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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lilies, deer, and sparrows

It has been a discouraging couple of weeks. I had been praying about doing something that would be good for me, but would cost a tidy sum of money. Then I hit a deer. With the car that I had already hit two deer with and that I was hoping would last me the winter. As per the financial guru Dave Ramsey's advice, I had dropped all non-required insurance from my car once I paid it off and it got a lot of miles on it....then I started hitting deer. That never happened when I had full coverage all of these years. In fact, it never happened before I bought this car. The deer magnet. The damage is extensive, but the car is still drives.

  Then a few days later, I finally got into the eye doctor for an eye exam.... and needed glasses. Including the exam, that cost me $457.00. Then the next day, I hit yet another deer, #4 with this same car. I did manage to stop ALMOST in time, and barely tapped it.

Later that week,  on my way back from picking up my eyeglasses, I went over some railroad tracks and my exhaust system came off towards the front of the car, instantly causing my car to rival a jet plane in sound. I figured it needed a whole new exhaust system, but that isn't going to happen on a car that might not last the winter. Fortunately, they were able to temporarily fix it by welding, and also got my deer-damaged door to stay shut and latch properly. But the days are numbered for my poor Sunfire, and I need to start looking for another car, which means a car payment and higher insurance.

  And then I got a message from someone that led to my doing something that has at least one person upset with me, and another feeling badly. Yet I feel it is for the best for all concerned. And ironically, had the person not contacted me, I would not have felt I needed to do this thing, and they would not be angry with me.

  The "icing on the cake": a friend who has planned to meet me for lunch canceled. For the third time in a row.

  Fears of the future, doubts of God truly caring, doubts of people really caring. Issues truly trusting God.

  I know there are many who are having it worse than I am, but that knowledge doesn't make things better or make everything OK when you're going through a rough patch. This is MY rough patch.

  We Americans have it so good. Most of us have everything we need, most don't face persecution for our faith or beliefs. We get used to everything going our way, and then when bad things happen, we tend to act like we should be exempt. That serving God gives us a get out of troubles free card. But it doesn't.

The Bible is full of people who went through some pretty tough stuff. They faced the lion's den, a fiery furnace, giants, beheadings, and more. Even today, there are Christians all over the world facing real persecution for their faith. In light of that, my problems are pretty small. And I'd rather have deer seeking to destroy my car than to have angry Muslims seeking to behead me for not bowing to their god and prophet.

  A song has been on my mind a lot lately: Consider the Lilies. Written in the 70's from the verses in Matthew, they still hold true today:

Consider the lilies, they don't toil or spin
But there's not a king with more splendor than them
Consider the sparrow, he don't plant or sow
But he's fed by the Master who watched him grow.

We have a heavenly Father above
With eyes full of mercy, a heart full of love
He really cares when your head is bowed low
Consider the lilies and then you will know.

  It is human nature to wonder if God cares when you're having troubles and trials. Yet His eye is on the sparrow and He knows when one falls.... and what does a sparrow do? It flies around, eats, goes to the bathroom on cars.... but God sees when one falls. And how much more important are we than a bird? Well, unless it is baby eagles in the USA, a lot more important. And even God cares more about us than baby eagles.

  I like the line in the song "we have a heavenly Father above, with eyes full of mercy, a heart full of love." We don't understand God or His ways, but we aren't God. But we know He is always good, always merciful, and always loves. And we can call Him Father.

  So today, I will work my eight hours at my job, then change clothes and go to what I enjoy: shop and eat out. Sure, it will be the usual table for one, but I think I make a pretty good dinner companion. Then if we get that dreaded white stuff they are calling for in the amounts they are calling for, I shall stay in the house on my two days off, read, and enjoy my time off.

  I shall be thankful my problems aren't worse than they are, be thankful I have money to cover my financial woes, and work on trusting God more. While I am at it, I will start praying about finding a good car at a price I can afford. After all, those sparrows need a good place to go to the bathroom.

***Written while at work today while we were slow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My picks for the GOP nomination for 2016

  I am not as politically savvy as some conservatives, but I pay attention. There are candidates I like, and some I don't. Since I am a bit bored, I decided to throw out my thoughts on 2016 possible candidates. And this does not cover every possible nominee, just the most obvious ones and most likely to run.

 My "no way Jose'" list:

1) Jeb Bush. He is more Democrat than Republican. And as much as I liked George W, we don't need any more Bushes in the White House, and that is what the media and liberals would use as their battle cry.

2) Mitt Romney. Why he would even consider running again, I sure can't understand. I held my nose and voted for him last election, but only because he was the lesser of two evils.

3) Chris Christie. Absolutely not. The man has too many liberal ideas, and is a bit too much gun control for my liking. He would be a big mistake. No pun intended.

My possible list:

1) Rand Paul. I like a lot of what he says and stands for, but I consider him weak on foreign policy, just like his dad, and am worried he might have other of his dad's weird ideas. However, he leans far more right than previous choices we have had.

2) Mike Huckabee. Former pastor and governor. I like most of what he stands for, but I have never cared for him much. And he got too worked up about calling people RINO's..... made me wonder if he might be one.

3) Rick Perry. Seems pretty conservative and did  a good job of governing Texas. He even has stood up to Obama. I can't really think of anything I dislike about him, but he isn't in my top picks.

4) Ben Carson. I like everything about him I have heard and read, but I fear his not being a politician would go against him and would be used against him. Personally, I think that is a plus, but too many Americans would see it as a minus.

5) Sarah Palin. Yeah, I know, she did a bad speech, So now all conservatives must jump on the "Sarah Palin is the most horrible person alive" bandwagon. Hogwash. Obama has made plenty of bad speeches and mistakes in his speeches. I like her. I don't think she should run, as the liberals, media, and fellow Republicans would destroy her and her family. But I'd vote for her over anyone I have listed so far.

My top picks: 

1) Scott Walker. This guy is awesome. Christian, conservative..... there is nothing I know about him that would be a negative. He saved Wisconsin a ton of money and whipped the state into shape, with the unions fighting him tooth and nail. He faced a recall and won, then did something no one has ever done: Won a re-election after facing and winning a recall. He would be my top pick above all other candidates. I have been watching him ever since he became governor of Wisconsin, and consider him definite presidential material. Put him or my next pick against Hillary, and she would look like a dowdy old hag next to them.

