Friday, July 6, 2018
I'm 50 years old today. I am tempted to post a picture of "Sally O'Malley" from Saturday Night Live and say something funny like "And I can KICK!" But, this morning, I am thinking deeper thoughts. (Which brings to mind another SNL reference I will let pass..)
My birthday present to myself this morning was an early morning visit to the sun porch and I watched "Mr. Rogers & Me." I loved Mr. Rogers when I was a kid and now as an adult, I value his kindness, his softness, and his lessons even more than I did then.
I have been working on "ruthlessly eliminating hurry from my life" which is advice from another favorite author of mine, Dallas Willard. I am SO busy all the time, with good things, of course, but so many things that I don't have time to write or think as I would like to. When I am so busy, I don't take time to look around me and be moved or touched by something I think is beautiful, noble or sacred. Mr. Rogers said that he thinks many of the problems we have in this world today happen because people don't take time to do that. When we can't see the beautiful, noble and sacred things around us, we don't see the value of this life, so we don't treasure and value life at all. We just rush from day to day, from task to task, throwing things and people away left and right.
For example, as I sit here and type these words on my sun porch, a rain storm is brewing. I am enjoying the refreshing, cool breeze and observing the contrast in the sky from the blue and sun that was there a moment ago to the dark, brooding clouds that have covered everything. I used to love storms when I was a kid, especially sitting in the old barn on the farm, listening to the rain hitting the old tin roof and watching the storm come and go. I rarely take time to observe and enjoy things like that anymore because honestly, I am either rushing to get somewhere or have my face in my phone. I don't appreciate the beauty that is around me everyday.
I have written before about how I don't enjoy silence. I don't know why it scares or bothers me so. It seems I always have some sort of music or other noise playing around me, distracting me and pulling for my attention. What do I miss by not listening to the silence?
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 Why does God want me to be still in order to know that He is God? I believe it's because He speaks to us in the silence. With so much noise and distraction in our ears and in front of our faces every day, no wonder the world believes there is no God. They CAN'T hear Him!
Fred Rogers understood. He practiced being silent from time to time and allowed God to speak to his soul. From that understanding he said, "Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex." How true. When we give ourselves the time and the silence to go deeper into our own hearts and simply BE, we open our souls up and this allows us to see the beauty within ourselves. "Treat others the way you want to be treated" only works if you value and love yourself first. I don't mean a selfish kind of love for yourself, where you only want what you want...but truly loving and appreciating who you are. When you can do that for yourself, you can do it for others too.
My 50th birthday has been bothering me for months. Why? It's not really because of the menopause, wrinkles, gray hairs and aches and pains that have been hitting me recently. It's really because there is SO MUCH more I wanted to do with my life and I am running out of good years! I have wasted so many years trying to figure out who I wanted to be when I grow up. It has taken me 50 years to figure out that I just need to be me.
So, on this 50th birthday, instead of lamenting about getting older, I am looking forward to the next phase of my life. I will strive to fill my life with a few more silent moments and enjoy the messages that I find there. I will learn to be still and just BE. I will surround myself with people I love and invite new friends into my life as well. I will be excited for the new adventures ahead of me. There are still good times to be had! Oh, and by the way, I CAN still kick! ;-)
"Often when you think your're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." -- Fred Rogers
Thank you Mr. Rogers!
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Picture taken from: https://driversprep.com/when-you-see-deer-crossing-the-road/
She sat behind the wheel of her car with the engine running in her driveway. Her hands were on the wheel, 10 and 2, knuckles turning slightly white from the pressure.
“What if I hit a deer too?” she thought. “What if I swerve and go off the road and roll my car and die? Or, what if I hit the deer straight on and do a lot of damage to my car? I HAVE to have a car to drive to work! I don’t have enough money to get a new car and my insurance isn’t that great. Or what if I am badly injured? I HATE hospitals!”
