The New Form Of Child Abuse That’s Become Acceptable–Throw It Out There Thursday 30 January 2020

(DISCLAIMER: Remember that Throw-It-Out-There Thursday may be considered offensive to some. This week’s post may be offensive to many. Reader caution is advised.)

Last week I said one day I might deal with this subject. Well that day has come. Today’s subject is about what has become to many an acceptable form of child abuse. I am NOT making light of child abuse that happens every day. I’m with Jesus on abusing and misusing children. He said in Matthew 18:6–“But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.

But there’s a new form of child abuse that has become acceptable, even considered politically correct. No one is going to jail for it. There is little or no outcry against this misuse and abuse of children. And the greatest tragedy is that there are adults who will say I’m wrong and accuse me of ignoring real child abuse. This issue IS real abuse of children. So consider this the voice of a prophet who feels like he’s crying out in a wilderness.

Here is the New Acceptable Form of child abuse: People are treating children as if they are adults. The other day I was getting my daily dose of Andy Andrews In The Loop podcasts and he was addressing this very issue. Many have lost the reality–and I don’t mean the “reality TV” kind of reality, but real, as it actually happens realitythat children are NOT fully equipped adults capable of making the best decisions about their life. Heck (pardon my French), I know a lot of “adults” who are NOT fully capable of making the best decisions about their life. And it seems to me, in my humble opinion, that adults who are NOT fully capable of making the best decisions about their life are encouraging their children and parents of children to allow children to make adult-level decisions.

But a 3 year old, 6 year old, 8 year old, 12 year old, 17 year old–they are not fully capable of making decisions for and about themselves. Yes, as they get older and IF they are given the proper wisdom, they can begin to make some decisions–but still they are NOT fully capable of making the best decisions about their life. How they “feel”, what they want–this is why discipline is so essential and important.

By discipline I don’t mean punishment–I’m talking about teaching children to give up one thing in order to obtain something much better. Discipline equals training. Would you want an untrained military protecting your nation? Would you want untrained doctors operating on you? Would you want an untrained plumber working on your home? Then why in blue blazes are so many refusing or afraid to discipline their children? It’s like saying those children are NOT really important. And that, my friends, is CHILD ABUSE!

Children need to understand that they are not the Final Authority. They do not have the wherewithal to make adult level decisions. Yet this is what’s happening. A few years ago a friend of mine was telling me about something that happened to his daughter, a Kindergarten teacher. One year a “mother”, and I use this term very loosely; maybe I should say “the person who gave birth to this child”–came in and told her that her child was exploring to find themselves. One day her son may come to school as a girl, and the next come as a boy. And this alleged Mom wanted the teacher to treat and call that child according to the way they were dressed on that particular day. Child abuse, I say, Child Abuse!

They are allowing and even encouraging them to live by their “feelings”. I now refer you to a previous post, Is It Safe To Live According To Our Feelings? It is never safe to live solely by our feelings. And you can’t just do that. You could say, “But their heart’s in the right place.” NO IT’S NOT! NO! NO! NO! And yes, I hit the cap lock and bold on purpose! Stop the abuse of NOT ‘training’ / ‘disciplining’ children by treating them as fully functional adults capable of making wise decisions. The truth is, they are not capable. But they can be capable with discipline and giving them wisdom.

What Happens When We Share A Part Of Us With Another Person?–Wednesday’s Wondering 29 January 2020

Today’s Wednesday Wondering came to me easily. A friend of ours, Savannah, gave birth to a handsome young man, McCoy. However, McCoy was born with a condition called Biliary Artesia (read here if you want to know more about this condition). The only cure is either a miracle or a liver transplant (which IS a miracle, itself). I and literally thousands have been praying for Savannah and McCoy. Speaking only for myself (though I’m sure lots of others have been doing this), I have been doing what Jesus told us to do: Ask, seek, knock.

I’ve kept on ASKING, and I’ve kept SEEKING, and more than knocking, I’ve kept on POUNDING ON THE DOOR for McCoy’s miracle. A liver transplant would require a donor–either someone who died and was a organ donor (and I certainly wasn’t praying for that) or a living donor; someone who would share a part of their liver. And it requires what doctors call tissue match that would fit into McCoy’s DNA.

I am rejoicing this morning to tell you that McCoy’s miracle has happened. Savannah wanted to give a part of her liver to McCoy but couldn’t be a living donor because she had a Cesarean Section. As I understand it, people who have had a surgical procedure within the last year do not qualify as a Living Donor. And that’s not the end of McCoy’s miracle journey. Savannah’s Mom, Stacey, fit the bill perfectly. Yesterday she shared a part of her (in Stacey’s husband’s words) “slightly used but in like new condition” liver.

The picture I shared at the top of this post shows the results. In just hours after the transplant McCoy changed. Savannah changed. Stacey and the whole family changed. Their friends changed. The community of Sulligent changed. All because one person shared a part of themselves to another person, another life!

We’re quick to give some people a piece of our mind; and I know some who really can’t afford to do that because don’t have much of a mind to begin with–and it keeps getting smaller and smaller. And today I invite you to wonder–WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU GAVE A PIECE OF YOURSELF FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER? Not a piece of your mind–you can’t spare it and it’s not a match for what that other person needs.

I’m talking about investing and sacrificing your life for the sake of someone who needs more than a piece of your mind. It’s not easy; just ask Stacey. Pain is involved. But is it worth it? I refer you back to the above picture of before and after Stacey shared a part of herself with McCoy. You tell me if it’s worth it. You darn tootin’ it’s worth it!

Footnote: If you would like to be a Living Donor here’s a link with more information. And if you haven’t yet thought about it, think about sharing your organs as a Living Legacy. Click here for more information.

What If All You Know Is All You Know? Tuesday Thoughts 28 January 2020

I know I’m a little late today. . .OK, a whole lot late. But it’s still Tuesday and I do have some thoughts. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about: What If All You Know Is All You Know? No, I’m not venturing into the dark side of intellectual pursuit, otherwise known as Philosophy. I’m serious about this. This may appear to some as an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum. Hang tight! How you think about what you think you know will either ground you for life–or set you on the greatest of all adventures.

There are two ways of thinking; others may disagree with me but it’s OK for them to be wrong. There is Circular Thinking and there is what I would call Seeking Wisdom Thinking. Educators, psychologists, and most of all philosophers, would tell us there’s more than 2 ways of thinking. They probably could come up with some other ways of thinking but ultimately they are but expressions of one of these patterns.

People who think in Circular Patterns are driven by a set of facts and values that have already been established for them. They take what they see as factual and reliable to think, form opinions and plan their life by what they know. I call it a Circular Pattern because everything they know is inside that circle. If an idea, belief or opinion comes at them outside that circle, it’s immediately rejected. For Circular Pattern Thinkers are going in circles with their lives and wonder why they are’t getting anywhere.

They limit themselves to a limited source of knowledge. All they know is all they know; and they never look beyond themselves. Thus, their life and dreams are limited. The problem with Circular Patterns is that there is not enough information–nor will there ever be enough information to make anyone more than just ORDINARY.

The other pattern is the Seeking Wisdom Pattern. People here are not confined to set sources of knowledge. These are the No-Limit kind of thinkers. No, they are not those who “think outside the box”. We have tons of people outside the box who are outside the box, but still ordinary. Wisdom Seekers will never be content with average. No, they want to soar and excel in life. They know that Wisdom comes from beyond what someone knows. Wisdom that lasts and causes us to soar in life has one source–and that is God.

Here’s the thing about Wisdom. It is not limited to what we think. Truth is, it often contradicts what we think. Sometimes it does not make logical sense and contradicts the world view. And it’s this world view that has caused much of the mess we are in. Knowledge is found in books and people’s stories and comes from a very limited perspective. Wisdom only comes out of Eternity, out of the heart and mind of God.

Remember what James wrote in James 1:5–“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” Average comes out of knowledge. But greatness–that, my friends, only comes out of Wisdom.

And here’s my conclusion–If All You Know Is What You Know, You Don’t Know Enough–And You’re Operating Without Wisdom.

One more word about Wisdom–this one from this guy named Solomon:

Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you.
    Love her, and she will guard you.
Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!
    And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.

Proverbs 4:6-7

Timely Text–Monday Musing 27 January 2020

Last Tuesday I was on my way to the hospital in Tupelo, Mississippi to see a parishioner and a very good friend who has Stage 4 cancer. I’ve been praying for his healing and it seemed like God wasn’t listening, or at least doing what I thought He should do. It’s about an hour and a half drive from home, so I had some time to do something other than thinking, about my friend and my soon to be 94 year old Dad. He had been having a difficult week. I needed a distraction–not from my driving–but from my thoughts.

I decided to listen to some podcasts from one of my mentors (who doesn’t know me)–Andy Andrews. I find him insightful and humorous. God knows I needed a laugh, and I hoped Andy wouldn’t disappoint me. He didn’t. But about 15 minutes into my hour and a half drive, the podcast was interrupted by a text. So I did the safe thing and found a place to pull over and check out the text. And here is what I saw:

I started to reply with one word: Thanks. But that would have been deceptive by me. So I told my friend, Matthew Winters, exactly what I was struggling with. By the way, Matthew has started blogging again with a new direction. You can check him out HERE! Commercial over, back to Monday’s Musing.

