Stumbling Through Life

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Please, God – Don’t strike me with lightning! I’m just trying to figure this world out. Sometimes I think and say things that are stupid. But sometimes, too, You tell me things that are so meaningful that I simply have to write them down. This blog is nothing more than a diary of some of these thoughts.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Year's Resolution

It's the last day of the year 2012. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I'm more the daily resolutions type... and frankly, sometimes my resolve doesn't last that long. Hourly resolutions would fit me better. Or... minutely?
I try. I really do. And I've done well in a lot of ways. I gave up smoking decades ago, and never looked back.
But when it comes to things like "loving my neighbor," I can be pretty forgetful. Sometimes it's hard to love my own family. And I don't pray enough, and I don't read my Bible enough, and I need to call my mom, and I'm not a great cook, and the laundry needs to be done...

I think this year, I'll give up... guilt.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3-23,24

Saturday, December 24, 2011

God Gave Me the Perfect Christmas Present This Year… He Made Me Sick

(*FYI, I don’t believe God points his big ol’ finger at people and makes them sick. It’s metaphorical.)

Right in the middle of the most peaceful and yet busiest time of the year, (I’m still trying to figure that one out) I developed a case of shingles. Every one of the doctors and nurses who saw me said “You must be under a lot of stress.” See, there are three basic precipitators of shingles: old age (don’t go there... I’m still young) a compromised immune system (like cancer or AIDS) and stress.

Stress? My answer was, “I guess so.” I’m so used to stress that I don’t recognize it until it hits me in the face. And for once, that’s what happened. The rash started smack in the middle of my forehead and took over my left eye. For a couple of days I looked like I’d walked into a wall. I also had the “blehs,” that stomach-headache-tired thing that makes you just want to crawl under the covers.

And that’s what I did. Because this time, I had a doctor’s note. Oh, yes, I had stuff to do – Christmas cards still haven’t been sent out (sorry, everybody), last-minute shopping, stocking-stuffers, grocery shopping, plans to see family – but it all had to wait. A friend brought dinners (yay!) another brought chocolate (even better!) and my wonderful husband made his specialty: Anderson’s Soup, fresh from the can. Shingles is one of those diseases that goes away more quickly if you take care of it right away, and it did. Yesterday I felt good enough to (mostly) finish the shopping. Everything’s back to some semblance of normal.

What do I bring home from all this? We’ve heard it before, but we ignore it. The most important things at Christmas aren’t cards, presents, foods or favorite traditions. It’s wonderful to be with family, but if we can’t, we have telephones and Facebook. If “Peace on Earth” means crawling under the covers and getting well, then do it. If it means caring for someone who’s sick or sad when you “should” be doing something else, do it. Go ahead and enjoy your traditions, but don’t get so lost in the ritual that you forget the meaning.

For me, the meaning of Christmas is the incredible grace that God set in motion when he sent Jesus to earth to walk among us. It’s also the sometimes overflowing love that I feel for my friends and family, and the desire to make this world a better place for all of us. It takes 365 days a year to convey that love. Today, Christmas Eve, is as good a day as any.

Have a joyful Christmas, Everybody! And take care of yourself. You mean a lot to someone.

Peace, Love, Health

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ashamed to be a Christian?

If you're a Christian, is it your goal to spread the Good News?
That's the message of the Great Commision; Jesus' words to His disciples not long before he ascended into heaven: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20
For the sake of simplicity, I'll assume that this was directed not only at the eleven remaining disciples, but at all Christians.
So how, as a Christian, do I spread the Good News? In a nutshell, I believe the "Good News" is the message of Jesus, his atoning death on the cross and his resurrection, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the promise and hope of salvation for the faithful.
Let me try two ways of proclaiming, and let's see how it might sound to nonbelievers...

"I'm not ashamed to be a Christian. Look at me! Look at meee!!!"
"Here, you look like you're in need. Let me help you. By the way, when I was in need, Jesus gave me hope. I'd like to tell you more as we get to know each other."

The term "I am not ashamed" is a direct quote from the Bible:
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." Romans 1:16
(Gospel = Good News = Promise and hope of salvation)
But when I hear a Christian say "I'm not ashamed" nowadays, it seems to be a challenge, and it isn't a pleasant one. It means that if I disagree with this person's politics, I'm not a good Christian. I don't walk in lock-step with any political party, left or right. Does that make me a bad Christian? I hope not. Because I avoid people who really only want to draw attention to themselves. I'm attracted to people who gently point the way to God.

No, I'm not ashamed of the Good News! Sometimes, though, I'm ashamed of the way some Christians act. I fear they're building themselves up rather than pointing the way to God.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:11

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. " Galatians 5:22-23

I'm sure there are many ways to spread the Good news. I've chosen mine. For me, it's not brazenly arguing politics. If other Christians think that means I'm "ashamed," they'll have to deal with it.

