Make the New Year Count

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Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right
Oprah Winfrey

It’s that time again when people make their New Year resolutions.  The most common that I hear are to eat better, exercise more, or quit smoking or drinking.  All of them seem to be about self and not about others.  I think that when we look ahead to this year we should look at making decisions that will have an impact on someone else and if it helps us to then that is a double bonus.

I have a few suggestions that might help us all.

1) Cut down the arguments on Facebook, Twitter and your other social media sites.  Everyone has a right to their opinion don’t be mean to them because it is not yours.  And before you post a meme, check out the facts behind it.  I’ve often found them false and do let people know when a meme is deceiving or an outright lie.  Sometimes that starts a fight.  “Learn to walk away” I tell myself, “Learn to walk away.”  No one is going to change their mind unless they want to, fighting only makes them more defensive and less willing to listen to you.  So learn to walk away.

2) Help someone.  We all know people who are in need.  Do something for them.  Don’t just tell them that you are praying for them. Sure that may lift their spirits, but put your words into action.  Help them with their needs.  If you can’t fill those needs, find someone who can.  But I am betting that you can do it.  You can send a card, you can clean a yard, wash some dishes or baby sit their kids.  Make a difference in their life.  It will be more rewarding than anything you can think of.

3) Don’t look down on people.  To many times I hear people talking bad about that bum on the corner asking for money or the single mom who is struggling to control her kids, or that person that doesn’t keep their house perfectly clean etc.. etc.. I could go on about what people complain about.  It does not help them or you.  You don’t know what a hard life or day that they have had. Instead, try to be sympathetic to them or whatever they are going through.  Each of us reacts different to situations and just because you think would handle it better doesn’t mean that all people do.

4) Volunteer somewhere.  This could be at your local place of worship if it is involved in community outreach that does not involve evangelism, the food bank, homeless shelter, pet shelter, etc… There are lots of good places you can help out instead of spending time on yourself.  Spend it on and for others.

5) Give that $1.  Often a store will ask if you want to donate to a cause when you are buying what you have come to purchase.  Give a $1, it won’t break you and it will help so many people or animals.

6) Make a friend.  Recently I read a story about President Lincoln who received a letter asking for a pardon from someone without the normal letters from influential people.  Mr. Lincoln asked if this person had any friends.  “No sir, not one.” came the reply.  “Then I shall be his friend.” Said Mr. Lincoln.  Be that friend to those who have none.

7) No road rage this year, in fact control your anger wherever you are.  Instead pray for that persons safety that just cut you off and for the safety of those in their path.  Maybe they are rushing to the hospital because their mom just had a heart attack.  Maybe they are rushing to pick up their child who is sick.  We don’t know.  Maybe they are a jerk, but treating them the same does not make your day or their day any better.

8) I’ll leave this one up to you.  There are many other ways you can make this a better year.  Feel welcome to drop an idea here to help someone who may read this page.  Have a Great and Happy New Year!

Jesus, No Stable, Just Love

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But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
 Luke 2:10

Merry Christmas or whatever your holiday is this holiday season.  I hope you have or are having a good one.  I am a Christian but don’t hold to the traditional look at the Christmas story.  I don’t think Jesus was born in a barn or cave, but in a home of Joseph’s relatives.  He did after all go to Bethlehem because he was from there.  The word that Luke uses for inn when we translate “there was no room in the inn” is the same word that is used for the “upper room” at the last supper.  Now I don’t know about you, but I never pictured the last supper in the Holiday Inn banquet hall.  Ok, that’s stretching it a little.  But what makes more sense that Joseph and Mary were visiting relatives and when she was reading to give birth they moved her to a bigger room or they were traveling and about to give birth and some jerk throws them in a stable?  Especially when you think about the importance of hospitality in that region during that time and before.  The Old testament has many verses about taking care of the stranger or traveler so it was important to them to do that.

If you are wondering about the manger,…. Many people kept their animals in the house at night for the extra body heat.  They would keep a small manger filled with food in the home to keep the animals quiet at night.  I wish that worked with my cats.

Do we know about what year he was born?  Absolutely not.  Everyone says 4-6 BCE because they  only read Matthews account talking about Herod the Great.  Yes, He died in 4 BCE so that should make Jesus born before that date.  That would work except that Luke says that Jesus was born while Quirinius who took the position in 6 CE.  That’s 10 years after Herod died.  Hmmmm Can’t exactly make the stories not fit can we.  Yes he was the Legate of Galatia from 5-3 BCE but that isn’t the word that Luke uses.

So we either have to admit that Luke is wrong or our tradition is wrong about the time of the birth.

Now we could sit and debate about whether I’m right or wrong, but that isn’t really what is important.  What is important is what the birth of Jesus represents.  It’s a change.  A big Change that calls to us all.

Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, judges and the books of Samuel and the Kings there is a cycle that is continued to be pointed to that Matthew points to.  the Deuteronomy cycle is basically this.  You are in good standing with God, you commit sins, you are punished and a Messiah (judge, good King) comes and brings you back to good standing.

The Jews at that time would have felt they were in bad standing and Jesus is pointed out as the Messiah.  The one that would lead them back to good standing.  He would lead them into caring about one another and not following some religious laws or tradition that has been made up.  Jesus calls us to love and sacrifice.  He said the greatest command was to Love God and love your neighbor as yourself and then he showed the way by sacrificing himself for this idea.  When he says to take up your cross he is saying you better be willing to die as a revolutionary.  Not necessarily a revolutionary against the government, but against any group or organization that holds to ideas that are hurtful to people.

A true Christian follows in the steps of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and fights for the poor, oppressed, persecuted, underprivileged and victimized.  Just like Jesus fought for women and foreigners we must continue to change the world as he did.  To do that we have to see each other as someone to be loved, no matter what they are liked or what your religion has taught you to think of them.

When it all comes down to what is important, those traditions aren’t important. It’s whether you actually love.  Are you willing to sacrifice it all and make the change?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quirinius