This Fall, Let’s Be Real But Stay Positive

As the new fall semester begins, I wonder if it’s time to rethink our social network strategy. I wonder if we’re being a bit jaundiced to complain about Face Book and Instagram (Twitter, etc—fill in the many blanks here) being platforms for attempting to make our friends think we’re perfect. Really? Sure, we see photos of holidays and happy anniversaries and trips and amazing birthday cakes (and huge donuts 🙂 ), but we also hear about tragic losses, upcoming surgeries, and requests for prayer support during difficult challenges. There may be a few of our friends who appear to be budding Martha Stewarts (for better or worse); some may need a little affirmation that they’re doing well, but isn’t that okay . . . and what friends are for? Can we take joy in the happiness of others and find pleasure in the good things of life they enjoy and want to share with us without feeling bad about our own lives? I hope so!

What about the “bad” stuff that gets shared? The emotional drama you wish they’d share with their BFFs only? The negative side of lives and loves? I’ve heard people complain that Face Book is used to denigrate others, relieve volcanic social pressure, go on the rampage about politics, or otherwise splatter venom on innocent bystanders.

Hollyhocks on Mackinac Island, Michigan

What’s the purpose of social media? How do we manage our online networks and resources without getting so frustrated we just quit? Here are a handful of suggestions to help keep our attitudes positive and compassionate while still being open and honest about our lives:

Rose of Sharon

*Be prayerful as we read, asking God to bless each person and meet their needs. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:9).

*Pray about what to share with others, and share for the sake of joyfully celebrating life together as well as sharing our burdens. Let’s take responsibility for thoughtful honesty and sincerity. “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).

Female Baltimore Orioles

*Don’t compare ourselves with others and reject any temptation to envy. No matter how good life is for someone, we can know they have their share of heartaches and pain too. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26).

*Reserve our deepest emotional and spiritual pains for our closest friends, and let’s resist sharing these on public media. Once something is written, it can never be completely erased from the memory of those who read it. “Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee” (Proverbs 2:11).

Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird

*Don’t depend on the response of others for our sense of worth. Each of us is loved by God more than we will ever comprehend! He is our maker, our redeemer, our savior, our anchor, and the only “One to watch!” in the sense of needing approval. Let’s keep God as the “apple of our eyes,” the focus of our love, the sunshine that makes our spirits bright! It is only as we center our lives in Him that we will be truly centered and stable. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

*As a young person, I heard that George Washington was taught to “Be kind to all, be friends with few, be intimate with one.” I cannot find the origin of this quote, but I think it’s excellent advice both at home and online! “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).

Honey bee collecting pollen from a budding Rose of Sharon

*Here is another quote by Ben Franklin that I think has merit in guiding social discourse, even though it’s over two centuries old (and I’m not sure how he defines “friend,” but it seems too narrow to be a friend to only one): “Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none” (Benjamin Franklin). “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).

Hope this helps! I am now going to have to make sure I practice what I preach, giving up any sense of being disappointed by who doesn’t respond to my Face Book or blog entries, remembering that each of my friends has many, many friends to keep up with and lots they want to share too! Blessings~

Becoming The Best of Enemies

“Change is Worth Fighting For”—The Best of Enemies

Jesus talked a lot about loving our enemies, which includes praying for them and allowing good to overcome evil in our lives . . . and hopefully—eventually—in their lives as well. One beautiful example of this is played out in the movie, The Best of Enemies. I absolutely LOVE this story and hope you all take the time to watch it!

The Best of Enemies is a new release (2019) based on the true story of what happened when a school for African American children burned down in Durham, North Carolina, back in 1971.

It’s a PG-13 (which I think it very appropriate), and the language is rough . . . but so was the community.

The confrontation was over integration.

Taraji P. Henson in the role of Ann Atwater

The contestants were Ann Atwater, who was a black civil rights activist,

Sam Rockwell portraying C.P. Ellis

and C. P Ellis, the president of the local Ku Klux Klan.

The venue was a 10-day “charrette,” where the leaders and team members on both sides of the issue were forced to work together to solve the problem through discussion and information gathering in the city.

The prize: Well, to integrate or not to integrate was the question, but the prize was much greater, as we learned from the movie!

If you’re looking for a movie with a happy ending where “love wins,” this is one of those rare and wonderful times when good really did overcome evil! This movie has won all sorts of awards and received twelve Emmy nominations. Even the real families who were involved were happy about the way it turned out, so that makes it a win-win, and if you watch it and find it increases your understanding, empathy, and love for both blacks and whites, then it will be a win-win-win for all of us!