Peace, Love, Gentleness

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.

Listen carefully… Somewhere in the world, people are wishing each other “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas!” Or maybe even (gasp) “Season’s Greetings!” As Christians, what should we do?


Really? Is this really something we need to get worked up over? Is hearing the words “Happy Holidays” some sort of persecution? If so, I’m not feeling it. I’m sorry. I just can't see Jesus even bothering with this. I could imagine the Pharisees getting uptight about it, though.

Jesus said, “…But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. Matthew 23:2-7

Here’s the thing. It’s easier to make a fuss over saying the “right” words: (“in God we trust,” “one nation under God,”) than it is to actually sacrifice by giving our hard-earned money to poor people. But that’s what Jesus tells us to do. ("Go, sell your possessions and give your money to the poor ... then come, follow me." Matthew 19:27) Do you really think you’ll get brownie points in heaven for speaking out against those who wish each other happy holidays? I think God sees right through that.

I say “Merry Christmas” to most of my friends, Christian, agnostic and atheist. I say “Happy Hanukah” to my Jewish friends. (Note: I don’t celebrate Hanukah in my house. That doesn’t keep me from accepting that others do. If you don’t feel comfortable “approving” of another person’s holiday, don’t do it.) I wish my Muslim friends a blessed Ramadan, and we've talked about the “real” meaning of their holidays and my holidays. (Guess what? It’s been an eye-opener. I’ve had to explain that Christian holidays are not all about mythical characters like Santa Claus, mass-consumption and over-the-top decorations. Is that really what we want people to think?)

Let’s not be like the Pharisees; making up unnecessary laws just to weigh people down. Let’s preach the real Good News. Better yet, let’s live the Good News!

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Peace, Love, Joyous Noel

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Which Comes First... Repentance or Forgiveness?

I've heard Christians say (or imply) that until we repent, God wants nothing to do with us. Is that true? Some verses in the Bible seem to back it up. John the Baptist said "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Matthew 3:2
and "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" John 1:23.

I think "Repent!" is a favorite word of many Christians. It keeps them comfortably on the "right" side of the sinner/Christian divide. Yes, it was a favorite of Jesus too. Jesus told sinners to repent. His disciples told sinners to repent. But repentance doesn't always cause the life-zapping change we we seem to expect. Repentance is admission of sin and willingness to change; no more. For most people, actual change takes time.

When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-8, He told her He didn't condemn her before she had done a thing! She may have already repented in her heart (the bible doesn't say) but she hadn't even had a chance to talk to her latest "husband," and Jesus had already forgiven her!

Verse 10: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

And why not? After all, don't some of us need God's help to repent? Yeah, I've heard marvelous stories of people who quit smoking and drinking on the day they prayed the "sinner's prayer," (and more power to them!) but that wasn't me. I didn't want to stop sinning; I just wanted God to love me! My conversion has taken years, has gone over many bumps and backtracked a few times, and is, in fact, still going on.

I have repented, I am repenting, and I have a lot of sin left to repent for. This isn't an excuse to sin. Looking back, I am a very different person from the selfish, immature, angst-imprisoned girl who asked for God's help several decades ago. (I wouldn't even want to do do some of the things I did back then!)

So... which came first? My belief is, forgiveness:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Peace, Love, Forgiveness

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christian... American... Interchangeable?

Saying America is a Christian country is neither Christian nor American.
What does it mean, anyway? Every American citizen is a Christian? It simply isn’t true. Every citizen must become a Christian to live here? That's just stupid. Saying everyone who isn’t a Christian must leave is blatantly and horribly unchristian AND unamerican... and unconstitutional... and really scary!
It cheapens both my religion and my citizenship. I belong to a religion of love. I belong to a country of openness.
So, guys. Stop it already!

Peace, Love, Acceptance

Monday, November 14, 2011

And They'll Know We are Christians by Our... Hate?

When I was in college, my church group sang this song a lot. If you've never heard it, it has been performed beautifully by Jars of Clay.

We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord.
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord.
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love.

We will work with each other,
We will work side by side.
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side.
And we'll guard each man's dignity
And save each man's pride.

We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand.
We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand.
And together we'll spread the News
that God is in our land.

But how true is it? Are Christians today "known by our love?" When I think of Christians in the media, here's what comes to mind for me:

  • Picketing funerals,
  • Burning holy books of other faiths,
  • Gloating over natural disasters,
  • Squabbling about evolution vs. Creationism,
  • Condemning gay marriage,
  • Judging the poor and/or unemployed as unworthy.
Um... I'm not feelin' the love here. None of this brings to mind anything like love. In fact, Christians today are known for our HATE. Is that really what we want?

