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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 30: thankful for clean slates and second chances

On day 30, and the final day of 30 days of being thankful, I am thankful for clean slates and second chances.

  There is a guy I have been emailing from a state far away that struggles with the same issues I struggle with. He has been failing a lot in especially one area, and said this in his most recent email to me:

"As a year winds down, I always think of the coming year as a clean slate, a chance for purity and peace.  I know it'll take commitment, work, and vulnerability to achieve that. I'm looking back at 2014 and shaking my head...the place I was at last Nov. (ugh)...everything I've felt, learned, prayed, and done, it's been brutal and amazing. God's obviously been ridiculously faithful through it all."

  When I replied, I agreed and pointed out that each day we are given is also a clean slate. No matter what we do in a day, no matter how we failed God or sinned, all we need to do is repent - and mean it - and go on with a clean slate.

 But as we get closer and closer to a new year starting and this one ending, it is awesome to think of 365 days stretching ahead of us as a clean slate. If we had a bad year, it is a chance to have a good one, to change what needs to be changed, to do things differently. To start out right with God and serve Him the way we need to all year long, to not repeat the mistakes of 2014.

  And even if we do, God is the God of second chances. We can fail Him daily in the same area, and He will always forgive. We can walk away from Him a million times, and He will always take Him back. As a song I like says, each time we fail Him and ask forgiveness, to Him, it is only the first time. For us, it is the second or millionth time. Thank God He doesn't always give us what we deserve, but over and over gives us another chance, another clean slate.

  That is more awesome than most of us understand, and we can never be thankful enough for it.

It's Only The First Time Lyrics

There’s a secret sin that you live with
And it’s tearing you apart
You've prayed and prayed, but now you’re ashamed
To ask God to cleanse your heart
But even though you've fallen again
When you kneel before Him

It’s only the first time
He’s forgotten the last time
The moment you pray, His grace takes away
The stain of your sin
Just know that in God’s eyes
It’s only the first time
He’s already there to hear your prayer
And forgive you again.

If the Savior says we must forgive
Time and time again
Then how much more will our Lord
Forgive us when we sin
His love is so strong, so wide and so deep
He longs for you to believe 


30 days of thankfulness, Day 29: Thankful for freedom

I forgot to post yesterday, so this one is a day late: on day 29, I am thankful for freedom. Our country is fast heading the wrong way, and though even conservative friends seem to weary of talk about such things - they'd rather stick their heads in the sand - this administration, like no other before it, has an anti-Christian bias, and seems bent on ruling against us, of curbing our freedoms in favor of Muslims, gays, atheists, and anyone who is against we Christians.

  But yet, even as God is being kicked out more and more, Nativity scenes are being banned from property  pertaining to the government, Christmas is slowly being banned, Christians are losing in almost any case involving gay marriage........ we still have freedoms. We don't have to worry when we are sitting in church that the police will come barging in to arrest us for daring to worship God instead of who the government says.......yet.

  Unless you live under the iron rule of a home builder's association or something similar, we are relatively free to do as we like where we live.

  And no matter where we live, we can experience the best kind of freedom that is available to anyone on earth: freedom from sin, from the devil's rule.

  Even as Obama and his liberal judges and minions march over our religious freedoms and kick God out of everywhere they can, they can't kick Him out of our hearts. They can take away any freedoms we have here in the USA........ and they seem hell bent on doing so....... but they cannot take away freedom in Christ. Only we can do that by walking away from God.

  And that is the best kind of freedom there is. We will all die some day and leave America with any freedoms we have left, but we will take freedom from sin with us. True freedom.

Friday, November 28, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 28: Thankful for my nativity scene

 On day 28, I am thankful for something that may seem odd to take the time and thought to be thankful for: my nativity scene. I don't worship my Nativity scene, but it is the one Christmas decoration that truly helps me remember what Christmas is all about.

  I bought my figures in a set in 1997 from a department store that doesn't exist anymore on their after Christmas clearance. I love it, and don't plan to ever replace it, unless I lose or break any of the figures, but I have had it for 17 years and it is still in excellent condition. I did lose it one year and couldn't set it up. I even blogged about it - The year I lost Jesus - and I talk to a porcelain baby Jesus.

  I bought the stable at a large Christmas store, Kraynax, that is in Sharon, PA, and have used it ever since. One of the highlights of my Christmas is setting it up, which I just did, hence my thankfulness for it.

  There are nicer ones, more expensive ones, but I like the one I have and am thankful for something that didn't cost me much, but is a reminder of what this season we are coming into is all about.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 27: Thankful for grace

On day 27, I am thankful for grace. I totally missed out on the concept of grace for most of my life, and I still don't have all of the answers, and never will on this earth, but maybe it is a learning experience.

  I don't believe in once saved, always saved. Neither do I believe Christians regularly sin. If you do, maybe your definition of sin is different than mine.

  For years, and in part to my low self esteem, my self hatred, and because of sermons that preachers with good intentions preached; grace was a foreign concept. I believed I had to beg and convince God to forgive me, and that He was just waiting for me to mess up so He could toss me out. I thought if I did sin or fail God in some way, I had to get saved all over again, and beg and beg Him to forgive me.

