Saturday, December 28, 2013

The "Duck" Controversy

Psalm 75:7   But God is the judge:  he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Well, according to the news, Phil Robertson is back with The Duck Dynasty.  This whole Duck controversy could have been avoided if religious zealots were as eager to read and follow God's other teachings as they are to look for "sins" they can use to chastise people they don't even know.

Just as arrogance comes from a poor self concept, so, I believe, does the need for zealots to cast literal or figurative stones on sinners.  When we feel good about ourselves, we are so busily engaged in productive activities that we have no need or time to run around behind others looking for their flaws.

In my denomination we are taught that Jesus Christ was the only perfect human being.  It took the Son of God to reach that desired state.  Although we are expected to aspire toward better hearts, thoughts and behaviors, we are forgiven by God and Jesus as long as we have accepted Christ as our Savior.

Throughout this long war in the Middle East, we have become more familiar with the zealousness that formed the basis of Biblical religious beliefs.  We look with horror at the treatment of women and children . . . the stoning of others . . . the killing of young girls for being raped . . . etc.  But, as usual, we cannot see the horrors of ourselves when we behave in the same, though somewhat subdued, manner as the radicals of another religion in another country.

Over and over in our Bible we are taught not to judge others.  Judge not or you will be judged.  God judges.  Who set you up to be judge?  Who appointed me judge?  But over and over we judge others.  It's like a forbidden fruit that becomes irresistible because it is forbidden.  (In fact, isn't the tree in the Garden of Eden sometimes referred to as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil)?  Yet, we don't even notice we commit this sin.

Who is the Duck Dynasty anyway?  Who is the family that stars in another dubious reality show on television?  Are you Dynasty fans feeling insulted?  Is the Dynasty family feeling insulted?  You see, all I said is who are they and dubious reality show and you feel offended.  Yet, you think nothing of criticizing others for anything and everything you can.

But, it does make you feel self-righteous, doesn't it?  Our sins cannot be erased by pointing out flaws in others.  God knows our hearts and minds.  Unfortunately for Him, He knows every sin we all commit.  As we think in our hearts, we are known.  We cannot disguise our own flaws by striking out at others.

It's a little like lay people who go around diagnosing mental illness in others.  They aren't qualified.  Neither are we qualified to determine which of us sins the most.  That's God's job.  He's told us all through His word.  Our job is to remove the beam from our own eye.

Had the members of Duck Dynasty followed directions -- the directions of the God they purport to serve -- their controversy would not have happened.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Cast Out Thine Own Beam

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"  Matthew 7:3

It is hard to decide if more words are needed besides the scripture itself.  Probably all of us have criticized others, and sometimes for things far less important than our own "sins" of commitment or omission.  Jesus is saying much the same thing he did when he said ". . . let he who is without sin cast the first stone". 

Plainly said, eliminate our own faults before we start looking for fault in others.  Ours probably are worse than theirs.

There is a joke going around recently.  Even Joel Osteen told it in a sermon.  It is to the effect that a recently departed, when arriving in heaven, wondered why so many sinners were there -- thieves, murderers, etc.  When everyone remained silent, God said to the new arrival that he would have to forgive everybody, because they were stunned to see him there.

That is so like us all. We consider ourselves right and perfect, while being snooty about the faults of others. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Safety in the City


Psalm 119:117  "Hold thou me up and I will be safe . . ."

The larger the city, the bigger the illusion of safety these days.  The cheaper the neighborhood, the more likely crime will occur.  That's why we need to be constantly thankful to the Almighty for any days free of risk.

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, there were several occasions when I worked a second job at night.  In 1996, I had repetitive car repairs and buying a different used auto seemed to make it worse.  So, I took a second job to pay off the bills.  While working at a call-in center for pizza delivery, I noticed cars that seemed to be following me home.  The first two I saw were old rattle-trap vans.  One was medium blue.  The other was a patchwork made from several old cars.  There is no definitive proof who was driving them, but three such vehicles belonged to people who worked at my day job.  One was frequently in my neighborhood.

I began varying my route home.  One path I took, three little teenage boys would pull in behind me.  They drove two different vehicles.  After I retired, I was out during the day where cars and people are more visible.  A sudden movement caught my attention.  When I looked that direction, one of those cars was there.  I saw a teenage boy trying to slump down and hide himself from sight.  The driver, I knew to be the previous owner of my townhouse.  The family had been evicted and the kid, now older, was stalking the old lady who had bought their home.

There were also three slant front vans that were frequently in the parade.  I never found out why they did it, but two of the three came barreling out from behind the building of my day job one morning.  One was being driven by a man whom I believe to be the night shift janitor.

A supervisor at one of my jobs had a habit of hiring her family members.  Her sister's car broke down on the highway, so the family bought her a more reliable one.  When the one that had broken down followed me into the secluded location of my newest second job, I inquired what had happened to the broken down car.  I didn't say I knew that her brother had been driving it.

Just after that encounter, a large gold car, probably and old V8, began circling around and around through my route.  I'd seen them in maybe three to four locations on a single trip.  Then I'd get to my community and a great big Neighborhood Watch truck would tailgate me to my corner.  That sure made the terror complete.  I guess they thought I could read those tiny door signs through their high beam headlights.  The night the gold car got within three blocks of my house, I asked a day manager if I could do work at home for extra income.  She agreed.

Soon, two of the men from the gold car began working for my company.  One of these threatened to shoot a manager if she did anything to cost him his job.

Years later, the third one was arrested for killing and cooking a friend because he had always wanted to know what it was like to eat a person.  It made me shudder to wonder if I were on the menu for lunch back then.  And, no, it isn't funny, is it?  He lived just blocks from me.

There is no question in my mind that God protects us . . . holds us up so we will be -- if not free of all harm -- at least safer than we could be.  Don't you wonder how people stand living in a war zone?

It is said God won't give us more than we can bear.  Sometimes many of us just wish He didn't think we were quite so strong.

But, thank you God for any and all protection you can offer.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Okay To Pray For Peace

Jeremiah 29:7  "And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon.  Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you."

There is a relative of mine who is obsessed with Jewish matters.  I've no problem with being concerned for the Jewish people, or for the Palestinians, and yet I do have a problem with obsessions of any kind.  Recently, if a Jewish message is not posted to my Facebook page, she sends it to my e-mail.  I have been quite fond of her since I laid eyes on her when she was three years old.  I mean her no harm by this article.

Yesterday she sent an e-mail that I didn't quite understand.  A couple of things stood out.  She was rebutting a recent article from one of my blogs.  And, she was sending Jewish scripture that if there ever was a two state situation between Palestine and the Jews, that would be the beginning of the end of the world.  (Personally, I hope the world still twirls long after my demise.)

Then, today, I've run into two sources that someone shared on Facebook that include the above scripture.  Do you suppose God had a hand in this?

The bottom line -- our Christian Old Testament, that includes books from the Torah, states that we should work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon because if Babylon has peace, so will the Jews.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but I am weary of the repeated and repeated conflicts of any people.  Peace where and when we can get it is a wonderful experience.  I guess the problem is one has to actually experience peace once in a while to know this.  I wish all cultures could bury the hate and grudges and learn to live together.  I'm sure God does not want us at war all the time.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Please, Lay Down Your Swords

"Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace . . ."  Romans 14:19

As we approach December 7, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (see My Greatest Tourist Experience Ever at lousisues.blogspot.com), I am reminded of the trauma of wars past.

