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

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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

MY Reformation Begins

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Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the church?  John Calvin

 

After Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the “king of the Jews” I wonder if he ever regretted it. Did he ever think, “I don’t want to die yet?” I’m betting that was part of it as he prayed in the garden. “Not my will but yours.” What about Luther after he nailed his 95 thesis to the church bulletin board. Did he ever think “oops, what have I done?”

Each year as a minister I have to fill out an “Annual Service Report”, to let my denomination and district know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that I still believe everything that they want us to teach. For most years I just check the boxes and go about doing what I believe to be right and true. This year was different. Maybe because I’m fed up with things or maybe because I feel a little freer, I decided to let them know what I felt about several things.

I let them know that the church wastes the money that is given. According to many statistics in an average church only 3-5% of all the tithes and offerings goes for outreach. If that was a charity would you give? Yet that is one of the biggest things a church should do. I think we should tell our pastors to get jobs, sell our churches and rent, but I know that won’t happen. We are stuck in the mindset of having beautiful churches and full time pastors. I know that is extreme but to change the church to where it needs to be needs to be extreme.

I also told them tithing was not important. It was a rule with many others that the church has that holds people back. We make people believe that if you do this that and the other things that you’ll be OK. But that isn’t what Jesus taught. His rules were love God and love others. You give out of that love, not out of duty. If people don’t follow the rules then we make them feel guilty so that we can control them. Get them to act like the rest of us, because we don’t want anyone to shake the boat. I mean Jesus never shook the boat. Oh wait, yes he did. Every time he met a religious leader. I could go on about how we make them feel about church attendance and being”involved in the ministries”. It’s constant “if you are not doing this and that, you’re not really a Christian” attitude. Instead we should be teaching them to love God and love others. If people see true love they will get involved.

John Cleese once said, “So real religion is about reducing our egos, whereas all the churches are interested in is egotistical activities, like getting as many members and raising as much money and becoming as important and high-profile and influential as possible. All of which are egotistical attitudes.”

Most of my board meetings have been about how we can get more people here instead of how we can meet more people’s needs. Church has become more about how the church looks (we look) than about those who are in need. In one church I belonged to the only out reach that went on was from me and my wife reaching out to kids and their families. One of those kids once told me that the only people who loved the kids were my wife and I and one 80 year old woman at the church. I told the board members that and they responded “Oh they are just kids.” It broke my heart to hear both of those statements.

Then I discussed the whole human rights issues of today and how the church has treated gay people wrongly with no scriptural backing.   Once again the church is using the Bible to hate people instead of love them. The church needs to embrace and love all people, not just those that act a certain way. That is Pharisitical thinking.   (Is Pharisitical a word?)

I’m sure that will get their attention, but if not I hit on the Inerrancy of the Bible and the idea that God gave the words to the writers. There are way too many contradictions in the Bible for a God to have put it together as one book with everything agreeing. God does not forget things, but as in my Bible quiz of last week there are so many variations to the stories in the Bible that there is no way God wanted us to try to make them all fit into one story. Reading each book separately is the only way to make sense out of what each individual writer was trying to say. We have to learn who wrote it, when they wrote it, to whom they wrote and why they wrote it before we can ever try to understand what it means to us. However the church teaches just pick it up and God will tell you what you need to hear.

So here I sit, waiting for the call. Like Jesus waited to be arrested and many reformers waited to be called to Rome, I will be called to stand for what I have done and said, because it is against the ideas of the church. They will have to convict me of some heresy, and no one will stand with me. They won’t because they’d be afraid that they would be next. But maybe, just maybe I can open some hearts to what Christianity is really about.

I leave you with these words from Martin Luther. “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you don’t say.”  And “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.”

Post Traumatic Church Disorder

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When I told you I was strong, and would not let someone break me, I didn’t mean it as a challenge…
Kat Church

I had never heard of Post Traumatic Church Disorder until recently, although I had often described my feelings about church as a kind of post traumatic stress disorder. I have since read several articles on the subject. Mostly they are from people who have gone through it or are continuing to go through it.

I am one of those people who are going through it. It was about a year ago that I told the church board that I was resigning my position as youth and children’s pastor. I simply told them that I needed a break, though I did not go into details about why. My wife and I simply wanted to walk away and not leave hurt feelings behind, but somehow that did not happen.

That last day I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I wanted to find freedom from religion. I wanted to begin to heal, but I wanted nothing to do with church. I still loved God, but could care less if I stepped into a church building ever again. Some people thought I lost my faith. In a sense they were right. I did lose my faith in the church, but never in God and not in all of God’s followers.

I still struggle with church. I want to be involved with people who reach out to others, yet I expect them all to hurt me. I long for a church that is deeply loving, but I expect that to be on the surface only. Whenever something good happens, I expect something bad to happen. At times I’m even afraid to share what I think about a subject because I’m afraid of getting shot down, simply because I don’t agree with the majority perspective.

