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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What Would Jesus say to Josh Dugger?

 I am not a fan of the Dugger's TV show, and in fact have never seen one episode of it. I know of them, and know a little about them, and what I know can be summed up with these few facts:
They are conservative, Christian, dress modestly, have a ton of kids, and have a TV show. That was all I did know, but now I know more about one of the family members, Josh Dugger.

  Thirteen years ago when he was 14, he molested a couple of girls, which consisted of inappropriate touching. The police were involved at least the first time, and it was dealt with. There are varying reports about the others. What he did was wrong, sinful, and a crime. No one is saying it isn't those things, but there is no evidence at all that he ever did it again, and seems to be an upstanding Christian man now.

  I thought juvenile records were supposed to be sealed, and what we did as teenagers kept quiet, so what we did as stupid teenagers couldn't be brought up and used against us as adults. Not so with Josh Dugger. His crimes and sins have been brought to light and he is being crucified by the media, liberals, Christians, and everyone else for what he did as a teenager. If you dare defend him in any way, or make it sound like you are defending him, you get nasty remarks. I have read the comments. People saying his kids should be taken off of him and comments slamming the family. Their show has been taken off of the air for something one of them did 13 years ago as a kid.

  Here are some thoughts I have on this situation:

1) The crimes are past the statutes of limitations, but there is no statute of limitations on how the victims may feel.

2) The same people screaming the loudest, had no problem with outspoken feminist Lena Dunham molesting her younger sister, or with the with the allegations against Michael Jackson that everyone knows were true, with Bill Clinton molesting women, with Bill Clinton hanging out with a man who has been guilty of sex with underage girls, with producer Norman Polanski, and more. When it is a liberal found guilty of sexual crimes, the media and other liberals don't get excited about it. But let a Christian and conservative be caught, and that is all they want to talk about.

3) There are a lot of female teachers caught having sex with underage boys, and they get a slap on the wrist and a lot of people act like it is a joke......and that is actual sex, not touching.

4) They keep saying the girls were minors.... so was Josh Dugger.

5) This was not an adult male caught having sex with minors, but a minor caught inappropriately touching minor girls, who I am guessing was younger than him, but that information doesn't seem public..... at what age is it still considered molestation - if the girls were 13, 12. 11, 10..... no one knows how old these girls were, and it is still wrong no matter what, but this is different than an adult molesting a kid.

6) Bringing this up is most likely going to bring it back to the girls' minds and cause them to relive it.

7) We have multitudes of boys who have done the same. Whether they be 14, 16, or 17, how many boys pressure girls to have sex with them, only to leave a young girl wishing she had not given up her virginity to a boy she will most likely not marry, a boy who will most likely move onto another girl, and do the same to her..... is that really that much different than a 14 year old boy inappropriately touching young girls?

  I can understand the liberals and media attacking Josh. They hate Christians and conservatives, and anything they can find wrong with a popular Christian is like throwing bloody meat to sharks.... but what bothers me is the Christians who are taking up stones and throwing along with the liberals and media.

  We all have sinned. Every last one of us, but we Christians tend to categorize sins. Lying, gossip, coveting, jealously, gluttony, etc, aren't bad sins and everyone does them. We even seem to have this idea that there are some sins you can't stop from doing...... sins you don't even have to stop doing (if you're a hardcore Calvinist). Even sex before marriage seems to be something most Christians are OK with and figure people can't help not doing.

  And then there are the bad sins: homosexuality, adultery, stealing, killing, child molestation. animal cruelty (at least some people act like it is the worst sin imaginable), etc. Those who have never been guilty of those sins pull their righteous robes around them, pick up stones, and get in line to throw them at anyone caught in them

  What would Jesus do? When the adulterous woman was brought before Him, and the religious people of the day wanted to stone her, He told them that whoever was without sin could cast the first stone. And none of them fit that criteria, so they slunk away. He then turned to the woman and told her He didn't condemn her, and to go and sin no more.

  If Josh Dugger were brought into the midst of modern day Christians, and we set him before Jesus with the accusations against Josh, what would Jesus do? I believe He would do the same. And all of the Christians with stones in their hands, would have to drop them and slink away.

  If you look at the genealogy of Jesus, you'll see some people who didn't commit the "nice sins":

There's David. He committed adultery, then committed murder to cover up the adultery.
Tamar. She dressed up like a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law.
Rahab, a prostitute.
And more.

  The Bible is full of people who messed up pretty badly, and yet God forgave them, used them, and put many of them in the line that would bring forth His Son.

  It really isn't up to use to forgive Josh Dugger. I assume he has sought forgiveness from those he has wronged, and from God. What is the statute of limitations on when we can stop holding it against him? From what I have seen, there are a lot of people who seem to think 13 years is too soon to offer the same grace that has been extended to us. I for one, am glad God doesn't have a time period of when He offers grace and forgiveness. I can''t imagine still waiting for forgiveness and grace for something I did 13 years ago.

  My oldest nephew will turn 14 in October. He is very much still a kid. He is immature, selfish at times, and definitely doesn't make good decisions about everything all of the time. Granted, he hasn't done anything as bad as Josh Dugger, but a 14 year old is still very much a kid. Are we going to drag out the crimes of every other public figure from when they were teenagers? Or is it just conservatives and Christians whose past sins must be brought to life, and whose lives must be ruined?

  If you read Paul's letters to the Corinthians, you'll see they had people in their churches saved from and some still dealing with the not-so-nice sins: adultery, incest, homosexuality, idolatry mixed with prostitution.... and most likely sex with children. It went on in the Roman empire, so there is a good chance there were people into that who became Christians.... and God saved them and redeemed them. And He built His church on people who didn't have "nice" sins in their past. They had some bad sins.

