Welcome to the Dream Factory, the blog of Tom Sims. Make sure to visit some of our other sites including An Elegant Yard Sale and 4141 Ministries and don't forget to subscribe to this blog. Check out the upper right hand corner of the page!

How Do You Know? You Don't

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How do you know you are doing well, helping people, making a difference, and encouraging some soul with your posts?

Let me start by thanking Howie!

Photo by Howie R on Unsplash

Now, I will answer the question

You don't know if you've helped people, or how many.

This is especially true in this invisible realm of online content creation where writers craft words designed to lift, challenge, inform, or entertain people.

If two out of ten people thank, acknowledge, or communicate with you at all, you are doing twice as well as Jesus. i do not even come close to his one leper in ten returning to thank him. I do not think I hear from one in two hundred - and that is good news.

The reach is always greater than the response.

So, why do it?

First, you have something to say. It did not come easy to you. Your information or insight was hard-won. You suffered for it. It is valuable. Given the opportunity, you would share it with one person on an airplane or over the phone. Writing and blogging, podcasting or otherwise communicating online, the potential is much greater to reach many more.

You have something to say and you cannot not say it.

Second, whatever you post will live online forever and you are patient. Someday, it will reach the right person and make a difference in that person's life. They will internalize and apply the insight and share it with others.  You cannot measure the future impact.

Third, you can check your statistics and analytics and know that you are getting some exposure. on certain platforms.

Fourth, you can go out in public, bump into one of your subscribers, and hear them say or ask something that indicates an awareness of things you have been posting online. It is amazing. They never clicked "like," left a comment, or sent a note. Yet,  they read what you wrote and for the writer, that is enough thanks.

Fifth, you operate on the basis of faith and hope and that is what all creative people do. You may not be the master of viral self-marketing yet. You may never be. However, you believe in what you are creating and you believe in the power of believing and acting on belief. So, you keep at it.

That is five reasons and we all know more.

What are some I missed that drive you as a writer and content creator?

My final admonition is to stay with it. You may not get the response you hope for, but you are doing a lot of good!

 


Four Words of Advice and Some Food For Thought


Mother  t 2

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting." ---Mother Teresa

 

Don't Be Shaped by the World.

Peace signPete Seeger tells of a Quaker kid holding a peace sign in the middle of the night.

A detractor asks, "Do you think you are going to change the world holding up that sign in the middle of the night?"

"Maybe not, but I am going to make sure the world does not change me."

You may not be able to change the world as dramatically as you would like to, but, if you can keep the world from changing you into something less than you are, the world will have a far better chance of changing for the better.

 

 

Zsa zsa

Keep Your Diamonds!

Even Zsa Zsa knew that hate never pays..

While there is great humor in her words, there is also great truth. Don't shoot yourself in the foot to prove you were right. Don't sink your own ship to prove that you are a better captain.

Hatred is another form of self-punishment.

Don't indulge in it.

Keep your diamonds. They were a gift.

Life is a gift too. So is forgiveness, to the one receiving it and to the one giving it.

You are too fine a vessel to play host to the toxic poison of hate and bitterness.

Live above the storms of hate.

 

Dry brittle bones It is What You Give Away that Lasts Beyond the Grave.

My grandmother said it this way:

"You only keep, in this life, what you give away."

She also wanted to give as much of it away while she was living so that she could enjoy the whole process more.

One day, even our names will be forgotten.

Those who carry our memories will also be gone along with their children and their children's children.

Yet, somehow, who we were and what we gave will still be alive in the world with a life of its own.

 

Finch on courage  Live a Life of Courage and Conviction

One of the most influential books of my youth was, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

I wanted to be Atticus Finch, defender of the oppressed and powerless. To me, it was what Joseph Campbell called, "The Hero's Journey."

There is something heroic in you as well.

In deciding where to stand and for what to stand, it is more than a matter of assessing the likelihood of success.

You follow your convictions even if it means going down with them.

Your assessment is the question, "What is right?"

When you know that, muster all of your courage to live in the light of the truth.

 

Martin Buber would be 145 on  February 8.

Buber

He still offers us his wisdom:

He said, "The atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God."

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” - Martin Buber

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." - Martin Buber

"We cannot avoid using power, cannot escape the compulsion to afflict the world, so let us, cautious in diction and mighty in contradiction, love powerfully." — Martin Buber

“Solitude is the place of purification.” - Martin Buber

 

 

 

 




10 Life Lessons from the Super Bowl

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Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I sat down after a Super Bowl some time in the last ten years. I wanted to reflect and collect some life lessons from a game that involves running with a ball in one direction, occasionally throwing it, changing directions, and running some more - all in 1-10 second fragments of time.

But, still, there are lessons.

This particular year, there was a big reversal and the favorite of the first half came out second in the end.

Life Lessons from a Super Bowl:
 

1. You can't rest on the laurels of your first half of life.

2. You can't get discouraged by a slow start.

3. Keep playing till the end, even into overtime because: YOU ARE ALWAYS IN OVERTIME.
 
4. Your second half may be better than the first.
 
5. You may run out of time-outs. Adjust.
 
6. Expect turn-overs and play them.
 
7. It's not over until Lady Gaga sings - and then it's only half over.
 
8. Spectators, commentators, and wagerers have no effect on the outcome of the game. It is up to the players to play it.
 
9. Your opponents will offer as much resistance as they can. Expect it and resist it.
 
10. Keep playing and moving the ball.
 
I am just guessing that, if you follow these pointers, you will have better than a 50:50 chance of winning.
 
Remember, it only takes one point when the buzzer sounds.
 

Breaking the Chains of Procrastination

I was planning to write a piece on how to break the chains of procrastination, get free, and accomplish a goal, but I did not get around to it until now.

Having established that this is a common problem, let us all learn a few secrets to overcoming.

This article is a testimony, in and of itself, that it is possible.

Getting Up and Getting Going

You are sitting there, quite possibly stumbling upon this blog by accident because you are surfing the internet via a stream of consciousnesses in dedicated avoidance of whatever it is that you need to be doing right now.

I say this not as a prophet as much as a practitioner.

I can avoid tasks as much as the best of them… as much as you.

I find that avoidance falls into some neat yet overlapping categories for me. Together, they spell, “AVOID.”

Here they are:

A — Anxiety.

There is something irrationally or even legitimately frightening about the task to which we are committed. We are suffering from task-related anxiety. We are afraid to start.

V — Value.

We don’t personally value the task. Rather, it is a burden and a duty that has been imposed on us.

O — Obstacles.

We have listed as many as we can think of, but we are sure there must be more obstacles to starting — dull pencils, not enough information on hand, bad mood, weariness, no fresh ideas. The list goes on and on.

I — Intimidation.

The task is just so big that we cannot wrap our brains around it. We are intimidated by it.

D — Defeatism.

We do not believe in our capacity to do what must be done well enough and so our perfectionism is crippling us from doing anything. We have bought into a mood of defeat.

What must we do then?

Get up and get going!

Since we are already spelling, let’s continue:

GET

G — Growl at yourself.

Get your attention somehow. You have lulled yourself to sleep and you can wake yourself up.

E — Energize.

Tell your body to move and then, move. After moving around, get a snack and make a decision to start.

T — Terminate

Terminate this connection (only after bookmarking this page) and get on with the task. It is time to leave motivation and move.

UP

U — Unshackle.

Free your thinking from fear, intimidation, perfectionism, and obstacles. Get into a different mindset and focus on what you can do with what you do have right now.

P — Proceed.

There is no substitute for starting. So start. Do something. The job will organize itself as you go along. Resources will appear or you will realize what you do or do not really need.

Now, get GOING

G — Grab.

Take hold of your fear. It is your biggest enemy. The worst that can happen is a temporary failure from which you will learn lessons you could not otherwise be taught in any book.

O — Observe.

Take another look at the task and observe it in the larger context of why it is important. Find the value in it and do it.

I — Invert and Innovate.

Turn your obstacle thinking into opportunity thinking by of ways you can be innovative with this task and place your own unique mark on it.

N — Nudge.

Whatever intimidates you about this job is a bluff. Nudge it. Push back. Don’t let it be too big for you. Break it into bite size pieces.

G — Growl AGAIN!

This time with a shout of victory over defeatism.

Get up and get going.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.


Make a Difference at Any Age.

Let’s all grow old, at least a little… | by Tom Sims , Cultivator of Big Ideas | Jan, 2023 | Medium

 

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith “A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Therefore I summon age

To grant youth’s heritage,

Life’s struggle having so far reached its term: 

Thence shall I pass, approved

A man, for aye removed

From the developed brute; a god though in the germ.- Robert Browning

If we are so blessed, we change in positive ways as we grow older. We grow younger in the ways that youth causes the soul to blossom. We grow old like those things which must be cured with time to reach their fullest potential...

Keep Reading at & via medium.com


Hidden Secrets, Salt, and Light

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You are the light of the world!

You are the salt of the earth!

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

The Fellowship of Joy!

This is a message and sermon for The Fellowship of Joy all over the world.

That includes you!

Live Sermon will be added tomorrow, 2-5-2023, recorded  at 8:00 AM, from Facebook.com/tomsims

Discussion Questions for Small Groups at the bottom

You can organize your own groups of 2-3 or more where you are and we will assist you with resources.

The Message

 

Psalm 112 NRSVU

Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
they will be remembered forever.
They are not afraid of evil tidings;
their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.
Their hearts are steady; they will not be afraid;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have distributed freely; they have given to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn is exalted in honor.
The wicked see it and are angry;
they gnash their teeth and melt away;
the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

You have, most likely. heard many sermons on salt and light and what it means for God's people to be like salt and light in the world.

Today, I just want to remind you that all of the ideas that arise from those two metaphors are very helpful and thought-propelling. I encourage you to review them, meditate upon them, and consider their benefits to the world.

But I am not going to focus there today.

The one thing both have in common is that they do good. They make the world a more livable and loveable place for people where people can see the love and glory of God.

Isaiah expresses God's desire for that kind of world as being the basis of our spiritual disciplines.

Isaiah 58:1-12 NRSVU

Shout out; do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they want God on their side.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day
and oppress all your workers.
You fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.”

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your needs in parched places
and make your bones strong,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

Download  and Listen to The Fast That Repairs and Brings Light

Isaiah takes us back in time. In his prophetic word, chapter 58, he is opening himself to allow the voice of God to speak through him and to ask the people a question, why do you fast?

Why do you fast? But you don't see?

Why do you humble yourselves? But you do not notice?

You serve your own interest on your fast day and you oppress all your workers. Uh, and it's true what Isaiah's saying and what Isaiah's allowing God to speak through him, that when they quarrel and fight and strike and act in selfish ways and do injustice, and then yet refrain from food and put off on slo and ashes, it's a contradiction.

They're contradicting their own beliefs. They're contradicting their own lives. They're contradicting their own religious behavior.

So in verse six of chapter 58, the question comes up because God poses it is not this the fast I choose to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppress go free and to bear every yoke.

God goes on This fast is for sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless pour into your house when you see the naked to cover them and not to hide yourself from your own kin.

We take up at verse eight, and there's a word of hope that goes with this admonition and condemnation. When you get it right, God says, then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly. Your vindicator shall go before you. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer. You shall cry for help. And he will say, here, m i.

But verse nine, part b says, if you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of afflicted, then you're like shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like noon day.

