the name is the most beautiful sound to anyone...recognize them....hug them....compliment them...behold them-- right where they are...in the situation they are in...just as Jesus has held all of you in such high esteem.

You are valuable to Him....so why should it not be that way with others? If you say that you love God...whom you have not seen...then why do you not love those around you whom you HAVE seen?
Think about it---act upon it!

May you have a blessed day!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"...the Kingdom of heaven is for such as these..."



 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I will begin this day.

I thank you, Lord, for having preserved me during the night. I will do my best to make all I do today pleasing to You and in accordance with Your will. My dear mother Mary, watch over me this day. My Guardian Angel, take care of me. St. Joseph and all you saints of God, pray for me. amen.

"When I consider the contrast between the first Christmas and this Christmas, I realize how far we’ve wandered.
Instead of filling the sky with declarations of deity, our airwaves are filled with grumblings over whether we should say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.
Instead of making a big deal about Jesus and reflecting on the wonder of His coming, many get sucked into meaningless social media conversations about a coffee cup. What message are we sending to the world when we tell a secular company they can’t have a plain red cup?
What are we pondering? Where have we fixed our focus?
That first Christmas was much more than merry. It was filled with wonder and worship!
That first Christmas was fixed on Jesus.
More than having a merry Christmas, I’m stirred to have a meaningful Christmas that takes me back to the manger that led to the Cross. One that mixes the merry with the meditative. One that folds in the fruit of the Spirit with the fruit cake. One that lingers with both lively praise and low-bending prayers. One that harks the herald and helps the hungry.
Yes. I want us all to have a merry Christmas. But more than that, I want us to have a meaningful Christmas. Not one that is consumed with consuming or lost in senseless secondary conversations, but one that is fixed on adoration, celebration, consideration and awe! One that reflects on and gives thanks to God for sending Jesus to be our hope. One that is rich with depth and love and relationship. One that is full of His fullness of grace."


As one friend of mine said, " I that is so well said and exactly how I feel. I have reached the point where I am glad when the Holiday is over!"

Isn't that sad? How often do we say this about the birthday of a friend of ours? "Geeze, I can't wait until this stupid day is over because I tell ya, the consumerism is just killin' me!" 

Jesus IS our friend, the best one we will ever have! He was born for us, He lived for us...He DIED for us...and somehow, to so many, buying a brand new car or an expensive piece of jewelry is only what this season of joy is all about!
Ugh...
I told her and I will tell you:
"true..it is sad that we "can't wait until the holiday is over" so that we are no longer dealing with the consumerism of the season....but please...do what I do: turn off the TV and turn on beautiful Christmas music! Bake cookies (or something!) and allow yourself to feel that sense of wonder that used to carry us when we were kids! Remember days gone by when anticipation made the month drag on forever....go see a kids' play, go to church and just sit in the wonder of the silence. Soak up what Christmas IS all about!"

Remember my post from a couple of weeks back, the scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," when Linus explained what Christmas was all about? It is about the Birth of a Savior. It is NOT about anything else... and the best way to experience that simplicity is to do what kids do. Yup, be like a child! Even Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven is for such as these."


"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

of unicorns...and rainbows...and "rules & regulations..."




 "Wouldn't it be cool if we didn't have to label ourselves, in skin color or gender preference, or age, or religion, or anything that separated us, for just being? I think that happens in the unicorn, rainbow world. I want to live there...Because my heart just can't handle this so called reality. Please!."  ~ a Facebook friend of mine, speculating on being in a place free from just being an adult...for the time being...

"Imagine there's no heaven...it's easy of you try...no hell below us...above us only sky..."
John Lennon died 35 years ago. His visionary words have been echoing in my head for many years. Imagine....if there WERE no religion. Hmmmm...no religion.

Open your mind and really see this for a moment.
When Jesus came, it was to untangle us from the many "rules" and "laws" that were plaguing people back in that time period. "In order to get to heaven, you have to do this and this and this... oh! and you absolutely MUST NOT do that and that and that..."
 ...then, in a lonely stable, came news of a King...but what King was this...a CHILD? a BABY? Ha! Some King, right?
 ...and so the world continued on....until one day He walked to the River Jordan and asked some wild-haired crazy man to baptize Him!
"I should be the one asking YOU..." came the argument.
"Baptize Me, John!" came the reply...then the heavens opened up. God smiled down. This was the first step of many for His Son!

Jesus taught us by example. "What must I do to obtain Heaven?" came the often asked question. Jesus told us parables...many of which the people could identify with. Gone were the "rules and regulations." In its place were two commands...only TWO: Love God as much as you love YOURSELF...and LOVE OTHERS as much as you LOVE GOD! There it was. How can you break any "rules or regulations" based on that simple premise?

Fast forward fifteen hundred years. We had just the Christian church (the Islamic belief came at about 600 years after Jesus was crucified, but we are dealing with Christianity here). Christians became divided through schisms and breaking away. Suddenly one Church became several...then several more. Everyone had their own ways of worshiping God. Once again we had "Rules and Regulations." The line in the sand once more divided people from God.

Today we are in the midst of world turmoil as extremists are claiming lives in the hundreds...in the thousands. They believe they are serving some god by killing those who believe in the ONE GOD.
Can you see how "rules and regulations" are destroying us? Why do we need to lay down parameters in order to worship God who became Man to show us how to worship in the first place?

I was at a Christmas get together in which the topic of conversation was how someone was not allowed at a church simply because that person was not found "worthy" by this "church."
Not worthy....of church? Who did these people think they were? It sounded to me of the time when Jesus forgave people who were not found worthy of others to even be alive! Prostitutes, tax collectors...SINNERS! Not worthy? Why...Jesus found them all to BE worthy!

Yet today, listen to the news...once more...we are not found worthy by schisms and sects and orders and others who feel they need to behead us, to crucify us, to execute us...to SEPARATE us from the Father....
do they not realize that GOD has already CHOSEN us? By His Cross and His redemption He has redeemed the world...He is our Savior! We don't have to jump through any hoops save one: to give up all we have and to FOLLOW HIM! Give up greed, give up lust, give up pride...just go...follow Him and because you are following Him, you will want to open your arms wide and wish for others to come with you...
No rules...NO regulations...just LOVE!
IMAGINE......yes...imagine....then...act upon this dream, for it IS a reality...but YOU must allow it!

Today's news:
in Minnesota today, a middle aged woman was seeing holding the door open for someone whom society deemed unworthy of being granted the time of day. She was seen comforting the sick, she was heard to utter "God loves you--and so do I!" She gave solace to the needy...in short...she was something of an oddity...because she cared."




Wow...IMAGINE!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

and so it is Christmas...and what have you done?




It's almost the end of yet another year. Time to stand back and take note of what has happened in the last almost 365 days of your life. How could you improve? What would you change?
The seven questions that you could ask yourself are:

When did I not give up?
Did I do something that scared me?
When did I have fun?
How did I deal with messing up?
Who did I lean on this year?
When did I forgive someone? and last..
What would I have missed out on had I not lived this last year?

Take each one separately or as a whole. For me, I did not give up on my health. Although my chronic conditions of both Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis could have had me sidelined, feeling sorry for myself, I chose instead to keep going, keep moving. I planted a garden, helped my in-laws with their yard work and even took on a part time job working once again with students in my school district. Lesson: Never give up...never give in. You are as strong as you allow yourself to be!

I did allow for fun also. I visited my grown children in the cities. I love to garden, to watch birds and just "be" in the moment. Whatever you can find beauty in, go for it. You don't need a plane ticket or a bus pass. The best things in life are within your reach!