2) Marco Rubio. I think he may be weak on immigration, but I like him. He is definitely Christian and conservative, and looks presidential. I read his first book, and was impressed with where he came from and what he is today. He is a very close second.

3) Ted Cruz. I am not sure what his chances would be at winning a presidential election, but he has a spine, more than most Republicans, and stands for the right things. I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.

4) Colonel Alan West. I just like him. He is an outspoken conservative who stands for the right things. And then we could be the ones chanting racism when liberals refuse to vote for him. Just kidding. Kind of.

5) Bobby Jindal. I don't know if he intends to run, but he is another I have been watching. Bold, unashamed of conservative ideas and policies, and he has gone against Obama, something I consider a big plus.

6) John Kasich. My governor. He is another who I have no idea if he plans on running, but he has been good for Ohio. Very good. And if the unions had stayed out of his way, he could have done even more good. Another I would happily vote for without holding my nose.

  I am sure I don't know everything about every candidate, and would most likely not agree with all of them on some issue, but the above 6 are tops in my book. We need a true conservative, not the pseudo Republicans we have ran the last couple of elections. But have Republicans learned their lesson? I sure hope so, or we will again hand the presidency to another Democrat and lose even more freedoms and morality.

A bigger threat than gluten and sugar.....

If you're reading this blog post, it is too late for you.

  I read the horror stories almost daily on Facebook:
  Gluten - bad for you

  Sugar - bad for you

  Taylor Swift music - bad for you

  Sitting - bad for you

  Standing - bad for you (made that one up)

  Even normal veggies aren't good for you...... it must be organic (organic: a way stores get more money out of you)

  Sun - bad for you

  Keurig coffee makers - bad for you

  Red meat - bad for you

  Sugar substitutes - bad for you (OK, make up your minds people! You can't say both sugar and sugar substitutes are bad for you!)

  Stuffing your turkey the night before - bad for you

  And the list goes on. A never ending list of things that are bad for us. If I paid attention to every single article and story, and avoided what they recommend, I'd be eating only unsalted vegetables from my garden and drinking boiled water.

  Now I get we all could eat a little healthier and cut back, and some people have to go gluten free, though I wonder why that is suddenly an issue..... we have been eating wheat forever. I doubt the bread Jesus passed out was gluten free.....hmm..... wonder if the Bread of Life is gluten-free...... But that aside, come on! The scary stories are getting ridiculous. Everything is bad for us, but if you can't enjoy life a little, eat what you enjoy, then what fun is life? Besides, it is too late for us. You can go gluten free, avoid sugar, avoid Obama's speeches, avoid salt, go to bed early, do everything every Facebook friend suggests, stop doing everything every Facebook friend suggests, browse the internet for the newest health horror story........ and guess what...... you can't do anything about the biggest threat to life...... being born.

 Yep. You are dying. I am dying. We start dying the second we pop out of the birth canal. You can live the healthiest life possible, and you're still going to die. Possibly before people like me who eat what I want. The health nut could drop dead tomorrow or be die in an accident. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

  Does that mean we shouldn't worry about what we eat. Exactly! God said not to worry about anything!!!!!!! It is Biblical!

  Seriously, it would do us all good to be a little more careful, and if we have health issues, we may have to for that reason, but as long as I stay healthy, I am not going to worry too much about what I eat. I need to drop some weight, so I need to start cutting back, but going gluten or sugar free? No way.... not unless health issues demand it.

  So eat your lettuce leaf and your gluten free bread. Avoid fried foods, sugar, and whatever the newest health craze/horror story says to do, but I'll sit here with my fried chicken, donuts, tea made from a Keurig coffee maker..... yeah. I'lll sit. :)

  I am making a little fun of this stuff, but seriously people..... what is good and bad for us changes almost daily. No one really knows. And Jesus is in charge of my life. My life is in His hands, not in the hands of people who try to tell me what is good or bad for you.

 I thought of this joke as I was posting my blog. And remember..... no matter how healthy you eat......You. Are. Going. To. Die.

An elderly couple met their demise in an auto accident and were transported to Heaven. The faithful couple were recognized by St. Peter and escorted into the welcome center, where they began to take in all the wonder and amazement of the place.
St. Peter pointed out the food court and told them that they could of course eat anything and not worry about their health. The husband especially began partaking of the pastries and deserts. The wife was amazed at the beauty, the peace and the joy she felt and commented over and over about what a nice place Heaven was and how happy she felt to be there.
However, the husband began looking quite grim. His wife inquired what the problem was. The husband sneered, "If it weren't for you and your oat bran muffins & healthy food, we'd probably have been here 15 years ago!"

***Disclaimer: Yes, this was a very sarcastic and sardonic post, but if you know me at all, it is your fault for reading it :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What happened to hymn writing?

I was reading an article recently that was talking about the difference in our older hymns and the Christian music that is being written today. There is a difference. I've thought about it before, and have done some thinking on it lately, and decided to put my thoughts in a blog post. Some may agree with me, and some may disagree, which is fine. Just don't label me a heretic for daring to say something you disagree with. Anything I say about a style of music is not a personal criticism of you, and don't take it as such.

  A few months ago, I was listening to the only program I listen to regularly, The Gospel Greats. It is all Southern Gospel music, which is my favorite, and is the best music there is,in my opinion. On this particular program, it was an all hymns edition. Every song that was played was a hymn with chats with some of the artists who had recorded them. More than one music artist commented on the positive response they get when they sing hymns in concert. And I've noticed it. I have been to concerts and enjoyed all or most of the songs, but there is something different about it when they sing an old familiar hymn.

  It has been said that just because something is old, that does not make it good. And on the flip side, just because something is new, does not make it bad. That applies to music also. There are a lot of awesome hymns with some great theology and anointing of God on them..... and there are some not-so-great hymns.

