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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thoughts on observing Lent

  ** Welcome to my second controversial post after a period of writer's block. 

 I used to think only Catholics observed Lent, and then somewhere along life's journey I discovered it is not just a Catholic thing. I'll admit right up front that I am a Lent skeptic. I have always looked at it as something unnecessary and shallow. From my experience of being around people who observe it, Lent goes like this: you give up something you really like - such as chocolate or coffee -  for 40 days. You spend those 40 days telling everyone you meet that you are giving up that thing for Lent. You also spend those 40 days counting down the days until you can have chocolate or coffee, and the second Lent is over, you go gorge yourself on that thing you gave up for 40 days. OK, even I'll admit that is an awfully jaded view of Lent, but I am just being honest and authentic about it.....

  What if instead of giving up something for 40 days that we will run back to when Lent is over, we give up something forever? Radical thought. And what if you kept it between God and yourself instead of telling everyone around you what you are giving up?

What if we gave up Starbucks and did something better with all the money we pay for overpriced coffee?

What if we give up watching TV shows like Game of Thrones that we know aren't good for us and which hinder us spiritually?

What if we gave up the bitterness and anger we harbor?

What if we have up  the mask we wear, and be authentic and honest?

What if we spent less time on things that waste our time, such as social media?

What if we spent less time on us, and more on others?

   I am not sure the Bible supports giving up something for 40 days, only to go back to it (other than fasting). It definitely supports giving up some things for good.

  It is very unpopular anymore to suggest that there is anything a Christian should not do, places a Christian should not go, and things a Christian should not say. It is not Biblical at all to teach or believe that Christians have cart blanche when it comes to living. So maybe Lent would be a great time to examine ourselves, and stop doing things that we would be better off not doing as a Christian. That is what would truly please God, not giving up chocolate or coffee for 40 days.

**And I am sure there are people who aren't shallow and brag about it..... my experience has not been with those people though.

I tipped the waitress, but not the maid

  I have only blogged twice this month.... a record for me. There are several contributing factors, but they all affect the one main factor: I haven't had anything to say.... or that I CAN say. I have plenty to say about the man in the White House, but the fallout of speaking out against him has been severe and painful..... so I will watch in silence as the Republican Party continues to circle the wagon and act just like the liberals have with their man in the White House.

  In the middle of all of my writer's block, I finally had a couple of ideas.... and I was bored, so I typed them up and then sat on them. Both are controversial - I honestly don't aim to be controversial, I just don't steer clear of it. But oh well. Here is the first of two controversial posts, and this is one I blogged about before, but had new thoughts on:

I tipped the waitress, but not the maid.......

    Earlier this month, I took a 2-day trip to the Amish section of Ohio. I spent two days shopping, eating, and enjoying the Amish countryside while picking up the many free items that came with the package deal I bought at the Inn I stayed at. Two of those freebies were dinner out at my choice of 3 restaurants, and breakfast out at my choice of 3 restaurants. I usually tip around 20%, but the restaurant I had dinner at didn't even charge me for a beverage..... so my bill was $0. Any percent of 0 is......0. So I got off without a tip there......just kidding. I tipped accordingly to what the meal would have cost. I had to pay for my beverage for my free breakfast, but again I tipped according to what the meal would have cost.

    And then it came time for me to check out of my room. During my stay,  there was a small green envelope lying on the dresser that informed me that "Ina" and some other lady had cleaned my room (I only remember Ina because it isn't a common name.) I knew what the envelope was there for. They wanted me to put some cash in the envelope as a tip for cleaning my room. I left none.

   There is an expensive coffee shop called Crazy Mocha at both hospitals I work at. I rarely purchase anything there as they are too pricey, but I have bought a frozen drink there occasionally, probably not even once a month on average. I recently bought a Pittsburgh Hot Chocolate there, which is basically a frozen hot chocolate. They have a little cup on their counter for tips. As if I wasn't paying enough for my Pittsburgh Hot Chocolate....... Needless to say, I didn't put anything in the cup. It really bugs me when there is a tip jar on the counter of a take out business such as a coffee or pizza place.

  Now stop raising your eyebrows at me and thinking I am cheap. If you are one of those people who thinks the barista and maid should be tipped, I have a couple of questions for you:

Who decides who gets tipped, and how does not get tipped? Seriously. Nobody tips everyone that does any kind of service for them. Everyone draws the line somewhere..... so who draws that line? Is there some secret government agency who decides these things?

