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!

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Choose Love not Hate

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Gospel of John 13:34 & 35

 

June 29, 1964 a sweeping civil rights bill passed the United States Senate after 83 days of filibusters from its opponents. This was in the middle of the Black civil rights movement. The 19 senators from both parties were mostly from the south.
When the vote finally took place it was an over whelming vote of 73-27 in favor. So, 19 people with an agenda of hate stopped progress for nearly 3 months. Nothing could be voted on during that time that they stopped everything. That saddens me. What is even sadder is that that kind of hate is still around.
We still have a long way to go regarding civil rights. Yes it is better, but it has a long way to go. In the past few years there have been laws passed trying to stop the LBGT Civil Rights movement. Kids who are running to America for help are hated. Many want troops sent to the border.
In recent years states like Arizona, Missouri, and Tennessee have tried to pass laws trying to stop the LBGT movement. Laws like homosexuality being illegal to discuss in school or being able to not serve a customer if they are gay. Thankfully those laws have not passed.
This morning my pastor spoke on being nice to one another. Why can’t we be nice? That’s a good question. One thing he said is so very true. I can’t exactly quote him but here are the basics of what he said. “If you hear God telling you to hurt someone, to be mean to them, to do damage to them, it is not of God and you’d better see your doctor and get some medication.” If God is love, and I think God is love, then those that follow God can do no harm to others.
The saddest part of today’s Civil Rights movement is that the Church is one of the most vocal against people that it should love. It is not love to fight against a person’s rights. It’s just mean and selfish. It has nothing to do with God or the Bible. I almost want to say it’s Satanic but this isn’t Satan doing this. It’s people making a choice to hate instead of love.
President Johnson had a choice too. He was from the Deep South. Texas. He feared that passing this bill would hurt the democrats in the south. He feared his party would lose control of those areas. He was right. Many of those areas turned Republican. Johnson however knew it was the right thing to do.
I wish more people, not just out leaders thought like this. Doing what is right instead of what would benefit us the best. What if we started thinking of others first? If we put each other first we would not need an act of congress for Civil rights. It would simply be a normal part of life.
Next time you see someone different from you don’t think of them in negative terms. Think about what you could learn from them. Think about what their culture can bring to you. It will open up new and exciting times of growth that will benefit us all.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/on-this-day–record-83-day-senate-filibuster-against-u-s–civil-rights-act-ends-165011753.html#vxAD9IM
http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/02/03/3241421/9-state-gay-propaganda-laws/

Let the children come……

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Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Statue of Liberty

June 22, happy birthday Emma Lazarus. Most of you have no idea who that is, but she wrote the poem above. A poem that so many Americans love and hold on to. How we welcome people from all over and take them in.
Lately many Americans don’t seem to believe that this should be true. There is a growing fight over what to do with the refugees crossing our southern border. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is planning on activating the National Guard to keep the illegal aliens out and America safe. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is working to find a place for 1,000 of the children that are crossing the border daily.
This seems to be our history. Anytime a large group tries to immigrate into America some people get all up in arms and try to ban them. Jon Stewart puts it this way. “Why would you not come to a place that great? In fact, it’s why all of our ancestors came to this country, and were themselves originally unwelcome. Because that’s the story of America. From Ben Franklin’s worry that Germans were ruining Pennsylvania, to our 19th century 60-year ban on the Chinese immigrants who had just finished building our rail system, to our very real and justifiable concerns about the Irish, and their insatiable “applying for jobs”.” (Note the last part is sarcasm. You can watch it at the link below)
Stewart puts it a lot better than I can. These are Children. They are not a threat, nor an invasion. They are running from poverty and danger. They have no parents in a strange land wanting help.
While I do understand that there is a problem with just allowing everyone into the country, I don’t think we can just throw these kids back to where they came from. Setting up camps to immunize them and give them places to live is the most humane thing we can do. Sending them back to where they came from will be death for some of them. Many of them will just try again, hoping that someone will care this time.
As a follower of Jesus I have to ask what we can do for the least of these? If all we can do is throw them back to the wolves then you don’t know what Christ taught. Many of you like to throw out verses from Leviticus so here is one. 19:33-34 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
Love them as yourself. I think Jesus said something about that too. That is one of the two great commands. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe you might ask, “Who is my neighbor”. When you get down to it, it’s everyone you ever see, hear about, etc… Your neighbor is these kids. Start treating them with love. Take care of them and you will have your reward. “’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
Time to start doing what Jesus asked us to do.

