Be that friend…

August 5, 2020

In yesterday’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote that was setn to him by one of his followers – “Everyone needs a friend who will call up and say, Get dressed; we’re going on an adventure.”  (Sent by Andy Bezenah)

That sentiment is especially true in today’s COVID-19 environment, although it might have to be changed to read, “Grab your mask; we’re going on an adventure.”

One of the bad side effects of the pandemic has been the isolation of so many people, especially the elderly. Many were probably already somewhat isolated by other health issues; however, the need to social distance because of the Corona Virus has taken that isolation to a whole new level.

For the younger, who might be more tech savvy, it was an easier shift to the world of Zoom meetings and other forms of contactless communications. Many of the elderly don’t even have a wireless phone, much less a smart one and many do not have access to a computer, much less one that is on the Internet. For these people, the requirements imposed by the pandemic have been like a sentence of solitary confinement. Perhaps they see one or two people a day or on occasion. Maybe they see the Meals on Wheel driver or an orderly at their facility, but that is not the same as a visit with a friend.

If the person that you are thinking of is confined to a care facility there is little that you can do to visit or take them anywhere right now; however, a phone call and a chat might make their day. If they are still living at home a visit might work, even if you have to sit on the porch at a safe distance to have a conversation. For a few, who might be in good health and willing, picking them up for a short trip (an adventure) would be a great way to liven up their day. Just remember to mask up and have hand sanitizer available.

Whatever way you and your friend feel comfortable getting together (in person or electronically), the important thing is that do it. Your “adventure” may involve nothing more than a lively conversation or a rousing round of reminiscing, but is will make both of you feel better.

Call someone you know today who may need to talk to someone else. Be adventurous if you and they feel safe to do so and go visit with them; otherwise, just have a nice long call with them.

Be that friend.


You’ve got to look for it…

July 30, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Be happy, not because everything is good, but because you can see the good in everything.”  (From CCS)

It is not always easy to see the good in people or situations that arise during the day. In fact, the easy way out is to just see and react negatively to the bad that you might encounter. It is unfortunately that so many (and I include myself in this group) tend to take the easy way out. We dismiss the hateful or unhappy people that we encounter without taking the time to think about what may be making them angry, hateful or unhappy, Moreover, because it is so easy to just dismiss them and move on, we seldom even consider what we could do to help them or to change their mindset. In the case of situations, it is often easier to bypass them than to try to resolve them in a good way.

Avoiding situations and people is certainly not a way to happiness; perhaps not even a way to avoid unhappiness. Spending the time and mental effort to find the good that is in people and situations forces us not only to think about what we are facing, but also to reflect on the reactions that we are having to them.  We need to understand and deal with our own feelings of fear or dislike or disgust first, before we can begin to take any positive actions or see the good in the situation.

We label some people  as Pollyanna’s because they always see the good, are always happy and seldom react negatively to people or situations. They are happy people, no matter what. Others might be called a “Gloomy Gus” or “Negative Nellie”, because they see the bad in almost everything. They are seldom happy people.  Most of us are somewhere in the middle, if those two extremes define  a spectrum. Whether you tend toward the Pollyanna end or the Gloomy Gus end sort of defines what people see in you as you react to the world around you.

The good news is that we have some control over ourselves and over the perceptions that others will have of us.  A simple technique is to stop and ask yourself the question, “Where is the good in all of this?”  Try to see the good in that person that you just encountered before letting stereotypes and prejudices take over your reaction to them. Look for the best possible outcome to a situation, before getting defensive about a possible negative outcome. To find and see the good, you have to look for it.

Just building that pause and reflection into your life will make an immediate change. Prejudices are built upon unsubstantiated and unthinking reactions to people, based largely on initial visual cues – color, hairstyle, tattoos, nose rings, clothing and other factors can cause immediate reactions.  Stop! Think! Do not allow yourself to react based solely upon those cues. Realize that those cues are triggers and the preconceived notions attached to them that have baked themselves into your brain are trying to control you. In most cases, that reaction tries to happen before you have even spoken to that person. Stop it! Look for the good. Say hello. Be friendly. Surprise yourself and you may be surprised at the good person that you have just met.

Today, before you start out, stop, look in the mirror and tell yourself that you will look for the good in people and in the situations that unfold in your life. Make that conscious effort in each encounter or situation to stop and look for the good. See if you aren’t a happier person at the end of that day. Then repeat.

If you look for the good, you will find it.


Be on the bestseller list…

July 29, 2020

Today’s installment of the blog Jack’s Winning Words illustrates how the lives that we live tell a story that others evaluate and learn from- he called it our Gospel.