At the moment I needed help, God sent me help. But it took someone else to bring me that help. In this case, it was Matthew. And this morning I’m thinking about a particular passage, Philippians 2:4 (NLT)

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

That afternoon God spoke and Matthew was listening–and God’s grace once again renewed my heart and mind. Matthew took an interest in me; his heart was directed to me; and Matthew was obedient to God. And here’s the point I want to make, and it’s in the form of a question:

God is wanting to help someone who is in a struggle–and He’s chosen you to send His help. ARE YOU LISTENING?

Only by having a deep walk with Jesus and The Holy Spirit can you be in a place where you can hear God speaking. Like a 911 Operator, God is saying, “Help is on the way!” Make sure you’re “on call” to receive His Dispatch.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

The Journey Begins

Matthew is a great friend and inspiration to me. We’ve never met face to face, but we have talked on the phone, and from time to time…a timely text. I encourage all my followers to follow Matthew.

Honest Thoughts from a Pastor

This is not my first rodeo with blogging. For over four years, I wrote a blog that was, in the end, called “Honest Thoughts from a Pastor”. God made it clear in the final months that the blog had to go.

After some time to pray and reboot, you are reading a blog that I pray will encourage those who have been wounded in the fight. We all have scars. We all, like Jacob in his encounter with what is believed to be the pre-incarnate Christ, walk with a limp. Your scars or limp may be from addiction, divorce, or some form of abuse. Whatever it is, there is hope for you.

As I write, I will write about difficulties and scars. But I won’t stop there. God doesn’t want you to stay in your difficulties. He wants you to triumph. He wants you to use those difficulties to help…

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One Resolution: One Goal!

We are in the 4th week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  Contentment.  This One Resolution is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but the Gospel of Jesus—God’s best effort for us.  Because it’s all about God’s Grace, it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! 

Contentment comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day.  Here’s the first 3:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart—That’s the One Spirit.  Your loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus and His Work in our world.
  2. Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God—That’s the One Mind.  We focus on each other and those who are not here yet. 
  3. Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why!  Jesus knew His Why And Ours Is The Same: To reveal God’s love in ways that meets the deepest needs of others.

Now we come to the 4th Conscious Choice.  Turn to Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Living a life Worthy Of The Gospel is not an accomplishment in our lives where we look back and say:  “There!  I’ve done it!  Got the certificate and T-Shirt to prove it.”  Here’s your 1 Thing To Remember, and your 4th Conscious Choice:  Be Fully Alive In Jesus And Allow Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You. This is to be your One Goal in life.  This Life Of Contentment That Is Worthy Of The Gospel Is A Never-Ending Process.  As with any process, there must be a clearly defined goal. 

Without a clearly defined goal, any process is meaningless and ultimately leaves us frustrated and drained.  Without the right goal in life we become another “Wrong Way Riegels.”  Roy Riegels played football for the University of California Golden Bears.  On Jan. 1, 1929 in the Rose Bowl against Georgia Tech, Wrong Way Riegels picked up a fumble and ran nearly 70 yards—in the wrong direction.  His quarterback had to tackle him before he reached the wrong end zone.  The next play, California attempted to punt the ball out but it was blocked resulting in a safety for Georgia Tech who won the game by one point.

But Wrong Way Riegels wasn’t the only football player to do that.  Jim Marshall was playing for the Minn. Vikings and on Oct. 25, 1964 against the San Francisco 49ers, Jim picked up a fumble and started running toward the end zone.  But there was a problem—it was the wrong end zone.  Once there he threw the ball up in the air and it resulted in 2 points for the 49ers.  Thinking he was going to the right goal line, thinking he was right—Jim became a member of an elite club:  the Wrong Way Riegels Club.

In football this is a very small club, but in real life—membership in the Wrong Way Roy Riegels Club is enormous.  Every day people drag themselves out of bed and push themselves to get that job, that corner office, that higher pay check, that faster car, that bigger house, those latest fashions—all because they believe that is what life is all about. 

Their goal in life is to have more stuff, money and power.  Some people look for a shortcut—they search for the winning lottery numbers, they cut corners, sell their integrity—all in hopes of that big payoff!  But that kind of payoff rarely comes—and those who do find it—find out that it wasn’t all that fulfilling after all.

And it’s not just those who buy into a secular view point that become members of the Wrong Way Roy Riegels Club.  Even among those who have taken their place in the church, the Body of Christ, can join the Wrong Way Roy Riegels Club

To see if your name is listed as a club member, answer this question:  What Should Be The One Goal In Your Life?  Think about it for a moment before you answer. Do you think that the correct answer is:  To Get To Heaven?  If this is your answer, well, how can I politely say this:  Wrong!  Now, before you call the PPR Committee and tell them to get rid of me, stay with me just a moment.

Heaven is The Destination we should be looking forward to, but It Is Not The Goal.  The spiritual apathy and lethargy that is draining the life out of the 21st century church is that God’s people have innocently confused the difference between our One Goal and our Final Destination.  We need to have a clearly defined goal because without The Goal, we may well miss The Final Destination.

The Goal Is To Make Our Life To Look Like, Think Like, Speak Like And Act Like Jesus.  And the only way this happens is when we completely surrender every moment of our life and every fiber of our being so that in our everyday life Jesus is completely living in us and more importantly—living through us.  Oh, is that all?  Been there, done that! 

Oh, really.  Allow me to get personal:  this past week, did you hold a grudge?  Did you refuse to forgive someone?  Did a word roll off your lips that should not have been said?  Did you forget to begin and end every day with prayer?  Did you fail to do anything that Jesus wanted you to do?  I’ll be nice and not call it judging, but did you draw a conclusion about someone based on the way there were dressed or how they acted, or by their skin color?  Did you lose your temper this week?  Did you put your feelings first?  Do I need to go on with more examples?  I know I’m guilty of one or more of these things.

So what does it mean to be fully alive in Jesus and Jesus fully alive in you?  It means that we live every moment, do every task, and speak every word To Honor Jesus.  It means we go and do with His power that lives inside us. It means we face every disappointment and heartache with that confident assurance that Jesus is right here in our pain helping us to cope and heal.  And it means that we do not fret or worry about tomorrow or the impeachment trial in Washington D.C. because God is taking care of us today. 

We Choose To Live In This Moment With Him In Us And Us In Him. We Grow Deeper In Him And He Grows Deeper In Us.  We become hungrier for God.  An hour or 2 here or there is not enough.  We want more, much more.   

OK, so we privately and shamefully admit that we missed the mark last week.  What do we do now?  You have 3 choices when it comes to living your life and finding contentment.

1.  We Can Retire!

We can conclude that we have done just enough to make it to the final destination of heaven and turn in our retirement papers.  We can park it on our favorite pew and look back and realize that while we could have done more, we did more than most.  We can say, “Well, I’ve done my part, it’s time for them young folks to take over.”  Living with this attitude distorts the real image of God.  We see God as the Big Accountant In The Sky who keeps up with deposits and withdrawals, but not the living presence in our lives.  But God’s isn’t the accountant.  So we have another choice:

2.  We Can Resign!

We can look at the shape of our culture and believe we don’t have what it takes to change it. Or we can look back and see how miserably we have failed Him.  So we write out our Letter of Resignation, drop out and surrender to the spirit of failure.  It’s too tough and difficult.  You can feel like you just don’t have the stuff it takes to live this life worthy of the Gospel, so you quit.  And that is the problem:  you are trying to do all this stuff yourself—and by yourself, you will fail. 

When I faced my divorce, I almost did just that.  I typed out my letter of resignation and took out my ordination certificate and tried to figure out what I would do and where I would live.  But the next day God surrounded me with people of mercy, grace and love.  Even then, I still held on to that letter because I still had a choice.  And trust me, it is very easy to resign when we have failed or the task is difficult.  But there’s another choice, a better choice.

3. We Can Resolve!

We can say, “OK, I’m not there yet but that doesn’t mean that it’s over.”  To pursue the One Goal requires, call it resolve or determination or plain old fashion guts—it takes an effort on our part not to give up on ourselves.  Satan Wants Us To Surrender To Defeat, And NOT To God’s Grace And Mercy.  And to this end he will whisper in your ears, shout at you that you just can’t do this—that you are the exception to the rule—that there is not enough grace or mercy with God for you—that you are so small and insignificant that you’re not worth God’s time. 

Listen again to verses 13-14:  “13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

The prize isn’t the streets of gold—it’s not the pearly gates—it’s not the walls of jasper—It’s Jesus!  Now, it just so happens that Jesus is in heaven.  But it’s not the mansions we are to be looking forward to the most—it’s Jesus.  God is offering you more than a street paved with gold—He is offering you a path into His heart.

And because it is into the heart of God—we should never give up.  It’s not always an easy journey to the One Goal, but it is definitely worth the effort.  If You Will Provide The Resolve, The Willingness To Be Fully Alive In Jesus And Jesus Fully Alive In You, God Provides The Grace, The Mercy, The Love And The Power To Get There.

Oh, and Roy?  What happened to him?  He played the 2nd half with determination that kept them in the game even though they lost by 1 point, joined the Army Air Corps in WW II, coached football and started his own successful company.  And Jim Marshall?  In that same game, he caused another fumble that led to the winning touchdown, made the Pro Bowl in 1968 and 1969, and set a record for most recovered fumbles, and was a member of the famous Minnesota Vikings defense known as the Purple People Eaters.  To honor him, they retired his jersey, #70!

Don’t be a member of the Wrong Way Roy Riegels Club.  Strive, Pursue, and Passionately Live for the REAL prize:  Be Fully Alive In Jesus, and Allow Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You.