It was announced Sunday (November 24, 2013) that a temporary agreement has been forged between several world powers and Iran over nuclear issues.  While some rejoice over this tiny incremental step toward world security and peace, others are negating it as too little or as a false commitment from Iran.

I say, still your voices and listen to the hope for lasting peace, however faint the possibility.  I wasn't alive during the "war to end all wars", but I have lived through the trauma of all wars -- cold or hot -- all conflicts, skirmishes ad nauseam beginning with World War II.

I call today on all nations, all religious creeds of the world to lay down your swords and take up the dove of peace.  This world is war weary to the depths.

However you state it -- war is hell or war sucks - war is greatly overrated.  It's time for us to quit begging God for peace and start working for that goal ourselves.  As the old saying goes, God helps those who help themselves.  Remember, psychologists tell us that power struggles cannot exist without at least two parties at odds.  One party cannot maintain the struggle alone.

Plus, it really is a better world in places where we all get along.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

May There Be Peace On Earth

Psalm 128:6  ". . . peace be upon Israel."

When you think about it, the world as a whole is a more peaceful place than it once was.  There is no more Ghengis Kahn, Alexander the Great, Holy Roman Empire trampling on the freedom of others.  The United Soviet Socialist Republic has disbanded.  The Berlin Wall is down.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are on the wane.

Now, if we can just get peace for Israel.  Wouldn't that be something great?  Peace for Israel would also mean peace for Palestinians . . . for Iranians . . . for the watching world.  Such a peace would be music to our ears.

Father, there are tentative quests for peace being cast about these days.  Please bless the efforts of all individuals involved.  Help them all to have genuine will to resolve the issues.

Please show them how to lay aside their own individual issues so that a genuine peace can be struck.

May there finally be peace on earth.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Knowledge Learned

I Corinthians 8:1  ". . . Knowledge puffeth up . . . "

I'm constantly being surrounded by people who behave as though their extensive knowledge in one field gives them license to expound on and practice in other fields.  This is very prevalent in university circles.  For example, a professor who has a doctorate in reading concerns insists he/she should be allowed to teach psychology.  A person with a Bachelor's in business decides that gives her expertise in reading blueprints.  Yet, when we get realistic, we know that one area of knowledge does not really equate to another.

This is a problem many of us face when we accumulate a wealth of information in one field.  In our smugness about our learning in one concern, we tend to negate the value of knowledge in  another.  Just as I Corinthians 8:1 says, we tend to let a little knowledge "puff us up".

When I was earning my Journalism degree, we were not allowed to have a minor.  Our advisers wanted us to be well rounded individuals who had an introductory grounding in numerous fields.  We needed enough general knowledge to be able to report news stories on many subjects.  This was probably a good idea.  At the same time, we did not get a complete and thorough understanding of any field other than our own.  We became writing techs who had an entry level of knowledge into a number of bodies of knowledge.

My own ongoing battle with being puffed up is on high alert these days.  I get frustrated with individuals who are less informed than I, but who think they know more.  Yet, I find myself criticizing a resident lawn care individual for continuing to mow his yard five or six weeks after we all gratefully acknowledge the end of the growing season.  What exactly do I think my knowledge of journalism, social studies, psychology, religion, or business and economics have to do with how to tend grass?  Although I've had extensive experience cutting my own yard, it could be that someone who does lawn care for a living knows something I do not. 

The point here is that we can all learn from each other.  We can also learn both in and out of college classrooms.  We can get information from extensive reading, television, videos, DVDs, the internet and CD information.  We can even get it from good old-fashioned experience.

Should we not take care not to let our own knowledge, however learned, cause us to be all puffed up?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let Your Light Shine

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify the Father which is in heaven."  Matthew 5:16

In psychology we talk about modeling -- serving as a model for how others should behave.  At least we show them how we hope they will act.

It's easy to see people in our lives with sufficient status that we expect others to act like them.  Pastor's and their wives, for instance, can serve as an example for young people, and occasionally adults.

There are those who say there is no greater compliment than imitation.  I've always found myself somewhat irritated when others copied me, but I guess I shouldn't feel that way.  Anymore, I'm so out of the visibility of people, I fail to recognize that others may be watching how I handle various situations.

The other morning I was carrying a load of dirty clothes down the stairs and stepped on my son's boots.  Because of my poor balance, my body flew in three or four directions before I finally caught the wall that stopped the fall, but caused a scrape.  In my fear, I let a couple of naughty little words fly from my mouth.  I'm sure I was pretty loud about it, too, because I was very scared.

What kind of an example was that for my neighbors?  I feel ashamed as I write this.

As God's representatives we should all be careful of our actions.  We never know who might see or hear and negate the worth of our beliefs because of one brief moment.  Such a thing might undermine months of work we've done presenting God's message.

I know I'll be more careful in the future to let my light shine for good instead of evil.  How about you?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Period of Focused Prayer

                                      Matthew 19:26  ". . . with God all things are possible."

The Republicans are obsessed with the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats make sufficient errors to keep Republicans hopeful.

Constructive legislation is on hold over and over again because both parties refuse to drop their pet issues and get to work on budget concerns and pairing down the national debt.

We, the people, are the ones hurting here.  We are embroiled in a sense of helplessness because the people we were counting on to be the grownups in the room are handling things worse than our toddlers would.

Saying the same ol', same ol', about the happenings in Congress is as frightening as it is descriptive.  Nothing moves forward.  When some form of decisions are made, they are temporary.  As if they have nothing to do, they keep tossing negotiations on down the line for another gut-wrenching quarrel, another month, yet another year.

But, we Christians know that all things are possible with God, because Jesus said so.  The Bible has also told us that God will answer the prayers of people gathered together and asking Him for help.   Yet, imagine the dilemma of a God who has His good people praying for both sides.  He could, of course, decide for Himself which is the best decision.  But if both sides have merit, or fault, perhaps He doesn't want to interfere.  This isn't a ball game here.

So, how should we pray?

I believe we should pray for answers that appease both sides -- for compromise and real negotiations.  The following prayer might be an example. 

Our Father,

Our politicians have forgotten what their higher purpose is.  They have fought so long about party lines that they interpret everything in terms of winning and losing.  Of course, nobody wants to be a loser, but when they quarrel like this, the American people all lose.

Please see that these elected individuals quit engaging in theatrics and quit avoiding the basic substantial issues that we need solved.  We ask that they set aside discussions of the Affordable Care Act until another time, perhaps when a new Congress is formed.  As things stand now, the law cannot be changed -- the House, Republican, the President and Senate, Democrat.  However it may be tweaked if we will get off our grandstands and solve the bigger problems first.

It would behoove us all if you helped them understand that the methods they are using may have the opposite effect to what they hope.  Instead of insuring their reelections, it may get a whole bunch sent home to national obscurity for life.  The polls indicate that may be the case.

Please help them all see the whole picture.  Let them observe the forest instead of nitpicking each individual tree.  Have them set partisan concerns aside long enough to make sound decisions about the budget and to see the disaster they would cause for the country and even the world, if they continue the threats not to raise the debt ceiling.  Even the threat of failing to raise it causes dangerous waves to the world economy. 

Please have them focus more efforts toward getting businesses to hire Americans.  A working America is a tax paying America.  That alone would settle some of the budget issues.

Hold us all focused on the greater good of all instead of the bottom line of a few.  Be sure our politicians get a healthy shot in this concept.

