Celebration

First of all, I will admit that as I wrote this Kool & The Gang’s song got stuck in my head. I was amazed at some of the comments I heard and read this past week concerning Memorial Day. Some have the opinion that if you have a barbeque, watch a baseball game, go to the lake, etc., you are disrespecting those who gave the ultimate for America. Having served 25 years in the military I disagree based on the character of the men and women I knew who gave their ultimate. They would be disrespected if we did not enjoy the freedom of doing those things with our family and friends—events they would certainly be a part of. The disrespect comes if we do not pause for a moment during those activities and thank them for their sacrifice. Ultimately, that is what they fought and died for—the freedom of individuals they love. Contrary to Hollywood or popular belief, the average military person does not focus on the federal government or an ideology while serving; they focus on the ones they love. If we miss that on Memorial Day, we miss the freedom and we miss their sacrifice.

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with having decorations, exchanging presents, or even sitting on Santa’s lap at Christmas, but if we miss the greatest gift of all in Jesus, we miss the purpose. There is nothing wrong with an egg hunt, or shopping for a new dress at Easter, but if we miss the Cross—we miss it all.

As a society we have become very comfortable with judging the actions, thoughts, and motives of others. For example, it turns my stomach when someone desecrates or disrespects our flag. But it is not illegal, indeed it is a protected freedom—so while I vehemently disagree with those who do such acts, I do not have the right to try to stop them (unless the particular flag is my personal property) or if they are a public figure I do have the right to boycott them.

With the advent of free social media, it seems just about everyone has become a professional commentator on political, legal, and societal issues. Again, I have the right to disagree, but I do not have the right to try to stop those I disagree with. I do have the right to decide about a person’s character and the amount of trust I will give them based on how they express themselves. I will offer a little unsolicited advice on this; before you put out the vulgarity and hatred to the internet world you might ask yourself would you say that to your mom or to a teacher in the classroom?

I find it interesting in churches when the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is served that people most often look solemn or even sad. It’s a celebration! Jesus is telling us to celebrate the new covenant and remember Him and He was facing the most horrific execution in history. Luke 22:17-20 tells us, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.””

Notice what Jesus did first—He gave thanks. No matter our occasion or celebration, we need to give thanks. Even at those times when our hearts are burdened, we need to give thanks. Let’s call it “appropriate celebration” as long as I am not infringing on you, don’t judge me on how I choose to remember certain events—rather let’s pause and give thanks for the purpose of the celebration. In that we can find common ground.

The Invisible Door

Earlier this week I had the joy of spending some time with my almost 10-month old grandson, Tristan. He is a very observant and curious boy and wanted to look out the front door. As I held him, he reached out his hands and touched the glass door. There was a look of amazement in his eyes as he continued to investigate this invisible phenomenon. He was touching something solid but could not see it. He could see the outside world but could not experience it. He could see the power of the wind blowing the trees but could not feel it. He looked to me a few times with a “how does that work Grandpa?” question. About all I could think of is that I know glass is a combination of sand, lime, and soda and requires lots of heat. Other than that, I don’t have an answer, but I do know glass is real, it has a purpose, and it works.

In my faith journey I find myself at times asking the questions of “God are You even there?” and “God why are You allowing this?”. These questions typically come up when I am struggling with or cannot understand something going on. I lean on the words of Jesus in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”, but I still struggle in my journey. Just as Tristan did with the glass; sometimes I do not see God, I do not experience God, and I do not feel God.

Tristan, being a very smart boy (yes, I’m a bragging Grandpa when it comes to my two grandsons) had a plan. He left a marker on the invisible door, his fingerprints. So, when we went back, he had a point of reference to what he was seeking to see, experience, and feel. The second visit to the invisible door was much different than the first. He saw his fingerprints and deducted what was going on. He was no longer occupied with trying to figure out the invisible force but rather enjoyed seeing what was happening beyond it. He belly-laughed watching two squirrels chasing each other, marveled at a hummingbird going to our feeder, and enjoyed the nice spring breeze when I opened the invisible door.

When it comes to our faith, we can leave a marker to help when we have doubts, are confused, and are struggling—it’s called Scripture. One such marker for me is Hebrews 11:1 which reminds me, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When I seek the invisible God, I clearly see Him. I see Him through other people. I see Him in His created nature. I can touch Him, experience Him, and feel His presence. I encourage you to find some Scriptures that being you in closer relationship with the Father—it will change your life!

Uncivility

When did the people of our society become so uncivil toward each other? It’s either you agree with me or you are my enemy!

Seemingly honest, rational conversations about our disagreements are rare. I cannot watch news shows when there is more than one person because all they do is talk over each other, neglecting that important part of communication called listening. Social media is anything but “social” if you factor in Webster’s definition of “social” as being “marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates.”

I have great difficulty listening to politicians, celebrities, and other people who have the public stage (including religious leaders) who talk down to people, are condescending, and are not willing to discuss opposing views with mutual respect.

I started by asking the question “When did the people of our society become so uncivil toward each other?” The answer, I believe, is we always have. Ever since Cain murdered Abel there has been uncivility! Perhaps it is because nearly everyone can have their opinion heard more now than ever through technology.

However, as a nation we have witnessed the best and the worst of being divided and coming together. The Civil War had brother killing brother, neighbor killing neighbor, countrymen killing fellow countrymen. Peal Harbor and 9-11 showed a nation putting their differences aside and coming together for a common cause.