The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs, impart to places, and make your bones strong.

And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt. You shall raise up the foundations of many generations. You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

How would you like that reputation in this world and in the world to come? How would you like to be known that way as a restorer, as a repairer, as a rebuild of ancient ruins?

Would to God that we would have yoke removers among us, that we would have and be the people who share, the people who speak out against injustice, the people who work for justice, the people who love God's poor, God's people, God's oppressed, broken people in this world, and build them up, honor them, dignify them, and in so doing honor and dignify and glorify God, and bring glory and light in and through our own lives.

 

Tikkun olam  תִּיקּוּן עוֹלָם,.'repair of the world'  is an in Judaism, that names various action intended to repair and improve the world.

Isaiah says this is the glory of God being revealed.

Paul calls it all a great mystery that has been revealed in the good news. He calls it secret wisdom that has been communicated through the weakness of Spirit-empowered humanity and the cross of Jesus.

Secret Wisdom and Hidden Glories

Download  and Listen to Secret Wisdom

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory … But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.” – I Corinthians 2:6 and 9

The hidden wisdom of God, revealed in Jesus and discerned by spiritual men, is offered to those for whom it is prepared. It is the wonder of God’s purposes and glory. It is shared on a “need-to-know” basis, as we need to know.

And what we do know is that there is much that we cannot know.

We have a glimpse if we have gained it through spiritual sight. We have the earnest of the Spirit. We are gladdened by promises from God Himself. But still, we see through a glass darkly. Only dim reflections illumine our insight into eternity for as yet, it is still far beyond us, above us, and other than us.

It is not that God does not want us to know or desires for us to remain in the dark; it is that we simply cannot receive the fullness of this knowledge while confined to time, space, and physical body. That is why what relatively little we know comes by other than intellectual receptors. In the meantime, He is preparing us for the day when we can know perfectly as we are known.

There is coming a time when all the secrets will be revealed. In that day, in a finite immeasurable moment, our eyes will be opened, and we shall be eternally with the Lord. Whatever we imagined about God and eternity, Heaven and glory in this life will not compare to what He has purposed to share with us.

Oh wondrous, glorious, mystery and bliss,

By grace, the moment we shall not miss,

Beyond the veil of time and space

When by His side we take our place.


1 Corinthians 2:1-16 NRSV

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?

So also no one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

What was in the mind of Christ as he walked, lived, and taught among us?

A Jewish Rabbi, who honored God's Law, Jesus said that he came to fulfill it. Further, he said that his disciples were called to exceed it by  living out its intentions and meaning.

True righteousness can never be only about dotting the letter "i" or crossing the letter, "T."

True righteousness is embodied in Isaiah's vision. It is Paul's mystery. It is the glory we experience when our righteousness comes by faith first and then enables us to live the lifestyle of Kingdom citizens.

Look to the word and heart of Jesus as he calls us to step out of ourselves and into the world as his people.

Matthew 5:13-20 NRSVU

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

You live out the rituals and the law, the fasts, and the requirements of Torah, by having the heart and mind of Christ and by repairing, renewing, and restoring the world and its people.

Heal the world, and the song goes.

Do it because God has healed you and forgiven your sins in Christ. Do it out of joy. Do it as a response to grace. Do it because you have freely received that you might freely give.

Do it because, of all the things you can do and be, this is the one thing that is most satisfyingly and significant.

Now, hear this voice:

Small Group Discussion

  • Which of the scriptures or verses in this posting most describes where you are in life or speaks to you?
  • Why? How?
  • Is there a call to action in this message or in any of these passages for you, for your group r for your congregation?
  • What are some practical ways we can repair and restore where we live, being salt and light?
  • Are there obstacles? How will we deal with them? Can we stop and pray about them now?
  • What will we do between now and when we meet next?


List: Reading list | Curated by Tom Sims , Cultivator of Big Ideas | Medium

Reading List on Medium - Most Recent 16 Articles

Am I a dabbler or am I a diver? Dabble, dive accelerate. If you are a dabbler, like I have often been with my hobbies and passing interests and avocations, you will make some progress, but it will be slow progress. I confess that sometimes on the important things, I…

I write constantly. I write all day and I think about writing when I am not writing. I also speak in public, converse with people, cook my own breakfast, do administrative tasks, and perform a variety of functions. However, as I do, thoughts and words are popping into my brain…

Do you have room for creativity? Do you have a room for creativity? I mean, do you have a room in which to be creative? This is double-talk, because, if you are a creative soul, you know that you need both space and a space. You need metaphorical, time/space room…

To Continue: medium.com


Head Carriers

Heads

"The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around."
-Thomas A. Edison

We could say the same thing about the church as the Body of Christ.

It's chief function is to carry Jesus around, in the cities, in the countryside, on the land, on the sea, into the dark places, and wherever we go.

In weakness, He is strength. In helplessness, He is help. At the point of our extremities, God is sufficient. At the limits of our power and mobility, we rely on Him. His grace is enough. When we are powerless, we can know His greater power. When chaos bellows, shalom rules. Amen.

We are carriers of hope and glory.

Jesus took some of his disciples to the mountain to see his glory as a preview of coming attractions.

The vision of transfiguration comes in the days of preparation for intensifying opposition, humiliating disgrace, and unmerited suffering.
 
How could it be that one, illuminated in glory and endorsed by God, the Father, could be delivered to the hands of conniving men, beaten, scorned, falsely accused, and murdered?
 
How could it be?
 
Jesus counters that one's character, calling, and nature do not prevent suffering and unjust treatment in the world, Rather, they reveal the truth about ultimate reality, character, and vindication.
 
Three men needed this vision of what was real to carry them through the fog that was to come. Cling to the moments when God discloses Himself in your life because there will be long days of dark haze in which those moments may be your only guiding light.
 
This was another instance of Jesus preparing the future church to carry his head around and reveal his light and glory in a dark world.
 
Mark 9:2-13
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said to them, "Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him." 
 
 
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Up to Our Necks - Scripture Readings for Today

I Am

Up to My Neck in It All 

 

Quicksandwarning

 Photo by Hughesdarren - Own work (Creative Commons). 


 Today's Readings in One Post from the NRSV)

We are up to our necks in
* Contradictory Realities
* Compassionate Welcome
* Contrasting Fruits
* Confounding Glory

 


We are up to our necks in Contradictory Realities.

"O God, you know my foolishness,
and my faults are not hidden from you ... But as for me, this is my prayer to you..."


Psalm 69


Salvum me fac

Save me, O God, *
for the waters have risen up to my neck.

I am sinking in deep mire, *
and there is no firm ground for my feet.

I have come into deep waters, *
and the torrent washes over me.

I have grown weary with my crying;
my throat is inflamed; *
my eyes have failed from looking for my God.

Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head;
my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty. *
Must I then give back what I never stole?

O God, you know my foolishness, *
and my faults are not hidden from you.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; *
let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel.

Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, *
and shame has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my own kindred, *
an alien to my mother’s children.

Zeal for your house has eaten me up; *
the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.

I humbled myself with fasting, *
but that was turned to my reproach.

I put on sack-cloth also, *
and became a byword among them.

Those who sit at the gate murmur against me, *
and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, this is my prayer to you, *
at the time you have set, O Lord:

“In your great mercy, O God, *
answer me with your unfailing help.

Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; *
let me be rescued from those who hate me
and out of the deep waters.

Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,
neither let the deep swallow me up; *
do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; *
in your great compassion, turn to me.”

“Hide not your face from your servant; *
be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.

Draw near to me and redeem me; *
because of my enemies deliver me.

You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; *
my adversaries are all in your sight.”

Reproach has broken my heart, and it cannot be healed; *
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I could find no one.

They gave me gall to eat, *
and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.

[Let the table before them be a trap *
and their sacred feasts a snare.

Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, *
and give them continual trembling in their loins.

Pour out your indignation upon them, *
and let the fierceness of your anger overtake them.

Let their camp be desolate, *
and let there be none to dwell in their tents.

For they persecute him whom you have stricken *
and add to the pain of those whom you have pierced.

Lay to their charge guilt upon guilt, *
and let them not receive your vindication.

Let them be wiped out of the book of the living *
and not be written among the righteous.]

As for me, I am afflicted and in pain; *
your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

I will praise the Name of God in song; *
I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.

This will please the Lord more than an offering of oxen, *
more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.

The afflicted shall see and be glad; *
you who seek God, your heart shall live.

For the Lord listens to the needy, *
and his prisoners he does not despise.

Let the heavens and the earth praise him, *
the seas and all that moves in them;

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; *
they shall live there and have it in possession.

The children of his servants will inherit it, *
and those who love his Name will dwell therein.


---------------------------

We are up to our necks in Compassionate Welcome.


" ... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer ... I will gather the outcasts..."

Isaiah 56:1-8


Thus says the Lord:

Maintain justice,
and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.


Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil. Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely separate me from his people" and do not let the eunuch say, "I am just a dry tree."


For thus says the Lord:


To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant--

--- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

---------------------------

We are up to our necks in Contrasting Fruits

"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit..."

Galatians 5:16-24


Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.

For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

 


---------------------------

We are up to our necks in Confounding Glory


"Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice,..."


Mark 9:2-13

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.

And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"

He said to them, "Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him."




A Stroke of Genius. On this day in 2012, I have a slip-up… | by Tom Sims , Cultivator of Big Ideas | Feb, 2023 | Medium

A Stroke of GeniusPhoto by Alexas_Fotos on UnsplashOn this day in 2012, I have a slip-up, a stroke of genius, a major fall.I called it a “Stroke of brilliance at the time.I finishing a pickup for our nonprofit thrift store and was unloading a tall, heavy entertainment center. It was as tall as me, maybe taller. I am six foot, two inches.Looking back, I want to say it was ten feet tall, but that would clearly be lying.


Demonstration Labs

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We are works in progress!

NASA - A scale model of the Douglas SB2D Destroyer at the wind tunnel of the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California (USA), on 1 April 1942. Only two XSB2Ds were built plus 28 single seat versions, redesignated BTD-1.

 

We are demonstration laboratories for the truth that we embrace, internalize, and profess.

We are prototype, still in development.

What we add is conviction, attitude, and action.

These gather under the broad yet specific category of faith.

They, in turn, by the grace and power of God, contribute the twin evidences of credibility and authenticity through the thin filter of transparency.

Our struggles are the testing grounds where the quality of our truth is either refined or shown to be faulty.

One of my life's goal, at this stage, is to authenticate and verify, as credible, the core Truth of my life that I have chosen to follow.

I am weak, but God is able.

 

 

 


Truth to Power --- Prayerfully

Speak and pray

I am all for criticizing leaders, speaking truth to power, and holding that power accountable. However, I also know, that behind every position and title, there is a person who is a vulnerable, needy, and human as the rest of it.

If I do not devote more time praying for them than criticizing them, I am not acting in anyone's best interest.

Therefore:

Lord, God, I pray for our leaders and potential leaders, for our President and anyone who may come into that office. May they be blessed and guided, refreshed and equipped. You know no party and affiliate with none of our artificial labels.

May those who make critical decisions consult wise adviser and weigh the consequences of their decisions. May they act with compassion toward the poor and powerless and with fairness, justice, and pragmatism tempered with truth. May they be seekers, whether they be elected or candidates for election. Temper their speech. Grant them the grace to agree with their opponents when their opponents ring true. Grant them the courage to speak truth when no one else agrees. Grant them the confidence of their convictions and the humility of those who are willing to test those convictions.

