Jesus, life

With God as our Father.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Remember when we were allowed to sing songs like that in school?

My tone-deaf, little elementary school heart would sing every word with gusto.

I thought back to those tender days this morning, curled up on my sofa with the first snow of the season falling, scrolling facebook with one hand and holding a hot cup of coffee (cream, cinnamon and the slightest drizzle of maple syrup) in the other.

Someone posted this:

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I smiled.

Hard to do when they are in your face, I thought as I scrolled by, but amen.

Then came this, posted by the same woman:

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And I smiled at her second offering of peace and goodwill.

Yes, I thought, it’s not a matter of whether you are a democrat or a republican, it’s not a matter of how you voted, it’s a matter of whether or not you have the love of God in your heart. People in each camp do, people in each camp don’t.

And then my heart grew heavy.

“Nope. None of that,” her own daughter wrote. “Racist, misogynist or xenophobe, and/or vote for people who are intolerant of diversity? I don’t need you in my life. I especially don’t need you in my children’s lives. I will not normalize intolerance. Hate does not get a seat at the table.”

Wait, where’s your tolerance for diversity of opinion?

Isn’t normalizing intolerance exactly what you’re doing, exactly what you’re modeling for your children?

Does this mean your mom doesn’t get a seat at your table?

It sounds like she hates her mom, who likely didn’t vote as she did.

Yet I know her mom would not deny her a seat at her table.

Which brought my thoughts back to Mother Teresa.

I felt achingly sad:

For the mom whose Shalom and was met with anger.

For me.

For all of us.

I kept scrolling.

Another lovely woman posted this:

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Lots of people are getting an “F” these days.

I’m not getting an “F”,” I can hear you huff, “because mine is the morally superior view.”

It’s not about views, it’s about behavior.

It’s about a lack of respect for others; it’s about hate for those you deem morally inferior; it’s about the unforgiveness you harbor in your heart.  There’s no “A” in that.

Resist the urge to tell me about anyone else’s heart (which you cannot possibly know), and exam yours.  Take the log out of your eye so you can see clearly.

Loving your enemy is the high road.  That’s where love travels.

There is no love in prideful claims of moral superiority.

There is no peace in them either.

I would love for there to be peace on earth, and there will be.

But first there will be increasing strife.

In telling His disciples about the end times, Jesus said:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:12

I would love for it to begin with me, but it won’t, it didn’t.

It began with a humble birth in a barn and it ended with a humble death on a cross.

Jesus won our peace – quietly, humbly, respectfully.

As I was pondering all this, my heart grew much heavier.

My daughter called.

She didn’t want me to be alarmed if I checked “Find My Friends” and saw her at the hospital.

She left work and was on her way there because someone close to her attempted suicide this morning, is on life support and is not expected to make it.

I hung up the phone and sobbed.

The ache in my heart became almost unbearable.

There are people who are hurting so much that they attempt to take their own lives and there are people huddled in hospital waiting rooms with broken hearts and there are people who take their morally superior attitudes online and post angry comments.

Shalom.

I recently learned a richer meaning of the word “shalom”.   It’s more than an absence of hostility, it’s a state of wellness.  In A Life Beyond Amazing, Dr. David Jeremiah wrote, “Its basic meaning is ‘to be whole, or safe, or sound.’ Shalom designates a condition in which life can best be lived. It is the concept of integrity; body, soul and spirit are in alignment. In shalom, you have more than the absence of hostility. You have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Oh that we would all have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Ever since I read that definition, I’ve been praying shalom over everything – the election, Dixie’s belly…

Just now I am praying shalom over the young man on life support: a miraculous recovery, solid ground going forward, wellness of body, soul and spirit.

I’m praying safe and sound over his shattered parents, siblings, children and all who love him. I’m asking for the peace that is beyond our understanding; that seems so impossible at times like these.

I’m praying shalom over my own heavy heart.

I’m praying His kingdom come, His will be done here on this messed up earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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life

Public Opinion

I took a YouGov survey this morning. The first several questions dealt with sexual harassment in general. The next few dealt with the specific allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

One question asked whether or not he did what he was accused of doing.

I immediately ruled out the choices at both ends of the spectrum – “He definitely did it” and “He definitely did not do it.”