Christians, reread 1 Corinthians 13. The first sentence, in case you've forgotten, is: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

I want to give credit where credit is due: This song was written by Peter Scholtes with additional words and music by Carolyn Arends

Peace, Love, Unity

Monday, November 7, 2011

Are You Stiff Necked?

God calls His people, the Israelites, stiff-necked. A lot:

Exodus 32:9, Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5, Exodus 34:9, Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 10:16, Deuteronomy 31:27, 2 Kings 17:14, 2 Chronicles 30:8

Remember, these are HIS people, the ones with which He made a covenant. He loves them. He continually accuses them of being stiff-necked, and each time He threatens to obliterate them (!) but Moses calms him down, and He doesn’t.

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Exodus 32:9

Go up to up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” Exodus 33:3

Yeah. I’d keep my distance.

(I picture him as Ralph Kramden here, saying “Why, I oughta…” I hope that’s not too blasphemous.) But somehow, in spite of their constant disobedience, The people of Israel manage to not to get hit by lightning.

That had a lot to do with one person, Moses, constantly speaking on their behalf: “… Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” Exodus 34:9

So how does this relate to us today? Are we a stiff-necked people?

Stiff-necked mean obstinate.

Merriam-Webster says stiff-necked is “haughty” or “stubborn,” and stubborn, in turn, is defined as

(1) unreasonably or perversely unyielding or (2) justifiably unyielding.

We see stubbornness as a good quality... a sign of strength! A person with strong convictions is better than one who “waffles."

But God doesn’t see it that way:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5.

Meek and obstinate are antonyms. (If you’ve forgotten your grammar, that means they’re opposites.) God prefers us to be meek. Meek doesn’t mean wimpy or cowardly, but it does mean gentle, patient, and kind. He doesn’t want us to hold obstinately to our opinions, so much that we refuse to consider others… even God’s!

So what we admire – stubbornness – is what God hates. I think we can become so stubborn – so sure of ourselves – that we refuse to listen to anyone or anything that we don’t already feel comfortable with. We sort of go through life with our fingers in our ears, saying “not listening!” But guess what; it might be God who's trying to talk to us. Only perfect people don't need to listen to new ideas. And last time I checked, nobody's perfect but God.

Don’t be stiff-necked. If you want to please God, be more like Moses. Talk to God. Ask him to help you be meek. And while you’re at it, pray for the stiff-necked people around you.

Peace, Love, Patience

Saturday, October 29, 2011

America's Golden Calf?

7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ Exodus 32

I'm speechless. I didn't know this idol -- ahem, statue -- existed until I saw it in the news at an "Occupy Wall Street" rally.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:5

Is this what we worship? We give lip service to "charity," but we uphold Capitalism pretty high.

Peace, Love, Wisdom

Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Get Rid of Guilt... The Easy Way

I have been trying to wrap my mind around a conundrum. Some high-profile Christians are espousing ideas that are utterly unchristian. (God hates homosexuals. Muslims are all evil. Poor people are lazy moochers.) It seems odd that Christians, supposedly those who know the real meaning of love, seem to have become the religion of hate. Why? Why is Mainstream Christianity so far from the teachings of Jesus?
Then it dawned on me. There's a psychological idea called cognitive dissonance. In a nutshell, you can't keep two opposing ideas in your head. The two ideas I’m thinking of are these:

1. God calls on me to be loving and generous to those I hate, to forgive, even to sacrifice. (John 15:13, Luke 3:11, Colossians 3:13, etc.)

2. I like my money, my prestige, and my comfortable life. I don't want to part with it, even a little.

So somebody came up with an idea. Let's call it Us vs. Them.

Us: Those who are blessed by God, hard workers, “right“ believers.
Them: Poor people, unemployed, illegal aliens, those who have made mistakes. Oh, yeah, and those who commit a narrow range of sins: pretty much LGBT and political liberals.

If you try really hard and squint a little, you can make the Bible uphold this position, especially if you use the Old Testament.( Be sure to take passages out of context. For instance, substitute “America” for “Israel,” and “poor people” for “countries surrounding Israel.” Get the idea?)
Rampant fear helps too. If we don't do something right now, socialism will take over our country, so we must vigorously squash anything that looks remotely like socialism; Social Security, for instance, or universal healthcare. (Actually, if we keep things as they are, things will pretty much stay as they are. The rich will be rich and the poor will be poor.)
At the heart of this attitude is self-justification. It's not hard to find arguments justifying greed. But it is very hard to turn to the Bible for the answers we want to hear. So we have to look further. Ayn Rand's idea of rational selfishness comes from her book “Atlas Shrugged.” (Psst… Christians… If you follow the teachings of Ayn Rand, you’re not really a Christian. Call yourself a Randian so you won't confuse yourself or other people.)

Here's the part where Christians can justify superiority:

Find people who are “undeserving” to complain about. “Government handouts” are wrong, because anyone who needs a financial boost is, by nature, undeserving. (Is that in the Bible? Aren't we all undeserving?)

