To Mom

mom

October 22, is my mother’s seventy hmmm blah blah birthday. Not supposed to tell a woman’s age right? I and my family owe her a lot. Here are some wonderful things my mom has done for us.

  • Love of children. Mom just loves to play with kids. I do too. I think we are and will always be kids at heart. Maybe that’s why as a pastor I spent most of my time as a youth and children’s minister and now as a teacher I get to play with kids all day.
  • My mom stayed home with all of us kids. I think many kids today miss out on this. Instead of growing up with a parent they grow up with the people at the day care center. I’m glad that my mom stayed home with us even though I know we didn’t have all the latest things. We often got hand me down clothes etc… but to be home with mom is more than worth it. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  • Mom loved to cook. I love to eat so we make a good pair. When I went to college, she would fill me up with all the junk food a college boy could want and from time to time would send a resupply box just in case. When I moved away and visited home she would always send an ice chest or two back home with me, the poor bachelor that needed something to eat. I see that she does that for lots of the grandkids now. Just one way to show her love.
  • Prayer: Mom was always up early praying and reading the Bible. She never stops praying for her kids, nor grandkids or great grand kids. Nothing is more important than knowing that your parent prays for you. Again that is yet another way that mom shows her love for each and every one of her kids.
  • Family: For many years my mom snuck around to see her sister who had been banished from the family by my grandmother. Even in the face of banishment if caught, my mom knew that family was important and that doing what was right mattered more than the possible consequence. Maybe that’s why I don’t believe in cutting out people from my life. Because people are important.
  • Mom has no sense of direction, but she gets places. Yes, sometimes dad has to draw a map or take her there first, but she still tries. I married that same person. I have to do the same for my wife as well. Some people would hole up and not go anywhere, but not mom.
  • Mom loves. She dearly loves her family, more than anything in the world and would do anything for any one of us. The Bible says that “these three things remain, Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love” I think mom has all of these things but the greatest thing she has is love.
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Memorial Day, Remember Peace

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“May God have mercy for my enemies because I won’t.”
― George S. Patton Jr.

 

I grew up in a family full of men in the service. A grandfather, three brothers, three uncles and at least one cousin served in the military. They served during peace time as well as wartime. None of them died in the service, but my grandfather was left for dead after being gassed in WWI. His Brother William died during the war due to the influenza outbreak. My wife’s great Uncle also served. I have also known many others who have served so willingly in our nation’s armed forces. I can’t count how many, but I do enjoy listening to them all.

I remember one person talking about riding in a tank in France during WWII and peeking out of the top to get a better view. He had his helmet shot off and never peeked out again. Another person I knew about the same time had a lot of cuss words for those in tanks because they drew the gun fire in their direction. Then there were others who just couldn’t talk about anything that happened. It was just too hard for them to do so.

I remember one of the stories of my grandfather while he was in France. He was out scouting the enemy and along a river he saw a German soldier getting a drink from the stream. The German soldier didn’t see my grandfather until he looked up and knew he was a goner. Yet my grandfather did not shoot. He waved to the German soldier and walked on. The German soldier repaid the kindness by walking in the other direction.

When I was growing up one of those brothers got me some army men and I played with them for hours on end. I read many, many books on WWII, the Civil war and the Revolutionary war. I really enjoyed reading the history of wars. I loved the strategy and even the ironic or funny things that happen during war. Did you know that the first British ship sunk in WWII was sunk by the British? There is some useless trivia for you.   I thought war could be so glorious. I looked up to the heroes of the wars. The leaders like Washington, Patton, Grant, etc…

Today I really want the end to war. There is no glory in war. My grandfather had no arguments with the Germans. It was the governments that couldn’t get along. I have no qualms with Muslims. I don’t want to fight them and for the most part, they don’t want to fight me. I don’t want to fight the Russians, or the Chinese, or the people in Somalia. There is no one in this world I want to fight, but unfortunately there are some that think fighting is the answer and against those we most likely will have to fight against.