May we, who occupy the highest offices of the land, citizens with the power to vote and speak, listen deeply, ignore rhetoric, and inform our consciences.

Then, when all the votes are counted, may we continue to speak truth in love and pray for those whom we have called to office, loving them and respecting them as our leaders, but also challenging them to greatness and righteousness.

Help us to appreciate those who differ with us, who challenge our own presumptions and assumptions. Teach us to listen to one another and respect our differences. Help us to embrace those who do not share our faith and appreciate the insights they bring to bear upon our minds knowing that You can speak to us through them.

Center us in truth. Thy Word is truth and you love truth wherever it leads us.

This is my prayer of the moment. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

---------------------------------------------------------

LOVING ONE ANOTHER IN PRAYER

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” – I John 3:11

“Brethren, pray for us.” – I Thessalonians 5:25

Love is such a strong criterion for all our relationships that we are driven to prayer; that we might drink from wells of unconditional love. We plunge into the depths of God’s love that we might love one another. Therefore, we are compelled to seek him deeply in prayer for God is the source and the force of love. The Spirit’s course through our lives is an endless supply of agape.

We are called to seek God’s strength to love one another in prayer and to pray for one another that the love of God might flow through us substantively and visibly in a dark world.

Prayer is the expression of a love relationship with God that cannot help but overflow with love for others.

As we pray for one another, a miracle takes place. It is the miracle of empathy, for that is the soul of intercession. We feel the pain of the other for whom we intercede even as we experience his or her joy.

Consider the love prayers of Jesus as he interceded with his own blood. Allow his love to fill you and spill out from you into the dry and dusty world of the thirsty and loveless.

We are not capable in our flesh to love this way. We have neither the resources nor the inclination. We are at the mercy of God, and God is the one who can supply beyond our imagination. But we must find that supply in prayer and, in prayer, exercise the love that God supplies.

-----------------------------------------

There is something powerful that happens in our lives when we seek God.

Jesus promised that all those who truly seek will find Him.

This requires an open heart.

Purity of heart and cleanliness of hands means that we bring no other motive or agenda, nothing in our hands or hearts, save the yearning to know God and worship Him in His fullness. S

eek His face today as you begin and as you continue.

In every face you encounter, seek His, in every circumstance, in every thought, word, and deed.


King of Glory

William-krause-IkYuzPneQWs-unsplash (1)Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

The God We Worship

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” - Psalm 24:1

Everything belongs to God. We have known this most of our lives as a theological truth. It is in the dimension of application that we are challenged to confront our ignorance on this subject. We have constructed exception clauses to make room for self-ownership and control over this and that. We want to think that some little ditty of a thing is ours and that we can have power over it. To this deception, the voice of God speaks clearly and forcefully, “No. It is mine. It always was and always shall be.

“For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” - Psalm 24:2

For starters, it is all His because it was His idea from the drawing board to the factory. He thought of everything, planned everything, made everything, and retains sovereignty over – your guessed it – everything. He made the world and all that it contains and filled it with wonder and surprise. He is the owner, but that is not the whole story. He is a generous God who shares all that He has and is with us and invites us to discover the wonder of it all and celebrate creation with Him.

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? ” - Psalm 24:3

When a soul discovers the wonders of God and His Sovereignty in creation and stands amazed at the glory of His Lord, there is but one response that rings true: worship.  “I must worship this great God,” is the heart cry of the honest seeker,” I must know Him! I must come into His presence! I must some how get connected with the source and object of my being.” And things, brings for the question of the ages, “Who can come before Him? Can I?”  You can, but you must come His way.

The People Who Worship

“He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. ” - Psalm 24:4

There is a lifestyle connection to worship. We cannot tolerate inconsistency in our lives that draws an arbitrary wall of separation between our relationship with God and those that we maintain with others. Nor can we divide our loyalties between false gods that give us temporary gratification and the only True God who has rightful claim to the world and all that is. Our hands are dirty and our hearts are divided. We are in dire need of the mercy and grace of God and His power to transform us into worshippers.

“He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. ” - Psalm 24:5

When one is qualified by God through grace to enter into His presence, a blessing follows. In a moment of immediate transformation, we are fashioned into pure hearted worshippers with clean hands and we enter into a new era of our lives that makes all that came before moot. God’s vindication covers our record and we simply stand before Him in awe. Our voices are lifted in worthy praise and we are blessed.

“This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. ” - Psalm 24:6

There is something powerful that happens in our lives when we seek God. Jesus promised that all those who truly seek will find Him. This requires an open heart. Purity of heart and cleanliness of hands means that we bring no other motive or agenda, nothing in our hands or hearts, save the yearning to know God and worship Him in His fullness. Seek His face today as you begin and as you continue. In every face you encounter, seek His, in every circumstance, in every thought, word, and deed.

The Way We Worship

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. ” - Psalm 24:7

Expectancy calls for preparation. If our awareness of God’s glory is deep and our desire to worship, desperate, we will be anxious to lift up our heads to behold His face, to open the gates of our hearts for His anticipated entry. We will welcome Him wholeheartedly into the center of our lives and will exalt in His coming. The spirit of celebration and joy characterizes Old Testament worship, likewise, authentic Christian worship. The presence of God calls for singing and dancing. Lift up your heads!

“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. ” - Psalm 24:8

 “Who is this King of glory?”  We tend to grow smug as we “mature” in the grace and knowledge of God. We hear the questions that we ought to be posing ourselves and point to the pages where we answered them in our notebooks years ago. We have gone shallow and are settling for yesterday’s encounter with God. If we think we really have a grasp on God, we are far, far away. Let us keep seeking and, as we seek, meet God in worship where the encounter is always new.

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. ” - Psalm 24:9

It is a refrain and we could simply overlook it and move to the next verse for commentary, but that would be an exercise in shallow worship. Something has changed in the last few days. We have a new way of singing this song, a fresh encounter with the Living God. We have deeper insights into what it means to lift our heads and open the gates. We have a more intimate relationship with the King of Glory having sought Him. We can never sing the same song twice the same way and call it worship.

“Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. ” - Psalm 24:10

Don’t assume that you know the answer just because you read a few sentences of devotional comment or thought the matter over. The Lord is Almighty – we shall never begin to fathom the riches of who He is or plumb the depths of His character and love. Glory annotates weight – a weight so heavy that is transcends gravity and displaces everything that comes across its path. He defies definition and demands reverence. When given the choice between shallowness and depth today, choose to go deep.


Dabble, Dive, Accelerate. Am I a dabbler or am I a diver? | by Tom Sims , Cultivator of Big Ideas | Jan, 2023 | Medium

Dabble, Dive, Accelerate

Photo by

If you are a dabbler, like I have often been with my hobbies and passing interests and avocations, you will make some progress, but it will be slow progress. I confess that sometimes on the important things, I will dabble, dabbling and distraction seem to go together. I dabble a little, distract myself, get distracted and distracted…


Q & Q & Q & A & Q

When I say, "Q & Q & Q & A & Q," I am describing a typical coaching session where the coach does far more asking and listening than answering.

It is a skill to answer a question with a question. It is difficult to acquire and remains difficult to practice once acquired.

It is also a very powerful tool in the hands of the person who knows how to ask the right questions at the right time.


I Want to Be Remembered, But ...

Kenny-eliason-C6TExpu8Znk-unsplash

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Yes, I do want to be remembered, but I also know that eventually, I will be forgotten.

That is OK.

What I really want is to contribute something that blends with other somethings and makes a difference in the world for good. Then, I want that new something that is blended with other somethings to take on a life and identity of its own and grow and be remembered for what it is, something positive, affirming, and compassionate.

That is what I really want to be remembered. Then, if someone thinks of Old Tom, I hope they will think of that.

My stone will read the day of my birth and the day of my death, but all the living will have been done in the tiny dash between.


Borders of Pleasant Stones

800px-Mendingwall

By User:Craig Michaud, CC BY 3.0,

“And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.” – Isaiah 54:12

Robert Frost, in “Mending Wall,” declared that “good fences make good neighbors.

Isaiah conveys a word from the Lord that seems to agree. He speaks of a day when there will be peace, righteousness, and freedom from fear. Security will be assured and life will be pleasant for the people of God.

One of the features of such a day will be clearly defined borders or boundaries. There will be no ambiguity, no argument, and no confusion over what is yours or mine and where one stands.

I crossed over into a neighbor’s yard out of necessity this very day. Yet, as I did so, I knew that without permission and agreement, I was trespassing. I would have been crossing a line I had no business crossing.

Isaiah’s prophecy anticipates the day when no one crosses the line of violation of another person’s rights and dignity. As one popular Christian song of the sixties put it, “We’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

What God will bring about as naturally as the rain in the righting of all things, we work very hard at today. What will flow freely in the day of the Lord’s righteousness, we struggle for in this realm of time, space, and sin. Lines of what is appropriate are being crossed all the time by some while others frantically seek to preserve them and protect what they perceive is their own.

In God’s new day, no one will have to protect his property, dignity, rights, or territory. God will take care of it all and it will be lovely.

Mending Wall
by Robert Frost

Download Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’


Today's Dad Jokes

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Photo by Freddy Kearney on Unsplash

I tell "dad jokes" because they make me chuckle.

Then, when I repeat, other people chuckle for a different reason.

They chuckle because I look funny chuckling at my own silly jokes.

But, we all get to chuckle

"A dad joke is a short joke, typically a pun, presented as a one-liner or a question and answer, but not a narrative. Generally inoffensive, dad jokes are stereotypically told with sincere humorous intent, or to intentionally provoke a negative reaction to their overly-simplistic humor." - Wikipedia

 
No legged cow right where you left it
 
Q: Where do you find a cow with no legs?
A : Right where you left it.
 
 
 
No photo description available.
 
 
Q: What’s the best thing about Switzerland?
A: I don’t know, but their flag is a huge plus.
 
 
 
Aschenputtel cinderella
 
Q: What did Cinderella say when her photos did not show up?
A: Someday my prints will come
 
 
Framed_FilmPoster
 
Q: Why did the picture go to jail?
A: Because it was framed.
 
 
 
 
Toilet_370x580
 
Q: What did one toilet say to the other?
A: Are you OK? You look a bit flushed.
 
You have two options today:
 
Tell a dad joke or ...
Laugh at a dad joke.
 
Or Both!!!
 
 
 

Self-Doubt and Decision

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
 
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
What he said is always true. On one hand, we need the humility it takes to rethink our positions and consider other people's viewpoints. On the other  hand, we need the confidence to proceed with the possibility that we might be wrong.
 
We always be wrong if we do nothing,
 
If you have a viewpoint, it means you are located somewhere in space-time.
 
It means that, from that locations, you have the ability to see or perceive your surroundings and that you have a perspective from which to view that which is beyond you.
 
That is what it means, but it is somewhat meaningless unless you take into account an awareness of your location and the presuppositions associated with it.
 
If you are not aware of your filters, it is difficult or impossible to interpret what you see from where you are.
 
That being the case, you will need to make some decisions, taking into account, your biases, and points of view of others you respect.
 