Messing up? We all do that. The best thing I did was keep going forward. Forgive yourself and move on. If you live in the past, you will miss the joy of the present. Each experience is a stepping stone to something better. Go for it!

Who did I lean on? My bestest friend in the whole world...my husband! He lifts me up to more than I can be, as the song goes. Without him, my world would be so much darker.

Forgiveness. It isn't always the "I cut you out of my life and now you have returned, thus I need to (or should) forgive you, my prodigal son/daughter/ex-spouse/former friend" scenario. Sometimes, it is the day to day slip-ups that can catch us fuming. For example, at work recently, it was a tough day. I was being pulled in many directions by many people, all who thought they knew best what I needed to be doing. Finally at day's end, my nerves fraught, I broke down in frustration. I felt anger, sadness, confusion and just plain exhaustion. The next day, I told myself that the one who was most responsible for my previous day's pain, I would give the cold shoulder to. But as minutes became hours, I realized this was not what Jesus would do. I caught my co-worker in a quiet moment, went to her and apologized for my silence, explaining how I had felt the day before. Her face fell...I think she was taken aback by my words of "let's just say we all had a hard day yesterday and begin anew!" Note, I said a "hard day," not a "bad" day. Bad has a negative connotation, whereas a hard day means just that...it was tough, but also do-able. We got through it, we can do it again if need be Now that we know what we may expect, it may actually turn out better than we had thought! Always leave room for positive outcomes! and this is what forgiveness teaches us...leave room for positive outcomes, and admit it...we always feel better after an apology, don't we?

Last...what would I have missed had I not been here? Oh my! Sunrises and sunsets and shooting stars and hugs from children and words of love from oldsters and compliments that I gave out and words of appreciation sent my way and much more. Again, you don't need a passport to create happy moments. Live IN the moment...create JOY daily..and you will see joy returned many times over!

God did not create humans to be miserable. He gave us the best of Himself, a garden of plenty and Love to grow upon. It was an insidious Evil that crept in like a snake, stealing that goodness from humans and turning Love into something awful. God created Goodness...Evil stole it. It is as simple as that...but it is also complex in that we daily have that good vs evil war waging within each one of us. However, daily we can overcome evil with good...we can make choices that will make us better..or bitter.
I like "better" myself. How about you?
Here's to another happy year soon to be upon us. Again, what can YOU do...to look back next year at this time and realize..."wow, I truly did have a wonderful life!" May God be with you and bless you!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

what does "Black Friday" mean to you?



 sometimes...simplicity is the greatest gift of all!


With all of the noise about after Thanksgiving sales that are blaring on TV, one would think that "Black Friday" is a holiday within itself. Unfortunately, commercialism has dictated that this must be so. "Spend! Spend! Spend!" In all of this, the true meaning of what it means to be thankful for the little things can be lost. To do so using the spirit of Jesus' birth makes it even more sad.

I think of the episode of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," in which Charlie Brown questions the commercialism of Christmas. It takes an oration from Linus to remind everyone just what Christmas is all about. That Thanksgiving's date this year makes Christmas only three weeks away, that lesson is even more important.

Oh sure, if you need that new appliance or TV, by all means, this is a great time to save money. But if it is just to spend money on frivolous things, maybe think again. Even Jesus had a hard time seeing the solemnity of the Temple being trashed by money changers who turned it into a freak circus side show. We know how that turned out!

Back to the spirit of what these true holidays mean: to be thankful for friends...family, our jobs (such as they can be) and all who make those jobs worthwhile. To be grateful for our health, our homes and our families, again, such as they can be at times! In short, give thanks to God for every little thing! You may not have much, but how much does it take to bring a smile to your face?

When Jesus was born, the world was in turmoil, just as it is today. He did not arrive on a chariot, but rather in the quiet hush of a stinky stable, with only the animals present. His birth was heralded by angels on high NOT to kings, but to lowly shepherds. Jesus came to save us all from our own selves...sinful, sorrowful and hopelessly inept as we are. And all we can do to honor Him now is to buy! buy! buy? I can only think of His sorrow...that in over two thousand years, we still have not learned from history--not at all.

Today...turn down the noise of commercialism. Put away those credit cards and instead, turn on some reflective Christmas music that reminds you of Jesus' arrival as an innocent Babe. Gather your own friends and family and hold them close. You only have today...no amount of buying power will give you anything more than that--just today.

It is my hope that you have a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving. May God be with you and yours...amen!

click on the link below to view Linus' important message for us all!

Linus Explains Christmas

Thursday, November 19, 2015

what does peace sound like?



I first heard the Simon and Garfunkel tune, "Sounds of Silence" back when I was about 11 years old. When I was growing up, there was a lot of uncertainty in my life. A lot. I worried and stressed about so much; my folks moved many times, money was extremely tight and there were not as many social net programs then as there are now to catch one. When you fell...you fell. Yet that song seemed to lift me out of the muck and mire of my thoughts. It's quiet message buoyed me. I remember when I was about 13, climbing a very high hill that was near my house., I had thought that if I could climb as high as possible, that God would hear me better. It was peaceful there. I'd found a source of serenity. I would pray to God....and in time, found solace. I "knew" that I had been heard.

Today's world is becoming more scary by the day. Bombings in Paris, followed by news reports that other certain cities are next, while our country's leaders try to calm the masses so that there is no panic.

Panic, no we do not need to panic, but we do and must be ready. Like the proverbial turtle with it's head inside a shell, to live in denial is just as bad as sounding a constant alarm. Our lives should be like the school fire drills, remember those? Practice until you realize that when the real event occurs, you'll know exactly where to go and what to do.

Life is like that. When your relationship with God is secure, you will know that when the "real event" comes along, you'll know exactly what to do.

Yes, I know all about the events that can broadside us. Those seemingly small things that affect us only, such as loss of a family member or friend, or a job loss, a sudden move...or more. I have heard from many people who say that in those times of darkness, they can't hear God. In order to hear Him, you need to walk with Him daily. He is that life jacket that you wear each and every time you are in that boat. When you spend time with him, you will know exactly what His Voice sounds like. You will have no fear, for His Voice reassures you that this too, shall pass.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." ~John 10:27

Back in the days of Jesus, He spoke in parables. The people then were very simple folk, all they knew were sheep, vineyards and fish! So Jesus spoke to them in a way they could relate to. This in NO WAY implied that they were stupid, just innocent. Much like a shepherd understands his flock and does all he can to protect them, so God is with us. But in order for us to know and understand that, we must spend time with Him to HEAR Him! How can a voice comfort you if you assume it may be a stranger instead? Think of a child who cries out in the middle of the night? Not recognizing the soothing words of a parent, it may feel fear instead, lashing out in anxiety. When I was young--and anxious, I had learned that to go to God in supplication, that somehow I would be heard. I came to rely on Him as my Source of Solace.

My friends, I know all about the happenings in our sad world today. But if you listen to the constant news media reports, it will only drag you down even more. Listen instead for His Voice, the One who can offer solace. Instead of acting on fear, perform acts of kindness to all you meet. Offer as much unconditional love towards the ones who need that hug, that kind word, that sense of peace that lets them know that they, too have been heard. 

Yes the world IS scary, but in actuality, it has been for a very long time. We must draw together as one, for as sheep also know, there is safety in numbers. Turn to the Voice of the Shepherd. In Him, there lies your peace.
May you have a blessed day.
Amen.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

is peace just a "Christmas card thing?"





