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Suddenly

When I used to hunt white-tail deer in Alabama it always started off early in the morning.  Long before the sun would rise I would trudged through the cold wet forest find my stand and climb up as high as my body would allow.  Then I would sit in silence in the dark.  The forest would be still for a good hour and a half.  No sounimg_1480d but the wind in the trees or the dew falling on the leaves below.  But suddenly, just before dawn, as the sky began to turn from inky black to a grey, the world would begin to come alive.  Birds would chirp, squirrels would chatter, and crows would caw.  Life began to move.  Jon Foreman describes the sunrise from the west coast as a moment where the rest of the sky is waiting to fall in love(my paraphrase).  It is a sudden moment.  What once was black and void becomes illuminated in a wash of light that penetrates the shadows with an unknowable force.  One of the reasons I don’t hunt anymore is that I just don’t like to be cold.  I love being outside, and I love nature, but I dread being cold.  Sitting in a tree, shivering in the dark just has lost its appeal to me.  I guess also I would rather view the wildlife than kill it too.  But I digress.  I would sit and shiver waiting and longing ever so much for the sun’s rays to hit me and warm me up.  Its such an odd thing for the light to stream through the trees in beams of radiant gold that you can feel on your face, like a warm hand cupping your cheek.

We put a good deal of stock in the end of the year celebrations.  Generally we give the biggest gifts at Christmas.  We make the boldest plans at New Years.  The trick is that perhaps the focus is a bit lopsided.  If we give so much focus to the end and the beginning, where is the in between?  What are we doing in the middle?  The response might be that you simply maintain.  That you go through life and make sure that one day goes through much like the one before it.  No real change, no real movement, just a cog in the machine of what has been created around you.  That doesn’t sound very much like a life that has much going for it.  In fact it sounds very much like the very definition of stuck in a rut.  On the whole, 2016 certainly seemed to be a year of yuck.  There was a ridiculous amount of turmoil both at home and abroad.  Even more locally there has been a good deal of just upheaval.  There are at least two generations who are trying to figure out how to take over for the outgoing generation.  One is bitter, the other completely inept at handling adversity, both missed out on something in their adolescence.  So where does that leave us?  It leaves us at suddenly.

The rising sun will come to us from Heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death.  Luke 1:78-79.  We are left at suddenly when we come to the realization that there has been no movement because we have all been walking around blind and cold.  It is the same concept of slowly getting sick and then having medicine make you feel better much faster.  You never realized just how sick you were until, suddenly, you were better.  This past year we have been in a bad place as a society.  We have been cold and in the dark.  It is time that the suddenness of the dawn reaches us…rather, that it be allowed to reach us.  The reaction to sudden light is to shrink away, to even feel physical pain.  But we need to allow ourselves to be warmed and healed.

My prayer for you this New Year is that you allow suddenly into your life.  That suddenly you find healing, suddenly you find forgiveness and forgive.  Life cannot begin to move until suddenly things have changed.  No more ruts, no more merely making it through.  Rather, making it move, making it change, making it better, and making more of what has been given to us.

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Her Daddy Wears Blue

Her Daddy Wears Blue

There is a little girl I know.  She has the cutest pigtails and smile that you have ever seen.  She doesn’t walk, she skips, she dances, and she moves through life like she is always bathed in sunshine.  It is her-daddy-wears-blueimpossible not to smile when you see her go by with her family.  She is so loved, so protected, so safe, just like every child deserves to be.  Just the way I want my child.  Every child needs to be protected, to be safe, to be loved.  There is no human life ever born that does not deserve such a thing.  Yet, this world is on a descent into something darker, and it scares me.  It is not an election that scares me.  It is not a social movement or a political agenda that scares me.  What scares me is an attitude shift in our culture, a devaluing of human life, a sense that lives are being boiled down to mere color or station.  It is a sickening sense that we are beginning to slowly forget what it means to be human.  The darkness creeps just at the edge of sight where once it was an invisible piece of this world only talked about in hushed whispers and R-rated movies.

The thoughts that come along with this creeping darkness continually go back to the children.  Are we allowing the sunshine in their lives to be snuffed out.  Are the youth of our culture growing up in a shadowy forrest with nothing good being presented to them.  Children are innocent of these problems…used to be innocent of these problems.  No longer.  We have connected everything in our lives to an information system that lacks a filter.  We have allowed attitudes and lifestyles to infiltrate the safety that once was childhood.