Panic, fear, and worry had taken over her mind ever since she got the call that the third person in her immediate family had hit a deer in the last week. She considered herself a good driver, but with deer on rural roads, it didn’t matter if you were a good driver or not, damage could still be done. She had just heard a story on the radio where an insurance adjuster suggested that more accidents and injuries were caused by people swerving to miss a deer or other animal in the road. Swerving often times causes people to lose control and go off the road, possibly rolling the car. Just hitting the animal would still do damage to the car, but could avoid other, more serious consequences.
“What if I can’t think that fast and I swerve anyway and roll my car?” Anxiety and fear seemed to have her frozen in her running car, unable to back out of the driveway. “What if I swerve and hit another car? I could not only hurt myself, but someone else!”
Our “what ifs” can paralyze us, can’t they? The person in this story sounds a little overly dramatic, but we do this kind of thinking all the time. Worrying comes in all shapes and sizes, from how we are going to pay the bills, get good grades, avoid health issues, or find someone to marry, to more serious ones like weapons of mass destruction, world wars and the end of the world itself.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6:27 As usual, the wisdom of Jesus can speak to us even today. Worrying and trying to avoid the troubles that are surely going to come only gives us wrinkles and ulcers. It does nothing to stop the troubles.
Perhaps the suggestion of hitting a problem head on instead of swerving to miss it is also good advice. In the past, I have run from confrontation. I hate to upset people and have tried everything I can think of to avoid hard situations. Yes, I even worry about causing other to worry!
In hindsight though, avoiding the problem NEVER makes it go away and usually makes it worse. Like a swerving car, I tend to get myself out of control trying to avoid or fix a problem without really dealing it with it first. While Jesus said that worrying doesn’t help, he told us what to do instead.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34
So, instead of sitting paralyzed behind the wheel, afraid to pull out of the driveway, the woman in the story above should just say a little prayer, let go of the worry and the “what ifs,” hit the accelerator and drive on down the road.
There will always be deer on the road. There will always be trouble. Trusting God to take care of you is hard, but it is better than letting worry paralyze you. Trusting can bring you peace.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Why are so many people upset right now? Why are friends and relatives shouting hate at each other on social media, the same place where they share joy, vacation and kid pics with each other? This world and this country is a mess right now...because nobody is listening.
No one is listening but we are all talking, yelling, and cursing at each other.
The spirit of the Lord moved me to speak this morning, because I am listening and I hear all the hurt behind the yelling. Will you listen?
Last night, I had dinner with a friend. We have very different opinions on a lot of things, including the whole NFL kneeling thing. We spent a couple of hours talking and listening to each other's perspective. We didn't yell. We didn't call each other names. We probably didn't change each other's minds on how we think about these issues, but at least we now UNDERSTAND each other's perspectives a little better and can have a little bit of empathy for someone besides ourselves.
Listen up, America.
Why are those NFL players (and other athletes all over the country) kneeling? Have you talked to them? Have you listened to their interviews WITH AN OPEN MIND, to understand what is motivating them to protest in this very public and provoking manner? Or, do you only see what they are doing, disrespecting the flag and the country you love?
I did some reading, some listening and some research. Kaepernick knelt to protest the fact the black people...no matter who they are, where they live, their educational background, their socio-economic level...fear for their lives just driving down the road. While I can sympathize, I cannot empathize and really understand this fear because I am not a black person. I can drive in almost any neighborhood in this country without fear. I also can sympathize with most law enforcement officers, who just want to stop the violence and drugs that put all of our citizens in danger. There is a problem in our country. There IS racism in our country. There IS racism in my own hometown. The legal and judicial systems in this country are broken. If you doubt this, look at the statistics of who is incarcerated in our prisons. THAT'S what Kaepernick was kneeling for. He wanted to use his very public platform. His job gets him on national TV, which gives him that platform to call attention to the broken system.
His protest did get attention and publicity. People were talking. People all over the country were talking about how this privileged, black, wealthy NFL player took a knee during our national anthem. It was bold, it WAS disrespectful, but it got people talking. However, instead of listening to his plea for attention so we can FIX what's broken in our systems, we are only hearing and caring about the disrespect. This citizen of the United States of America is hurt and disappointed by what is going on in his country. What can HE do about it? He protested.