I was working with my nephew the other day, homeschooling him in History. As we read about the civilizations of the Middle Ages, I paused and asked him, "do you see how their errors then lead to the downfall of life as they knew it?" He replied that he did. I then asked, "do you see this happening today?" He gave it a moment's thought and said, "we're doomed!"
Wow...he sees it...and he is only (almost) 16!
What a world we are leaving for his generation, eh?

The nightly news is full of shock and awe...but you know, shock and awe has been going on since way back when Cain beat up on and killed his brother, Abel due to jealousy.

Wars are being fought now as they always have been, for greed, for power, for control. Countries that once were peaceful have been torn asunder out of the need for control. Refugees cross the borders into other countries that are already burgeoning under the weight of too many immigrants already...and more fights break out for daily necessities...it is an ongoing pattern.

We see and hear about these things and we do not understand why, why, why...with all of the technology and ability to blow our world up with a single nuclear bomb, why we cannot get along at all.

It seems to be hopeless, this whole "peace on earth" thing, doesn't it? With Christmas rapidly approaching, we once again will pull out Christmas cards with pleasant pictures, whose inscriptions promise us peace on earth which we can have, all due to the birth of a tiny Child.

Do you believe that?
I do.

I place my belief in One who can create miracles out of nothing! Who can heal, who can turn water into wine and feed thousands from a few loaves and fishes! I believe in His strength and promises!

Last week, someone questioned me about that belief. You see, he didn't believe. He posed the statement that if there was "a God," then why is there so much pain, why can't God just make everything all better? Thus he tried to prove his own convictions that what I was saying was just a waste of time.

Despite my explanations, he remained unmoved. I then conceded with the words that Faith needs no explanation, because you either have Faith and believe, and if you don't...no amount of explanation could change that. I bid him well, as I said I also believe in "live and let live." I didn't wish him harm. You just never know...perhaps it wasn't MY mission to convince him....perhaps that would happen on another day in another time...(hopefully time will be on his side).

What we CAN do...you and I, is to create peace where WE go. You want that Christmas card sentiment to come true? What are YOU doing to create peace and happiness? It isn't just writing a check and putting it in an envelope, it's getting in the trenches and being with those who are in need...of friendship...of love...of someone being at their side in a non-judgmental way. Oh sure, I could have gotten into an argument about Jesus with that person...but then that wouldn't prove my point, now would it? We need to foster our beliefs by words AND deeds...by thoughts AND actions!
You've seen the homeless...what is your attitude about them? Do you shake your head and walk away or do you offer assistance, even if it is only a cup of coffee in a warm place? The hungry....how about offering a bag of groceries to the local food shelf? An alcoholic....instead of condemning them, realize that for many of them, each day can be a living hell as they try to function in a life where people won't tolerate their misbehavior. The list is endless and by now, you're exhausted.
Peace on earth....it isn't just a "Christmas card thing." It is a YOU thing...it is a ME thing...it is an EVERY DAY of our life thing!

"Right now, you and I may be subjects of discussion between God and Satan, just as Job was. Or we may be part of conversations between God and righteous angels, or between angels and redeemed people in Heaven. You may lie in a rest home or a hospital or sit alone in your house. But you’re not alone—an unseen universe is watching. You may feel your choices have been reduced to whether you want Jell-O or a window opened or an extra blanket. On the contrary, your choice of whether you will trust God and worship him today reverberates throughout the universe, honoring or dishonoring your God. It also has enormous implications for the eternal rewards God promises us in the next life.

"Like Job, we look around us and see suffering and evil we do not understand. As Job did in the end, Lord, may we see you now as you truly are, as revealed in your Word, and trust you to accomplish your purposes even when life doesn’t make sense to us. Thank you for your sovereign grace in my life, drawing me to yourself even as I grew up in an unbelieving home. I look back now at many difficulties in my life and clearly see your hand. I pray you’ll give everyone reading this the ability to see how you have worked in their lives in the past. Give them the faith to see you at work today and the capacity to fully trust you for their future."
~Randy Alcorn, Ninety Days of God's Goodness: Daily Reflections That Shine Light on Personal Darkness


Friday, October 16, 2015

what do you worry about?




Worry. It is said that worry can take years from your life. It can literally take inches as well. In my family, I am the shortest...yes...THE shortest-- because in all of my growing up years...I worried.
We were very poor. This was back before the Food Stamp program and all of the other social programs that we have in place today. Dad was a barber when the Beatles set foot in America, pretty much putting an end to short hair cuts! So...I worried whenever I heard him balance the checkbook as he'd wonder where the money was coming from. "Will we lose our house?" I'd ask. "Not unless your mother would quit spending money faster than I can  make it!" he'd gruffly reply. And my mom could spend money! Thus...I worried.

We moved ten times in my first seventeen years. Ten times. I didn't mind it when I was younger- to me, it was a chance to meet new people and live in other houses. By the time I had reached high school, however, this moving stuff was getting out of hand! Thus, I worried...about making new friends, about fitting in, about lots of things.

Got married too young...and worried. Had kids...after trying for almost eight years with no success (more worry!) I suddenly had four children in five years. Now I worried about how I would be as a mom, what if "something" happened and we'd be either homeless, jobless or something else. Although none of that ever came to fruition....I still worried. Though God was always there for me in all of my travails, I would worry about "what if someday He forgets about me? Then what?"

I am now in my early 50's and I admit...I still am a worrier. My husband makes fun of me. He says that if ever I'd NOT have something to worry about is the day I'll roll over and die.

I tell myself that all I need to do is to let go and let God. That when God closes a door, He always opens a window. People ask me where I'll be in five years. "Five years?" I ask, "why, in only one year my life could change just like that!"(snaps fingers) and it has been known to do that.

How about you? Do you worry? Do you lay awake at night and fret? Is a five year plan beyond the scope of reality for you?

When my husband lost his job about two years ago, I thought he'd get another just like that (snaps fingers). It didn't happen. It took a lot of patience and ingenuity to get where we are today...it also took about eight months, but when it all came together, it happened just like...that! (snaps fingers).

Jesus is not a magician. He does not just snap His fingers to make life easier for us. Even in His own life, He prayed...and waited...and asked. But He also told His followers, "ask and ye shall receive!" There have been many times when I have knocked...and waited for that proverbial door to open. Again though, remember, that when God CLOSES a door, He opens a window, So, though I knocked, it turned out that I was knocking on the wrong door, on the one that had closed. I should have looked for that open window instead! I remember that as I knocked...I would cry out of frustration. I would beg, plead and cajole and yes, I admit, I made a few bargains. What we need to realize is that God does not bargain. He gives and will give freely when the time is right....when He sees that all the pieces will fit into place, only then will He welcome us in!

All we need to do is to approach Him with prayer and supplication. "Ask and ye shall receive!" If He feeds the birds, how much more will He give to you!"

Learn from me...don't be such a worrier! I could have been at least five foot ten inches tall, just like the rest of my family. Instead, I am five foot three --on a good day!
"Give your cares to God...for He cares for you!"

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

have you seen an angel lately?






I have noticed that whenever I do book signings, I seem to have more "power" when I am standing behind my table as opposed to standing in front of it. It is as if that table gives me a sense of security- I have built my "wall" and as long as others are on the other side of it, all the better. It was true in high school speech classes as well, as long as I had that podium, I could tackle any subject with ease. Without that podium, I was a bowl of Jell-o in an earthquake!

At my last book signing, however, there was a gal who came to my table. She said she had been "looking for me," as she had a message she wanted to tell me. As soon as I heard it, I stepped out from behind that table and embraced her in a wonderful hug. By letting down my guard, I could sense her words and feelings that much better. We became one in thought and feeling, even if just for those few precious moments. When she left, I once more resumed my post.

