The Kingdom of Heaven is within!

I have a relative that lives on an island in the Caribbean.  He has often said that he lives in paradise.  During the night on Tuesday, his paradise was demolished.  He lost everything but his dog and his life.  We are extremely grateful that his life was spared.

Many stories emerged this week that make it abundantly clear that the earthly places that we equate with paradise can be destroyed.  However, the true paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven, will never be destroyed.  If it dwells within you, it is your life and can never be taken from you no matter the circumstances.

It will be like the house built upon the rock.  When wind and storm and rain beat against it, nothing, no storm and no attack from hell, can tear it down.

United we stand?

On September 9, 1776, the congress representing the group of colonies that made up this country at that time decided to call it the United States.  However, ever since its inception, this country has been tested as to the meaning of its name.  Although the founders held deep convictions and high ideals for this country, there were already deep divisions in our unity, specifically over what to do about slavery.  That crack widened until we fought a bitter civil war over the issue.  Even since the end of that war, the divisions have persisted.

Over time, those divisions have branched out from the issue of slavery and new divisions have been created.  Nowadays, our congress cannot even agree on the simplest of issues.  I read in this morning’s paper a comment by a young man of 27.  He said, “My generation can’t talk to each other.  They don’t want to hear another perspective.  If you label yourself a conservative or a libertarian, they don’t want to talk to you.”  (“What of Civil War Re-Enactments,?” Hartford Courant, 9-5-2-17)  What is wrong with us and why can’t we even have a civil conversation to discuss the issues?! The crack is widening and there seems to be no way to bridge the gap.

However, God is giving us a chance.  Unfortunately, the times that we come together end up being the worst of times and yet the best of times.  Disasters somehow make us forget politics and opposing opinions and bring us together in a common goal of survival.  The experience of Houston, Rockport, Wharton and Port Arthur has both horrified and softened the hearts of Americans across the nation.

I believe that everyday Americans would welcome a change from the divisive rhetoric streaming off the airwaves.  Another huge storm is heading our way.  Hurricane Irma.  Hopefully, we will rise to the occasion once again and pitch in to pick up the pieces that are left in its wake if indeed it ends up taking direct aim at us, but why do we need a monster storm to force us to do that?

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  We know this to be a truth.  We have to come together.  We have to be willing to listen to one another.  We have to work together if we want to ensure the survival of our country for the future.  We can do it without another storm.  Teach young people to discuss.  Be an example of civil discussion. Listen first.  Listening doesn’t cost a thing.

Doers of the Word

 

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This morning I was walking along and came across this scene.  There is one guy down in the hole working hard at digging the hole deeper.  Five guys, some with clipboards, are watching him work.  There must be a reason why they need five to watch and one to work and yet it seems a little absurd.  To me, this picture illustrates one of the many problems in our society.  We are becoming top heavy.  My mother had a saying stenciled on the wall in front of our kitchen sink.  It is no longer politically correct to use this saying, but when we were children it plainly let us know that there were: “Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.”  Therefore, we’d better get to work!

It seems that everyone wants to be the boss these days and very few want to do the hard physical work.  The bosses give themselves large raises while maintaining the poverty of those few who are doing the labor for which the bosses are being paid.  It’s true that we need administrative help, but do we need so much of it?  One of my relatives works at a small private high school.  He told me this summer that due to recent hiring practices, his school now has thirteen administrators but only eight teachers.  How is that possible?  No wonder tuition is going up nationwide.

It’s not just a problem in our schools and in our nation.  It’s a spiritual problem as well.  James 1:22 warns us not to be that way.  “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  This Scripture tells us that if we stand around and do nothing while other people are fulfilling God’s will, we are deceiving our own selves.  God wants people of action.  He doesn’t want people who stand around watching and commenting on what others do.  He wants people who will live their faith and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.  There probably will be plenty of commentary from the watchers.  “You should have done it this way.  Why did you do that?”  But if our motives are to follow after God’s will for our lives, we will be in the right way.

Just as the man digging in the picture is possibly getting a lower salary than those watching him work, we might never receive any kind of natural benefit in this world for doing God’s will. Even so, God is faithful.  Verse 25 tells us, “a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  Verily, there is a reward for the righteous.

Waiting for the world to change??!

This morning I heard a song on the radio.  “I’m waiting for the world to change.”  Really?  Is that like waiting for the cows to come home of their own accord?  And what if the world does change?  Where would that leave me?  Unchanged?  Left out?  There is no assurance that the world will change.  The only thing we can do in this world is change ourselves.  Jesus left us the template.  We need to change whatever doesn’t fit into that template.  God will not give us too much to do at once.  As we walk along life’s path, He brings just the right thing along that can be changed today. We can change that one thing today.  Tomorrow there will be another thing, but that can wait for tomorrow.