For this to happen, something must happen in us. And what needs to happen is in the answer to this question, and it’s your Next Step because you cannot follow Jesus and stay where you are: 

What Do I Need To Do To Take Me Into A Deeper And More Intimate Relationship With God?

Maybe your next step is your first step, to stop pretending and get real with God.  Perhaps there is something you have been holding back from Jesus—a bad habit.  Give it over to Him, He’s good at breaking chains.  Maybe you need to start all over—to rededicate your life to Jesus. 

Maybe it’s taking the next step by entering into a covenant relationship with the body of Christ that meets here.  Maybe it’s God calling you to become involved with something we are already doing here.  Maybe it’s God calling you to help start something altogether new.  Maybe it’s surrendering more of your time to Him.  There is a “next step” that each of us can make this morning that will get us closer to the One Goal:  To Be Fully Alive In Jesus And For Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You.

Change In Names–Saturday Stories 25 January 2020

(Today’s story happened in 2004, but it will always be a part of the unfolding story of who I am and who I am becoming)

Would It Be OK?

When Debbie and I started dating, it wasn’t long before I met her granddaughter, Rileigh Breeze.  I quickly became known by her as “that ‘nother Randy.”  I was known as “that ‘nother Randy” because they had a long time family friend also named Randy.  So, when Rileigh Breeze talked about “Randy”, she needed a way to clarify which “Randy” she was talking about.  Now to her, it just made sense to call me “that ‘nother Randy” since the first “Randy” had been a part of her life for longer than I had been.  One day she was telling her “Auntie” something Randy had said.  But she quickly added, “Not Randy Randy, but Grammaw’s Randy.  You know, that ‘nother Randy.” 

It wasn’t long before I was known in Debbie’s family as “that ‘nother Randy.”  And I was OK with that designation.  It certainly eased the confusion as to which Randy was being discussed.  It made for clarity in communication, and besides, it was a cute and humorous way that Rileigh Breeze had made this distinction between the two Randy’s. Without something to make us distinctive, it would be confusing to know which one was which.  (If you think it would be confusing to have two family friends named Randy, how about 3 different people not only sharing the same first name, but also the same last name.  Yes, there are at least 3 different people named, you guessed it:  Randy Burbank; and yes, we are all cousins.  And please, no comments about the “Bob Newhart” show:  This is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl.)

Debbie and I had been dating almost a year when I asked her to become my wife and partner in God’s ministry.  Not long after we announced to her family that we would be married, Rileigh Breeze was talking with her Grammaw about what this meant and the changes that would occur; the biggest of which would be that Grammaw would move across the state, 2 hours away.  As best we can remember, during the conversation, she asked, “Grammaw, would it be OK if I called him Grampaw instead of that `nother Randy?”  And the first time she called out, “Hey, Grampaw” I knew something special had happened. 

Of course, she melted my heart, but something else happened.  Our relationship changed from one of friends, to that of family.  Even though there is not a genealogical connection, even though there is no shared DNA between Breeze and myself, she is and will always be one of my granddaughters, and I will always be her Grampaw.  The cultural designation would be she is a step-granddaughter, but not in my heart.  Debbie and I do not have step-grandchildren, only grandchildren. It was amazing to me the first time I heard Rileigh Breeze call me “Grampaw”.  Our relationship changed and took on a lot more depth; and it all happened when she called me by the name:  Grampaw.

Moral Of The Story

When God calls us by name, there is, without a doubt, a sound of love in the way He does it.  I knew there was a deepening of love between Breeze and myself, but it didn’t hit me until she called me by the name, “Grammpaw”!  God is constantly calling to us by name, and I want to encourage you not to be too busy so as to miss that moment.  Every time God calls you by name is a sacred and powerful moment that offers to change our relationship with Him with ourselves, and with others.

And why does God call us by name?  Because He has said:  “For I have ransomed you.”  Ransom is an interesting word in the Hebrew language.  It means:  “to act as a kinsman (family member).”  God wants us to know we can experience a family relationship with Him.  When I married Breeze’s Grammaw, I was no longer a friend, I was a family member and she acknowledged that with my new name.  God wants us to know that we are kin, we are family. 

Not Appropriate Conversations With Kids–Throw It Out There Thursday 23 January 2020

(If this is your first visit to my blog, or just in case you have been here before and forgotten, Throw It Out There Thursday is a look at cultural and social issues and thoughts. Nothing is sacrosanct and it may be offensive to some. And today is no exception)

Once I saw a picture that said: “One day Twitter, Facebook and YouTube will merge into one and it will be called YOU TWIT FACE!” And a recent post on Twitter made me wonder it that isn’t about to happen. Here, let me show you the screenshot (the name has been redacted to protect the guilty party:

This is wrong on so many levels; where do I begin? Let’s start with what’s missing. Do the parents of this 5 year old know what Auntie is teaching their child? Worse yet, are they OK with it? Now let’s look at the obvious. Who appointed Auntie to instill and ingrain values into this 5 year old? What’s the “age-appropriate way” to talk with a 5 year old about abortion? And look at this line again:

Excuse me, that sounds like a threat to me. “You better behave yourself or Auntie, Mommy and Daddy will abort you.” It also sounds like Auntie is teaching this 5 year old that this life is all about what you want, or in the case of an abortion, what you don’t want. OK, one more screenshot:

OK Auntie Snowflake, that’s it! Enough is enough. Let me set the record straight for you Auntie Snowflake. She doesn’t get it! For heaven’s sake, she’s 5 years old and lacks the cognizant abilities required to process anything in a mature and adult-like manner. (Maybe next week I’ll have something to say about how treating young children as if they are adults is a form of child abuse).

And Auntie Snowflake, It’s NOT quite simple! In cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger–an abortion may be the appropriate action. Yet even in these cases, it’s not simple. It’s complicated to reach the decision to end another human life. Auntie Snowflake, it IS a human life and your conclusion that it isn’t or that it has the potential to be quite a handful or that someone doesn’t want to be a parent is…well since you like simple, I’ll put it in simple terms: WRONG! You do not have the “right” to make a complicated decision a simple decision.

At the risk of sounding like a late-night Infomercial Star–But wait! There’s more! I followed the link Auntie Snowflake shared, and here is just a portion of that link: (click here for the entire story)

Really? It’s easier than you think? Wow! Snowflakes everywhere! I’m not saying there should be NO conversations about abortion with our kids; but those conversations need to be open and honest–not just one view. And we don’t need to treat kids as adults–sometimes less is more when it comes to kids. You can tell them that it’s a complicated issue that is hard for them to understand at this time in their life, but when they get a little older, you can talk more. Or, you can wait until they ask the question. Even better, pray for wisdom on WHEN the moment is appropriate. But I question if the conversation below was really beneficial and productive:

OK, Amiya, 2 questions for you to answer. First, why did you immediately know abortion was what you needed to do? Second, why were you so emotional in the days leading up to your abortion if abortion was what you needed to do? Obviously you aren’t related to Auntie Snowflake who says it’s quite simple. Amiya, my concern is the value system you are teaching your 12 year old daughter to embrace. If it’s inconvenient or doesn’t fit your Life Plan, then end another human life. Just remember, Amiya, that one day you will be old and will be a handful yourself and an inconvenience to your daughter. What have you taught her about what to do? Well, post-partum abortion is the solution. Let’s just end your life. And according to Auntie Snowflake, It’s just that simple!

Is It Safe To Live According To Our Feelings? Wednesday’s Wondering 22 January 2020

“Feelings, nothing more than feelings, trying to forget my feelings of love.” If you listened to music in 1974, you know this song. Is it stuck in your head now? Then tell yourself, “Self, I am not going to be singing that song to myself for rest of the day!” Good luck with that! This Wednesday I am wondering about feelings–no not the song; rather the feelings that come from within us.

Can we live a full, productive, even successful life based on our feelings? We hear a lot in our culture about “feelings”. In our culture, feelings seem to be the landmark of defining one’s identity. We also hear a lot about emotions. In my own way I want to address this and specifically how that feelings and emotions are not one in the same. I want you to be able to distinguish the difference between a feeling and an emotion.

The are NOT the same. I realize that some of you may disagree with me, and say I’m wrong. It’s OK for you to disagree with me and tell me I need to change this thought of mine. I could agree with you that I’m wrong on this–but then we’d both be wrong. Anyway. . .here’s the difference between a feeling and an emotion.

A feeling is something we believe to be true. . .about ourselves. . .or another person/group. . .or a situation we have faced, are facing, or may face. Feelings are just that–something that we believe to be true about ourselves, another person, or a particular situation. I’m not talking about what IS ACTUALLY TRUE, but what WE BELIEVE is true.

Now, let’s get to that other word: Emotions! Emotions are our response to those feelings; whether they are our feelings about ourselves, another person, or that particular situation. Emotions are the way we express the response to our feelings. If you have no feelings, you have no emotions. If you have no emotions, you have no feelings.

Now, feelings and emotions were created by God for us as human beings. Feelings and emotions are both gifts from God that reflect a part of HIS Image that HE placed in each person. We cannot deny them. We cannot ignore them. And we cannot downplay the role they have in us successfully becoming a whole person. We need both feelings and emotions if we are going to become the best possible self that God created for us to be.

However. . .well, let me use a “preacher” term here: BUT! Yeah, yeah, the preacher’s but. Just when you think you’ve got something good going on, that blessed preacher inserts his or her BUT! Don’t you just love a preacher’s but! I want to center in on “feelings” But feelings do not give us our true identity as a person created in the image of God. Feelings are simply what we believe to be true about ourselves. Because we believe our feelings are true about ourselves, we allow those feelings to give us our Identity–to define who we believe we really are.