I have also been reading about the American Revolution lately. Why did these colonists fight for their independence? They fought partly so they could have the right to speak, believe and stand up for the things that were important to them, WITHOUT the fear of death or prison for speaking out against their rulers. We WON that revolution and I know that I can say what I believe without the fear of death or imprisonment.
Listen up, America.
Some of your citizens are hurting. Like the beaten man in the story of the good Samaritan in the Bible, some of our citizens are laying on the side of the road, bleeding and dying. They are doing what they can to get the attention of their neighbors, asking for help. Instead of passing by on the other side of the street and ignoring the problem, or hating them for speaking up and asking for help, we need to listen to how they are hurting. TALK to one another and work toward fixing the broken systems in this country. It will be very hard work. We will not agree. Instead of yelling and screaming at each other about the protest, let's listen to WHY they are protesting and do something about it. Calling someone a son-of-a-bitch for speaking out about what's wrong with the country is NOT solving the problem. It is only igniting more hatred, fear and making the broken parts of this great country worse.
Kaepernick and the other NFL players showed disrespect to the symbols of their country for a reason. It was drastic. It was irritating. It was disturbing. People ARE talking...LISTEN. Be brave and feel their pain. Work together to solve the hard problems.
The Spirit of the Lord is there...speaking through the hurting. Are you listening? If you hear and work with him, God WILL bring us freedom.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Spending a cool, bright summer morning reading the red letter words of Jesus has been such a blessing to me today! I began reading chapter 7 of the Red Letter Revolution book, and one of the first things I read was the question, can any two of us have the same image of God and know who it is that we believe? Where do we get our own idea of who God is? The author, Tony Campolo, suggests that we look to Jesus, as He was the fullness of God. So, I went to Matthew, chapters 5-7, which is His sermon on the mount. Jesus had a LOT to say, and since He is the fullness of God, we can learn a lot about the the heart of God by listening to those red words.
I went even a little bit further, and I turned on the audio of my Bible app on my phone, so I could feel as though I was listening to Jesus speaking. Now, I realize that Jesus didn't speak in English, and this may be part of my overactive imagination, but in my mind I was sitting on that hillside with my legs drawn under me, hanging on each word my Savior was speaking.
Jesus spoke a lot about how we are to treat others, and He also gives us consequences for our actions, both positive and negative. I believe He was doing this, lovingly teaching us, so that we can have a better life here on earth, as well as in heaven. A parent lovingly teaches a child the ways to act so that they can prepare the child for life when they grow up and leave the protection of the home. Our Heavenly Father wants to prepare us as well. Jesus gave us stories and ways to understand what He was saying, so that we could relate to what He was saying.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) This golden rule prepares us for every relationship we can possible have.
Chapter 7 of the Red Letter Revolution is a dialog about Islam. I was anxious to read this chapter, as I know several people who have strong feelings about how we are to treat and deal with Muslims. Because of the war and the other consequences of the terrorism attack of 9/11, there is much fear and hatred for Muslims, even in our Christian communities. I also have some friends from college who are Muslim, and I have always known them to be kind, gentle and peaceful, nothing like the picture of the terrorists I see in the media. The words of both authors in this chapter touched me deeply. Shane Claiborne tells of experiences he had while in Iraq, experiences that showed him that the core beliefs of Islam and the core beliefs of Christianity are really not that far apart. There were Muslims who risked their lives to protect this Christian person visiting this strange country. This showed me that perhaps the red letters of the golden rule are not just for Christians to follow. Perhaps the heart of Jesus and His teachings lives in the hearts of people who many not even know him.
We fear what we don't understand. We rely on our own understanding of our beliefs. We seem to need to know who's in and who's out, in regard to heaven and our salvation. In our Christian belief, we know that Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him." (John 14:6) This verse has given me such peace and comfort, for because of it I know who I am, to whom I belong and where I am going. For many, though, this verse provides the weapon to keep others out of heaven. If you don't know Jesus, you won't go to heaven. Period. Who's to say, though, that God, who is more powerful than we can ever imagine, is not powerful enough to show Jesus to those who don't know Him, even without a human being there to lead them to Him? Could Jesus be working in the hearts of Muslims, even as they read the words of the Koran? Perhaps there are people who are becoming Christians without yet calling themselves Christians. I don't understand how this could be possible, but it doesn't mean it couldn't happen.
