Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sitting at the table

  My young friend Anthony,  who shared his testimony in a recent blog post, posted this on Facebook two days ago: "The best moments of life happen when you are sitting across from someone at a coffee shop talking about life."

   I have 397 Facebook friends. I had more than that before I became vocal about Donald Trump.....guess they weren't that good of friends..... :) Seriously though, of those 397 people who haven't deleted me yet, how many of them are true friends that really know me? How many of them have I sat with, shared with, and let them see into my heart?

  In June of 2014 and 2015, I was privileged to be able to go to the Hope for Wholeness Conference in North Carolina. The conference is for those dealing with unwanted same-sex attractions. I found it very helpful and encouraging for many reasons, but Anthony's post brought to mind one specific thing that meant a lot to me.

   Too many Christians will never experience sitting across from someone at a table and sharing their innermost thoughts and struggles without fear of judgment or being ostracized. Many times during those two conferences, I sat with other men experiencing the same thing I deal with - unwanted attractions to the same sex. There were no barriers, no need to hide, and the conversations were free and unguarded. There is a depth of fellowship that is only reached and attained when Christian brothers and sisters can share without fear.

   I miss that. No, not necessarily the sharing of a mutual struggle - though I do miss that - but I miss that open and unguarded sharing and fellowship with other Christians. I have never experienced it on that level before, and have not experienced anything close to it since then.

 How often do we Christians sit with others of like-minded faith and "talk about life"? How often do we skip past the shallow surface chatter and get to the heart?'

   I like to joke and laugh. I like to make outrageous political statements. I am not sure what all people see when they look at me, but not many people see the real me. I do have a depth to me that isn't always visible, and a vulnerability that may or may not be a "perk" of the same-sex attractions I deal with.

   And maybe that is part of the problem. Maybe "normal" guys are afraid to be vulnerable, to share from the heart, and let people see them for what they are. The times we sit with other Christians and have that kind of fellowship and sharing should not be rare, but sadly it is.

  Maybe I am not the average Christian guy, but I long to sit at a table with other Christian guys and experience that kind of fellowship more often.

 The good news is we can have that with God any time.

 "The best moments of life happen when you are sitting across from someone at a coffee shop talking about life."


Mug of hope

     I recently bought a mug that many Christians wouldn't buy. I was browsing on Christianbook.com looking at the sales, and there it was for $3.99. A mug with THAT verse on, the verse so many people like to say doesn't apply to us, that we are using it wrong, etc. And it even came in a nice little box with the same verse on it.... I had to buy it.

    I have blogged about this verse before, but people from the opposing viewpoint keep bringing it up, so why can't I?

   The verse in question? Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

  I need hope. I need assurance that God is on my side and has my back..... and this verse is a reassurance of that.....so how can any Christian have an issue with that?

 Look at the verse:

"For I know the plans I have for you".....does God know the plans He has for me, or was that only  the Israelites who He knew the plans He had for? Of course He knows the plans He has for me.

"They are plans for good and not for disaster". Serving God doesn't mean we will never have problems, but I do believe God works good out of whatever comes my way.

"To give you a future and a hope". I believe God wants Christians to have hope, and that He has a future for me, whatever it holds.

 And the couple of following verses have also been a source of hope and encouragement to me:

12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

   I take serious issue with these naysayers who are constantly bringing up this verse and saying it doesn't apply to we modern day Christians. The older I get, and the further I go on this road I am traveling, the more convinced I am that we can find hope and encouragement all through the Bible. I am more convinced than ever that we need hope and encouragement. If I and many others find hope and encouragement in this verse, what right does anyone have to tell us the verse doesn't apply to us?

  I, Mark Buzard, was a captive.... not in some foreign land, but still a captive. God listened when I prayed and ended my captivity. I do have a future and a hope, and God is prospering me in the ways and areas that matter..... not financially, but spiritually and emotionally.

 So ignore that verse, skip over it, even cut it out of your Bible if you so desire..... but don't try to take away the hope and encouragement it gives me and many others.

 Now excuse me as I go drink some tea out of my mug of hope.......

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A new job, self confidence, and the boy no one liked

   My current job has been very good for my self confidence, something I have been lacking for most of my life. If we truly understood what bullying does to people, maybe....just maybe parents would do a better job of making sure they don't raise bullies. But then, millions of Christians just helped elect a huuuge bully for president, so maybe there is no hope of that.