Jack used a quote from Mother Theresa, who wrote –  “I’m a little pencil in God’s hand.” She certainly wrote a best seller with her life of work among the poor of India.

Jack also referenced a poem by Paul Gilbert –

“You are writing a Gospel,

A chapter each day,

By deeds that you do,

By words that you say.

Men read what you write,

Whether faithless or true;

Say, what is the Gospel

According to you?”

While other men may evaluate you by the story of your life; it is most often the children in our lives who learn from that story. What will your children learn from the Gospel according to you?

Some books are banned, especially for children, because their content is inappropriate for young minds. Others are best sellers or required reading because he story is so good and the lessons to be learned are so powerful. Which would you rather the story of your life to be?

Many families have someone in the family tree that they just don’t talk about or talk about only in whispers, so that the children don’t overhear. These are not the role models that are held up to the children to emulate, but rather the bad examples to be avoided. Their Gospel is one of shame.

So what is the Gospel according to you? What things are you writing in your Gospel today that you want your children to learn from? Would you be proud to see that your gospel is being read or would you have to caution, “Don’t do what I did?”

The best way to write a bestseller with your life is to be like Mother Theresa and let God guide your pencil. Maybe you can add to your prayers, “God please guide my actions today so that they may make a great chapter in the Gospel of my life.”

Not all of us will have the opportunity, time or commitment to do the things that Mother Theresa did; but all of us are given the opportunity to live a life that we can be proud of and one that others may learn from by doing the right things and the things that we can to help others. So sharpen your pencil before venturing out today (thru prayer)  and get yourself ready to write things in your Gospel that you will be proud to have others read.

Ask God to help you be on the bestseller list.


With God’s help, be the storm…

July 27, 2020

Today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog proved to be the perfect set up to use a quote that I saved from an earlier post. In today’s post Pastor Freed used this quote –

“God sometimes does His work with a gentle drizzle, not storms.”  (John Newton)

We sometimes only think of God, or call on Him, when life gets stormy. Hopefully, for most of us life isn’t all that rough and God comes into our lives in the more gentle settings of loving and faithful homes or in our Sunday School classes and church services.

But, for some, life may seem to be a constant battle with storms all around buffeting and tossing them. Perhaps it is the demands of their jobs or the obligations that they have at home. Maybe it something like the Corona Virus Pandemic upending everything else that they had to hold onto in life. Whatever it is they can begin to feel like warriors engaged in constant battle. Many of our front line health care workers probably feel that way each day as they head into work.

For those who feel embattled, seeking God’s help allows them to take up the mantle of the warrior and face the storm anew each day. For those people another quote from Jack’s blog has stuck for some time in the back of my mind –

“Fate whispers to the warrior ‘you cannot withstand the storm’ … the warrior whispers back ‘I am the storm.’” (Author Unknown)

Saying a little prayer before heading into battle with whatever you are facing each day can provide you with the armor, shield and sword of God to help you be the warrior you need to be. We read in Ephesians 6:10-18 about the armor of God.

So, before heading out today check the mirror; not to see if your hair is OK or your tie is straight, but to take the time to say a little prayer and  make sure that you have God’s armor on.

Who or what can stand against you and God?

Be a warrior. Whisper to yourself – “I am the storm”.


What would you save?

July 25, 2020

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it all the time is love.”  (Tennessee Williams)

Williams’ comparison of life to a burning building may be a bit dramatic; but, it serves the purpose of asking the question, “what is important to you…what would you save?”

When people who have faced a disaster like a fire or a flood  are interviewed on TV they are often asked what they took with them from their homes. Aside from pets, the answers most often given concern family pictures or other memorabilia that related to family, such as a family Bible. Those are objects that relate to the history of the family. As the interview goes deeper and looks to the future the love that was salvaged from the disaster is most often mentioned – loved ones who were spared and the love of the town or area in which they reside. It is hard for some to understand why someone who has been flooded out multiple time continues to want to rebuild and go on living in that same location. Simply put, they love it there.

The perpetually burning building that we find ourselves in today is fueled by the Corona Virus Pandemic. Everything has changed, yet all is still physically the same. The flames of this disaster have signed our lifestyles and destroyed most of the patterns and traditions that we enjoyed. Having stripped away almost everything else that we used to do, the flames of this virus now lick away at our relationships, hoping to also interfere with them. It is most important that we not let that happen; that we remain strong in our love and support for one another, even in cases where we cannot be together.

