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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The ordinary King

  Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song back in the early 80's titled "Ordinary Baby." The idea of the song is that Jesus came as just an ordinary baby, yet He was far from ordinary. I was listening to the song yesterday and the first verse really stuck out to me:

He was just an ordinary baby, 
That’s the way He planned it, maybe
Anything but common would have kept Him apart
From the children that He came to rescue, 
Limited to some elite few;
When He was the only Child who asked to be born. 

  It is beyond our finite minds to comprehend why God would send His Son to this earth for us in the first place. To do so in such a way as He did is even further beyond the scope of our understanding. To have the King of everything lying in a manger is not at all how we would have written the story. We would have had Him lying in the best baby bed money could buy, and being born in a palace; not in a stable surrounded by filth and smelly animals.

  But had He been born in the way that a true King should be born, what then of the shepherds and other common people? There is no way they would have been allowed in a palace to see a newborn King, or any King. But since He was born in a stable, they just walked in with no palace guards to stop them. These shepherds had been in the field with sheep and had to have been rather smelly, yet no one told them they had to clean up and wear fancy clothes before they could see this newborn King. And these common shepherds, the first people to hear the announcement of Jesus birth and among the first to see Him, left to never be the same again.

  Not much has changed in two thousand years. This same Jesus who had dirty, smelly shepherds come before Him welcomes anyone to come to Him today. We too can come to this same King with all of our sin, our dirt and filth; and He will not turn us away. Most of us could never get in to see the rulers of any country, unless we had connections. If we somehow managed to gain an audience with one of these rulers, we would look our best and make sure we showered and smelled our best. If we showed up smelly and dirty, we would be turned away or at least told to make ourselves more presentable.

  But Jesus came in a lowly way and in a lowly place so He would not be kept apart from the ones He came to save. He will never turn us away, and if we encounter Him; we will never be the same again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Remembering Thanksgiving, Week #4

  This month has flown by - this YEAR has flown by, and it is hard to believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day..... and it is Thanksgiving Day, not Turkey Day.

  I unfortunately have to work, but my boss was agreeable to my working half the day because due to parts of the hospital being closed on holidays and not many people coming in; I won't be needed the second half of the day. Sure, it would be nice to have the whole day off, but I God willing; I will be home in time for the noon Thanksgiving meal.

On week four of Thanksgiving month, I am thankful for:

1) Work, since I am speaking of it. I wish it was closer, I wish I got paid more, and I wish I didn't have to work major holidays...... but I like my job. I have some great coworkers. It could be much worse, and I could be unemployed..... so I am very thankful for my job.

2) My health. Working in the waiting room of the emergency department, I see it all. There are a lot of people with serious and recurring health issues, and often they are younger than I am. Other than my need to lose weight, I am in good physical health; and hope to stay that way and improve on it this coming year.
3) My fellow travelers on the road I walk. Mine is not an easy struggle. It can be daunting and lonely to look at a future as a single guy in a world of couples who don't understand me.... but God has brought several people into my life via Facebook, conferences, and other ways who walk the same road I walk, who have the same struggles I have...... and they are a tremendous encouragement and help to me. I thank God for them and hope I am somehow a blessing and encouragement to them also.

4) Christmas. It is just around the corner, and once the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away; it will begin: the rush towards Christmas. I love the season  and am thankful for it. I am thankful for the sense of peace and goodwill that still hovers in the air, the times spent with family, getting and giving gifts, and what it is all about: the birth of Jesus. We would have no hope without that first Christmas, and I am oh so thankful for it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Keeping Christmas

The next to the last line in the famous Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens say of Ebeneezer Scrooge : "and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."

 Christmas is fast approaching, and I have been thinking about that: keeping Christmas. I had a conversation, or more like a debate/argument with my liberal coworker a while back. He likes to make outrageous statements and start an argument. (Yeah, you, Rich!) This time he informed me that Christmas is a pagan holiday and its traditions are based on pagan things. I disagreed and he brought up how so many celebrate Christmas and what it means to so many. I came back with "well that isn't how I view it and celebrate it. To me, it is the birth of Jesus."