    It is very hard to get away from, the effects of bullying. I grew up seriously believing no one liked or loved me, even God Himself. As I look back over my life, it brings me a lot of sadness and heartache as I see how much bullying has affected me. It hindered me from getting decent jobs, and even from applying for many I wanted. It hindered me from making friends, and to this day I have a difficult time making true friends and believing people actually like me.

  It has even most likely played a big part in my having same-sex attractions, or at least triggering them.

  The ways my childhood bullying have hurt and affected my life are possibly endless and too in depth and numerous to go into here. And there are ways it affected me that I may never share with anyone other than God.

 There may be books written on the subject how to get over and past the effects of bullying, as there are books written on everything. I have yet to see one that deals with it in such a way to effectively help one conquer all of it, and I definitely don't have all of the answers.

   I have worked for some difficult people in my life, and those individuals have left their mark. But this current job position I have has done wonders for me in this area of self confidence and self image, possibly more than I may ever realize. I can't count the times I have been complimented on my job performance, nor can I count the people who have complimented me: co-workers, my supervisors, nurses, nursing supervisors, visitors, patients, and more. My boss gave me a $50 gift card for doing such a good job, and more recently nominated me for employee of the month, which I got. The hospital gave me a special recognition for doing a good job last year. As I have done this job for the last 2 years and 9 months of Emergency Department Greeter, my self confidence has slowly grown and I hardly realized it.

  The hospital is starting a new position they are calling concierge. It is going to be a very visible position in the main entrance/lobby of the hospital. Duties will be greeting people, making sure they know where they are going, and offering assistance where needed. I applied for it, and wasn't sure of my chances. I am an outsourced employee, and not an actual hospital employee, but this position offers more money and I have wanted to work for the hospital. My boss said I'd be a shoe-in, and not to expect any recommendations from him because he doesn't want to lose me.

   First was the phone interview. It went well, and the lady doing the hiring said she liked my answers. Then the face to face interview with three ladies. I imagine the fact that I knew all 3 of them on some level helped, but I was the most relaxed I have ever been for an interview.

   And then the human resources interview. This one was different because the lady interviewing me was deaf and read lips. Again, it went very well and I was relaxed.

 Then I got the call with the job offer. I, Mark Buzard.... the kid nobody liked, was offered this very prestigious position with the hospital.

 There are pros and cons.
The cons:
 I have to work every other Sunday..... and I don't like to work Sundays.
I will also bounce between two hospitals, and the other one is further away.

The pros:
I will be working for the hospital, and can bid on other jobs later if I want.
I will be making more money...... at least $2 more an hour, but it will be more than that when my experience is added in....... so I am guessing it will be $3 or $4 more than what I am making.
I will work 4 days a week instead of 5 days, 2 12's and 2 8's.

  The news got around fast that I had been offered this position. I have lost track of how many people have congratulated me, told me they were happy for me, that I am perfect for this position,  and that I deserve it. And no, it has not given me a big head. It has, however boosted my self confidence even more and caused me to look back on my life and realize just how far I have come.

 There is such a thing as sinful pride and thinking too highly of oneself. God condemns that. However, the opposite is not good either. Hating ourselves, having no self esteem or self confidence does not make us a better Christian. In fact, I can see where it has hindered me from being the Christian I should be, and from being used of God in the ways I could have been used.

   I have likely lived over half of my life already, a very sobering thought. I have many regrets as I look back over my 47 years, and this is one of those regrets: that I let the actions and opinions of some bullies so long ago - and also more recently -  influence how I saw myself and how I felt God and others saw me for all of these years.

 However, I am thankful that God has used this current job and those I work with and around to finally help me in this area. My best days may be ahead of me.

In the mood for Christmas

 I have heard people say before that they just couldn't get in the Christmas spirit, that they weren't in the mood for Christmas, that Christmas wouldn't be the same this year, and other similar statements.

 This year, I can relate. I think it is a combination of things, but I just have had a hard time getting in the mood for Christmas. I still have a lot of disappointment with this election. My views on Donald Trump have not changed, and I have a lot of disgust and disappointment in that area. I feel we will trade one narcissistic, arrogant, unqualified, and horrible president for another........and I have yet to see anything to change that feeling.

 Also, I thought for sure I'd be in my own house for Christmas, and now there is no house to move into since that fell through.