Why should the maid get tipped, but not the guy who changes your oil or changes your tires?

Why should  the barista get tipped, but not the guy who bags your groceries?

Why should your barber or hairdresser get tipped, but not the telephone repairman?

  Really..... who decides who gets tipped, and who does not?

  I work at a hospital, and one of my duties is to push people where they need to go in a wheelchair. That takes a lot more effort than making a coffee, so am I not more deserving of a tip than a person making coffee? And no, I don't expect tips and probably am not supposed to take them anyway....... I am just trying to make a point.

   Pretty much all waitresses get paid a low wage and have to make up most of their money in tips. That is not the case with barbers, maids, baristas, and a lot of other people who seem to think they deserve a tip for doing their job. I don't know about pizza delivery people, but if you're too lazy to go out and get the pizza yourself, then you should tip them for bringing the pizza to you anyway.........

   Could it be that we have become greedy? Isn't getting paid for doing your job well enough? Why do all of these people need tipped for doing what they are supposed to be doing? If the room isn't cleaned, and the maids consistently don't do their job, they will be fired and replaced.......and if not, the inn will close down. No one wants to stay in a room that has not been cleaned. If the barber or hairdresser does a poor job, they won't keep their jobs or business very long. Why do they need - or think they need - more than a thank-you for doing what they were hired to do? And a better question: why do they deserve a tip more than the countless other workers who do not get tipped?

  Don't get me wrong: people should tip whoever they feel like tipping. What bugs me is when it is expected and when others think you should also tip those people.

 So tip the barber, barista,  and maid if you wish, but don't expect me to unless you can come up with a really good reason why you do not tip these and more:

Department store cashiers

Department store employees who help you find something

The tire shop guy

The oil change guy

The mailman

The telephone repairman

The nurse

The doctor

The hospital receptionist

The hospital security guard

The stock boy

The computer technician

  I could go on, but you get the point. We run across countless people who provide some service for us on a daily basis who we do not tip. Many of these people work harder to provide a service than most of the people who do get tipped. I have yet to hear a good reason for this, and it may just remain one of the big mysteries of the universe.

And maybe we need to do away with tipping completely. Am I the only one who ever wonders how much of the waitress' friendliness is put on to get a better tip? How good of service would you receive from your waitress if she (or he) knew they would get paid the same no matter how friendly they were to you and no matter what kind of service they provided?

 I have found myself wondering things like that before. I have had waitresses that turned on the charm and have been very flirtatious (the joke is on them since I am not attracted to females). I have wondered as these women have gone overboard being friendly and helpful, how differently they might act if they were not trying to get a good tip. And are we tipping people for being fake? If these same individuals met you outside of their job, how friendly would they be? Are we really tipping for good service, or are we tipping for fake charm, friendliness, and flirting? Oh, I am sure there are individuals that wait on tables who are genuinely friendly and aren't doing it to just get a good tip........ but it makes one wonder.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Living in a shack with Jabez and Sarah Young, and wearing my WWJD bracelet

Discernment and wisdom are something we are sadly lacking as Christians today. One has to only look carefully at the 2016 election to see the proof of that. We are gullible, and too earthly minded to have wisdom and discernment.


  Seventeen years ago, I was in my second year of five years working at a Christian bookstore in Salem, OH. A small book came out that year that took Christendom by storm, and became the best seller for any Christian bookstore. People would come up to the counter and ask, "do you have that book....." and I knew what book they were going to say.....The Prayer of Jabez. Well, except for the one lady who asked for "The Prayer of Jezebel" by mistake.... (That did happen).

 The prayer is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested." It had sat there unnoticed for thousands of years until miraculously Bruce Willkinson discovered it and changed everyone's lives......(yeah, right!"

 Seriously, people really got into praying this prayer. I had one lady convinced she had been asked to be in charge of her church's Christmas cantata as a result of her praying it. I admit I got the book (for free) and tried praying it.... but I should have skipped the part about enlarging my territory. All that happened was I gained weight. :)

 It didn't take me long to decide this was a fluke. God doesn't need little perfectly worded prayers, and this short prayer in the Old Testament was not some magic charm that would grant the pray-er his wishes if prayed enough. And yet millions of Christians swallowed the lie that praying this prayer was going to give them blessings. As with any Christian fad that has no substance, it eventually died out. Now you can buy the book as cheap as 49 cents on some websites.

