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