 There may be a few other contributing factors, but the end result has been a very unenthusiastic feeling about Christmas. I wasn't even going to put my Nativity scene up or get our my Christmas movies.

  In the midst of my doom and gloom, a thought hit me, and it has left me feeling rather convicted.  If circumstances can so easily knock the Christmas spirit out of us and cause us to lose the anticipation and joy of the season, then we are celebrating it the wrong way and celebrating it for  the wrong reasons.

  There is so much about Christmas that I enjoy.....family, giving (and getting!) gifts, the music, the decorations, the cookies, candy, and other things that are part of this season. I get that not everyone has a nice Christmas and are experiencing loss and troubles at this time of year.

 However, if this season is truly about the birth of our Savior, we shouldn't have to be in the mood to celebrate. All of  the other things are just extra, and really don't have much to do with the real reason for the celebrating. No matter what is going on in our lives this month, no matter how we celebrate, we who follow Jesus have reason to celebrate. We who serve Him should have a sense of thanksgiving, praise, and worship that transcends everything else.

 The world sees a baby in a manger, but anyone who is a true follower of Jesus sees a Savior who died for our sins. We shouldn't have to get in the mood or the spirit of the season. No matter what is going on in our lives, we should focus on what we are celebrating.

 Now that I have my nativity scene set up and have gotten caught up on my shopping, I have finally got caught up in the spirit of the season........no, not the decorations and the commercialization of it all, but in the quiet assurance that this Jesus came for me and I know Him personally as my Lord and Savior. Everything may not be right in the world or in my world, but I can still focus on the Savior lying in the manger with the shadow of a cross falling across His face. I can praise and worship Him and be thankful even more at this time of year that not only was He born as a baby, but that He was born to die for me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Keeping Christmas, 2016 edition

  In a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, I said that I was listening to Christmas music. A Facebook friend I don't know well, commented and said the Bible says nothing about observing Christmas. I replied and said it doesn't say not to observe it either.

  The last visit we had from Jehovah Witnesses at our place, the conversation went a bit like this:
Me: Hi, you're Jehovah Witnesses, aren't you?"
The two ladies: "yes we are"
Me: "Well, there is no sense in going into your talk. I have my own church and you're not going to change my mind, and I am not going to change yours. Besides,  you lost me completely with that no celebrating holidays and birthdays. I love giving and getting gifts. It must really suck to be a Jehovah Witness." (Yes, I said suck)

 After they got the deer in the headlights look off their faces, one of them said they believe in giving gifts every day of the year. Giving me up for a lost cause, they went their way.

  I have always loved Christmas. Even before I came to know the Savior of Christmas  the way I know Him today, I still loved it. It wasn't the gifts - sure I like to give and receive gifts - it is just everything about the season. There is a feeling of goodwill, peace, and love. People's thoughts turn more to things of God, and even those who don't acknowledge Jesus are still celebrating His birth.

 If you look through the Bible, the Jews were big on feasts and holidays. They spent days feasting and celebrating all sorts of things. The idea that this suddenly became wrong after the New Testament ends is wrong and not Biblical at all.

 And who should better celebrate Jesus' birth than we who serve Him?

 Much is said about the commercialization of Christmas, and a lot of it goes on. But we should never let that stop us from celebrating this season better and differently than the world. They should have nothing on a Christian when it comes to celebrating Christmas.

 This is the time of year set aside to observe and celebrate that night long ago when God became a baby, the most vulnerable and helpless of humans. He was born to be like us, and to die for us. Our methods and ways of observing and celebrating that wonderful Holy night may differ, but observe and celebrate it we should.

 Yes, Jesus can get lost under all of the shopping, the gifts, the Christmas tree, Santa, the Christmas cookies and music and everything else that makes up this season.......but it can also help remind us of what - or Who - it is all about, and help us to celebrate His birth with excitement, reverence, and thankfulness.

 At the end of the much-loved Christmas Carol, comes these words: "And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” 

  Oh that the same could be said of all we who profess to follow this Savior....... that we keep Christmas like no other. We should...... we who serve and follow Him know what it is all about.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

5:00 am

   It's 5 am here as I sit in front of my computer. I called off work a little more than an hour ago, and here I sit unable to sleep, and with time on my hands. I haven't felt this sick since my hospital stay back in March, though thankfully it isn't THAT bad. I am convinced that if you peered into my mouth during one of my coughing fits, you would see one of my lungs looking back at you as I seemingly try to cough one up.