  That conversation has had me thinking as Christmas is rushing toward us at the speed of light, or it so it seems. If anyone should keep Christmas, it should be we who bear His name..... and we should keep it better and differently than the world does. But do we?

  Is it enough to put out a Nativity scene, avoid Santa talk and decorations, go to all of the Christmas services at church...... even the circus they call the children's Christmas program?

 Do we make Christmas too much about US, and not enough about HIM?

 I love Christmas: Being with family, giving gifts, getting gifts (hey, I am human), the music, the decorations, the different attitudes and spirit that seems to be present at that time of year. But do I keep Christmas any differently than people who don't know Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

  We like to harp about the commercialization of Christmas, but what do we do to battle the commercialization in our homes and hearts? In all of the hustle and bustle of family Christmases, parties, Christmas cantatas and caroling and all of the other many things of the season.......are we really keeping Christmas as the time set aside to observe the greatest night in the history of mankind: the time when God became a baby? The night that set the plan of redemption in motion?

 As we gaze at our Nativity scenes, do we see the shadow of a cross on the baby in the manger? Do we take time to truly honor the Reason for the season, or do we tend to forget about Him in our rush to get to the best Christmas sales and wrap our gifts for each other?

  I have spoken and even blogged about Keeping Christ in Christmas, and I want to do that. I want this year to keep Christmas as I never have, even if the difference is all inside. It is the day we set aside to observe the night that Emmanuel became a reality: God with us. It is the night salvation entered the world for whosoever believes. It is the night that God became a baby so He could grow up and die on a cross for the sins of the world.

  Indeed, those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior should keep Christmas, and keep it better than those in the world. We know what it is all about.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Remembering Thanksgiving, Week #3

 I've had a rough couple of days and have been playing the "why me?" game with myself. Then today, I had good and bad happen, and the good came out of the bad in the form of an answered prayer. It is something I have been praying about for a month or so, and I had my doubts it would happen....... but it did. As I have been feeling thankful about it the rest of the day, it reminded me that is not all I have to be thankful for. It also reminded me that I should do my weekly post. So here is what I am thankful for in this third week of the month of Thanksgiving:

1) Answered - and unanswered prayers. It is so easy when God doesn't answer,  or doesn't seem to answer prayers to forget the ones that He has answered. I have heard of people writing prayers down and putting them in a jar, then taking them out at the end of the year and seeing how many God answered. That may be a good idea.

And I don't think we give God enough credit for not answering some prayers that would not have been the right thing for us.

2) Sundays. And that is the day, not the cold ice cream treat. I don't understand people who don't want to cease from unnecessary work and activities and just rest and go to church. Come on, a day God says not to work...... who wants to go against that?

I've had to work some Sundays in my life, and hate to do so. Sundays to me are church, a good Sunday dinner with family, a nap or walk, and more church in the evening. It is nice to put aside the unnecessary things for the day and relax and be in church.

3) Books and my love of reading. I have never felt I excelled at much in life, but I did excel at reading. I can remember reading above my level in my younger grades of school, and once I caught the love of reading; it never left. I still enjoy reading, and it has taken me many places I will never be physically able to go, and helped me learn a lot I would never have otherwise known.

4) Music. I love music. I rarely am in the car without a CD playing. And I am thankful for good music. As a teenager, I discovered Southern Gospel music and have listened to it ever since. I was never tempted to get into the heavy metal, rock, rap, or other kinds of music so many young people get into. I have never even had much desire for country music, though there is a small percentage of it that is worth listening to.

Over the years, my music tastes have spread out to include some praise and worship and some CCM music, but I still mainly listen to good old Southern Gospel. Music has been an important part of my life and has moved me, cheered me, convicted me, and brought me closer to God.

I am also thankful I learned to play the piano and have the ability to make music for my own entertainment. I wish I could play better, but it is good enough for me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

My last conversation with Shirley

   Due to something that happened to a family member of a volunteer at the hospital last week, something came to my mind that I had forgotten, or someone came to my mind. I remembered Shirley.

