Election 2016

In the Bible story of Jesus’ crucifixion, the crowd is given the choice of Barabas or Jesus.  They all screamed for Barabas.  What about Jesus? They shouted for him to be crucified.  In this year’s presidential election, there is no Jesus in the choices.  There is only Barabas #1 or Barabas #2.

Political culture in the last several decades, even longer perhaps, has been completely hypocritical.  At the very least, we have had several philanderers and probably worse in the White House since the 1940’s.  However, as long as they have kept silent and kept their misdeeds completely out of the public view and earshot, we have turned a blind eye to it.

The entertainment culture in America has been completely hypocritical as well.  Hollywood churns out pornography faster than they do decent movies.  Now, it is available at the touch of anyone’s fingertips, including the fingertips of your children as they navigate the web on their personal computers.  We eat up salacious news about the latest starlets while paparazzi  hound the rich and famous, trying to get the most brazen photographs.

So, now we have a choice between a crook (at best) and a lewd (at best) person for our next president.  Why are we now suddenly shouting, “Foul?!”  Each side proclaims the other’s failings with self-righteous clamorings.  Do we deserve better after having allowed the other to go on unhindered for decades?  How did these two get past the primaries and the national conventions?  Their misdeeds were already known at those times.  Shouldn’t the political process weed out the unworthy?  It’s America’s choice because America has already chosen to allow it.  We have allowed it in our politicians, our entertainers, our priests (up to a certain point) and our elite.  We made excuses for the rich and famous and coined phrases such as “boys will be boys.”

Why are we surprised and outraged when someone who has been served up as entertainment for decades is now in the political limelight doing exactly the same things that we lapped up in the gossip magazines?

Living the love of Jesus?

This morning, the first day of the new year, I was reading a post (reblogged on this site) from Janie Kellogg about how changing our own behavior can help this poor world.  Her post inspired me and I suggest that you read her post before reading this one.

This is what I needed to face this year.  Maybe my story will inspire someone else out there.  Last year, I had a wonderful boss.  She was supportive, kind and helpful in showing us ESL adjuncts how to deal with difficult situations in our multi-cultural, multi-lingual classrooms.  However, she needed to move on to other endeavors.  In August, we got an interim director who quickly proved herself to be the antithesis of our previous boss.  At our first meeting with her, she informed us that we make too much money.  At subsequent meetings and in private talks, she pitted us against each other, creating an atmosphere of anger and suspicion.  She removed anything remotely associated with fun from our job and eventually informed us that starting next fall, she would be “forced” to either close our program or cut our salaries in half.  After some investigation, we discovered that everything she said to us was a lie.  Our program, instead of being broke, had the largest surplus in its history.  The list of both her underhanded actions and her lies went on and on.

So, where does changing our own behavior come into this story?  Well, I found myself not being able to look her in the eyes.  You know how the scenario goes.  She looks at you with those steely blue eyes and you quickly avert your eyes.  Why?  I discovered that I could not look at her because I hated her for everything she had done.  She had managed, in a few short months, to take away any pleasure I had in my job.  Why was she able to do that?  How did I give her that power over me?  It was a deeply emotional and spiritually tumultuous situation.  It threw my life into a constant upheaval.

I would like to be able to say that I totally overcame the situation and have no hard feelings towards her, but I’m not sure that is entirely true. I understand the problem and I pray for her and wonder what it was that caused her to become such a hard and mean person.  However, can I look at her without any trace of hatred in my eyes?  It makes me wonder: how did Jesus do it?  How did he look at Pilate, the one who could condemn him to death, and say “You could have no power over me unless it were given to you by my Father in heaven.”  How did he have such complete love that he could see, even in the probability of an excrutiating death, the love of his Father in heaven?  How can I get that same kind of love in a simple situation at work?

There is no easy answer for us.  I believe the answer lies in overcoming hatreds in ourselves, in continuing to pursue the love we see in our savior.  The hatreds may not go away in one day, but they can be eliminated bit by bit, layer by layer.  In the coming year, I’m sure that I (and we all) can do it, through step by apparent babystep, prayer and the love of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.  We can overcome our challenges and let the life of God become an inspiration to others as well.  So, peace and prosperity to all this year, and may a wonderful overcoming spirit be ours through our loving Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Open season on Christians

It’s open season on Christians these days.  In Kenya, men with guns separated Muslims and Christians by asking a simple question.  “Are you a Christian?”  An affirmative answer and they were shot.  Here in the West, we think that we don’t kill Christians.  Everyone is free to believe as they wish.  Freedom of worship.  They’re killing Christians in the MIddle East and Africa, but here in the West we don’t do that, do we.  Or do we?

What about in the spirit?   They’re asking the same question here.  Are you a Christian?  Yes, is the reply of some.  Who’s doing the asking?  The media.  If your answer is in the affirmative, they don’t shoot you.  They just tweet and pretty soon you’re a bigot, a homophobe and a hate monger.  They will destroy you.

If they’re not trying to destroy you and your reputation, they are trying to wear the Christians down.  Water down the message.  Make it more palatable for the masses.  Just “be nice” and maybe people will believe.

It’s time for Christians to get strong.  Be sure of who you believe in and what it is you believe.  Get filled with the Word and the Spirit.  Be kind and live what you believe.  Don’t give in to hate.  Don’t listen to the labels that they put on you.  Stay true.