http://dailysignal.com/2014/07/19/6-cities-react-illegal-immigrants-communities/
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865607317/Massachussetts-governor-offers-to-shelter-immigrant-children-Says-the-Bible-inspires-him-to-do-so.html
http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/21/politics/perry-national-guard-border/
http://www.compellingtruth.org/illegal-aliens-immigrants.html
http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2014/07/16/daily-shows-jon-stewart-tears-into-protesters-of-migrant-children-shelters

I know what Jesus Meant! So just follow me!

 I'M RIGHT

As I write this, yesterday was the anniversary of the start of the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. The council was there to discuss whether Mary the mother of Jesus was the Christ bearer or the God bearer. At the end of the council the decision was in favor of the “God bearer” and those siding with the “Christ bearer” were kicked out of the church or left on their own. Those who left continued to worship Christ and God in their own way, establishing their own brand of Christianity.

I grew up part of the Wesleyan church. It was named after John and Charles Wesley who were kicked out of the Anglican Church which had left the Catholic Church. The Wesley’s then started the Methodist church. The Wesleyan church split from the Methodist church over how they chose their pastors and the slavery issue. For a while it was called the Wesleyan Methodist church but then merged with the Pilgrim Holiness church and formed the Wesleyan church. You will find some Wesleyan Methodist churches still around, because they left when the merger took place.

According to Wikipedia there are over 41,000 different denominations in the world. Did you get that? I thought we were supposed to be one. Anyway, this kind of got me thinking. How many times has the church had a schism and kicked someone out only for them to start a new brand of Christianity? Or how many times did a group leave because they didn’t see Christianity in the same way that they others did? And who really has the truth? How do we know that our brand of Christianity is the truth? It is only our brand because it was Spirit of God choosing it to be the victor. At least that’s what we are told. However most of these were simply church votes.

I’ve been to many church and denominational meetings about many different things and there is no real looking to the spirit to answer the questions before us. We vote for what we want and decide that is what God wants. How do we know that these councils were any different?

Then there is the Bible. How many of you actually know that there are several different books in other denominations around the world? The protestant bible in America has 66 books, the catholic bible has 73, the Greek orthodox has 76 etc… So who has the correct bible? All of us started as one and yet we can’t even agree on our text. What if there should be more books? What about fewer books? When the bible was first put together it wasn’t some divine intervention, it was several church councils.

So how can anyone say they really have the truth? We really only have what has been passed down to us by those in charge. It was that kind of person that Jesus yelled at repeatedly for abuse. How many times over the last 2000 years has our theology changed? A council in the early 300’s (Council of Nicaea) decided Jesus was indeed God; everyone else is free to leave. Another council 100 years later decided that the Spirit was also God. Several councils took this under consideration before it became orthodox. So it took the church 300 years to settle on that Jesus was actually God and another 100 years to create the Trinity. Those things that we hold so dearly today and without believing in them many would say that you could not be a Christian. What about those people in the first few centuries when that belief was not orthodox?

Anyway, for those that think they have it all together in their theology, maybe you really don’t. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to say “the Bible tells me so” or “the bible says it and that settles it”, because if anything the Bible hasn’t settled anything. In fact those who think they know the Bible seem to split the church apart. So being right in doctrine does not seem to work for the church. Maybe we should try to be right with each other instead. Jesus did say “love your neighbor” but I don’t remember him ever saying get your doctrine right.