  I attend a Wesleyan Methodist church, and some years ago they bought enough Wesleyan Methodist hymnals to stock 2 in every songbook rack. It is not our main hymnal (thankfully!), and does not get used a lot. I don't like it. The hymns don't have names, but are arranged by first lines in the index. And they are old. A lot of them have weird tunes. There are very few songs in the book that I know. There is one song we used to sing occasionally that I particularly didn't like. It starts out with "If I spread my couch with roses". That is all I can remember of the song, and it always seemed like a bizarre song to me, much less to be a hymn. Just because it is old, does not make it good.

And to be honest, there are a lot of songs with great words in that hymnal, but so many have tunes I don't like, and that may be part of why I don't like them.

We just got a new hymnal few months ago. It has a lot of great hymns in and also a lot of newer songs. Unfortunately, to make room for the newer songs, they phased out some hymns. One such hymn is "Hallelujah for the Cross". I remember our church belting out that old hymn many times and you could feel God in it. It is a wonderful hymn..... and now it is gone, most likely never to be sung in our church again. I like the new hymnal, but I wish we had kept the ones we just got rid of so we wouldn't lose so many hymns that we have lost with a new hymnal.

  There aren't many songs being written today that can compare and stand with the hymns of yesterday. I'm not saying today's songs aren't good. There are a lot of good songs, but not many that are hymn quality. There is something about hymns. And many music artists are making CDs of hymns and recording one here and there. And they are well received.

  Bill Gaither and others have written some songs that are standing the test of time. Songs like Because He Lives get almost the same reception as a hymn, but they are few and far between.

  I love Southern Gospel music, but most of the songs don't stick with me. There are a lot of good SG songs, but no one will be singing the ones 20 years from now that are being written now, and the same with any genre' of Christian music. Most of the songs will not last and will fade into the dustbin of history. And the same holds with most Christian songs in any genre'. Most of them don't last. Some do. A hundred years from now, they may still be singing some of the newer songs....... but not many.

  And if you think I am wrong, think about this: Think of some songs that were written early in your lifetime. How often do they get sung now? How often do music artists record them? How often does someone break out into a verse or chorus of those songs at a concert or church and everyone join in? It doesn't happen often. In Southern Gospel music, occasionally an artist will record a song from the 70's or 80's, but not often. It is all about new music that will chart.

  I have asked myself why there aren't many hymns being written today. Hymn writing is almost nonexistent. There is an occasional song that pops up that sounds like an old hymn, but not many. In Christ Alone by Stuart Townsend is one such song. How Deep the Father's Love is another, also by Townsend. I thought that it was an old hymn, until I looked it up and discovered it had just been written in 1995....... but it sounds like an old hymn.

"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

  But the songs that last, that really say something that will resound down through the ages... they are as scarce as hen's teeth. But why? Why aren't people churning out powerful hymns today?  I've thought about that, and here's my thoughts:

1) The reason they are written. The hymn writers wrote songs to sing in church. They wrote when God inspired them. Now, people write songs to fill a CD. Many are written with charts in mind, hoping they will have a number one song. Not many songs are written today with the intent of writing songs for the church, or simply because God inspired the writer with a thought to put to music.

2) Gadgets. We all, myself included, are too involved in our gadgets. The great hymns were written before TV and the godless influences of Hollywood came along. There were no cell phones, computers....even no phones when a lot of them were written. There was no modern technology to drain people and take up their time. And that isn't to condemn modern technology, though if we removed Hollywood's influence and lack of morals we would all be better off. But it is different for us than for those who wrote the old hymns and those who lived during those times. Which brings me to my next point:

3) We don't have the spiritual depth of those in times past. We are shallow. Too many of us don't know the true meaning of sacrifice, denying ourselves, true surrender. We make our own religion, our own God, and our own rules. We go through the Bible and decide what applies to us and what doesn't. The result is a churches full of shallow Christians. Too many of us don't have the spiritual depth of our forefathers.

  We are too concerned with who is playing who in the sport of the season, who is going to be picked for the next American Idol, when the next book is coming out by our favorite author.... work and play consumes our lives and each hour of our day, and God gets the leftovers. He is an important part of our lives, not THE most important part.

4) Anointing and inspired by God. Anyone can write a song. I even wrote one once as a class assignment, and it was a hymn, written to the tune of a published hymn. You won't find it in a hymn book. I can't even remember the title of it, much less the words. It was just something I did as part of a college music course I took. God didn't inspire it. It didn't have the anointing of God on it.

I believe the great hymns of the faith - Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well With My Soul - God inspired the writers to write them. And the anointing of God was on the writers and on the songs. We don't have many Fanny Crosbys. Phillip Blisses, Horation Spaffords, and others like them today. Back to my first point, these men and women weren't trying to write the next #1 song. They didn't have an artist asking them for songs to fill their new CD.

God inspired them to write, and they wrote and the words were put to music. And those songs still resonate with us years later, some of them a couple of hundred years later. That won't be the case with most of today's Christian music. Like the music from my childhood, most of it will fade away into history and won't be remembered, sung, or recorded.

  Now a couple of notes:

1) I am not making a blanket statement on all modern Christian music.....just most. And just because it doesn't measure up to hymns, does not make it bad. I receive a lot of encouragement and help from new songs. This is not a condemnation of new Christian songs.

2) Not all Christians are shallow. Not all gadgets are bad. However, if each of us were honest, we have a hard time making time for God amid the busyness of life and entertainment. The majority of us need more of God and need to be closer to God. Especially me.

3) There is such a thing as personal taste and opinion.... but if one is totally honest and considers this issue, most people will agree that a lot of our modern Christian music does not measure up to the hymns.

4) I am not worshiping hymns. I just believe they are so much more and so much better than

  Enjoy good Christian music of today. No matter what your tastes are, there is probably something that is at least labeled Christian music you will enjoy..... but treasure the old hymns. They have great theology and "meat", and many were written out of great trials and triumphs of saints long gone.