It will require the kind of courage that Emerson suggested and the kind of humility that is necessary to grow and discern truth
 
Emerson also said,

“Don't waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
In our weakness, Go is our strength. In our helplessness, God is our help. It is good to be reminded that at the point of our extremities, God is sufficient. At the limits of our power and mobility, we can rely on God. God's grace is enough. When we are powerless, we can know, more fully, God's greater power. When chaos bellows, shalom rules. Amen.
 
One more from Ralph ...
"Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful; For beauty is God's handwriting...a wayside sacrament." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
 

In the meantime,

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." - Colossians 4:6


The Boat

 

From Mark 8:1-10

Who Provided the Boat?

"And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples..."

This raises an interesting question that I will return to in a few paragraphs.

For me and for today, the big phrase in this morning's gospel portion is this phrase:

"I have compassion for the crowd..."

He was concerned that they were hungry and would not make it home in good health.

So, he immediately formulated a strategy and involved his inner circle in solving the problem, calling upon the power of Eternity to make up for what resources they might have lacked.

Then he got into a boat.

Here is another statement that I often overlook.

It seems that, while in Galilee, Jesus often traveled by boat and would just get in the boat.

Where did the boat come from?

Did he hire it, rent it, borrow it, or own it?

I think, I would like to imagine that it was a part of the mini-fleet from the business that Andrew and Simon Peter left behind.

I like to imagine that when they became disciples of Jesus, the resources that they had were available to the God-Movement and that there was always a boat ready for Jesus and the disciples.

What resources from your life and work have you brought to the God-Movement?

Are they available to Jesus at a Moment's notice?

Someone made fish and bread available, but there was also, that boat.

Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat."

"If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way-- and some of them have come from a great distance."

His disciples replied, "How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?"

He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?"

They said, "Seven."

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.

They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.

They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Now there were about four thousand people.

And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

 


What Is Your Pronoun?

Alexander-grey-IDxuUey3M5E-unsplash

 

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Do you prefer to listen to the unedited, incomplete version?

Download Pronouns

Dr. McElfresh wore a plaid, flannel shirt with a neck tie and a sport coat, and carried his Marlboro cigarettes in a Band-Aid can in his short pocket. He taught Greek and classical languages at Virginia Tech in the 70s and he was one of my most colorful professors there. When I inquired about a matter related to koine Greek, his answer was always the same, "The Greeks spoke Greek."

His other memorable quote, imprinted on my mind, was he had stopped trying to address letters to "Dear Sir or Madam" for fear of being offensive. He had simply moved to the greeting, "Good Creatures."

Some would say, he was far ahead of his time or far behind.

I have a been thinking about the awkward us of the pronoun “they” as a singular form of the personal pronoun.

At first my reaction was, “It's plural. It's poor English form. I don't like it.”

I am a grammar traditionalist. However, after reflecting, I will say that I've been living in a state of confusion as a writer and a speaker for several years regarding the correct gender pronouns.

Just because online and by name, you may not be able to tell if a person is male, female, or binary. And we have the issue of now even more complications on being able to discern which pronoun is appropriate.

Not everyone includes their, pronoun preferences in all communication channels. So, I wonder if a lot of this dissonance is about confusion. I am no stranger to confusion. Maybe I should welcome the pronouns, “they,” “their,” and “them” as a standard for everyone.

Indeed, it is showing up in some of the new business correspondence of today.

One thing we know about the English language is that it changes. Rules and forms change. Standards change. Everything changes. Language  evolves. Sometimes it takes a sudden departure up, down to the left or to the right. And I suppose that's okay.

So maybe I will give some consideration to this matter apart from any kind of political correctness or position on gender neutrality. There is a form of political correctness that I've always just called courtesy and good manners, that is,  addressing people the way they wish to be addressed.

  • Whether that's “sir” or “madam,” or “yes sir,” “no sir,” “Mister,” “Miss,” “Missus,” or “Ms.”
  • Your Honor, Your Majesty, Your Lofty Loveliness,
  • Pastor Reverend, Father, Rabbi, Grand Master
  • Officer, Deputy, Detective
  • All those variations.

Father, sister, brother.

And with that in mind, I can only say it may be a welcome change to have some standard that we can all somehow live by without the element of confusion. I want what I write and what I say, all humor aside, although, all humor is never aside, but this is serious, to stand the test of time and be relevant.

I know that not everything will always be relevant, but at least some of it be relevant for the future.

Don’t get me started on unisex bathrooms. I have always been in favor of first come, first serve private restroom is public. I might call that the Public/Private Sector.

So here it is. We do the best we can, and I will give some consideration to the pronouns. Them their, those, all of that.

And if you have “a beef” with that, take it to the pasture; I am a vegetarian.

No offense.

Pronouns


They Shall See God

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Art by Laura James, LauraJamesArt.com

Big questions keep us awake at night. The answers define where we stand in relation to ultimate truth. They either cloud our view or take us to new vistas of awareness.

The psalmist asks a question.

Who can live close to God?

Who does God invite into proximity with the divine presence.

Psalm 15:1 - Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

The grand question introduces the next set of lessons from the psalms and sparks the imagination of all earnest seekers. As believers in Christ, we have the answer in the gospel, but the very asking of the question is a matter of opening to God for all that He desires to teach us. Do not take truth for granted or treat it as if it were not ever new and renewing. Allow the question to move you to the next level of seeking as you go before the Father in prayer today.

Psalm 15:2 - … He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…

Here we have an answer to the question posed yesterday, “Who may dwell in your sanctuary and live on your holy hill?” Consider this: not everyone wants that. For some, the price of letting go of blame and embracing righteousness is too much. Truth is too threatening, and the lure of sin is too great. The psalmist however, longs for the presence of God and that is what it means to desire eternal life and heavenly bliss. It is not the beauty of the hill that captures the heart, but the beauty of God Himself.

To desire God is to desire the qualities that God brings to our lives: blamelessness through forgiveness, righteous behavior through the power of grace, and a heart of truth by the transformation of the Holy Spirit within us. Let us pray for that heart change that redirects our focus from sin to God and then, our very longing for heaven will be indicative of our readiness to enter in.

Psalm 15:3 - … and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong, and casts no slur on his fellow man.

The man or woman who can stand with joy and confidence in the presence of God and fully embrace the wonder of His fellowship is in constant touch with his or her fellow human beings. Those relationships matter. They have affect upon and are affected by our vital and honest relationship with God.

It is not possible to claim footing on the holy hill while usurping the place of a brother or sister. Slander, malice, and simple disregard for the feelings of a neighbor are indicative of shaky spiritual grounding and contribute to spiritual tremblers in our fellowship with the Lord. Let the love of Christ enter your heart at the choice level in all of your dealings with those around you and express your deep desire to love God by loving others.

Psalm 15:4 - who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,

As we have so often noted, we must begin with the vile man within each of us and register our disgust with the vileness of our own sin natures. But we must go beyond that point. If we will despise the vileness within us, we must also honor the new man or woman recreated in God’s image that reveres God and loves truth.

That person lives inside of us as well and that person is fashioned by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. He or she is the Christ-life gifted to us through new birth. There are new values and a new integrity that is constantly going for truth no matter what it will cost because God is truth and nothing else matters more than God.

If we will value and honor that person, it will grow and take over our lives. That is the person God has made you to be.

Psalm 15:5 - who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  He who does these things will never be shaken.

What some have, in the past, called social gospel, the scriptures call justice and righteousness. It is a very clear matter to the earnest student of the Bible that one must deal fairly, honestly, and uprightly in every horizontal relationship if the vertical relationship with God is to flourish. Allow dishonesty, greed, malice, and bitterness to enter into your heart in any dimension of your being and it will undermine your footing before God upon the holy hill where you presume to stand erect.

The key to unshakable spiritual growth is to despise that which is vile and embrace that which is holy and true and to never compromise our purity of purpose in seeking God – whether our eyes are fixed toward His sanctuary or upon His face in the eyes one of His children.

Sing along with this video

1. Who may a bide in Your dwelling, O Lord?
He who walks rightly and follows Your word.
Who makes his home on Your high, holy hill?
He who speaks truth in his heart by Your will.

2. He shall not slander a neighbor or friend;
Neither does evil nor seeks to offend.
All who are wicked by him are despised;
God's faithful servants find praise in his eyes.

3. He keeps his word without thought to his pain.
Lends to the needy, expecting no gain;
Stands by the innocent man without fail.
He who does these things shall ever prevail.

Words: David P. Regier, Music: Traditional Irish Melody

In Micah’s day, the same questions were being asked.

Micah preached it poetically.

Micah 6:1-8, New International Version

Listen to what the LORD says:
“Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
let the hills hear what you have to say.
“Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation;
listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the LORD has a case against his people;
he is lodging a charge against Israel.
“My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.
My people, remember
what Balak king of Moab plotted
and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”
With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Out of the complex history of God’s dealings with his people up until that point comes a simple message.

In three short points, Micah summarizes the human obligation to God.

  1. Act with justice and fairness.
  2. Love mercy.
  3. Walk humbly with God.

When we walk in justice, we care about right and wrong in our personal lives, in our communities, and in the world.

We care about the poor, the wounded, the broken, and the disenfranchised.

We labor for the wellbeing of all people.

That is just justice. It is fair. It is right. It honors the dignity of humanity which is dignified by God.

But there is more. There is mercy. The people who love God, love mercy. The people who love mercy, feel the pain of others can care about them with great affection and passion.

Not to love mercy is to deny the heart of God and separate ourselves from God’s concerns.

Then, there is even more. The people who are drawn in to the inner circle of God’s presence are those who walk with God in humility. They have an honest view of themselves and a awe inspired view of God.

They cannot be self-focused because they have seen a glimpse of glory and that glory has humbled their hearts with reverence and joy.

Paul said such people who come to God in Jesus for mercy and grace, those who see God’s glory in the cross of Christ, those who have been transformed by the grace of God, are often considered as fools in the world.

How could thinking people accept such a simple and generous gospel?

1 Corinthians 1:18-31, New International Version

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It is a great turn-round. Those who think they are clever, wise, sophisticated, powerful, and above-it-all will be frustrated and humbled. Those who have humbled themselves and received mercy shall be exalted.

Those who asserted their own importance shall realize how unimportant they are.

Those who knew they were weak and relied on God's strength shall be strong indeed.

God, working in Christ, makes people wise, and strong, and righteous as he redeems them and makes them holy.

It all makes sense in the charter message of the Kingdom of God, delivered on a mountain near the Sea of Galilee by Jesus himself.

Matthew 5:1-12, New International Version

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let us  zero in on  verses 1 and 2

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:   And he opened his mouth, and taught them …” - Matthew 5:1-2:

The sermon on the Mount is the greatest description of kingdom living ever spoken.  Its ideals are high and unattainable in the flesh.  It lifts values and principles which go for the heart of God’s desire for the behavior of kingdom people.

To examine ourselves in their light is an arduous task.  It would be discouraging and debilitating apart from grace.  However, it can serve as a benchmark for progress is our spiritual growth.  It can also remind us that no matter how far we have come, God can take us farther.

With an Open Mouth

“And he opened his mouth, and taught them …“-Matthew 5:2

When Jesus began to teach, he opened his mouth. The words that came out were words of congratulations. They were words of encouragement. They were spoken to the multitudes. They were spoken to disciples.