But most of all, Father, show them your take on what is the right thing to do.  Then help us all to see, hear, understand and accept your wisdom.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

Amen


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Times of Trouble

Job 14:1

This scripture confirms what we already know.  It says that man born of woman is born into trouble.  No kidding. I witnessed a scene recently which reminded me of how very vulnerable we all are -- both man and woman.  No matter how put together someone looks, it is always possible their burdens are nearly unbearable.  The person, in this case a woman, is beautiful and competent.  She seemingly has it all.  And yet, while watching one movement, a bracing of her whole body as she walked past, it became evident that she was as vulnerable as you or I.

We cannot depend on appearances to show us who needs a gentle touch and who does not.  Too many people have taken to heart the admonitions that people must "smile though their hearts are breaking", as sung by that fellow of old, Nat King Cole.

Most of us go through our days like the proverbial bull in a china shop, attending to our needs and those of our families.  We get too busy to attend to the trouble of others.

I don't know what was going on in the lives of the passing couple.  But I do know from her reflex to our scrutiny that she was embarrassed that we might discern their situation. It made me realize that, since we never know the problems others face, especially if they are good at "pretending to be happy when they are blue", we should handle all interactions carefully.

I hope this couple believes in God and knows they can turn to Him for help and comfort.  I hope they know that "The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble."  Psalm 9:9

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reconciliation

According to my less than adequate Bible concordance, the Bible mentions reconcile or reconciliation at least fourteen times.

Random House dictionary defines reconcile "to cause or cease hostility or opposition . . . to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired".  In other words, God likes reconciliation.  He likes us to cease hostility.

It's long past time for all of us to reconcile with others.  It would certainly make God happy if we would get over it and get on with our lives.

What is this it?  It could be a quarrel with our significant other.  Perhaps we should get a smoother relationship with our children . . . a sibling . . . a neighbor.  Maybe we burned bridges over religious beliefs or politics.  Those are two of the most hot button issues we have.

Today I feel led to say it is time to get over our political issues enough to get the work in Washington ironed out.

Those of us out here can chill a bit.  Those who hold the power can quit churning up melodrama.  They can quit being stubborn and destructive.  They can quit risking America's good name and our power throughout the world.  They can grow up and be men and women of stature.  They can be people to admire for working together and getting it done.  They can be a team.

The Kansas City Chiefs are once again a team.  If they can do it, the government can as well.  Let's hear it for cooperation, negotiation, reconciliation.  Let's please God by succeeding instead of failing in our responsibilities, our very jobs.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Obsession/Compulsion To Control

"Of all men's miseries, the bitterest is this, to know so much and to have control over nothing."  Herodotus

Humans have various kinds of power needs.  For some, it is a need for autonomy.  Parents and teachers want and need control over children in their care.  CEO's require power at the office.  Presidents need power over their parties as well as powerful influence over Congress and their constituents.

There is, of course, the infamous control freak who is driven right up the wall because he/she can't tell everyone around him what to do.  Well, that doesn't stop him from trying.  God help the person who needs autonomy -- power and control of oneself and one's environment -- when they come into the clutches of a control freak.  We're talking "frick" and "frack" -- nitro and glycerin.

We also have people with emotional problems or other handicaps who need controlled environments to feel secure and in control of themselves.  Think the Rainman here.

But there is a level of control needs that fits under the category of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Basically, OCD has it roots in insecurity.  The person who checks and rechecks whether the gas is off and the doors locked doesn't trust her memory.  Perhaps experience has taught her not to trust it.  Perhaps there is a genetic or chemical dysfunction. 

There are others with a kind of OCD that is less obvious, but perhaps even more destructive.  Some people labeled perfectionistic would fall into this category.  Their houses have to be the biggest, prettiest, or worse, the cleanest.  Their children have to be the brightest, best educated, the best athletes.  They have to have the most friends or the best hobbies. They have to be the alpha male or alpha female of their world.  Not succeeding in these endeavors incites more insecurity and more clutching for power.  Failure at it often leads to drug usage or excessive drinking which then leads to less assertiveness but more need to control.

OCD is a treatable disorder.  Some cases are so bad that medication is needed.  With others, one can learn the trust and be taught the security needed to arrest, if not cure, the illness.  In fact the illness labeled OCD, though recently named in the history of the world, is a condition dealt with in the Bible.  In a variation of the words of an old song, "Let go and let God. . .",  II Samuel 23:33 states, "God is my strength and my power. . .".

As Herodotus said, man has control over nothing, not the winds, rain, sun, crops, or others.  Frustrating, but true.  So, in other words, turn it over.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On The Road Accountability

Job 4:8

Just because America has "labeled" deliberate violence on the road, it doesn't make it okay to engage in "road rage".  Sometimes labeling things as a condition or even an illness is used to excuse the inappropriate behaviors involved, but it should not be so.

People who choose to engage in road rage violence need to be held accountable just the same as an individual who hurts someone in a restaurant or a church.  The more severe the injuries they cause, the more serious the punishment that should be meted out.

As best the police reports can be interpreted, a recent incident in Manhattan was caused by a group of bikers intent on performing tricks on a  major highway.  Police had received complaints from the driver of the SUV and were already monitoring the progress of the cyclists because of their behavior last year. 

A lot of us have considerable sympathy for the vulnerability of bikers both on bicycles and motorized vehicles.  But folks, when you deliberately plan to interrupt traffic and cause a major slowdown, you are more or less asking for accidents.  And when you succeed in getting the asking fulfilled, you are owed no apology and no recourse.  In fact, you should get a trip to court followed by a sentence and a fine.

Roads are built for traveling to work, church, events, such.  They are not built so a circus can be held in their midst.  If you choose to hold a circus there, it is not only a bad choice for yourselves, but for all drivers in America.  At the very least you increase everybody's insurance premiums with the accidents you cause.

Apparently a biker cut in front of the SUV and began a slowdown.  He was rear ended by the SUV.  He and his friends are shown converging on the SUV, trying to open the car door.  In his panic and fear, the SUV driver fled from the scene.  It is regrettable, but he ran down three cyclists in his escape.  What would you have done in the same situation?  My response would probably have been to save my family and myself if possible.  I don't think anyone would have done differently if a gang of hoodlums were expressing road rage and trying to get into their cars.

But said bikers are all in a snit because some of their own were hurt.  So, they converged on the SUV again and broke out the windows.  They accessed the driver and beat him seriously.  And they still feel they are in the right throughout it all -- from slowing traffic for fun to beating up a man over an accident and a self-protective escape.   

Immediately I thought of the efforts of those bikers who are annually working together to help afflicted children.  How embarrassed they must be of their fellow riders who work so hard at giving bikers a bad name.  Which group of individuals would you want to be around?  The answer is a no-brainer, isn't it?

Remember always that you reap what you sow.  So be careful in selecting your companions and your methods.  And by all means know that if you deliberately break laws and injure others, you deserve to be held accountable.  And just accept that your own injuries may become a tragic byproduct of your bad choices.






Wednesday, September 25, 2013

God's Will Or Ours Be Done?