  I hope the day never comes when my church has a hymnal with no tried and true hymns. With each new hymnal that is published, it seems more and more new songs are added, and more and more older hymns are discarded. If we keep doing that, soon all of the old hymns will be gone. That has happened in many churches. All they sing are new praise and worship songs, some which do have some depth and meaning, but many which are "7/11" music...repeating the same lyrics over and over to get the crowd excited and worked up. I've heard songs like that, and they bother me. The church that has discarded the old hymns and just do whatever the new hip and popular worship music is, is a deprived church. Music sets the tone for the service, and we need to get away from just getting a spiritual high from music that may have us jumping up and down and dancing.

 Others might find other reasons, and some may scoff at the reasons I came up with. I don't always make sense, but I think my reasons here do. If you disagree, then why do you think hymns aren't being written today? And why does so much of Christian music being written doesn't hold up to our hymns, though I am sure some will argue that point.

 I like to hear new songs, but I am thankful for the hymns we have and still sing.

The first verse of my favorite hymn:

Monday, January 12, 2015

We need hope

   My good friend Matthew Walker did a short blog post the other day about hope, and that it was going to be his word of the year. I am familiar with the idea of people picking a word for the year, though I am not sure what all that entails, but hope seems like a good word to focus on. I am not going to steal Matthew's word of the year, but I do need to focus on being more hopeful this year,  I decided that blogging about it would be a good start, but discovered a post on hope I did back in August of 2009, so I am cheating a bit and using part of that one.

I Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  This past year was good and also had its rough times. I got full time at my job, but I still don't make enough money to pay for much of an apartment. A tree fell on my parents' house, causing some major chaos and disruption around here for a good five months, going into six months. I hit another deer with my car. The depression that had been laying low for a couple of years came back with a vengeance. The devil hammered me from all sides causing me to feel hopeless and fearful of the future. The stuff I deal with looked like insurmountable mountains. Hope seemed like a foreign word.

I read the verse above, and wondered, why does the Bible say the greatest of those three is love? Can a person truly live without hope? I think you could live without faith - thought it is impossible to please God without it, and maybe you could live without love, but without hope? So why isn't the greatest of those hope?

I searched for the three words in the New King James. Hope appears a mere 150 times, faith appears 422, and love appears 697. So love must be the most i important of the three.

Could it be, if you truly don't have love, you can't have the other two, and it is possible to have the other two and not have love? I don't know.

Regardless of the order of importance, all three are important. We are commanded to have faith and love, but I am not aware of a verse that commands us to have hope. And why not? It is obviously important - it is pretty hard to live the Christian life without hope - believe me, I know.

I looked hope up on dictionary.com. I liked two of the definitions:

1)the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best

2)a person or thing in which expectations are centered

And therein lies why hope is important. It hinges on faith. If we feel hopeless, and that things aren't going to turn out well, and we are serving God, than we also have a lack of faith. We must have hope that God will work for the best in our lives.

We need hope
To climb the highest mountains
To cross the lowest valleys
To walk through barren lands
We need hope
And in Jesus we can find
The strength we need to try
And the peace we need to stand. (Jeff & Sheri Easter, Silent Witness CD, 1995)

What does one do when they feel hopeless? The devil will take advantage of our hopeless feelings and magnify things so they look all the more hopeless. And so often, I, and others, fall into the trap, and focus on what is going wrong, and hope slips further and further out of our grasp. So how to avoid those feelings? They are real, and sometimes things look so dark, it is easy to feel hopeless.

 And the devil is a master at fighting us and finding our weaknesses. And if he knows we are easily discouraged and made to feel hopeless, that is where he will attack. 

 But how to hold onto hope? How do we not slip into hopelessness?

Some of the answers are obvious, yet easy to let slide if one is feeling hopeless. Prayer. I have prayed so much lately when it seemed my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling, but I keep praying - surely if they keep bouncing around in my room, they will bounce up to God eventually. Reading the Bible. Psalms are really encouraging. David sounded pretty hopeless at times, yet he came through it and was the greatest earthly king Israel had.

One we overlook, is asking others to pray. There is nothing wrong with admitting to friends that we need prayer, but we so often try to be self-sufficient, we avoid asking for help - and sometimes we don't ask for help from God quickly enough.

There are tons of good books on the Christian market to help and encourage. Philip Yancey has written several, and there are more out there.

And I still believe thankfulness can help. If we focus more on what is going right, and what is good in life - and there is always something good, no matter how bad everything seems to be - if we focused on that daily, thanked God for those things, I believe that can help a lot - and that is something I am still working on.

 I have many favorite songs, but one that comes immediately to my mind when thinking about hope is a song titled "There's Still Hope".

I remember the day I bought the CD. The artist is Susie Luchsinger, sister to Reba McIntyre. This song was #3 on the CD and I was driving along, crying my eyes out. I hit repeat several times that day also, and it still has that effect on me most of the time when I hear it.

The song has three verses, and is the kind of song I love - a "story song", better well known as a ballad. Verse 1 talks about a young man in rehab for the third time, yet his mother still prays for him. Verse 2 talks about a separated couple, and their daughter who won't give up hope for the marriage, and verse 3 addresses peace, and for all three, and for any situation, the song reminds me - and anyone else who listens to it, that "there's still hope."

I found the song on Youtube. It isn't an official music video, but one someone made. Even if you don't like Southern Gospel/Country Gospel, give it a listen. It just might bless and encourage you also. I love the line that says "it's early to give up." How true. And how true that there is always still hope. Don't let the devil take that away. I know from experience it will only make life miserable.