I am not purporting anyone not be passionate about their ideas and expressing them—even when I disagree—you will disagree with me—that is not a free pass to be uncivil towards each other. I will stand up for and defend the ideas outlined in the Declaration of Independence starting with “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

I would be happy to have a civil discussion with anyone who would like to listen to what those three concepts resonate with me and I will return that courtesy.

As I try to do, I looked into what God has to say about this. Ecclesiastes 10:12 sums up the key to uncivility quite nicely, “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”

Jerry Can Part 2

Well I survived the Jerry Can challenge. But the experience instilled in me even more motivation to do what I can for these people, because believe me I would not want to have to do that every day! Ever since I got involved with World Vision, I have had sympathy for the people we support—I now have empathy and am moved more than ever to take action.

Bear with me, but I want to share a K by K (kilometer) account of how I remember this experience:

1K – Like any race my adrenaline was pumping! Three of us were doing this challenge, we were fresh and excited. Our group had just prayed for us and cheered us as we got our Jerry Cans and took off first. This was about strategy: “How do I best carry this can and what pace should I take?” It was a trial and error time; I quickly learned no technique made it any lighter and even a slow jog was not an option.

2K – I was already feeling the physical effects and asking myself why I made the decision to do this. Most people driving by looked at me with a “what is this idiot doing?” reaction.  Team members were passing me and giving me encouragement and that was very welcome.

3K – My muscles were on fire and my arms were screaming and then God appeared. He appeared in the form of three men who I am pleased to say are my brothers in Christ. They not only offered encouragement, they offered physical help—I took both!

4K – These three men were steadfast in helping me. One of the “rules” of the challenge was that I had to keep my hand on the Jerry Can even when receiving assistance—I did that but these men were basically carrying me at this point—my body and mind were depleted—but not my faith and determination to finish!

5K – I was basically in survival mode at this point. This had been the most physically and mentally demanding event I have ever done. But thinking of the people who do that every day literally for survival motivated me and with my brothers continuing to walk every step with me gave me strength. Then a couple people who had already finished the race came back to us and offered me a clean bottle of water. I almost felt guilty but took it and it was the best water I have had in my life. It not only hydrated me, but it truly represented the Living Water – Jesus.

6k – The brother and sister who brought the water also stayed with us and helped carry the Jerry Can to the finish line—we ran the last 100 yards with it!

Post Race: I thought I was going to pass out. But people came to me with water, bananas, and other items to help me. I doubt if those who carry that can daily get that. It was a horrible and wonderful experience at the same time. I celebrated with all those around me because all of us showed not only sympathy, or empathy, but we took action. I wanted to start this blog that afternoon, but my hands were so cramped, I could not.

This October I will be running the Kansas City Marathon (26.2 miles just so you know how crazy I am). I am running it to raise funds for World Vision so that maybe some people around the world won’t have cramped hands from carrying a jug of dirty water. I would certainly appreciate your support, but more importantly those children and families suffering would appreciate your support.  https://www.teamworldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&ParticipantID=198566

The scriptural motivation for today’s blog is found in James 2:14-20. Please read it and listen to what God is saying specifically to you. “14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. 20You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”

Jerry Can Part 1

As an aspiring author I truly believe I need to challenge my boundaries every time I have the opportunity to expand my outlook on life. This Saturday I will be taking part in a 6K run (3.7 miles) in support of World Vision with the goal of providing clean, safe drinking water world-wide in the name of Jesus Christ.

I got involved with this organization last year, ran the Kansas City Half-Marathon as a fund-raiser, and decided to sponsor a child—his name is Osman. The more I have learned of this global situation the more it touches my heart. A lot of people, myself included, complain and have sympathy about the situations people are in, particularly when it is no fault of their own. Complaining and being sympathetic does the individual no good when they are thirsty or hungry, if we do not provide them water and food. Believe me, 12-year-old Osman does not choose to walk 6K everyday just do get water that will not kill him.

I know I cannot change the world, but I can change a life. Osman is not only drinking safe water now, he is learning about the Living Water—Jesus Christ (John 7:37-39).

Back to this Saturday. I signed up and did some fund raising for the 6K. Well it must be pleasing to God because Satan has tried to strike me down with one physical aliment after the other, thus messing with my training plan! But I pressed on, conceding my race time will not be something I will be particularly pleased with, but knowing the goal was to just finish and remain focused on the mission.

And then it happened! Our team captain sent an email asking for a couple volunteers to add to their race challenge by carrying a water-filled Jerry Can during the race. A Jerry Can is what these people use to get their water and when full it weighs more than 40 pounds. At first, I chuckled at the request thinking I just want to finish the race—God had a different plan! The request weighed on my heart throughout the day and God convicted me with Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

I have only deeply contemplated that Scripture twice in my life; when I became an ordained minister and now. So, I am convinced God means it and will give the provisions for me to fulfill His will even when I do not understand it.

Saturday I will be traveling 6K with a Jerry Can along with a picture of 11-year-old boy named Tariku from Ethiopia on my race bib and the confidence that God does not send us into something that does not honor and glorify Him.

There is still time for you to put your Jerry Can on your shoulder and support this cause. If you can, please go to the below link—any amount would be greatly appreciated. God bless

https://www.teamworldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&ParticipantID=177130