 

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

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

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

My hand at Bible Translating

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There are so many versions or translations of the Bible out there that it is often hard to really know if one is any better than the next. I once counted mine and I had around 25 different versions in my house.  Each version or translation tries to bring into modern language what the Bible writers were trying to say. So each Bible has bias, good or bad, of the person or people translating it. What they understand and believe will come across in how it is translated. I could not come up with an exact number of translations there are but several sites said there were thousands. So we have thousands of people trying to tell us what they think the Bible writers were trying to tell us when actually they weren’t talking to us at all. They were talking to someone of their day.

What we have to discover is what they said in their time and see if any of it fits into our time. Lately I have been toying with that and have tried to make a few verses more real to people. Some have liked it and some not, but here are a few of what I have tried.

So with the idea of bringing the Bible to modern language, I gave my attempt at a few of the more famous scriptures.

 

When our time began God created the Big Bang. Genesis 1:1

Love mom and dad, so that you may have a good life wherever you live. Exodus 20:12

Jesus told him, “I am the path, the realness, and the full life. No one can come to the Father except doing what I have taught you.” John 14:6

There is neither American nor Russian, neither citizen nor alien, nor is there male and female, nor is there homosexual or straight for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3;28

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and the second is this, Love that dude that cut you off this morning, don’t complain about that bum begging for money, don’t put down that person with different political or religious views, and for Christ sake, don’t be mean on facebook!  Mark 12:30-31

Go and make followers of God, baptize them in the name of God, and teach them to love one another like I loved you and not to follow what church laws you grow up with just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. If you do this, my spirit will be with you always. Matthew 28:19 &20

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; it is the gift of God, and not by following all the rules of the church or what you think everyone ought to do, so stop telling everyone how righteous you are. Ephesians 2:8 & 9

The price of sin is a horrible and lonely life, but the gift of God is a rich spiritual life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

For all have messed up, and remember that includes you and fallen short of what God intended. Romans 3:23

Do not give your opinion about what others are doing, and others won’t go around talking about what you are doing. Do not attack others, and you will not be attacked. Instead forgive and show mercy to those that talk about you and attack you, and you will be forgiven as well. Luke 6:37

Hey everyone, love each other, because love begins from God. Everyone who loves, understands God and truly knows God. Those that say God hates others, or is mean to another in God’s name or is unfair to others using God’s word has no clue, because if God is anything God is LOVE! 1 John 4:7-8

 

So what do you think? Did I miss the mark completely or was I close? Feel free to give it a try for yourself. After all it’s all about trying to understand the authors meaning or meanings the best we can so we can live it today.

Here is a list of the translations available if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations

To All My Moms, Thanks!

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“Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs… since the payment is pure love.”

~ Mildred B. Vermont

 

I have had many mothers in my life. My birth mother of course, but as I grew and moved and married, other mothers had a hand in my life as well.

Mother Patrick was the first of the other mothers. She was my pastor’s wife and she took me under her wing and helped me grow spiritually as well as mentally when I was just a teenager.   I spent so many nights at the Patrick’s house because their son was my age. We were like family. She always believed in me and encouraged me. She told me how proud she was of me. Since we don’t live in the same state, we don’t see each other much anymore but she is always with me.

Mother Hand was another mom who took me under her wing. Only in a different way. Her son and I roomed in college. During some of college they lived nearby so we spent time there and after graduation, I couldn’t always make it home for the holidays, but I always had the Hand home to go to. Even when their son wasn’t there, I was. That love still lives with me.

Mother Van Cise is another mom in my life. She also has kids my age and when I moved to the area, 600 miles from home and an hour away from anyone else I knew, she and her husband showed me the kindness that goes beyond measure. Always encouraging, and sweet, she was the epitome of love.

I came across this quote as I was writing this blog: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” ~ Spanish Proverb. I thought this was quite ironic since all the women above are pastor’s wives.   But, I think the quote is so true. Theology doesn’t teach you how to behave, but mothers do.   How many sermons do you remember? But I bet you remember the love a mother gives you.