Pick a sin that isn't your own and bring it to the forefront for discussion. Homosexuality is wrong, and therefore homosexuals bring their problems on themselves (sounds like karma) and the rest of us, too, in the form of earthquakes and floods.

Make sure you're on the right side of the US vs. Them divide. If you're not rich, you will be someday, so you're on the good side. (Isn't that a relief?)
Poor people, the unemployed, etc. are somehow different from Us. If a fellow Christian is laid off from a job or contracts aids or cancer… well, I don’t know how this is justified. (Anybody?) I hear they don't deserve better because they aren't really Christians. Maybe they're hiding some sin. Maybe they don't pray enough. Maybe they don't “believe right.” (Ahem. This whole issue is covered in the book of Job)
So… It’s okay for Christians to hate them. They're only moochers.

That, friends, it the hard way to get rid of guilt. It takes a lot of work to continually fight off cognitive dissonance. You might end up with ulcers.

I titled the article “How to Get Rid of Guilt The Easy Way,” because there is another way. And it's actually EASIER than what I talk about above.

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-14

There. It's done. Jesus did it for us. Notice that this is a single sentence: All fall short, and all are justified through Jesus.

Want more?

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19: 21, 22

(Wow! What that doing in the Bible?)

Peace, Love, no guilt.

Monday, October 17, 2011

God’s Driving Test

God is Judging You!

This subject is very controversial. Let me start by admitting I don’t know enough about it to say I’m an expert. This is just my “take” on it. It seems that most Christians emphasize GOD’S JUDGMENT too much (YOU’RE going to HELL!) or not at all. (There IS no hell.) I think the answer is somewhere between the extremes. I also believe that I have NO RIGHT to decide how God feels about another person!!!

Yesterday my teenage daughter was practicing for her driving test. In 30 minutes, she drove very well, except for one very BAD mistake. (Frankly, if the other driver weren't paying attention, we would have hit them; maybe even T-boned them!) After we were home safely, I had to talk to her about it. "Do you understand what you did?" I asked. At first, she made an excuse. “The other driver must have sped up.” Then she admitted she knew what she’d done… and she felt bad.

Aren’t we all like this at times? “Me? Sin? No, way!” Then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we admit to sin, repent, and get on with life. Driving erratically may or may not be a sin, but lying to yourself or others… that’s a sin.

What does God do about it? I don’t think He keeps a permanent record of every lie. In fact, our sins are taken “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 That means as far as we can imagine! No more sins, just for the asking! (Unless we choose to bring them back, of course.) In other words, we've got GRACE!

But… God DOES convict of our sins, and that can be really uncomfortable.

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: John 16:8

I HAD to bring up my daughter’s mistake, but I did it matter-of-factly. (I also praised her for being a good driver for 29.9 minutes.) I think that's what God's judgment is like. Now that my daughter knows what she did wrong, she’s less likely to do it again. By the time she takes the test, she’ll be ready for it. Perfect? No. (Hey, I’m not a perfect driver either.) But I’m sure she’ll pass. And I’m sure that those who are willing to listen to God’s corrections will do fine in the final judgment. All we have to do is believe:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

… a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16

If you’re worried about God’s judgment, I really suggest you pray about it and read the Bible. I recommend Christian community, but watch out for those who try to scare people into being Christians.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

Peace, Love, Mercy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today is my 25th Wedding Anniversary


How did we stay married so long?

First of all, let me get one thing straight: It wasn’t because either my husband or I have any sort of super-human strength. It wasn’t because we don’t fight. (Oh, yes, we fight.) And it wasn’t because we know something the rest of the world doesn’t. Or maybe we do…

We started by saying “we” instead of “me.” Unfortunately, in our society, people value independence far more than interdependence. We live in an era of prenuptial agreements and separate bank accounts. We value “rugged individualism” far more than teamwork. We admire to “mavericks” and “self-made men.”

But no one is completely “self-made.” That’s an illusion. It’s not a weakness to admit you need help; it’s a strength.

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

In a working marriage, two people don’t tear each other down; we lift each other up.

We don’t compete; we cooperate.

We don’t point out each other’s flaws; we celebrate each other’s strengths.

Most of all, our marriage is not of two, but of three. There are times when both my husband and I are too weak or (I’ll admit it) self-absorbed to see things clearly. Frankly, neither of us is strong enough to hold it together in tough times. That’s when we depend on God to hold us together.

Peace, Love, Teamwork

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Zig-zag Path to Heaven

Matthew 7:13 says "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

I have to admit; I don’t like this verse. I want to think everybody’s going to get to heaven somehow-or-other. (I know there are people who do believe that.) On the other hand, I don’t believe the road is a tightrope, either. God loves us, and He allows us to make mistakes – even big ones – if we’re moving in the right direction! The way is narrow, but it’s not a knife edge. A loving God wouldn’t be trying to get us to trip up and fail!