  It was a rough night. I felt so weak, worn out, and sore all over that I went to bed a little after 8, only to wake up at 11:30 coughing so hard I was surprised a lung wasn't lying beside me. I got up and drank some hot tea, browsed Facebook, tried to go back to sleep......gave up, watched a movie for a while, tried to go to sleep again, gave up, drank more hot tea..... it has been a lovely night. I truly hated to call off, but sometimes it needs to be done.

   I feel like blogging, and I guess I am technically doing so, but I'm not sure what to write about. I have a post about singles floating around in my head, one about true Christianity, thoughts about Thanksgiving and Christmas.....but I am not sure what to write about any of those, so I'll "jot" down a couple of things that have been on my mind lately as I listen to Christmas music.

Conversation with "Jane"

 With HIPPA laws, I have to be careful, so I am using an alias for the lady. A few weeks ago, a woman in her 70's started coming in and she'd need wheel chair assistance. She'd be dropped off at the door, and I'd help her in a wheel chair. Occasionally, she'd need me to push her if her ride left. She had a loved one way down in Critical Care, which is a far distance from the main lobby.

 This one day, she and her sister-in-law both needed pushed, but had another relative along that pushed the other lady. CCU has limited visiting hours, and they were going for the 2:00, and Jane asked if I could come down for her at 2:30. I got there a few minutes early, and they weren't ready..... the doctor was coming to talk to them. I hung out a bit impatiently for a few minutes, then headed back to the front of the hospital, hoping they wouldn't call me back right before I clocked out for the day.... but they didn't.

  The next day, I was walking past the coffee/snack shop in the main lobby and saw Jane and some of her family eating. Part of the eating area is just separated by a low railing from the main walk way of the hospital. Jane called my name and said hi, so I leaned on the railing and asked how her loved one was. She started crying, and told me. The loved one was her husband of 46 years, and they had just found out at the end of October that he had cancer........ bad. It didn't look like he would make it. I listened, told her I was sorry to hear that, and told her I'd be praying for her. That was the last time I talked to her. Her husband died the next day.

 I remembered my impatience, and felt badly. Whether you work in a hospital or not, we never know what people are going through who cross out path, and we should always show the love of Jesus......no matter what.

Taylor, another hospital story: 

  There is another lady who had been coming in daily to see her boyfriend/fiancee'. She was in her 70's and volunteers with the ladies' auxiliary in the hospital gift shop. I got the job of pushing her to his room day after day, and she was very appreciative. Then one day she came in acting rushed, and said they had moved him to Hospice, and asked if I'd take her up. As I pushed her in a wheel chair up to Hospice, she wept as she tried to tell me how he was doing.

 A few days later, she came in and walked up to the desk to say hi to me and Thelma, the lady at the front desk. I asked how her guy was doing, and she said they had just buried him the day before. I gave her a hug and told her I'd be praying for her. She then headed over to the coffee shop/snack shop to get something to eat. I watched her go, and said to Thelma, "After she orders, I am going to find out what she is having, and pay for it." Thelma said she'd help pay - she is good like that. I wandered in and saw Taylor, a young girl who works in there, walking away from the lady's table and heading for the fountain drinks. I approached Taylor and asked her what the lady had ordered. She replied "I am going to pay for it. She has gone through so much that I wanted to do something nice for her." I told her Thelma and I were going to pay for it, but I'd let her.

 I walked away thinking more highly of this very young girl. There aren't many kids her age who would do something like that.

Bible journaling

 For some time, I have been wanting to try Bible journaling. I even bought a Bible specifically made for that, got it home, and decided I couldn't bring myself to do it, and took it back.

 I'm weird. I find the idea of writing in any book abhorrent. I know a lot of people who write in their Bibles, but I never have. Writing in any book just seems wrong. I'll run across some good things in books I read and own, and never, ever write in them.

 But the time has come when I am going to have to overcome this phobia or whatever you'd call it. I requested a journaling Bible to review....... and I also requested a Bible journaling kit to review. Yeah, I didn't know they made such a thing either. It contains colored pencils, stickers, and some kind of ruler. I have no excuses now. But how exactly does one journal in a Bible? Is there an app for that?