There's Still Hope (Susie Luchsinger)

Verse 1
A twenty year old boy
He's staring out the window
It's a rainy day and his future don't look bright
The third time in rehab
Folks back home say "Ain't it sad,
He could have done so much with his life"
But his mama keeps on praying every night

There's still hope
It's early to give up
The devil's cheering, but so what
There's an angel saying, "no you don't"
Another day, another chance
The strength to change the circumstance
It's alive
If one heart holds on

There's still hope

Verse 2
An eleven year old girl
Is putting on her ball cleats
At the little league park on Friday night
Softball ain't her favorite sport
But she's not playing for the score
You see her daddy moved out last July
But he still sits with Mama every Friday night

There's still hope
It's early to give up
The devil's cheering, but so what
There's an angel saying, "no you don't"
Another day, another chance
The strength to change the circumstance
It's alive
If one heart holds on

There's still hope

Verse 3
There's a little boy in Jerusalem
He takes off running through the hills
Sometimes he forgets the lines of hate
He sees another boy from the other side
There's one thing running through their minds
Wouldn't it be fun if we could play
As their mamma's rush to grab them
For a moment, their eyes say

There's still hope
It's early to give up
The devil's cheering, but so what
There's an angel saying, "no you don't"
Another day, another chance
The strength to change the circumstance
It's alive
If one heart holds on
There's still hope

Not today

I watched the trailer for an upcoming movie around a year ago or so, and thought it looked good. I mentally filed it in my "need to watch some day" list. When it came out on DVD, I considered buying it, but didn't want to pay $19.99 for it, so I pretty much forgot about it for a while. I was in Family Christian Bookstore on Black Friday and there it was on their Black Friday specials table....... for $5. I of course purchased it, but hadn't watched it yet until last night. I got it ready to play, hit "play movie" and sat back.

We are too entertainment-minded in America. If we took our entertainment away, we'd feel lost. I love to read, and it could be considered entertainment, and often it is; yet there are times I am convicted, inspired, encouraged, and more by what I read, even in a Christian novel.

When it comes to movies, they are pretty much entertainment. I try to be careful in what I watch, and they have started to put out better Christian movies, which makes it easier to watch decent movies. This Christian movie falls into the better category. And I got more than I expected.

 Once in a while I read a book and think "everyone needs to read that book." It happens less often with movies, but it happened with this one. This is a movie everyone needs to see.

The plot in a nutshell: 20-year old Caiden is a spoiled, fairly rich boy. He used to attend church, serve God, and pray before his parents divorced and God didn't answer his prayers to keep them together. So now, he is a party boy. He and his buddies decide to go on a fun-filled trip to Hyderabad, India. A little seven-year-old girl gets sold by her well-meaning father, and Caiden feels responsible (watch the movie to find out why), and goes on a search to rescue the little girl.

 This movie is about human trafficking, and it is based on real events. It really isn't an entertaining movie, though it did entertain, but it did more than that. It helped awake me to the reality and horrors of human trafficking.

 The movie is tastefully done, but there are several times in the movie when Caiden goes into a place where you can pay for sex with little girls - or boys. Even though I knew it was a movie and they were actors, I found myself crying, thinking about how many children are living that reality.

 In one scene, Caiden has truck out again at the place he visited, but can't help himself and buys two of the little girls they brought him, trying to convince him to go with a different girl. After they left the buildig, he falls apart as he thinks about all of the ones he had to leave behind. I found tears coursing down my cheeks again..... that happened a lot in the movie.

 At the end of the movie - and no, I am not saying if he found the little girl or not, you'll have to watch it yourself - the camera bounced back and forth between the main actors as they told statistics and information about human trafficking. As the credits rolled, I put my head in my hands and let the tears flow. I cried for the countless children - and men and women - sold into slavery and to be used for sex and other purposes. I cried because I want to do something, but can't think of anything I can do to help. I cried because I am so wrapped up in my problems that I forget how blessed I am my family are.

  It is one thing to be aware. I am all too aware of abortion and the evils of it. There doesn't seem to be much I personally can do to end it, other than pray and consistently vote for politicians who are pro-life. But what can I do about human trafficking? Pray, yes, but what else?

 I weary of all of the "save the animal" posts I see on Facebook. People are way more important. Stopping abortion and human trafficking are way more important. We need to get our priorities right. I for one will be praying and asking God what I can do to help in the battle against this awful scourge of human trafficking.

 For some statistics just for America (yes, it is a problem here also), go to this site.

 For more information about the movie, go here.

Movie trailer:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Encouragement 301: An infinite list

**A re-post from February 2009

The third, and last - I promise - "installment" on encouragement. Who to encourage. The possibilities truly are endless. Here are a few.....

1) Your pastor. No pastor is perfect. At least I haven't met one yet, but met many good ones. No matter, he needs encouragement too. He of all people, can't just openly let the world know if he is discouraged. One of my brothers-in-law is a pastor, and I know from talking to he and my sister, they truly appreciate all that their congregation does for them.

A. Attend services. It has got to be discouraging to a pastor when people miss services. It should be rare, and with good reason, even mid-week services

B. Compliment him on sermons. If he preaches a message that speaks to you and encourages you, tell him. I know when I had to speak in church, it made me feel good when someone would compliment me. Pastors appreciate it too.

C. Have the pastor and his family over to eat. Yes, I have actually done this a few times in my life. I can cook. :-)

D. Pray for him. Let him know. Yeah, point made already, but your pastor needs your prayers more than you will ever know.

E. Drop him a card or gift, not just on Pastor Appreciation Sunday.

F. Offer to help out where needed. And if he asks you to do a task, do so cheerfully, even if you aren't seen doing it.........

A note of caution: if your pastor asks you if you will help him, ask details before agreeing. I made the mistake of not doing that once, and ended up calling for VBS, a traumatic experience, especially since at the first house he sent me to on my own, I was accused of first being a salesman, and then a Jehovah Witness.

2) Your Sunday School teacher. Our class is different than some. We have someone in charge, who speaks more than others, but most of the year, we have different speakers take on different topics, sometimes a month at a time. Regardless of the set up, these people need encouragement.

A. Attend your class. One of my pet peeves is people who belong in a certain class and don't go. Or skip out entirely.

B. Pay attention and participate. I like it when there is class discussion, especially if it is something that pertains to me.

C. Drop them an encouraging note or email.

3) Your boss. We don't often think of it, but bosses can use encouragement also, especially if they have to answer to someone higher up the totem pole. Also, just being on time, and a hard worker is encouraging to them.

4) Your spouse. Yeah, they need encouragement, especially being married to you. :-) I am not married, but will toss out a few ideas. Of course I have some, even though I am a bachelor. Here are just a few....


A. Compliment your wife. Surely there is something. If she looks nice, tell her. If the meal was good, tell her. If it was a burnt sacrifice, tell her you love her sacrificial spirit.