I wasn’t actually there so there is no way I could be definite one way or the other.

There’s no way anyone could.

I might not even be able to be definite if I were there, given that alcohol was involved and memories – especially old memories – are unreliable. Just ask any group of adult siblings how things went down in their family when they were growing up.

So, just as I always toss out options that include the words “always” and “never” when taking a test,  I tossed out “definitely did” and “definitely did not.”

That left me with “probably did” and “probably did not.”

In considering those choices I had nothing to go on but the testimony I heard, my life experience and my knowledge of human nature.

Regular people, I discovered young, aren’t above invoking political slander.

I was at a party in a cool apartment above a hip restaurant across from the campus of the university I was attending when I came face to face with this reality.  The party was a gathering of those of us who worked on the campus newspaper.

I was standing near the kitchen when Keith, the host of the party, walked by.

“Here,” he said, handing me his joint, “hold this while I answer the door.”

Before I could respond, the joint was in my hand and someone was snapping a picture of me. I think it was Mark Somebody.

“Now you can never run for anything,” he said.

I looked at him dumfounded. “You know I don’t smoke,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter,” he shrugged.

My fellow SNOOZER (State News-er) was willing to lie about me at some point in my future.  A budding journalist was willing to lie and I was aghast.

Any honest person will admit that political slander has happened on both sides, case in point: the swiftboating of John Kerry.

People will lie and exploit the vulnerable to promote a political agenda.

Just ask Sarah Weddington.

“The ends justify the means,” they say.

People lie to make themselves appear more sympathetic.

Just ask Norma McCorvey (when you get to heaven).

God rest her soul.

The Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion was steeped in a lie.

So my life experience tells me that people do lie, even under oath, even when its supremely important.

And the Bible backs up my life experience.

Otherwise there would have been no need for God to make His ninth commandment.

(I’m assuming you know it.)

Judge a tree by its fruit.

That’s what Jesus said.

So I took a minute before choosing my answer to look at Judge Kavanaugh’s fruit.

I considered the testimony of friends and former female clerks in his court, how they said he always acted professionally and treated them with respect.

I thought about his young daughter suggesting to her sister that they “pray for the woman” and I thought about the idiom that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, since we are talking about fruit.

Redemption.

I thought about rookie mistakes, growth, maturity, and redemption.

I dated a boy in high school who broke up with me because I wouldn’t have sex with him.   I ran into him at a party several months later.  In his drunkenness, he tried hard to take advantage of me.

I know nothing about his life now, but if I learned that for the last 40 years he has been a fine man with fine children and a fine reputation, I would believe it and rejoice that he outgrew his youthful foolishness. I’d chalk his high school behavior up to a rookie mistake – to a young man trying to measure up to society’s definition of being a man just as I chalk my own high school stupidity up to me trying to measure up to society’s definition of what it meant to be a woman.

But I wouldn’t give the same benefit of the doubt to the 30-year-old high school teacher who molested me.

Unless he gave one heck of a God-glorifying testimony.

And had one heck of a bushel of good fruit.

So, did Justice Kavanaugh do the things he was alleged to have done?

I checked the box for “Probably not.”

But after listening to the heartwarming speech President Trump made just before Justice Kavanaugh was publicly sworn in – the speech in which he said to Justice Kavanaugh something along the lines of, “Under a historic amount of scrutiny, you were found innocent.” – I realized that I’m an idiot.

And I wish I could go back and change my answer to “Definitely did not do it.”

Because that’s what the presumption of innocence is all about.

I can presume someone is definitely innocent – even if I wasn’t there – unless and until the evidence proves them guilty.

Thank God for that.

God bless you Justice Kavanaugh.

 

 

 

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Jesus didn’t involve Himself in politics when He lived among us and that’s one of the things I love about Him.

His people wanted and expected their Messiah to be their champion, to render powerless any political authority over them.  And since Jesus had no interest in politics, He was disqualified and rejected.

And so with the intention of entangling Jesus in His words – a political strategy still in use today – those who rejected Him sent a delegation to ask: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Jesus answered, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.”

So they brought him a denarius.

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?” He asked.

“Caesar’s,”  they answered.