The gate is narrow, but there is an unlimited number of tickets. No one – NO ONE – who enters will be turned away.

In fact, there is only one way to avoid heaven: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In Mark 3:29, The Pharisees accused Jesus of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled. There are other verses, all aimed at the religious leaders, who were in a place of authority and were deliberately and continually trying to discredit Jesus. (Note: This has nothing to do with sex!)

Want to know how stay out of heaven? If that’s what you want, deliberately turn your back on God and reject Him. He won’t force you in. (This is my belief. I am not a theologian, so if you want to know more, consult more knowledgeable sources.)

The path I take isn’t straight. (It’s probably fairly narrow, as I’d be considered a “prude” by the world-at-large.) Instead, my path zigs and zags, circles back upon itself and stops for periods of time. Yes, I am a follower of Jesus; but maybe a poor one. At my best I follow Him closely, read my Bible, spend lots of time in prayer, tell my kids I love them, and do good things. At my worst, I pout, ignore Jesus altogether, say mean things to the people I love the most, and walk right by people who are in need. I doubt God’s existence sometimes, too. (Oh, I’ve done some pretty un-Christian things in the past. None-o-your-business what. That’s the past. I’m forgiven.)

Am I a good Christian? All I can say is, “I try.” If I said anything else, I’d be lying. I’m not worried about whether I’m going to heaven, not because I’m any better than anyone else, but because I trust God. I’m not pointing at people I think aren’t going to heaven because I DON’T KNOW.

Want to go through the narrow gate? Just go through it! Point yourself in the right direction and try not to worry. Here's how: ask God for help. If you're facing Him, you're already going the right way!

Peace, Love, Faith

Friday, September 23, 2011

Life is a Puzzle

..and we’re each given ONE piece.

How can we get the puzzle done?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Say You’re Sorry and Mean It

Remember when you were a kid, and you did something naughty to another kid? (C’mon, ‘fess up, you know you did. Especially if you have a brother or a sister.) Maybe you called her a name, like “dummy,” or “fatso.” Or maybe you (gasp) stuck out your tongue at him.

And… you... got... caught.

Then… your mom made you face that other kid (who you were still furious at) and apologize?!?!

It was horrible. After all, sticking your tongue out at that kid was perfectly justifiable. And it wasn’t that bad. Besides, saying you’re sorry is just plain humiliating. Most people would rather eat dirt.

But sometimes you just said sorry, and in ten minutes you were playing together again. And sometimes you just couldn’t do it, and you had to go to your room, or to a chair, or to a corner and “think about it.”

Doing something you’re not supposed to do: That’s sin.

Saying you’re sorry (and meaning it): That’s repentance.

Standing in the corner: Hey, you don’t have to! That’s grace!

There are, however, consequences to sins…

  • Run a red light and you might get into an accident. (Or worse, you might get a ticket.)
  • Break the law and you could go to jail.
  • Drink too much and you might get a hangover.
  • Sleep around and you could get sick.
  • Hold a grudge and you’ll become a mean old coot.

Do any of these things at your own risk. They’re dangerous, bad and naughty. That’s why they’re sins.

I have sinned, I know I’ll sin again, and God STILL forgives me.

He doesn’t make me stand in a corner, either. Once I say I’m sorry, it’s gone; like it never happened. (Oh, yeah, the consequences still hang around. If I don’t brush my teeth, God forgives me but I still get cavities!)

Know what I do, though? Sometimes I walk myself over to a corner all by myself, stand myself in a corner and FUME. “It’s not fair! I shouldn’t have to apologize! I’m better than that other person. She did it first!”

Wow. What a waste of time. Wouldn’t it be better to just apologize – and mean it – and get on with life?

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Favorite Bible Passage

So, I took the summer off. Lots to do and all that. I didn't stop thinking. I just didn't write it down.

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

What if we look at it the other way? What's less important than love?

Speaking in tongues: not so important.

Prophesy: not so important.

Knowledge: not so important.

Faith: not so important.

Giving to the poor: not so important.

Enduring hardship: not so important.

It's not that these things are unimportant, not at all! But without love, they're... all... empty. Love must be the driving force behind what you do, or you're just making noise. And if your driving force is hatred - hatred of people different from yourself, of sinners, of gays, of politicians, of Muslims... - It can't be love.

If it's not... maybe it's time to have an honest talk with God and ask him to tell you why.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Disappointed in God? Lower Your Expectations

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." 1 Corinthians 10:26

Why Did God create tsunamis and cancer and child abuse? Okay, he didn’t create them, I hear you saying. He allowed them. Same difference, if he’s all-powerful.