In a box, in my home, is a cardboard cutout from my son’s preschool days.  It has the words “What My Daddy Wears” written in permanent marker on a paper neck tie.  On the back are the dictated words of a four year old pontificating on his father’s profession.  For all of his four years he had a pretty clear view in his mind of what that was.  “Takes Pictures” was what he dictated.  It was accurate.  He was confident in that assessment of his father’s employment.  It was a stable point in his mind.  There was no fear associated with it.

The little girl, however; she does not share that same point of view.  In her young mind there is a different place.  Her daddy does not “take pictures”.  He wears blue.  On his belt is a cell phone, like many other fathers.  But also on that belt is a gun, a taser, wrist restraints, a baton, a radio, extra magazines and batteries. His business suit is a chest protector of strengthened Kevlar and various other attachments.  When he leaves for the evenings she knows, in her very young mind she knows, he is going to do something dangerous.

On Monday night in our small community a very troubled young man took it upon himself to break the law and fire upon two officers.  The happy ending is that these men lived and will recover… physically.  But for several hours the community held their collective heartbeats.  As anxious as my home was during the manhunt, I cannot fathom what was going through the home of this little girl.  Her daddy was out there, chasing a man with a gun, running in the dark, all the while wearing blue.  Hours after the man was caught and placed in a cell, her daddy came home.

When I go home to my family, I go home mentally tired but no worse for wear.  When her daddy come homes he is bruised, he is cut, he is sore.  That is of little matter though, because he is home.  That is where daddy’s belong at the end of the day.  They belong home.  We need to do more as a society and a culture to make sure that they make it home.  It is time that every single one of us took stock of our lives and found value.  It is time that we see every human life as valuable, and not with a social media movement, but with real action.

Her daddy wears blue, other daddy’s wear suits, or uniforms of different colors, or regular clothes.  In the end the color of our clothes and our skin is of little matter.  There is no value in the prism of colored light.  Darkness only flees from all the colors together making themselves visible.  Value is in the light itself.  Value is in the life that God breathed into every soul.  The soul has no color, it wears only a raiment of fallen creation.  Inside is where it shines.  It is time we let the light out, and stopped dividing it into so many variations.  We are all God’s creatures, and its time we all shined against this darkness.  It is time every child was able to walk around like they are bathed in sunshine, happy, safe, protected, innocent, and loved.

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What’s Done In The Dark

It is quite difficult to watch the news anymore.  You can’t even read did anymore either.  Everywhere we look there is a vast amount of opinion floating around exposing what is said to be story.  It doesn’t matter what veracity the moment has.  If someone deems that it fits their own political or social agenda then it is wrapped up nicely, packaged in shiny trappings, place conveniently on the storefront of the world scene and sold as truth.  The problem is that many times, none of what we are getting is truth.  facts are presented in such a way as to be absolute and unquestionable.  Yet at the heart of what we have is merely sensationalism.

Several years ago there was a coal mine tragedy.  Like many people i got caught up in it and was very concerned with what was happening.  It was awful.  Families lost loved ones, their daily lives interrupted by the ripping and tearing of ground burying hopes and dreams in an instant.  The media was all over it.  There was 24 hour coverage from the 24 hour news networks.  Many reporters interviewing family members as they waited for news of their loved ones and clung to to tiny threads of hope.  The talking heads talked on screen about how they felt for these people, and how they knew the terror they felt.  One of these reporters in particular picked up on a rumor.  He announced for the world to hear that all of the miners were safe and they would be joining their loved ones at a nearby church in a few short minutes.  There was joy, relief and happiness everywhere on the scene.  I turned the TV off and went to bed.  The morning revealed an entirely different scene.  The rumor was simply that, a rumor.  The miners had not been reunited with their families.  The news had reported a lie.  Where once was joy now there was shame and sorrow and tragedy.

Why revisit this awful narrative?  Because those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined and doomed to repeat it.  Our media is a fascinating beast in America.  It is hungry to devour anything and everything it can, and it will tolerate no accountability.  It is quick to shout and scream at the slightest social injustice, but will not easily be cowed into responsibility.  Today you can turn on just about any news service and witness this first hand.  There will be reports that quote statistics from five years ago in order to prove a point today.  There is no mention of other data that may have proved contrary to whatever opinion is being sold as fact.  In terms of social justice, and lets be honest there cannot be such a thing in this day and age, the media does not report the full story.  No, what we get is the scintillating bits and pieces that enrage and enflame emotions.  All the while the reporters and networks walk a tightrope of grey in order to remain unbiased.  It is a lie, and it is every bit as harmful as what was told all those years ago.  The airwaves, digital and print media are flooded with shame, sorrow, and tragedy.