  This is not a defense of Josh Dugger. He did wrong as a teenager, seems to have sought forgiveness, and it should stay in the past..... where we all want the sins we did as teenagers to stay........or any sins we have repented of and been forgiven of by God.

  We have so normalized sex before marriage. Our schools and TV programs encourage kids younger and younger to do it, to experiment even with the same sex....... then we are shocked when a 14 year old boy does something inappropriate like this.

  Maybe this wasn't handled right, but I still say the sins of a 14 year old boy belong in the past, not in his adult life 13 years later..... and that the people screaming the loudest about his actions have no problem with others committing similar acts. It just depends on who you are...... and since Josh Dugger is Christian and conservative, he must be destroyed. Sad that many Christians are joining in. May God grant us the grace and forgiveness so many are unwilling to extend to this young man.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Slowing down

 I took a walk today. There is a nice biking/walking trail near me that is paved and goes through the woods for several miles. It runs along beside and crosses a road I have traveled many times. I started out on the trail, but when I got to where it crossed the road at the one point, I started walking on the road instead. It is a back road with not a lot of traffic.

  As I walked this road I usually drive, I noticed things that I don't normally notice. Yes, there were the beer bottles and foam cups littering the grass beside the road, but there were also the variety of flowers one would not notice if you were driving along at the 40 mph speed limit.  There was the deserted boat in the weeds by a house, the red rustic shed that caught my eye and looked interesting as I walked instead of driving by it.

  I walked onto a bridge and gazed into the water I would barely notice if I was driving alongside it. The sky seemed bluer, the grass and trees greener, the countryside quieter. The quiet creek running below my feet made me glad I had my earbuds hanging around my neck instead of in my ears.

  These are things I would have missed if I was in my car. But I wasn't in my car. I was walking much slower than the 40 mph my car would have been going..... so I saw things I wouldn't have from my car.

  Life goes too fast. In two days, I will turn forty-six years old. It seems just yesterday I was depressed at the idea of turning forty, and here I am six years later about to turn forty-six.

 I get up every morning and go to work, come home and have 5 1/2 hours or so before I go to bed to do it all over again. It seems I am always rushing, trying to keep up with this merry-go-round that life is so often like.

 And I wonder..... what am I missing? What beauty am I missing around me by being so busy, by being so in a hurry all of the time. We use drive throughs everywhere we go, have automated tellers, self-checkouts, smart phones and all kinds of gadgets to help us do our tasks faster and more efficiently, but is it really helping us, or is it just cramming more into our already too busy and too full lives?

  Do we have time to stop and smell the flowers? Do we have time to make friends and cultivate relationships? Is there enough time for God in our lives, or is He like a creek we are driving alongside at a fast rate of speed? What are we missing out by being too busy, by having every waking hour crammed full of "stuff"?

  Some day we will all read the end of our journey. We will go around the last bend on the road of life, and look back at all we have done and accomplished. We aren't going to wish we had worked more, that we had been busier just doing life. If we wish anything, we will wish we had spent more time with family and friends, that we had made God a top priority every day instead of squeezing Him in when and where we could. We may wish we had stopped to gaze at the flowers, to watch and listen to a quiet creek, to make a child smile, to enjoy the beauty and silence of God's creation.

  I want to do better. Today as I took my 2-mile or so walk, I felt the need to do this in life. I need to slow down, pay attention to what and who is around me. Life goes too fast as it is, we need to do all we can to slow ourselves down, since we can't slow life down. And then when we get to the end of the road and look back at where we have been, we may not have a lot of "I wish......" thoughts, but only satisfied ones that we lived, and took time for what and who was important.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why go to church? part 2

  From what I can see of the early church, here are some reasons we should go to church:

1) To worship God. That actually is reason enough. Sure, we can do that anywhere, but what better place to do it than His house. And church is His house.

2) To be spiritually fed. As good of a man my pastor is and as good as his sermons are, there are times I'd be happy to skip the sermon, but we need them..... and if you read much in the New Testament at all, you see they had sermons. And sometimes they were long enough to put people to sleep.

3) Fellowship. That is one big reason we shouldn't just NOT go to church. We need to be around other Christians of similar faith and beliefs. But it shouldn't be the sole reason for going to church, and should not be what we skip from church to church to find the right kind of fellowship we are seeking. We are there to worship God and learn more of Him, not to party.

  The Bible gives the idea that the early Christian church had a lot of community. Nowadays, we only see most of our Christian brothers and sisters at church and any church function. In the days of the early church, they were together a lot and their lives revolved around the church and their Christian brothers and sisters. They had all things in common, and I get the idea that a lot of them lived close to each other and with each other. It sounds like they had a lot of contact with each other on a daily basis... without phones, emails, and Facebook. And without coffee shops and dining areas in the church.

  I wish my church was different in some ways. I like a lot about it, and there are things I'd like to change, but the question comes to me, "why do I go to church?" It is easy for a single guy to get lost in the shuffle, especially n a church where there is so much focus on youth and children's ministries, and there is nothing for singles or even enough singles to have a singles group or ministry.

  But do I need special groups for me? Do I need attention and activities to make me feel I am part of the church? That all is nice, but it isn't what church is about. My reason for going should be to go and worship God, get spiritually fed, and fellowship with other believers. Anything else is just extra.

  A while back, the wife of a celebrity pastor made the following statement:

"I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God—I mean, that's one way to look at it—we're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we're happy," she said in the 36-second clip posted on YouTube, with her husband smiling at her side in approval. "That's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…"

"So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy," she continued. "When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes God happy. Amen?"