 I am ashamed to admit it, but I haven't been feeling very thankful lately. Having my house deal fall through has hit me hard, but I have to wonder if it isn't my own fault. The day I made the offer for the house of the asking price, I knew there was another interested party. I prayed that if it was God's will, my offer would be accepted. My realtor called me back and said I'd been outbid. Without even thinking much about it, I bid $3,000 more and got it. Ever since the deal fell through, that has been on my mind.......maybe it wasn't God's will and I tried to buy it anyway.

 The election stuff is still getting to me. I had high hopes that we'd get rid of a horrible president and replace him with a true conservative. I still feel disbelief and disgust that so many Christians and conservatives picked Donald Trump.....and I am still convinced he will be another terrible president.

 As I have had these thoughts of not having much to be thankful for, I felt checked and reminded of all that I do have to be thankful for. There are so many people worse off than me. There are people who have no loving family, no home, no food..... I am more blessed than I realize or verbalize.

Job interview

 Yesterday I had both a phone and sit down interview for a new position at the hospital I work at.

It is very similar to what I already do
It pays better
I'd actually be working for the hospital, instead of an outsourced company.
I'd work 2 12's and 2 8's, which means 3 days off instead of 2.

I'd have to work every other weekend, and I currently have Sundays off.
Right now, I have a set schedule and days off. With this, I'd not have a set schedule.

  And I may not get it. I am praying God's will about it. So we will see.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

My Favorite Christmas songs

  I love Christmas music, and have a lot of it.... and I do mean a lot. There are songs I like to hear more than others, and they are usually among the first I listen to every year. Here are my top 10, in no particular order, that do not fall into the traditional Christmas carol category:

1) It's Christmas by Ronnie Milsap. I don't know if anyone else has recorded this song, but I can't imagine anyone doing it better. He recorded it in 1986 on his Christmas CD "Christmas With Ronnie Milsap" and I have been enjoying it ever since. It is one of many Christmas CDs I own.

2) We Are the Reason by Avalon. I didn't care much for this 2000 Christmas release, other than this song and one other one on the CD. This song has been done by others, but this is my favorite recording of it, and one I listen to over and over.

3) Christmas Wishes by Anne Murray. This song has been around since 1981, and is my favorite of all the Christmas songs she has recorded over the years. It does end on a romantic note, but I still love to hear it.

4) It's Still the Greatest Story Ever Told by the Gaither Vocal Band. In my estimation, this is one of the greatest modern Christmas Songs from a Christian perspective. The Gaithers wrote it in 1979, but as far as I know it was not recorded until the Gaither Vocal Band did it on their Christmas CD of the same name in 1998. If I was putting these favorites in order, this would likely be at the top.

5) Sweet Baby Jesus by The Kingsmen. Released in 1995, this was the only Christmas CD this well known and long-running group ever did, and they knocked it out of the park with this one..... at least to me. I have been listening to it over and over since 1995.

6) Christmas In Dixie by Kenny Chesney, In 1985, Alabama released their first Christmas CD and this song became a classic from that album. Then 18 years later in 2003, Kenny Chesney recorded it on his Christmas CD with some help from one of the guys from Alabama. As good as Alabama did, I like Chesney's version better.

7) Unto You This Night by Garth Brooks. This song became an instant favorite of mine in 1992 when Garth Brooks released his first Christmas CD. Backed up by a choir on part of the song, Brooks does an awesome job on this favorite of mine.

8) I'll Be Home With Bells On by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. This duo did a Christmas CD in 1984 that includes this song that Dolly wrote. I have loved it for years, and it definitely makes my list.... and is currently my ringtone on my cell.

9) I Have Seen the Light by Integrity/Triumphant Quartet. This song came out on Triumphant Quartet's first Christmas CD when they were going by the group name Integrity Quartet. I think it is an awesome song. I can't find the year it was released, but it isn't that old of a song. It has been done by others, but no one else comes close to this version.

10) Come On, Ring Those Bells by Evie. I remember listening to this as a kid. Evie Tornquist - later Karlson after she married - recorded a Christmas album in 1978 when she was 16 (I think). It has been recorded several times over the years, perhaps more than any other modern Christian Christmas song, but I have yet to hear anyone do it as well.

  There are many others that could be on this list, or a longer list..... but I decided to keep it to 10 songs, and try to put my favorite 10 on it. I may look at this list later and think of a few different ones that should make the list, but these are 10 that are definitely way up on my list.