Elections years glow with this sort of behavior.  Networks line up and choose sides like children picking for a school yard ball game.  One side says one thing about their candidate, the other rebuttals quickly.  Yet in the exchange we are all left with nothing of substance.  We stand there, like the last kid picked and feel neglected completely.  Worse in the event someone says anything on the contrary to popular opinion they are shouted down and dismissed as ignorant and savage.  The media, either side, would love nothing more than to crucify someone just to prove a point.  And here is the swerve.

Jesus was arrested…illegally.

Jesus was tried…illegally.

Jesus was convicted…by a court that had no real power of its own.

Jesus was found faultless…by the government in power.

Jesus was punished…simply to silence a mob.

Jesus was executed…simply to appease a mob.

The problems in this country are many and extremely complex.  This is not a happy time in the United States.  We are all running around in the dark seeking to blame someone for the discontent.  Those in power would cover their deeds with flowery words, all the while moving in the shadows to maintain power.  When we look at the arrest, trial and execution of Christ we notice something rather glaring.  It was what was done in the dark that was the injustice.  He was betrayed in the dark.  He was tried in the dark.  He was convicted in the dark.  When things were brought to the light of day, no fault could be found.  But because of what was done in the dark the people would not listen.

It is time in this country when we ceased to be swayed by a lying media, a dishonest government, and a body of people who will not allow truth to be known.  Our Constitution demands that we have better than what we are being allowed.  It is time that journalistic integrity meant something.  The light of day needs to be allowed to shine on the truth.  It doesn’t matter what political or social agenda you are a part of, if you do not allow truth to be the foundation of it, then you are serving a lie.  I think you deserve more as a human being than to be stuck serving a lie.  And I think regardless of where you live you have a God given right to demand truth.  Here is what that looks like.

Put down your phone, get off of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and whatever else.  Stop videoing everything you see and making a stink about no one doing anything when you were just standing there filming the event happen.  You want social justice, flee from social media like the plague it is.  Stop trusting everything you see on TV, do some research yourself and sort out the facts like the intelligent person you are.  We have worked too hard as a society to be led astray shiny flashing lights.  You want social justice, first learn about what you are upset about and be a solution, not a problem.  Screaming through a bullhorn, or the modern day equivalent, using a hashtag does nothing.  Go be a solution.  Stop being outraged, be compassionate and really understand what that word means(it means that you feel it physically while not being a direct part).  Get rid of the apathy you feel, and allow empathy top move you to action.  Raging against the machine only puts a spotlight on the machine and its broken pieces.  Working to fix the machine benefits everyone.  Understand that complaining about a situation without offering a solution is just whining.  Its time we started asking questions that caused forward momentum(questions like, “why is this news”, “what is the other side”, “is this the full story” etc.).

Why do I rail so hard against Social Media?  It causes too many people to become apoplectic.  Moreover, it feeds the ignorance that so very much pervades every avenue of our society.  It was fun for a while to catch up, but then somehow we all became fearless from behind a keyboard, and any and all accountability was shunned.  Now we have a major problem dividing this country because social media has become a trusted news source.  Social media is great when its puppies and vacation photos and laughing babies.  It is a cancer when it is a vehicle for political and social agenda.  So post pictures of your dinner, but preach your sermons with you life and save the hashtag justice system for the middle schoolers who haven’t learned any better. (and before you troll me in the comments, yes I am well aware that I am just as guilty about that as everyone else).

What’s done in the dark is done there to hide it.  We need to be working in the light, showing the world exactly what we know to be true, and good, and right.  But we need to be DOING it.  And we need to be demanding it from those who would be in charge.

 

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Long Division

 

I have stared at the flashing line on the blank space of the word processing software for four days thinking about how to go about putting my thoughts down in a succinct way.  I do not wish to be misunderstood or judged incorrectly for saying what I am going to say.  So reader beware, if you begin reading this piece you must read the entire thing.  You cannot skim it.  Within may be some heavy hitting stuff that will likely inflame your conservative and or liberal sensibilities.  And therein lies the first instance of the problem that is slowly eating this country alive.