   She got a lot of criticism over it, and I got criticism from a few people and un-friended by one person on Facebook for daring to criticize her husband and her, but I am afraid too many of us have this attitude. It isn't about us. It is about us going and learning more about God, worshiping Him, and being around others of like-mind faith,

  Too many churches are trying to make the church and Jesus more user friendly. We try to make the music sound like the music kids listen to in the world, get programs built around fun, throw in lots of sports, and whatever we can do to interest people in staying around. But shouldn't Jesus be enough? Do we need all the glitter and amusements to make us interested in being in church, whether we are an adult or young person?

  There are people meeting across the world secretly in churches. Many of them have to have church in homes. If they sing, it has to be quiet. There are no loud screaming guitars, no praise band dancing around and screaming lyrics, no speakers maxed out so loud they can't hear themselves think. Many don't have a Bible. If they are caught, it means prison, torture, and sometimes death. They have no fun programs, no padded pews, no basketball courts, no fellowship hall or kitchen to get together and eat. It is just them and God.

I like my church, but it seems like a rut sometimes. Sunday morning:
Sunday School
Dismiss Sunday School
Sing a chorus while people loiter noisily in the foyer
Pray to start the worship service
Sing two hymns with maybe a chorus thrown in
Take up an offering
Sing another song. Sometimes two, if the one song leader is up who can't limit himself to 3 hymns
Have testimonies if anyone has any

  Sometimes it seems so cut and dried. I wouldn't call my church formal, but we rarely depart from the regular format. Once in a while, God will come on the service and there is no preaching, just worship and singing, etc.

  In two weeks, I will be attending a conference in North Carolina. I went last year and enjoyed it and got a lot of help from it, but there was one part I didn't really enjoy: the worship time. The music was too loud, the singers gyrated as they sang, I didn't know most of the songs - they were on a screen, but that didn't help me know them - and most of the tunes sounded like a Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga tune. I found myself wishing they'd turn down the volume, or just stop singing. I didn't get much out of it. But yet, I will get a lot of out of the sessions and workshops, so I will go as many years as I am able.

  There are people who regularly attend church where they have this kind of worship. They would say my church is dead, and I'd say theirs is too focused on loud rock-like music.

  But it isn't about the music. If people are meeting secretly and worshiping God while softly singing so they cannot be heard, it cannot be about the music. If we took away the singing and music entirely, could we still worship God? Would we still feel we had been in church?

  If we have to make our worship music like the world, if we have to have programs and special things instead of a sermon, we are not going to church to worship God and learn more about Him. We are going to be entertained.

  From what I see of the early church, they meant business when they met. There was no fun an games, no carnival set up in the church parking lot, no Christian comedian, no loud music.....it was just them and God. And sometimes apostles preaching so long they put people to sleep. Most of modern American Christians would be bored in a service run by Paul, Peter, John, etc. They weren't out to entertain or make Jesus more user-friendly for those listening to them. They were there to tell people about Jesus. 

  I look at my church, and I look at other churches different than mine... and wonder if any of us are doing church right. If we aren't doing church right, maybe that is why so many of us aren't going to church for the right reasons.

  And maybe we have this idea of worship wrong. Just going through in my mind what I have read about church in the New Testament, there doesn't seem to be much emphasis put on worshiping God as they met. I could be wrong, but the emphasis seemed to be on gathering together to hear about Jesus. Worship isn't a feeling we get while gyrating to loud worship songs and music, nor is it something we feel as we sing a familiar hymn that arouses feelings in us. Worship is a way of life. Something we should do everywhere, not just at church as they sing and play music to bring our feelings into the worship zone. 

  Church - and worship - are not about how it makes us feel. Granted, it is nice to not have a boring and long-winded pastor, and to have music that doesn't put you to sleep nor give you a headache.... but if the reason we are going to church revolve around the pastor, the music, or whether they have coffee and donuts before the service.... we may as well stay home. We have made church all about us, our comfort, and what makes us feel good.

  We should not attend churches where we dread going, where the music is not something we can handle, but we do need to be careful in picking a church and trying to find one that is too user-friendly. It isn't about us. It is about God and worshiping Him and learning more about Him.

  I have kind of rambled on part 2, not helped by the fact that I lost internet halfway through and finished it offline, then pasted the rest with what I had done already.... I may have even repeated myself. I don't mean to knock others or belittle others for their methods of worship....... but I just wonder if any of us are doing church right, and if we go for the right reasons.

  In closing, I want to put the story here of how one of my favorite newer worship songs got written, The Heart of Worship:

The senior pastor at Redman’s home church in Watford, England, believed that the congregation had lost its way, even though the church, with its innovative weekend services and elaborate worship arts production, had become a pace setter for many throughout Europe. He sensed that many in the church had become spectators rather than participants in the journey of faith, so he did a bold thing. He decided to eliminate the sound system, all musical accompaniment, and multimedia. He announced to the church that they would be going through a season of simplicity in which they would use nothing but the unamplifed human voice during their weekend services.
Can you imagine? No microphones. No guitars. Not even a keyboard.
In various interviews, Redman has recounted that the weeks following his pastor’s unconventional decision were filled with plenty of awkward silences. Attendance declined steadily, but the staff did not flinch. They were committed to a church-wide rediscovery of true worship. Eventually, unaccompanied prayers became transparent, beautiful in their honesty, and undecorated music became more heartfelt than ever. Gradually the sound system, multimedia, and instrumentation were reintroduced, but the fast made a lasting impression on Redman and many others in the church.
Redman wrote Heart of Worship to express the changes God made in his own heart during this unusual season. At first he had no plans to share it, but he did so at his pastor’s urging, and it went on to be recorded and sung by many.
When the music fades
and all is stripped away
and I simply come.
Longing just to bring
something that's of worth
that will bless Your heart.

I'll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear,
You're looking into my heart.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.

King of endless worth,
no one could express
how much you deserve.
Though I'm weak and poor,
all I have is Yours,
every single breath!

