Feeling Trashed

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Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

Confucius

It’s been about four years since one family member stopped talking to my wife and me.  At that point we asked what we did wrong and we were told that we knew.  Umm, NO WE DID NOT!  Sigh.  That’s why we were asking.  Of course that really seemed to be a way to say “I’m not talking about what the problem really was”.  I send them friend requests, birthday greeting etc… but without response.  I am still hoping they will respond someday.  Once their entire family came to the town where I live and everyone but that person came to see me.  This made me feel like trash.

Recently another family member got ticked off at us when we came out of the closet in support of gay rights.  Never did any family member ask us why.  In fact this is really the only member that talked to us about it and all they did was quote Leviticus 18:22 and say “it’s a sin.”  When I tried to explain my thoughts and what the Bible said through the Hebrew, Greek and its original time period, I was told that I didn’t listen.  (Sigh).  And now we have been cut out and tossed aside by yet another.

This past week a family came to my school.  I work with special needs kids.  The students we have are the students that the general school districts can’t deal with.  This family has had two children in our program.  The mother is in her 40’s, dying and now in a wheel chair as this disease slowly takes her away.  When the mom and dad came into the school she motioned to me and slowly asked me to go get her son and do it quietly.  So I went to his room and got him without telling the teacher.  The reason was that they had roses to give to the teacher and they wanted it to be a surprise.  That’s the kind of family they are.  They truly love everyone.  They have support from both sides of the family as they take care of their farm, two kids, and everything else that goes along with what they are going through.

I wish my family was more like that.  I wish my family took family more serious.  I wish they cared about me.  They aren’t the only ones but they are the ones that most affect me. I don’t know what it will take for my family to get anywhere near this point.  I’m guessing it will never happen.  My grandmother spent 50 years not talking to her daughter because my aunt married the wrong guy.  By the way my uncle and my aunt were married for 50 years.  Guess grandma didn’t know everything.

That’s the thing.  Others don’t know how you or I feel or why you or I do things if they don’t take time to ask and REALLY listen.  Instead they have just thrown us into the trash.  They make us feel totally that we are worthless to them and they don’t seem to care one iota.  The second sibling above even posted on my facebook page how wonderful it was to be able to block people from his life.  This bragging (at least it came across as bragging) came shortly after blocking my wife and right before unfriending me. I can find no other reason for writing that other than they wanted to hurt me. They did what they wanted.  That hurt me a lot!  But when I confronted them, they again said they did nothing wrong.  And again I felt like I was tossed out like all the other refuse they had tossed to the trash.

Why is it that people don’t talk out their problems?  Why don’t people care about family?  Why do people just want to hurt others?  I will probably never know.  I really doubt that either of them will ever tell me.  I doubt I’ll ever hear from them again except at funerals.  Then again I doubt they’ll speak to me then.  Wonder if they will even acknowledge my presence?  Would they come to my funeral?  Would they even care?  I’m sure they wouldn’t come to my wife’s funeral.  They made it plain with their actions as well as words that they both hate her.  Again I have absolutely no idea why they would hate such a loving person.  And if they don’t come that’s ok.  I’d only want people who actually care to come, but maybe something like that will have to happen to wake them up.  I hope not.

Hopefully those that read this aren’t people tossed in the trash.  If so, remember you are not alone.  Maybe we can lean on one another.

If you’re one that has tossed others in the trash, please figure out what is really important.  And it’s not whatever grudge you’re holding on to.  What matters is family and friends.  It’s love.  It’s caring, kindness, listening and spending time with people.  Hopefully you’ll understand that before it’s too late.

“Strength of character means the ability to overcome resentment against others, to hide hurt feelings, and to forgive quickly.”  Lawrence G. Lovasik

For God So Hates Everyone That Is Different.

God loves 2

Racism is beyond common sense and has no place in our society.
Steven Patrick Morrissey

This month is Black history month and it reminds me of so much prejudice that still goes on in America.  I remember a few years ago, my wife and I took in a biracial child into our home.  Very few people outside the kids at church took time to get to know him.  I’m guessing because he did look African American.  After all the church did reach out to other white kids that we took into our home.  So what made them not reach out to this child?  One board member even told our family that he “needed to be with his own kind.”  It is sad that this still goes on in the world and especially sad it goes on in the church.  The church is supposed to show God’s love to all mankind.