  As I thought back over the years to when I knew here, I found it difficult to put a time frame on when it happened. If I figure correctly, it must have been about 20 years ago.

  I was working in the bakery of Das Dutch Hause in Columbiana, Ohio.... for the second of three times I worked there. That is when I met Shirley. She was probably in her late 40's or early 50's and worked in the kitchen. There are some people who when you meet, you just hit it off and can tell they can take a joke...... and Shirley was one of those people. I had to go through the kitchen fairly often, so I ran onto her there or in the break room, or even outside throwing trash in the dumpster. And every time, we'd rag on each other. We'd joke, toss insults and other teasing remarks at the other, and always walk away laughing. She was a funny lady.

  I'll never forget the last time I saw her, or the conversation I had with her. She was sitting in the break room when I walked through, and I said hi and asked her how she was doing. She told me she had been having  bad headaches the last couple of days, but was good other than that. I remarked "I can't see why, you don't have anything in there." She laughed, made a funny remark, and I went on my way.

  I had a couple of days off, and came back a couple of days later to find out that Shirley was gone. Those headaches she had been having for a couple of days? Those weren't normal headaches, and she was dead before I came back to work.

  And I felt like a jerk. Here the woman was dying, though no one knew.... including her, and I came off with a funny remark about her head being empty. I can still remember telling my little sister how I felt, and she had some wise words. She knew Shirley, and knew what our relationship was like, and she said even if Shirley had known, she would have laughed and taken it because that is how we talked to each other. And maybe so.

  But all of these years later, it has come back to me. I don't know if Shirley was a Christian. I am pretty sure she wasn't...... and I never talked about Jesus to her. I didn't know she'd die unexpectedly, but should that matter? Shouldn't we talk about Jesus to everyone?

  We never know when we may have a last conversation with someone. Life is uncertain, and none of us know when our last day will come. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, yet we live as if we and everyone around us are going to live on this earth forever. We should make the most of every moment, and let everyone we meet know who we serve and that there is hope in Jesus Christ for them and the whole world.

Random thoughts on red cups, abused women, and more

 This isn't one of my attempted well thought out blog posts, but are just some random thoughts from Facebook posts, news stories, conversations, etc. that have come to mind.

1) Red cups: the drummed up controversy over Starbucks and their red cups. I think much ado has been made about nothing, and Christians are making fools of  themselves who are outraged and boycotting. Want to boycott? How about boycotting them every day for their pro-gay stance and their anti-Christian stance. But red cups with no winter design..... really??

2) Hillary Clinton has made herself the champion of abused women and say that every abused woman deserves to be heard and believed.... unless of course Hillary's husband is the guilty party.

3) It is pathetic how the media is treating Ben Carson. We conservatives were called racist for bringing true concerns about Obama out and for not voting for him because of his policies, yet they are doing far worse to Carson, and it is OK since he is a conservative and must be destroyed at any cost. Evidently not all black lives matter after all.

4) Although I am not on the Starbucks red cup crazy train, I do feel any store that doesn't allow their employees to say "Merry Christmas" and avoids all uses of "Christmas" in their Christmas sales should be boycotted........ and no, not a big scene, but just don't shop there. Someone said today that the advertising doesn't bother them if Christmas is left out..... but it should bother us. It is all part of the "let's not offend atheists and Muslims, but we can offend Christians" movement.

5) I think it is sad that most couples jump in bed so fast before the relationship develops. As a Christian, I believe all should wait til marriage for that anyway, but people are missing out on the simple joys of hand holding, talking about hopes and dreams. Sex becomes the focus of the relationship..... at least for the guy.

6) I love Sundays. People who don't want to sit back and take it easy, avoid unnecessary work and activities are really missing out. Come on, a day God says not to work...... who wants to go against that?!

7) Why do people care so much about the relationships of celebrities? I don't care who Blake Shelton is with now and weary of seeing it on my Facebook feed.