B. Help. Of course you work to support the family, but she has her plate full. Run the vacuum once in awhile. Help clear the table and do the dishes. Watch the kids and let her have her night out without the kids and hubby.

C. Do things for her. Fill her car up with gas. Wash the car. Buy her flowers when you haven't done anything wrong. The possibilities are endless. Sure, they are ways to keep your marriage alive, but it can encourage her and make her day brighter.

Women: (ok, this could go badly.....) :-)

A. Compliment your husband. If he looks nice, tell him. If he does a good job supporting the family, tell him often.

B. Help him. The list of ways to help him may not be as long as how he can help you, but there are small ways to help him out.

C. Keep the house neat. It has got to help his mood to come home to a neat house, his clothes washed and supper on the table. Dream world? Maybe, but working isn't always fun - sometimes it brings rough days. Make the atmosphere he comes home to something that will left his spirits.

D. Buy him something. Most guys aren't into flowers, but they still like gifts.

E. Leave the toilet seat up for him occasionally.

OK, that wasn't too bad. Hope the women don't descend on me with wrath. :-)

5) Your parents. Yes, you can even encourage them. If they are Christians, and raised you right, one of the best ways to encourage them, is to serve God with all your might.

Then some of the others fall in: compliments, phone calls, hugs. Parents need it too, and siblings, and other relatives. We shouldn't just encourage those in our family, but neither should we neglect them and focus only on others.

6) Friends. I think we should focus on friends just about as much as our relatives, especially if they are single, divorced, widowed. Walking the road to Heaven alone is rough, even if one doesn't have some major trials. If your friends blog, comment. Post a cheery message on facebook - do something fairly often for them, if it is just an email or comment.

7) The mailman. The cashier. The people you run across as you go throughout your day. The woman ringing up your groceries could be a single mom struggling to keep things afloat. A smile and kind word could go a long way to making her day brighter.

I may have touched on this already, but we are too busy. We walk down the sidewalk, or through the store, rarely making eye contact or ex hanging smiles with a stranger. We have so many gadgets: computers, cell phones, Blackberrys, and yet we never have time for anyone.

We all need God foremost of all, but we need each other. Let's all slow down and look for ways to encourage others and make their burden a little lighter and their day a bit brighter. It's what we want people to do for us when we are down and discouraged, so let us do unto others as we would have them do to us: encourage.

A side note in ending these posts on encouragement: I did a goof with the notes when I was preparing to speak on it a few years ago. I had typed almost the whole service on my computer, and it died, so I lost them. Bought a new PC and started over, and the PC had an issue. Completely forgetting the notes were on it, I returned it, got a different PC, got home and realized what I had done. So for the third time, I started over with the notes. It was discouraging, which is ironic given the topic. :-)

Encouragement 201: Take it to the streets

** A re-post from February 2009

Continuation of Encouragement 101, encouraging yourself. On the off-chance that someone might read these, I made them into 3 posts so I don't do one very long one.

Sometimes we have no idea who in our circle of friends & acquaintances may be discouraged. Some people hide it well. Others blog about it. :-) Seriously, we all have discouraging times, and if you never have, look out - your time is coming. I believe it is Biblical to exhort and encourage other Christians. We are in this together, and we need to take the time, make the time, to help others. Some things may only take a minute, others may take a little time & money, but everyone needs encouragement, even if they aren't discouraged, you just might make someone's day a little brighter.

1) Pray for them. And let them know. Sure, I know praying for people will help regardless, but knowing someone is praying is such a boost. After "I love you", "I'm praying for you" has got to be close the top of the most important words to say to someone.

2) Contact. With today's technology, the possibilities are endless. Phone call. Email. Card. Somewhere in storage, there are some cards and notes people sent to me that meant so much, I don't want to part with them. Even a email forward says you are thinking about them. The church I attended in Indiana did something I wish my church did: In their church directory, people could also put their email addresses, if they so desired. With so many people having blogs, facebook, etc, you can always leave positive notes on places like that. It can mean a lot. Don't just comment if what the person has said has royally ticked you off. :-)

3) Feed them. Food can do wonders, especially for men. Food is the way to a man's heart, after all. Take a dessert to someone, cookies, bread. It does more than feed the stomach - it says "I care". If you can afford it, take someone out to eat and just chat.

4) Invite someone over. Hospitality is becoming a lost art, and this is not a request for an invite. :-) I think Christians should hang out together more than just at church, but we are all too busy. Unfortunately, I cannot ask company over at this stage in my life, but hopefully the day will come soon that I can again. I enjoy entertaining, and miss doing so. It doesn't have to be an expensive affair, just a simple snack or meal, and games.

I have an invite to the Goodnows on Friday the 13th for Chinese food, home-cooked, and games. I am looking forward to it. I also have an invite in waiting to go for games to another house in the near future. For anyone interested, my favorite drink is caffeine free diet coke........

We do need Christian fellowship - it will encourage us all.

5) Live a life that encourages others:-Attend church, keep the standards, be in the service, etc. It encourages me to see people who hold true to their convictions, live a Christian life with integrity, and don't change.

Encouragement 101: Begin at home

**A re-post from February 2009

This post is another recycled lesson I gave once. Deciding to re-do it some and post it here, came after a conversation with a friend of mine. I have a feeling this may be a two-parter. This post is in no way asking anyone to do these things for me, but just some ideas if you are like me, and think when the gifts of the Spirit were passed out, you got left out. This is one we can all do: Encourage.

The story is told that one day Satan was selling off some of his tools. All sizes and prices were available. There was one small tool that had an extremely high price on it. When asked why the high price for such a small tool, his reply was that it was his most often used, and most effective tool - the tool of discouragement.

Of course there never was such a sale, but discouragement is one of the devil’s best tools. It seems if he can get a Christian discouraged, they become in effective, and for a lot of Christians who give up and stumble, it is all started by discouragement.

So who do we encourage? First off........Yourself. Not a selfish thing - if you are discouraged, it is hard to encourage others. The Bible talks about David encouraging himself in the Lord - we all need to do that.

1) Prayer. Praying should be our first recourse when we are discouraged, and if we are constant with our praying, discouragement doesn't come quite so easily. It shouldn't be our last resort, but our first.