I also thought that I’d be safe being myself on facebook, but I was wrong there. “Christians” (and I use that word loosely here) like those at the churches I’d been at seemed to flock to some things I’d post just to make sure I knew I was going to hell simply because I didn’t still believe exactly like they did.

Seldom, whether on facebook or at church do these types of Christians use love, instead they choose to condemn something or someone. Sad that they can’t see how UnChristlike that is and how it hurts so many people. But of course those people who are hurt like me are the problem. We have lost our faith (don’t believe the exact same as they do), we caused the problem (even though in our case we didn’t cause people to ignore us in a time of need), we are the mean ones (because we think people should be nice), we are the ones that won’t listen (because we think it’s OK to disagree or have another view).

I don’t know what it will take for these types of “Christians” to realize what they do, but I can’t help them. All I can do is take care of myself.

Recovery from hurt takes a long time. Especially when it comes from those that you care about and expect more out of. I guess I expected too much out of the church and those that claim to follow Christ. I wonder if I should lower my expectations, but I don’t think so, instead I need to be the Christ I want the world to see. The real Christ. The one of love and acceptance that he was and is and will always be. The only problem with that is that Jesus wasn’t accepted by the religious people and if I’m like him then they will simply continue to attack me.

Sometimes I wonder if he was actually happy to be nailed to the cross. Maybe that was easier than putting up with the religious “do it only our way” people of his day. That is the same type of people that “crucify” people today.

Someday I’ll be beyond these hurts, but it will take a while. So be patient as I try learning to trust again.

 

For those dealing with PTCD there are groups on Facebook designed to help you.  Just type in Post traumatic church disorder and you should find it.  Hope you can heal and heal soon.

 

Here are some articles on Post traumatic Church disorder. Google it and you’ll find a lot more, Maybe it’s becoming an epidemic.
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/14/my-take-5-ways-to-survive-post-traumatic-church-syndrome/
http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/is-post-traumatic-church-syndrome-real.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2014/03/its-called-post-traumatic-church-syndrome-and-yes-its-real/

Answering the Gay Question 2

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Romans 1 Homosexuality

Last blog I discussed some issues with the Old Testament and homosexuality.  This time I will try to tackle Romans 1.  I would like to know what Jesus thought, but he said nothing about homosexuality and very little about marriage.  The only thing Jesus said on marriage was that there should be no divorce and that Moses allowed that because of hard heartedness.

Romans 1 is often a big thumper verse that people use to condemn homosexuality.  I actually find it quite unimportant in today’s society when it is taken into context with the surrounding verses.  In some ways, I think Paul was setting up the Roman readers when writing the first chapter of this letter.  He does list sins and then in verse 2:1 Paul tells them that they are doing the same things and to stop judging others. (Please read chapter 2 as Paul lists their problems.) As in the day of Paul, we like to hide our sins (gossip, laziness, hate, adultery etc.) and focus on someone else.  So first of all, we need to know that we should not be condemning of others sins. That is God’s job and you and I are not God.

Secondly, I did say that Paul listed sins and for some people verses 26 and 27 seem to indicate that homosexuality is a sin.  Romans 1: 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.

27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

The question is what is this unnatural that Paul is referring to?  This may be one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible.  I find that no one really seems to know what exactly Paul is referring to.  Is he referring to Temple prostitutes as in the Old Testament?  Homosexuality as we see it today?  Procreation vs. sexual pleasure?  Is Paul simply a homophobe or was he gay and hating himself for it? I have read scholars’ ideas on all these subjects. So if Scholars can’t agree, how can we be sure of what it is?

From what I have read, there was not as much Temple prostitution going on as we might think, so although this is a possibility, I don’t think this is probably what Paul was talking about.  However if it is temple prostitution then it is moot for our time.  We don’t have temple prostitutes so it is not a problem. According to most of what I have read, homosexuality as we see it has nothing to do with what the society of Paul saw, so I really reject that idea as well.  I don’t think Paul was gay, nor do I think he was a homophobe.  He taught grace for everyone and equality for all.  He often spoke about there being No Jew or Gentile, no free person or slave etc.. I can’t see him hating or fearing anyone. That left me with procreation vs. sexual pleasure.

I have often had people tell me that God could not have created homosexuals because they can’t produce children.  Some denominations also have ideas that no birth control should be used and that sex is only for having children.  Though there is no specific verse for this idea there are many that could be taken along these lines.  Those ideas seem to have also been prevalent in Paul’s day.  This is what I believe people were doing that was so unnatural.  So in that case any form of homosexuality would be considered a sin, because you can’t procreate through it.  However we would also have to say that sex just for pleasure would be a sin.  So would the use of contraception (such as the pill or condoms), oral sex, and anal sex (homosexual or heterosexual).  You could also add anyone who is infertile or had an operation to “fix” themselves or people who decide not to have children for risk of passing on certain genes or because it could cause health problems for the wife.  You must also include any women above the age of menopause.  All people unable to have children having sex would be considered a sin.