Two days ago God gave me one thing to change.  I was getting onto a flight to return home from a trip.  As I walked down the aisle, I realised my assigned seat was next to an enormous man.  Yes, I was in the middle seat, sandwiched between the rap man (music playing into his earphones so loudly that I could hear the words) and the fat man (who was actually using up a quarter of the space that I had paid for).  I was irritated and feeling nearly nauseous and definitely claustrophobic.  God was very merciful because it was less than a two hour flight.  However, I didn’t start thinking until well into the flight that instead of being annoyed at him and wondering whether I could be allowed to request a refund of 1/4 of my ticket price, I should be praying for both him and the rapper fellow.  In my heart, I was hating him because he was overweight and yet that was the only thing that I even knew about his life.  That was one thing that I could change that day.  I could stop the anger and irritation and just pray and it didn’t cost me anything. I feel bad that it didn’t occur to me at once, but that’s the way life is.  Something comes our way out of the blue.  We have a reaction and our reaction points us towards what we can change.

Let’s not wait for the world to change.  Let’s change the one thing that God brings into our lives today.

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.

 

God’s Garden in our mind

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The article in the following link was published in the latest Natural Awakenings magazine.  It’s a free magazine that is usually found in our local health food store.  Dennis Merritt Jones is the author and he calls his article “Mind Gardening.”

http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Natural-Awakenings/March-2015/Mind-Gardening/

The allegory in this article is so appropriate for a lovely spring day!  What do we find growing in our minds?  What do we allow to take root in there?  Sometimes I find my mind wandering off and pretty soon it’s off on some tangent, ruminating on some topic that had nothing to do with the first thing it was thinking about.  If I go back and trace its path, I find that what led me astray was a thought of complaining or of resentment or even anger.  Do I enjoy continuing down that black path of resentment and fault finding?  If I do, pretty soon the thoughts coming out of my mind will grow darker and darker.  They are like ugly, tangled weeds crowding out the sun.

But I have a choice.  We all have a choice.  No one forces my mind to follow any train of thought.  It is the one place where I have true liberty.  From my God given free will, I can choose to pull out those ugly thought weeds and plant beauty.  God’s paradise is a beautiful place.  If I keep my mind on God, His kingdom and positive ideas about life here on earth, my thoughts can be a colorful garden that is filled with a stunning variety of blooms.  If my thought garden is full of sunlight and a colorful array of flowers, it will always be at the ready to help anyone in need.  It’s all up to me.

The Kingdom of God is within.  It is in our minds and hearts.  We can create His kingdom right here on earth by sowing beautiful seeds in our minds.  So, the next time you’re driving down the road and finding that your thoughts have begun to flow into a sea of self pity or complaining or anger, pluck those ugly weeds out.  Plant in their place a seed of love and gratitude!

Enduring patiently

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Charity suffereth long.

Suffereth means to have patience, to patiently endure. We humans don’t always patiently endure each other. The way God patiently endures with us, his children, is absolutely amazing. Just as it has taken many years for this waterfall to soften the rocks in its path, he is willing to take his time softening our hard edges.  How does he do it? He doesn’t shout at us or push us around. He watches while we make life altering mistakes, knowing that he can turn it around to help us in the end. He allows our stupidity, knowing that through it we’ll learn a valuable lesson and that once we learn it we won’t go back to that particular idiotic behavior. He coaxes and inspires and, once in a great while, allows others to shout at us if we’re really blockheads.

I think back through the ages at some of the most colossal mistakes and how God suffered through our ignorance and hatefulness. What about the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and subsequent prejudice against those who had once been enslaved? How about more recent ones like the atom bomb, overuse of antibiotics and GMO’s? He suffers through our idiocy as we destroy each other and sometimes the planet on so many levels and then plants a seed in someone’s brain to help us turn around from such things. He gives us at the same time Hitler and Einstein, Roman oppression and Jesus. He always makes a way out of our troubles.

Most of our history is built on mistakes, hatefulness and oppression. God’s enduring patience has turned our negativity into the Renaissance, discoveries, and growth in compassion and renewed hope. Personal growth is often measured in the same way. We learn the most from our biggest blunders. Learning to practice patiently enduring while our friends, family members and neighbors are in the midst of their latest flub would go a long way in helping us to both see and right our wrongs.

God lives what he preaches. What an awesome guy to emulate!