Jesus Calling

  In 2004, a devotional came out that has become one of the most popular modern day devotionals: Jesus Calling. I was intrigued a few years ago, and bought a copy. I mentioned it on Facebook, and a friend sent me a link to what a popular preacher had to say about the book and author, and it gave me enough pause that I returned the book and got my money back.

 The more I researched the book, the more bothered I became by it. For one thing, the whole book is supposedly Jesus talking......we already have a book of Jesus talking. It is called The Bible. Also, this mysterious author has an odd religious past. Her conversion story is just weird. Ms Young makes the claim that Jesus is speaking through her in this book...... a dangerous claim. Is she legit? I guess it is possible, but I decided to err on the side of caution and have nothing to do with her devotionals.

 There is a great review of her book here.

The Shack

  When The Shack came out, I was intrigued. I was reading reviews of it on Amazon and Christianbook.com, and there was no middle ground. People either loved it, or they hated it intensely. I wanted to read it, but I didn't want to buy it. I contacted my library, and they got a copy in. I read the book, and was disgusted completely by it. In addition to quite a few curse words being thrown around, I felt the author lowered God the Father and Jesus way lower than they should have been. God was a black woman with poor speech who seemed a Santa Claus type figure. Jesus was a bumbling idiot. And the Holy Spirit was also a woman.

  I hated the book, and found it heretical.... a serious charge to make, but I stand by it. I posted two reviews of it:

The Shack, life-changing, or heresy?

Revisiting The Shack

  I am one of a few moderators for a Facebook group for Christian bloggers. This past week, a man submitted an article he wrote about The Shack - it is coming out as a movie. He titled his post "Why You Shouldn't See The Shack - But Why So Many Will. It is a very well thought out post, and he brought out some things I had not considered. If you like the book and/or are going to see the movie, you owe it to yourself to read it: Why You Shouldn't See The Shack - But Why So Many Will.

 And by the way..... he also calls the book heretical.

  WWJD, The Purpose Driven Life, and more. There is constantly something or someone coming out on the Christian market and Christian scene. And over and over Christians throng to buy, read, listen to, support, etc this new fad or person.

 But where is our wisdom and discernment?

  I read a lot. There have been some books that have truly made a difference in my life: The Ragamuffin Gospel, Not a Fan, He Loves Me, Gods At War...... and even some fictional books. Yet these books and authors are not without error. I'd like to think I have gotten pretty good at weeding out what isn't true when I read, but I am human.... so I am sure I don't do as good of a job as I would like to think.

 And then there is the fact that I did pray the prayer of Jabez for a while, got into the Purpose Driven Life, did the WWJD thing.....(I didn't wear the bracelet, thankfully").... and I know I erred with other things also.

 I am not one of those people who chirp that the Bible is all we need. Books, sermons, speeches, and other mediums can help us in our spiritual lives, and I can completely attest to that...... but there is a danger of just swallowing everything that comes along that is labeled Christian. Something doesn't need to be 100% heresy to steer us wrong..... all it needs is a small bit of heresy or something that isn't Biblical.

  When Jesus sent out His disciples, He told them to be as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. I think we Christians have the harmless as doves down pretty well, but I fear we all are sadly lacking in discernment and wisdom. I want that. I don't want to be fooled by anything that has un-Biblical stuff in it. May God help us all to seek wisdom, and ask God to help us to see the truth about what we read, see, and hear.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February musings

  I haven't blogged much lately. There's a few reasons why: 1)  I haven't had much to say...... that anyone may want to hear, 2) I have really been depressed, discouraged, and disappointed lately (the 3 D's!), and 3) I still have a lot to say about Donald Trump, and his winning the nomination for the GOP nominee....but I have been silenced. So, I have to find other things to talk about......though something about him may sneak in occasionally.....give me a break, I was very vocal about Obama, and I don't like Trump much more.....

 Anyway, I have been working on this for a couple of weeks, and it was supposed to be January musings, but February is here.....so they are now February musings. Enjoy. Or not....

Stuff that has been on my mind lately

1) Maybe if people weren't in such a hurry to date and marry, they might find out who they are before they jump into relationships and lose themselves. Maybe divorce wouldn't be so common if people stayed single longer.

2) Valentine's Day is fast approaching...... or as I call it, Single Awareness Day.

3) We went over and listed the most important doctrines of the Church in Sunday School class on Sunday. I wanted to add two to the list, but didn't: Always vote Republican, and use the King James Version only. (Those would have been sarcastic).