Why is there suffering at all? God can do anything, and he allowed Satan to have his way with the world. So here we are, stuck with natural disasters, illness, wars, and money problems. We’re stuck having to learn about him through a book that was written long ago by imperfect people who spoke in various languages and lived in various cultures. Even Christians can’t agree on what it means.

God is all-loving? Then where is he? We have to learn how to talk to him in spite of the fact that we (okay, I’ll speak for myself. I…) never actually hear his voice.

Hey, God, could you throw us a bone once in a while? You could enter a burning bush from time to time, just to let us know you’re still here. It’s been 2000 years since anyone actually touched you. That’s a long time for us humans. We’ve got pretty short attention spans.

God, if I were you, I would do such a better job! I’d start by ending all war, all hunger, and all pain. Then I’d have a good long talk with everybody. I’d explain things in plain language. No more parables. No more looking it up in the Greek. Then… I’d give the people what they want. Everyone. Everything. Why not? I’m God, and I can make it so there’s enough to go around!

Then everyone would be happy and grateful and there would be no discussion of hell; because there would be no need for hell!

Impossible? Not for me. I’m God!

Yeah. There’s fantasy, and there’s reality. The fact remains: That’s not the way it is.

I’m not saying that God can’t meet all our needs. Not at all. What I am saying is that we’ve constructed a view of God that’s unrealistic. For many of us (including me sometimes) he’s the “great genie in the sky.” He’s there to meet all our desires, whatever they are. Even though he doesn’t, we continue to believe that he does!

And that’s just not the way it is. God does not intend us to have it all, all the time, so why pretend? He does want us to be happy with what we have.

He wants us to find peace:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

and love:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

and joy:

I came that you may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance, until it overflows. John 10:10

even in this weird, crazy, imperfect world. So that’s what I’m gonna try to do.

The real world is gloriously imperfect. It’s full of rainy days, crazy in-laws, dust-bunnies, and mosquitoes.

Let’s celebrate it!

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Peace, Love, and Joy

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Like a Trust Fall into God’s Arms

This thought popped into my head this morning:

Give up your preconceived notions because they're all inadequate anyway. They’re not wrong, just inadequate. Just know this: that God loves you and he’ll catch you. That's all.

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this. Psalm 37:5

Preconceived notions, huh? I guess that means everything I’ve been taught, everything I’ve read, and everything I’ve heard. That’s a big order. But… God is bigger than all that anyway. I’ll have to think about it more, of course. It’s either an inspiration or a delusion.

I honestly don’t know if I can do it, or if I even know what it means. How do I stop striving? How do I stop worrying? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was a thought put into my head by the devil... But there I go again, striving.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

The 12 step programs put it very simply; “Let Go, Let God.” Sometimes I think they have it closer than anyone else:

Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction (or the effects of addiction) - that our lives had become unmanageable.

'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:6

You’re not supposed to move on to step two until you’ve got step one down pat. And that first step is a doozy! It’s like walking on water. It won’t help to understand the molecular structure of water. Just trust.

Step 2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:6

If you fall, God will catch you. If you don’t fall, you’ll never know.

Peace, Love, Let Go

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The End of the World, and Nothing to Wear

The end of the world is coming, according to a pastor in California. May 21st, 2001 is the beginning of the end; the rapture. That's when those who are saved will leave earth. Five months later, October 21st, 2011, is the end of the end. (For more information, read the book of Revelation in your bible. That'll clear things up.)


Am I ready? Let's see...

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

Do I love God? (Check)

"...and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27

Do I love my neighbor? (Check)

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:31-46

When I see a stranger, do I feed him and clothe him? (Well... not always. There's that creepy looking guy in the parking lot...)

Wait! there's no time!!! The judgment day is coming in two days, and after that, um, five months until, uh, it says here that the earth is exactly 11000 years old, and 7000 years after Noah's flood that... give me a minute... 4990 + 2011 = 7001, carry the one... no, subtract it...
Oh, dear. Maybe I'm not ready. The battery died in my calculator.

Okay, I have two days left. Or maybe five months. Or maybe more. Or maybe (gulp) less! After all, I could get hit by a car first.

Here's what I'm going to do from now on: I'm going to live my life exactly as I've been living it. I'll read my bible and pray, I'll help people when and where I can, I'll obey God to the best of my knowledge and ability, and I'll trust Him. Because I know He loves me.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

Yep. I'm ready. Well, as ready as I'll ever be.

Peace, Love, Hope

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Now the Good News:

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:8-11

The word "Gospel" generally refers to the first four books of the Christian New Testament. It means "good news." And I can't think of any better news than this: Even though I'm all messed-up, even though I make mistakes every day, God loves me anyway. I'm proud and happy to say "I'm with him."

Peace, Love and Hallelujah!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who Killed Jesus? I Did.