On the chance that it COULD happen, and Jesus teaches me to treat and love others the way I would want to be loved and treated...perhaps I should respect and show love to others who believe differently than I.
Tony Campolo ends Chapter 7 with these words, which sound like a wonderful prayer to me: "We can pray that the Spirit continues to draw us all - Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Atheist, and Christians - closer to God and all things that matter to Him."
Friday, August 4, 2017
At my library, there is a beautiful statue of St. Francis. It stands in a small room on the main floor and has scared me out of my wits when I thought it was a person standing there. I am not Catholic, and do not know very much about the man or the saint. Today, however, I am intrigued and touched by his words.
Francis of Assisi lived in a time of turmoil, much like today. In the culture of his time, there was a great gap between the very wealthy and the very poor and Christians and Muslims were warring with each other in dramatic battles and hatred was rampant. Francis longed to do something that would make a difference and heal the hate and hurt. He studied the words of Jesus, and actually took those words seriously. He gave up every possession he had and gave to anyone who was in need. He spoke out and wrote poetry and tried to make the world understand that in order to change the world, we have to love others and love the world we live in.
Francis wasn't some hippie shouting "make love, not war,' he was on a mission from God. He heard God whispering to him to repair His church, which was in ruins. All he did with his life from that point on was to obey his heavenly Father. He left a legacy many years ago that you and I can pick up and continue today, by studying those red words of Jesus and putting them in practice every day.
What does that mean? Love.
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." John 15:12
"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;" Matthew 25:35
"YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Matthew 22:39
St. Francis' prayer so many years ago is so very relevant today. May we all be instruments of His peace and do what we can to repair the church and the world, today and every day.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
-- St. Francis of Assisi
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Chapters 2 & 3 of Red Letter Revolution (Claiborne and Campolo) have moved me to tears! At last! I feel like someone actually understands the things in my head and my heart! These two chapters were about the church and living in community. It made me think of my own family and church experience.
When I was in elementary school, something happened to my parents at the church we attended. The result of this event caused my father, who had been a leader in our church, to lose faith in the church. He left and never stepped foot in a church again until my wedding day when he walked me down the isle. He adamantly still believed in God, but he felt that the church was full of hypocrites only out for "the almighty dollar," and felt he could worship God just as well as he was driving the tractor or feeding the sheep. He felt this way until the day he died, which was way too early at the age of 46.
My mother, however, felt it was still important for their children to go to church and learn about Jesus as she and my dad had, in Sunday school. So, she took my brother and me to a different church, where we finished growing up and where I had a firm foundation of the love of God and the loving and saving grace of Jesus placed in my heart that has stayed with me all my life.
But, even though my faith has stayed with me, I have had many times when I questioned the church, no matter which church I was attending. Even today, I question God almost daily. I don't doubt Him or not believe in Him, but I question things that don't make sense to me. Many times, I don't get answers to my questions, and sometimes I still feel frustrated, but my questioning has also brought me closer to God. I look at this world and my heart hurts. There is so much pain, so many broken hearts, so much hate and violence. I want to do more to ease the hurt for others around me.
My dad felt the church was too full of hypocrites, and many young people I meet today feel the same way and don't want anything to do with church. In some of those red letters, in Matthew Chapter 23, Jesus talked about hypocrisy. He explained that many leaders and teachers of the word were too wrapped up in themselves, preaching the right way to go, but not doing it themselves. He called them on it as well, in a most forceful and emphatic manner, in fact. On top of calling them hypocrites, he calls them fools, blind guides, snakes, and a brood of vipers. WOW! This gentle Son of God spoke some serious words to these leaders!