They were spoken to men and women who were poor come who were in mourning, who were meek hungry for righteousness merciful sincere and peacemakers. They were these characterized by all of these descriptions, or they aspired to be the people Jesus described and would become them.

They were people who would know persecution and hardship and sorrow.

So, Jesus called them blessed.

Some call this blessedness happiness.

Some call it congratulations.

Whatever it is called the poor are blessed because of their greatest possession the Kingdom of God.

Mourners are blessed because of anticipated comfort from God. The meek are blessed because in their powerlessness they find great power to inherit the earth. It is a world of opposites that we enter when we invited into the Kingdom of God.

We become odd people, people who cannot be put into a box, people who are not easily defined.

We are blessed when we are persecuted. We win by losing. We gain great mercy in showing mercy. Our eyes are cleared to see God when they are purified by our hearts which are sincere before God in their seeking.

Rejoice Jesus says. Rejoice when you are beat up. Rejoice when people speak evil against you falsely. Rejoice when you are reviled. Rejoice and be glad. You have a great reward awaiting you in heaven.

Those who find the way of Jesus, the simple gospel of God's Kingdom, and answer the gracious, welcoming invitation to come, are invited to the Holy Hill. They are drawn into divine proximity. They are ushered into the sanctuary.

The Kingdom of God is made up of common people with a sincere desire to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, all of whom have had multiple failures in that attempt. However, they have risen from the failures, accepted forgiveness, and have started over - sometimes over and over.

They are a rejoicing people that are hard to understand, but they keep rejoicing because they have found a way like no other way.

Theirs is the Kingdom of God and they shall see God and for them, that is the greatest reward of all.


Wear Your Own Armor

Michelangelo _David_and_Goliath

Michelangelo, David and Goliath, Sistine Chapel

You remember the Bible story of David and Goliath.

Do you remember that when David approached Saul with the request to be sent to confront Goliath, the king tried to outfit the young shepherd?

David would not and could not wear Saul’s armor to battle Goliath. He was not Saul. He was not Saul’s size. He needed his own garb and his own weapons.

He was armored only with confidence. His only real weapon was a stone. 

When we realize that we are unique, fearfully and wonderfully made people, we will come to be free to be ourselves. We won’t try to fit into someone else’s armor or style. We will celebrate our own personalities and unique voices for sharing the message that has been seared into our hearts. 

We will abandon the need to use boiler plate strategies, jargon, and methodologies. 

We will awaken to the reality that no one else and be who we are nor do what we can do. We are gifted in our own ways and our giftedness becomes part of God’s gift to the world.

Try this on for size today: Be the you that you were made to be.

If you are not you, no one else will be. The world will lose something valuable and, perhaps crucial to its survival
 
Living, itself, is a testimonial to others. That may be what you bring to the battle.

Just living is harder for some folks than any other challenge. They put on the armor that fits them and they go out to face their giants. Those who continue to press forward, live as a source of courage for the rest of us.

God knows who can be trusted to live openly and with joy on the wheel of suffering.

Only God can measure the results.

Be you.

Wear your own armor.


Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.


Really Connect with Your Audience

Farewell

One secret of effective communication is connecting with your audience.

This is true whether you are dealing one-on-one, with small groups, with large groups, or with invisible groups over radio, television, or the internet.

It is true with speaking and with writing.

I was reading my scripture devotions this morning when something slapped me in the face.

You read the same passage, year after year for decades and one day, something pops out at you that you have never stopped to ponder before.

"...After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray." - Mark 6:46

Did I miss, "... he went up on the mountain to pray?"

No. I have preached that part a great deal.

I never stopped and lingered over "...After saying farewell to them ..."

Is it important?

Mark included it in the text. Did he think it was important or just incidental.

Or was it an acknowledgement of a pattern, lifestyle, habit, or practice of Jesus that differentiated him from other teachers?

Or, does the fact that Jesus followed that practice mean that he valued it?

On one hand, it is a people-skill and a simple courtesy.

On another hand, I I realize most of us only have two, it is something you would do with one person or a small group when taking your leave. But over 5000?

Do you really have a personal relationship with a crowd?

As a public speaker and teacher for many years, i would say, that if you do not, you have not connected. Your effectiveness is limited.

When you dismiss a crowd, you are not say, "the end" and turning off the microphone. You are saying farewell to friends.

You are hoping to meet again.

You are acknowledging a valuable relationship that has been forged in a short time and might continue for years to come.

The people will always be part of you and you will always be part of them.

Having made over 10,000 talks in my life, actually having lost count, I can say, that every person in every audience, has left an imprint on me.

Every time I have left them, I have needed to retreat to a mountain for prayer, refection and regrouping.

Some faces and voices stand out more vividly and colorfully; some are faded. But all have changed me.

My prayer is that whatever imprint I have left of the crowds has prompted a change for the better in their lives.

If it worked for Jesus, I cannot improve on that.

Here are some of the lessons I learned about connecting.

Prepare to connect. Prepare your own mind, heart, attitude, and presentation to make new friends, and to care about the individuals to whom you will be speaking. For me, it has always involved prayer. If that is not part of your life, find another way to turn your heart to the people.

Arrive early and meet people. That may not always be possible with large gatherings, but whenever possible, take advantage of the opportunity to mingle and have some conversations.

Make eye contact with some people in the group. That is difficult if the room is dark and the spotlight is on you, but it always works in smaller crowds. If the room does not allow for it, use your imagination and visualize people who are responding.

Likewise, learn to pick up on signals like breathing, crowd sounds, pacing of applause, and other indicators of whether or not the people are with you. You are not just performing, you are building a relationship. Read the room.

Pause and ask for response. Your pacing can be a relationship builder.

Open your heart to the crowd and be vulnerable. Share from more than what you know. Share from who you are.

Linger, if possible, for some one-on-one conversations and questions. I assume you want to come back to this crowd. Make some friends.

Give yourself 100% in the moment of speaking. Give everything you have. Be present, flexible, and real.

Say "farewell" in some way that lets the people know that you are going away but you will always take the moment with you and carry them in your heart, that you appreciate them, and, if you are as corny as me, that you love them.

You can be eloquent, persuasive, interesting, funny, and entertaining, but if you do not connect, something will be missing.

 

Stay in Touch: My LinkTree. Coaching/Mentoring : Schedule time with me For coaching and mentoring, the first consultation is complimentary.

Culminating in Prayer

Thought-catalog-sCKtNbIKOuQ-unsplash

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A Composite of Several Journal Entries from Several Years

Do not assume that all your troubles are a spiritual deficit in your life. They may, however, be a profound spiritual opportunity for asking deeper questions, exploring deeper waters, and seeking and knowing God more deeply.

" All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
(Psalm 44:17-22 ESV)

" Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!"
(Psalm 44:26 ESV)

In such moments, the heart cries for redemption. Even the saved feel lost. The sad song of abandonment is on our lips. The woeful weight of hardship presses us down and we cry out for deliverance.

"Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths, He will provide us with strong shoes and He will not send us on any journey for which He will not equip us well." - Maclaren

There it is again, the reminder that we are getting stronger, better, and more resilient, even if we did not choose that path.

We would not, though, ever prefer, to be weak and fragile? We know at the end of each journey, what we wish we'd known from the start. We are not alone and the journey is worth the blisters and bumps.

We pray. We pray the same pray, at the core, in hardship and in ease.

"The prayer of the morning will determine the day." - Bonhoeffer

"O God, I need a Master. Chain me back into freedom; darken me back into light; stab me back into wholeness; quiet me back into singing; and erase me back into fullness. In Jesus' Name. Amen." - E. Stanley Jones, (Abundant Living)

As I said, this was "A Composite of Several Journal Entries from Several Years."

It had to be written to be remembered. It had to be rewritten to be shared.

No photo description available.

And, it is still not over.

Lest I take pride in my accomplishment, today's scripture lesson sparked some stark reminders.

A Vote of No Confidence

"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." - Philippians 3:4-7

In some nations, governments can topple in a day through a vote of no-confidence by the majority of the members of that country’s parliament. So ought the reign of our flesh to topple through a no-confidence vote originating in our hearts.

It is with an argument from absurdity that we are convicted here. If anyone could have confidence in the flesh to save, it would be Paul. And Paul throws up his hands and proclaims that he has no such confidence.

Take your very best day, the very best day you could ever have and duplicate it for every day of your life. Reach your highest potential every moment of every hour. Do all that you can do in your own power. Resist every temptation you can resist in your own strength. Rectify every wrong you can correct from the past. Arrest your thoughts and submit them to the rigors of positive thinking. Miss no opportunities for kindness that you can see. Attend church every time the doors open. Pray so often that even your Christian friends question your sanity. Add it all together and more and you will not accumulate enough “points” to win a consolation prize according to God’s standards.

You just can’t impress God in the flesh and all your efforts to do so fall flat. In fact, whatever you do in your own strength is an offense to God and waste of effort to you. You can only please God through Jesus Christ.

First, it is necessary that His blood cover your sins. Then, you must have His righteousness imparted to you by grace through faith. Then, if your life is to count, if anything you do is to matter, it must be accomplished in and through His Spirit at work in you.

Give your flesh a vote of no-confidence and let Jesus Christ on the throne of your life once and for all.

All else is loss.

What pray does this evoke for you today?


Kick Fanny Music

Kick butt
 
Mood matters, but you are not at the mercy of your mood.
 
You can influence it. You can choose your attitude.
 
Surround yourself with an arena of encouragement. Music is one way to do so.
 
Another is to read and listen to the right teaching. It is right when it is true. It is right when it is positive. It is right when it is encouraging. It is also right when it energizes you to do what is right,
 
Turn on the lights in your workspace.
 
Discipline your thoughts.
 
Now, turn on the music.
 
It is not an inauspicious opening line to today's psalm praising a king.
"My heart is stirring with a noble song..." - Psalm 45:1a
We've all long loved pomp, grandeur, heroics, and nobility in the arts. We get "pumped" up by certain music.
 
What noble themes pump you up?
 
I used the search criteria, "Kick Butt Music" in YouTube this morning and some of the results were disappointing.
 
Some were great - Rocky themes, "Go the Distance," "Rise Up" and so forth.
 
Post your favorite links here - Songs of Encouragement - Noble Themes."
 
I could go on all week.
 
Here is the thread on Facebook. Feel free to participate. It is open to all.
 
If I like your song, it will go on my "You Can Do It- Kick Butt Songs" playlist.
 
This thread will grow. Bookmark it and keep coming back to check.
 
Here is one of my favorites to kick it off!

Here is the playlist of 68 motivational, inspirational, encouraging songs.

Check out this recent blog entry:

Conent with conternt

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Grin When They Lambast You

Celebrate National Handwriting Day

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Grin When They Lambast You

Westboro
 
Sometimes, we are most complimented by those who unfairly criticize, maliciously malign, or insult us. Their opposition is a good sign that we are on the right track.
 
If the right people hate you and misrepresent you, it is a really good sign.
 
If, when they represent you, they tell the truth, as if it were a dirty truth, smile. They probably do not have a clue.
 
The early believers were called "Christians" as an insult and term of derision and they embraced it.
 
They did so because their Master had told them to expect persecution and to meet it with rejoicing and gladness.
 
Why?
 
Because, he said that it put them in the same league with the prophets who had gone before.
 
They were in good company.
 
Grin. Smile. Rejoice!
 
G for Grey
 
The  skies of your haters are grey and you are a bright, colorful light.
 