Shortly after Obama was elected president I ran into some prejudice against him.  A family member said, “We brought them over here and now they are taking over.”  What kind of talk is that?  Another relative has said several times that they wished Obama would be killed or commit suicide.  Both of them would both say they are Christian.  Again what kind of talk is that?!  I am not a huge fan of Obama.  I think he’s average at very best.  However, I was raised to love all mankind no matter what they are like, yet some family members reject that ideology.  When I read posts comparing President Obama to Hitler and comments like he’s trying to be a dictator, I wonder what in the world they are thinking.  There has certainly been something that has happened in their lives that has obscured their view of the world.  I know that these thoughts are not simply in my family.  There are many Obama haters and I wonder if it is because he’s not a WHITE conservative.

What is it about others that make us afraid of them?  Differences should be embraced but instead they are rejected and build divisions.  Right?

Coke released an advertisement during the Super Bowl with many different people and languages singing “America the Beautiful” and there was an uproar about that.    Seems to me this was nothing but prejudice.  The quotes I saw were very hateful toward immigrants and yet unless you are a Native American your ancestors were immigrants.  Seems to be fear that these immigrants will take something from us instead of adding to our already rich culture.  Also, I must ask why this is different than the old Coke commercials “I want to teach the world to sing?”

The Olympics are going on in Sochi, Russia.  There has been a long discussion on the problems Russia has had with its laws on homosexuality.  Yet the Olympics are supposed to be about bringing the world together.  How can this world be brought together when it treats one another with such contempt.  In America there is a fight over whether homosexuals should have the right to marry.  Recently there was a gay couple on “Good Luck Charlie” and death threats were sent to the 5 year old who plays the role of “Charlie”.   Closer to home I have had people say that they wished “all homosexuals would die.”  That from a children’s teacher at a church.  I wonder if they taught love or hate to those kids.  Too often very hateful things are said like this, and all too often in the name of God.  No people, God does not hate gays, but just maybe you do.

There is a store in our area that my wife and I call the “scary mart”.  Not because it is scary, but because a member of a church we no longer attend talked about how scared they were to get gas there.  What may have been scarier were all the people who nodded in agreement with them.  I was offended.  Those people are simply poorer than that church.  The same church where another leading member said of the poor “The poor choose to be poor.”  Obviously a division caused by prejudice.  I can say this because my work is less than a mile from that store and I am in contact with the people all the time.  They are not scary, they are nice people.  If they had money like the above people then I guess that would make them ok instead of scary.

Prejudice still runs deep in our society.  Whether it is another race, sex, class, language etc…   We have a long way to go.  If you want to truly leave this world a better place for the next generation than it is you and me that have to change.  To truly start treating each other like we want to be treated.  With love and respect, no matter what our differences are or how right we think we are.  You see, when a person thinks they are right, most likely they are like the people I mentioned above.  They all thought they had it right, they just couldn’t see it from another persons point of view and that is where prejudice begins and ends.  Within us.  Within you.

Confessions of a Pepsi Drinker

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It seems that there has been big controversies about the Super bowl add that Coke a Cola put out.  Here is the link in case you have not seen it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8uSVUiniWQ&feature=share

I guess that since the Super Bowl wasn’t too super that we have to stir up something to talk about.  I watched the advertisement when it came on as I was sitting with friends but no one thought a lot of it.  It was simply a commercial selling Coke.  It wasn’t funny.  Those are the ones that we look for during the Super bowl.

However it did really spark an interest with people who tend to think that Americans should only speak English.  Often we think that America was settled by the people from the British Isles.  It was, but not simply by only them.  The Germans came, French, Spanish and so much more from Europe.  Then many came from Africa.  Mostly by force.  The U.S. only became Englishized (if that is a word) through treaties and wars. 

Here are a few things people said negatively.

 http://pulsefeedz.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/you-hate-america-if-you-hate-cokes-super-bowl-commercial/

From the beginning America has been a melting pot of different cultures and yet 200 plus years later we still can’t get along.   At different times in our history we have had problems with immigration.  Most of those problems came from people being scared that their lives would change because there were too many Irish, Asian or Mexicans coming to America. 