Bertrand Russell once said, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” War is not the answer to this world’s problems and solves little. John Steinbeck also said “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” I feel it is just the playground bully on the world’s stage. Nobody stood up to them before so now we have to stand up to him with tanks and bombs.  I hope there is never war again.  I don’t want anyone else dying for my freedom, but I am not that optimistic when I look around the world, or even down the street.  There are just too many people who think that fighting is the way to get their way.

So, until there is no war, I’m glad we have men and women serving us across the world. I’m also glad that we have men and women who have fought for our freedom through the centuries. Those that have fought for freedom around the world and stand up against those world bullies that think fighting is something that OK. Thank you to all those out there who have sacrificed their time, energy and lives to doing what has to be done no matter how difficult it can be. May your lives be filled with peace and love.

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

John Lennon

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

Christians Left and Right Walking together

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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.  Colossians 3:15

This past week I discussed or more correctly asked some questions of those who were more on the religious left.  A few weeks ago I talked about the problems with the religious right. What I see as the biggest problem is how each side read the Bible.  Funny how what is supposed to be God’s word can be so divisive and read in so many ways.

How we choose to read the Bible tells a lot about what our beliefs will be.  Literalists will discuss the rapture, anti-Christ, tribulation, Hell, Heaven, pro marriage, anti homosexual right, pro-life, Republican politics.  The left will discuss unity of all people, the spirit of Christ’s return, who wrote this section of the Bible?  Was it J, E, D, P, or A, or sometimes R?   They won’t talk about the tribulation and anti-Christ because it isn’t going to happen.  Those issues were for the writer’s time and not for today.  I’m taking a guess but I’d think most would vote Democrat but I also think they wouldn’t put a lot of stock in who was in office.  Most literalist would have no idea what those letters mean.

So there are a lot of things that could pull us apart, but it shouldn’t.  Instead it should bring us together to discuss our views.  That’s discussing the issue, not argue about why you are right.  I say that because that is often what it turns into.  Some heated argument about why we are right.  We often debate and not discuss our differences.  Debating means that I have to win.  Discussing means people taking the opportunity to learn from each other.   Don’t we serve the same God?

I believe that we have differences because that same God that we all serve has shown us what we need in our lives.  I have moved from the right towards the middle as God has shown me the hurts that living the ways of the right was missing.  Others I’m sure have moved from left towards the right for the same reasons.  If we do not move back and forth we probably aren’t learning anything and maybe we just simply become a Pharisee who seemed to think they knew what God really wanted.  After all that is what we’ve grown up with.  That must be right.  Tradition is always right.  Ok that last bit was sarcastic, but I hope you get what I mean.  The more we talk to one another the more that we can open each other up to those things we may be missing. Don’t ever think you or your beliefs are perfectly in line with God’s views.  That is dangerous.  Just ask those in Jonestown, Waco, the KKK, or Nazi Germany.  All thought or think they knew God’s will.  And yes, the Nazi’s did believe strongly in their idea of Christianity.  They even had a group searching for Christian Relics because it would bring them the power that they wanted.

Yes, they may be extremists, but the more we believe we have the only way the more it leads to hate for those not like you, bigotry, self-importance and explosions at abortion clinics.  If you feel that you know it all then anyone who disagrees with you must be a sinner and therefore bound for some kind of punishment, but not the reward that a person who is right in the eyes of God, whatever that right means.  Often these people come off as very judgmental, because they seem to think that because they are right with God they can tell anyone all their sins and what God will do to them.  This can be people in or out of the church.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them, who they put down.

Jesus prayed for unity in John 17 and Paul likened the believers to one body in 1 Corinthians 12.  It seems that we are having the same problems that Paul addressed.  Our eyes are saying to our feet, “I know the right way to go” Our hands are saying to our mouth, “you don’t speak for me.”  The head says to the ears, “why don’t you listen to God.” And Jesus says to the heart “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”, because we leave him out when we fight amongst ourselves.

Then Jesus turned to us all and said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” Not in theology, but in love.  Paul follows his thoughts on the part of one body with the love chapter.  And what remains is Faith, Hope and Love,” but the greatest of these is Love.”