  I have come a long way with my beliefs about grace and forgiveness and about God's love. I still don't have it all figured out, and a part of me still fears I'll never be a good enough Christian to enter Heaven, but I now know God is waiting to forgive, and all it takes is a prayer. I don't believe once saved always saved, but don't believe if you sin, you have to get saved all over again, but you should repent of that sin immediately. There are some who believe future sins are forgiven. I don't, but I do believe God will instantly forgive, no matter how many times or how often we fall in that area.

That is grace. And I am thankful for it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 26: Thankful for good, clean fun

On day 26, I am thankful for good clean fun. I am thankful I don't need alcohol to have a good time. I have heard people talk about parties they have gone to, how drunk they got, how they or someone else was throwing up from how much they drank and partied. I even heard a coworker talk about a girl going to the bathroom - both ways - in her clothes because she was too drunk to get up.

  Fun to me is shopping, eating out - especially with a friend or family, spending time with my nieces and nephews, reading, playing board games.

  I come from a non-drinking family. It is something I not only think Christians shouldn't do, I am even more radical than that.... I think everyone would be better off not drinking alcoholic beverages. When we are all together, there is plenty of fun, laughter, board and computer games, and we do it all without alcohol. Imagine that. And I believe we are better off without it.

  The world doesn't know what fun is. It isn't drinking glass after glass or bottle after bottle of something to impair your judgment and other facilities, and to have you puking out your guts, waking up with a hangover. That isn't fun.

I'll take my fun over that any day, and am glad I never felt I needed to drink, smoke, or do drugs to have fun.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I don't belong

Things are a bit topsy turvy in my life at the moment. I finally have a position at work I enjoy and am good at......at least I am told so..... and it looks like I am losing it. It doesn't do much good for a couple of people to do their job well when you are an outsourced employee, if others are not.

  And even with the holidays around the corner, my depression has been pretty bad. Part of that may be the fact that I am working Thanksgiving AND Christmas day. One of the hazards of working in a hospital. Someone always has to be there.

 I have really been feeling melancholy the last few days, and a bit introspective. I have been thinking about not belonging.

  Ever walk into a room or some setting and feel out of place? Try feeling that for most of your life.

I didn't belong with my male cousins. I was the youngest boy, still carrying around stuffed animals while they were showing interest in sports.

I didn't belong at school. All of the other boys loved and were good at sports. I hated them and stunk. They were tough and rough, and I was weak and the target of their bullying.

I didn't belong at Bible College. Everyone else knew what they were doing with their lives, and were all together spiritually. I had no clue what I was doing with my life.......still don't - and college was when I realized what I was struggling with and became a spiritual basket case.

I don't belong at church. Normal guys my age are married and have families. I'm the odd man out. A pew warmer who slips in and out of services and often wish I could stay home and worship God there. And all of those other people with no issues or problems.......

I even feel out of place in my family at times. My two sisters are married and have 3 kids each. Me? Single, no kids, and will never marry. I'm the odd man out. All couples, kids, and then there's me. The bachelor son, brother, and uncle.

I feel out of place at work. My coworkers drink, curse,  party, meet at the bar, discuss movies I'd never want to watch, and of course discuss sports. And then there's me. I spend my week-ends in church, shopping, and reading, and I never curse.

I don't belong with other men. I'd rather spend time in a bookstore than watch sports or sit out in the cold to shoot a deer.

I don't even belong with those who share the same desires as I do. I'm like them inside, but not outside, or politically....... and I know my Bible too well to believe that lie.

  Most days, I feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round world. A single floundering in a pool of lovers. A paperback novel in a store of Kindles and Nooks. A freak among normal people.

  And I still don't know what I want to do with my life, just that it is more than I have done so far.

   This isn't the first time I have thought like this, nor will it be the last. But as I have been thinking my melancholy thoughts, my mind went in a different direction, which is the whole reason I wrote this blog post.

  A song came to my mind. It is the song that gave me the name for my first blog, the one that is now just for book reviews, but used to be where I blogged about everything: Thoughts of a Sojourner. The song I got the blog name from was originally titled "Sojourner's Song", but was later changed to "I Don't Belong." The song goes like this:

It’s not home where men sell their souls and the taste of power is sweet, 
Where wrong is right and neighbors fight while the hunger are dying in the street.
Where kids are abused and women are used; and the weak are crushed by the strong.
Nations gone mad, Jesus is sad and I don’t belong.

I don’t belong and I’m going someday, home to my own native land.
I don’t belong and it seems like I hear the sound of a welcome home band.
I don’t belong; I’m a foreigner here just singing a sojourner’s song.
I've always known this place ain’t home and I don’t belong

I don’t belong - But while I’m here I’ll be living like I’ve nothing to lose and while I breath I’ll just believe my Lord is going to see me through. 
I’ll not be deceived by earth’s make believe, I’ll close my ears to her siren song.
By praising His name – I’m not ashamed cause I don’t belong. 