I find it ironic that this commercial would come out during Black history month.  This is supposed to be a time where we celebrate the diversity in America.   Yet it seems that we have not really come very far from the 1950’s.  Sure African Americans are somewhat more accepted, but we have just taken our racism from them and placed it on another group.  The problem is still there and needs to be fixed.  It will never be fixed though by hating those of different race, religion, language, sexual preference or toe nail paint. 

Some people will find hate no matter what.  The rest of us need to show the love and acceptance of others and stop dividing America.  We should not have Red and Blue States.  We should be Purple.  We should be one nation working together and not ripping apart. 

 America does not have a national language and there is no reason to have one.  I find it fun to learn another language, customs etc… of others.  I have lived in three states and all of them are different even though they are near each other.  That is how we learn.  If we want simply to stagnate and fall apart then we can try to make everyone just like us.  However I don’t want to be a clone.  I want to be free to explore and learn and change and grow.  That is what we should be like. 

So let us get off our high horse and find someone that is different and get to know them.  Buy them a Coke, have a good time.  It will change your life and probably theirs too.

Change Yourself Please

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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Leo Tolstoy

When I went off to college to begin my pastoral life I was ready to take on the world.  I remember even a few years after college saying that one day I would be preaching the ordination ceremonies.  I wanted nothing more than to win the world for Jesus and show people how ministry is supposed to be done. The churches that I served at changed that attitude, but made me a better person in many ways.  It made me want to stand up more against what I saw as hypocrisy in the church.

Even in college I was a little rebellious.  All the important people seemed to attend a church right next to the campus.  I went there some my first semester but found it lacking and many of the ministry students to be superficial.  Many seemed to only be going there because it was the in place to be, not because it was a place to do real ministry.  So this place was not for me.  I found myself at a church with very few of the college students, but at a place where I could really minister.  I was determined then not to be part of the “in crowd”.

My guess is that most people want to be in this kind of crowd.  Some people want to because it makes them popular, some because they won’t be noticed and some, because it’s easier than doing things yourself.  You don’t have to think for yourself.  Just agree with the crowd and go with the flow and there won’t be any trouble.  You’ll have a nice and easy Christian life.

I don’t think that is what Jesus was like.  He was an outsider who made waves.  Almost everyone who followed Jesus was not in the in group.  He did not make it easy for anyone to follow him.  His motto was “Follow me and die”.  Isn’t that really what “Take up your cross and follow me” means? According to tradition all of the disciples but John died because of their faith.  Why do we think that Christianity is supposed to be easy? No!  It’s supposed to be hard.  Hard to go against the crowd.  Hard to make a difference and yet a lot of Christians want to hole up in their nice cozy churches and sing their sweet hymns in their nice clothes, while bums on the street freeze and the next door neighbor goes hungry.

Christianity should shake up society, push them beyond their comfort zone into real love and acceptance no matter if you are an illegal alien or a homosexual (Samaritan) a government official (Give unto Caesar, tax collectors) women, men, rich or poor.  Jesus took time for each one of them and never put them down.  No he reached out to them.

Jesus said to pray for your enemies and those who persecute you.  Do you have enemies? Does anyone persecute you? If not maybe you should think of changing yourself.  All the great reformers (Christian or not) had enemies.  Jesus, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and even Mother Teresa had their enemies. Mostly from the institution they belonged to.  Jesus was a Jew and went to the temple like a good Jew but was rejected by its leaders because he showed them the true path to God instead of their traditional ways. The reformists were rejected by the church.  Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an American; Gandhi was killed by members of his own party.

All Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  That means that if there is someone in need that we reach them.  We don’t ask them to be like us, or for their green card.  We just help them, care for them, love them.  Do you want to see the world change?  Be Radical, be a heretic, be a world changer by changing yourself.  Don’t be afraid of change, be afraid of not changing.