Now God gave us the capacity to have feelings. He gave us the ability to have emotions. These are just a part of God’s identity–but they do not give God HIS Identity. They are a wonderful part of that unique blend of so many parts. Just like you can’t have a cake with just eggs, or just flour, or just sugar or just milk. You got to have all those other ingredients–and don’t forget all those extra “flavorings” you can add that changes everything about a cake.

Feelings are not the whole of a simple organism; feelings are a part of a very complex organism–just a part, but an essential part. We are living in a time when people are being told they MUST live and IDENTIFY who they are as a person based only upon one part of this complex organism. Feelings are allowed to become the dictator, and our emotions follow the lead of that dictator.

God never designed us to live by our feelings. And He never intended that we allow our feelings to define us and give us our true identity. Living only by feelings creates a false self–never your true self. Yes, He gave us feelings, but they are only a part of the process if you would, to help us become who HE created us to become–Our WHOLE, TRUE SELF. The Best Self Possible.

Remember that “feelings” are something we believe to be true; not necessarily true–but we believe they are true. Just because we believe it is true, doesn’t make it true. I am so sorry Calvinists. I am so sorry progressive thinkers and theologians. I am so sorry fellow evangelical sisters and brothers! We are NOT who we are based solely on our feelings. We human beings can’t define what is really TRUE! That ability is way beyond our pay grade.

When we try to live out of our feelings it creates instability. Feelings can and will vary in a day–just like weather varies every day in Alabama. In the early mornings I get my jacket. By mid morning I hang it back up. By mid-day I’m putting on a short sleeve shirt. And my afternoon, I’m looking for my shorts and sandals. Feelings change.

God never designed feelings to be our sole or primary identification in life. And we need to be careful with our feelings. I’m sure you’ve had feelings in retrospect you knew were wrong. You didn’t know it as the time–but hindsight is always 20-20. And if you are honest, you know that those feelings (feelings you believed were true at the moment) caused damage and inflicted hurt–either on another person, on yourself, or both. And I bet right now you are remembering the damage your feelings that you believed were right at that moment caused. And that damage may still be present–the wounds haven’t yet healed. And you are aware of the damage that resulted when your feelings were wrong.

When feelings becomes the determining factor–the damage caused by feelings and the subsequent emotions runs deep; and it keeps us from our True Self, the one created in the Image of God.

You Believe WHAT About God? Tuesday Thoughts 21 January 2020

I thought this Tuesday Thoughts edition was going to take a while to figure out what to write. I was wrong. It comes out of something that happened last week: 4 year old Wyatt Spann died from cancer. And this reminded me of something that happened a few years ago–the death of another young child, Noah Crowe, from cancer. It’s not “MY” feelings about these tragedies, but the things “some” people say. To be more specific: What some who call themselves ‘Christians’ say to broken and grieving hearts. It’s not only at funeral homes where they speak these abominations, but being active in disaster response, I’ve heard some of the same poor, DEPLORABLE theology.

Below are some of the DESPICABLE, VILE, LOATHSOME AND WRETCHED things some people believe, and Dear Lord In Heaven, say to people in the worst moment of their lives:

  • God needed them more than you. Really? God actually needs something to exist? I always believed He was self-sufficient.
  • God wanted another angel in heaven. Again, really? If God wanted another angel all He has to do is create another one.
  • He was just saving them from the future heartaches they would face. Bejeezus, folks! This is so asinine I’m not even going to comment on it!
  • It was the will of God! Good Lord, in Heaven. Does your ‘god’ (notice the use of lowercase) will and plan for parents to lose their child? Do you really think God wills suffering and heartache? If you do, you have given your heart to a cruel god (again, lowercase)!

Honestly? I don’t fully understand why children have to suffer, even die from cancer or a million and one causes. And speaking of being honest, I shout out in anger and frustration at God when it happens. I was angry when little Noah died. I am angry that Wyatt died. And in this moment I’m praying for another infant, little McCoy who is suffering from liver failure. Truthfully, I’m frustrated that God hasn’t yet healed McCoy.

I don’t understand or pretend to know why such things happen. I have some thoughts; maybe another Tuesday I’ll share them. But right now, in this moment, here is the single thread I’m holding onto: God Did Not Will Or Cause These Tragic Deaths! God was not behind it, but He Is In Front Of The Aftermath And With Us In Our Pains And Griefs!

And in this morning’s frustration, God who is out front and ahead of us gave me a Scripture that refutes the above-mentioned Despicable Theology: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10 NLT)

I always thought that phrase “be still” literally meant “don’t move”. But that’s not what the Hebrew word raphah means. It means “to let drop, abandon. Can’t you see? You and I don’t give God His identity. We don’t define God. Even though many try, defining God and His Ways are way above our pay grade. And when you feel the need to explain God to people facing these types of situations, my counsel to you is DON’T DO IT! If you really want to help them, try crying with them.

I Think It’s Time–Monday Musings 20 January 2020

Pernicious. Virulent. Mephitic. Pestilential. Nefarious. Miasmatic. Pestiferous. Deleterious. Iniquitous. Maleficent. Rancorous. These words are in my Monday Musings. These are big synonyms for a simple word that is at the core of these Musings. The simple word is Toxic. It is my culture, perhaps I should say, my perspective of my culture that is leading this rumination this morning.

But it’s not just my culture–it’s a word, verses from one of the wisest persons to ever live. This sage wrote one of the rawest in terms of human emotions books ever written. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Ecclesiastes. And here’s the part I’m musing on:

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Solomon then sets out a series of contrasts about appropriate “It’s Time” moments. I’m drawn into this series of contrasts:

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.

Ecclesiastes 3:5-6 (NLT)

Now, add that word Toxic. No one would intentionally build their dream home knowingly on top of a Toxic Waste Dump. Yet, many persist and hold onto Toxic Relationships. By the very meaning of that word Toxic, people hold on to relationships that are deleterious to their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Toxic Relationships happen at all levels. Familial. Friends. Spouses. Significant Others. Work. And yes, even in Church.

Allow me to cut to the core of it all. A Toxic Relationship is any relationship that consistently and constantly rips us apart or lives to create chaos. Lots of things can rip us apart. Even more things creates a tornado-earthquake-hurricane-tsunami kind of chaos. Even in the church this happens. I’m watching it in my own Tribe, the United Methodist Chaos, I mean Church.

So, how long should one stay in the chaos? As a traditional, orthodox kind of guy, I will probably be asked to leave. Some of my fellow kindred hearts say we should stay together to change things. Others of my kindred hearts say it’s not fair to ask us to leave–after all, we are the majority, and we embrace the authority of God’s Word.

But then there’s these words of Solomon: A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. Oh, and that next verse: A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

There comes a moment in relationships where the only option is the other option. A time to scatter stones. A time to turn away. A time to quit searching. A time to throw away. And this is where I see this Tribe. I say this not with deep resignation and despair. No! I say this with great hope and greater expectations. The chaos in the United Methodist Church is pestilential.

And you may find yourself in a pestiferous relationship. You can try to ride it out, hope it will change; but it may crush you instead. Or you can accept that some relationships will never be mended. So when is the time to give up? When it poisons your attitude, your mind, your heart, and when you allow it to shape your perspective–Solomon would tell you, it’s time.

But always remember that God has another time, another season for you. And HIS new season for your life will be different–probably difficult–but it will NOT be Toxic. And it will be good.

One Resolution: One Purpose!

 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:  Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all.  When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:1-8 (The Message)

We are in the 3rd week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  Contentment.  This One Resolution is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but the Gospel of Jesus—God’s Best Effort For Us.  Because it’s all about God’s Grace, it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! 

It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day.  Here’s the first 2:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart—That’s the One Spirit.  Your loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus and His Work in our world.
  2. We Need To Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God—That’s the One Mind.  We focus on each other and those who are not here yet.

Now we come to that Third Key Decision in finding the life of real Contentment.  It is so obvious, yet so difficult for so many people.  And Here Is The One Thing You Need To Remember From Today’s Message:  To Live In Contentment, Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Few things make contentment more elusive than not knowing our Unique Life Purpose.  And most folks have no idea how to discover their Unique Life Purpose

And I’m about to say could make it even more frustrating.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why!  The What causes us to think about The How:  How will we do it?  And The Why is completely ignored. 

Purpose, Your Unique Life Purpose comes out of The WhyWhy Did Jesus Die On The Cross For You?  Why Did He Save You?  And the Pivotal Question is this:  Why Are You Here?

There is a “flip-flop” quality to understanding today’s scripture.  It goes counter to our usual way of thinking.  America is the home of Davey Crocket who conquered the wild frontier and Wyatt Earp who tamed the Wild West.  We honor and value independence, self-sufficiency, strength and the glory of a “self-made” man or woman.  

Surrender is what we did NOT do.  With brains and brawn we became a super power in the world.  “American Ingenuity” is the brilliance that made us great.  Then Jesus comes along to say that strength and intelligence does not make the cut when it comes to Contentment.  He dares to tell us that the way to Contentment is through Him.  And then Jesus has the audacity to tell us that to live with and for Him, and for Him to live in and through us we are to live like a servant.