Why is it that we feel we need to build barriers in order to feel "safe?" Our barriers are not always a table, sometimes it can also be barriers between those with money and those who do not. We choose to live in towns and neighborhoods with like minded people. We hang out with those who say what we want to hear, who believe what we believe. We feel uncomfortable if we are asked to be with another who is of a different race, a different country, or even different religious beliefs. More wars have been fought because of a difference of opinion, either politically or religiously, than for any other reason.

When Jesus was doing His ministry, He walked among those who made others feel uncomfortable. He taught about Jews getting along with Samaritans, about fathers and their wayward sons, about women in general. He ate with tax collectors! He had women friends! He healed SINNERS, for heaven's sake! He forgave sins on the Sabbath and didn't condemn a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. How positively scandalous!

If Jesus could do all of that--then what the heck is wrong with each one of us? I am just as guilty as you are! There are times when I see a person of a different race in my neighborhood and, for a fleeting moment, wonder "what is he doing here?" Is this true of you: do you hear about immigrants on the news and sometimes cringe? While it is true that we all were immigrants at some time, we seem to forget that even during His life, Jesus was also an immigrant as He moved from place to place. Was He welcomed? Not always.

Let's challenge ourselves. Pay attention to what happens around you and to your own thoughts as well. When you see a homeless person, do you curl your lip and walk on by? When you are confronted by alcoholism, do you turn away? When a new person comes into your midst, do you act as if you don't wish to know them?

We are all travelers in this miserable place called earth. It is miserable for one reason and one reason only: because we refuse to recognize Christ in all we meet. We don't want to be bothered by the effort it would take to get to know another. We don't want to give up our comfort zone to someone else. We step behind a table of our own making and dare anyone to cross. We put up fences in our backyards, in our communities, in our countries. We demand visas to all who dare to enter. We click the lock on our soul and pocket the key.

In some instances, we make damn sure we go so far as to lose that key, so that we will never be bothered with it again.

Hebrews 13:1-3 admonishes us this:  "Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.…"

Hmmm...entertaining angels unawares. If an angel crossed your path, would you know it? Would you recognize one if you saw one?

Well, that person you just ignored, the one you drove past, the one you kept your head down for or looked away from....
that was an angel.
How do you feel now?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

onto what soil have YOU been planted?




This past Spring, when the days became longer, warmer and sunnier, I itched to begin my flower gardens. I visited nurseries and picked out plants that were sturdy and strong, bought special soil and large enough pots, planted them and stood back to admire my process. In a way, I understood how God must have felt when, on the sixth day, He surveyed all He had done and found it to be good.
So did I.

Several weeks later, it was warm enough to plant things in the ground. I again bought sturdy tomato plants, vibrant cucumber plants and bell pepper plants, put them into my garden whose soil I had mixed compost that I had been adding to since the previous year. I was confident when I tossed out my flower seeds that it would all grow well.
And it did.

By mid May, I noticed something unusual: the marigolds that I had purchased from the nursery were wilting, dying off and not looking too good. I gave them water, they had sun, they had this great soil that I spent big bucks on...and yet---I noticed that where I had tossed seeds, the plants were doing SO MUCH BETTER! I have a small plot that I call the Butterfly Garden. This is where the bright, showy flowers go that will attract butterflies all summer long. I had saved marigold seeds from the previous year's plants and just scattered them there. But the seeds were now in  different places where I did NOT put them. I think the birds probably "helped," because I now had tiny plants in my rock garden and in several small cracks of the sidewalk, including alongside the house where I had sprayed a chemical to keep water from seeping into my basement. In fact, all summer those plants grew...and thrived- under the worst circumstances while the plants in my fancy, expensive pots were languishing!

In life, it is the same with certain people. Some go through the worst circumstances and come out so much stronger for it. Strife makes them stronger, challenges makes them better, while others see a hurdle and crumble and falter.

When I lived for awhile in California, I would go with my dad on drives up the Pacific coast. There were trees that clung to the sides of cliffs and thrived. The same was true of my drives through the mountains; again trees were clinging to whatever little ground they had on the mountainside.

We need to be like that. Don't tell me it  can't be done...it has been proven in life...what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

Say that again: whatever does NOT kill you will make you stronger!

Very few people get out of life unscathed. Many of us bear scars from past abuses, alcoholism, addictions and more. Illnesses take a toll, yet we get back up and keep fighting. Accidents, job losses, any and all ills of society can either make or break us. I think of the Holocaust survivors, of what they had seen and felt and how they survived. Of how veterans from past wars also saw much and went on in life. I also think of those for whom life brings them to their knees.

May God be with you all who have issues that need tissues...may you find comfort and peace. May you become like the flowers who grew in the cracks of my sidewalks, who became lush despite living on the edge. May you find your peace.
Amen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

are YOU a friend to Jesus?






"Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus!"
Isn't that the truth?
Yet is that what Jesus would say about YOU?

A friend. Someone who would listen to you, would share with you their heart's desires....someone that you would die for!
Jesus died for you....would you also die...for Him?

Many of you are jumping up and down like a schoolchild. "Oh! Pick me! I would, Jesus, I would!"
So if you saw a train headed straight for Him, you would step in front of it, correct?

 John 15:13 says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

This applies to complete strangers as well...

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

So...would you take that leap for someone you don't know at all?

....if you see someone who needs you and you do anything you can to provide for them, you have just done it for Jesus. This can be feeding the hungry, minstering to someone who is sick...or in  a nursing home...or in a jail....someone who is locked into the chains of alcoholism or addiction....anyone who is in need. Do you recognize Jesus in any of these scenarios? I mean, you WOULD help out your best friend from college, right? To help out a stranger is worth even more than helping out someone you do know.

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" 1 John 3:17.

To be blunt, Peter also told Jesus that he would stick by Him, he would die for Him if necessary. Jesus, in all of His compassion, recognized that when put to the test, many people could NOT do that very thing. To stand up for what you believe in rather than turn tail and run takes real courage and faith....to take that fall, not knowing what the future holds, can be a scary thing indeed. Look at how the Christians all throughout history have been persecuted...and yet...they are still being persecuted. What would YOU do if they came for you...would you accept your fate....or would you deny Jesus also to save your own life? In the case of Peter, Jesus came back after His resurrection and forgave him...He knew that He needed Peter to begin the ministry Jesus had started...he would be a valuable witness and thus...gave Peter that second chance--one that Peter lived up to for many years!

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?…Matthew 16:24-26

This is so important that ALL FOUR Gospels record this conversation...all FOUR! If you think you'll save your life now by denying Christ...by all means, do so...but in the end you will lose it forever. To say, "Yes! I DO know Him and Love Him!" and to prove it....that takes courage and faith...and you will indeed be rewarded....Jesus has a special place saved for you...as a true friend would!

So again I say, "oh! what a friend we have in Jesus!"...after all, He DID die for you...so....what kind of a friend are you...to Him?

Monday, September 28, 2015

a Monday blessing

May the words you say always be positive.
May the deeds you perform always leave an impact on another.
May you be blessed and may you feel grateful for those blessings!
Spread that feeling of joy to all you meet- be they friend or stranger...
May you never feel anything less but Love!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

who has received your love today?





“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” - Matthew 28:18-20


 I love children! They are so bold and will say whatever just pops into their heads. Last week, I overheard two third grade boys talking as they were finishing up their lunch. One said to the other, "you have to come to my church on Wednesday night!" The other boy asked, "why?" First boy: "because I said so!" He was rather insistent as he said this. I smiled and aske dhim, "would Jesus approve if He heard you talk like that if He were here?" The boy's answer?
"Yup!"
Oh the joy of children!