Abraham Lincoln once surmised an ancient biblical perspective with his quote, “A house divided cannot stand.”  He’s actually quoting Jesus from Mark 3:25, you know when everyone was telling Jesus He was actually the devil (in my opinion its one of the more humorous examples of human ignorance when it comes to change).  Lincoln definitely knew a thing or two about division, he was dealing with a seceded south and a country torn apart by war and greed and every manner of human indecency.  2016 find us very close to the same point, perhaps with even more variables to deal with.  The fact is that this country is as divided now as it has ever been in its history.

We are a people who love to group up and see enemies everywhere.  We divide on political lines, we divide on religious lines, on sexual orientation lines, and on where we can go to the bathroom.  We divide over and over and over again until all we are left with is ourselves.  We have ceased to be a country united, and a nation of individuals all selfishly seeking to be heard and recognized for our perceived unique individuality.  Yet, reality is that we are born just as broken and alone as the next person.

We have forgotten something along the way as Americans.  Maybe it was our arrogance that really ramped up in the 80’s.  Maybe it was the withdrawn cynicism of the 90’s.  Perhaps it happened before that, I can’t really speak to decade that I was not witness to.  Somewhere along the way we decided that our opinion equalled fact, and that our our view point was the only viewpoint acceptable.  Thus we divide ourselves and lay claim to anything and everything that we may perceive as helpful and or harmful to our particular group.  Its a terrible way to live and its how people get hurt.  Its how hate is bred and nurtured and cultivated.  It is how race is made evident and xenophobia pervades a culture.  If you build enough walls around yourself you will eventually grow to fear and hate everything outside of those walls.  That is America.   A country of walls and terrified hateful people constantly hurling things over their walls seeing if they will strike the imagined enemy outside.

Before the tragedy of 9/11 we were very much divided as well, yet for a short time after we banded together as Americans.  We proudly held hands and sang about our country, we even tried to listen to God together.  We sought healing.  It took very little time to divide again, and this time we divided further on every issue.  We blamed a president, we blamed a party, then we blamed another president and another party.  We listened to talk radio and watched talking heads on biased networks and were lead by every other agenda until we cannot go out in public without glancing sideways at our neighbors wondering secretly if they are out to get us.  And the cycle repeats, each time we claim solidarity after a tragedy only to divide further along some line.  As we do our country falls further away.

When was the last time we really listened to another opinion?  When was the last time stopped listening to our own voice and really tried to hear someone else?  It seems to me that no matter where we turn we do not see people seeking a solution to anything, rather we seek for a place to lay blame.  If we could just figure out who to blame then that would make it all better, we would be able to put an end to the awful things that happen.  That is just not true.  Oh sure, people need to be held responsible.  But there are always scars.  When we look at our scars the pain will always be remembered, and blame will never take away that sickening memory.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is that we have forgotten as a people how to heal and how to forgive.  For the past 15 years allow have known is self righteous anger and indignation.  We have not had a moment to sit and reflect and move forward.  24 hour news media needs to be turned off, it has done nothing but breed a generation of paranoia.  How can you possibly allow yourself time to process when the talking heads are spewing another negative story about how bad the world is.  Social media is no better.  The “headlines” of every story contain explosive language meant to bring about an emotional response from readers.  And as such we are left raw nerved and red eyed to the point of madness and insomnia.  It has to stop.

If you have come to this country and are a part of its citizenship I am begging you to read these words below and truly think about what it means.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.-US Constitution

We are Americans, we are not caucasian Americans, or african americans, or latino americans, or gay americans, or transgender americans.  We are Americans.  We are unified by the belief that those that came before established something better than what the rest of the world offered.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  -Declaration of Independence

Our forefathers risked their lives and everything about their legacy so that we would have a country where we could be free.  Where we could be unified together regardless of where we came from.  Whether or not you believe in God Almighty as your creator or biological science as your progenitor you are free in this country to seek out certain unalienable rights, and that makes us unified.  If we are to continue as a country we must stop this ceaseless division over every little thing.  We must learn to listen to each other.  We have to stop the unadulterated arrogance and feeling that our way is the only way and that if your opinion is different than mine then you are the enemy.  We have to heal, and we have to forgive each other.  Failure to do so is a death sentence for this country.