2) Bible. It helps to have favorite scriptures that mean a lot to turn to when you are discouraged. I tend to read Jeremiah 29: 10-12 a lot. And Psalm 23. And there is nothing wrong with that. If you are discouraged, you don't want to read Leviticus.

Along with the Bible, a promise book, where you can easily access God's promises, and a good devotional are a big help.

3) Church. Being around people of like-minded faith can be a boost to discouragement. I work with a woman who claims to be Christian, but never goes to church. She has church at home, and her reasons for not going are about as clear as mud. You can't stay home from church and stay encouraged. We all need people who believe as us. I have been to couple of presidential rallies - Bush, and McCain, and it gave me hope - hopes that were dashed this past election day, but being around other people who believed in that person for President was a boost, and got me excited.

4) Thanksgiving & Praise. It is hard to be discouraged if you are thanking & praising God for the good things in life, and there is always something good, if not just life itself, other things we overlook so easily. One of my very favorite songs, "Praise His Name" has a good message.........

When everything falls apart, praise His name
When you have a broken heart, raise your hands and say
“Lord you’re all I need, you’re everything to me”
And He’ll take the pain away
When it seems you’re all alone, praise His name
When you feel you can’t go on, just raise your hands and say
“Greater is He that is within me,” and you can praise the hurt away
If you’ll just praise His name.

5) Music. Music can lift your spirits. There are many who despise Southern Gospel - some say it is too "wild" and prefer music with no drums or beat, others say it is too boring or "twangy", but there is one thing Southern Gospel has that other genres of Christian music doesn't: encouragement. Sure, there may be a song here and there in CCM or Praise & Worship that encourages, but there are tons of Southern Gospel songs that encourage. I could list many here, but won't.

6) Read. There are tons of encouraging books out there, on just about any subject you need. Even some fiction books can encourage - I can attest to that.

7) Do something for someone else. It is amazing how doing something for someone else can make you feel better - which brings me to my next point, and another blog post.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The lost art of encouragement

  In today's whirlwind of working, getting ahead, trying to keep up with the Jones family, I fear we are losing the art of encouragement. Not everyone is, but in the busyness of life, are we taking the time to encourage those around us who can use some encouragement, or are we too busy, too focused on ourselves and getting through the work week so we can enjoy the week-end to take the time to encourage someone?

  Everyone gets discouraged at times. Even when we aren't discouraged, it is nice to have someone do something to encourage us, to let us know we matter to them and that they care. I am thankful I have people in my life who do that. Sometimes it is a text or Facebook message. Sometimes it is someone wanting to get together to chat and eat. If you live and breathe, you need encouragement at some point. And when - not if - you get discouraged or are just feeling down, you know how it feels when someone does something to life your spirits. A phone call, a text, a small gift, a compliment,  lunch..... the possibilities are endless.

 And it is Biblical. There are many verses that talk about encouraging each other, bearing one another's burdens,

 There is a man in the book of Acts that traveled with Paul some and is mentioned several times in the book of Acts. His name was Barnabas. The meaning of his name was "son of encouragement." The website Biblical Archaeology says this about him:

A noticeable trait of Barnabas, a prominent early church leader fondly nicknamed Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:37), is that he seeks out and assists others. The Biblical text highlights this twice with Saul/Paul (9:26-28; 11:25-26), once concerning the vibrant church in Antioch, Syria (11:19-30) and once in connection with his younger kinsman, John Mark (15:36-41). Often these other individuals and groups are believers in Jesus who, for whatever reason, run a bit against the grain of mainstream thought and action. Instead of ostracizing them, Barnabas not only deliberately encounters them, but also listens to them and welcomes them warmly.

There is more about him there and how he encouraged the early church, but it is too long to post it all here. But what a name....... I really wouldn't want to be called Barnabas, but it would be cool to have your name mean that, especially if you lived up to it. But we don't have to have the name of Barnabas to live up to the name. To live a life that supports and encourages our fellow Christian brothers and sisters..... that would be an awesome thing.

  If we had time, and if we cared enough. And if we cared enough to make time.

I need to do it more. We all do. Maybe that would be a good resolution for 2015: encourage others.

Back in February of 2009, almost six years ago, I did three blog posts about encouragement. I am sure there is a lot more that could be added to them, but I will be posting them tomorrow. So if you're thinking it would be nice to encourage someone and need some ideas, I have a few. The list is far from complete, but it is a start. We all need it and want it, but we can't all sit back and wait for others to give it to us. We need to give. And it doesn't have to cost us anything other than a few minutes of our time at the very least.

How heavy is your cross?

My other blog used to be for book reviews and for regular blogging also, until I made two separate blogs, one for books and one for non-book blogging. I am going to slowly start moving some of the older posts I like from that blog to here, and deleting ones I don't like as much. This is one of the first of those"

" I think so many of our culture's problems boil down to our trying to escape what is hard. We were never given that option. Many things are hard. And as you mentioned, it's worth it to "do the right thing, come what may"."
This was a comment on a blog I was recently reading, and how true. No one does want to do anything hard or difficult anymore, but living the Christian life isn't supposed to be easy. Sometimes it can be so hard you feel like giving up, but giving up isn't an option.

Jesus said "take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me". We like to edit that verse- Jesus said "Follow me". Who wants to talk about crosses, and denying oneself? Way back years ago, when I was a teenager, someone from my church did a lesson on crosses, and they included a small skit. I can't remember the whole thing, but the part I do remember, is a woman walked up and said she wanted to become a disciple of Jesus. The person in charge had a table with several crosses on it, and they picked one up and handed to the woman. Instead of walking away, she started examining the crosses, and picked another one that was smaller, and prettier. "What are you doing?"She was asked. Her reply, "I don't like the cross you gave me. It's ugly. I want this smaller, prettier one". She was told she couldn't pick her cross, but had to take the one that was given to her.

A man had a dream. He was walking on the beach.......oops, wrong dream! Seriously, he dreamed he was on his way to Heaven, lugging a big & heavy cross. Life got hard, the cross became too heavy to bear, and the devil suggested he cut a bit off the bottom - it would still be a cross, but easier to carry. The man did so, and sure enough, the cross was a little easier to carry. Then it became too heavy again. So again, he trimmed just a bit off of the bottom. And again, a little later.