And this is why He instructed His disciples: " Let the little children come to Me...and do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven is for such as these!" Matthew 19:14

Let's take a moment here....please think about how you approach the subject of your faith. Do you live it? Do you speak it? Most important, do you offer yourself in service because you were moved by the Holy Spirit to do so? 

Kim Davis was in the news a few weeks back, denying a couple a marriage license because of their sexual orientation. She was a county clerk, which means that she worked "for the government." She had been elected by the people. There are those who will say she was right...as she was held in contempt of not doing her job and thus, jailed. There are those who will say she was wrong, as she had known of the Supreme Court's ruling about this on June 26th and kept at her job. Had this bothered her conscience enough, perhaps she should have stepped down.

In our lives, we are met with many challenges. Right or wrong, our actions show who we are. As the Apostle Paul knew, fighting the good fight means that it can be dirty. Mother Teresa knew that you get down in the trenches and clean up after the poor, the sick, the lame and the hungry. The saints of the past know that faith is not some Academy Award, you don't hold it high dressed in a tux and tails or an evening gown designed by Vera Wang. You simply roll up your sleeves and do it because it just happens to be what Jesus would have done.

He walked among the poor, the downtrodden. He was asked the tough questions. He didn't mince words, but He was careful enough to know when the Pharisees were setting a trap for Him. You see, He had a ministry to conduct. He needed to be among the people- rather than jailed, as Paul was during his own ministry. He knew all about the Romans of the day--who were ready to convict any and all of breaking their rules and crucifixion was a common practice among them to eradicate any rocking of their boat. This was why Jesus was careful to do His work and then- move on. He would go to the mountains to pray, to reflect and always came back to finish what was begun. He also knew when it was time to leave- thus His admonishment to Judas to "be quick about what you are about to do."

It isn't enough, friends, to "go to church." Anyone can walk into a building, sit in a pew and look pretty on Sunday--again wearing your fancy suits and dresses. It isn't enough to say, "I'm Catholic, or Lutheran...or Baptist..." That alone just describes how you practice your beliefs. What IS important is doing what that third grade boy told his friend, "you must--because I said so!" He is living out his faith by being a fisherman of souls...in his own way. He sent out the invite, he expected it to be answered. His boldness spoke volumes of what he knows is true...it was an action on his part.

But for us as adults, we must do more than just "speak it." Do you also "walk the walk?" Do you also get in the deep, dark trenches and fight that battle daily? If you say you do, at the end of the day, can you look back and see how you have made a difference for another person? Did you need to roll up your sleeves and help out when and where you could have--or did you roll your eyes and walk away? As the disciples asked Jesus, "when did I see You hungry--naked--imprisoned?"

I'll give you a hint: the answer is: "when it you did it for another, you also did it for Me." Matthew 25:14

So...reach out from your heart. It isn't enough to get the checkbook out and write a sum down and mail it to a charity, though that is a start. How about being charitable yourself, in deeds? Homeless...hungry...naked....sick....dying...

The answers are: homeless shelters can use donations of SOCKS...lots of them...and maybe personal hygiene products also. Maybe that homeless person you see on the street would like a cup of coffee AND your companionship as well.

Answer: the hungry need food. How can you help bring that food to them...or them to the food? 

Answer: naked. What do you do with all of the clothes that you were fortunate to have worn and no longer need? There are thrift shops that can always use volunteers to sort through them and ready them for a new owner...have you considered volunteering?

Answer: dying. Hospice care...or even just a visit to a nursing home and sitting with an elderly person; they need companionship as well.

Answer: the sick. Hospitals can also use volunteers to help out, may to assist those who need information or to just find out where their loved ones are.

You see, these are but a few of the many things that you can do to make that difference...their are so many more. For those who are addicts or alcoholics, can you volunteer as an AA sponsor...or be that person whom they can reach out to instead of a pill or a bottle? 

Who have you been Jesus to today?

I'll leave you with that last thought.
May you have a blessed, God-filled day!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

is your name "anyone?" Then you ARE Someone!




Christianity is the spirit of Jesus Christ at work in the world. ~ Anonymous


Back in the days before God sent His only Son, before even the Ten Commandments were issued, Man disagreed on how to worship, let alone who to worship. They made graven images, they argued among themselves, they pretty much worshipped who they thought was the "chosen one." Years after the Ark of the Covenant was made, once again, people strayed. God, realizing how confused this motley crew of humans were, decided to come down Himself, in the form of  "one of us," hoping that by recognizing Him as one of our own, people would finally "get it."

They didn't. They were waiting for a Messiah, someone who would arrive on a chariot, someone who would step into a position of honor and instruct them, much as the scribes and Pharisees were doing already.

Instead, a child was born among them- an impoverished one at that. Despite the words of the prophets, the last one being John the Baptist, heralding His arrival, people still chose to not believe. So it was that when Jesus began performing His miracles, speaking words of wisdom, doing little acts of Love along the way, that very few understood His message. The rest demanded that this "charlatan" be crucified...the worst punishment anyone would have to endure, in order to be rid of Him. Messiah? JESUS? No way! they chimed. 

Because of the few who listened however, despite the punishments they received while proclaiming His message, Christianity was born. Like a tiny ember, it burned into a huge flame that has persisted to this day.

But Christianity has taken a real beating. For 1500 years, it withstood the tests of time, until, once again, people began to doubt and discuss, and bit by bit, it was ripped apart, minute details were then turned into yet another "religion," theologians disputing yet again who was "right" and how the Bible needed to be interpreted. Thus Catholics, (the word means "universal," in that it has the same message worldwide) Lutherans, Methodists and so on are all interpreting the Word of God, each with the idea that they are the "true faith."

Now let's back up two thousand years: the whole point of Jesus coming to us was to show that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Anyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life! 
ANYONE!  
A-N-Y-O-N-E.  
Yet....once again, we have division... in my own tiny town of five thousand, there are eight Lutheran churches alone...each one just a bit different from the last. 

We are all serving the same God, are we not? So why is there that sense of "I know more than you do?" Why can't we all just get along? I am sure God is asking the same thing. 

Jesus had one message for all of us. When asked how must we get into heaven, He replied, "Do you follow the ten commandments? Yes? Then I bring you another. Love God....Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself!"

Wow...that's it? Even his  followers were stunned. They were so used to the Pharisees of the day picking apart every nuance of the Word...and yet right there WAS the Word telling them to just "love each other, even as I have loved you!" Amazing!

Keep in mind, these were simple people: farmers, peasants, fishermen. They had no real skills, other than survival, so He couldn't make it any more complicated than it was, and yet...how simple!

So here is the message for today: it doesn't matter what "church" you belong to....love one another even as Jesus loves you. Oh wait...are you not "white"? Then Love one another! Are you from a "foreign country? Love one another! Are you gay? Then love one another! Are you disabled? Love one another! Are you an addict...an alcoholic.... homeless? Are you anything other than what someone thinks you "ought to be?" Then love one another!

See how simple it is? Why do we have to make Life so complicated?

Shout it from the rooftops....LOVE ONE ANOTHER! Oh Joy! Can you feel it? Can you feel the love come down? Now go and share that with ALL you meet! Lift up the weak, care for the depressed, show that joy to everyone...oh please...show that Joy to all you meet! Smile for no good reason other than today God has given you LIFE!

Praise be God, praise be His Holy Name! Praise Him in the sun, the stars and the heavens...and most importantly, praise him to all you meet. Just by being YOU...NOT because you are Baptist...or Lutheran...or Catholic...or Muslim...but just by being a CHILD OF GOD.
Oh how sweet it is!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

how do you define yourself?