8) Benjy, my 11 year old "middle" nephew recently made my day. I was playing Mario Karts with them on my Wii U and he told me I was "the best uncle in the world." I thanked him, and he said "no other uncle would buy a Wii for his nieces and nephews to play." I told him I am sure there are others who have, and he said there aren't many. He's my new favorite.......

9) I have felt this tremendous sense lately that I am not living up to my full potential in life. That there is more for me than what I am doing. I feel trapped, and like I am just spinning my wheels and not going anywhere. How to get to where I need to be and doing what I should be doing, I have no idea...... other than to keep praying.

10) Lately I have been thinking about the people in my life outside of my family. The people I work with, the people I attend church with, the people who work at stores I frequent often enough that they know me by name....... OK - bookstores, that is where the employees know me by name.... :) - anyway, I have been thinking: If I had been born in some other state far away and never moved to Ohio, I wouldn't know any of them. The circles of acquaintance and friendship would consist of totally different people than they consist of now. Maybe God places the people in our lives, and it isn't just happenstance.

11) The attempted sex change by Bruce Jenner should never have been the news story it has been and still is...... and the conservative media is as much to blame as the liberal for posting so many news stories about this misguided and confused guy who does not deserve celebrity status, but pity.

12) I am not sure I like Devotionals or any other kind of book that is written from the viewpoint of God and has what He is supposedly saying. i.e. Jesus Calling. If you want to read what Jesus really said, read the Bible.

13) Some people only comment on my Facebook posts when they disagree with me.

14) In hindsight, maybe it was rude of me to laugh when the nurse suggested this morning that I sign up for Obamacare..........

15) I think our Americanized Christianity is far from the Christianity Jesus wants for us.

16) Isn't it kind of weird - and vain -  for guys to post shirtless pictures of themselves on social media?

17) There was a post on Facebook jokingly asking what Scripture verse someone could post with their newest selfie. "Vanity, all is vanity" is the one that came to my mind,

18) Relevant magazine posted an article about a man who is a Christian and produces horror movies. Has our Americanized Christianity become so weak and accepting of anything Hollywood throws at us that we not only have no problem with Christians watching horror movies, but also with Christians producing horror movies?

19) There is true racism in our country. I am not denying that, but there is so much false accusations of racism that it is like the boy who cried wolf. When real racism happens, the average American is just going to assume it is another attempt to find it where it doesn't exist.

20) I really need to find a job where I don't have to work major holidays. This year will be the second year in a row that I work both Christmas and Thanksgiving...... and I am very down and depressed about it already.

21) It shouldn't amaze me, but it it does amaze me that anyone with a shred of intelligence can think Hillary Clinton would make a good president, and it also amazes me that so many Americans have no problem with her lying, which has been proven, and the web of corruption that surrounds her.

22) If people didn't date around so much before marriage, maybe more marriages would stay together. If you're used to jumping ship in dating relationships every time things get stale or tough, what makes you think marriage would be any different?

23) Christians should not support or vote for any candidate who supports  the "right" to kill babies, much less have that as part of their very political platform.

24) Many people claim God is neither Democrat or Republican. That is probably true, but I do know He is 100% pro-life, which most Democrats are not.

25) Some day we are all going to stand before God, We won't wish that we had watched more movies, watched more football games, or other things we do to waste time. We will wish we had done more for God.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Remembering Thanksgiving, Week #2

 Seventeen years or so ago, I went on a short term missionary trip to Mexico. It was fun, interesting, and fulfilling. I saw some areas of Mexico and saw things there that made me realize how good we have it here in the United States. I came back home with a new appreciation and thankfulness for what I have.

  I read at least one devotional every year, and this past year I have been reading the Extreme Devotion. It is full of stories of people who have been persecuted, tortured,  and/or killed for their faith. A lot of these stories take place today in Muslim countries or other countries where Christianity is not tolerated. As I have read these stories I have experienced a few emotions:

Guilt, because I grumble and fret over things that pale in significance to what these people are dealing with.

Fear: I experience some fear realizing we could end up the same situation as we live in times where our government, media, and others are becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity.

Thankfulness: Even though we are starting to face some backlash and light persecution in this country over our biblical stance on homosexuality and abortion, we are still free to worship and attend church without fear of imprisonment or worse.