There is probably not a more poignant scenario than a spouse having  to say goodbye outside a hospital emergency entrance and watching their loved one be wheeled into the building, not knowing if they will ever see them alive again. At that moment, all they have left from the  burning building is their love.

 For most of us, life does not come to that; however, it is important to think about what is important to you and what you would take with you. If you come to any other conclusion than your love for those who are important in your life – parents, siblings, spouses and your children ,friends – I would encourage you to rethink your priorities in life. All of the wealth, possessions or power in the world is not worth losing the love of someone important in your life. Hold on tightly to that most precious possession during this current conflagration.

There is no greater example of love when faced with a life or death choice than God’s decision to let his only son die on a cross, so that we might be saved. If God  loved us so much that he would do that, how can we not heed his commandment to love one another and care for one another? How can we not share that love? We have so many simple ways to show and share that love, like wearing a mask to protect others, practicing good hygiene and social distancing so that we do not spread the virus. The building is on fire. Let’s save and share God’s love.

Let us also not forget that love when those who refuse to take the recommended measures to protect others confront us. They, perhaps more than anyone in a mask, need to see God’s love in action. Turn the other cheek and offer them a mask. If they refuse that, tell them that you will pray for them. If they scoff at that, tell them that you see that you will have to pray harder and wish them well.

The building is burning. What will you save?


Change the ending…

July 24, 2020

In the post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today Pastor Freed used this quote – “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”  (Sent by Robin Klehr)

Pastor Freed talked about not wasting your time on the “coulda”, “woudla”, “shoulda”s of life, but rather refocusing upon the “gonna” that is right in front of you. We often spend too much of our lives regretting the things that we might have done differently in the past and not enough time thinking about doing things differently in the future. Freed recommended saying to yourself, ”with God’s help I’m gonna…”

One needs to deal with the fact that in the instances in your life when you coulda, woulda, shoulda, you didn’t. The best way to deal with that is to forgive yourself and move on to the gonnas that are still ahead of you. For people who cannot find a way to forgive themselves the ending is often depression or worse – suicide. Those are endings that must be changed.

In his post, Pastor Freed prefaced the words “I’m gonna” with the phrase “with God’s help” and that is the best way to begin. Every week in our church service (now on video during the Corona Virus Pandemic) one of the first things that we do is a confession of sins and an ask for forgiveness. It is easy to understand that one’s coulda, woulda, shoulda’s are sins of either commission or omission – we state it as “things done and left undone”.  After admitting our sins the Pastor exercises his authority, thorough Jesus Christ, to forgive them.

If that sounds simple, it is; but it is also powerful. Let me share with you’re the prayer that we recite together as a congregation –

We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

Let those words sink into your mind and your heart. Doesn’t that about cover the things that have been bothering you; the things that keep you up at night? If those things were forgiven, couldn’t you forgive yourself and move on?

Now imagine that God  or the Pastor has replied – “Your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ.” At that point, all of your coulda, woulda, shoulda’s are gone, in the past, forgiven. You can start to focus upon the gonna’s that God has empowered you to experience. You have changed the ending. You have a future that you can control.

You don’t have to wait for the Sunday service video (This week available at https://youtu.be/qDbi-vs-UyY). You can do this in the privacy of your home. Use our prayer, if that helps; but get whatever it is that is bothering out on the table and ask God forgive you, so that you can also forgive yourself.

Change the ending in your life. Now, what are you gonna do?


Our spinning kaleidoscopes…

July 22, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote -“Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change and all patterns alter.”  (Sharon Salzberg) 

Well, the Coronas Virus has certainly set the kaleidoscopes of our lives spinning. Let’s be honest, nothing in our lives has been the same since this pandemic started and each day brings new news that spins the kaleidoscope again and changes all of the patterns of our lives again.

Some change in life is probably good. Those changes keep life interesting; however, the Corona Virus is not just some change it is almost total change. The changes have come so fast and been so pervasive and persistent that it has resulted in many of us having a hard time keeping some point of reference for stability purposes.  It has left us with little from the past to hold onto. It is as if we had been snatched from our old world and plunked down on some new planet where we didn’t recognize anything and were all of the rules were different. In addition, we don’t recognize many of the other inhabitants of this new world, because they are wearing masks. Even my phone doesn’t recognize me when I wear my mask.

In this disconcerting environment it is all the more important to hold onto the one thing that has not and cannot be affected by this virus – our faith.

As with many other things in life, we may not understand how or why God could let this happen to us. It is not ours to understand God, but rather to just continue to believe in Him. Perhaps the most comfort during these times can be found in the Bible –

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

-AND-

Philippians 4:6-8 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Always remember that in the midst of changes that have been so great as to make our heads spin, we can count on one thing –

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Focus upon Christ as the world around you spins and He will give you the stable point of reference that you need to be able to deal with the changes.