So basically if you condemn homosexuality you must condemn all those others that I have mentioned and more.  However we don’t.  Actually, homosexuality seems to be the only one of many non-procreation sex acts that we do condemn.  So here is the question.  Why condemn only one act and not another?  Are we picking and choosing what to believe is a sin and what is not?

The verses also do not say that women had sex with each other.  I have found no place in the Bible that condemns that, unless you decide to read into it something that is not there.  So question two would be why would male homosexuality be a sin, but female homosexuality not?  Is it because the male writers were homophobes or is it that they were thinking something entirely different than what we read it as today?

Question three may be if so many scholars have so many different thoughts on what this could mean, how can we really be sure of its meaning.  And if we can’t be really sure how can we truly use this against so many people?  In other words, can we condemn people on verses that are unclear when their meaning may be unknown?  This is especially true when Paul (immediately after these verses) tells us not to judge.

The Final question would be what else does Paul and the New Testament say about homosexuality?  I guess that will have to wait until the next blog.  I try not to make these too long to read, so I’ll just leave you to contemplate what I have said so far.

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

Let Him Die

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“Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.”
Elvis Presley

Think of that person that you just can’t get along with.  Jesus says love them. Pray for those that actually persecute you.

Why do people wish evil on others?  “I hope they die!”  I know as kids we threw that around, but what is it that keeps that mentality in adults? “I hope they die!”  What if they do?  Wouldn’t you be sad?  Could it be possible that you’d actually be glad?  That would sicken me if that were true.  What would it benefit you if that person you think is so bad died?  But I don’t really think that’s the question.

The question may be “when did your heart die?”  When did a person’s life become so unneeded, so worthless that it would be OK to wish them gone?  If you are one that is wishing someone dead it may just be your heart that needs the help and not them.

This has come to mind a lot recently with several people that I know saying something like that about our President.  Why the hate? Most likely you don’t even know him personally.  He didn’t call you names or stab you in the back by telling your secrets.   He simply made decisions that you didn’t like. Then most likely you listen to your chosen biased media feeding into what you want to believe (and all media is biased) and you still wish him dead?!

There isn’t a president yet that has pleased the entire nation.  No one can and no one will.    I’m guessing you’d do no better.  Not because you have worse ideas but because it’s impossible to please everyone.  Even our Greatest presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, TR etc… had tons of opposition.  Who knows, maybe in 30 years Obama will be among them.  We don’t know what his decisions will bring in time.   Heck, Truman had one of the lowest approval ratings when he left office and he’s considered close to the top ten!

I could sit here and bad mouth Obama about his presidency.  I could have also openly bad mouthed every president since I’ve been alive.  Born during the LBJ presidency until today there would be plenty of impeachable offenses that we could name for each president, but wishing them harm or death?  I’m still not getting it.

When I was growing up we had respect for the office of the presidency.  I still do and often get attacked for asking people to relax on Obama.   We should start thinking about the good things our presidents do.   I liked Carter.  Still do.  Maybe not as far as his presidency but as a humanitarian he is someone to look up to.  Reagan was funny and brought our country together.  Bush H.W. didn’t like broccoli!  Clinton did well on the economy, Bush W. made me laugh, and I like the idea of the affordable care act.  If you screw up trying to help the poor, it’s better than doing nothing for them.   I applaud Obama for that effort.

If you truly look hard enough you can find good in people.  There is no reason to be mean or say hateful things.  No reason to speak about that guy on the corner asking for a hand out. Maybe he’s been laid off for a while?  Kicked out of his home?  Maybe they are a vet with PTSD that can’t deal with civilian life?   Maybe he really needs help.  No reason to belittle that woman in the grocery store with the screaming kids.  Maybe the kids are sick or she is just stressed out trying to make it on her own.  Instead pray for her.  What about that speeding driver?  Are they on their way to the hospital?  Did an emergency call come from home?

St. Paul says in Philippians 4:8 “Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.”  When you think on these things the hate for your fellow man will start going away.  It is simply letting go of the anger that is inside you.  Not that I’m perfect because I’m writing this article because things tick me off, but I don’t wish hate or pain on those that say things I disagree with.  I wish them peace.  I feel sad for them that they can’t get over their anger.

James 1:20 says for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  When we are filled with anger we are unable to truly love the way that God wants us to.  We can’t love our fellow man or woman.  We can’t even love ourselves.

Someday I hope that those without love will be able to find it.  Maybe the only way that they can find it is if they see it in us.  Let those of us who are able to love, let it shine and maybe we can overcome the hate of others.

I leave you with the words of another hated black man that I love.  MLK JR.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Live out the Dream!