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New entries are posted about once a week.  Feel free to comment on any of them, or if you have a general comment, you can add it to this post.

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Then And Now

A confusing spiritual question was posed to Jesus in a conversation that took place with a woman at the side of a well. His answer, at first glance, was equally perplexing: “The time is coming and is now here.”

It made more sense after I thought about it for a while.

I occasionally wonder if I’ll ever overcome my shortcomings. Then I look back on progress made, slowly, over many years. Could the positive trajectory continue? “The time is coming and is now here.”

Loved ones struggle with losses of all types. Relief this side of eternity seems impossible. At the perfect moment, someone shares a kind word, a smile, a random act. “The time is coming and is now here.”

A glorious day is spent with another human. Deep bonding occurs. I want this experience to last forever. “The time is coming and is now here.”

In what seems like a statement of paradox, therefore, is a message of hope and a message of celebration. It’s a promise for tomorrow, of which we get a glimpse today.

A true case of then and now.

 

Let’s Not Throw Out The Baby With The Bath Water

It’s the Christmas season once again, complete with manger scenes including baby Jesus. Yet every time I read a new statistic, the news is that Christianity is losing ground, at least in America. I understand and am not even surprised.

Those of us who have abandoned organized religion bear perhaps the greatest responsibility to mankind. Since we don’t have a church or clergy to whom we can delegate the spreading of good news, we have to do it ourselves. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult. (And if we band together, even in just twos or threes … even better.)

Jesus’ message was simple. Love – God, your neighbor, and yourself. Of course unpacking that took quite a bit of explanation, both explicitly and in story form, but those are the basics. And because we can’t do it locked in the human condition, He sent a helper: His own spirit within us.

I have no quarrel with the masses who’ve done away with tradition, nor the crowd who still finds inspiration there. But all of us should be careful to live in accordance with the three greatest ideals taught by the son of God. To do otherwise would be to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Merry Christmas.

 

Made In God’s Image. Bummer.

The Bible says that humans were made in the image of God. That’s cool in a lot of ways, but there’s a downside. Fortunately there’s also a resolution.

No matter how much I accomplish or how well I do something, the gnawing feeling is that I could have done better. There’s even some truth to that.

I’m fashioned after a flawless being, so at my very core is a longing for and resonation with perfection. Of course I want it! How can I settle for anything less? This presents a problem, as I live in a fallen world as a mere mortal.

Yes, a gap exists between our reality and where we inherently know we should be. The good news is that we have the mechanism to bridge it. Grace. A divine handout there for the taking. (Perhaps whether we consciously choose to take it or not, but that’s a topic for another day.)

That makes the dilemma a lot easier to bear

And while we’re on the subject of grace, perhaps we should extend some to ourselves and to one another. After all, we’re made in the image of God.

 

Happy Old Year

The allure of shiny objects seems to be part of the human condition. We like stuff that’s hip, trendy, and new. That even applies to points on the calendar. At a certain season in time, we give each other best wishes for the months ahead. And though I personally find it counter-productive, some people even take pleasure in bashing what they left behind, with a “Good riddance.”

In contrast, King Solomon, writer of Proverbs and the wisest person who ever lived, said this: “The end of a thing is better than its beginning.” Why would that be?

Beginnings, while often difficult, are exciting. There’s anticipation, suspense, and the hope of great things to come. As the days roll on, however, a sort of grind settles in. It’s tempting to give up.

Those who stay the course are eventually awarded with something rare and gratifying: an accomplishment.

As one major date gives way to the next, I’m glad to convey hopes for wonderful futures all around. I also applaud every achievement of the past fifty-two weeks, including the miracle of you and me simply making it to wherever we are right now.

Happy Old Year.

 

Christmas: Thinking Outside The Box

The volume of packages coming and going has certainly increased in the past few weeks. It’s that time of year. But not all presents come in a carton.