I'll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear,
You're looking into my heart.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why go to church? part 1

A couple came home from church, and as they were eating lunch, the wife goes to her husband, "Did you see that awful dress Catherine had on today?" He replied that he hadn't noticed. "Did you notice how much that Jones kid was squirming around during the sermon?" Again he hadn't noticed. "Did you see how close that young Smith couple were sitting? They were all over each other!" Her husband yet again replied with a "no." His wife looked irritated. "Why do you even go to church if you don't notice anything going on?!"

  That is a bit extreme, but I have been thinking about this lately. Why do we go to church? Many churches have become not much more than entertainment centers. You can find churches that have bookstores, coffee shops, snack shops, even tattoo parlors. Is that why we go to church? To browse a bookstore, grab a cup of coffee, get a tattoo? Pews have been replaced with chairs that can be removed and the worship centers look more like a gym and the platform more like a stage.

  There are churches that have big screens scattered throughout, and you can watch the service while you have a sandwich and some soup, or sit in an easy chair and chat with a friend. 

  Song leaders have been replaced with worship leaders and praise bands. Hymnals with screens on the wall with the newest worship choruses, whether they have any "meat" in them or not.

Maybe I am too old fashioned, but I find the idea of snack shops, bookstores,and coffee shops in the church a bit much. And tattoo parlors... there are no words. Though I only know of one church that has that.

 I still like hymnals and prefer hymns over most praise choruses. I like a pew, though I prefer it to be padded. 

  There is a church that tries to appeal more to men by having their worship area set up like a camp. There are camp type benches or chairs, a minnow bucket for the offering, and the walls are decorated with stuffed heads of various animals.

  I've known of people who spend their lives skipping from church to church. They try to find one with the perfect pastor, one that has all of the programs they like and want to be involved in, one that is friendly, one that has the right size of congregation, one that has the right kind of music..... and they just keep searching.

  Most people will never find the right church. There are a few factors:
1) The perfect church does not exist

2) They are searching for the wrong things in a church

3) They are the problem and will never be satisfied.

  And people quit churches for the wrong reasons:

1) They don't get used enough. That one always gets me. Most people who say that want jobs where people can see them and they can pull their righteous robes around them and say "look at me!" If it is just a matter of being used, all they need to do is ask the pastor what they can do to help around the church. He will find something, but it may not be where they can be seen of men.

2) The church isn't friendly. Even my church has cliques. I have had people say our church is very friendly, and I have had people say it is not. So who is correct?

My church has 3 sections of seating in our worship sanctuary. People who regularly attend there tend to sit in the same seat or area. Maybe the people saying the church isn't friendly needs to move around a bit. And it isn't up to first time visitors to reach out to people, but if you have been attending a church for a while and still think it is unfriendly, try being friendly and reach out to people.

3) The church is too big. Of the church is too small. Well, if it is too small, your leaving will make it worse. Try getting more people to come. Too big? If that is your only reason to leave, it just isn't a good one.

4) The style of music isn't your thing.

My church uses a piano and organ. In the evening service, we actually have an orchestra. I think the only reason it doesn't play in the mornings also is because they have a hard enough time getting people to play in the evening. People play flutes, violins, clarinets, guitars, and occasionally a trumpet will show up. The music is very low key and is an accompaniment for the singing. And we sing hymns with an occasional worship chorus thrown in.

I have been in churches and services where the music was so loud that I could hardly hear  myself think. The louder the music got, the more people got worked up. And I have wondered... if you took away the music, would the people still be as excited? Would they still feel something? And is the something they feel with that kind of music God, or just emotion and the beat?

We have a great song leader at my church, but he does one thing I don't care for. He often has us sing a chorus or the last verse of a song acapella. He feels it is more worshipful. I disagree 100%, but I dislike acapella. But yet, I don't consider loud crash-bangy music worshipful at all, and when I am in that, I can't wait til the time of singing is done so I can think again and my headache will go away.

  Maybe it all comes down to personal taste, but if the church is a good church and you are getting spiritually fed there, I would be careful to change churches just because of the music and worship style. That isn't why we are in church, just to sing.

  (This post is getting too long, so I am continuing it in another post)

Monday, May 18, 2015

What CAN I post on Facebook?

 I have been in a dry spell with blogging. No ideas, no inspiration, and major writer's block. Then someone from my church blocked me on Facebook for what I consider pretty dumb reasons, and it led to a blog post. And it has also led to this one. Maybe I need to thank this person.

  The main reason this person has blocked me is because I post a lot about a certain issue. An issue I deal with. An issue that several people I am friends with on Facebook deal with. And this person is the second person to take issue with me posting about this issue. Another person from my church messaged me several months back and took me to task about it. She said some young person might be curious and it could lead them wrong. She also said she would think since I deal with this issue, I would want to get completely away from it and not talk about it at all.

  So last night, I sat there thinking about it. Do I post too much about THAT? Should I stop posting about it? Rarely post about it? Should I care?

  We are all different. There are different things that interest us, different things that are important to us, and to just post things on Facebook that interest everyone and is something everyone wants to see.... that is impossible. I have 458 Facebook friends. There is no way on this earth that I could post things that all 458 want to see and that interest them. With that many different people from different backgrounds, I am going to post things someone doesn't like, things that don't interest some of them, and things that are not important to them.

It happens to me on the other side.
I hate sports, but people post a lot about sports. So should they all stop posting because I was so traumatized as a kid because I was so bad at sports and got bullied and picked on and forced to play sports I was no good at and didn't understand? I get so tired of sports talk, especially around Super Bowl time and silently root for the opposite team that most people are rooting for, in hopes that if their team loses, there will be less talk about it.