Then I got married and found another mother. My mother-in-law. You know those evil mother-in-law stories and jokes? They don’t apply here. My mother-in-law has been great to us and has always treated me as a son. She has lived with us for about 10 years and we have barely had any problems. She is always been there through whatever good or bad we have gone through in the past. I can truthfully say I have the best mother-in-law in the world!

I have to save the best for last, my birth mom. Obviously I wouldn’t be who I am without her. She is where I get my love for kids from and my kid nature. I’m just a big kid and often would rather play games with kids than do things with adults, except they wear me out. I remember mom coming to my concerts and ball games. I would always look for her and dad, never happy until I saw her smiling face. I remember once I had a trio and I did not tell mom. When the concert was over and she asked why, I lied and told her that I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not. Really I did not want any pressure on me because I did not want to disappoint her. I thought that if she knew she’d be all excited and if I’d mess up she’d be disappointed. That was just stupid middle school thinking. She would never be really disappointed in me. She loves me unconditionally.  I know that even if I am not the perfect son that her love for me will never go away. Her love stays with me each moment of my life.

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

In my life it has been both.  Happy Mothers day to all of you!

Crazy Life, Crazy Love

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People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game,

John Lennon

 

Nope, I no longer play the game. I don’t want to play the game. The rules suck and I want no part of it. If I could overturn some tables I would. I’m not crazy; I’m just not going to follow traditions to make everyone happy. Just like someone I admire and most of you do to.

Mark 3:21 and 22 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

These verses make me think about what some family and many religious people think of me. That I’m crazy or out of my mind that I have changed my beliefs from what I grew up with. According to Mark, I’m in good company. Even the family of Jesus thought that he was a lunatic and we follow what he taught 2000 years later. Now that’s crazy! Those that knew the law (their holy words) thought he was possessed and yet now the words of Jesus are the holy words. Maybe that is crazier!   Guess the religious know it alls didn’t quite know it all.

I think often it is a lot of misunderstanding. I’m misunderstood because my family lives so far away and don’t know me like they think they do. They see through a cloudy window filled with visions of what they remember me as. But that window has been fading for 20 years.

You see today, all I want is to stand up for the helpless, hurting, oppressed, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, help the homeless, clothe the naked, help the prisoner etc.. What I got from religious people is “they are sinning”,” they want to be like that”, “they live in a scary part of town”,” and they are the wrong color”, etc.. etc… I guess my question to them would be “what is Christianity?”

Is it a set of beliefs and like thinking and looking people or is it how we treat one another? When I look at Jesus and his teachings, he doesn’t discriminate against the Samaritans. Those people who married the wrong person and worship at that other place of worship is basically how they were seen in Jesus’ day. They were hated much like an illegal alien who was homosexual would be hated by religious people today. Samaritans were not welcomed in the homeland and they loved the wrong person.

But I want to be like Jesus, so I welcome these people. I make them know that Jesus is for them and that they are loved. Is that crazy or what? I bet that is what the Samaritan woman at the well thought. Crazy that someone like him actually talks to me. That just doesn’t happen. The woman caught in adultery probably thought,” thank God, someone actually cares.”

A few verses after this Jesus asks, Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (33-35) So get this. The real Christian family is the ones who follow God’s will of loving, self sacrifice, acceptance, kindness etc… are the real family members. They are the ones the religious leaders and those that follow the religious leaders think are crazy.

I like this quote by R.C.Sproul . He said “Was Luther crazy? Perhaps. But if he was, our prayer is that God would send to this earth an epidemic of such insanity.”  Like Jesus and like many reformers Luther had to be different (crazy) to change the world.

So let’s get crazy and make a difference. Drop traditions, drop the my way or the hellway, drop your stones and learn to accept and love people unconditionally as Jesus did. Let’s go CRAZY!