“So render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.  (Matthew 22)

Let’s marvel at the little phrase, “and you do not care about anyone’s opinion,” because it’s one of the things I love about Him.  He didn’t care about being politically correct or about being popular. He knew who He was, He knew His mission and He knew the truth.

His mission had nothing to do with politics and power.

Case in point: James and John. They wanted to sit at Jesus’ right and left in glory, so they asked if they could.

When the other ten heard about their bid for power, they became indignant with James and John.

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It’s not about power and prestige, it’s about heaven.

Jesus sent a bunch of guys (72) out ahead of Him to every town to which He was about to go. “I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves,” He said. He sent them with the authority to bring peace and healing to households.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

That’s His mission – not to defeat political, or even spiritual, enemies – but to write names in heaven.

So I cringed a little, one recent Sunday, when I passed this sign on my way in to worship:

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Not because I disagree with it but because it’s political.  And Jesus wasn’t.

I want people of all nationalities to feel welcome everywhere.

But the sign, in typical political fashion, oversimplifies the issue.

It’s not about where a person is from, it’s about how a person behaves.

I decided to ignore the political implications and embrace the sign at face value. I began to hum along with Mr. Rogers each week as I approached it.

“Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?”

And then last Sunday our pastor announced that the sign was found tossed in the bushes.

And a message had been spray painted on the back of the church.

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And I wondered two things:

1. What does the sign have to do with worshiping devils?

2. Are we glad our paint-can-wielding neighbor is our neighbor?

I wondered whether we should put up another sign, spray painted in the parlance of the perp, “No matter how you express yourself – as long as you do so legally, peacefully and respectfully – we’re glad you’re our neighbor.

Because the issue is, after all, behavior.

As the pastor set the Eucharist table he said all are welcome – even our graffiti spraying neighbor.

That’s what I like about him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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life

Tell the Truth (and be of noble character).

The hub and I watched Concussion last night.

 

And all I can say is this country needs more meddlers like Dr. Bennet Omalu.

And more whistleblowers like Dr. Julian Bailes.

And the church needs more Bereans like me.

Because everything these days is political.

And political correctness reigns supreme.

Even, at times, in the pulpit.

Call it the gift of discernment, but a whopping red flag went up recently as I was listening to a sermon.

The pastor slightly edited God’s promise to Abram from “I will make you a great nation” to “I will make you into many nations.”

From singular to plural, from great to many.

The Holy Spirit dropped a flag on the play.

Wait, we can’t quote God accurately anymore because Donald Trump uses the phrase “Make America great”?

Because it is politically incorrect to be a great nation?

Like every good Berean, I picked up that flag and double checked the Scriptures.

The Hebrew word translated “great” is gadowl (gä·dōle’). (Strong’s H1419)

The KJV translates Strong’s H1419 in the following manner: great (397x), high (22x), greater (19x), loud (9x), greatest (9x), elder (8x), great man (8x), mighty (7x), eldest (6x), miscellaneous (44x).

And defines it as:

  • large (in magnitude and extent)

  • in number

  • in intensity

  • loud (in sound)

  • older (in age)

  • in importance

    1. important things
    2. great, distinguished (of men)
    3. God Himself (of God)
  • great things
  • haughty things

  • greatness

It is from the root word gadal (gä·dal’). (Strong’s H1431)

The KJV translates Strong’s H1431 in the following manner: magnify (32x), great (26x), grow (14x), nourish up (7x), grow up (6x), greater (5x), miscellaneous (25x).

  1. to grow, become great or important, promote, make powerful, praise, magnify, do great things

    1. (Qal)

      1. to grow up
      2. to become great
      3. to be magnified
    2. (Piel)

      1. to cause to grow
      2. to make great, powerful

      3. to magnify

    3. (Pual) to be brought up

    4. (Hiphil)

      1. to make great

      2. to magnify

      3. to do great things

    5. (Hithpael) to magnify oneself

Neither the Hebrew word, nor the root word from which it is derived has “many” among its uses or definitions.

Nourish, increase in number and importance, cause to flourish and do great things, yes.

Yes, He did.

Make into many nations?

No. He didn’t say that.

I checked an online Septuagint, which opened a whole new can of worms – a can which did not include Abram being made into many nations.