I am not an animal lover and weary of posts of people crying about the animals. I am much more concerned about abortion and the way people are treated. Does that mean they should stop posting about animals and just focus on abortion and human trafficking? (Well it wouldn't hurt for them to post occasionally about people stuff)...... but no. They have a right to post about their concerns about animals. (Even if a dog bit me when I was a kid and instilled a life-long fear and dislike of dogs in me)

I don't drink alcohol and think we'd all be better off without it, but I have friends who post a lot about alcohol. Should they stop posting about that stuff because I oppose it and don't drink?

   I hate - really hate - motorcycles, and even did a blog post about how weary I get of being told I need to watch out for them instead of them needing to drive safer and watch out for cars and trucks. I have Facebook friends who are always talking about such things, but they have that freedom. I made the mistake once of commenting "if they are that concerned about safety, they wouldn't ride one" on a friend's post who didn't even own a bike. I immediately got cursed out and threatened to be beaten up by some guys...... it didn't make me look any more fondly on bikers....... but still..... people have a right to talk about motorcycles on Facebook if that interests them. My opinion of them will never change their mind anyway, and I have no right to tell them not to talk about it. I can just roll my eyes and scroll on by.

  Politics are important to me. Issues affecting our families are important to me. Moral issues are important to me. I like encouraging quotes and memes, jokes and humorous pictures, articles about church and relationships with God, Christian fiction and Christian fiction authors, Southern Gospel music, family. Do I expect all 458 of my Facebook friends to just post things that I like and that are important to me? No. A thousand times no. If we go deleting and/or blocking everyone who posts things that we may not like or that does not interest us, pretty soon we'd have no friends. That is what they make the scrolling feature for.... to scroll down through to see things that do interest us. You can also click that the post doesn't interest you, but by all means, scroll.

  People are important. We get so wrapped up in our busy lives and in doing what is important to us, that we overlook people. We tend to gravitate towards people that are just like us. Even churches have cliques where certain people always get together before and after church. If we just surround ourselves in life with those just like us on and off of social media, and who agree with us on everything (is that even possible?!), we will miss out on the possibly of some great friendships. We will miss out on having our ideas challenged, of meeting people who might help us on this journey of life that we are on.

  Life would be boring indeed if we all agreed on everything. Sure, it would be nice if I could scroll down through Facebook and not see post after post about Tom Brady and deflated footballs, of posts telling me how important it is to adopt a dog (you own dogs, you don't adopt them!), of posts about alcohol.... but those things are part of the people's lives and are important to them. What right do I have to expect them to stop because it is something I don't like nor am interested in? If I don't like it, I can scroll on by. Easy enough. I don't have to read those posts.

And the topic my fellow church member didn't like me posting about? I just went through my Facebook friends and counted everyone who either deals with this issue personally, or is married to or closely related to someone who deals with it. That number is up close to 60, and much over 60 if you count every family member I have on Facebook, though most of them likely have no clue what I deal with. Sixty people who that issue is important to. So should I stop posting about it because a few people don't like my posting about it? Should I do a poll on Facebook to see what people prefer me to post about and what they prefer I don't post about?

  To paraphrase a popular saying, you can make all of the people happy some of the time, you can make some of the people happy all of the time, but you can't make all of the people happy all of the time. It holds true on and off of Facebook.

Should we be careful about what we post on Facebook? Of course. Are there ever times we need to block someone? Yes. I blocked a bitter guy who was always slamming my church, and blocked a young guy who was constantly throwing the "F-word" around and defending the use of marijuana, but blocking shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction to everyone we disagree with, or when people post things we don't like. I have had a few people delete me over my well-deserved criticisms of Barak Obama..... and that is OK...... but if I deleted everyone I disagreed with on something, I'd have a big 0 where it says how many Facebook friends I have.

  The reason we need the freedom of speech, is because not everyone agrees. If we all agreed on everything, there would be no reason for free speech.

  Ever since I found out this person from my church had blocked me, and why, I have been second-guessing myself. I have felt for a long time that God wants to use me in some way because of what I struggle with, which is one reason I have become more open and post about it a lot...... so should I let one person influence me to not do what God wants? And I am not saying God wants me to post everything I have posted about that, yet I have evidence that some of what I have posted has helped and encouraged others in the same boat as me. And others have posted about that issue and encouraged me..... hence my sharing posts.

  Everyone doesn't enjoy seeing pictures of your grandchild's vacation Bible craft, your latest macrame project,  what you had for dinner, what I think of Obama (believe me, I don't post near what I think on that!), what your opinion is of Tom Brady, what book I am reading, what CD you are listening to, why you think sugar is bad, what kind of week I am having, what I want for my birthday (cash and gift cards are always great, and it is May 26..... get to it!), not everyone is a Christian and appreciates Bible verses and Christian memes...... but there are people who do want to see that stuff, and are interested.

  Sure. I'd like to weed out the curse words, the half naked pictures, the sports, the dogs and cats...... but people have as much right to post that stuff as I do to post what I do...... and if we start saying what people can and cannot post...... we are wrong, unless it is something very offensive or wrong.

  Not everyone is going to "like" or comment positively on what we say, and it is narcissistic to want that. But we can keep posting what interests us and try to do it for the right reasons.

  And we should try not to be offensive, I am too outspoken, but I don't say near half of what I think, and it is all too easy to say on line what we would never say in person. It gives us more bravery, if you can call it that, to be more rude and outspoken. So we all need to be careful what we post, but not go to the extremes my mind has been going the last few days wondering and second-guessing. We cannot, and never will please people anywhere we are, and Facebook is no different, so I for one am going to not even try, and let God be my judge and guide. Or at least try to.

  And we could all do better at making friends in real life, and not so many on Facebook...... though I have made some great friends on there and have met them off line.

  And in closing, something to remember: The same person posting those posts about things you are not interested in and get tired of........ they most likely also post things that do interest you and encourage you and brighten your day. 