". . . not my will, but thine, be done."  Luke 22:42

Well, the likeable little Pope Francis is at it again.  Other priests in the hierarchy are running around behind him cleaning up potential misunderstandings of what he says.  No wonder people might misinterpret.  For instance, what did he mean when he said -- badly paraphrased here -- that the church couldn't just speak out against contraception and abortion, but that it had to achieve a balance?  It could be interpreted as contraception and abortion are okay now, or it could mean they have to do something on the other side of the scale to balance the requirements of no contraception and no abortions.  The next day he clarified.  Every aborted baby has the face of Jesus.

When he first asked who was he to judge others for being gay, priests moved in quickly to make it clear that the church would accept such individuals in services.  They said it didn't mean it was okay.

But about women who feel called to the priesthood, there is still an emphatic no.  Women, he said, are more important to the church than Bishops . . ..  I won't quarrel with that.  Servants are more valuable to any establishment than the masters.  It is the servants who do most of the work.  They just aren't to get all uppity and start to assume control.

However, whose will are we to obey, mine or thine?  Jesus had the answer in Luke 22:42.

If God called women to the ministry, what right does man or woman have to deny God's will?  (None is the correct answer.)  Besides, I read somewhere recently that the Hebrew word we interpret as a man's name, Adam, is really translated as human being.  Want to think about that for awhile?

Not our will, but Thine, Father, hard as that is to say and mean.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Keep Your Cheerful Songs To Yourself

"Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart."  Proverbs 25:20

My main memory of one workplace was of two or three super cheerful people always chiding others for not being positive and upbeat.  For a while, a couple of supervisors tried to get a guy in my department to change.  They even hung notes on the door facings which stated "no whining allowed."  I didn't notice a discernible improvement in his attitude.  Frankly, I fall somewhere in between the two extremes.  I find perky individuals positively disgusting.  They are at least as unbearable as the whiners.  Like the scripture says, people who sing to a heavy heart are like someone stealing a coat in the cold. 

One problem with the terminally effervescent is how out of touch with reality they can be.  Always maintaining a positive attitude, even when your house is burning down in Hurricane Sandy is more than a little schizophrenic.  The last thing a grieving homeowner needs is the hale and hearty slapping them on the back and telling them to look for the silver lining.  They need to be allowed time to get to that place by themselves.

The caution not to sing songs has special meaning in my family.  When our daughter was young we wanted to provide her with all the best of life.  We enrolled her in children's art and music classes.  Unfortunately, some of them started pretty early on Saturday morning.  This child is not an early riser. So, her Dad made up a little song.  Do you want to go to music class and play and sing?"  She hated that song as long as she remembered it.  No, she didn't want to go.  It was Saturday and she wanted to sleep.

What is meant as playful fun to one can actually be like salt in a wound if the other person is very tired or very troubled. 

Tread carefully on the feelings of others.  If you have to walk a mile in their shoes, you may need them to be considerate of you.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Will God Think We Are Meddling in Syria?

"Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passerby who meddles in a quarrel not his own."  Proverbs 26:17

In Proverbs 20:3, we are further told that there is honor is ceasing strife.  However, those who meddle are fools.  We are cautioned in several Bible scriptures not to meddle in the quarrels of others.  Yet, we do it all the time both in our personal lives and as a country in the international theater.  I'm wondering right now if we could speak directly with God if He would tell us to quit getting in the middle of all of Israel's strife.  Maybe, maybe not.

I'm sure without asking that He abhors the use of chemical weapons.  But does that mean He would advocate other countries "punishing" the perpetrators?  Or, is He expecting the world to step into the middle and attempt to stop the insanity?

I believe the only way to know His will is to pray that He will direct the vote of our Congress.  If the vote is to strike, He wants us to interfere.  If the vote is no, we need to be honorable and walk away -- not be fools, in other words.

I'm pretty sure He would not be happy if we enter the fray to save our President's face.  If what he said was a mistake, he can learn from his mistakes like everyone else.

It may be time for the world to learn to solve it's own problems as well.  They can learn from their mistakes, too.  Remember, that a growing child learns nothing if he is protected constantly.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Women In The Ministry

Knowing what we do about the people of the Middle East and how they feel about the role of women in the world at large, it is no surprise that the church hierarchy became top-heavy with men.  But the men of the Middle East were apparently not the only culprits in turning women toward submissive roles.

According to Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman, debate over what role women should hold began because they held high roles in the early church, beginning with Jesus and his ministry.  Women, in addition to twelve male disciples, went with Jesus on his tours.  They helped him financially and were patrons of his ministry.  He spoke with them and ministered to them in public. They did not desert him like the men did at the end. 

The Apostle Paul also respected the role of women and did not treat them as inferiors.  He even referred to several as coworkers.  And, it was a woman whom he called foremost of the Apostles.  And yet, he contradicted himself on occasion.  Because of Paul's contradictions, people in his churches, in various locations, favored either one or the other. Arguments arose, and eventually women were subjected to a subservient role.  In fact, some Bible scholars believe that I Timothy, attributed as a letter from Paul to Timothy, may not have been written by Paul, but by the supposed recipient.  There are verses in I Timothy that are said not to even be in the same order when comparing Greek and Latin manuscripts.  There are also deliberate alterations, such as some Bibles using Junias (male) instead of Junia (female) to change the meaning.  Ehrman gives further examples of deliberate and accidental errors when comparisons are made about this and other issues. 

In our world today, major Christian denominations still see the woman's role as lesser and low in the church hierarchy.  But don't forget Jesus had announced that women and men would be equal in his kingdom. 

Paul suggested not to change the roles at that time, because early Christians thought the end was upon them.  It didn't seem necessary for such a short time.

Women are not alone in trying to get equal roles for females.  A lot of men recognize that the intelligence, the work ethic, and the loyalty of women would be as beneficial to the church as it has been in government and business settings.  Yet, the greater denominations and religions still hold out a chauvinistic viewpoint that men, perhaps because they used their size and brute strength to seize power, are the top dogs and women are their servants.  Remember also that Jesus said there would be no slaves in his kingdom.  So, why is our world, especially our supposedly compassionate church community, so resistant to following his lead?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Love Again

In the last devotion we considered how hard loving the unlovable neighbor is.  Yet, God sent all his messengers to tell us that love them we must.

Romans 13:8-10 tells us if we love another we have fulfilled the law.  When you think about it, you can't show love if you are sleeping with your neighbor's wife or stealing from him.  Love and killing are not compatible.  If we covet or bear false witness, we are not fulfilling the law.  Strife and envy do not show love.  Therefore, to bottom line this, if we love others, it follows that we have to keep the commandments or at least keep trying.

It is no doubt easier for all of us to love a collective humankind than it is to love each individual person, or, for that matter, individual nation.  It's easy to get upset with countries that are always threatening others, and it is even easier when the people are up close like neighbors, family and co-workers.  But, love them we are told we should do.  And we should love them as much as ourselves.

The fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington reminds us all that if we love somebody, we should set them free.  After all, excessive power needs and love are extremely incompatible. 

I close with words from the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, "Free at last, free at last.  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."  And now, may they feel the love.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Love, The Best Part

Mary at the cross of Jesus -- that was love.  Jesus, hanging on the cross to die for our sins -- that was really love.  Loving thy neighbor as thyself -- that sometimes feels almost as difficult to us as the task Jesus faced.  The question is, are we up to our part of the situation? 

Neighbors are a huge challenge.  About the only thing that dictates who your neighbors are is the economic half of socio-economic status.  The friendly neighborhood drug dealer may be able to match you economically, but what exactly can he offer to the neighborhood mix?