I don’t belong and I’m going someday, home to my own native land.
I don’t belong and it seems like I hear the sound of a welcome home band.
I don’t belong; I’m a foreigner here just singing a sojourner’s song.
I've always known this place ain’t  home and I don’t belong

I belong to a kingdom of peace where only love is the law.
Where children lead and captives are freed and God becomes a baby on the straw
Where dead man live; and rich man give their kingdom to buy back a song.
Where sinners like me become royalty and we’ll all belong

Yes I belong - and I’m going someday, home to my own native land.
Where I belong and it seems like I hear the sound of a welcome home band.
Yes I belong; no foreigner there singing a sojourner’s song.
I've always known I’m going home where I belong

  It is true. This world isn't our home. It is nice to feel you belong somewhere, and everyone should feel that they belong somewhere, with someone, but we shouldn't get too comfortable here in this world. We shouldn't feel we belong here too much, for we belong to a Kingdom that is not of this earth. Maybe it isn't a bad thing to feel you don't belong....... and if you feel a strong sense of belonging to this earth and the world around you, maybe you're the one who should worry.

 And you know what? Someday, by God's grace, I am going to walk through the gates of Heaven, and I won't feel out of place. There is no marriage there, so everyone will be single. If sports exists in Heaven, and I am not sure it will, there will be thousands, maybe millions, who like me, will have no interest in it.

  I'll never walk into a crowd of people and feel out of place. I'll sit down and chat with Moses, Noah, Abraham.... and Jesus Himself....... and I'll belong. "Where sinners like me, become royalty......and we'll all belong."


30 days of thankfulness, Day 25: Thankful for different translations of the Bible

   On day 25, I am thankful for different Bible translations. I grew up on the King James Version of the Bible, and that is all I knew for years. I can still remember the first time I saw a New King James Version of the Bible in a Christian bookstore and thinking it was heresy.

  I have changed my views a lot since then, and I believe for the better. I don't talk in KJV language. No one does. I have found my Bible reading to be enriched by reading from other versions. Are all versions good? No. I have seen some that are in street language. I have looked at one that removes all male pronouns to make the Bible politically correct.

  But there are several good ones. And I am thankful for them. I believe my Bible reading has been made better and I have understood what I read more than when I was reading just the King James.

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 24: Thankful for days off

I am thankful for a day off on November 24, and on a day that I do have off. Z
  I love Sundays, a day we are commanded to rest and cease from labor (can we get another Sunday, maybe in the middle of the week?), and I do enjoy going to church.... most of the time. But there is also something about a day off that you don't feel you have to do anything. A day to sleep in, hang around the house in old clothes pjs, go shopping, out to eat, just take some "me time".

  And I need it. We all do. I work with a guy who eats up all of the overtime he can get, and is at work more than he isn't. I have a life. I don't want it filled with work. And now I am going to go enjoy my day off.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 23: Thankful for Christian bookstores

  On day 23, I am thankful for Christian bookstores. It really is a sort of therapy for me to go in one and browse and shop, even if I don't buy anything...... but buying makes it even more fun.

  One reason I am so anti-ebook, is because I worry about real books being phased out. For a true book lover, there is nothing like handling books, feeling them in your hands, browsing shelves of books.....  you don't have that when your books are files on a hand held electronic device.

  And it isn't just books. The music, gifts, atmosphere, the music playing....... Unless you are a bookstore lover, you can't understand how enjoyable it is. And I am thankful I have a nice one to shop at in Boardman, OH.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Is it OK to say "butt" when praying to God?

I was praying the other night, and one thing I prayed about was some major discouragement and depression I have been dealing with. My exact words were "this discouragement and depression are really kicking my butt." Then I paused and thought to myself "I just said kicking my butt to God.....while I was praying." Then I found myself smirking...(I wonder if it is OK to smirk while you're praying?)

  I've been thinking about that since then, and I don't think it is a big deal to talk like that. Obviously you shouldn't be vulgar when talking to God, but I don't believe we have to be so formal with God as some have been and still are. We don't have to go all King James Version on God when we are praying. He isn't waiting to hear the thous, thees, lovest, "our gracious Heavenly Father who art in the Heavens....".

  Prayer is simply talking to God, yet somewhere along the line, we got the idea it has to be formal, we have to say just the right words, we have to have the right posture, and it has to be a certain length. But it doesn't. We can pray standing, kneeling, lying down, standing on our head, even while driving........though I would advise keeping your eyes open.

  God wants us to be real with Him, not formal and stiff. And it doesn't have to be a certain length. The model Jesus gave us to use is pretty short. And yes, it is a model, so we shouldn't just pray that length all of the time, but I often find myself trying to pray longer, and why? So I can feel I did it right? So I feel better about myself as a Christian? I had some bad thoughts today, but I prayed 10 minutes longer than I did last night, so I am doing pretty good at this Christian thing....

  Looking back over my prayer life of years past, I have come to a realization: My prayers have largely in part been about me. To make me feel good, to make me feel like I am filling my obligation to "read my Bible  and pray every day, so I'll grow, grow, grow." I try to say the right words, pray the right length so I feel I have done it right and can mark it off of my daily to-do list.

  And prayer is for us. It connects us to God, our Father, it gives peace of mind, healing. Studies have shown that people who pray have a better frame of mind than those who do not. But we shouldn't do it just so we can feel we fulfilled our daily duty as a Christian.

It is just talking to our Heavenly Father. No rules or special phrases, just talking. And listening. That is the part I am bad at. My mind tends to wander when I just try to listen. 