A few days ago a news story reported two "women of color" who stole money from a 90 year old woman. After much press exposure, the two women were found. Many people clapped their hands and said, "now justice has been served." Yet the most these two perpetrators will get is probably a slap on the wrist. Should a crime be judged by whether or not you rob  90 year old women or a twenty year old woman? I can't be a judge to that- to me, robbery is robbery, no matter who you steal from. 

What is really making me think, however, is just what IS happening...and what the news only reports. There is injustice all around us, but to be fair, there are also acts of goodness around us as well. The disparity is that everyone loves dirty laundry. Doubt me? We all love to hear gossip, the juicier the better. There too, is where we need to practice restraint. Is it fair to another to be the subject of gossip? Even the Hollywood celebrities get tired of it and will seek isolation when they can to avoid it. 

Yes, injustice has been in existence since Cain beat Abel to death out of jealousy, since David killed Uriah to win Bath-sheba, since Jesus was tortured on a Cross for just being Himself...and on it continues.

I think it is high time for people to stand up and declare that there will be no more injustice. When people of differing nationalities take to the streets to spread a message that they matter and yet what their brothers and sisters do in the name of injustice is just wrong!  One group in particular, the Black Lives Matter group, is claiming that the police are shooting and killing their own. Yet "their own" are also the ones who are robbing 90 year old women, they are beating and killing young children, they are driving by and randomly shooting up neighborhoods. They are given many wonderful opportunities to succeed through various work and school programs, but in their minds, they insist they are being profiled.

When I was young, we also grew up poor, yet I saw my father struggle to make a life for us. I grew up with a work ethic- that if you want more, you have to go out and get it. So I did. I have always hit the ground running. The few times where I have hit bottom financially has inspired me to get back up and seek out a new way. I have never sat in pity, drawing attention to myself. I have never blamed others, I have always practiced gratitude for what I was given. There were no entitlements; I knew that hard work will always pave the way towards success.

Somehow in life, it has tipped over, those ideals. People have developed an "it's all about me" attitude, "and to heck with you!" Yet there is also good everywhere. I think it's time for good to prevail, don't you? The best way to start is to pay it forward every chance you get. Smile at everyone you meet. Maybe someone is having a bad day...so be the one to make it better. Live with an attitude of gratitude. Did you know that grateful people are also the happiest people, in both the workplace as well as at home? Stands to reason, right? If you are grateful, you will be happy and happy people have nothing to complain about. Happy people don't have a need to hurt others, they don't seek out the easy way, they will give to another because that is how life goes around. Cain killed Abel because he was unhappy. David thought that to have Bath-sheba would make him complete. The people of Jesus' day thought that to be rid of Him would restore their status quo (as miserable as that was!) We all think that when we win the lottery, we will be so happy, yet statistics again prove that those who are the happiest are not those who have a lot of money, in fact, to have a lot of money can make one miserable as they are always jumping through hoops (what to do with that cash, how to invest, what if the stock market crashes, how will I insure my new boat, my new car, my huge house....) Jesus admonished us all about storing up treasures on earth, instead we need to store riches in heaven. (Matthew 6:20)

Come to think of it...heaven is a happy place. We will have all that we need there. No sense of entitlement, no need for jealousy, no reason to cause another pain. But we can also do that right now...here on earth! Will YOU be the one who can do that?
I think you can!








Saturday, August 22, 2015

do you have the greatest love of all?


 
"Every one of you has the potential to become a hero!"

I heard this comment made a few days ago and it has stuck inside my head since then. Various songs have been sung about heroes...Whitney Houston ("The Greatest Love of All") and Tina Turner ("We don't Need Another Hero"), to name a few. I look back throughout life and realize that in the past we have had movies and TV shows about "heroes"; today, however, not so much. In the past there have been many saints who have been examples of what being a hero means...again (sadly) today...where are they?

I'll tell you where they are!

They are the grocery store cashier who has been asked to stay an extra two hours because another employee has called in sick and there is no one to replace him. It is the police officer who has just delivered a baby by the side of the road. It is the firefighter who crawled into a burning building to rescue a child trapped on the third floor. It is the soldier who just completed his third tour of duty. It is the teacher who pulled into the school parking lot at 6:30 a.m. and who may not be home in time for dinner because she had to help several students who just don't understand the new math. It is the doctor who told his patient's wife the bad news:  that her husband has maybe six weeks to live. It is even that little child who sat out on the curb with a lemonade stand, raising money for a wonderful charity and doesn't keep even a nickel for himself. It is the artist who paints a mural on the side of a building in an inner city, hoping to inspire people rather than leaving negative graffiti in its place. It is the college student who is holding down a job and a half and still maintaining a 4.0 GPA to become something better than she is. It is that mother raising children on her own after their father walked out. It is that gentleman dealing with depression for whom getting up in the morning can be a real struggle. It is the woman who is trying to piece together a normal life after many years of abuse. It is so many people...who make up this thing called life.

Who is a hero?

"Everybody's searchin' for a hero...people need someone to look up to...I've never found anyone to fulfill my needs..."

A hero is you. It is me. It is all of us.

So when you see protests and people burning down businesses all because one of their own can't follow the "rules of life," but someone needs to place blame somewhere...that is not being a hero. But the police who need to control the crowds...the firefighters who need to put out the blazes, the National Guard who needs to restore order, they are the heroes. See? A hero doesn't have to jump tall buildings in a single bound...for some of us, just getting up and helping another in need is all we really need to do. That's it! Be an inspiration...be the one... why wait for someone else? Get in there and be the one!

We all have the potential within us to be a hero. As Whitney sang...."it is the greatest love of all...."

Friday, August 14, 2015

how do you present yourself?




Social media can be a reliable or unreliable as a person wants it to be. There are those who create scam accounts and then post information meant to be realistic when in fact, it is not. There are those also who post real information, but they take it a step too far. In their haste to broadcast information, they may adopt an "it's my way or the highway!" attitude. How can that foster any goodwill at all, I ask you?

Case in point: Facebook. Facebook was originally created as a way for college students to keep in touch with one another. Since its inception in 2009, it has become a billion dollar industry for its creator as well as any and all who buy ads on the site. It also has been known to create much drama/havoc/pain among those who use it. My attitude has always been, if you wish to air dirty laundry, maybe you ought to think twice before posting it for all to see. How many times have you looked at a post and thought, "is this meant to be for me?" only because it's cryptic message-and not always a good one at that-- is just inflammatory.

In this age of digital electronics, social media is a good way to "make disciples of all nations." In fact, it can be and is a very good way to inspire others. But it also can be a weapon. I have seen many posts about being pro-life. To spread the word about being pro-life can be a good thing, but there are many who will wield this as a weapon, informing any and all that if they don't also adopt this stance, they will surely burn in hell. Or threats are made, going so far as to destroy another's home, business, friendship, etc.

I don't think that Jesus, if He were here, would approve of any of that. He did not go into various communities with that approach at all. In fact, he admonished to his disciples that if a town refused to listen, they were to shake the dust off that town from their feet and move on. Note that He did NOT say, "but set fire to it before you leave!" (Matthew 10:14; see also Mark 6:11) Yet this is the very attitude that many people will adopt! Instead of spreading a message that contains words of love, it becomes a message tainted with condemnation, guilt and unapologetic acts of malice. Look at the riots that are taking place in various communities--citizens up in arms, in their zeal to prove a point,  have literally set towns on fire and displaced many who own homes and businesses.