Darkness does relish light. But keep being light in spite of the slander.
 
R for Right
 
You can't always be right, but you can be on the right track heading in the wrong direction. If you are, all the wrong-way drivers will honk at you as if you were the hazard. 
"I would rather be right than president." - Henry Clay
Whether he was right or wrong is for another discussion, but he was not president.
 
I for Inspire
 
Be energized and inspired with you are maligned. Take strength from the knowledge that your message is clear and you are not being misunderstood.
 
If you were vague, you would blend into the background noise.
 
Let the criticism inspire you to even greater thing,.
 
N for Negate No
 
Say "Yes!"  to all the "No-Sayers."
 
Shout it!
 
You are living fully and unambiguously  in a dull, grey world of negativity!
 
Keep up the good work.
 
Keep GRIINING!
 
 
 
Live fully

Celebrate National Handwriting Day

John hancock

Happy National Handwriting Day!

The twenty-third of January is John Hancock’s birthday.

John Hancock is best known as having the first and most prominent signature on the Declaration of Independence, and signatures are often referred to as a “John Hancock” as a result.

Hancock was president of the Continental Congress and his signature served to validate the final version of the document in 1776.

So, take a moment today, walk away from your computer or handheld device, pick up a pen and paper, and write something, by hand.

 

Handwriting

 

 

In Commemoration

This was originally written by hand.

But it is unreadable that way.

--------------------

Today,

With pen in hand,

With lined paper,

With decades of bad habits

And a hybrid style

That defies style,

I celebrate.

What is virtually lost:

Handwriting.

Is it print that I do?

Is it cursive?

Is it readable?

Is it relatable?

Is it, and can it be, anything?

Anything, anything at all.

Thomas B. Sims

 


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Born this day:

Pierre Gassendi (22 January 1592 – 24 October 1655) was a French philosopher, priest, astronomer, and mathematician. While he held a church position in south-east France, he also spent much time in Paris, where he was a leader of a group of free-thinking intellectuals. He was also an active observational scientist, publishing the first data on the transit of Mercury in 1631.

He wrote numerous philosophical works, and some of the positions he worked out are considered significant, finding a way between skepticism and dogmatism. His best known intellectual project attempted to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity.

"Man lives very well upon flesh, you say, but, if he thinks this food to be natural to him, why does he not use it as it is, as furnished to him by Nature? But, in fact, he shrinks in horror from seizing and rending living or even raw flesh with his teeth, and lights a fire to change its natural and proper condition. … What is clearer than that man is not furnished for hunting, much less for eating, other animals? In one word, we seem to be admirably admonished by Cicero that man was destined for other things than for seizing and cutting the throats of other animals. If you answer that ‘that may be said to be an industry ordered by Nature, by which such weapons are invented,’ then, behold! it is by the very same artificial instrument that men make weapons for mutual slaughter. Do they this at the instigation of Nature? Can a use so noxious be called natural? Faculty is given by Nature, but it is our own fault that we make a perverse use of it."

Letter to Van Helmont, quoted in The Ethics of Diet: A Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-eating by Howard Williams (London: F. Pitman, 1883), pp. 103-104.

Source: en.wikiquote.org

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The word, “persistence” popped into my mind this afternoon as I was engaging in reflection and considering what to write. The verb “to persist” is derived from the Latin, “persistere” which is a compilation of two concepts, “per” (thoroughly) and “sistere” (come or cause to stand still). The one who…

 

Persist

 
 

Visit any church or pastor’s library, or religious book store and ask for the section where the books on spiritual disciplines, discipleship, and devotionals are stored. Peruse the classics online. Read a few samples and, if your brain works like mine, you might start feeling really inadequate spiritually. You want…

 

Prayer of a Distractible Soul

 

Today, your assignment it to see the spark in someone in whom you do not expect a spark. Find the spark and do or say what you can to keep it going to the next step of intensity. Protect it from the torrential rain of criticism or the inertial force…

 

The Genius in the Mirror

 

Get great business information and coaching  and network with others at

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Follow. I Will Follow!

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Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Message from Facebook Service

 

Called from darkness where we wandered.
Called to follow brilliant light.
From the lives that we had squandered.
From our blindness, hearts ignite.

We have heard the distant voice
Growing closer by the hour.
We have made the desperate choice.
We are consumed by gentle power.

He has said now, "Follow me."
We have answered, "Yes. We see!"

We were looking for a light to follow, Dear God.

We were searching for hope.

We were looking for a way and you found us.

Thank you.

Amen.

Let Us Pray

Isaiah 9:2-4

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken ...

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

1 Corinthians 1:10 and 18

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose ...  the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Matthew 4:12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,  so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

 "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

 


Follow Me
Matthew 4:18
“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

There were two simple things that Jesus said and three things he did.

The first thing he said was, "Change your minds, lives, ways, and attitudes because the rule of God has come."

It was a radical proclamation and declaration.

Because of the news of change that had come to the world, the people of the world were being called to change.

The second thing he said was "Follow me and I will make you like the fishermen of this movement, gathering people under God's reign and capturing them alive for real life.

I am paraphrasing, of course.

The things he did, that Matthew describes were teach, proclaim, and heal.

Today, we shall focus for a moment on the two words, "Follow me."

Jesus showed up. on the shore. He showed up where the fishermen were. He knew that he would find someone he was looking for there. He had already considered the demographic from which he would choose fishers of men.

There they were. The dregs of society were there. The rough and tumble hard driven crusty fowl mouth working men. Among these Jesus would find some disciples.

Why? What could he see in men like that? How could they be qualified to be disciples of this rabbi?

But Jesus saw them and seized them. In them he saw potential and more. He saw all that they could become. He saw all that they would become. He saw what was already in their hearts.

He knew how to motivate them.

Jesus knew the words that would get their attention. He knew their longings. He knew their frustrations. He knew their dreams. He knew their desire for significance. He knew how to call them.

There was never a recruiter like Jesus.

When Jesus spoke several of these men listened, not all of them, but the ones he had chosen, the ones he was calling.

This was part of the miracle. Jesus knew.

Jesus knew who he needed.

Jesus knew who needed him.

The ones who would follow needed no long argument or persuasion. All it took was his look and a simple but compelling invitation. In that invitation was hope and a possibility.

In English it is two words. Follow me. Follow me and I will transform you from men who fish for fish to men who fish for people. I will create from you a great people movement.

That is what the Kingdom of God is. It is a movement characterized by the reign of God. It is a movement that is constantly attracting men and women to join and follow.

Jesus still knows where to go to find the people who will find the people who will find the people who will call the people to follow. He knows and he is still in the business of doing it.


The Best

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Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Abraham Lincoln:

The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.

Malcolm S. Forbes: 

The best vision is insight.

Theodore Roosevelt: 

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

Lincoln, Forbes, and Roosevelt have contributed to my thinking about best things today. In the early 70s, Jimmy Carter wrote a book inspired by something Admiral Hyman Rickover said to him. The title of the book was, "Why Not the Best?"

Whatever your politics, it is good reading.

Here is my contribution to those who, today, are aiming beyond mediocrity for what is best:

B - Better

The best is better than good. If all you want it good, there are many choices. none of them are the best. They are just OK.  For those whose aim is toward the best, today is opportune and tomorrow is a place of wonder. Progress is expected. Failures are the price of success and are merely temporary assessments on the road to what is incrementally better. People who are focused on being and doing their best are not discouraged by their imperfections, but inspired toward something better which is ever before them.

E - Ever 

Ever improving, ever reaching, ever growing, ever expanding, and ever celebrating small victories are characteristics of people who aim high and keep aiming higher and higher. They are "EVER People." Such people have a sense of eternity in their hearts, knowing that this life is not all there is, but that it is important and that every day counts. The most effective "Ever People" are also "Forever People" who have grounded their lives in something and Someone who can interpret their existence in terms of eternal purpose. In the meantime, we keep going.

S - Satisfied Dissatisfaction

Those who are ever-becoming and never satisfied with mediocrity have a deep sense of satisfaction which is not to be confused with complacency. It comes from enjoying the journey, celebrating progress, and living by grace. Grace not only offers God's forgiveness for shortcomings and His mercy for our failures, but it gives us the ability to receive these and renew our hope that we can become more and do more. This sort of satisfaction is deep and inner and is never circumstantial or subject to our arbitrary score cards. Because it is not circumstantial, it means we can never be circumstantially satisfied while at the same time, we are kept by the power of perfect peace.

T - Trust

People who aim for the best are people who are cultivating an extraordinary capacity for faith in God, in themselves as servants of God, in others as children of God, and in the future as something being fashioned by God for the unfolding of a great and glorious purpose. They are infused with trust that what is better is not merely a fantasy, but a possibility. You cannot aim for the best without believing in it or in the possibility of its attainment.

All the BEST to you!

And More ....

Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” - Ann Frank

These kids are learning early that they can become MORE every day:

This video was uploaded to YouTube by their teacher  in honor of them being that teacher's first class ever.

 


Submit

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THE CALL TO SUBMISSIVENESS

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”    -Ephesians 5:21

Submission to God is something we "get."

Submission to others does not always bring a smile to our faces.

Great theological debates have waged over the issue of submissiveness. Generally, they seek to soften the edges of the call to voluntarily take the back seat to another brother or sister. All they ever resolve is that everyone has missed the point.

We are to submit to God.

That is the starting place. After that, submission to others in the fear of God is an easy step. Our attitude towards others as we serve them is not about one person being superior to another; it is about God being our undisputed Master, the One we love to serve.

If one were to equate this sort of submission to humility expressed in service to others, the pill would be easier to swallow.

First, examine your own relationship to God.  Do you revere Him as the Lord of life and King of the universe?  Does that reverence color the way you view other people made in His image?  How does the reverence of God inform how you relate to brothers and sisters who are indwelt by His Holy Spirit? 

When Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, I Corinthians 5:16 says that we will see everyone differently. We will never relate again to another human being in terms of the flesh. To the extent that He rules our lives, we will have no difficulty in differing to others in His Name. We will be ever ready to submit and never concerned about demanding submission from others. Position and status will become irrelevant to us – even laughable.

God is no respecter of persons … (Acts 10:34) means to us that God does not respect our arbitrary ranking systems but loves and values all of His people equally. And it is His desire that in His church, His people will mutually submit their preferences, comfort, and desires to one another as they mutually submit to His rulership in their loves and churches.

Once we have a proper view and reverence of God, we will have no problem submitting to one another.

At least that is the plan!


The Shepherd's Care

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Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

God’s Care

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”- Psalm 23:1

Today, we take a fresh look at the most familiar words in the Bible. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is my very own shepherd. He has many sheep, but He is MY shepherd who knows me, cares for me, leads me, and speaks in a voice I recognize. He can differentiate me from all other sheep and always knows whether I am walking with His flock or wandering away. When I do wander, He seeks me because I am His. He is jealous for me and will not tolerate anything that would harm me. I can trust Him.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” – Psalm 23:2

Sheep are not very good at locating their own grazing lands. They tend to wander aimlessly, following this patch of grass to another until they are lost. The Shepherd knows the places of abundant food and pure, sweet water. Worry and care are redundant exercises if one is a member of Yahweh’s flock; He already has our needs in His heart and plans. His care is complete. His provision is sure. Are you wearing your life and patience thin trying to duplicate His efforts? Stop. It is futile. Trust Him.