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:13-19).

Thoughts on the Value of Giving

Having just spent four beautiful weeks enjoying our children and grandchildren (including our youngest grand child’s first birthday, which was yesterday), I want to add just a few more miscellaneous thoughts on the joy of giving and the rewards that come to us for sharing what we have with others:

“Those who are happiest and those who do the most for others” (Booker T. Washington).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill).

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

“It is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi).

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” (Albert Einstein)

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give” (Ben Carson).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank).

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” (Charles Dickens).

“If we want to know our God-given gits, we must know the giver” (Eric Samuel Timm).

“You can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts, so I want to celebrate Jesus” (Lecrae).

“Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” (Joyce Meyer).

Giving isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege!

The greatest joy in life is finding God’s love and sharing it with others!

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (Good News Translation of the Bible).

Just an Itsy Bitsy Mouse

What’s not to love about a tiny mouse? Bright black eyes, pink ears and tail, tiny little paws. Soft and shy.

While they’re adorable when you find them out in the field, and it’s somewhat funny to find an old boot stuffed full of dog food that they’ve stolen from your pet’s dish,

it’s not adorable or funny when they confer with the mice of NIHM on how to colonize your screen house and start chewing holes in your home!

Therefore, we’ve had to resort to capturing them in live traps and taking them to a nearby reserve where we set them free to begin life anew in a vast park with ample supplies of all things mousely.

Alan and I have started making little dates out of our evening adventures, but—despite transporting them to new and improved surroundings—I always feel a little sad in case we’re separating parents and children (or whatnot), and so I make up stories about how this mouse is actually the husband, who is going to build a new nest in preparation for his beloved wife . . .

who will be arriving just in time for dinner tomorrow. In fact, over the past few months, Alan has caught myriad mice and chipmunks between his 6 live traps laden with peanut butter and bird seed . . . an apparently irresistible combination!

I have such a mother’s heart for little creatures that it’s hard to relocate them, but I’m thankful that Alan has a father’s heart to protect our home from intruders, even little ones, because they are actually quite destructive and dirty.

Remembering Song of Solomon 2:15 has helped me reconcile myself to the fact that “we ain’t in heaven yet,” and if we don’t protect ourselves from invasion, the consequences can be severe. “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

We do have lots of tender grapes growing now, and possibly a fox or two in our woods, but even more importantly, I think there is a spiritual message for us in this passage.

Mice aren’t bad, and chipmunks aren’t bad. Neither are mosquitoes, spiders, flies, ants, or stinkbugs. But, if they invade our homes, then they are out of place and need to be captured and removed!

It’s easy to imagine the parallels in our lives and families, isn’t it? Got anything in your life that isn’t “bad” in and of itself, but will erode and damage your home if you don’t remove it? Maybe you can start having some nightly dates with your spouse to “catch” those sneaky little foxes and get rid of them! Don’t be sentimental. Be severe!! Protect yourself and your loved ones!

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” (2 Corinthians 10:3-7).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (31): Rejoice and Leap for Joy!

If there was ever a teaching of Jesus that you’d think everyone would be happy to comply with, it’s his directive in Luke 20:23 to rejoice and leap for joy! Right?

Well, maybe sometimes, but not when you read the context. The idea of rejoicing and leaping for joy brings to mind Jesus lying in a grassy meadow, basking in the sunshine of his father’s love with nary a care in the world . . . and I’ll bet there were a few times when Jesus felt just that happy and content. But, probably not too often after he began his public ministry when he was thirty. During those three years, he fully engaged with the people around him and began introducing the message of the Kingdom of God, which turned the contemporary cultural mores inside out and the world upside down.

Church at Mount of Beatitudes today

What did Jesus teach? Among other things, he taught what are today known as “The Beatitudes,” those states of being which cause God to bless us. These are not based on accomplishments but attitudes and conditions that most of us would consider very difficult: being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and then three P’s: being pure, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted.

Probably all of the conditions listed in the Beatitudes lead upward and build on each other, but the last three are especially obvious in their cause and effect relationships. First, we need to be pure. If we are not, we’ll have no insight or incentive to be peacemakers. (Think about corruption in government and law enforcement.)

However, those who understand and ascribe to the goodness of purity will also try to make peace with others. In the event the “others” have no desire to live in purity and desire the freedom to live immoral lives, they will confound attempts at peace and eventually turn in anger on the pure in heart, persecuting the pure for not approving their ungodly life styles.