Love is contagious

Yesterday, on the way to work, the finale of Les Miserable came on the radio.  This song always puts me in a mood of contemplation and profound reverie.  It touches us all on a deep level of the simple love that we have for our Father.  That love resides somewhere in all of us, though it may be covered up and rusty in quite a few.  We all desire in our hearts for a world where we can live in peace, where all men will put away the sword.  We long for such a place for our children and for their children as well.

Our present world bears no resemblance to that apparently far off desire.  Today’s world is more a world of the barricade than a world beyond the barricade.  We struggle with news reports of far off wars, local crimes and sad stories of corrupted officials that make us lose hope that such a world of peace could ever exist.

It does exist.  We can achieve it.  I, as an individual, cannot force anyone else to want or create such a world.  I can only look inside of myself and eliminate the hate inside of me.  I may proclaim, “but I am not a hateful person.  I’m a nice person!”  Wait a minute!  What about that annoying person in the next cubicle?  Do I hate him?  What about the person that always rubs me the wrong way?  How about the guy that cut me off on the highway this morning?  Do I hate him?  Or did I pray for him as he was speeding off?

There is a solution to hatred.  Instead of avoiding that person, hoping that he or she will go away, think about his/her life for a while.  What would be something that he/she would really like?  Not a big flashy gift, but something small and simple, that shows you’re thinking of him or her.  Maybe a cup of coffee or just a kind gesture.  Something that would touch his/her heart.  He might end up hating you for doing that, but you will have taken one further step toward eliminating the hate from your heart.

People don’t respond well these days to words and doctrines, but love, they can’t resist that.  The song ends with the words, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”   Love grows.  Love is contagious.

Reacting to the Paris attacks and continuing suicide bombers

In our world today there are so many murders and assaults claiming to be the will of God.  Hogwash.  We are all God’s children.  True religion boils down to some very simple basics.

  • Love God first.
  • Love your fellow man.  He/she is your brother/sister.
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Keep the commandments.  Most religions have some form of them and most of them are quite similar in that they say, “Do not kill.”  “Do not steal.”  “Do not lie.”  Etc.

If we could implement these simple ideas in our lives and teach our children to do so, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live and raise children.

Choose Life!!

P1010248We are surrounded by choices from sunup to sunset.  Just to get out of bed is the first choice of our day.  As soon as we choose to do it, we are faced with more choices: we choose what clothes we are going to wear, what we’re going to eat for breakfast, what we’re going to read while we eat that breakfast and what we listen to as we drive to work.  We do all that even before the official start of the day (for some, the day only officially starts after the first cup of coffee!).

Do I choose a Hawaiian shirt in bright colors or something more subdued?  Do I eat donuts for breakfast or eggs with stewed tomatoes?  Do I check out facebook and catch up with friends and family as I consume my chosen breakfast or do I open the Bible and catch up on some godly inspiration for the day?  None of these choices of themselves are necessarily good or bad depending on the context and my motives in choosing them.

The free will that we enjoy today dates back to the Garden of Eden when God planted two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He warned Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and told him about the consequences.  Our choices do have consequences.  If I choose to eat M & M’s every day for breakfast, there will be hell to pay eventually.  You could compare that to choosing death.  If I choose healthy foods, I would be choosing a healthy natural life.  So too, choosing positive activities, thoughts and qualities enhances my spiritual life.  Choosing those things is like choosing life.

As we go through our day, we can reflect God in our choices.  What does God want me to do today?  And God is not religious!  By that, I mean that He doesn’t want me to stay in my closet praying the Our Father all day.  How can that help anyone?  He understands that we need to live our daily lives.  But as we do that, we have choices that can showcase His goodness and inspire both ourselves and others.  So, rather than choosing to always promote ourselves, we can choose God.  Most interestingly, we can choose our attitude.  When someone rubs me the wrong way, instead of irritation, I can choose love.  Instead of a sarcastic reply, I can choose either silence with a smile or perhaps even a kind answer.  Instead of moping about, I can choose to be happy.  We can all make godly choices in the apparently little things as our day rolls along.  Those choices will engender an abundant and godly life for ourselves and for those that we  meet.

CHOOSE LIFE!!!

Heaven is a choice

P1000891

 

In this photo, there is only one road to choose from to get through Crawford Notch in New Hampshire.  In life, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation with only one way out.  Most of the time, however, we are making choices all the day long.  For example, I go to the store, choose various kinds of food, bring it home and put it all in my pantry.  Of course, what I bought was a choice.  Later on, when I go looking for something to eat, what do I pick out?  If day after day I pick marshmallows and candy bars, pretty soon I’m going to be sick.  In the long run if I continue making the same choices, my body will be depleted of its energy since I have chosen not to give it anything with any trace of nutrients in it.  My body would be running on empty and I would pay the consequences of my choices with ill health, which would in turn lead to my eventual demise.

It’s the same with my choices for both my behavior and my attitude.  When I was young, my parents chose many things for me in their role of guardianship over me.  When I grew up, my boss made some of those choices for me, but it was my choice to submit to them.  Once I am an adult, just as I choose what goes into my mouth, I also choose what my physical body does.  My heart tells my brain what it desires and my brain tells my tongue what to say, and my hands what to do.  That leads me to the main choice that no one can control but me.  It’s my heart’s attitude.  My attitude is entirely my own.  No one can dictate to me how I should look at something.  So, no matter what the situation, I can always choose to look at it as coming from God and know that it is for my good.  I can always choose a good attitude.

Every day my heart is making choices.  Let it choose righteousness, truth and love.  Day by day, as we make our choices in the seemingly small details of our lives, we are choosing heaven.