On week two of this month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for:

1) Freedom. We are losing some of our freedoms and they are being infringed upon, but we are still freer than many around our globe. And not only do I experience freedom as a United States citizen, I experience spiritual freedom as a child of God, and no government or anyone else can take that away.

2) Church. I have felt disconnected from my church for pretty much the seven years since I moved back to Ohio after living in Indiana for two years. I feel we need more community, at least I need more community.... but it is a good church and I have a great pastor and pastor's wife and Sunday School teacher. It is encouraging to meet with people of like-minded faith, even if you only see them at church.

3) The Bible. There are people in our world who are not allowed to have the Bible and have to hide it. In some places, Christians pass around pages of the Bible to share and read. I have several Bibles in several different translations that I can read any time I want without fear of getting in trouble. And the days of believing I had to read a certain amount of chapters and verses to do my duty as a Christian are gone. I know now it is better to read a verse or two and get something out of it, than to read several chapters and check off the box that I did it.

4) Facebook. It might seem odd to be thankful for something that so many criticize and that can be a problem, but I have made some true friends through Facebook, keep in contact with other friends and family that I wouldn't be in contact with as much otherwise. I have received encouragement and prayer from those I interact with, especially in groups that have people dealing with the same things I deal with.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Meeting myself

I just finished reading an intriguing book today titled "The Five Times I Met Myself." If you plan on reading the book, you may want to skip this first paragraph as there may be a slight spoiler. The main character, 53 year old Brock Matthews, is unhappy with the way his life is going and has regrets of things he did and things he wished he had done. Through dreams, he goes back and talks to his much younger self and tells him to to what he wished he had done. Every time this happens, he wakes up to find it has changed for real in his life in 2015. I won't explain it all, but the climax of the story reveals nothing changed, and if he wants the changes that he can still make; his 53 year old self is going to have to work on it and not his 20-something self.

  I can't count the times I have wished I could do exactly that: go back in time and talk to my younger self.

I'd tell my school age self to stand up for myself and fight back, and to not let the other kids bully me so much.

I'd tell that same kid that how the other kids treated me didn't mean I wasn't worthwhile nor that no one liked me.

 I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that God truly loves me and to make a relationship with Him top priority, instead of believing most of my life He didn't love me and having a shallow relationship with God as a result.

I'd tell my college age self to seek help with the new feelings I had that I had no clue how to deal with. I'd tell him never to start that habit that would be so hard to quit.

I'd tell my late 20's and my 30's self not to sit around the house and wish I had friends, but to go out and make friends.

I'd tell that same guy that I wasn't stupid and unemployable and didn't have to settle for the low paying jobs others may not want.

   But just like the guy in the fiction novel I read, I can't do that. But I have gotten so used to the past shaping me that I have just gone along with my wrong thinking. In the book, the man had to start changing things in  the here and now instead of having his younger self do the changing.

  I can't go back and stand up for myself in school, but I can work on leaving that in the past and to stop letting it affect my ideas of how people view me and if they like me or not.

  I can't go back and convince the teenage Mark that God loves me and change the rest of my life, but I can hold onto that belief now and let it lead me to a deeper relationship with God.

  I can't go back and tell my younger self to make friends, that I am just as employable as others, and correct the many wrong ideas I have held about myself, God, life, and how others view me...... but I can work on it today with my modern day and hopefully wiser self.

   The overall message of the book I mentioned is surrender. I grew up in a church background where surrender was preached a lot and talked about a lot. The emphasis that I got was that we had to surrender our will, our future, and everything we have to God. And I believe that. But I believe surrender involves so much more than I grew up believing. The idea has been on my mind for a while, and then I read this book that has made me further think about it.

  It is true that we have to reach a point of surrendering our will, our lives, our desires to God. But if we stop at that, as I have; we are missing it. The more I think about it, the more I realize what I have NOT surrendered to God:

My fears

My regrets

My past and how it has affected me

My doubts

My tomorrows and what I want them to be like

The way I feel about myself

  And so much more. God wants all of it, not just the tangible stuff and our will...... He wants us to surrender everything about us, The things that may hold us back from being what He wants us to be, our hopes and dreams, our self doubts. The list could go on and on.