Then this fellow named Paul comes along and tells us to have the same attitude that Jesus had.  Jesus had no business empire; no college degree; never owned a fancy house; never wore designer clothes; never rubbed elbows with those considered the cultural elite.  How counter-cultural can you get?  We cannot fight, or think or power ourselves into the Life Of Contentment

Former Guideposts editor Arthur Gordon told the story of a kindergarten class he visited where the teacher frequently reminded misbehaving children to stop being a WAM.  The kids straightened up as soon as their teacher pointed out they were being a WAM.  He had to know: What was a WAM?  The teacher explained that WAM stands for “What About Me?”  She was training the children to be less self-centered.  She wanted them to think of others’ needs; not just their own.  

She taught them that no one liked a WAM, a self-centered person who only asks, “What About Me?”  Instead, she was teaching the children to be a WAY, or as she explained it, people who ask, “What About You?”  She was teaching those 5 year old kids about Contentment.

You and I are people of the WAY.  We ask “What About You?”  We get lost and lose our Spiritual Foothold when we become a WAM.  But the life of Contentment is for people of the WAY.  So, are you a WAM or a WAY?

Let me show you what happens when we become a WAM instead of a WAY.  In the 1800’s the train ruled the day.  Owners of railway companies prospered and were called barons.  But the automobile came along and the railroad barons forgot they were in the transportation business.  They thought they were in the train business and most of them went broke. 

The Swiss had dominated time keeping.  At one point they controlled over 50% of all revenues made in watches and clocks.  They made the most precise gears and springs in the world.  Their watches and clocks were perfect.  Then something new happened called the Quartz movement. 

Guess who invented it?  A Swiss man.  But because it had no gears or knobs or springs it was overlooked.  They failed to recognize that they were in the business of helping people tell time not making precision gears.  They lost their dominance in the industry now controlling somewhere about 15% of all revenue.  

If Sports Illustrated magazine understood it was in the sports information business, not the publishing business, we would have the Sports Illustrated Channel, not ESPN.   And folks, if we forget that our Why is to bring people to Jesus, we will also become obsolete.  If we lose our Why by getting distracted with tradition, habit, custom, ritual, or routine, we will go the way of the trains, the Swiss watch makers, and Sports Illustrated.  We must remember our Why.  We must at all costs, fulfill our Unique True Purpose—that comes out of knowing Our Why!

Every person has a Unique True Purpose that God has given to them.  Not for just the few and special; but all of us have a purpose from God that is uniquely our own.  Yours will be what God has designed you to be.  But before we can know the purpose that is uniquely ours, we must be clear about our Why in life.  Without understanding and accepting this Why in life, we will never discover our unique purpose.  And Paul lets us know that there is a Why for every one of us. 

He lets us in on God’s Why for our lives.  He states it in verse 5:  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  

They do not teach this in high school; it’s not offered as a degree in universities; and it’s not taught in graduate school.  Yet this is exactly what God tells us is the key to finding our Unique True Purpose—that comes out of knowing Our Why!  It’s not about money, prestige or power.  It is all about relationship—with God at the very center of our lives.  Our Purpose will be found by discovering The Why.  It’s a 3 step process that Jesus followed as our example.

1.  He Emptied Himself

Jesus, who had it all in Heaven—gave it all up to become one of us!  Unlimited in space, unfettered by time, adored and worshiped by angels and saints—He chose to be one of us.  In becoming one of us He is now limited in space, and bound by time—He allowed people to talk ugly about Him—He allowed Himself to be falsely arrested—and when they couldn’t find a reason to have Him executed, He gave them one. 

Jesus allowed Himself to be publicly humiliated and finally nailed to a Cross as a common criminal to bring back His Image Bearers.  This was His Why and this is to be our Why.  And He could not have done this unless He first emptied Himself into the relationship with Abba!  Papa!  Dad!

And what are you holding on to?  What is it that you have not relinquished into God’s hands?  Is it time?  A habit?  Pride?  Fear?  Is there this one room in your heart that you’ve kept locked up in order to keep God out either because you don’t want to give it up or you’re afraid God won’t love you?  Before we can find that Unique True Purpose for which we are created, we have to let go of everything and to be completely emptied. 

And in that process of emptying ourselves, we also have to let go any and all sense of being self-sufficient.  We have to be absolutely vulnerable before God and in that moment of total vulnerability we have to trust 2 things:  God is always good; and God is pure, complete and unconditional love.

2.  He Accepted His Place

You won’t hear Jesus saying, “Oh, Dad, do I have to become one of them?”  Instead: He took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.  Jesus reached out and took on being human because the Father chose it for Him.  It was the Father’s plan to show us that He is not a referee, dictator or stern judge.  God wants us to know that His character is not in the rules and regulations that we think about when it comes to His Kingdom.  God wants us to know that His absolute, all the time, for all eternity character, is Love. 

We do not tell God what is our Unique True Purpose; God tells us!  We don’t inform Him of our Why:  we allow Him to tell us Our Why.  His Purpose for your life will be about what HE can do.  God wants to move us beyond ritual and rules, beyond history and traditions and step into His very character.  This Is Your Why!  Accept that place God has for you where you must rely on His strength and not your own. 

3.  He Surrendered To God’s Plan

Jesus did not just die—He died on the Cross.  The Greek word for Obedient means To Give An Ear To—in other words, Jesus was listening to the Father.  God had the plan and Jesus listened to that plan and surrendered to that plan. 

And that plan was to become the one and only sacrifice that would atone for everyone’s sins so that anyone who wanted could have a deep and intimate relationship with God.  Jesus surrendered so that we can have the relationship that God yearns for us to have with Him, the Father, Abba, Papa, Dad!  The Cross is about bringing people into a relationship with God!

The Why for your life is all about letting this world—your world know that God loves them and yearns to bring them into relationship with Him.  And Here Is Where You Find Unique True Purpose!  The only way our world can know God’s love is when they see us sharing our love for God with others.    Jesus Died So The World Could Know God’s Love—we should live the same way—To Live So That The World Will Know God’s Love For Them!

Your exact Life Purpose is as unique as you are—but each of our Unique Purposes is designed for one thing:  To Help Bring Others Into A Relationship With God, Who Is Always Good And Always Full Of Love.  As much as we are to yearn for God, understand this:  That God Yearns Infinitely More For You And Everyone! 

OK, you know what’s next.  Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:

Find a way to do something for another person to know that God loves them.  Get personally involved with another life in a way that reveals your Why—To let them know that God wants a relationship with them.  Or is your Why for some other reason?  Give up your Why For The Why That Always Gives You Contentment!

Stuck In The Mud–Saturday Stories 18 January 2020

So far my Saturday Stories have been about moments where God shows up in unexpected places. Well, this Saturday Story is about what the phrase “young and dumb” looks like…in me.

STUCK IN THE MUD

It was back in 1977; I had my first pick-up truck.  One day I decided to take it off the paved road through some trails.  I had been on this particular trail before, but on a dirt bike.  It had rained that week and my truck was only a two-wheel drive, but I felt confident I knew that trail well enough to stay out of trouble. 

Things were going pretty well, I had made it through some rough parts of the trail when I came upon a place in the road that was covered in water.  I stopped and looked at it carefully. I knew what this place in the road looked like when it hadn’t rained, so  I decided on a course of action that would I felt would take me safely to the other side. 

I really believed that if I backed up a bit and went through the right side of the mud hole I could get to the other side.  I really believed I could get to the other side.  So, I backed up a bit and moved full speed ahead.  Now, I believed I was well on my way to the other side.  About one-fourth of the way through I slowed a little but I kept on going, confident I was about to get to the other side. 

About two-thirds of the way through, I found that my faith in my reasoning ability was wrong, seriously wrong.  My truck came to a complete stop and would not move.  No matter how hard I tried, I remained stuck in the mud.  This was in the days before cell phones, so there I was, miles from the main road, and not another person in sight.  My choice and my decision were seriously flawed even though my confidence was high.  There I was on LaGrange Mountain, alone and stuck, unable to go any further, or even go back. It was the middle of the week and the likelihood of someone coming along in another truck was the same odds as a snowball’s chance in that certain place.

Just then I heard a dirt bike coming down the trail. Good news to me. Better news he stopped. Best news was he went back to get his truck and a chain and pulled me out of my created mess. Reflecting now on that “young and dumb” moment, I wondered why did this stranger decide to go riding that day? And of the many off-road trails, he ended up where I was stuck in the mud. Call me simple-minded and naive, but I think God may have been at work that day–even though I wasn’t aware of it.

The Moral Of The Story

Our choices and decisions can be…often are flawed. Without the right information that fits the situation we can end up where I was that day in 1977, stuck in the mud. But because of His Grace, God has already been at work. He’s ready for our “stuck in the mud” moments. It may not be as dramatic as a lone dirt bike rider who had his truck and chain ready to help, but God knows where we are, what we are facing–and best of all, He has a plan–and if we follow His plan, we get unstuck.

Addendum to my story: Once I got unstuck, I went back the way I came in and left that mud hole in my rear view mirror. I learned enough not to try that again! Allow God to help you make more than good choices, but the best choices of all.

Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead–Throw It Out There Thursday, 16 January 2020

Welcome to another edition of Throw It Out There Thursday! The target today is something is filling the headlines today. No, not the impeachment. No, not the impending death of the United Methodist Chaos, excuse me, “Church” (if you can actually call it that with a straight face or without regurgitating). But it is behind these and all other expressions of hate and confusion that invades and pervades our culture.

It’s Admiral Farragut’s famous expression: Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead. And what once was the motto for courage and determination in the face of danger has become the Mantra for a subculture of folks from all walks and stations in life. It’s the subculture of I WANT WHAT I WANT BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT’S BEST AND I’M THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY!