The words those 70 chose in their translation were more along the lines of putting Abram in the midst of a great people.

The Septuagint isn’t afraid of saying “great.”

All I’m saying, my fellow Christians, is that we need to know the Scriptures in these politically correct times.

So we can check for additives and PMOs (Politically Modified Obfuscations) before we take any old bread our priests and pastors are offering.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11

#don’tmeddlewiththeScriptures

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What to Wear?

I always wear black when I go to the movies.

So I’ll be harder to see.

As soon as I sit down I locate the nearest exit.

And then I devise the safest route for shimmying under the seats toward it.

I always wear pockets when I take my dogs for a walk.

Because I need a place for my phone.

In case I, or one of them, sprains an ankle and I need to call for help.

Or in case one of them looks adorable or the sky is gorgeous or we come upon something interesting or peculiar and I want to take a picture.

But mostly I always bring it in case we come upon someone peculiar.

And I have a plan:

  • Snap a picture of him if it looks like he’s going to attack me.
  • Tell him the picture has been instantaneously sent to icloud.
  • Tell him even if he disposes of my phone, his face is already on my laptop and ipad.
  • Tell him my family and the police WILL see it.

So he better just leave.

Now I have to figure out what to wear to softball practice.

If I should ever go to softball practice.

Because the world has gone dangerously mad.

Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition and I blame the hate mongers.

Remember Bill Penzey, president of Penzey Spices?

Remember the wretched e-mail he sent me last November?

Well, I wonder whether the shooting of Republican congressmen during practice for a charity softball game is what he meant by President Trump’s election unleashing “a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades.”

I wonder whether he would admit that his self-righteous rant, along with a host of self-righteous celebrity rants, may have incited Wednesday’s violence.

Really hoping we stop this dangerous game of partisan radicalization.

Before we all need a whole new wardrobe.

 

 

 

 

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Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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We Don’t Need No Nitpickin’

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I have a friend who works at the Cru HQ in Orlando. This morning he shared this on Facebook:

“Donna and I saw a pre-screening of [“The Shack”] last night (in theaters March 3). It was emotionally powerful and well-acted all around. I pray it becomes a fantastic God conversation-starter for a very long time!”

Good prayer. Great desire.

One of the brethren immediately chided him:

“That book was a theological disaster. I encourage you to read Tim Challies review before recommending the book or movie to anyone.”

He provided a link to that review.

We don’t need no theological nitpickin’.

Half of this country is in a frenzy of fear because they don’t know and/or trust God.

Right before the election, many, many, just about all of my Christian Facebook friends – Republicans and Democrats alike – posted something like this: “No matter who is in the White House, God is on the throne.”

After the election, those who hold that truth did not gloat or panic.

Those who don’t hold that truth did.

In the midst of this fear-filled frenzy, we don’t need no stinkin’ nitpickin’.

The book is a NOVEL.

Since when do novels have to have every theological i and every theological t dotted and crossed correctly?

And by whose theological standards must they be dotted and crossed?

The novel beautifully portrays the caring heart of God.

Who wouldn’t want the caring heart of God portrayed in theaters for all to see?

Fifty percent of this fear-filled country NEEDS it.

Purists.

When Campus Crusade for Christ changed its name to Cru back in 2011, the purist accused them of bowing to political correctness, of being ashamed of Christ’s name. HQ received angry phone calls, critics took to social media.

You can read about it here.

Back when Amy Grant released a pop album – one in which every single song wasn’t overtly about Jesus, or Christianity, the purists dropped her from their playlists. She was selling out, ashamed of the gospel.

OR

She was trying to reach a wider audience WITH the gospel.

Christian Purists:

Take the straight jacket off the Truth already.

Stop loading the gospel down with burdens it’s not intended to carry.

Stop guarding the truth so heavily that no one can penetrate it.

People need to come into the safe arms of Jesus and you – however loyal you think are being – might be standing in their way.

They will know we are Christians by our L.O.V.E. LOVE.

And they just might know God cares by our “theologically disastrous” songs and books and movies.

Just as the first Christians knew Jesus was the Son of God by His theologically disastrous teachings and Sabbath healings.

 

 

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