  A conversation between the main character and a friend stood out to me in the book and truly has hit me hard. The discussion was about all things being possible with God. The main character didn't believe a certain thing was possible for God to do. His friend replied:

"Ah, I see. So all things are possible for this God of ours except for the ones you decide are not possible. Have you given Him a list to make sure He doesn't do anything you don't approve of?"

  As I look at my life and the view I have of myself and of the low self esteem and self confidence I have, I have to say "ouch." I find myself doubting so much what God can do in my life and for me because of the insufficiency and lack of abilities in myself that I have left no room for God to do anything in spite of me. I may not have a mental list of what God can and cannot do, but I live that way.

  And that is where the surrender comes in. If we are totally surrendered to God, we are going to surrender those doubts about what He can or cannot do, and believe that it is possible for Him to do anything in our lives.

  We sing it in church, but do we really mean it?

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

  We cannot go back and change the past by talking to our younger selves, but we can surrender all of those regrets, the fears, the feelings, and anything else that we wish we could have done differently........ and start now to change things with God's help. Just give it all to Him and ask His help to live differently from here on out: no regrets, no doubts, no fears, no worries about people liking us or not.

 The main in the novel I read had to reach that point of surrender to just give his past, present, and future to God. And so must we, if we are going to truly serve and love this God of ours.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Remembering Thanksgiving, Week #1

 It has been pointed out by many people that anymore we just skip from Halloween to Christmas and barely acknowledge Thanksgiving. We definitely don't give the day its due anymore. Too many stores have started opening on Thanksgiving to get a jump on Black Friday. Part of the problem may be that even though Christmas is a Christian holiday, it has been secularized to the point that only hardcore atheists are offended by it. Thanksgiving, however, cannot really be secularized. A day of thanks infers there is Someone to be thankful to, so that may be part of the reason Thanksgiving gets skimmed past.

  Also, we live in such an entitlement society here in America. Too many people aren't thankful for what they have. They want more, they feel they deserve more. They will never be happy with what they have, nor feel any sense of thankfulness for what they have.

  We should be thankful every day for what we have, but Thanksgiving Day has been set aside as a day to specifically be thankful for the blessings in our lives. I like and need to focus on that for the whole month of November, and other years I have done a blog post every day of the month of November for something I was thankful for. That is too many blog posts for one month, especially when I usually do several others. Also, I feel obligated to do one per day and it isn't always easy to get it done.

  So this year, I am going to do one per month and list a few things I am thankful for in each post. I'll have a week to do it in whatever day works. So for week #1 of November 2015:

1) I am thankful for salvation, God's love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It is sad it has taken me almost my entire life to this point to grasp the belief that God loves me, but I finally got there. I am also finally understanding the depths of His grace and how patient He is with me, although no one can truly understand the depths of His love and grace in this life. But I can still be thankful for all of that, and I am.

2) I am thankful for my family. We aren't perfect, but we all get along and enjoy spending time with each other, which can't be said of a lot of families. Though I'll never have children of my own, I am blessed to be uncle to 3 nieces and 3 nephews whose lives I am a big part of.

3) I am thankful for my sense of humor. Yeah, a lot of people groan when I tell jokes, but I am thankful I have a good sense of humor. It has helped to keep me sane, and has been there even in my worst times of depression.

4) I am thankful for friends. There was a day I felt I had no friends. No one at school liked me and I was picked on and bullied. To this day, I have trouble believing people actually like me and want to be around me, but I actually have some who do. Unfortunately, it seems those who most want to be around me don't live close by.....but I have a lot of people I count as friends, and I am very thankful for them.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The splendor of ordinary days

 I read and reviewed a book recently that had a title that has stuck with me: The Splendor of Ordinary Days." It is an interesting thought.