Finally, he came to the end of his journey. Before him lay a large abyss that led to Hell. Beyond, was Heaven. As he approached, an angel from the other side told him to lay his cross down to bridge the abyss, but alas, it was too short. His cross had been fashioned just for him, and was made long enough to be the bridge to Heaven, but he wanted it to be lighter, and easier to carry, and in the end damned his own soul.

Sobering story, but it does have a good point. We don't want crosses or difficulties today. All too many people are going an easier way, one where they can act like the world, dress like the world, be loved by the world. They wear a pretty gold cross around their necks, hang crosses on the walls of their house, and are proud of the cross they bear. There is no scorn to bear, no difficulties related to their Christian walk. Their cross is small and pretty, and can be hidden from the world.

I could be off-base a bit, but I think bearing a cross can be more than just the scorn of the world, and/or relatives, though that is definitely a cross. A cross can be a physical issue. Like Joni Eareckson Tada. It can't be easy, being in a wheel chair, paralyzed. It can't be easy to trust and love God, knowing He could heal her, but hasn't. And yes, there are sinners in the same situation, but to have that problem, and serve and love God, is a cross.

There are young women - and young men, and not so young, who long for someone to love. A mate to go through life with. A family. Yet, they live their lives alone, and single. The devil tells them if they let down in this area or that, or gave up on this Jesus thing, they would surely find someone to love, if they weren't so rigid and had to do everything in the Bible. Surely God wouldn't mind......And so, they carry their cross.

The list could go on for infinity. The Jew or Muslim who converts to Christianity, then is banned from their family for turning their back on the religion they were raised on. The woman who has an unbelieving husband who fights her every inch of the way. Those are crosses. They are not easy to carry, and sometimes the bearer of the cross, just as Jesus did, may stumble and almost fall. Jesus did fall under the weight of His cross, and due to his physical condition, someone else had to carry it for him. We don't have that option. We can't sit the cross down and rest, or have someone else carry it for awhile. But often, we can have others help. To pray, offer encouraging words. If we do that for others, we are in a way, helping them to carry the cross. Sure, at the end of the day, they are still holding their cross, and we can go our way, to carry our own, but we do need each other, and we don't always know what cross the person across the church aisle may be carrying.

The term cross can be used too lightly. People remark that something is their cross to bear, when all too often, it is not a cross, but an inconvenience that they face. Their husband is always late for supper. Their kids won't clean their rooms unless their life is threatened. The neighbor parks where he blocks your driveway. And we sigh, and think this is our cross, we must bear it.

A true cross is often something we bear because we are a Christian. If we were not a Christian, it wouldn't even be an issue. Other crosses we bear, are something that would be different if we were not a Christian, but is something we would still deal with. Such as a physical issue that debilitates us. If we didn't serve Christ, we could be bitter about it. Give into whatever we are feeling. The Christian, however, must always trust God, be thankful, and believe that life is always worth living, even in their condition.

Even if we have no cross to carry such as some I have mentioned, every true Christian will carry some sort of cross. If no other, the one of scorn from the world and friends and relatives who think you are weird, or have gone too far. I occasionally read the magazine, Guideposts. It has some interesting stories in it, but one thing really bothers me. Everyone is a Christian in Guideposts. Jeff Gordan, racer. Diane Sawyer, TV news, Delilah, radio host. I have to wonder, if they are really Christians, where is their fruit? Where is their cross? Do the lives these celebrities live truly glorify Christ? Do they get any scorn for being a Christian, or is their Christianity so close to living like the world, their cross so small and pretty that they can wear it around their neck and hide it under their clothes - that the world just loves and claims them as one of their own?

Jesus said the world would hate us, not love us. And if we truly live like Jesus, live our lives by the Bible, the world isn't going to love us and think we are great. All too often, they will think we are weird, and just something to stop them from having their fun.

I am not making a blanket statement or judgement about celebrities, but so many mouth the words that they are a Christian, but star in movies where they us foul language, make disparaging comments about conservatives and Christians. Kirk Cameron stands out to me. He is hated by the media, liberals, and non-Christians, yet he makes and is in clean movies. Tim Tebow is mocked and hated by the same crowd..... if all celebrities who claimed to be Christian truly lived for Christ,  they would get the same treatment... and that is not to say those two men are perfect.

I have my crosses. Yep, I was "lucky" to get more than one! One I carry silently. Not many know. All too often, I have been tempted to give up, and decide it is ok to do what I have fought so hard against doing. Others have. The world cheers them on, while ridiculing and persecuting those who will not agree with them. Other crosses are more visible. The work issue, in my opinion, is a cross. I still only have part time work. I know if I would put aside what I believe, and work Sundays, I'd have a job. I actually had one lined up, I was getting the job, until that issue came up. It is tempting to give in, work Sundays. Others do, but those same others often have given up other Christian principles too. They look and act like the world, and there isn't much difference in how they live, and how the sinner down the street lives.

Jesus said this wouldn't be an easy way to go. It is narrow. He promised that it would be. It isn't popular. It isn't the way of Hollywood. There is no glitz and glamour in following Christ. And there is always a cross, and it isn't a pick and choose. We must live with the cross, or crosses, that has been given to us, trusting and serving God the whole time. That is what will get us to Heaven. And as the old hymn says.........

The cross that He gave may be heavy,
But it ne’er outweighs His grace;
The storm that I feared may surround me,
But it ne’er excludes His face.

The cross is not greater than His grace,

The storm cannot hide His bless├Ęd face;
I am satisfied to know
That with Jesus here below,
I can conquer every foe.

The thorns in my path are not sharper
Than composed His crown for me;
The cup that I drink not more bitter
Than He drank in Gethsemane.


The light of His love shineth brighter,
As it falls on paths of woe;
The toil of my work groweth lighter,
As I stoop to raise the low.


His will have I joy in fulfilling,
As I’m walking in His sight;
My all to the blood I am bringing,
It alone can keep me right.