It’s the subculture of people thinking AND acting without considering the consequences that is corroding the very fabric of civilized society. In the 60’s the mantra was “If it feels good, do it!” Again, never thinking about the consequences. Ask some of the rockers from that era who indulged in drugs how that worked out for them. But now? The attitude of Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead is exponentially growing like Kudzu.

Kudzu is defined as an Invasive Species (click here if you don’t know kudzu). According to scientists, an invasive species is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native. … Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. Did you notice the scientific word ORGANISM? This means it has a life all it’s own, independent of anything else.

And like Kudzu, Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality is taking over and killing everything around it. Like Kudzu, Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality isn’t native to civilization. Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality is causing the extinction of what really makes us Humans created in the image of God.

Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality robs people of their civility and capacity to care about something bigger than themselves. And this is sad, tragic, appalling, calamitous, deplorable, dreadful, fatal, cataclysmic, gruesome, woeful and your own synonym here. Just as Kudzu is fatal for the native vegetation, Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality is fatal for civilized society. And it is IRRESPONSIBLE by those who lead others to join in their mental and emotional Kudzu.

Lips And Hearts–Wednesday’s Wonderings 15 January 2020

Wednesday is the day I’ve chosen to wonder about. . .well about life and God. And today I’m adding another point to wonder about–people. Oh, yeah, I know I’ve wondered about people before, but usually in the context of my gifts of sarcasm and snarkiness. But this morning I’m setting aside those gifts. . .because my heart is breaking for a group of people.

My heart always breaks for the least, the last and the lost–people hurting, struggling, and doubting that there’s enough grace with God for them. The group my heart breaks for this morning is. . .well, look at how God describes them:

Most preachers, myself including myself, quote this passage with the sense that God is angry. That God is criticizing these people of lips without hearts. Even Jesus quoted this passage and we envision Jesus full of anger and foaming at the mouth. So we point out with criticism and anger these people who’s lips say one thing about God, but there hearts are far from God. Could it be, that when God said that to Isaiah, and when Jesus quoted this passage that there was sadness in His heart? Could He have been crying for them?

Many times I have questioned…scratch that…criticized Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives for their attitudes and ways of thinking. But this morning…my wondering has my heart breaking for them. I’m grieving because they are missing so much of who God is and what God wants to do in their day to day life.

Lips say one thing but the heart says something different. It’s not just the aforementioned Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives who are herein described. I’ve seen Conservative and Orthodox folks who fit the bill of what God is saying through Isaiah. And even yours truly has been guilty of this. Seeing and believing only what we want to see and believe, and then say it’s God.

Why have we limited God? It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s the Devil! That’s what he does!” No doubt, that IS his job. But right now I’m remembering a sign on President Harry Truman’s desk:

WE have a choice; sadly many of us have chosen poorly. So today, I choose to accept responsibility for my lips; and My Heart! I choose to wonder about the Wonder Of God! I choose to remove the fences and walls that keeps me knowing ABOUT God to KNOWING GOD! I set aside whatever I’ve thought about God. I set aside everything others have said about God. And I open MY heart to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the mysteries of God. I long for this, and so I choose to start with a clean sheet of paper and let God write what I need so that His Image becomes more clearer and brighter in me.

And thus I wonder: “How could I even think that MY understanding of God (which is spoken by my lips) is the ultimate expression of God?” Yes, we need to fight Satan in this world. But before we go to battle, let’s make sure that we honor God With Our Hearts. And the best way to do this is to quit pretending we’re the experts and surrender our heart to the wonders of God. Only as we give up our concepts can the heart be cleansed–and be drawn closer to God.

EVEN THERE IN THAT PLACE–Tuesday Thoughts 14 January 2020

My Tuesday Thoughts on what to write this morning were running wild–wild as a trio of adolescents on a 3 day binge on candy kind of sugar rush. When my thinking gets like this, I have to really force myself to stop thinking–so that I can listen. Now I have it–it’s Psalm 139 and three words from that Psalm–YOU ARE THERE!

Who’s there? God, of course. Most of us like to consider ourselves Masters Of Camouflage. Like an Army sniper in the field, we think we can hide and no one see us–or see what’s going on inside us. But regardless of how or even where we hide, Even There God finds us. When God asked Adam and Eve, “Hey, guys! Where are y’all?”, He knew where they were.

It wasn’t a question of confusion; it was a question of trust. God was asking Adam and Eve, “Do you still trust me, trust my love and that I am still good even though you did what you did?” Smack dab in the middle of their self-imposed mess, they did trust God. And in this Psalm David seems to be reflecting on his life. He’s known up and downs. He’s been faithful to God and been a rebel against God. He’s hidden in caves from King Saul, and he’s tried hiding from the King of Kings.

And what he could do with Saul, successfully hide, he never could do with God. He found out what Adam and Eve discovered–in the middle of our messes–Even There God Is Present. And in His Presence, He is still trustworthy, He is still loving us, and most of all, He is still GOOD! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why some people think God is out looking for people just to punish them. And if this day you are trying to hide from God because you “think” He’s mad at you, or that He doesn’t want you–Think Again! In your fear, confusion or despair–Even there in that place He is present and He is still Good And Loving On You.

And it’s just not in the places where we try to run and hide from God, but it’s true also in the places where circumstances and consequences have placed us. Problems at work. A “we no longer need your services” moment. Chemo or radiation therapy. A disintegrating family. A nursing home. A funeral home. Even in church.

My beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is in utter chaos; or so it seems to many of us. But even there, God is Present. God Is Faithful. God Is Loving Us. God Has A Plan. And God is still GOOD! What I’m saying is this: Wherever you are–whether it’s the result of you poor choices or whether it’s the result of forces beyond your control–Even There God Is Present. Even there He is still Faithful to you. Even there He still Loves you. Even there He is still GOOD. Even there, He will lead you out and back to where you belong!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Thinking! Monday Musings 13 January 2020

Today, my musings are: “How in the world can people believe and act like they do now?” I found the answer: It’s In How They Think! And I thought that I needed to help them change their thinking; and I have been trying to do this with questions, suggesting other views, and even with sarcasm and snarkiness.

As much as I’ve seen and heard, I am still shaking my head at the way many people are thinking. You would think by now that in the realm of asinine thinking nothing would surprise me now; but it still does. So, I begin to muse, “How can I change the way people think?” I’ve tried to correct their thinking, but they just seem to hate me and hate me more.

Then I remembered hearing a Rabbinical story that goes something like this. There was a man who decided the world needed to be changed, to be a better place. But he thought, “The world is too big. I need to start smaller. My country, yes, I will start with my country. But that is still too big. I will start with my town. But that’s too big. I will start with my neighborhood. That’s still to big. I will start with my street, wait, I will start with my home. Oh, I will start with me!”

And this morning, my best Friend, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the wisdom of that old Rabbi. It’s too big a task for me to change how people think. That task is way above my pay grade–and it’s task that was never given to me. . .or any human being for that matter. I know it’s shocking for some to hear that they aren’t called to change how others think. Get over it. . .get over yourself. I know. . .I needed to get over myself.

The only thinking that I can shape and control is my own thinking! So, how can I do that? This is why the Bible is ageless and powerful. When you think about yourself and how you can grow and mature–The Bible always has the answer. When you think about how to change the way others think, it’s highly possible you will get the wrong answer from even the Bible.

So, how do I make my thinking better? Paul said it best in Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

And now my task is to think in this way in such a manner that others will begin thinking about their thinking. Maybe they will ask me why I think the way I do. Better yet, maybe they will ask Dad to help them think in a different way.

So. . .love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

One Resolution: One Mind!

We are in the 2nd week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  contentment.  And remember that this One Resolution is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Let’s look again at our Scripture from Philippians 1:27-30 (NLT)

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.  This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together.  You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

The Gospel is not about what we can do.  The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His grace.  It’s not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but The Gospel Of Jesus—God’s Best Effort For Us.

And because it’s about God’s Grace, it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection!  There are 6 Key Decisions you must make in order to experience Contentment—the first Key Decision is to have an Undivided Heart for God and what HE wants for our lives.

We have come to that second part of verse 27.  On the surface, this seems to be one of those verses that translators can’t agree on.  Allow me to explain:

  • The KJV—“that ye stand fast . . . with One Mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” 
  • The NIV—“that you stand firm . . . contending as One (Meaning Person) for the faith of the gospel.” 
  • And in our reading today, the NLT—“that you are standing together with . . . One Purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.”

OK, we have One Mind, One Person, One Purpose; Which is correct?  All Of Them!  In the process of translating the ancient texts, it’s not a word by word translation but involves the context of the phrases around each word.  The Greek word used is psychē (psü-khā’) and by itself it means The Soul, that deepest part of who we are. 

It refers to the essence of a person—their mind, their purpose in life, their identity in life.  But more than just the word psychē (psü-khā’) is the phrase Stand Fast, Standing Together, Stand Firm. 

And then there’s that other phrase:  Striving Together, Fighting Together, Contending.  Now we come to the next step in the life that is worthy of the Gospel—Living Together In Community, and not just any community.  And here is the One Thing you really need to remember from today’s message:  That We Need To Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God.

The community we are called to live in is the community of faith.    Call it the church, the body of Christ, or community of believers—this is where God is calling us to live this life of contentment.  The world says contentment is found in what you can do yourself. 