4) What if we push people too much into marriage? What if there are people who would be better off single, but family and friends pushed them to date and marry? Could other people than the couple sometimes be partially responsible for the divorce that takes place so often?

5) I don't remember any of my Facebook friends saying we need to stop whining about who won the election, and that we need to support him......when it was Obama who won. Isn't that odd.......

6) The older I get, the more I hate winter. I'll be worrying about a safe trip to work, and I have friends hoping for more snow.....are they nuts?!

7) I truly can't see how any Christian could support abortion.... for any reason. To be OK with the ripping apart of an innocent baby........they'd never be OK with that if it were an animal.

8) If Heaven is so wonderful, why do health nuts work so hard on putting it off as long as they can?

9) People who smoke amaze me. They pay way too much for something they are going to burn, they seem to think they have a God-given right to litter wherever and whenever they feel like it....... and they will ask random strangers who smoke for a cigarette, and the random stranger will most likely give them one.

10) I am doing it: I am going to the Amish part of Ohio for two days next week, and taking advantage of the winter package deal from the Dutch Host Inn in Sugarcreek, OH. For $74.95 (plus tax), I am going to get:

1) One night stay at the inn

2) Supper (dinner) out at my choice of 3 restaurants

3) Breakfast out at my choice of 3 restaurants

4) A pound of Swiss cheese

5) A loaf of bread

6) 2 fry pies

7) A 1/2 gallon of apple cider

8) A 3 oz fudge cup

9) A bottle of BBQ sauce

10) A timer candle

11) A personalized pen

12) A collectible ornament

13) A pair of socks

14) Two popcorn balls

15) A leather coin purse

16) A dusting cloth

17) A stainless steel mixing spoon

18) A Swiss Heritage wine glass

19) 2 votive candles

   I did this last February, and loved it. All of the items are in stores scattered all over the area. When you check in, you get an envelope with coupons and a map where all of the stores are. I most likely won't go after the socks..... I wasn't impressed with the ones they had last year, and it is really out of the way. But the rest..... bring on the Amish scavenger hunt!

11) There is a lot of praise and worship on Facebook.  Sadly, God is not the recipient of that P&W.

12) I did my taxes Saturday night, and though most likely my return won't be back before the trip, that is one thing I am doing with my return. :)

13) I really, really need to get away.......see #10 :)

14) I am still disgusted enough by the results of the GOP primary, that I may never vote again.....and will at least be changing to Independent. Never again will I be told I must vote for the GOP candidate because I am a Republican. Never.

15) Lately I have been wondering how involved Jesus would be in politics. Would He even vote? Would He endorse any candidate? Or would He be too busy with heavenly business to even pay attention.........

16) Why on earth do we need and use Roman numerals here in America? I should not have to work at figuring out the release date on a CD because they used Roman numerals. Seriously... what is the purpose??

17) I was working 2 12 hour days and 2 8 hour days with my new job, but we are changing to 4 10's....... and I am not happy.

18) I believe any Christian in this country who has kids in Boy Scouts needs to pull their kids out of it after this new insane decision by the Boy Scouts of America. A good option is Trail Life USA.

19) I'll be honest about Valentine's Day......for the first time in my life. The main part I don't like the day is because I can't date/marry/find love......because of the inconvenient fact that I am attracted to the wrong gender. And no, I am not bitter, nor do I have an intense hatred of the day. It just isn't a day I care much about, and truly is a day that I am reminded everywhere I look that I am single for life. Maybe I should have taken my trip on Valentine's Day.......

20) I really admire people who stay out of political discussions, and who no one has a clue who they voted for or didn't vote for. I may aim for that next election.

21) Speaking of politics, wouldn't it be awesome if you could filter out things you don't want to see on Facebook.....football, politics, praise of politicians you despise, memes asking you to type "Amen!" if you love Jesus........

22) What if the liberals and conservatives are both wrong on this immigration/refugee issue?

23) What if we look at things too much as Americans, and not as Christians?

24) I wish I could live in sweat pants and t-shirts. And sandals.

25) It amazes me that heterosexual men love to watch almost naked guys boxing or writing around on a mat...... it would seem a sport that gay guys would enjoy. I personally find it all barbaric and a bit gross.

26) Spring is 49 days 6 hours 59 minutes 40 seconds.... from the time of this post :)