Memorial Day Freedom

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Memorial Day. In memory of those soldiers who died in the service of their country.  There is a boulevard in my small town called Memorial Boulevard.  Along this boulevard are several memorial statues dedicated to city soldiers who lost their lives in various American wars.  There are also oak trees planted along this boulevard and next to each oak there is a marker with the name of a city soldier lost in World War I.  There are about thirty such markers, a huge toll for such a small town at the time.  It has been nearly a hundred years since they died on foreign soil fighting for freedom.

So, what freedom did they fight for?  One hundred years ago, the average citizen had less freedom than modern young people in regards to his or her family.  It seems as if young people had certain obligations towards their families that young people today don’t have.  To a large degree, today’s youth can choose the career of their dreams, move to the location they desire and marry whom they choose.  They can make a life for themselves, but is that freedom?  At the same time, we have lost other kinds of freedom that people one hundred years ago took for granted.  Today, we owe much to our government.  More and more, our government decides what is appropriate.  We have lost the right to pray in our schools, to put the Ten Commandments in public places and even to display a creche at Christmas time on the town green.  The people of one hundred years ago would be surprised at what we can no longer do.  Are we now “free?”

What makes a person free?  We would all agree that a  person who is addicted to alcohol, smoking or to internet porn is not free.  He/she is a prisoner to that habit.  Just as an addict is not free from his addiction, I am not free if I freeze in fear each time I face a large crowd in a public speaking situation.  I am a prisoner of that fear.  Or perhaps each time I open a package of cookies, I eat the entire thing.  I am a prisoner to that craving.  Both situations create a negative result for me.

So, on this Memorial Day, as we honor those who died to preserve our freedom, what makes us free?  Freedom in regards to our family or our government increases or decreases and yet still we find ourselves not one hundred percent free.  The only real freedom we can enjoy is freedom inside of ourselves, in our souls.  Only the truth can make us truly free.  If we live that truth and free ourselves from those things that hold us prisoner, then we are free indeed with a freedom that no one can take away.

We are truly grateful for those soldiers who nobly fought and died to preserve our natural freedom.  It gave us the opportunity to find and live our spiritual freedom.  Thank you to those thirty young men who died one hundred years ago.  Thank you to the men and women who have died before then and since that time.  The most deeply felt thank you must be reserved for Jesus who most nobly fought and most lovingly died that we each might find our true freedom.  Thank you Jesus.  We remember you this Memorial Day weekend.

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.

 

Listening!

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At the botanical gardens – quietness enters my soul.  Without the external hustle of this world, God’s Word comes more easily.  Listening.

This morning I was reading a passage from the Psalms.  I like to read a different translation from time to time.  Sometimes it gives me a new perspective on a topic.  The passage was Psalms 81:8 – 16 in the Smith and Goodspeed translation.

“Listen, O my people, while I warn you; if you would but listen to me, O Israel!  There would be no strange god among you; nor would you bow down to a foreign god.  I, the LORD, am your God; he who brought you up from the land of Egypt.  Open wide your mouth that I may fill it.  But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would have none of me.  So I gave them over to their own self-will, that they might follow their own devices.  If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would only walk in my ways, I would quickly humble their foes, and turn my hand against their enemies.  Those who hate the LORD would fawn upon him, and terror would be upon them forever; but he would be fed with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock would I satisfy you.”

Self will or God’s will?  It’s either one or the other.  They both cannot exist in the same space.  These two wills are constantly at odds.

It has to be a deliberate choice to stop the self plans and let God lay out his plans.  To get God’s view for this moment or this day or this life, I have to lay aside my self-will.  Forget about it.  Let it go.  See what God has in mind.  Let’s make a deal.  Self will is only going to get us in trouble anyway.  Let’s really listen.

Listening naturally to the world around us, we surrender our own thoughts to hear the sound of birds chirping, little bees buzzing and light breezes passing through.  Such wonderful music for our ears!  Listening spiritually to our Father, we surrender our own will to hear what he has to say.  A reverential symphony for our soul!

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.