“ He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” - Psalm 23:3

The care that God gives us restores something that has been lacking in our lives. His desire is not simply to keep us going or maintain our existence, but do a deep work of grace in us that places us back on the path of righteousness – right relationships with Him and others and right living that nourishes our souls. As He works profoundly in us, His purposes are accomplished and His Name is glorified. We cannot divorce the glory and love of God as opposing realities. When we prosper, He is exalted.

“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

This valley was a real place of danger in the psalmist’s time and it is any place of danger and despair in our own where we feel alone and vulnerable. But neither the valley nor death itself are the essential and fearful evils that we shun. Evil overtakes us as we grow frightful and discouraged in the valley and it is that evil that the Shepherd confronts with His rod and staff to comfort our souls. Sometimes it is the rod and staff of discipline, but more often, of protection that reminds us that we are not alone.

“ Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5

We are guests of God, honored and prized. So far, the psalmist has portrayed God as a shepherd. Then, he has added the role of friend to the Lord’s description. Now, He is also our host. As we see more of who God is in our lives, our self-image is expanded. We have been invited to sit at the head table and partake of a feast of love, joy, and abundance. Looking on with jealous rage are our impotent enemies – forces that endanger our souls. They are powerless to interrupt this celebration for God is in charge.

“ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” – Psalm 23:6

Wherever we go, goodness and love follow. Our journey is a temporal transition leading to an eternal home, but throughout it all, we are accompanied by the presence of God. His Shepherding friendship and hospitality cause us to reinterpret every event of our lives in the light of His purposes and providence. Nothing has meaning apart from Him once we have trusted Him and known His covenant love. Everything prior to our coming to Him was a cruel illusion. But now, we live in a constant state of grace. Amen.




The Shepherd's Care

Patrick-schneider-wczrs3Unfnk-unsplash

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

God’s Care

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”- Psalm 23:1

Today, we take a fresh look at the most familiar words in the Bible. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is my very own shepherd. He has many sheep, but He is MY shepherd who knows me, cares for me, leads me, and speaks in a voice I recognize. He can differentiate me from all other sheep and always knows whether I am walking with His flock or wandering away. When I do wander, He seeks me because I am His. He is jealous for me and will not tolerate anything that would harm me. I can trust Him.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” – Psalm 23:2

Sheep are not very good at locating their own grazing lands. They tend to wander aimlessly, following this patch of grass to another until they are lost. The Shepherd knows the places of abundant food and pure, sweet water. Worry and care are redundant exercises if one is a member of Yahweh’s flock; He already has our needs in His heart and plans. His care is complete. His provision is sure. Are you wearing your life and patience thin trying to duplicate His efforts? Stop. It is futile. Trust Him.

“ He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” - Psalm 23:3

The care that God gives us restores something that has been lacking in our lives. His desire is not simply to keep us going or maintain our existence, but do a deep work of grace in us that places us back on the path of righteousness – right relationships with Him and others and right living that nourishes our souls. As He works profoundly in us, His purposes are accomplished and His Name is glorified. We cannot divorce the glory and love of God as opposing realities. When we prosper, He is exalted.

“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

This valley was a real place of danger in the psalmist’s time and it is any place of danger and despair in our own where we feel alone and vulnerable. But neither the valley nor death itself are the essential and fearful evils that we shun. Evil overtakes us as we grow frightful and discouraged in the valley and it is that evil that the Shepherd confronts with His rod and staff to comfort our souls. Sometimes it is the rod and staff of discipline, but more often, of protection that reminds us that we are not alone.

“ Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5

We are guests of God, honored and prized. So far, the psalmist has portrayed God as a shepherd. Then, he has added the role of friend to the Lord’s description. Now, He is also our host. As we see more of who God is in our lives, our self-image is expanded. We have been invited to sit at the head table and partake of a feast of love, joy, and abundance. Looking on with jealous rage are our impotent enemies – forces that endanger our souls. They are powerless to interrupt this celebration for God is in charge.

“ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” – Psalm 23:6

Wherever we go, goodness and love follow. Our journey is a temporal transition leading to an eternal home, but throughout it all, we are accompanied by the presence of God. His Shepherding friendship and hospitality cause us to reinterpret every event of our lives in the light of His purposes and providence. Nothing has meaning apart from Him once we have trusted Him and known His covenant love. Everything prior to our coming to Him was a cruel illusion. But now, we live in a constant state of grace. Amen.




Listen to Your Desires

Torn hope

 
When your heart belongs to God and is, essentially set on the purposes of God, a new shaping begins to take place.
 
None of this is perfected in time and space, but, to the extent that it is dominant reality of our lives, it does effect our desires.
 
Our desires exist at multilevel layers. They are not all-together free of corruption, but neither are they all-together corrupt. We must listen to our emerging desires, inner stirrings, and subliminal awareness because it is often at that layer that our minds, hearts, and spirits are sorting out the scriptures and insights that God is giving us through many sources all at once.
 
It is those desires that we want Him to fulfill because they are His desires and they are our deepest desires. Out of those desires flow the legitimate dreams, visions, and plans for the future He purposes for us.
 
"May he grant you your heart's desire
and fulfill all your plans!"
Psalm 20:4 ESV
 
Listen to your desires and prayerfully examine your plans. Do not dismiss them, but dig deeper into them.
 
Examine them in the light of scripture and prayer, peeling away the layers until you discover what God is saying to you in and through them.
 

Jesus and the Man with the Withered Hand

1600s whithered hand
 
Jesus must have been  agitated and grieved here at the same time, because otherwise good people with sound doctrine are adding burdens to people that stand between them and their healing and redemption.
 
Jesus' heart does not allow him to pass a man with a withered hand and not do all he can to help and restore. He can no less pass an opportunity to make a teaching point in his own indignation - even if it creates hostility against him.
 
"Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
 
And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
 
And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
 
And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”
 
But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
 
He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him."-Mark 3:1-6 (ESV)
There are many lessons here, but one strikes me today. These Pharisees, by all accounts, reformers who sought to bring the faith of Israel back to its authentic roots, had gotten familiar with power and honor and were threatened when something different came along. They had also fallen for the mistaken belief that if everyone just followed the rules as they interpreted them, they would all be "cool" with God.
 
They were so convinced of their calling to control the Sabbath that God had given to man and made the Son of Man in charge of, that they were willing to align with the money-grabbing, religiously antagonistic, power brokers of the day whose Herodian inclinations were secular, unjust, oppressive, and basically evil.
 
They had something in common - common economic and political interests that they were willing to justify with religious language.
So great was there lust for order, power, and social/religious favor and equilibrium that they made plans to destroy the voice that would upset their tentative and fragile apple cart of Roman-Jewish coexistence.
 
Jesus' response was to feel the indignation, grief, and compassion, recognize the risk, and do what he would do anyway.
He was not about to be intimidated.
 
 

Be Kind

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Photo by Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

 

"Be Ye Kind"

"... and be kind to one another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ has forgiven you."


Am I kind?

It is more than just being nice.

It is is not being a push-over. It is not being a limp rag. It is not about never having a point of view. It is not a benign presence.

It is about acting in kindness toward people with a tender heart, empathy, and a forgiving spirit.

It is about following the example of Jesus in all of our relationships.

It is about applying what we have learned from Christ.

It requires that put put aside self-serving and self-destructive attitudes and behaviors.

It is heightened sensitivity and renewal of spirit, rejection of lust and management of anger.

It is conscientious, self-disciplined, consistent, measured, and balanced behavior, calculated and committed to promote the well being of individuals and communities.

Kindness is the manner of our lives as we meet and interact with people inside and outside of our congregations.

Oh, God, make me kind.


Ephesians 4:17-32


Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

That is not the way you learned Christ!

For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,

... and be kind to one another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ has forgiven you.



Be Kind

Andrew-thornebrooke-WRAHkIAr2_E-unsplash

Photo by Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

 

"Be Ye Kind"

"... and be kind to one another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ has forgiven you."


Am I kind?

It is more than just being nice.

It is is not being a push-over. It is not being a limp rag. It is not about never having a point of view. It is not a benign presence.

It is about acting in kindness toward people with a tender heart, empathy, and a forgiving spirit.

It is about following the example of Jesus in all of our relationships.

It is about applying what we have learned from Christ.

It requires that put put aside self-serving and self-destructive attitudes and behaviors.

It is heightened sensitivity and renewal of spirit, rejection of lust and management of anger.

It is conscientious, self-disciplined, consistent, measured, and balanced behavior, calculated and committed to promote the well being of individuals and communities.

Kindness is the manner of our lives as we meet and interact with people inside and outside of our congregations.

Oh, God, make me kind.


Ephesians 4:17-32


Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

That is not the way you learned Christ!

For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,

... and be kind to one another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ has forgiven you.



"... a god or ... image that can do no good?" - A Theological Reflection on Idolatry

Shema

The faith of Israel was centered in the worship of YHWH (also known as El, Adonai, Elohim, El Shaddai), the God Who Is.  Judaism, was not simplistic, but it was simple. 

The worship of One God is the greatest common ground that Christians, like myself, find with Judaism and other monotheistic faiths.

With regard to others, we may have differing understandings of the nature of God, but the common understandings are that God is good, loving, gracious, merciful, just, holy, all powerful, sovereign, and self-defined.

Judaism influenced the nations with its understanding of God in the days of the prophets. While not all were called to be Jews, all were  called to the worship of God.

It had not always been understood among the people of God. They developed in their understanding that their God was not tribal nor exclusive to their people. Isaiah, both pre-exile and post exile, forms for the scripture, a theology of a God of the Nations.

Before his time, the theology was their in hints and glimpses.

The Judaism of Isaiah's time was not simplistic because it demanded deep thought and was adorned with many meaningful rituals which taught truths.

It was simple because it focused on One God who is defined by his very Existence. This God is described with a masculine pronoun, but makes it clear that He defines it and cannot be defined by it. He has no gender or human limitations and yet, is personal and relatable.

God is to be reflected upon, experienced as Job experienced God, and revered as one who cannot be fully comprehended.

No prophet expresses this as clearly as Isiah.

This God is beyond understanding and yet, unifies all being and knowledge.

This God transcends presence, but is present.

This God is unknowable, but can be known through divine initiative and revelation.

This God is unapproachable, yet welcoming.

The contrasts and paradoxes can be explored for hours and a lifetime, but they all bring us to this readding for today with a central, underlying truth with no paradox or contradiction:

God cannot be created, controlled, defined,, nor manipulated by human beings or even by religion. The attempt to do so is idolatry and idolatry is the greatest offense to the sovereignty of the Almighty.

For that reason, images and other representations of God were forbidden in that they suggested worship of a deity that could be made with human hands and  carried around as a personal or community possession. Thus, the ARK was not an god; it was a meeting place with God. The Children of Israel did not carry God with them in the wilderness, God led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
 
Isaiah 44:9-20 (NRSV)

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know.

And so they will be put to shame. 

Who would fashion a god or cast an image that can do no good? 

Look, all its devotees shall be put to shame; the artisans too are merely human. Let them all assemble, let them stand up; they shall be terrified, they shall all be put to shame. 

The ironsmith fashions it and works it over the coals, shaping it with hammers, and forging it with his strong arm; he becomes hungry and his strength fails, he drinks no water and is faint. 