Economic status also does not insure that your neighbor will have the same socio status as you.  The friendly neighborhood drug dealer would probably be no more interested in my blog opinions than I am interested in his drugs.  And of course, I would be inclined to think I am in the right, just has he thinks he is right.  But, people flock to his door for whatever he has to offer.  How many flock to mine for my opinion?

The neighborhood drug dealer is easy next to the neighborhood meth maker.  That individual doesn't leave it as your choice if you are exposed to illegal drugs.  They are airborne with every batch.

Even the neighborhood thief does not measure up in evil intent as much as these.  And, are the thieves largely a product of those who manufacture and deal?

Maybe in that world so long ago, it was impossible to conceive of a world as unlovable as the one described.  Or maybe God and Jesus used their precognition and knew exactly what would be, yet they expect us to love and pray for all these individuals as well as a whole lot more.

And what a success we could become if we could learn to do just that.  It is said that when we do pray for our neighbors, no matter how unlovable they seem today, they turn out not so bad tomorrow. 

Now, God, please give me strength to keep on trying.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dishonesty and Holiness Are Incompatible

Leviticus 19:35  ". . . Do not use dishonest standards . . .".

This and verse 36 of Leviticus 19 are referring to weights and measures used in determining how to mete out supplies during the time of Moses.  Although it was situation specific, it is not that confusing to project God's commandments to today's world.  God was issuing decrees as well as commandments and He instructed His people to follow all of them.

It isn't hard to extrapolate this decree for use in the world today.  If we sell cloth or build homes -- measure the length correctly.  Don't short a pound purchase by even a part of an ounce.  Be honest in all our dealings.  Give correct change.

The latter may seem like a huge jump from measuring and weighing, but it really isn't.  God said not to use dishonest standards.  If He were writing the commandments and decrees today, He would have a different kind of world to examine and a new kind of people to both chide and protect.  But chide and protect He would do.

God wants us to treat, love, protect, pray for and respect all of His people wherever we find them and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

. . . and to remember "Thou shalt not steal."  God wants his people to be holy.  We cannot be holy if we are dishonest.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mary, The Mother

". . . the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary, thy wife:  for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."  Matthew 1:20

What a shocker that must have been to Mary and Joseph!  She is with child, without sex.  He is becoming a father, and he didn't have anything to do with it.  And we struggle with faith.  I suppose, though, ours might be stronger if visible angels brought our messages to us.

Then, Jesus isn't exactly a piece of cake to rear.  He disappears for hours on end talking with rabbis.  Have you ever had a child disappear for a couple of minutes in a clothing store?  Remember the panic? 

He can perform miracles, from making wine to shriveling trees.  The former saved the day at the wedding, but wasn't the latter a little scary? 

He calls to neighbor's children to abandon their families and come follow him.  And they do it.  They travel from here to yon with no apparent homes, few clothes and food provided by others or by miracles. 

Jesus is witnessed walking on water, an act which must have raced through the grapevine faster than news on Facebook or Twitter.  People called him crazy and he irritated religious leaders, royalty and politicians alike.

Yet, Mary was there to the end, witnessed near the cross where he died.  Mary, The Mother, loving him to the end.  She surely must have had more patience than you or I. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Faith and Bad Times

A friend of mine is facing surgery. Needless-to-say, she is fearful of not only the surgery, but also of a long recovery period.  She expressed these fears on Facebook, I'm sure so all who love her will whisper prayers on her behalf.  Another of our high school classmates responded, "Where's your faith?"  I'd like to slap him to kingdom come for that remark.  Why?  Because bad times come even in good faith, and his remark was callus and unthinking.  I've already written about how hard faith is.  See "Faith, the Really Hard Part" at   lousdevotes.blogspot.com.

Well, my dear friend, I'm sure I am not the only one who heard your unspoken plea for prayer.  I've asked the good Lord for the success of your surgery, a fast recovery and a calming of your fear.  I urge all my readers to do so, also.

Why do I want to rebuke the minister who so rudely accused her of a lack of faith?  Because he doesn't understand how hard faith really is.  He is just chanting words without tuning in to real world experience.

In the early seventies, my Mother called to say she was to have a biopsy due to a lump on her breast.  She assured me that it was just a routine test to rule out a worse case scenario.  I was between semesters at school, so decided to drive myself across two-plus states to be with her for emotional support.  When I went into her room prior to the sedative, she once again assured me the doctor was confident it would be benign.  The woman in the next bed gave a quick head shake to the negative. 

I sat and read and did needlework for the duration, like I didn't have a care in the world.  There was a page for Mom's family at the end of the surgery.  I should have heeded that woman's head shake.  Mother's doctor, a man with the worst of bedside manner, spewed out that the tumor was malignant, it was the rapidly growing kind, the worst, and she had had a modified radical mastectomy.  She would have to undergo several cobalt treatments as well as chemotherapy.  He hadn't bothered to say it in person, which I now suspect may be a Hollywood myth.

My Mother's faith had been like the naivete of a child and yet the news was very bad.  She never talked about how it might have shaken her unending faith and I didn't think to ask.

Certainly, had she had a healthy amount of fear, she could have conveyed some of it to me.  I would have had someone -- my husband -- accompany me for moral support for me.  Instead, the combination of faith, denial and bad manners from the doctor, left me light headed and unsure of my footing -- literally.  And I had to stand to answer the phone.

It all turned out well.  Mother was healed and remained cancer free for many years.  At that time, she had a second mastectomy, but survived that one as well.  She lived for many more years after, and it was not cancer that killed her in the end. 

I've carefully worded my prayer, as I have learned over the years that it is necessary to be specific with our God. I, too, expressed fear before my eye surgery.  Friends and family prayed.  The day of the surgery, I was so relaxed and confident that I know group prayer was in effect.  I didn't think to be fearful the surgery wouldn't work.  The doctor was touted as the best in the area.  How many people thought to pray for his success?  Not only did the macular hole not get fixed, but the surgery caused a retinal tear, a cataract and a hanging mobile and veil of veins through which I have looked for almost seven years.  But my faith was strong like my Mother's and things still went wrong.

So, remember to pray specific prayers, keep your faith strong, maintain a hold on reality and accept that, "Though you may have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again . . .".  Psalm 71:20 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Feeding the Poor

"He that oppreseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want."  Proverbs 22:16

And yet, according to Paul Krugman, columnist, the Congressman from Tennessee, Stephen Fincher, is even using the Bible (II Thesalonians 3:10) -- "...if any would not work, neither should he eat" -- to support his, and the House of Representatives, decision to kill the food stamp portion of the farm bill.  But they are padding the portion of the bill that supports farm businesses and corporations.  Fincher, himself a previous recipient of farm subsidies, says he cannot support a law that collects from the rich to give to the poor. That, according to many conservative Congressmen these days, is socialism. However, these same Congressmen see nothing wrong with taxing the rich and the middle class to feed the wealthy.  That, per them, apparently cannot be construed as socialism.

Mr. Krugman recently wrote that there is something wrong with the soul of the Republican Party.  He points out that several who serve in Congress seem to "take glee in inflicting more suffering on the already miserable".  He says he isn't sure what is going on, but it's a terrible thing to watch.

Proverbs 14:31 states "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his maker...".  The Bible, from cover to cover, encourages believers to help others.  Go figure that this group has found the scripture that encourages no food for no work.  Of course, Fincher and his ilk don't tell anybody where to find work during this sluggish recovery.  They are too busy threatening to decrease the already inadequate Social Security funds, reducing funding for Head Start programs and, in general, "mucking" up the economy worse than it is. 