I will close with this, and I’m sure some people will read this and roll their eyes that I am going to talk about God and Jesus.  You are more than welcome to roll away, I can acknowledge your opinion, and your disagreement with mine without casting judgement on you.  Judgement has never actually been my job, but thats another piece to write later.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not something that belongs on another plane of existence.  In fact Jesus was ushering in that Kingdom with His ministry and it is the job of the Church to further such a Kingdom.  It is not a kingdom of riches and conquest and self righteous indignation at the rest of the world around it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of rest, of peace, of unity, and of healing.  It is a kingdom where God is recognized as sovereign and where His will is sought above all else.  Selfish ambition is abandoned and service to Christ and to others is taken up.  You can disagree with my belief system all you want.  But you cannot deny that seeking to serve other people instead of yourself is more beneficial to mankind.  You cannot tell me that healing an peace are bad things and should be shunned.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a dream in every person ever born.  Jesus says that doesn’t have to be a dream.  But its takes something on our part.  It takes surrender.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Perhaps you are like me and are tired of this long division.  Perhaps you will join me in seeking the kingdom of Heaven.

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Ruff Season (or I’m just not feeling it and need to ramble on about it for a bit…)

tumblr_lwf5nxSuGP1r0k32bo1_500It could be the fact that I’m getting older.  It could be  the fact that this time of year is just extremely busy and filled with lots of last minute things to do.  Maybe it was the migraine I had yesterday that is still lingering behind my eyes.  Or, perhaps it is the never ending rush of hate filled diatribe on the internet.  I just do not feel very Christmassy this year.  Something feels off.  Maybes its my focus, maybe its my heart, honestly I wish I knew.  Oh sure the lights are up, the classics are playing on TV and radio.  We’ve preached messages about God coming to us, and sung Christmas carols.  Yet, there is this fog of yuck that is just floating over everything.

This country is suffering from a severe lack of accountability in its dealings with others.  You see videos of people being abused, animals being treated cruelly for no reason, children being abandoned only find follow up comments with the likes of “LOL” or “ROFL”.  Follow those nonsense letters with a profanity laced rant of ignorance and you get my drift.  People simply do not know how to people anymore.  We cannot blame a political candidate, or leader for this problem.  We have allowed it.  We have allowed it with our social media “freedom” and our lack of compassion and empathy for any one other than ourselves.  Possibly the worst thing that has happened to our culture is the ability to comment on anyone’s picture, post, or article without accountability has torn a whole in our moral fabric.

So what?!

I was teaching last night, and some of it made sense at least.  The birth of Christ occurred at a rather rough time in History.  Governments were shaken outside of Rome, and even within Rome they were pretty unstable and definitely not beneficial to the vast majority of the populace.  There was ,in fact, a massive lack of accountability to one’s fellow man.  And so Jesus is born.  He isn’t born in grand hall, or golden room, or any of the opulence that He deserved.  He is born, in the open air, or a cave (sorry, but the idea of an inn is a not really a fitting part of history, and is most likely a poor translation or scribes addendum).  His birth is announced to a group of shepherds.  The lowly, not well thought of part of society that was untrusted to the point of being barred from testimony in court.  Why?  Because God is beginning breaking down boundaries between the mighty and lowly.

It is amazing to me that this time of year we see so many barriers get put up.  This “War On Christmas” nonsense pops up and we go to our corners, and other sides go to their corners and as Ben Carson says we “Just hate”.  If Christmas really means that much to you, then why does your life outside of this season not reflect it?  I have a few thoughts on that.

It is easy to care about people this time of year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas usher in this season of looking out for those less fortunate.  We have created a slot of time to think about it.  We have sales, and food drives, and meals, and all of these things that makes empathy easy and non threatening.  Just like the Nativity Jesus is non threatening.  There is nothing threatening about an infant.  An infant is cute and adorable, and cuddly and all those things that make us feel good inside.  The lifestyle that infant calls you to however is not such a simple thing.

You see that infant grew up.  He ushered in God’s Kingdom on earth and called al who would to come follow Him and live in that Kingdom here, now, and then on the other side in the perfection of creation.   But it isn’t pretty.  It requires us to do more than be dismissive of others in a comment box.  It requires more than 25 days of giving a rip about your neighbor.  It requires a death to self, a death to what you understand as freedom, and rebirth into something much grander, and yet far more humble.  That my friends is a threatening thing.  The cross of Christ is not a pretty sight.  It is a deep contrast to the manger.  Yet we cannot have one without the other.  Beauty, I suppose can only be magnified but its opposite.  Christmas is easier than Easter.  Giving a present is easier than giving your life, your self.