The power of a song

  I tend to listen to my newest CDs until I get tired of them or until I get newer ones. After a while, certain CDs get retired to yesterday and rarely get listened to. I have a lot of my CDs on iTunes and my iPod, but there are over 7000 songs on there, so even past favorites get lost in in the shuffle. Last night, I pulled out a CD of requested favorites by a group who used to be my favorite group, Jeff and Sheri Easter. They have changed their style somewhat, and added their daughter (whose singing I don't really care for), and are a group whose best albums seem to be in the past. This particular CD of favorites was done in 1995.  One of the songs on that CD is one they recorded way back in 1991 and was a song they became well known for over the years, Roses Will Bloom again.

  The first verse talks about planting a rosebush and watching it grow and bloom, only to see it die in winter. The second verse talks about a couple married 40 years until the woman, named Rose died and left him alone. The third verse talks about Jesus, The Rose of Sharon, being crucified and put in a grave, only to rise 3 days later. The same chorus is sung for all three verses:

Roses will bloom again,
Just wait and see
Don't mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again.

  It is a song of hope. Hope that no matter what happens in this life, hope will bloom again, that God will bring us through tough times, and restore what is broken and lost, even if it is in Heaven.

  I have always liked the song, and as it played, I felt such a sense of peace and tranquility. The song took me back to better times and good memories. And it isn't just because of the words, as good as they are and as much comfort as they bring. It is more than that. I don't know totally what was going on in my life at that time, but they were better times. Less stressful, easier. I was an adult, but going to college and still mostly dependent on my parents. The realities of life hadn't hit yet. I was still an innocent young guy not much more than a kid. I can still remember the first time I heard the song. I didn't have the CD yet, and heard it on the radio. Most songs tend to be two verses, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear a third after the second verse. A verse that is the reason for any Christian's hope;

The precious Rose of Sharon,
Broken and bruised in cruel shame,
Stained on the cross of Calvary,
So that men might be saved,
Oh, Satan cheered as He died,
While Mary and the others cried,
Then God raised Him up from that sleep
And kept a promise only He could keep.

  But again, the song means more to me than that, And I don't mean it in a bad way, as the Resurrection is the most important event ever...... but there are other songs about Jesus death and resurrection that don't bring about the same feelings.

  There is a song that brings the opposite emotions. I can remember what was going on at that time in my life. I was working a job I hated - my first official job, It was fast food and I was eventually let go because I wasn't fast enough. That song was on a cassette tape I played a lot on my way to and from work at that time, yet none of the other songs from that tape bring about those negative emotions and memories.

  Why some songs affect me that way and others don't, I have no idea. But there is power in a song. Martin Luther said he gave place to music next to theology in importance. That isn't in the Bible, but I think he is right that it is very important, and is why we need to be careful what kind of music we listen to.

  I am sure secular songs can do the same thing as Roses Will Bloom Again does to me...... and it isn't the only song that brings about those kind of emotions and memories.... but I would rather have Christian songs influence me that way than secular.

  I thank God for music, and for the writers that write great songs, and the singers that record them to not just help us along this journey through life with the words, but that also help bring back memories of better and easier times.

Verse 1
I planted a little rose bush,
I tended it with care,
It's buds began to blossom
Their fragrance filled the air
But when winter came it withered,
The petals drooped and fell to the ground,
My heart sank as it faded,
But I'd forgotten who had made it.

Roses will bloom again,
Just wait and see
Don't mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again.

Verse 2
Rose was his only sweetheart,
A loving wife for forty years.
Cherished every day they had,
And held memories oh so dear
He never dreamed he's bore love
And go to live alone,
But he lay his Rose to rest,
Looked up to heaven and tried his best
To believe that

Roses will bloom again,
Just wait and see
Don't mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again.

Verse 3
The precious Rose of Sharon,
Broken and bruised in cruel shame,
Stained on the cross of Calvary,
So that men might be saved,
Oh, Satan cheered as He died,
While Mary and the others cried,
Then God raised Him up from that sleep
And kept a promise only He could keep.

Roses will bloom again,
Just wait and see
Don't mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Moses, me, and self worth

I have been blocked by someone on Facebook. Someone from my church. I'll call them "Shawn". Nice unisex name. Not only did this Shawn block me, Shawn blocked my mom and my sister. The reason for them...... I have no clue, unless it is guilt by association. The reason I got blocked...... I am "too snarky" and post too much about something I personally deal with and that is important to me.

  This led to all kinds of thoughts....

Will Shawn block me at church? Carry a big shield to hold up when I walk close to them?

Am I too snarky? How many other people think that?

Should I stop posting about THAT, or still post it?

Should I just quit Facebook?

I thought Shawn liked me. Guess they don't.

Guess it is true what I always thought.... no one likes me.

  Seems like weird and immature thinking for a guy my age, but when you have spent your whole life struggling to find self worth and self esteem, it doesn't take much to rock the boat, especially when you throw depression and feelings of failure into the mix.

  I know people who are so self-assured and self confident. People who seem to have great self esteem and self worth...... but how does one get that, especially when you have a lifetime of feeling the opposite?

   Flash back to Moses. God had just told him to go before Pharaoh and tell him to let God's people go. Moses was afraid and started listing the reasons he wasn't qualified. I admit I have thought unkindly of Moses when I have read that passage in the Bible. Here God Himself is asking him to do something, and he brings up reasons why he can't. Reasons why he is unfit for the job. Five times, Moses tries to talk God out of sending Him and gives God reasons why he isn't the man for the job.

  And yet, I have spent my whole life telling God the same thing. Telling Him how dumb I am, how unskilled, how I can never do anything worthwhile......... and the list goes on. I really have no business criticizing Moses. I am in the same boat as him. Or basket.