To be Christ-like means living as Jesus taught us to. If you want to prove to another that being a certain way is what is best, then let your actions speak for you as well as your words. To say one thing, then do another proves that you are no better than those whom you are trying to convince! Are you pro-life? Then show it! Do you wish to see peace on earth? Then act peaceable! "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God!" (Matthew 5:9) Being a peacemaker does NOT include making rants on social media, it does NOT include rioting in a community to be heard, it does NOT include slanderous words, thoughts or actions of any kind or sort. Why would one wish to be like that in the first place?

In today's world, it is so easy to want to be the one with the biggest voice. So be it...but be a voice of Love. Be a person of character. Be the one who wants...who truly wants... to be an example of what Faith, Love and Hope are all about! Be the one....will you take that choice? Will you live it out in your daily life?

May you have a blessed day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

two questions...







So much sadness in the news lately...and I do believe the news media thrives on that. However, even without the reporting, bad things would happen. Unfortunately, it is occurring much more than it needs to.

Just yesterday, seven teens ages 12-18 were caught beating up on homeless people in Wichita, Kansas. They were part of an urban basketball team there from Minneapolis for a tournament.
A 14 year old boy was caught in a high speed chase, yes, you read that right, in Minnesota after robbing cars and stealing one, taking it on a two day joyride. Yes, he was just 14.

When parents are questioned, invariably their response is: "he is just a "typical" teenager." Hmmm...typical? By whose standards? Because if you raised that child right, if that child is disciplined and taught respect, there is no way they will end up beating up homeless people and stealing cars! Where is the empathy? What about compassion?

There are two questions that we need to ask ourselves before we act on any impulse. The first one is this: "will it do harm to any other living thing?"
The second is: "do the ends justify the means?"

Case in point: a lion in Zimbabwe was killed by a Minnesota dentist as  part of a trophy hunt.  This lion was wearing a GPS collar, which eventually lead researchers to what was left of the body. Do the ends --the hunt--justify the means? This dentist's business had signs posted on the building itself that were not very friendly, causing it to shut down. As people picketed outside the business, there were threats on this man's life. No doubt the rest of the employees who work there are now wondering where the next paycheck will be coming from. The ripple effect is enormous. Did it harm any living thing? Well, there was the lion, but more important, those who depended on this job for their grocery and rent money, yes, it did harm them.

Case in point: it has been one year since the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri that lead to rioting of much of the town. Do the ends- in this case, the death of a young man--justify the means-- a town needing to be rebuilt? I say no. There are other options of stating one's displeasure, destroying a whole town is NOT one of them! Again, the ripple effect is that many innocent business owners, some who had no insurance, were inconvenienced in finding other means of income.

Case in point: a woman finds herself pregnant. She chooses to not be inconvenienced by carrying this child to term, so she chooses abortion. In this country, she does not need to ask anyone's permission. Not the father of the baby, not the two sets of grandparents, who would love that child; no, she decides it on her own. Do the ends justify the means....especially when there are other alternatives available to her? Does it harm any living thing? You bet it does!

People wonder why our society is eroding. These three examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I see it every day, the constant disrespect shown towards others: rude drivers who cut off people, neighbors picking on neighbors for imagined slights, even postings on social media bring out the worst in some people, who stoop so low as to name call, troll and threaten others, all because an opinion doesn't match their own!

Wake up, friends!!!! Before you act, THINK! Think real hard about what the impact is of saying or doing what you are so tempted to say or do! Think also of who else is in the room with you...a child? An impressionable someone who, upon witnessing your outbursts, now thinks its a normal thing to do and will do it. Is it reasonable? no. Is it acceptable? no. Do you think it's agreeable? No? Then why do it at all?





If you want peace, YOU must work for justice. YOU must be the light bearer in this dark world. YOU must be the one....be the one who says, "enough!" and then, make that change. Will you be popular? Maybe...but more than likely, no. But...which would you rather have...a slew of fake friends...or a few who will side with you...and who will support your decision by also making the world a more polite place to be?
It's YOUR call!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"do you trust Me?"



 as a baby trusts its mother...do you also trust in God?
 
Many of you have said prayers; heaven must be full of them, kind of like Voice Mail that needs to be cleared out. Yet how many of you, when receiving an answer, are willing to follow through?

When my husband was given a diagnosis of skin cancer, I stormed heaven with my prayers. I cried, I begged God, "we have only been married for five years! Please, you can't take him now!" I heard a Voice ask me, "do you trust me?"

OK, let's stop right there and examine this:
"Do you trust me?"
Four little words that can have a huge impact on anyone!
"Do you trust me?"
Trust.

Five letters. Big assumptions. Trust. Trust is something that all of us are born with. All of us. No matter what economic situation you are initially born into, you have trust. You look at your momma's face and trust: "she has food." You root for her nipple, there it is! Life giving fluids...and thus, trust is kindled. Diaper wet? You cried, diaper was changed. Just want to be held? Mom was right there, soothing words said, more trust is built. Soon you learned to walk. You may have fallen once...or twice...but mom smiled at you--encouraged you...and you trusted that you could do this...and so you kept on...and did it. Older still, studying for college finals. Again, mom trusted in your efforts...thus you trusted also in yourself--and aced it.

Trust was built and reinforced.

Say you came from a horrible past. Mom wasn't there for you. Things were withheld from you. You grew up in poverty...or abuse....someone hurt you...at some point, trust was broken. That chain was snapped. There are a few who can become resilient and keep moving forward, many cannot. They mistrust everything and everyone around them. They grow up to be hateful, misguided, hurtful people. They pass that distrust of others on to the next generation....from a young age, all a child hears is how "we don't trust no black folk," or white folks, or Asian folk, or Mid-East folk...hate grows....and grows....

Trust...let's go back to the beginning.

Once upon a time, God placed a couple in a garden so beautiful and gave them EVERYTHING they could have ever wanted or needed. Then came a stupid serpent who gave them a nibble of a thought, "what if....God held out on you?" Ah...mistrust has been planted. and all throughout OUR own generations, over time, there has been that niggling doubt.

"Do you trust me?"

Jesus obviously did. When he prayed for that cup to pass from Him, he trusted...and continued, "but if not, not My will...but THY will be done!"
His mother, Mary also said, "Be it done to me according to THY word!" when asked to become the Mother of Jesus!

Trust. "Do you trust Me?"

...and I said, with tears running down my face, "yes, Lord, I trust You! but...it is so hard!"
Well, no one said it would be easy--see above! All through Biblical time, it HAS been hard.
But-- it has also been worth it.

Next time you are up against it and you hear a small, quiet Voice...respond in the positive. "Yes, Lord...I DO trust You!" and watch what happens. Miracles happen all the time. Are you passing up on a chance to experience it all because of a lack of trust?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

compassion...are you living it?



Gay Pride. Confederate flags. These two subjects have brought the topic of "God" to the surface more than any other news combined in just the past two weeks. People have been quoting Scripture, forecasting the end times, as well as the final coming, more disagreements have been wrought over these two subjects and with so much vilification and judgment....

I think we forget who has the last word...and it isn't Joe Blow from down the street!
With all of this talk about Jesus and His divinity, we forget about Jesus and His humanity.
Let's talk a bit about that, shall we?

Jesus is the Son of God. He is God made man. He came to us here on Earth not to condemn, but to save.  He told stories that people of the time could relate to: Shepherds, vineyards, sheep, fish, prodigal sons and busy women. He was put to the test more than once, was asked questions that required careful consideration on His part by those who were supposed to be the real teachers; namely the scribes and the Pharisees. They were so jealous of One who had come, calling Himself the Messiah, that in all haste, they convinced all who would hear that Jesus was a fake, a fraud and ordered to have Him crucified. In the very end, as Jesus hung on the Cross, He taught us all about forgiveness. During His ministry, He taught us all about tolerance. You see, it is so easy to judge, it is so easy to condemn, it is so easy to look upon another who isn't "like us," and erase them from humanity as if they were so much vermin. Yet Jesus saw in those people what we also need to see....His compassion should also be our compassion!