I'm glad someone of Mr. Krugman's credentials and readership has finally taken up the crusade to open the eyes of the Republican constituents, if not the Congressmen, themselves.  He says they have gone way beyond bad economic doctrine or selfishness and special interests.  No kidding!

These points are much what I have been pointing out in my political blog   louhough.blogspot.com
for over a year.  Perhaps Krugman's message will have more effect from the man of apparent plenty than it has from myself.  I, being one of the poor they wish to oppress more by cutting Social Security's COLA, as well as an obscure blog author, cannot begin to impress the politicians involved.  Maybe they will hear the message from one of their own.

Previously in "The View From Main Street", the first article in my blog entitled Trickle Down Politics, I pointed out that employers who underpay their employees, as well as Congressmen who consistently keep minimum wages several dollars per hour too low, are the reason social programs became necessary.  If a head of household cannot earn enough to feed, clothe and shelter his family how can he be expected to save for a rainy day much less retirement?  Western countries, who now get upset over Asian manufacturing conditions, were just as bad before legislation protected employees here.  You should know that from your high school history lessons.

The constant threats to cut COLA to "save" Social Security, are frequently followed by people stating they never believed in Social Security anyway or that we are whiners to expect it just because we were promised it.  These people who have been elected, apparently are so dense they seem not to understand that we bought the insurance to provide our retirement future.  See "Social Security and Medicare Are Not Welfare" at my BlogSpot.

I have also suggested that before they cut Social Security and Medicare, they should cut their own salaries and benefits.  Their salary alone is many times more than our Social Security transfers. 

I've pointed out to the rich entrepreneurs that they would not have acquired such wealth if they and their families had been the only ones making their products  They should have shared the wealth with the ones who earned it for them.

The greed of the past caused earlier Congresses to step in and protect the workers who were not valued by the business community.  Businessmen caused the need for these programs they love to hate so much.  See "Me, Me, Me" at my blog.

There is a basic arrogance among them.  They seem to behave as though they believe that the rich should get more because they are rich and the poor get less because they are poor.

When Paul Ryan was running for Vice President, there was a big deal being made that he thought Atlas Shrugged was the second Bible.  For those of you who have not read Ayn Rand's work, it might be important to point out that Rand was an atheist.  She also had been part of the wealthy society of Russia at the time of the revolution there.  When the rich had been unseated, her parents sent her to America.  Needless-to-say she had some very harsh feelings about her stuff being taken away and distributed amongst the poorer population.

Once in America, she began to hang out with gifted and talented individuals.  Her husband was an artist.  Frank Lloyd Wright and his family were among her friends.  He probably was her inspiration for The Fountainhead, her first published novel.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand went too far afield with her philosophy.  There was so much imbedded in her plot that it became tedious.  In general, there was a theme that a handful of individuals were responsible for all that was good in the world and that the rest of us would not be able to survive without them.  Under the direction of John Galt, the hero so to speak, they set a date when they would walk away to their version of Walden Pond and leave us all to sink.  They were sure we would not survive without them.

Now, her work is very seductive.  Everyone who reads it wants to be one of the winners and a lot of people convince themselves they are.  Some of these interpret those who get rich off of others to be the winners.  But in her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand makes it clear that she is promoting trading value for value, not making money or getting ahead by exploiting others.

It is my fear too many people have decided they are the winners, based on an incorrect interpretation of Rand's work.  I just don't hold some of these individuals in the same esteem as they see themselves.  See "The Fatal Flaw" at my blog. 

My thanks to Paul Krugman, who has a strong enough voice to get attention.  Perhaps he can teach these individuals the real meaning of the word socialism.  Hopefully their constituents will read his, or even my words, and vote these people back to their gentlemen farm origins.

Certainly we can't take many more years of congresses that think it is okay to take from everyone to feed the rich while calling it socialism to take from all taxpayers to feed the hungry.  I'm sure God would be happy to see some true believers in office again.

The political blog to which I refer several times in this article is at louhough.blogspot.com.  You may also be interested in lousissues.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Friendship Please

As a young girl, possibly a preteen, I used to pray for World Peace.  Funny thing about young people, they offer God a somewhat na├»ve and expectant belief.  All things can be possible with prayer and faith.

While in college, I prayed further for a more ecumenical world.  It does seem as if the Christian denominations have become more unified across the globe.  Others must have prayed as well.

Today, I believe that if that ecumenical approach were maintained between the world's major religions, world peace might become a possibility.  Because of divisiveness, even within sects of religions, our lands seem in constant turmoil.  Much of the conflict is centered in the Middle East, where Muslims and Jews alike are constantly flexing their muscles while the rest of us cringe at potential outcomes.
 
In DNA The Secret of Life, James D. Watson notes that molecular studies have shown that Jews and all other Middle Eastern groups are, genetically, almost indistinguishable.  He reminds us of Abraham, father of Isaac and Ishmael.  The first was ancestor of the Jews while the latter was forefather of the Arabs.

If we examine Abraham's relationships closely, we may gain more understanding.  Abraham's wife, Sarai (Sarah) could not have her own children.  She came up with the idea of getting some kids by giving Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid, to him as wife.  Hagar bore Ishmael.  Later, Sarah conceived and her son's name was Isaac.  Ishmael apparently mocked the birth and growth of Isaac, so Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and her son away.  He reluctantly did so.

God promised Abraham that nations would come from both sons.  Jews are said to have come from Isaac and Arabs from Ishmael.  And thereby began the everlasting conflict between these two peoples.  It is said that DNA research supports the story of one common father and two separate mothers of these two nations.

It is hard to understand that disagreements between Sarah and Hagar could have caused all the hatred between these two sides.  This has all gone on for generations and generations.

The men who fathered the next generation of these two great nations were half brothers.  I pray that the nations begun by Abraham can overcome their enmity and heal their wounds.

  In the words of Michael Jackson, albeit in a different context, "why can't we be friends?"  The world needs more friendship, please.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

This Is My Body

Let me declare loudly that this is my body, my mind, my soul, my spirit, and my choice.

Whether you are conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist or whatever, this is still my body, mind, and soul.  That goes for whether you are a Congressman, Mayor, President, Governor or my next door neighbor.

Because I was born into a family of Christians who happened to attend a Southern Baptist Church, no big surprise that I am Christian or that I started out as a Southern Baptist.  Had I been born into a Catholic family, my life might have taken a different turn.  There would have been a head of my denomination, housed in Rome, who considered himself infallible and who had been granted rights by my denomination to tell me what to do. Whether any or all of these men (popes) were granted those rights by God, is really known only to God, Jesus and those who have preceded us to heaven.

Rules for people became necessary when many individuals began massing together. These rules (mores) evolved out of squabbles in a group.  You will remember reading about God creating Eve to be Adam's wife.  I don't recall a formal wedding ceremony or even a bunch of paperwork saying they belonged to each other.  But then, I guess it was enough that He created them for each other.  No visible sign was needed to say it was so.

As man and woman went throughout our world reproducing themselves, life got much more complicated. Without the rules, the mores, the laws, the biggest, meanest, "baddest" of them all would have gotten all the best of the women.  The power grubbers would have gotten all the control. The greedy, unfeeling, the Midas types, would have collected all the coins.  So, man made rules for man. Moses carried rules from God down to the Jewish people. Mohammed made rules for Muslims.  Jesus brought revised rules when he came.