  I used to worry about that, and it is something I need to work at, but if I have learned anything in the last year, it is that God is so much more patient with me that I am with myself - or that anyone else is with me. He "gets" me more than anyone else.

  And while I am working on listening, I'll keep on talking to God as just me. No filters, no fake posturing or attempts to sound more intellectual or holier than I am. Why try? God sees the heart and knows what I am thinking anyway. 

  Even if is a word like "butt".

30 days of thankfulness, Day 22: Thankful for Christmas

On day 22, I am thankful for Christmas. It does seem we almost skip over Christmas anymore, with stores pushing sales and decorations for a holiday too many of them won't even call by its name, but I love Christmas and the days leading up to it.

  While here on earth with our little finite minds, we can't fully comprehend and appreciate what Christmas entails. We do have a sense of awe and wonder that God Himself became one of us, and was born to die for our sins. We kind of get that, but not until we get to Heaven will we truly get it.

 But while I am here on earth, I will enjoy and appreciate it as much as I can. Is it commercialized too much? Yes, most definitely, but underneath all of the hustle and bustle, the sales, the Santas and reindeer, the fact remains that the world - with the exception of some people - are celebrating the greatest event the world ever experienced: God becoming a baby.

  I love it all. The music, the decorations, the extra good will and cheer in the air, the Christmas tree, the gifts I give and receive, the church candlelight service, spending time with family...... and the list could go on.

  And truly one of the highlights of Christmas is putting out my nativity scene. Since I have been staying with my parents, they have one they put out, but I have been putting mine out in the basement the last couple of years, and there is just something special about putting mine out. It helps me remember what it is all about.

  So I am thankful for Christmas. I am thankful God looked at poor humanity and pulled off the craziest and most loving thing He could ever do: come to earth as one of us, and let Himself be killed by us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 21: Thankful for the day Obama will leave office

I have felt out of sorts all day. More depressed than normal, not feeling too well physically, and really angry at Obama for granting amnesty to 5 million people, something he knows and admits he has no authority to do.

  So to be honest, I haven't been feeling too thankful today, but I tried to come up with something I am thankful for, and this came to me. Maybe it is bad to be political in a thankful post, but I am thankful...... thankful that Obama will no longer be president on January 20, 2017. And I am thankful that we now have a Republican majority in both the Senate and House.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 20: Thankful for my best friend

On day 20, I am thankful for my best friend. For most of my life, I had no such thing, and didn't have many close friends. For a guy who hates sports, isn't into hunting, and would rather shop and read than do the things most men do, it is hard to find a friend who wants to do the kind of stuff I like to do.

  In 2006, I became friends through a mutual friend with the guy who is now my best friend. I had the opportunity to share an apartment with him for two years, and it was two of the best years of my life. I never had many chances to just hang out with someone, and have been pretty much a loner for most of my life, so to have someone around all of the time who wanted to go shopping with me, or out to eat, or just hang out...it made a big difference in my life and provided some healing that I had needed for so long.

  We live 400+ miles apart, and don't see each other as often as I wished we could, but email, text, and talk when we can. We read some of the same authors, but mostly not, don't listen to the same kinds of music, and have differing viewpoints on some issues, and have argued many times, but I have come to learn you don't have to agree on everything to be friends. Everyone needs a friend who knows  the worst about you and will still be your friend, and who will always be there for you. And I am thankful I have that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 19: Thankful for my nieces and nephews

On day 4, I blogged about being thankful for my family. And I am. But I decided my nieces and nephews needed their individual day, so on day 19, I am thankful for my 3 nephews and my 3 nieces: Stephanie (19), Allison (16), Caitlin (14), Josiah (13), Benjamin (10), and Nathan (8 on December 3).

  One of my biggest regrets in life, and something I have shed many a tear over, is that I never got  the chance to have kids of my own. Even more than my desire to marry, I wanted to be a father. Maybe that is a lot of the reason I pour so much affection and love onto my nieces and nephews.

  I remember when I got the news I was going to be an uncle for the first time. Nineteen years ago. I'd always wanted a brother, so I hoped and prayed for a nephew. I even vowed that if it were a girl, I would have nothing to do with her. And it was a girl. I was won over immediately. She was only 2 months old her first Christmas, and I went all out. Then she was followed by another girl. And a couple of years later, another girl.

  Then my other sister got married. I can still remember the day she stopped off at my apartment and told me I was getting what I had been wanting for a long time. I was clueless, and asked what it was.... and she said a nephew. Her sonogram or ultrasound (I still don't know which is which) showed a boy. And he was followed a few years later by another boy, and two years later by another.

  By the time the boys came along, there was no chance of partiality towards them. I love my nieces and nephews alike.

  Unfortunately, I haven't lived close enough to the boys to see them and do as much with them as I have been able to do with my nieces, but I try to do my part as uncle to all six kids. I love it when all six are around, though work interferes and keeps me from spending as much time as I would like to.

  But I love what I can get. Playing board games with my nieces, playing Wii games with nieces and nephews, even when my youngest nephew goes around the house bragging about how many times he beat Uncle Mark in Mario Karts....

  They are growing up too fast. It seems just yesterday I was holding them and feeding them their bottle, watching them eat their first birthday cake. And now the two oldest are driving, and the youngest is still a little boy, but not that little. I'll treasure memories of him running and jumping in my arms to hug me....... not sure how much longer I can handle it, but I'll treasure it.