We see this (sadly) in America today, where sins that were condemned historically are now becoming so commonplace that people are persecuted for saying the behaviors are wrong! Jesus turned the world upside down, but now the world is trying to right itself by condemning the Bible as outmoded and no longer valid! “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

(Garden on the Mount of the Beatitudes,
where it is believed Jesus taught the beatitudes.)

If you find yourself confused by the changes in our culture, don’t be. Jesus forewarned us that this would happen, and He reminded us that our job is to continue faithfully following Christ, accepting the persecution that comes from trying to live a pure and peaceable life, knowing that you are in good company with those who came before us and were also rejected.

HOWEVER, one thing I’ve had to learn over and over again is that the first of the beatitudes come first: We need to understand our own poverty of spirit in order to be born again and enter the kingdom of heaven. We need to mourn over our sins and find the comfort that only God’s forgiveness provides. He need to learn meekness, so that we receive the blessing of experiencing unity with all mankind on earth. We need to continuously hunger and thirst after more righteousness so that we do become pure. Then, and only then, will be be in a position to be a true peacemaker!

A true peacemaker loves the sinner while hating the sin. He can accept the immoral person while rejecting their immoral actions. He can identify with, love, and grieve over fellow loved ones who are rejecting God and his ways. A peacemaker isn’t unkind. He isn’t mean. He respects. He doesn’t say derogatory things or do anything to harm someone else. His intention is always to express love and bring everyone together in the bond of peace. If this isn’t what you are doing or what you are seeing, then what you are doing or seeing is not Christian.

Nevertheless, Jesus made sure we understood that persecution for righteousness would come, and he tells us to do the opposite of what comes naturally. Just as being humble and seeking peace aren’t natural responses, neither is rejoicing in the midst of persecution! But, that’s what Jesus told us to do, not because we enjoy persecution, but so that we can find comfort in knowing that suffering for the sake of Christ is approved by God and he will bless us.

Texts for today’s meditation: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:20-23).

(Credits: All the photos are mine except for the painting of Jesus lying in a grassy field, which is used by permission of the artist, Yongsung Kim: Havenlight.com)

Invitation to Make America’s National Day of Prayer into an International Day of Prayer

In America, people will be gathering from one end of the country to the other by twos and thousands today crying out to God for the 331+ million people who live in our country to find and share the love of God with one another. If you live in Southwest Michigan, please consider joining us at Crossroads Bible Church tonight. Wherever you live, there is most likely some group in your area (maybe in one of our country’s 350,000 churches) that will praying together today, and hopefully you can find the times and places online.

But, what about the rest of the 7,678,174,656+ people on our planet? No matter what country you’re from, if you’re reading this, will you join me in praying, not only for our nation, but for every person living around the world today? Can you imagine how the world would change if everyone really believed and practiced what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40? “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When my children were young, I taught them this concept as a jingle:

“Love the Lord above all else,
And love your neighbor as yourself.”

So easy to say, but so hard to do! I have found this to be the greatest challenge of my entire life, and yet, it would transform our world as no other single law could! No wonder it is called the “Royal Law” in James 2:8, “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.”

Are you with me? Will you pray with me?

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (—Jesus, as recorded in John 13:34-35).


We Can Do It!

Never Give Up!
 
Here we go again.
I thought I would be finished,
But I’m still not done. 

This was a playful photo was taken when our Birthday Club visited the Michigan History Museum in Lansing. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I have since! My petty personal problem (currently having a little finger still sporting external pins) pales in the light of the tribulations many people are enduring. Harder still are this world’s global concerns. I’ve recently finished Elie Weisel’s touching book, Open Heart . . . the reflections of an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and a Nobel Laureate. He thought that after World War II, people would learn from the devastation, and that oppression would cease, but this has not happened. The fight for right over wrong, good over evil, and life over death will go on as long as man lives on earth. Our job is to keep fighting and never give up!

Whatever our challenges, God is there and wants to help us. We are encouraged in the New Testament: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Some members of my family will be participating in an all-night prayer vigil at Moody in Chicago tonight. Come join in if you have time! God hears and responds to our earnest cries for help, and we citizens of earth need HELP!

Psalm 18, written by King David after he’d been delivered from his enemies, is (to me) the perfect example of how God wants us to approach Him for deliverance from troubles!

Psalm 18

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24 Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

28 For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

31 For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?

32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.

34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.

40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.

42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.

44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.

45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

46 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.

48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.