A new church that was started in the name of Jesus, after his death - the church we read about in Acts - was the beginning of what I believe God saw as what he wanted for his people. People living in community, helping each other, lifting each other up, sharing what they had and living and doing life together in the name of Jesus. It started out well, but as is our human nature to do, they messed it up. As history shows us, many horrendous and despicable things have been done in the name of Jesus, and "the church" is really nothing like the first church we see in Acts. Today, many churches strive to be Acts churches, but still many people around the world have left the church behind them.
While I also get fed up from time to time with the hypocritical things I see in churches and Christians today, I also know that I am a hypocrite as well. As Paul says in Romans, 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I WANT to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do." I find myself doing the things I hate! Instead of filling up self-loathing about this behavior, however, talking to some of my trusted friends from church has always helped me, for they too find themselves doing the same thing.
Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." The church needs to be a place where we are honest about our hypocrisy We need to EMBRACE those red words and embrace each other in our hypocrisy. If we are honest with each other, we CAN live in harmony in our faith communities. As he was preparing to leave this earth, Jesus prayed for his disciples and prayed that "they may as one as we are one." That we, as disciples of Christ, could be like the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three different entities, living as one in heart and mind.
I know my dad's heart was broken over the hurt he felt in the situation that happened to him in his church. He felt he was better off worshiping on his own. I know of so many other people who have felt broken hearted or lost because of hurt they experienced at church. What they don't see is that we NEED each other, hypocrisy, warts and all, to truly live and experience the wonder of Christ's love for us.
I long to see a red letter revolution of people who live out the words of Jesus and embrace each others failures, sins and trials instead of judging them and making them feel they do not belong in church because of the things they do. Instead of reminding people they are going to hell for doing things God tells them not to, SHOW THEM the loving and forgiving grace of Jesus. How are people who are sinning (EVERY ONE OF US!) going to find Jesus' grace if they feel they aren't worthy of even walking through our church doors?
I know I NEED my community off fellow hypocrites around me, who honestly and lovingly help me through life, even when I mess up. I'll let God worry about the sin and I will just show people His love. What if each of us did that every day?
Saturday, July 29, 2017
I have been a follower of Jesus my whole life. I don't even have one of those amazing stories to tell about my salvation moment, because I can't remember a time when I didn't know Jesus. Thank you Mom and Dad for making my faith a priority in my upbringing! Now, there have been times in my life when I didn't make Jesus a priority in my life and even times when I ran away from Him. There have been more times when I just didn't feel that close to him. However, I can tell you that I have always felt He was with me and I thank God for that fact.
Now, before you think I am just one of those "Jesus freaks" out to hound you about being saved and judging you for how you live and don't know Jesus, that is NOT me! While I am not opposed to the term "Jesus freak" and I am not ashamed of my relationship with Jesus, I am NOT going to judge you at all. Jesus himself said, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." As a matter of fact, the words of Jesus are why I am writing today.
A friend of mine has loaned me her copy of the book Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo and I have just finished the first chapter. While it is not yet telling me anything I didn't already know, oh man! It is re-awakening a fire inside of me! If you know anything about Bibles, you know that in most modern Bibles, the words of Jesus in the New Testament are written in red, so they are distinguished from all the other words. Years ago, I read a book that I KNOW was titled Written in Red, but I haven't been able to find that book when I have looked for it. I remember being moved by it as well.
I have TRIED to live my life the way Jesus lived his, loving others, treating others the way I want to be treated, helping the poor and the oppressed, telling others about my faith in God. While I don't even come CLOSE, that is the life I aspire to because those red words have always been so important to me. I have written in this blog many times that if only EVERYONE in this world lived a little more in the red, we would have a better and more peaceful world.
Jesus made us a promise in those red words, that when He left this world, He was giving us HIS peace. He tells us not to be troubled and not to be afraid. Imagine what things we could do if we weren't worried and afraid all the time!
I am excited to read more of this book and learn and be inspired to find more ways to live out the red words. Even though I haven't been writing much in this blog, it is my goal in the next coming weeks to read and share my thoughts with you here. Perhaps we really CAN start a red letter revolution in our world!
Peace to you all today!