On what we now call Palm Sunday, (Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19), Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. The common folk celebrated, but the Religious officials of their day (the Pharisees) grumbled. The Romans threw them a bone; they allowed the little parade to happen.
Jesus knew what was coming. He knew how weak and how fickle His followers really were. In Luke 19:41 as Jesus approached Jerusalem, he looked at the city and wept over it, foretelling the suffering that awaited the city. But he accepted their Hosannas. He knew they were going to kill him -- They didn't even know! -- and He loved them anyway!

The Jews and the Romans were deeply divided over what to do with Jesus. To the Jews, He was supposed to be a great leader. He was suppose to make everything better… to fix the government. (And boy, it was a mess.) Some Jews wanted Him to get on with it already and take His rightful place as King. Those in leadership wanted to get rid of him ASAP. Everybody had their own opinion. Everybody had their own agenda.

Less than one week later they were united in one cause… to make sure He died.

I don’t want to be like that; so sure of myself, and so caught up in my emotions, that I crucify the very God I profess to love. I get caught up in my little agendas all the time. (At best, mine tend to relate to my “shopping list” of prayers. At worst, they relate to things I have no business in, such as my opinion of Quran-burners and whether gays should be allowed to marry.) I pray that I can set these things aside and listen to what God's agenda is:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Let’s not be united in a cause that crucifies Jesus.

Peace, love, and Hosannah.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sheep vs. Goats. Which Side Will You Be On?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

I keep trying to figure out how this passage fits with the conservative viewpoint. How can Christians slash parts of the budget that help poor people? How can they walk away from hungry people and say to themselves “I won't help them because they're lazy.”
Of course, there are different ways to help the poor. Arguably, handing cash to winos on the street won't help. It's better to give them food and shelter, and even better to help them find jobs and even rehabilitation. But this still boils down to the same thing: Help the poor.
This passage isn't unique, either. There are other passages that say to help the poor and the needy, the widows and the orphans: Deuteronomy 15:7, Luke 12:33, James 1:27 Based on what I read here, some people are going to be surprised. Some who thought they were "good Christians" are going to be caught saying "But... I thought I was doing the right thing. I championed the right political causes." And some will say, "But I never was good at preaching. All I did was volunteer in a soup kitchen."
It seems really clear to me: If you want to be "good with God," help poor people. Because if you do so, you're helping God Himself.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Am I Gonna Get Hit By Lightning?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

If I admit that I feel doubt will I get scratched out of the book of life? (Rev. 20:15) If I ask questions, do I make God mad? If I get mad at God, does he reject me?

I hope not. Because I do all those things, every day. I really don’t have any choice. Thoughts and doubts pop into my head all the time. Call them the devil if you want. That’s fine. The devil has a firm hold on this world, and I’m in this world (if not of it,) so I can’t avoid the devil. Here are a Christian's choices, as far as I see:

    1. Pretend I don’t feel doubt (Contradictions? La la la not listening!) and hide in the crowd of “happy” Christians. (They’re all happy? All the time? What’s wrong with me?)

    2. Reject a God who usually appears to be hateful or, at best, uncaring. I’ve been an agnostic, but I’ve never fully turned my back on God. I was more like a teenager who says “I hate you!” to her parents when she doesn’t get her way.

    3. Keep praying, keep listening, keep reading, keep asking questions. And, yeah, keep doubting.

I’m not sure if I’ll get the answers to those questions. I often say jokingly that when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have a looong list, though. (#1 on the list is “If You’re all-loving, [1 John 4:8] why do you allow suffering?”) Other questions, like “What were Dinosaurs doing in a 6000-year-old world?” aren’t even on my radar. So what? What does that have to do with the way I live today? I think one of the worst things we do as Christians is making up our own answers to our questions, just to make ourselves feel better. That leads to silly answers, like “dinosaur bones were put in the ground to confuse non-believers.” (WHAT? God is TRYING to lead people astray?)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
A friend of mine says, “If God can handle anything, He can handle my silly little doubts. He can handle my questions. He can even handle my temper tantrums.” The important thing is to trust Him anyway. If I feel questions arise (and I do!) I turn them over to Him. Sometimes I even get answers! God loves me and I love God. Now the important thing is to spread that love. I don’t want to just tell about it. God wants me to pass it on.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Peace, Love, Trust

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Has the Kneejerk Reaction Set In?

There’s a book that’s been causing a stir among Christians. I haven’t read it. I only saw a video, which I admit was intriguing enough that I might read it. I assume from the hoopla around “Love Wins” that Rob Bell says there's no hell. Hmmm… that’s a bit much for me. Hell is mentioned too many times in the Bible for me to dismiss it (Sheol, Hades, Gehenna) and I’m not convinced that it can be explained away.
Luke 16:22 was always the most meaningful (read: scary) to me, and it’s definitely a warning, so, no, I can’t say there’s no hell: The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ (Read the whole passage in context: Luke 16:19-31)

(Personally, I feel that God will NOT force ANYONE into hell. I believe people will go there willingly rather than submit to Him. How many people, or who they are? I have no idea.)