Yeah, we have differences and that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t get along.  If Jesus wanted us to have unity then we can, but it’s up to each one of us to put down our guard, our predispositions, our traditions, our theologies, and give it a chance.  Are you willing to let go of those things that make you angry at other believers?  Can you let go of those things that you hold as absolutes that may not be and to listen, truly listen, and learn from one another? I think we need to try, it sure can’t hurt.

Christmas Just isn’t the Same

christmas present

“Christmas just isn’t the same.” That’s what my mom told me Christmas Eve when I talked to her.  I remember growing up in upstate NY.  We always seemed to have snow for Christmas.  Every Christmas Eve my family would get together with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents from my mom’s side of the family.  We’d have food and drinks and open presents and just have so much fun.  Afterwards my family would go home and we would do the same.  I never grew up believing in Santa Clause.  We opened all our gifts on Christmas Eve so there really wasn’t any reason to believe in him.

Between 1986 and 1989 my mom’s parents passed away.  No longer did we get together with the rest of the family.  It was just us.  Still we had good times.  We would be singing silly to my parents, having that special family time and always goodies to eat.

I moved away for good in 1999 and have spent my Christmas’ in Indiana and Ohio since then.  People tried to help me fit in by inviting me to their family parties, but I felt that I was simply an outsider, trying to fit in with their traditions which were not mine.  I do appreciate those families reaching out to me, but it was never the same.

Since being married, we have tried to include my wife’s family into Christmas.  Maybe not on Christmas day but we would at least try to meet them somewhere for dinner to exchange gifts.  In the past couple years those have all died and my wife’s one nephew is in foster care, with little contact with us so far.  The past two years we have not even put up decorations.  Last year because we moved two days after Christmas and didn’t want to take everything down and pack it up and this year because since our car accident on November 1st my wife has had Bronchitis, MRSA, and now some rash caused by some virus.  My back was injured in the car accident, so I couldn’t lift anything for a while.  When I started getting better I got strep along with that rash that my wife now has.  We just have not had the energy or desire to be in the Christmas mood this year.

Even when I do go home, it’s just not the same.  The area has changed, people have changed, and I have changed.  That should be expected; after all it’s been 15-20 years since I have lived there.  Life moves on with or without me.   In some ways I feel like an outsider there too.  Longing for the days when we were all together and life didn’t seem so hard.   I also think that goes both ways and that sometimes even my family expects me to be the same as I was when I lived there, but I’m not and never will be.  Equally they will never be the same.

The Gospel of Luke according to the traditional view portrays Mary and Joseph as outsiders.  Luke says they were from Nazareth and that they could not find any room to stay in so tradition tells us they had to settle for a barn or cave.  The story brings shepherds to the manger.  People who were often poor and certainly not ranking high in society’s idea of important people.

I wonder sometimes if they felt alone.  Did their family and friends talk about them?  Did they wonder how they could be so different?  After all they had a baby out-of-wedlock.  According to the Torah it was a sin that could have killed them both.  I wonder what the priests in their hometown said about that?  However once that baby was born, nothing was ever going to be the same.   They followed the path that God had given them even though others may not have understood it.  This often puts people by themselves.  Maybe that’s why Jesus grew up challenging authority and reaching out to those in need.  If he had been the cause of rumors and the ostracizing of his parents and probably himself, he would have been well aware of how that feels.  He would have known the hurt that his parents felt.  He would have wanted to help those that society did not think was important because they were like his mom and dad.   He would have also challenged those who thought otherwise because they were the ones who hurt his mom and dad.

I feel Jesus was about accepting others, because he was not accepted.  I also feel that Jesus had little patience for those who thought that was ok.  My wish for this Christmas is that people will accept that people change.  That it is not that they have developed some skewed view of the world; but that life has taught those lessons that they don’t feel they can go back on.  These lessons were meant for them and not you, because either you didn’t need it or quite possibly you’re not ready.   If they are not harming people, simply let them walk their path and accept that God has given you a different path.  May God bring you peace and joy this Christmas.