Rethinking Sodom

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The idea of marriage has been a big issue in the past few years.  I have taken opportunities to study and read a lot about what the Bible truly says about marriage , sexuality and relationships.  Sometimes I find myself surprised by what it actually says and sometimes what it doesn’t say.  This is not about marriage but it is about Christians possibly interpreting passages incorrectly.  So read the following and see if we might be doing just that.

Some of what I have read has suggested that our idea of the meaning of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah may be incorrect.  That it has nothing to do with sex, but how we treat each other.  The story in Genesis chapter 19 is compared with the story in Judges chapter 19.  The story in judges, I have never heard a sermon or Bible study that made the sexuality an issue yet the two stories have a lot in common.  Let us first look at the similarities between the two stories.

Both stories have strangers going into a town in which no one seemed to help them.  Eventually, someone came and took them into their home.  It was considered normal, even expected, that when a stranger came into the town that the people would immediately take care of their needs, yet in both stories this does not happen.

After the men are taken into these homes people of the town come and demand that this stranger be sent out so that they can rape them.  This is of course where we get the idea that it is about homosexuality.  However, most psychologists and counselors today will tell us that rape is not about sex.  It is about power or control over the other individual.  So did they want sex or to control or hurt the stranger whom they were supposed to protect and take care of?

Following this in both stories the people of the town are offered women.  The daughters of Lot are offered in Genesis and the daughter of the man of the town and the stranger’s concubine in Judges.  Remember that throughout the Biblical times women were simply property so they were simply trying to buy their way out of the situation.  The people of the town did not want the property.  That would not help them control or have power over the strangers.  In Judges the men of the town did take the property and destroyed it.  In other words they killed the concubine.

After these events the strangers were able to leave and then judgment came on the cities.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone and Gibeah was destroyed in a war with the other tribes of Israel.

Then both Lot and those of Gibeah are given wives and children through unconventional means.  Lot has sex with his daughters and the men of Gibeah kidnap some women for their wives.  Again, women are property so there is no protection for them.  And in the future King Saul was from Gibeah.  (1 Samuel 10:26) Lot’s children became the nations of Moab and Ammon.  The book of Ruth tells us that Ruth is about a Moabite.  Ruth is the great grandmother of King David.  So, both of these stories ended up leading to future kings of Israel.

Those that believe that this story is about how we take care of our neighbors or strangers also refer to Ezekiel 16:49 “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud and had plenty of food and lived in great comfort, but she did not help the poor and needy.”  So Sodom and her daughters were proud and did things I hate in front of me. So I got rid of them when I saw what they did.”

No place in this verse does it list sexuality, but it does list not taking care of others.  They also discus Isaiah 1:16 and 17 “Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean. Stop doing the evil things I see you do. Stop doing wrong.   Learn to do good. Seek justice. Punish those who hurt others. Help the orphans. Stand up for the rights of widows.”  In verse 10 of this chapter God starts comparing Jerusalem with Sodom and ends with these words.  Again, nowhere is sexuality used but taking care of others is mentioned.

Isaiah 3:8 & 9 continues this idea. Especially since the people of the town did these acts in the open seemingly with no care about it.

“This will happen because Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen. The things they say and do are against the LORD; they turn against him.  The look on their faces shows they are guilty; like the people of Sodom, they are proud of their sin. They don’t care who sees it. How terrible it will be for them, because they have brought much trouble on themselves.”  Isaiah 3:8 & 9

The final part of the discussion is that just before the strangers enter into Sodom, Abraham is visited by three strangers, but Abraham takes care of them.  He makes them a meal and spends time with them.  This is what we are called to do in contrast to what happens in Sodom.  Also, the conversation between Abraham and Yaweh in chapter 18 discusses the righteousness of the cities.  It never mentions any specific sins.

So what do you think?  Is it possible that we have misinterpreted this story?  I do encourage you to read the stories over again and see what you think.

I must add that Sodom is talked about in nine verses in the New Testament   Only Jude 1:7 seems to discuss sexual sins but does not specifically say homosexuality.  Sodom is mentioned 38 times in the Old Testament.  I have read all those verses but very few have anything to do with sexuality.  Most of those that do mention sexuality seem to deal with spiritual adultery and none mention homosexuality.   However, I encourage you to be your own judge.  Read them and get back to me.  I’ll be waiting.