Imagine the delight someone might feel upon receiving a delivery of forgiveness. Or how about a generous portion of kind words, selected for the specific occasion? Peace, patience, acts of service, mercy – surely these are on everybody’s wish list.

Although they can’t be admired physically, such gifts often have enormous value. They may evoke deep emotions, heal painful suffering, maybe change a life forever. No wonder we hunger after them.

Spreading the cheer of intangibles produces many benefits. And as an added bonus, no boxes are required.

 

Thanks For Nothing

It’s that time of year when people ask “What are you thankful for?” As for me, I’m thankful for nothing.

A lot of things didn’t happen in my life this week. I didn’t get in an accident, break any bones, or receive a troubling diagnosis. I didn’t fight with my wife, damage friendships, lay awake worrying (too much), or even misplace my car keys. In many respects, it was a nothing week.

In this life, which is often filled with trials and disappointments, nothing can be a very welcomed change of pace and a true divine gift. So today, my sentiments are simple … Thanks for nothing.

 

Help? How?

There were a lot of problems in society when Jesus walked the Earth. Gender bias, racial oppression, social prejudice, economic trouble, religious conflict, political polarization, incurable disease, corruption everywhere – you name it. How did he react?

Some see Jesus as a revolutionary. He spoke boldly against injustices in all areas. These people point to select biblical references which show him leading protests and the like. His mission was to bring about change at all costs, they say.

Others cite alternate passages of chapter and verse. They assert that Jesus paid the system little mind. He lived outside of norms, advocating a counter-culture to act as things could / should be, instead of kicking against how they were.

No doubt additional positions exist.

More extreme proponents of each camp argue ad nauseum most everywhere – social media, article comments sections, street corners, pulpits, and more – possibly even in reactions to this very post. The sides nearly come to blows.

The passion to make a difference is to be applauded, but what type of response is appropriate? … especially for those who claim to follow Jesus as their example?

I have my opinions, and I think the answer might be found right in the question. But I don’t want to start a fight, so it’s probably best for me to say no more. Plus, a hurting world needs my attention in a zillion ways – from family and friends to strangers on other continents – so I’ll stop writing now and see if I can do something to help.

 

Universally Broken

David was misunderstood, falsely accused, and therefore on the run. He needed an army to protect him. So he cried out to God and his prayer was answered … sort of.

“All those who were desperate, in debt, or destitute rallied around him [David], and he became their leader. About 400 men,” scripture says. Four hundred misfits. Many Bible teachers point out that this motley group was eventually transformed into valiant, victorious warriors, citing that as some kind of miracle. OK. But perhaps there’s a greater message here for us ordinary folk.

Why is it that David’s followers consisted only of broken lives? The answer is simple: Because all lives are broken. The candidate pool didn’t include anything else.

It’s healthy to surround ourselves with people headed in the right general direction. It’s wise to avoid negative influences and stay close to souls who at least admit that there might be a bright side. After those bases are covered, however, a huge dose of grace must kick in.

Humans, all humans, are damaged goods. The best we can do is accept that about one another. Then dialogue together, listen, make allowances, try to understand. In due course, magic happens. A ray of light penetrates the darkness as wounded lives connect.

Desperation, debt, a destitute state. Those were universal traits among David’s companions. And that sounds pretty normal to me.

 

Brave To The End

Another year is over. A great deal happened in the past twelve months. Every area of life has been affected, from the personal levels of career, family, finances, health – to global matters such as elections, wars, and natural disasters. Looking back, we might want to ask “Who could have seen all that stuff coming?” Fortunately, there’s an answer.

“Remember this and be brave”, the prophet stated speaking for God. “I declare the end from the beginning.”

I can’t say whether those words apply to what I’ll have for breakfast, or how my day will be spent tomorrow, or the method by which all humankind may someday be wiped off planet Earth. Nonetheless, an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving Father said to remember that he sees the entire way down the road, so we don’t have to fear.

Call me simple, but I’ll leave it there and just try to be brave to the end.

 




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