But that deep and abiding contentment, that contentment which can fill any and every heart is found in our relationships of working together in a common bond.  When we put our life in grace smack dab in the middle of a bunch of other lives in grace, the power of God’s grace intensifies in each of us. 

Don’t put your life in with a bunch of people living by rules and regulations and doctrines.  Put your heart and life in people who know that it’s all about the relationship God gives us in Jesus!  You have a choice:  to be a Pretender or to be a Contender in the pursuit of contentment.

To go at this life of contentment by yourself makes you a Pretender!  You can have all the trappings of success—the job, the house, the car, the toys—but these things will not give you the necessary strength to maintain that One Resolution!

I need others around me who share my passion for Jesus.  You need others around you who live passionately for Jesus.  Wrap it up in a box, take it to the bank and cash it, put it in the display case—Unless You Commit And Invest Time With People Passionate About Jesus, You Will Lose Your Passion For Jesus.

That’s why you need more than an hour on Sunday morning.  I’m talking about developing and nurturing those key relationships that will enable us to allow Christ to live in and through us.  Our greatest desire should be for God and one of the most powerful ways we find and experience God is through the Body of His Son—The Community! 

It takes more than a sign with a name on it to be the Body of His Son.  There has to be a connection, not to rules or creeds, but to that sustaining and life-giving connection to Jesus.  There has been this long running theological question:  Can A Person Be A Christian Without Going To Church? 

One side says, “Sure, because it’s about faith in Jesus’ work on the Cross.”  But that’s the wrong question to ask.  The real question that needs to be asked often is this:  “How Long Can A Person, Who Is Able To Go To Church, Remain A Christian Without Going To Church?” 

And the answer?  “Not As Long As It Takes!”  Why?  Because there’s some tough stuff out there that you just can’t handle alone.  Let me ask you this:  Would you want to go face to face with someone like Terrance Cody alone?  Now, for you unfortunate people who don’t remember Terrance, he played nose guard for the University of Alabama in 2008 and 2009.

Terrance weighed 360+ pounds.  His job was to push aside 300 pound offensive linemen in order to tackle the unfortunate soul who had the football.  And when coaches prepared to play against Terrance they always had at least 2 linemen assigned to the difficult task of blocking him.  Knowing this about Terrance, back to my original question:  Would you want to go face to face against someone like Terrance Cody?  Of course not, unless you have a masochistic personality and love getting beat up.

Listen, there are spiritual forces out there that make Terrance Cody look like a 96 pound weakling and you do NOT want to face them alone.  Their Sole Task Is To Cause You To Lose Your Hope, Lose Your Faith, And Lose Your Joy So That You Lose Your Contentment.  It’s a struggle at times; it’s always a battle to live a life worthy of the Gospel by allowing Jesus to live in you and through you.  That’s why the gift of God’s Grace includes the gift of the Community Of His Son. 

And as Goliath shouted insults at David, your enemy will shout insults at you.  Pretenders in the pursuit of contentment go at it alone. But Contenders For Contentment Surround Themselves With Those Who Have The Same Desire To Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort. 

We need each other and we need to be here for each other.  Now, we will not always agree on every little thing, but we can agree on the main thing:  That We Need Stand Together Being The One Person For The Gospel Of God’s Best Efforts

This is the One Mind:  That We Stand Together As ONE!  Here’s how we Stand Together As One Community:

1.  Being The One Mind—In Faith

Being The One Mind In Faith is all about The Cross.  It’s not that we all agree on doctrines or interpretations, but that we all agree that the main thing is The Cross.  The Cross levels the playing field.  No one here is better than anyone else.  Flip the coin over and we see that no one here is any worse than anyone else. 

We are bound together by one common need:  A Savior.  And we are bound together by one common remedy:  The Cross.  Whether we like different styles of music, whether we want different forms of worship really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we all stand beneath the One And Same Cross with the conviction that This Cross makes all the difference in our lives.  Our connection is to the relationship with God.

2.  Being The One Person—In Witness

Being The One Person In Witness is all about The Gospel!  What if a researcher stumbled across a vaccine that would prevent anyone else from ever contracting cancer again?  Do you suppose that researcher would hide his discovery? 

Do you think he would place it under lock and key and never let the world know about it?  I don’t think so!  He would call a press conference, call all the drug manufacturers, and start the process for FDA approval because that would be good news for the world. 

We have the best news for our world—Redemption And Release.  We add value and credibility to each other’s witness when we show The One Person to our world:  That We Are People Changed By The Love Of God And Are Committed To Sharing God’s Love Together To Our World 

Your life will validate the witness of another and their witness will validate your witness.  When we stand together believing that God’s love is for everyone, that we will not judge or turn our back on anyone and that His love will change everyone who accepts His love, then we make an impact on our world. 

3.  Being The One Purpose—In Action

Being The One Purpose In Action is all about The Mission!  It doesn’t do us any good if we sing, pray and study if there is not subsequent action.  Every Community of Jesus has a God-given Mission and every believer has a God-given mission that will be related to the Mission of our church. 

This is where we will find God’s Vision for this place and where you will find your place in that Vision.  God Does Not Give A Mission Without Also Giving The Means To Accomplish That Mission.  Inside of every one of you is a passion, an ability, a skill and a spiritual gift that is a perfect fit for this Mission.  Some of you will be out front doing this work. 

Some of you will be behind the scenes praying or organizing or sharing your resources for this God-Given Mission.  If I could afford it, I would have bought every one of you a mirror this week and right now have you look in that mirror and tell you:  The Mission Of This Church Is Counting On The Person You See In That Mirror.

To Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort You Must Become A Part Of Something Much Bigger Than Yourself—The Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God.  Look around you; go ahead, I said “Look around you!”  We Are Here, In This Place, Because Of The Cross And For Each Other And For Those Not Here Yet. 

Contentment grows in each of us when we become a servant to the people you just saw.  The Kingdom Is Not About You—It Is About Each Other And Those Not Here Yet That We Should Be Inviting Into A Relationship With Jesus.  Jesus makes a promise that you can count on to always be true and never fail:  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matt. 10:39 NLT)

Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:Designate A Fast And Prayer Time at least 3 times a week.  Fasting means giving up something in order to focus on God.  Here are some suggestions for your Fast:

  • Give Up A Favorite TV show
  • If you do social media, give it up for a morning or evening.
  • Give up a meal
  • Give up a hobby
  • Give up watching the morning or evening news
  • Give up something you do regularly or enjoy
  • Then spend that time focusing on God through prayer

Remember One Resolution for the rest of your life:  To Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort!

Saturday Stories–Ernie And Today Is Not That Day!

Welcome to another Saturday Story. Today’s story is from several years ago; it was such a powerful moment that I still remember it as if it occurred yesterday. Listen to it, and maybe Dad has something to say to you…

TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY

Ernie was a retired sheet metal worker. He and his wife Bettye had retired to Scottsboro. They never had children, so they “adopted” kids of all ages, including me. Both spent many hours serving Jesus at Randall’s Chapel (no, that church wasn’t named after me!). Ernie served Jesus in so many ways. Teaching, leading committees, the men’s group, serving in whatever way he was asked. Needless to say, this pastor fell in love with them.

Ernie was the epitome of an “active member”; but I and several others noticed Ernie didn’t have his usual level of stamina. Ernie noticed it too, so he went to his doctor to find out why. After several tests, Ernie was given the diagnosis of ALS (I refuse to call this evil disease by the name of one of baseball’s greatest players).

Word reached me of this diagnosis. As “pastor”, my job was to give him and Bettye words of encouragement and wisdom. This wasn’t my first encounter with someone dehumanized by ALS. I knew what Ernie’s future would look like. The day after his diagnosis I was going to “visit” with them and share those “words of encouragement and wisdom”. And as I sat in my office that morning, I struggled to find any such words. But it was my “job” to do it, and honestly, I felt like a failure because I simply couldn’t find the right “words”.

Just then (remember that “just then” or “it just so happened” are usually God prepared and ordained moments) I heard Ernie come in. He stuck his head in my office and asked, “Bro. Randy, do you have a few minutes, I need to talk about something.” Of course I had time, I always have time for a good friend; but this time my mind is in panic mode. I still didn’t have those words of “encouragement and wisdom”. In my heart I said, “OK, Holy Spirit, you’re going to have to do the talking because I don’t know what to say!”

And my, oh, my did my Friend, the Holy Spirit, do some talking. But it wasn’t me doing the talking–it was Ernie. “Randy, I know you heard about my diagnosis. And I need you to understand that one day I won’t be able to teach the Sunday School class. One day I won’t be able to be involved in the men’s group. One day I won’t be able to serve this church. One day I won’t be able to do all the things I love doing around here.” And what Ernie said next is still with me.

With a love and fire in his eyes he said, “But today is not that day! I’m going to continue to do all the things I’ve been doing. Whatever you or this church needs me for, I’m here! I know that day will come, it’s just that Today Is Not That Day!” The words of encouragement and wisdom wasn’t meant to be shared by me; that Holy Moment was given to Ernie.

And Ernie kept that Sacred Vow. He kept on working and moving forward with Jesus. And a little over a year later, that day finally came. Bettye asked me to do the funeral service. And the message I shared? It was the very same one Ernie shared with me that morning in my office. Ernie prepared his own eulogy and funeral message: Today is not THAT day to give up. God is with you every step of the way. And on that sad day, God’s Grace abounded.

Application Time

We all face difficult, even terrifying moments in life. The temptation, even the urge to give up can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve faced many such moments. And in those moments, I see Ernie, sitting across my desk. He’s smiling and saying to me, “Now Randy, you know Today Is Not THAT Day!