  The phrase went through my mind last week as I drove to my storage unit. I usually go through the town of Lisbon where I live to get to it, hitting a few lights and dealing with the sometimes heavy traffic that even a small town can have to reach the storage unit that is a few miles outside of town on busy Route 45.

This time, I decided to go the back way. I took St Jacobs Logtown Road, which is a back road with many curves that crosses the bike/walking trail several times that I use. I'm not sure what the speed limit is, but I drove at an unusual leisurely speed. I took time to notice the flowers and trees beside the road, the creek that runs beside the road for a while, the couple of farms I passed, a man under his vehicle working on it as his wife stood and observed, the corn fields that have been harvested.

  I can't remember meeting any other vehicles, and there were none in front of or behind me. It was my day off, and I was in no hurry to get where I was going. I took the time to pay attention to what I was driving past...the ordinary. Barns, flowers, a creek, people working outside. I beeped and waved at a woman with her dog, and a man getting on his bicycle waved at me as I drove by, so I waved back.

  All so ordinary; things we see every day and take no notice of because we are too busy speeding by to get onto our next duty, project, or whatever else we deem important.

  As I drove by these ordinary things, that phrase kept running through my head: the splendor of ordinary days. Splendor and ordinary. They are totally opposites, so the idea of there being splendor in the ordinary is intriguing.

  A week ago Sunday, I sat at a table with my parents, my 3 nieces, a friend of my eldest niece,  and my sister and her husband. The occasion was my oldest niece's 20th birthday. We had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, noodles, peas, corn, home made rolls, Dairy Queen Cake, and dirt dessert. After the dishes were taken away, there was the opening of gifts. We have done it countless times over the years: A meal with family, cake, and gifts. All ordinary...... well except for the chicken. My mom's fried chicken is extraordinary and smacks of splendor......

  Yet someday, there will be empty seats at that table. And those who are left will look back and realize those were not ordinary times at all, but splendor in the ordinary.

  We take so much for granted. Time goes by so fast, things change and friends and relatives move on or pass on.

  Already, I look back and remember the days when my nieces and nephews were tiny babies that I held, fed a bottle to, put on my shoulder and burped. Now those same kids are ages 9 to 20. There is no holding or feeding, but instead playing video games with them, listening to the stories they tell, getting a hug as they arrive or leave.... all so ordinary... so ordinary it is easy to lose the splendor of it all.

  It is there to see if we slow down and pay attention, if we lay our cell phones down and take it all in:
The beautiful colors of leaves in the Fall

The blossoming flowers, trees, and other new life in the Spring

A baby's first word

That first kiss

A wedding day

A job completed

Holding God's Word in your hands


A hug from a friend or loved one

Passing your driver's test

Receiving your diploma

Coffee or lunch with a friend

  The list could go on for a long time. The oh so ordinary things we are used to and take for granted. The things that are speeding past us as we live our busy lives. The things that some day we will look back and realize that what we thought was so ordinary, was not ordinary at all, but were times and days filled with splendor that we just thought were ordinary.

Monday, November 2, 2015

He's Still Working On Me

  There's a song a Southern Gospel group recorded way back around 1981 that I have loved since the first time I heard it. The title of the song is "He's Still Workin' On Me." The song goes like this:

Verse 1:
There really ought to be a sign upon the heart,
Don't judge her yet, there's an unfinished part.
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master's loving hands.

He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He's still working on me.

Verse 2:
In the mirror of His Word reflections that I see
Make me wonder why He never gave up on me.
He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He's the Potter, I'm the clay.

   The song is often looked on as a kid's song, and in fact the first time I heard it was in a Vacation Bible School at my church as a 12 year old. It is a great song for kids, but this 40's guy realizes how true the words of that song are more than the 12 year old me could ever have imagined.

  It is easy to toss out phrases such as "I'm not perfect, just forgiven.", "God's not finished with me yet", or "He's still working on me" in a flippant way when we want to excuse our sins or bad actions. We should never excuse sin or our things we do wrong, and that is not where I am going with this post.