But I do feel that there’s too much emphasis on hell in some churches, and not enough emphasis on LOVE. Jesus talked about love and forgiveness an awful lot. He went out of his way to talk to sinners. (Some of them were real lowlifes, too.)

Jesus doesn’t WANT people in hell. He wants us to turn to him. Maybe instead of digging in their heels, Christians who have gone to the other extreme (Fear of hell as a motivator) could use this as a chance to talk. Why would a Christian write a book like this? (Kneejerk reaction: The devil got ‘im. He’s going to … well… you-know-where.)
Are there any other possible reasons? Could some Christians be doing it wrong? Could condemning people without really knowing them be an un-Christian *gasp* thing to do? Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well and offered her living water... in short, Himself. He knew she had slept around and was “shacking up” even as he spoke to her. She was a sinner. Did he say, “Well, you’re a loss. You’re going to hell.” No. He offered her living water, (she accepted!) then he sent her to tell others.

Jesus’ followers didn’t always like it when he favored “sinners” over them. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. Luke 19:7 As Christians, we shouldn’t be smug. Those of us who live righteously are not the only ones who will be in heaven. In fact, some of us may not get there at all! For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10

Let’s not be greedy and keep Jesus to our near-perfect selves. The road is narrow, yes, but everyone is allowed on it. Even “prodigal sons.” His brother wasn’t too happy either. …The older brother became angry and refused to go in. Luke 15:28 (Read it in context: Luke 15:11-32)

I’ve heard that the comment that started this whole can-of-worms was a note that read something like “Gandhi is in hell.” Does this person know that? Is it his or her place to say??? One of Gandhi's more famous sayings was, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mohandas Gandhi was turned away – turned away!!! – at the door of a church. How does that fit into your definition God’s love?

Supposedly, the last word Gandhi said after being shot was “God.” Who knows he wasn’t uttering a prayer to our Christ in his last breath? I don’t.

Peace, Love, Seek, and Knock

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's More Easy Being Green

There's a rumor out there that "green" and "Christian" don't go together. I'm here to tell you that this is wrong. Many (most?) of us feel that it's very important to care for God's world. I'm basing this very unscientific theory on conversations with friends, at home and around the internet.
It's my mission to educate myself on living "green" in any way I can.

Here are a few things I've done so far, and you can too:

Use reusable shopping bags
Buy green products (light bulbs, laundry detergent, etc.)
Bring your own cup into restaurants and coffee houses
Start a backyard garden
Don't buy things you don't need (!)
Keep your old car a while longer
Recycle (notice this is low on the list. Reduce->reuse->recycle... in that order)
If you blog, make it carbon-neutral:

co2 neutral coupons attractive shopping offers with

Click on the leaf and these good people will plant a tree for you.

This is a partial list. As you learn more, you can do more.

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."
1 Corinthians 10:26
You wouldn't trash someone else's property, would you?

Peace, Love, Trees

Friday, March 18, 2011

God, Fix My Problems!!!


Broken hearts



WHY is there suffering in the world? WHY are there earthquakes? WHY doesn’t God just come down and fix things? Clearly, He doesn’t want to. But that just sounds mean. Is God mean? The Bible says He is love. So... There must be a reason.
The fact is, we keep expecting God to be something different from what He is. The Jews expected a warrior king and got Jesus. We expect a genie and get... God. He doesn’t fix our problems for us. We live in a world of harsh realities.

I wish I had an answer. Well, I do have answers, but I wish I had a definitive, satisfying "Oh-I-get-it" answer. Actually, I just wish I had a solution!

Here's what I have:

God will bless us.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

I admit it, this is my least favorite of the beattitudes. I like the blessing part, but not the rest. From where I stand, sometimes I can't feel the blessing, and I don't like that.

God wants us to turn to Him completely.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

God wants the suffering to be gone more than we do, but WE need to change.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Matthew 23:27

It's not for us to figure out.

Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Job 38:4

Suffering is good for us. (Ouch.)

...the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Hebrews 12:6

God is in control.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1 11-12
(As for predestination: I think we were predestined to choose Him.)

We WILL understand when we come through this life.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

And that's what I'm left with. God loves me, God is in control, and I will understand later.

And then sometimes, especially when I'm praying or reading the Bible, or when I see a homeless person eating soup at my church, I get a little glimpse. A little hope. A feeling of "Oh, I get it!" I can't explain "Oh, I get it," though. Not in words. All I can do is pass it on. I can do something kind, tell someone I love them, give them a hug, donate a few dollars to earthquake relief. The best I can do is trust God and try to reduce the suffering.

That's the best answer I have.

Peace, Love, Hope