But throughout all man's efforts to control his fellow man, even if his intentions were honorable and meant to bring order from chaos, one fact has remained true.  This is my body, my mind, my soul and my spirit.  I don't belong to you.  I don't belong to my parents (may they rest in peace).  I don't belong to my brothers.  I don't belong to my children.  And I, most especially, do not belong to any politician, foreign or domestic.  Whoever you are, political or religious, friend or foe, I do not belong to you.

This is my body, my mind, my spirit and my soul.  As long as I don't infringe on the rights of others, I get to make my own decisions.  You do not get to decide for me.  Some of my decisions will be good, some will be bad.  But they will be mine.  And if I can learn from my mistakes, I will become a better human being for the effort.

I think of the tone of voice used by Ingrid Bergman in the Inn of the Sixth Happiness.  "Oh, they will always fight," she said in a derisive tone of voice.  I'd like to borrow that tone here to say, oh there will always be others who want to control everybody else.  It is part of the nature of the beast that is mankind.  Simply stated, you have no right to do so.  I get to do that as long as I respect you, your rights and your body, mind, soul and spirit. 

Many, many of our problems in this world are power struggles.  This includes small matters like who gets to walk through your yard all the way to which people get to lead the country -- yours or mine.  It includes matters of concern to women.  It includes whose religion will be taught to our children.  It certainly includes which side runs a country.  The latter is why we honor majority rule.

You have no right to choose my religion.  If the almighty, God or Allah, had wanted me to be a radical Muslim, He would have seen that I was born to radical Muslim parents in the Middle East.  If He had wanted me to live in Mexico, He would have seen I was born there.  If He had wanted me Catholic, I would not have arrived in a Baptist home.  If He wanted me to be a parent (as he did) He would have provided children.  If He did not, I would have remained childless.  If He had a child whose parents could not take care of it, He would have let me adopt it.

The way I see it, my life belongs to me and the God who chose to send me here.  If I want to drink super sized sodas (I do not), that's between God and myself. If he wants me to make a decision about whether to abort or keep a child, that is between God and myself.  (Fortunately, He never wanted me to make such a decision).  If He wants me educated, you get the idea.  You don't get to decide just because you have more money or power than I.

It is my opinion that way too much strife and stress happens because arrogant people think they are superior to others and they should butt into another's life and tell them what to do.  You do not have that right.  If we measure each of our actions based on individual human rights, we might some day get that elusive peace on earth.

Remember my chant, "This is my body, my mind, my soul and my spirit."  Then ask yourselves how you want others to treat you.  Would you want women to control you, denigrate you, disrespect you?  No?  Then don't do it to them.

Would you want Christians to tell you what religion you will practice?  Then don't do it to them or anybody else.

Do you want God to decide that you, man, must bear all children growing within you whether you want them or not?  Then don't do it to women.

Do you want New Yorkers telling you, the Mayor, that you have to drink supersized sodas?  No?  Then don't tell New Yorkers the reverse.  Besides, if you downsize their drinks, they may just have to buy two of the smaller versions to get the amount their body needs.

My religion suggests that we practice the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

If you don't want to be enslaved, then don't do it to anybody else.

Don't even entertain the thought of telling me whom I can marry or that I have to stick with him no matter how he treats me.  I may send him to your house and let him beat up on you.  A local priest once beat up a man who abused his wife.

Human beings long ago stepped too far across the line in setting down mores that were needed to eliminate the chaos.  We err big time on the side of interfering in the rights and lives of others.

You simply have no right to control my body, my mind, my soul and my spirit.  That is my right and mine alone.  Once people get a handle on that concept, civil wars may subside; hung Congresses may cooperate; individuals will spend their time getting their own ducks in order; and our world will be a better place.

Have you heard too many times that this is my body?  Good!  Then maybe you will remember it.  Hopefully, you will even get it.

Faith, The Really Hard Part

Matthew 6:34

Conversion comes with a great sense of guilt over sin and a wish to make restitution.  It is an emotional time during which we take a sudden leap of faith, confess our sins and promise God that we will live a better life.  Much as some people fight this leap of acceptance, it is the easy part.  The hard part is to maintain faith on a daily basis while facing a world full of hate, crime, disaster and subterfuge.

Jesus said if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains.  In the late fifties, early sixties, it became a fad to wear a necklace with a glass ball encasing a mustard seed.  For Christians, this had the special meaning invoked by Jesus' words.  But how many of us actually believe we can move mountains?  Not many!

There is a church this author passed occasionally.  One week their notice board said, "Wrinkled from worry?  Come in for a faith lift."  Of course church is a good place to get filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, but church attendance is not the only answer.  We need to pray and read God's word frequently -- daily if possible so that we can maintain a basic trust in God.  If we are going to drink from a cup, we must constantly keep it filled.

Some people, even Christians, seem not to want to bother God with their daily trials.  They think God is busy with the "important" problems like war and famine, and that we should not bother Him with little things.  Others consult him for everything right down to whether they should have peas for dinner. 

Have you ever gone to work one day in an outfit you hadn't planned to wear the night before -- one that you just had to wear instead?  Then when you got to work half the people in the building had on that color.  I used to joke with everyone, "I guess God wanted to see purple today."  But is it really a joke?

Have you ever gotten a real craving for a certain food, made an uncommon effort to cook it and then found that many other people cooked the same thing that weekend?  Sometime, for the fun of it, ask if they usually go to that kind of effort.  My eye opening food is fried chicken.  Nobody cooks it quite the way I like it.  Many people make good chicken, including KFC, but once in a while I just have to have my own version, no matter how messy it makes my kitchen.  Next day at work there will be people all around eating fried chicken from their weekend cooking sprees. 

One last example!  How many times have you had a sense that you should not take your usual route to work?  Ignoring that urge, you plunge right ahead and find yourself embroiled in a traffic jam of major proportions.

This is the kind of daily faith I'm talking about.  God will see you safely and happily through the most mundane of daily tasks if you will only open your senses to his suggestion.  He doesn't generally strike us blind on the road to Damascus, nor does he usually speak in a loud commanding voice.  He rarely lets us see Him through the version of a burning bush.  But HE IS THERE guiding us and helping us through this difficult world if we will simply lean back and let him take the lead. 

So, don't wait until church on Sunday for your faith connection.  Give God a chance in your daily life and He will give you new hope.


As promised, the first two articles, previously printed in Food for the Soul:  A Book of Devotional Essays, have been repeated here.  The next article being published today has not been in print before now.  It is entitled, "This Is My Body". 

Friday, July 5, 2013

How Can the Death of Jesus Lead to Your Salvation?

Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 19:25-27, John 3:16, Matthew 19:17, Matthew 19:21:22

Let's place ourselves (hypothetically, of course) in the position of Jesus.  Imagine for a moment being born in a stable and placed in a manger.  Picture having your birth announced by angels.  How would you feel if wise men and shepherds came to pay homage?  What if a king tried to kill you just because you were born and your very existence felt threatening to him?

Imagine knowing, at least by the age of 12, that a good and close friend would betray you or that the leaders of your religion hated you.  Suppose you knew that you would be put to death because of a bloodthirsty vote of your peers and that you would be hung on the cross until dead -- while in your early thirties.  Not a pretty picture is it?  And yet that is what Jesus Christ of Nazareth willingly faced so that we might be saved from our sins.