  I hope some day when they are grown, they'll look back and remember me with only fondness and see only the good in me. The day may come when they won't need their Uncle Mark as much, but for now, I'll take every minute I can get, and be thankful for these six great kids who call me Uncle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 18: Thankful for prayer

On day 18, I am thankful for prayer. It is something too many of us, myself included, take for granted and don't use enough. It sounds a bit melodramatic, but the King of Kings is eager to have us talk to Him.

  And that is what prayer is. Just talking to God. For too many years, I had the idea I had to say all of the right words, had to be in a certain position, had to "pray through" (whatever that means!), had to pray a certain amount of time.... And prayer became an exercise. Something a good Christian did every day so they'd "grow, grow, grow." It was something to mark off the checklist. One more thing to do to stay on God's good side, though if all of the preachers I heard thundering from the camp meeting and revival pulpits were right, I could never get on God's good side.

  So I prayed to appease this God who was just waiting for me to mess up, to not pray one day, then I'd suddenly not be a Christian.

  Imagine if we were that way with our friends and relatives. Imagine if we made sure to talk to them for a few minutes in stilted, formal language so they would still let us in their lives.

 But yet we do that with God.

Prayer should be so much more than that, My prayers are rambling, switching topics in the middle of a sentence, long pauses, and not at all like the well thought out prayers you hear in church. It is telling God my thoughts, and my thoughts can be pretty scrambled and a myriad of topics floating around up there.

  And He listens. The same God who has His eye on Israel, who watches Kings and rulers, who holds our planet in place so we don't go spinning off into destruction...... that same God listens to what I say. That should amaze us, humble us, and make us eager to go to Him in prayer.

 There are people I wish I could help, but I can pray.
 There are times I don't know what to say to someone, but I can tell them I'm praying for them.
 When things go wrong, I can pray.
 When all is well, I can pray.

    It shouldn't just be something we do before meals and before we go to bed or start our day.... our day should be filled with short prayers to God. "Thank-you God for that." "Please help me God with that."

  It is our greatest resource, and we need to use it. Not because we want something, but because God our Father is waiting for us to talk to Him. Something to be thankful for, indeed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 17: Thankful for my job

Today I am thankful for my job. I would like a better paying one, and wish I didn't have to drive so far, but I like what I am doing...... most days. I have good coworkers and employers, and it is an interesting and entertaining job at times.

  There have been times in my life when I wasn't working, and that is depressing. There have been times when I hated my job and/or had an employer who was mean and hard to work for, but I don't have that at this job. Not every minute is peaches and cream.....when you work with the public, there are always people who are difficult, but I have met a lot of nice people and most people are thankful and appreciative of my assistance.

  And I have every Sunday off. That hasn't been the case for a while, but since taking over this position back in March, I have been able to do what God intended - not work on Sundays. That is also something to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Taking back holiday

  Christmas is right around the corner. It is the one redeeming feature of the winter months. Granted, that is a really big redeeming feature, though Biblical scholars agree that Jesus was most likely born during the warmer months. Maybe they decided to celebrate His birth during the winter to give people something to look forward to during the winter months.

 With Christmas, comes the yearly push to keep nativity scenes out off of government property, to keep mention of Jesus and Christmas out of public schools and other places. Many stores will require their employees to say "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". Their ads and signs for Christmas will all say "holiday". The politically correct side of Christmas.

 I know people who think it is no big deal. There is one very liberal "Christian" blogger and author who openly mocks the idea of a war on Christmas or that it is any kind of persecution of Christians. Many of them will point out that the word "Christmas" doesn't appear in the Bible. (Neither does idiot....just saying). I want to shake these people and yell "wake up!" If our country keeps drifting away from God at the rate we are going, it will soon be illegal to say Christmas, much less celebrate it, and eventually Christianity will be outlawed. How do these people think it works? One day everyone is pro-Christian, and the next day Christianity is outlawed and punished? No. It is gradual, and starts with small things like doing away with mentions of Jesus during His birthday, of forcing Christians to capitulate to things like homosexuality, and abortion. Of taking crosses and the 10 Commandments from public display on government property.... which ironically is our property also.

  Much could be said about that, but I am mainly focusing on the eradication of Christmas. There are also those naive people who point out that when people use "X-mas", that the "X" stands for Christ. Bless their hearts. That may be, but the intention of using it is to remove Christ from the word, not make a shortened version of Christ so it fits on the sign better.

  But back to holiday. I have never heard anyone say "happy holiday!" to me at Halloween or St. Patrick's Day. No, just at Christmas. The liberals and atheists are fine with a holiday that celebrates all things devil related or that celebrates a man that is accompanied by green beer and partying. Jesus is another matter. Jesus is taboo now.

 I read somewhere or heard that the word holiday actually means "holy day." I researched it, and that is true. It comes from two words: holy and day. In fact, the word originated in connection with religious observances. Think about that for a moment. The word that is being used to replace "Christmas" means "holy day" and originated in connection with religious observances. Isn't that a bit ironic? The atheists are winning the battle on getting the word "Christmas" taken away, and are using a word that means holy day as a substitute. And it was a holy day. The holiest of days. God became man.