So what?!  What is my point?

The beauty of Christmas, the feeling I should have is not based on an evergreen tree with shiny wrapped gifts under it.  It is not in the “magic” of the season.  The beauty of Christmas is the leveling of the field.  The birth of Christ announced the change of the world from a place of desperate hopelessness to a world filled with hope because it’s creator was setting about redeeming it and making it new.  He was announcing that each and every person born, was going to have the ability to be made whole.

So as we wander around (anti) social media, and we read the news, and listen to the reports of the nastiness of the world.  Know this and be comforted, God is still in control.  There is nothing that has or will occur that He does not know about.  Do not despair and do not fear, for the Angel announced it to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

People will continue to be a source of disappointment and discouragement.  Trolls will always be in the comment section waiting to drag you down to their level.  But Jesus was still born for them as well.  Christmas is about recognizing that we are all equally in need of grace.  If you can give a measure of grace to your fellow human, do so all year, not just when Coca Cola puts Santa Claus on a can (did they even do that tis year).

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Infinitely More

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Infinitely More

I have sat, I have paced.  I have read, scoffed, laughed, shrugged, rolled my eyes more than a Robert Downey Jr. meme. and felt a general sense of nausea.  There have been feelings of rage, sadness, fear, helplessness, and so many more mixes of feelings that quite frankly I cannot process them all at once.  People say, oh you’re just being dramatic, you’re just being this or that, or you’re being bigoted, racist, insensitive, disagreeable, the list just goes on continually.  The reason the list just continues to grow is that no one else knows how to feel either.  We want to be upset, we want to feel better, we want to feel vindicated.  Fact is we want all of these things and we want what we want, the way we want it, and yet we will never have it.

This country is divided, more so now than ever.  Christians cannot agree on how to deal with a red cup, let alone how to answer the problem of refugees.  It is a disease of ignorance, where one side wants to blindly obey everything leadership hands out as long as it makes them feel good, and the other side rages against the machine.  It is an election year and as Americans we throw away our unity for the cause of one party or another, or the ever present middle ground where no one yells at you.

It’s time to stop.  It’s time to step back and look around, grasp the bigger picture of what is happening in the world.  It’s time to read the news, to really examine what is being told and what is really happening.  This cycle of panic and outrage is doing nothing for us as a people.  What are the facts that we know?

We know that there are nasty individuals who want nothing more than to kill and destroy.  there is nothing more to it than that.  They are not trying to usher in any new world order, they see chaos and destruction.  This is not some vague James Bond villain seeking a model utopia.  This is an enemy that desires death in the name of fanatic hatred.  If we cannot recognize that as a fact, then there is little hope in the face of this evil.  We cannot be delusional and try to classify and declassify and divide along lines of race, class, and religion.  This enemy does not care what you call it, because this enemy only wants you dead.  There is no such thing as a one sided diplomatic solution, there is only victory or defeat.

We also must realize that the right decisions are not the ones that are the most popular.  The happy feel good decision that makes you happy, is probably not the one that is best for everyone involved in the long run.  This idea that we have to make decisions based on what makes us feel good about ourselves is flawed and immature.  Eating donuts makes me feel good, but in the end if thats all I do it will kill me.  The same is true about decisions for our country.  It requires the ability to see a bigger more far reaching picture.  You can get mad, you can disagree, but in your disagreement do not act like a spoiled child and call everyone else names because you did not get your way.

You may be reading this a wondering why, why waste my time with this, this piece is probably just going to turn it in to some sort of Christianity based stance in favor of Islamaphobia, or racism, or GOP support.  Or you may call me a liberal, unpatriotic, bleeding heart, and weak.  Label it whatever you wish to label it.  Disagree with me, I do not care, and your disagreement with me does not offend me.  I think we’ve forgotten how to disagree with one another in this country.  Anytime some one doesn’t think the way we do we want to call them names and become offended in our deepest being because someone else did not see life the way we do.  I see things the way I see them based on my own understanding of the world.  That is based on 35 years of experience, years of college and study, and my own research and observation.  My thoughts are my own, your agreement with them does nothing to change them.