  I was chatting with a good friend of mine, and after telling me I was immature for saying Shawn didn't like me because Shawn blocked me, he imparted some pearls of wisdom. He pointed out I can't base my self-worth on Shawn, or anyone else. And he is right.

  We Americans base our self-worth on the wrong things. Someone pointed out a while back that when meeting new people, one of the first questions asked - especially among men - what do you do for work? More often than not, that is how it goes. But we are so much more than our job. Our job should not define who we are, or define our self-worth.

  The amount of Facebook friends does not define our self-worth. The amount of people who like us or dislike us does not define our self-worth.

  What I have been trying to grasp for way too long, is I am valuable because God created me and loved me. Period. Or exclamation point, if you prefer. And He sent His only Son to die for me. Had I been the only person alive, Jesus still would have died for me. As someone said, if God had a refrigerator, my picture would be on it. Interesting thought, but it is true. A lot of people put pictures of those they love on their refrigerators, so why would God be any different.... if He had one.

  I look in the mirror and see failure. I weigh too much, I am about to turn 46 and feel I have accomplished nothing. I am at a job I like, but doesn't pay enough and I find myself wondering if I can ever stand on my own two feet again. If I made a list of what I liked and disliked about myself, the dislike list would be much longer. If I made a list of the things I am good at, I would not be able to come up with much.

  Yet God loves me. He delights in me. He doesn't care that I need to lose weight, that I don't know a fullback from a quarterback in football, that I prefer reading to even thinking about a sport. My self-worth does not depend on my job, my looks, or any person. My self-worth is in Jesus, who loves me because He is love. He considered me worth dying for, and that should be enough.

  We are all here for a short time. I will turn 46 on May 26, and I can't believe it. I wonder where the years have gone. I have a lot of regrets, and have wasted so much time worrying what people think of me. Trying to be what others want me to be, act how others want me to act, post things on Facebook that will make people happy with me and get a bunch of "likes"..... but it is all vanity, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said. It is nothing.

  People change, and I have too many people in my life to make all of them happy with me. It is impossible. The same posts that Shawn didn't like? I have a friend who deals with the same issue, and he has messaged me many times to thank me for posting an article and that it encouraged him and he appreciated me posting it. So which is more important? Shawn, who doesn't like the posts for some reason, or my friend who is encouraged by the same posts? And though I have never met this friend, he has been more of a friend to me than Shawn has ever been, who I attend church with. It is a bigger deal to me that my posts have encouraged my friend, than that they caused Shawn to block me. In the grand scheme of things, it is a great thing to encourage.

  There are people who encourage me and make me feel special and loved. And I hope I do that to people in my life, but even those we love and who love us cannot give us self-worth. As much as I love kind words, compliments, birthday gifts (hint, hint!), spending time with family and friends......they can help with self-worth, but they cannot be the basis of self-worth. If all of my family and friends turned against me and hated me, I'd still be worth what I am now. Priceless to God, and worth dying for.

  The words of a song come to mind, based on some words Jesus said:

Verse I 
Consider the lilies they don’t toil nor spin 
And there’s not a king with more splendor than them 
Consider the sparrow they don’t plant or sow 
But they’re fed by the Master who watches them grow 

We have a Heavenly Father above 
With eyes filled with mercy 
And a heart filled with love 
He really cares when Your head is bowed low 
Consider the lilies and then you will know 

Verse II 
May I introduce you to this friend of mine 
Who hangs out the stars 
and tells the sun when to shine 
And kisses the flowers each morning with dew 
But He’s not too busy to care about you.

  If God cares about a bird that we consider worthless, and takes the time to clothe a meadow with beautiful lilies, how much more of worth does He consider me?

He loves me and considers me of great worth no matter what I do, no matter how I look, no matter where I work, no matter how much money I make......it shouldn't matter to any of us what others think of us. When we stand before God at the judgement, it won't matter then. It will only matter where we stand with God and what He thinks of us on that day. Maybe we all need to get in practice for the day and start living our days here the same: Living to please God and only God, seeing ourselves full of worth, the way He sees us. The way He sees me.

  Moses came out on top and is one of the heroes of the faith. Songs have been written about him, movies have been made about him, and sermons preached about him. He didn't think he was the right man for the job, but God saw what he could be in His hand...... a powerful force to lead His people out of slavery and bondage. It took a kick in the pants and the help of his brother, but he stepped up to the plate and got the job done. And we remember him for the good. We don't mention his arguing with God as often.

  Moses was wrong to doubt God could use him, and to tell God what he could and could not do... and I have been wrong to tell God what is wrong with me, what I can't do, how I will never be able to do this or that, and that I am nothing. God used Moses in mighty ways, and who knows how He could have used me - could still use me - if I got my opinions about myself, what I am worth, and what I can do out of the way and believed I am beyond worth?

  God made me, sent His Son to die for me, and that makes me priceless. It matters not what people think of me. Their opinion does not change my worth, it does not make me less of a man or more of a man, less of a Christian or more of a Christian. God, and God alone is where my self-worth lies.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Motorcycles and liberal ideology

 I love spring and summer, but not everything about it. One of those things I don't like is having the roads suddenly overrun with motorcycles and seeing the yellow bumper stickers and signs everywhere to "watch out for motorcycles." Those signs irritate me and reek of something liberals would do. Why do I compare motorcycles with liberal ideology? I am glad you asked.

  First, a few facts: Motorcycles are NOT a safe mode of transportation. You can argue that all you want, but they are not. You are in the open with nothing to protect you except a pair of sunglasses. No seat-belts or rules that apply to anyone driving a car or truck. The chances of severe injury or death are much greater on a motorcycle than in a vehicle, and made worse by the fact that so many people don't bother with a helmet. (Helmets give bikers a 37% better chance of surviving and accident than without, and 67% chances of surviving brain injuries but I guess many don't want that 37% and 67% chance).