He fulfilled his job long ago.  Now, what must we do to be saved?

In Ephesians 2:8-10, Jesus tells us that salvation is not by works -- so no point in bragging about what we do.  He tells us salvation is by the grace of God; that's grace through faith -- our faith.  It is a gift from God.

Is he telling us not to do good works?  Not at all.  He is simply telling us that good works alone will not take us to the kingdom of heaven.  If we have works without belief, our souls will not be saved.

Our salvation is a gift from God -- the God that sent his only begotten son that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish but have eternal life. 

Who can be saved, you wonder?  In Matthew 19:25-27, Jesus tells us that humanly speaking, nobody can be saved -- but with God, all things are possible.  Once again, our salvation comes from God so it is possible with him.

Salvation comes through faith and through belief.  In John 3:16 we read "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Think for a minute about babies at Christmas.  The first year, they respond to the bright lights and the happiness of those around them.  By the second year they begin to have the concept that good things come at Christmas.  Most people are happier and more loving and giving.  Mom and Dad have usually introduced them to Santa Claus by then.  With wide eyes and expectant hearts they know that joy is coming to their lives.

Jesus told us that we had to become like children and to believe just because we were told about God and heaven.  We were to have a child's trust and faith and to believe him with complete and utter confidence that it is so because he told us it is so.

What exactly is faith?  "Faith isn't something you get -- it is something you have or don't have."  Kenneth Copeland

Faith is simply believing in something that you cannot see, cannot touch, cannot smell and cannot hear.  It's believing in something that's not logical.  It's believing even when men revile you or persecute you or say all manner of false things about you for Jesus' sake.

It is believing even when people say you are crazy for believing.  Remember Noah?  God told Noah to build that boat.  The rains are coming, Noah.  You need that boat to survive the flood.

Remember how his neighbors all laughed and pointed fingers at him?  Noah got quite a reputation in his neighborhood.  You might say he was the neighborhood joke.  But Noah had faith that God had instructed him to build a boat and so he BELIEVED, he ACTED ON THAT BELIEF, and he was saved from the flood -- he and his family and the animals, two by two.

You and I, we didn't get to live when Jesus walked the streets, trusting good people to feed Him and his disciples.  We didn't get to see Him touch a leper and see the man made whole.  We didn't get to graze the hem of his garment and feel our bodies healed.  How anyone could have watched him perform those miracles and not know and understand that he was the son of God is unbelievable to me.  But there were many then and many more now that spit in the eye of the truth.

In an eulogy, Princess Diana's brother said he thought that the constant search of the media, and many people, for flaws in Diana was caused by the need of those at the low end of the moral spectrum to find something wrong with those who are truly good.  How much more might this be said of Jesus, the true Son of God?  The truth and goodness which he represented provoked jealousy, anger and murder to those who were less good than he.

Faith is complete and utter trust.  Faith is belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Faith is unwavering confidence in the words of Jesus.

Salvation is a GIFT FROM GOD.  We don't own it -- it's not a right.   In fact, for those not born to the Jewish faith, it was a gift not originally meant for us.  It is not our birthright.  It is only when we TRULY BELIEVE that we are granted salvation at all.  We can't earn it by doing good works.  We do good works because our faith leads us to do them and because Jesus told us to go into all the earth and preach the gospel to all the people.  When we do good things for others we are doing it as if we are doing it for him.  But good works are not to earn salvation; they are to serve Jesus and to take his message to others in need.

In Matthew 19:21, a rich man asked Jesus the route to salvation.  Jesus suggested the man sell all he had -- give to the poor -- and follow Him.  The man went away in sorrow because he could not fulfill Jesus' command.  Jesus then told his disciples that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Today we are told that the eye of a needle was a reference to a small door in the wall surrounding towns back then.  Animals entered and exited through them).

Did Jesus mean we couldn't be saved if we have money?  Probably not.  He probably meant that most rich men value their money more than they value eternal life.  They live for the comfort of now rather than the comfort of the future.  Money is their false god.

Mother Teresa did exactly what Jesus said.  She felt in her heart of hearts that God had called her to sell all her belongings, give to the poor and commit her life to helping the impoverished.  She did what God asked.  It is said that when she died, she owned the sari of the order she founded, two pair of sandals and two pair of eyeglasses.  But those who met her say she was a woman totally devoted to God and a person of joy.

Jesus' disciples, puzzled at his response to the rich man, asked how a person could reach the kingdom of heaven.  He told them by keeping the commandments of God, of which the most important is to love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might.

The route to salvation is placing God above service to wealth or other false goals.  In Matthew 19:21-22, Jesus tells us to forget the wealth and come FOLLOW HIM.

In summary --  salvation is a gift from God given by the grace of God.  It is received through faith in God by believing in Jesus who died on the cross that we might be saved.  It is facilitated by obeying God's commandments and by following Jesus, not the false glitter of the world.

Introduction

I write under the pen name, Lou Hough.  Originally, I began writing under this perversion of my name because I wanted anonymity.  Go figure an individual who wants to be an highly read author, but doesn't want anyone to know who she is. 

Everybody needs credentials for everything these days.  Here are mine.  I have been a born-again Christian since I was nine years old.  I grew up as a Southern Baptist in a small Southern Illinois city.  Southern Baptists, at least at that time, held Sunday School and Morning Worship as well as Training Union and Evening Worship on Sundays.  Wednesday nights were for choir practice and Prayer Meeting.  Each age group had a monthly meeting like Girl's Auxiliary or Young Women's Auxiliary.  I've attended them all on a regular basis.

I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Southern Illinois University.  My expertise is limited to Journalism.  I've little experience in radio and none in television.  I studied for this degree when Carbondale was the only SIU campus.  While in school there, I was secretary to the President of the Southern Illinois College of Bible, a Baptist college housed on the SIU campus.  The Bible College offered credit courses through SIU, taken mostly by ordained Southern Baptist ministers and aspiring missionaries. 

To my memory, there were six core courses offered to these students.  Four were taught by Dr. George L. Johnson, my employer.  They included, "The Life of Christ, "The Poetic Books", "The Prophets" and "The Apostolic Age."  These I was required to take so that I could grade his term papers.  One was a course in conducting church business.  The sixth was a music course emphasizing conducting the choir.  The latter two I did not take, but I did have some business courses through the university.  I also had taken twelve years of piano lessons, sung in the church choir and taken chorus one year during high school.

Southern Baptists traditionally have not ordained women as ministers (my denomination, one of the last bastions of chauvinism in the country).  I also went on several youth revival teams sponsored by the Bible College and The Baptist Student Union. 

Since this education, I have earned a Master of Arts in Educational Research and Psychology at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) and have achieved All But Dissertation in School Psychology at the University of Kansas (KU). 

In 2004 my first book of devotionals, entitled Food for the Soul:  A Book of Devotional Essays was published.  This blog will begin with excerpts of this publication. 

Some people, though interested, don't know how to become a Christian.  The first article will explain the conversion process --  "How Can the Death of Jesus Lead to Your Salvation?"  The second article is "Faith, the Really Hard Part".



Food for the Soul:
A Book of Devotional Essays
by Lou Hough


Copyright 2004
Lou Hough

Library of Congress Control Number:
2004098617

ISBN 0-9755240-1-1

First Printing, November 2004

For inquiries about this and other publications, write to jamiecarrpub@hotmail.com