  So maybe it is time for Christians to take the word back. When we are wished a "happy holiday", to reply "happy holy day to you also!" And then launch into singing "O Holy Night." OK, just kidding about that last part. But I am serious about the first.

 I am just one person, and a very insignificant one at that..... but what if a movement was started that got enough attention that the atheists got to see that the words they have been using to try to eradicate the mention of Christ from his birthday, is a word that magnify the holy wonder of His birth instead of erasing it?

 Maybe they need to start marketing Christmas cards and other materials proclaiming "Happy Holidays - and Christmas is the holiest of holidays", or something to that effect.

  Now I am not about to go around wishing people a happy holy day, and one shouldn't be too flippant or in your face about it, but it is an almost delicious irony that when people wish you happy holiday, they are wishing you a happy holy day.

  And we know how liberals and atheists feel about all things holy.

  But what if we did reply with "and a happy holy day to you also"? We might get a weird look, but take it from me....... you can used to getting weird looks."

  We Christians have become wimps. We sit helplessly aside, wringing our hands as atheists, liberals, an anti-Christian president and courts march over our rights and do their best to slowly eradicate Christmas and Christianity from the public eye. At least those of us who are paying attention. We need to love, and be salt and light, but Jesus never called us to be wimps......

  Regardless of how or what we do, we need to take the holiest of holy days back...... and maybe a good start would be to take the word "holiday" back, and let people know what it means. Holy day. And Christmas day was, and is.

30 days of thankfulness, Day 16: Thankful for Spring and Summer


On day 16, I am thankful for Spring and Summer. Anyone who knows me very well at all, knows that I don't like snow and cold weather, but thrive on warm weather.

  In Spring, it is so nice to see color springing up everywhere. What was grey, dull, and ugly becomes a multitude of color. A grey sky becomes blue. Brown grass becomes green. Barren, black trees become covered with green. Birds sing, new life is everywhere. We have more hours of daylight.

 Then summer arrives. The days are longer and more color filled. Sure, it can get too hot some days, but mornings and evenings are cooler. There is so much you can do outside that you can't do during the winter months.

  It is medically proven that people are more depressed in the winter... so is it any wonder the Spring and Summer months can bring about such a change in outlook and attitude?

 I really do hate winter, snow, and cold, but am very thankful we have months of Spring and Summer filled with warmth, sunshine, and happier days.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 15: Thankful for my church

On day 15, I am thankful for my church. There are some things I would like to change, and I don't agree with everything, but I like my church and am glad I am part of it. 

What I like:
1) My pastor and his family
2) The way the church looks.....we have an attractive building and sanctuary. We have a committee that decorates the church
3) My Sunday school class and teacher
4) The padded pews
5) Truth is preached
6) Our Sunday evening orchestra
7) We still mostly sing hymns, though I like some new stuff thrown in
8) We still use hymnals. I'm not a fan of putting the words on a screen
9) Our candle light service
10) Our paved parking lot
11) Our still new church sign
12) Our song leader
13) Air conditioning and heat
14) Friendliness
15) The length of our services
16) The people. Well, most of them
17) Our car port
19) I like the fact we still have a morning and evening worship service
20) The music
21) Our K-12 academy
22) Our new hymnal, except for what they did to my favorite hymn
23) Our children's church ministry
24) Our steeple

Friday, November 14, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 14: Thankful for good memories

On day 14, I am thankful for good memories. The bad things are too easy to remember, and some things scar you for life, but there are always good memories......

1) Family vacations. My parents put us kids first and took us many places, and gave us many happy vacations over the years

2) Christmas. My parents always gave us a nice Christmas with more gifts than we deserved. We'd take a night and drive around looking at Christmas lights while listening to Christmas music in the car.

3) Getting my first car

4) Becoming an uncle for the first time

5) Finding a best friend

6) Playing Wii games with my nieces and nephews

7) Holding my nieces and nephews as babies

8) Watching my sisters marry

9) Great books I have read

10) Family gatherings

11) Memorable music concerts

12) Hugs from nieces and nephews

13) Throwing a 50th anniversary party for my parents

  And many more. A lot of good times, good things, and good people. Sure, there is a lot of bad sprinkled throughout, but the good is what we need to remember. And be thankful for.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are we doing enough?

Down through the ages, there have been people who risked it all to save others, to free them, or save their lives.

  In Bible times, it was midwives trying to save the Hebrew boys from being killed because of Pharoah's orders.

Fast forward several centuries, and the Underground Railroad came into being. People risking jail, and possibly death, to smuggle slaves to freedom.

Then years later, countless people who risked their lives to save Jews from being killed under Hitler's ruthless attempts at annihilating all Jews from the earth, Some were caught, and they paid dearly.

  And there have been other times down through the ages when people selflessly worked to save others from slavery, torture, and death. Often putting their lives and the lives of their families in danger to do what was right:

To free the slave
To save a life
To go against  the grain, and often the law of the land.

  They faced opposition, hate, ridicule, and more from those who were doing what they were trying to stop. And yet they kept doing it.

  What would we have done? If we were living during the times when slavery was legal here in the US, would we turn a blind eye? If a slave ran to us for help, would we help, or call the authorities?