Whatever it is that you may face in life; whatever you ARE facing right now that is overwhelming you with the feeling of helplessness or hopelessness and you want to give up; remember my good friend Ernie’s words: Today Is Not THAT Day! Ernie lived with the confidence that whatever the future held, HE was held by God and was secure in that knowledge.

Throw It Out There Thursday: SAYS WHO?

Boys and girls it’s that time again: THROW IT OUT THERE THURSDAY where nothing is sacrosanct and any idea, belief or opinion is subject to sarcasm, cynicism or evisceration. So, if you are the type that is easily offended or refuses to hear a view other than your own, you are about to the thrown into chaos; just a warning. This week I’m looking at a Common Duo, RIGHT AND FAIR!

Today I am eviscerating this idea that somehow life is supposed to be RIGHT AND FAIR. I may be called mean, calloused and uncaring for what I am about to say. To which I reply

If you have or have raised kids, especially teenagers, you’ve heard this, at least half of it: THAT’S NOT FAIR! Even then, the other half is clearly implied. We are in a culture obsessed with RIGHT AND FAIR! Oh, someone was just thinking, “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with RIGHT AND FAIR?” Guess what? Life isn’t RIGHT AND FAIR! It hasn’t been RIGHT AND FAIR since Eve took that bite and Adam colluded with her by his silence.

I could be the Energizer Bunny and go on and on, but I will get to the point and make this short and sweet. RIGHT AND FAIR, as it is viewed in this fallen world, is based on our highly regarded and valued opinions and perspective. RIGHT AND FAIR is determined by what we think and feel; especially what we feel. Like it or not; disagree and deny–truth is our feelings and perspectives are tainted by selfishness.

Sure, there are some things that are clearly RIGHT and some things are clearly FAIR! But life on this warped planet? That’s where we get into a lot of problems. Case in point: the bitter battle in my Tribe, the United Methodist Church. A group is now proposing that we Orthodox/Traditional folks should be able to leave the United Methodist Church with all assets, along with a cool $25 million, and pursue their own future by creating a new Tribe. Bear in mind, in case you haven’t followed this circus, that the Orthodox and Traditional views of the Bible and in particular, sexual ethics, is the view of the majority. It has been since 1972. But there are some, especially in the U.S. and Europe, who feel more enlightened and wiser; so they want to change it so that it reflects our enlightened understanding. Who said the Age of Enlightenment ended around 1818? It’s being revived.

And many of my acquaintances and friends have been ask me, “If we are the majority, why should we have to leave? If they don’t agree with us, THEY should leave! (you know what’s next!) IT’S NOT RIGHT OR FAIR THAT THE MAJORITY BE FORCED TO LEAVE!” I confess I felt that way AT FIRST. Well, I tried to teach my kids that for the most part, life is neither RIGHT NOR FAIR and we shouldn’t expect it to be that way.

The RIGHT AND FAIR card is being played when a group of people don’t get their way. And here is the crux of the matter. We assume the role of God when we think we should be able to determine what is RIGHT and what is FAIR. And when life is not RIGHT AND FAIR, we can choose to be bitter; which is what it seems like the majority is doing. OR, we can choose to move forward without bitterness or resentment.

Right now I’m thinking about the story of Joseph, the one found in Genesis. His brothers sold him into slavery (well, that snot-nosed kid probably deserved it) and once in slavery, he ended up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. That’s certainly not RIGHT OR FAIR! But circumstances changed and he finds himself as second in command of a nation. One day his brothers (you know, the ones who sold him into slavery) come begging for food, only they don’t recognize that it’s their brother they are begging to for help. Joseph has the perfect moment now to set the record straight for them not being RIGHT AND FAIR to him. Revenge has set the table for Joseph.

Instead, Joseph does something different; and what he did I’ve had to repeat to myself on many occasions when life wasn’t RIGHT AND FAIR. “Brothers, what you did was wrong and evil (meaning: NOT RIGHT AND FAIR). But God used it for good!”

So, when life is neither RIGHT NOR FAIR, get over it. God can and will make it into something good. But you have to relinquish your desires to define what is RIGHT AND FAIR!

Wednesday Wondering-The Long Suffering Of God

Last night as I was lying in bed I heard in my heart “long suffering”. And the passage I thought of first was Psalm 86:15. Even though I cut my teeth on the King James Version, for decades I’ve used more recent translations. But those other translations miss something, in my humble opinion, that the translators used in the King James Version; and here it is:

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

The subject is God and David proceeds to add some descriptive words about Him. Most like the idea that God has tons of compassion, grace, mercy and truth; and why not like that idea. But there is another description David has: Long-Suffering!

We don’t use that phrase in our everyday conversations and rarely consider what it means when it comes to God. It’s my contention that it’s because those two words, long and suffering, are words our culture does not like nor appreciate. We avoid long–long lines and long waits; and we avoid by all means possible suffering –because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable so we avoid the vexatious.

I took a moment this morning to look up that word/phrase long-suffering in both the Hebrew and from the dictionary. The Hebrew word is ‘arek and it comes from another Hebrew word ‘arak. It means to draw out, lengthen. From the dictionary it defines it as: having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.

And I realize that God experiences LONG-SUFFERING in dealing with me. There are still moments when, after I fail, I wonder how in the world God puts up with me. The Enemy whispers, “You blew it again, Randy, and God is through with you.” If you’ve faced many failures, it’s easy to believe him; that God is simply tired of you.

But then I remembered King David. He lied to protect himself; lusted for his friend’s wife; murdered that friend; sought to do things without seeking God’s guidance–and here in Psalm 86:15 David proclaims hope–through God’s Long-Suffering. God prolongs giving up on me–prolongs giving up on you. He persists for us because of His love. He shows patience in spite of the trouble we cause Him.

So, today, I want to remember God’s Long-Suffering, not as an excuse to keep on failing, but as a reminder that HE loves me so much that Jesus Long-Suffered in the Wilderness, in the Garden, and on the Cross–and I don’t want Him to Long-Suffer again because of me. At times my heart is divided, but today–in this moment–I choose to have an undivided heart for the ONE who is LONG-SUFFERING for me. I can’t give up–YOU can’t give up–because HE never gives up on us. HE goes the distance for us–whatever it takes. So, why would any of us do less for HIM!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Don’t Argue With An Idiot–Tuesday Thoughts

This morning I was thinking about 2 things: Wisdom and Idiots (Proverbs calls them a fool). What prompted these seemingly contradictory things was the controversies in Washington D.C. and in the United Methodist Church. So I turned to a book that has much to say about both–Proverbs, and here is what I found:

We no more give honors to fools than pray for snow in summer or rain during harvest.

Proverbs 26:1 (The Message)

In the book The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, the second decision needed to be made is this: I will seek wisdom. Here’s a quote that is really speaking to me this morning:

I will seek wisdom. I will choose my friends with care. I am who my friends are. I speak their language, and I wear their clothes. I share their opinions and their habits. From this moment forward, I will choose to associate with people whose lives and lifestyles I admire. If I associate with chickens, I will learn to scratch at the ground and squabble over crumbs. If I associate with eagles, I will learn to soar great heights. I am an eagle. It is my destiny to fly.

“The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews

Yet when I look at our government and my Spiritual Tribe, I see no such seeking for wisdom. What I see and hear are fools, idiots spewing their venom of “I’m right, you’re wrong” perspective. And what “I” want to do is argue with them, showing them where they are wrong! But after the argument I remember this quote supposedly from Mark Twain:

So, today I choose wisdom. Arguing with idiots and fools is just like Solomon said in our Proverb this morning–it’s like praying for snow in the summer; ain’t gonna happen unless you live near one of poles or in high altitudes. It doesn’t make sense. Or like praying for rain during the harvest season–it’s counter intuitive, standing in the way of what you want to achieve.

In the midst of so many fools, take a different route–a “wiser” response. Seek wisdom for yourself. An idiot will not seek nor see wisdom for themselves. But you–rise above the strife of lunacy. Wisdom will help keep you calm, steady and strong. Seek wisdom from God and His Sacred Word. Seek wisdom from those who seek their wisdom from God. Arguing with idiots won’t change anything. Seeking wisdom transforms you–and that wisdom will rise above the dust created by lunacy. Remember, idiots are empowered by our arguing. Seek wisdom, and the idiot becomes impotent.

And love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Monday Musings–It IS The Cross

As I am sitting here at my desk, wondering what to write this morning, I admit I was at a loss for words. Yes, mark this day on your calendar that this Wordsmith had no words–doesn’t happen very often. But then I turned in my chair towards my right. I don’t know why; it must have been my Best Companion, The Holy Spirit. And there it was on that wall.

My wall of crosses. Each one is different. Some I purchased. Others were gifts to me. Yet, each one tells the same Wonderful Saga–of the God who went searching for me–breaking through the barriers that kept me away from Him. And for a brief moment, I forgot…forgot that when I feel like I have nothing to say–I have much to say about The Cross.

I had nothing to say at first this morning–but I have so very much to boast about. It’s nothing about me–but all about HIM! And here’s the verse the my friend, The Holy Spirit, gave me to share with you this morning:

Galatians 6:14-18
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. 17 From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. 18 Dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

When you are at a loss for words, remember these words of Paul–Boast About The Cross! It was supposed to be me, supposed to be you on that Cross, but Jesus took it FROM us, FOR US! So love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM, by boasting about the Cross of Jesus!