  And yet these people who are driving unsafe vehicles drive recklessly, go faster than they should, cut people off, pull out in front of cars..... and they want US to watch out for THEM?! How about they take some responsibility for themselves? How about they drive more responsibility and be more careful around vehicles that are bigger than them? That is where the liberal ideology comes through: driving a less safe vehicle - and often not observing safety and laws - yet expecting everyone who IS driving safer vehicles to take responsibility for you and your unsafe vehicle and actions.

  If you pay attention to what the extreme liberals say, they basically want to do their thing and have others be responsible. They want healthcare, but want others to pay for it. They want free sex and want others to pay for their abortions. They want to do their thing and make you accept it, but if you do something they don't like they want you to stop it.

  Just like bikers. They want to ride an unsafe vehicle, dart in and out of traffic, pull out in front of people, and other things that are not safe... but they don't want to be responsible for all that. They want the car and truck drivers to be responsible for them, to watch out for them, to give them the right of way all of t he time.

  Two true stories that happened to me last summer:
1) I was on my way home from work and was coming into the town where I live. The speed limit was 35 and I was going that. Just as I approached an intersection, a guy on a motorcycle pulled out in front of me from the right and got in the lane of opposing traffic. It was close, but I hit my brakes... and then his buddy who was behind him also went. And I had to slam my brakes on and barely missed him.

2) Later last summer, I was again on my way home from work. I was in a 55 speed limit area, but was slowing down for a turn off around the bend and was going around 45. As I came around the bend, a motorcycle pulled out in front of me. As I hit my brakes, 2 others followed him, not bothering to stop at the stop sign, just intent on sticking with their friend.

If ONE vehicle pulls out in front of you, it is dangerous and can be a close call. If two pulls out in front of you, it is even worse. But try THREE..... I had to hit my brakes as hard as I could and went off the road to avoid hitting the third bike. And it was close. I was beside him when I went off the road, and was sure I was going to hit him. It scared the daylights out of me. Had I hit him, I am not sure who would have been at fault. He ran a stop sign, along with the guy in front of him.

  Which brings me to a great point: When there are more than one biker and they come to a stop sign, it is not unusual for everyone to just go and only the front biker actually come to a stop. The rest just run the stop sign and ignore traffic laws. Am I the only one who sees a problem with that? As much I dislike motorcycles, I get the idea that people like to ride them together, but is it worth the risk of being hit by a car to do so? Why not pull off the road and let the others catch up, instead of having bikers run the stop sign so they can all stay together?

  I had the 2 close calls I mentioned, but there have been other times when bikers ran a stop sign in front of me and it wasn't a close call, but it was still frustrating. Laws apply to bikers also. Well, some do. We have to wear seat belts in cars and have all kinds of safety rules for cars, and bikers don't have that... but stop signs, speed limits, red lights, and common courtesy still apply to bikers.

And I am not saying we shouldn't watch out for bikers. Good grief, we have to the way they act and drive.... but it is time bikers take some responsibility and watch out for cars, stop pulling out in front of vehicles and placing the burden of avoiding an accident on others for their dangerous actions. And stop posting signs to tell us to watch out for bikers. It should be a mutual thing. They need to watch out for us, respect the laws and rules of the road, and drive more responsibly. Don't be a liberal and expect others to take responsibility for your dangerous actions and driving. If you're going to drive an unsafe vehicle like a motorcycle, then drive cautiously. If you want we car drivers to give you space and watch out for you, then do the same with us. You do not have special rights, you cannot break traffic laws and expect everyone else to be responsible if you are not.

   I do realize not all bikers drive unsafely and take risks that they expect everyone else to take responsibility for. I see responsible bikers, though I still feel if you are truly concerned about safety you don't ride one, and I always give a mental thumbs up to bikers I see with helmets on their heads, Is it a guarantee that they don't die or suffer tremendous head trauma in an accident? No, but there chances are 37% better of dearg not happening with a helmet and 67% chances of brain injury not happening (I know, I said that already, but it bears repeating.) And if I insisted on riding a motorcycle, I'd want to improve my odds. And no, I don't hate bikers. I am just tired of being told I need to watch out for people who insist on driving an unsafe vehicle and driving it recklessly and unsafely. If the same rules were applied to bikes that were applied to cars, they wouldn't even be allowed to be on the road and licensed.

  Had I hit one of the bikers who recklessly pulled out in front of me, I'd have been devastated. Ticked off, but also devastated. I believe 100% it would have been their fault, but that wouldn't make me feel any better if they had been hit by me and died as a result of the accident. And that irritates me.

Some motorcycle fatalities statistics:

Motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars and often have high performance capabilities. When motorcycles crash, their riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so they're more likely to be injured or killed. The federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2012, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars. 1
Because serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is important. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths 2 and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. 3  Yet only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders. 
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not designed for on-highway use, but in recent years more than 300 riders died in crashes on public roads annually.  
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

A postscript:

  After I had this blog post typed up and ready to post, a friend sent me this message on Facebook. We had not been discussing this issue at all, and he had no idea I was working on a blog post about bikers and liberals, so this was completely out of the blue to get this message from him:

This sounds like a liberal agenda: where the few that want to ride there unsafe motorcycles cry and complain about how those of us who are save drivers in our four wheel vehicles need to watch out for them and cater to them. I'm tired of it. if you want to ride your unsafe, unstable vehicle on the highways with the big boys, then man up and ride and don't complain.

  And a final note: If you are one of those who likes to go riding with your buddies and stay together in a group..... try riding in a car or van. It is really easy to stay together and be safer if you are all in the same vehicle........