  The song has been on my mind lately. I know I am not perfect. My list of imperfections far outnumber any good points I have in my eyes. I look at other Christians and wonder if I'll ever have the spiritual maturity that they have. I am too outspoken, I lack confidence in my abilities or in God's ability to use me. I have a hard time trusting God and worry about everything except drowning in a glass of iced tea.

  I often wonder, and even ask God why He puts up with me. Why He doesn't just turn His back and declare me unworthy of His love and attention.

  And then I realize I am still a work in progress. We are all, really. No matter how mature a Christian someone is, or how long they have been serving God; they are still a work in progress. God is still working on us. I didn't realize at the age of 12, or even at the age of 40 how patient this God I serve is with me, but I am slowly coming to get a better idea of it.

  So when I say "He's still working on me", I am not saying it to excuse my imperfections or anything I might do that others look on and question. I say it with a thankful heart that I serve such a patient God, and to remind people that I am not the finished product yet.

  He's still working on me. I am thankful that He is.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

But Jesus didn't say it was wrong

 I read or heard someone say a while back that they don't like red-letter editions of the Bible. That is the popular thing to do in the Bible where words that were spoken directly by Jesus are put in red instead of black like the rest of the Bible. Their point was, the whole Bible is the Word of God and to put Jesus' words in red lends more credence or importance to what He spoke over the rest of the Bible.

  At the time, I mentally shrugged and didn't think much of the point being made. But lately, I have been reconsidering that point and am wondering if that person may be right.

  Recently, I had a comment made on a blog post I did several months back. The gentleman that commented said this: "The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John show us that neither Jesus nor anyone who walked with him during his life, spoke against homosexuality." This has become a common argument by those trying to say the Bible doesn't really condemn homosexuality. The argument has probably been used for other sins and issues, but it is most commonly used in reference to homosexuality.

  The arguments for a pro-gay God theology are weak and the people who use them are grasping at straws, but this has to be the weakest pro-gay argument of them all: That because Jesus didn't specifically mention it in the Gospels, then it must be OK with God and not a sin after all.

A few problems with this thinking:

1) Not everything Jesus said is recorded. John closed his Gospel by saying "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." Jesus very well may have mentioned it and other things that didn't get written down.

2) The whole Bible is God's Word. 11 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Gospels may not have Jesus specifically condemning it, but it is condemned several other places in the Bible..... and it is all God's Word.

3) Jesus also didn't mention incest, bestiality, beating your wife, cruelty to animals, or a host of other issues and sins we believe to be wrong because they are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible or because we know because of principles in the Bible that they are wrong.

4) Jesus didn't mention homosexuality or gay marriage, but He did say this in Matthew 19:4-6

 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
   The only marriage He refers to is between a man and a woman. Period, end of discussion.

5) I have read this by more than one person: In Jesus time on earth, He ministered mostly to the Jews, other than a side trip to Samaria. Homosexuality was most likely not much of an issue in Israel, but it was in Rome and other areas outside of Israel; which is why it was addressed in other books of the Bible.

6) Jesus said in John 10:30 "I and the Father are one." And in John 14:9: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."

  Jesus and the Father are one. The Bible is God's Holy Word spoken to men to write down, so if you want to get technical about it, then yes..... Jesus DID condemn homosexuality since God did and God the Father and Jesus are one.

  The Gospels contain most of the words spoken by Jesus that are recorded in Scripture. That is four books out of the sixty-six that comprise our Bible, God's Holy Word. To say that only what Jesus spoke that is recorded is all we have to do, is a weak and pathetic argument. Our Bible is so much more than just the Gospels. One cannot ignore the rest of the Bible and declare what they want to do is OK with God since it isn't mentioned in the first four books of the New Testament.

  And really, if you are going to use that argument, then you may as well toss out the rest of the Bible and just live by the Gospels. But while you are living by the Gospels. don't forget the same Jesus who you claim is OK with living a sinful lifestyle said to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him..... and you cannot do that and put your desires and wants above what He wants.

 And if you are going to use that argument, remember it can be used to excuse a lot of things you do believe are wrong.

 The words in red are not the only parts of the Bible we must follow, and aren't any more important than the rest of the Bible.