  If we lived in Germany, or the countries Hitler conquered, would we turn a blind eye to the slaughter of Jews? If we knew our neighbor was harboring Jews, would we turn him in, or help?

  And would we vote for Hitler, knowing what he was doing?

  You say you wouldn't. You would help, but would you? Would I?

  Read these sobering statistics, which are current:

• There are approximately 1.21 million abortions in America each year.
• There has been a steady decline in abortions since 1980.
• Each year, about 2% of all women aged 15-44 have an abortion.
• Of the women obtaining abortions in any given year, about 47% of them have had at least one previous abortion.
• By age 45, one third of American women will have had at least one abortion.
• The U.S. has the highest abortion rate (19.4 per 1,000) of any western industrialized nation.
• 88.7% of all abortions take place by the twelfth week of pregnancy

   I look at those, and ask myself a few questions:
1) What am I doing about it?
2) Why aren't we doing more?
3) Do we care enough?
   America elected the most pro-abortion president ever, when they elected Obama. He actually voted against legislation that when a baby survives an abortion, no one would be required to do anything to save it. He voted that it would just be left there to die. He alone voted that way. And that isn't a right wing story spun to make him look bad. It is fact. Now read that again. I'll even print it again: As a Senator, Obama against legislation that when a baby survives an abortion, no one would be required to do anything to save it. He voted that it would just be left there to die. He alone voted that way (I put it in big print so you'd get it for sure)
  What do you think when you read that? Disgust? Horror? Or complacency. Evidently a lot of people didn't care, for even a multitude of Christians voted for him twice. Voted for a man who wants a baby that survives an abortion to just be left there to die. What kind of man has that kind of thinking? And what kind of Christian blindly votes for him?
  I know. I am not supposed to say things like that, but really.... what business did so many Christians have voting for a man like that?! How can one justify that, not to mention everything else he stands for?

  Look at the picture above. What a cute puppy. I am not an animal lover, but even I think its cute. Now, let me spin a scenario: John Smith is running for president. As part of his very political platform, he is advocating that people be allowed to abuse animals. And that if their pet gets pregnant, they can have the baby puppies or kitties ripped out of the animal and tossed out. And he wants tax dollars to go to those who do it. Would you vote for him?
  Sound dumb? Yes, but yet politicians have as part of their political platform that women have the right to have a so-called doctor go into their womb and rip a baby from their womb in pieces. And we don't blink an eye. We march in and vote for the candidate because we always vote for that party. Ma and Pa did, Gram and Granpap did, so no matter what they stand for, we are going to vote for them.
  Even if we wade through the blood of millions of murdered babies to do it.
  We aren't doing enough. Forget risking imprisonment or life,  many Christians won't even vote for the other party to try to save the lives of the most innocent among us: babies in the womb.
 It isn't a right. It is murder.
 It doesn't matter if it is legal. Slavery was legal. The extermination of Jews was legal. Burning Christians at the stake was legal.
 What is wrong with us that we can't do as people in the past have done and DO SOMETHING. Politics aren't the answer, but if every Christian voted pro-life instead of pro-baby murderer, we might end abortion (come on, pro-choice - really? The baby gets no choice)
  Those who fought to end slavery and helped slaves escaped were looked down on. Ironic, when the other side was forcing people into slavery.
 Those who helped the Jews escape faced death and imprisonment.
Today, you dare oppose abortion, you are accused of waging a war on women, of hating women, of trying to set women's rights back in time, and more. So we cower and don't do anything. What wusses we are. Would that God would give us what these people in years past had, that we would do more to fight this horrible scourge of abortion that is defended and celebrated.
 Hitler has nothing on us. Pharoah has nothing on us. Nor Nero, or the countless slave owners of yesterday and today. We kill babies in the womb and defend it.
 What can we do? I don't know everything we can do, but here are a few things:

1) Pray for God to end it
2) Vote pro-life. Always.
3) Support pro-life agencies.
4) Get involved in crisis pregnancy centers

  Unfortunately, we can't bodily rescue babies like the Jews and slaves were rescued. They are in the womb of the person wanting them dead, and outside of kidnapping the mother - which I wouldn't recommend - there doesn't seem to be a way.
  But what are we willing to do? Are we too focused on loving our animals and being comfortable to care about the worst thing in America - abortion? 
 I am passionate about this issue, and may have come across angry. Which I am a bit. Angry that so many Christians consistently vote for candidates who are all for this horrible thing. Angry that people seem more concerned about animals being mistreated than babies being torn apart in the womb...... because the mother doesn't want them. Angry that there are countless couples across the world who want a baby, but cannot have one....... and all the while, mothers are killing babies they don't want.
 And we just live our lives, once in a while feeling a twinge about abortion, but never getting too upset about it.
  May God have mercy on us, and somehow stop the murder of innocents.
  I heard a preacher once say that if the blood of Abel cried from the ground to God after Cain killed his brother, how much more is  the blood of millions of murdered babies crying out to God today? And how long will He let us go on before He avenges their deaths?
  Pray, pray, pray. And vote pro-life. Those are the least that we can do. And may God help us to do more, to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who risked all to save lives down through the centuries. 