I do not have an answer to the problems facing this world.  I don’t, and really, telling you my thoughts and opinions on what we should do will do nothing in the end.  Yet, I know what we cannot do as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to become divided over the issues and forget our mission.  You can post all the scripture out of context that you want and claim that it speaks directly to the problems, yet your mission is not that.  We are not called to throw truth bombs and shame other Christians because we disagree. If you don’t like what your government has done, tell them that in a calm and articulate letter.  But for these so called “Christian leaders” to cast about words such as “shame” and “disgust” is quite frankly what makes them unfit leaders.  The amount of church members you have at your church does not make you a leader, nor does your book sales, or your twitter follower count.  Your ability to speak life in to the hearts and minds of people makes you a leader.

I do not think God cares about your blog readership.  Nor do I believe God cares about whether or not you held a political line with your social media profile.  It is unfathomable for me to think that God is watching to see if you said the snarkiest response to the other side of the issue, or reposted the correct feel good message on social media.  God is infinitely more invested in whether or not you pointed people to His glory, to His Son, to His grace, to His love with your life.  If you want to argue that , “well, I use my social media to do that”.  Then I would ask you this, when did your social media feed a refugee, or clothe the homeless, or care for a foster child?

It is time we as Christians stopped playing the world’s game of words.  It is time we stopped trying to make everything about how we can start a new movement.  It is time we started doing the mission we were called to do.  Right now nature is doing a far better job of crying out God’s glory than His people are.  The stars in the sky do not display the nature of a God who panics at the first sign of trouble.  Rather they steadily proclaim that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Times like these have been ordained.  It is for us to recognize that the urgency for us to show Jesus to others is all the more serious.

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Stretch

Lion_stretching_at_Ouwehands_2010

I hate to stretch.  I do not like to stretch.  It hurts.  It hurts all over when I stretch.  It always has.  Even when I was younger and in far better shape.  Though, I do like power yoga, no idea why.  The pain is not such an unbearable thing.  It is extremely uncomfortable.  Stretching makes my brain question very seriously why I am doing this to myself.  Then usually my brain says stop.

They, that group of notoriously anonymous know-it-alls, say that stretching is good for you.  I have no doubt that it is.  It makes your muscles more supple.  It makes you less prone to injury when physically active.  I’m sure it does any number of other wonderful things for my body.  But it hurts.  No one likes to do things that hurt.  Wait, most normal sane human beings who are healthy and happy, do not like to do things that are painful with no hope of instant reward.  (Those of you who enjoy pain, there is another article for you coming one day.  It will probably be a short one.)

Physical improvement means pain and hard work.  The old muscle must be broken down and regrown and doubled.  With changes comes pain.  I always enjoy thinking about the Marine Corps Drill Instructor informing his recruits that pain is weakness leaving the body (though in some case its actually a serious injury).

Spiritual and life improvement will mean pain as well.  We are creatures of habit.  Breaking habits is a difficult thing.  Think about the statement, breaking habits.  Its actually a violent statement.  Something is going to be broken.  What that something is depends on the situation.  It could be a way of living.  It could be a way of reacting.  It could be a way of thinking.  Change will bring something we do not understand.  Newness is exactly what it is.  It is new, unknown.

The letter ,James, the Brother of Jesus, wrote to the church at Jerusalem had a lot of change and growth.  It called for a radical change of thinking in a very boot camp style.  The new Jewish-Christians were being persecuted in their own communities.  Not violently, but socially, and financially.  In many ways, that could be just terrible to live with.  Violence is quick, the social ostracism that these early Christians faced was much longer lasting and further reaching.  It caused a lot of them to fall into old habits, bad behavior, and incorrect thinking.  James’ response was to stretch them.  He called for change in the way of thinking.  He echoed his half brother.  He called for love on a level that had never been seen.  James called for people to act in a way that made no sense.  James told them to put themselves at the bottom of the list.  Not to be doormats mind you.  But to be servants.  To not consider what the world calls good a thing to be sought after.  Thats stretches the mind and spirit.  It stretches us socially.  It stretched us in our faith.

Yet, our spirit needs to be stretched.  It needs to be more flexible.  It needs to gain strength.  We should be in a place where we are in fantastic spiritual shape.  That way, when the real problems of life hit us, we have the strength to stand (notice I did not say fight, that is God’s job.)  If we are in good spiritual shape, nicely stretched and ready, we will be much more able to

move when God calls us to

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