In his own words

Nelson

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Typically I write about things in my life, but today I want to pay tribute to one of my heroes.  Nelson Mandela has truly been a one of the greatest individuals that has lived in my lifetime.  I’m guessing that many people have looked up to him and we should.  He brought such great change to the world, not simply South Africa.

How easily it would have been for him to get angry while he was in prison.  He could have wanted vengeance on those who put him in there.  Most of us would have wanted to get back at those people.  We could have easily learned to hate.  Many of us would have plotted to do the same things to anyone and everyone in our path when or if we ever got out.  While I am guessing Mr. Mandela did have some of those thoughts, he did not act on them. That is what makes a difference in the world.

While, I could say one thing after another about this great man, I simply want to leave you with some of my favorite quotes of his.  If I left out one of your favorites, please leave it in the comments.  Mr. Mandela will never die as long as we remember what he stood for.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.”

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

“I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort.”

I got my quotes from the following sites, please visit and enjoy his wisdom.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/7-nelson-mandela-quotes-you-probably-wont-see-in-the-us-medi

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/15-of-nelson-mandelas-most-inspiring-quotes

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/nelson_mandela.html

Keeping Christ in Christmas

happy holidays

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
― Roy L. Smith

For many years there has been an effort among Christians to call the end of the year holiday season Christmas.  December 25th is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Without his birth there would be no holiday.  For more than 2,000 years it’s been Christmas and it shouldn’t change now.  This is the basic argument that we often hear.  No Xmas, no Happy Holidays, no Seasons Greetings.  We want Merry Christmas.

I used to be one of those, but have reconsidered my position.  The main reason is not that it is one more thing that Christians are against. Christianity in many ways has become an anti religion.  People know what we are against, but really don’t know what Christianity is for.  Maybe that comes from a history of “thou shalt nots”.

Instead of being against something, Christians should be promoting things that are positive such as the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, forgiveness, mercy, kindness etc..  This holiday season is about the love of God for humanity.  As a follower of Christ we should then use this time to promote that attitude.

I’m sorry that you don’t want to wish someone a happy Holy day (holiday) or Chi Mass (Xmas) with Chi being the first letter of Christ in Greek.  I’m also sorry that Jesus wasn’t born in December.  I’m sorry for a lot of things, but mostly I’m sorry this is even an issue.

How much time and effort is put into changing someone’s mind about what is the correct name for the December season?  How many heated debates end with no one winning?  How will it help America, your local area, your church or even you if we all say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays?  What is the eternal difference that is being made?

How does arguing about whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays reach out to someone in need?  What difference will that make in someone’s life?  James 2:16  says “If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”  I say if you are more interested in getting everyone to say Merry Christmas and you neglect the real needs of your community it is of no good.

Let me ask you what difference it makes if we can make a business or people say Merry Christmas if your neighbor is without food?  Does this help the man who lives in the park or the drug addict down the street? How does this help the single parent struggling to make ends meet?   Is this really a priority that a Christian should have?

I have often thought that many Christians waste time and effort trying to get laws or rules changed instead of putting effort into the changing of a person’s heart.   Especially our own.  The first thing we need to do is really find the meaning of Christmas.  My pastor reminded the congregation this morning that Christmas is not about me.  It is about how I can give happiness in the lives of others.  The Christ Mass is a celebration of a life lived for others.  The life of Jesus was a life that was filled with sacrifice for others.  A sacrifice for those in need, the hurting, rejected and hated of society.   It wasn’t for changing what people said or getting my way, but about touching those who were hurting.

When will Christianity take Christmas for what it really is?  It is not a name or title to be fought over.  It is a state of mind of sacrifice and love for mankind that goes beyond anything we could ever imagine.  It is grace, mercy, peace and hope all rolled into one.

So what about you?  Will you fight for the name Christmas or will you show Christ in your heart to someone in need?  We will never lose Christmas as long as it is in our hearts.