30 days of thankfulness, Day 13: Thankful for my car

On day 13, I am thankful for my car. It has seen better days, and has a lot of miles on it, but it has been a decent car, and it sure beats walking or riding a bike everywhere I go. It has also hit two deer and survived both.  And the car above is what mine used to look like.......

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 12: Thankful for books

  I was never a star pupil in school, but there was one thing I excelled at: reading. It has been years since my elementary days, but I can still remember the teachers saying I read above my level. Somewhere in my elementary years, I became an avid reader. I wanted to do it above anything else, and I usually did. I'd get a stack of books from the library and have them all back before the due date, and all of them read.

  Those early days of reading were filled with Hardy Boys books, Bobbsey Twins, Boxcar Children, and other such books. As I got older, my reading tastes changed and eventually leveled out to where I read mostly Christian fiction.

  I have no idea how many books I have read over the years, but it is a lot. It has been an escape, a good use of my time. I have traveled to places through books that I will never be in life, I have learned things through reading that I would not have learned otherwise.

  People may look at we readers and wonder how we can do it, why we would want to do it, and think it a waste of time. Meanwhile, I look at other people and wonder why they don't read, why they waste time and money doing THAT, and consider myself better off reading than to be caught up in other methods of spending time.

  So on day 12, I am very thankful for books (REAL books, not e-books!),  for my love of reading, and just wish I had more time to read the tons of books out there I will never have time to read.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 11: Thankful for our military

On day 11, and on Veteran's Day, I am thankful for our military. Unlike a liberal news rag, salon.com, who recently did a piece saying soldiers aren't heroes, I believe they are. Where would this county be without our military of yesterday and today?

  Too often, they are put down by liberals, especially the anti-war groups, but I won't put them down. We are fortunate and blessed to have so many that train and work to protect our country..... even the dimwits who criticize them and put them down. God bless our troops.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

30 days of thankfulness, Day 10: Thankful for the names of God

On day 10, I am thankful for the names of God. There are a lot of them mentioned in Scripture:

The Good Shepherd
Strong tower
And many more

  A couple of years ago I was given the opportunity to review a Bible called The Names of God Bible. The editor took went back and put all the different names of God that were in the original texts that have been translated to God, and put them back in. At the front of the Bible is an alphabetical listing of each name and its meaning. Not only is it interesting to see, it can be quite encouraging and helpful to see what name of God was originally used and what the name means. It can add a whole new meaning and dimension to what you are reading.

  And it can be encouraging in life. To know God is Jehovah Jeriah, the God who provides. That He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. He's our Father, the best Father there could ever be who makes no mistakes.

  And the list goes on. Whatever our problem, whatever we are facing in life, there is a name of God that indicates a character trait or ability of His that is pertinent to what we need. That should mean a lot to us. I don't believe God took on all of these names just for the fun of it, but so that we would know whatever our need, He is able to help us. There is no other like Him.

 Of all the names of God, there is one that stands out to me the most. And it could be the most important and outstanding name of God that there is:

  Emmanuel, meaning God with us. Christmas is coming fast, and that is the time of year we focus on that name the most, but it is so big we should focus on it all year long.

  Up until Jesus came, God resided in a temple. Then He stepped into our story and became one of us. And now, any of us can have Him reside in our hearts. Emmanuel, God with us and God in us. And I am thankful for that. Thankful for the name Emmanuel and what it means, but also thankful we have a God of many names, so we can always know He is enough for us and our needs.

He Is Jehovah
He is Jehovah, God of creation.
He is Jehovah, Lord God almighty.
The Balm of Gilead, the Rock of Ages.
He is Jehovah, the God that healeth thee.
Sing hallelujah, sing hallelujah,
Sing hallelujah, sing hallelujah.
He is Jehovah, Lord God almighty.
He is Jehovah, the God that healeth thee.
He is the great I Am, the God of Abraham,
Jehovah Shalom, the God peace I am.
The God of Israel, the Everlasting One.
He is Jehovah, the God that healeth thee.
He’s your Provider, Jehovah Jireh;
God of salvation, God of Messiah;
The Son he sent to you, and testified of him.
He is Jehovah, the God that healeth thee.

30 days of thankfulness, Day 9: Thankful for friends

 I am thankful for friends today, on my 9th day of the 30 days of being thankful. I have different levels of friends. I have Facebook friends, some of who I know little of. I have friends I see occasionally and know pretty well, I know friends I know very well, and then there is the best kind of friends: the ones who know the worst about me. They know the skeletons that are in my closet, and they still call me friend and want me around. Or they are really good actors.

  I have mentioned it before, but I truly grew up thinking no one liked me. It took years for me to realize that people do. I am sure some people don't like me. I tend to be too outspoken sometimes, knock Obama too much, or they just don't like my haircut or jokes. That is their prerogative. I choose to focus on those who do like me and are my friends.

 I am thankful for my best friend, Steven Matlock. I wish he were closer and not 400 plus miles away, but it is nice having a best friend. I didn't have one for most of my life.

I am thankful for relatives who are friends. Yes, your relatives can be your friends too.

I am thankful for my Facebook friends. I don't have much contact with some, but many post encouraging and funny posts. And I have made friends through Facebook that I have met.

And I am thankful for the friends I have made who have the same struggles as I do, many who are further up the road than I am and have become a great encouragement and help to me.