Commit adultery? He forgave! He talked to women, who at that time were considered mere chattel, oh yes, He did! Healed on the Sabbath? Of course! Made friends with tax collectors? By all means! He broke all the "laws," and showed us that it is in our weakness that we are made strong! Jesus did this! He did NOT introduce Himself by asking, "and are you a Samaritan? and you, there, are you from southern Africa? and you, didn't you just cheat on your wife? Why, I can't have anything to do with any and ALL of you....!" No, they were all God's children! He loved them all! and...He died for them all...and for US all as well.
Let me ask you this? If you saw someone in a gay pride parade and a moving vehicle was coming at them, would you jump in to save them? If it took you longer than a nanosecond to answer that, I'm sorry but that person has just been struck down and may die from serious injury.

"Greater love has no man than this...that he lay down his life for a friend." John 15:13

Can we not do the same as Jesus did? Instead of quoting Scripture, how about if we just LIVE IT?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

in the storms of our lives...






There is a saying that goes, "don't tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big God is!"

I am afraid of storms. Have been ever since I was a young girl. I remember when I was about 5 or 6, being brave enough one night to not cry, to not be afraid, as I watched the lightning flicker outside my bedroom window. That was short lived, however; several years later we moved to San Jose, California. I remember asking my dad, "do they get storms there?" His reply was "probably not nearly as many as we saw in Minnesota." That was OK by me, until a few years later, when, due to circumstances, we moved back to Minnesota. Our first night back....a thunderstorm greeted us. Guess I just couldn't win, eh?

Last night, around dinner time, the sky took on  a blackish hue. I scanned the weather radar and noticed that a whopper of a storm was only hours away. Sure enough, near constant lightning and thunder barreled in to our neighborhood, sirens went off and winds over 70 mph swept through my little town. My husband and I sat on the couch, looking out our picture window. In the flicker of the lightning, our blue spruce tree swayed in the wind. I prayed that it would not come through our house! Within 30 minutes, the storm blew through town and all fell silent once more. Whew!

Yet the next morning, after checking on family and neighbors to make sure all was safe, I got a phone call from a farmer in a town 18 miles away. His crops were not so fortunate and his irrigation systems were twisted and scattered about...so much damage. My once sunny outlook took a sour turn--this farmer, who is 69 years old and not in the best of health, has his farm on the auction block. He wanted to spend the time he has left in peaceful retirement, not  worrying about crops or  storms...but rather, just to enjoy each day as it comes. Now he has this to deal with also.

Huge sigh.

Storms. We all have them. Not just the literal kind that can take a roof off a house or twist a tree like a pipe cleaner, but also the kind that can bring us to our knees in other ways: cancer, job loss, illness of other sorts, death and dying. It seems our world always has something going on politically as well. If we could, we would probably all seek safe shelter in the basement...coming out only when the sun shines!

Well, I tell you, God is our Shelter! and His Son shines no matter what! As I sat on that couch last night, watching that spruce tree and praying, in the lightning's glow I could see the very massive size of that tree as it swayed, but also remained firm in the ground. That is a metaphor for us as well. We may sway in storms, but because of our firm hold on God, knowing He will steady us, we should not falter. We remain upright. Oh yes, we may lose a branch here or a limb there...we will have scars to show for those storms, but in the end, we will also be a living testimony to the battles that have bruised us, but not brought us down!

Tell God about your storm...oh yes...tell Him! But also, tell your storm just how much bigger God is...because with God, you will always have a secure future!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"I, racist..."



is it better to light that one candle...or shall we remain cursed to the darkness?


A Facebook friend of mine posted a message with this comment of her own. I will reprint her initial comment as well as my reaction. (I stand by what I have told her.) This is in regard to the following link:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-metta/i-racist_b_7770652.html

"I know I'm going to get some hot replies from some, but this was important for me to read and I believe it is important to share. Like it or not. I remember being the only one in a multicultural counseling class to raise my hand when asked if anyone was racist. Two black women in the class nearly cheered. I explained that I am not admitting to hating, I'm admitting to having attitudes that absolutely are different when I am dealing with black people or white. That the issue of "privilege" was only recently clear to me is something I am ashamed of (I've always felt like an outsider being a woman, and earlier on a woman who didn't "work outside the home.") I saw a black man who was riding a bicycle cross country and I was afraid for him. I wanted to escort him through the countryside just in case.... I wouldn't have give a thought to a white bike rider out on his own."

my response was this: "Racism...am I guilty of it? Sadly... yes, I am guilty of it. I am guilty of it whenever I see that there has been a murder on the news. I look for the visage of the black person...and there it is. Whenever I hear of welfare abuse, I think of  black women with five kids, all by five different men..."baby daddies," we call them. Yup, and there they are. I cringe when I see a black man walking down my street. I ask myself, "now what the hell is HE doing there?" I fear for my safety, "Is he going to rob me or my house?" What is REALLY sad is that I do not feel this way about a person of Asian descent, or native American descent, Hispanics...or of any other heritage...but now with the news centering on the atrocities of ISIS, I look upon anyone in a hajib, chador, burka or turban the same way...what are THEY doing here? It is all in how the news media has spun it....and believe me, blacks ARE centered upon. We hear about the North side of Minneapolis, the South side of Chicago, of Baltimore or Detroit in general and tell ourselves how we wouldn't be caught dead there....but if we choose to be there, we take our chances and should something bad happen, well, it's our fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When one black man is jumped by white cops, the whole world knows about it, but when one white man was jumped and beaten on the East side of St Paul, MN several years ago, beating him almost to death, did the news media point out that it was by 30 black teenagers and young adults...that this man was just in "the wrong place at the wrong time?" No! In fact, we didn't know the heritage of those attackers until the case came to trial many months later and even then, it was kept as sane as possible. 

We, you, them, they, all of us need to change our attitudes regarding race. Race basically comes down to skin color...what part of the world do you live in? The closer to the equator, the darker you will be. It was evolution, skin pigment and all.We need...I need...to realize that bad things happen...and they can happen any time...any where by any one. Good things also happen...and we need to focus on the good. We need to stop with this insane, obsessive desire to categorize people according to color and instead....congratulate them for being "one of us." Who is that "us?" We are all God's children."


I will also say this: I don't know how in life, throughout history, that "white" people..Caucasians, saw themselves as being better than those from whom they stole land from. Read through history...I mean...really read it. This past year, because I was working with my teenaged nephew on it as part of his home schooling, I, in my now mature age of 52, saw what I didn't see in high school...and what the teachers refused to teach; that is, that Caucasians would go explore vast new continents, immediately plant that flag on its soil for their country, turn its natives into slaves, and all as if it was just meant to be. You look at North America, look at how the natives today are still on the reservations the US government has told them they can "have." Land, in their minds, was not for the taking and most certainly, not for giving away...it was there for all, given by the Great Spirit. Caucasians foistered their religions on them.  We have denied them much and then, call them "lazy Indians" because they have nothing except poverty and alcoholism.

Our attitudes need to change. In my feeble mind, I can see no way out of this hole we have dug. Not by myself. I can preach it til a hundred years from now that what this world has been doing is wrong, but unless there are others who also have the desire to make it right...it just will never be so.