The carpenter stretches a line, marks it out with a stylus, fashions it with planes, and marks it with a compass; he makes it in human form, with human beauty, to be set up in a shrine. He cuts down cedars or chooses a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it can be used as fuel.

Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread.

Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image and bows down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it and is satisfied.

He also warms himself and says, "Ah, I am warm, I can feel the fire!" The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, "Save me, for you are my god!" 

They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" 

He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?"

These human-created gods are worthless, powerless, and without free will.

Isaiah asks,

"Who would fashion a god or cast an image that can do no good?"

That is non-simplistic simplicity.

That is the core of monotheism.

Can this God know, act, think, rule, intervene, create and relate out of this same God's own initiative or does this god need a creator in order to exist?

Any God who is God is

As Aristotle articulated, a primary cause, a cause that is not caused, "perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplating only the perfect contemplation: self-contemplation."

St. Thomas Aquinas, used the term "unmoved mover" in the Quinque viae.

If God can be caused, God is not God.

If God can do no good, God is not God.

This is what Isaiah is shouting into the ears of contemporary humans, his and ours, who substitute false deities for the true God. As we elevate the work of our hands, the ingenuity of our minds, the value of our bank balances, the reach of our power, the influence of our prestige, our self-importance, and the profitability of bank balances above the mysteries of God, that is idolatry. To Isaiah, it makes no sense and is self-defeating in the long run.

From the Jewish Virtual Library

"Greek eidōlon originally meant "image" or "fantasy." By the time of the Septuagint the term was used for images of gods. "Idolatry" is literally "image worship." To grasp the character of image worship in biblical literature one must first realize that the Bible describes the worship of all "strange gods" as idolatry, or the worship of "wood and stone." In addition, one must distinguish the biblical polemics against these gods from the opposition to the use of certain images in the service of Yahweh. At times the use of these images is equated with the service of other gods. It should also be borne in mind that there is no necessary connection between aniconism (opposition to images) and monotheism. On the one hand, a monotheistic religion, Roman Catholicism for example, can make use of images. On the other hand, there is evidence of aniconism in polytheistic religions among Israel's neighbors in biblical times (Mettinger)."

Note- I find it interesting that the Wikipedia article on Idolatry in Judaism seems to avoid any images of any sort on its page. Is this a gesture of respect to the religious sensitivities of the Jewish faith.

Additional note - Islam takes this note and prohibition further, as Britannica explains, ""Many (though not all) Muslims reject visual representations (e.g., images and sculpted figures) of religious figures, or even visual representations of living things, seeing it as a form of idolatry (worship of physical objects), which is inconsistent with their monotheism." - www.britannica.com

Final observation - Genesis 1:27 teaches that man was made in the "image of God," Hebrewצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים

The word used is

 צלם

-derived from the parent root צל (tsal) meaning a shadow. Tselem is the outline or shape of a shadow. This contrasts with Graven Image פצל.

See article at Hebrew Research Center: Hebrew Words for Image.

This is a subject for another day, but, consider this: If humans were made in the representation and reflection, however dim, of God, they are the only such dim reflections God made or authorized to represent divine attributes in the world. What are the possible implications of this?

In Conclusion, According to Isaiah and the the long-term witness of Judaism, Idolatry is as foolish as it is offensive. One would be as well of with no God as one would with a God who humans could create. The God Who Is dwells in mystery and vast unknown eternity at visits humanity out of love and a desire to gather  us into a transcending and transformational relationship.

This is a simple faith, not simplistic.

It is not adorned with a complex hierarchy of deities and not defined by a complex mythology. Mythology is utilized as accounts of living history and personal encounters where God is met and experienced by men and women. But God is greater than the stories and the histories where he reveals himself.

God is the one who defines all existence and creates, sustains, and gives meaning to all things.

That sort of God is worthy of worship and worth knowing - even if it takes forever to begin to begin to begin to do so.

 


The Strength Behind the Movement

Strength to love

As a preacher, I would say that there are two ways to know me. 

Listen to my sermons.

Watch my life.

See where they agree and forget the resume and the introductions. I am who I am at the intersection of my preaching and my living.

That is how it was with Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The Junior is important because, Daddy/Pastor Martin Luther King, Senior was such a vital part of the mix that made MLK Jr. He too, was a powerful preacher who lived what he preached.

"Strength to Love" is a book of ML Jr.'s sermons that provide us with a glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the greatest men of the twentieth century.

Martin Luther King was 39 when he died.

My oldest son is 40 at the time I write this in 2023.

39 years old.

That is all. I am always in awe of how much he did in such a short time.

It is amazing.

By that time, the whole world new his name. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He had set a movement in motion that would change history.

He was already, my hero.

That sentiment has grown as I have grown older. His humanity, his motivation, his depth, his sacrifice, even his flaws have all reinforced his greatness in my mind.

I love Dr. King because of his intellect, faith, imperfections, vulnerability, sensitivity, consistency, and commitment to a cause greater than himself.

I love Dr. King as a follower of Jesus, as a fellow pastor, and as a man who struggled with the meaning of his times in the light of theological realities.

I honor Dr. King as an overcomer who believed that all unmerited suffering was redemptive.

I honor and love him because at the core of his philosophy was a rugged theology of and commitment to love.

I honor and love Dr. King because he demonstrated that peaceful  resistance to evil can be more powerful than violence or force.

He lived out that dimension of Jesus' example meeting external strength with inner strength, accepting the consequences of taking a stand, and offering one's life in the service of God and others.

We live in an era when it is respectable to honor Martin King, but everything he taught and demonstrated is up for grabs. We are drifting into the very old notion that only force can accomplish good and that the only security we can know is that of worldly power.

But that kind of power shifts, waxes, wanes, and changes hands. The strength Dr. King knew and demonstrated was the strength to love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a human being, flawed like the rest of us, sometimes troubled, but overcoming in every attitude and action. He was playful and fun-loving and found joy in sorrow and in the work to which he had reportedly been reluctantly called.

In the end he said, "I just want to do God's will."  It was as if he saw his own death.

His dream became the dream for a generation to come after him. It was not so important for him to go to the promised land because he saw it. It became a promised land for all people.

It was all wrapped in his theology and his theology was wrapped in love.

It is a good thing that we pause today to reflect upon this great American life, this Christian life, because what he dreamed and lived has significance for all of us.

His legacy has freed many of us in ways we do not even realize.

My ancestors were never slaves to white masters or to racist public policy. But mine were slaves to the institution of slavery and the attitudes of racism, to hatred, bigotry, and perversion of the gospel of Jesus.

Martin Luther King set us free as well.

----------------------------------------------

To to truly grasp King's thinking, I would read, "Strength to Love."


Little Faith

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

This is Belief 101

he text is formidable. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this excerpt from the ministry of Jesus, each with a slightly different twist. 

All include and conclude with Jesus' reminder of His own death. The one who can do anything must die.

The disciples are bewildered, confused, and afraid to ask more. Matthew says they were filled with grief.

In the meantime, a little boy has been healed and restored and faith has been affirmed.

A father has confessed his weak and feeble belief and asked for help with his unbelief.

The frailty of the disciples' faith has been rebuked, but the man who admitted his frailty and asked for help has been affirmed.

Jesus says it really doesn't take that much faith to do remarkable things. Just the size of a mustard seed will accomplish much, but limited faith will limit possibilities.

Yet, with God, everything is possible.

Here are the bullet points:

  • LITTLE FAITH IS LIMITING.
  • IT ONLY TAKES A LITTLE TO DO BIG THINGS.
  • EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE WITH GOD.
  • BELIEVING BEGINS WHERE WE ARE.
  • EXTRAORDINARY PRAYER RELEASES BONDAGE.
  • EVERYTHING HINGES ON A TRUTH THAT IS HARD TO TAKE.


In a Rest

Music in a rest poemMusic in a Rest

 

Rest in music

In spite of my pronouncement that there is music in a rest to hear, I offer a counter view:

“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” ~ John Ruskin

And further, he says ...

“In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by rests, and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the theme. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator."

"How does the musician read the rest? See him beat the time with unvarying count and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between."

"Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune, and not to be dismayed at the rests. They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God himself will beat the time for us.” - John Ruskin

How does this apply to your life today?

Where in the score are you?

Where are the sounds?

Where are the silences?

What is happening in those silences?

Are there multiple measures of rest or is something at a grand crescendo?

Perhaps you do not have the whole score and the conductor is only giving you a page at a time.

 

Sometimes it is simple.

C major scaleC major scale

Sometimes it is complex.

 


Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

Muddy shoes

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. - Psalm 40:2

I tread cautiously on the subject of safety, for safety is an ultimate value, not a temporal one. It is often misunderstood as the absence of danger or trouble or even risk. That is not the characteristic of the Christian life. Rather, Christianity promises ultimate safety and the safety of ultimate things. He has brought us, by His grace, through dangers, toils, and snares. These we have experienced fully and yet, safely, unscathed spiritually by external circumstances and with the confidence that His grace will lead us home to eternal safety.

  And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. -Ezekiel 34:27

There is a time and a place for safety without ‘playing it safe” throughout life. It is grace, God’s grace that brings us to the safe place for He Himself is the rock of safety for our lives. The struggles are present to teach us the source of our strength. The hardships train us to know that He is the LORD. We have come this far to realize that we must trust Him for our deliverance.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.- Psalm 4:8

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD. - Proverbs 21:31

While we look for false and temporal assurances, we miss the full impact of what peace, sleep, and safety in Him really are. When we trust in what we can control, we falter.

Grace has brought us safe thus far. Nothing else could. We neither earned it nor deserved it. It was simply grace, unmerited favor toward unworthy human beings whom He happens to love passionately and unconditionally.

What a blessing to be counted among them.


The Next Day

This message and the service, Saturday, January 15, at Valley Springs Church

 


Follow

Follow birds

A Sermon from Tom's WayBack Machine

The secret is in the following.
 
"I saw you;
come and see;
follow me."

Seeing is believing and believing is seeing. I feel a sermon coming on out of this passage that might go something like this:
 
"Come and see."
 
"I saw you."
 
"You will see."
 
So ... Follow me!
 
"'The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'”
(John 1:43-51 ESV)

 


Nonviolent Resistance

Ghandi king jesus

No Conflict in Context

Are these conflicting statements?

"He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword?"

"I came not to bring peace, but a sword."

"Blessed are the peacemakers...."

I think not.

MLK, theologically and Ghandi, philosophically, embraced the ethic of non-violence as a lifestyle and means of social change.

Jesus meant it.

King demonstrated what it meant to bring a sword to the party ... but it was not King bringing the sword in hand to use against others.

Nor was it Ghandi.

Nor was it Jesus.

People said, in my day, of King, that whenever he had marches, there was violence, implying that he caused the violence.

He did not cause it; he responded to the daily violence being inflicted on humanity. He confronted and condemned it.

But it followed him and Ghandi and Jesus.

So ... they "brought swords" not of their own nor for their use ... but to be used against them.

One need not shy away from the label of a Christian pacifist and non-violent resister of injustice because of the sword quotes of Jesus.

One must respond as Jesus did - to resist the evil, but not the edge of the sword.

And King did not just stand for the abuse, but, like Jesus, moved toward it ....

And led the way for each of us ...

        to resist evil even at the cost of our own blood.

That is how we become peacemakers in a world of violence and injustice.