Look at all of the pretty patterns that are unfolding around Jesus.


You are free to do something right…

July 21, 2020

As often happens with the quotes that I collect from the Jack’s Winning Words blog, the quote that Pastor Freed used today goes well with the one from yesterday when one puts them in juxtaposition.

Today Jack used a quote from a former Senate Chaplain – “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”  (Rev Peter Marshall)

And, yesterday he used one from a civil rights icon –

“When you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, you have to say something, to do something.”  (John Lewis)

Both men were championing the same message – do something, take action to right the wrongs that one sees.

Senate Republicans once tried to remove Reverend Marshall because they thought his prayers about making right the issues that he saw in America were too political. John Lewis was often attacked by the right for his relentless work to right the injustices of racism in America.

We see almost nightly on the news people who feel like they have the right to do as they please and the heck with the rest of us. They refuse to wear a face covering and pull guns on people who try to correct them. They loudly declare that all people of color are racists, looters and murderers. They see things that they know are not right, but they do nothing to stop it or correct it. They are free to do what is right, but they do not. Let’s not let their bad example rule the day. You are free to do something right.

Quite often, I’ve seen signs being carried in rallies or protests that proclaim “Freedom is not Free”. Those signs usually also show pictures of wounded soldiers who went to battel and fought to maintain our freedom. What they don’t state is that freedom also carries with it obligations; obligations that one must accept towards their fellow citizens. Those obligations to act responsibly and obey the laws of the land are there to insure the safety, peace and freedom of everyone. You are free to do something right.

We do not live in an anarchy. If we accept the fact that we live in an organized society, because there are benefits to us from that organization and structure; we must also accept that we must live within the rules of that society, in order to accrue those benefits. The structure and rules of our society impose costs upon us in the form of taxes or bills for goods and services that we enjoy. If one wished to live outside of that structure there are still places that one could go – just watch a few episodes of Alaska Bush People for an example. You are free to do something right.

So, we are free within the rules of our society. We are also free to do what is right, which both Marshall and Lewis pointed out. For many people, being free means free to do nothing (to stare at their shoes) when we see or experience an injustice. Whether out of fear or apathy, that seems to be the choice for too many in our society. It is more convenient for them to look the other way or to cross over and walk on the other side of the road (see Luke 10:25-37) than to stop and help or stop and do something to create change. You are free to do something right.

For some the thought is that “it doesn’t affect me, so why should I get involved?” The fact is that everything in any society affects all I that society is some way. Wrongs left un-righted fester and eventually boils over. Injustices rob the society of the potential good that could have been accomplished by the falsely accused. A lack of diversity within the business organizations and government structure of a society lead to a less vibrant, drab and colorless environment. You are free to do something right.

Right now, we are facing the threat of the Corona Virus as a society. Our medical experts and most government leaders have agreed that wearing a face covering  when in public is, if one is able to do so,  a good thing that will help slow the spread of the virus. Yet we still have people loudly proclaiming their right and freedom to ignore the needs of society and their fellow members. Take John Lewis’ advice and say something or do something when you see that. Remember  that you have rights too –  You are free to do something right.


Do the math – share the love…

July 20, 2020

In one of his posts, Pastor Freed used this quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“Love multiplies and adds as we divide it with others.”  (Arthur C. Nelson) 

Love is one of those wonderful things that has no downside – no minus (I couldn’t resist the play on the quote).

There is a quote from Martin Luther King on one of the signs that our church had made to share with others – “Love is the only force strong enough to turn and enemy into a friend.”

We most often think of the word love within the context of family or romance, or maybe friendship. Take a moment to think of it within the context of your religious beliefs. God loved us so much that he gave his only son to come to earth, live among us and die for us and to forgive our sins. That is a love well beyond what we normally think of when we hear the word. It is also a different kind of love that asks nothing of us and requires nothing from us. It is a love that, once you internalize it, can be shared with others through your life.

It is often said of dogs that they share an unconditional love with their owners. Marriages that last are often based upon a love, which while maybe not quite unconditional, is forgiving, understanding and supportive. That kind of love puts the wellbeing and the happiness of the partner above the needs or desires of self and it definitely adds to the marriage.

The kind of love that the quote talks about is what He was alluding to when Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. As we love our neighbors, that love multiples and adds quality to our lives. It makes them and us feel better. It promotes peace and happiness in our lives.

So, do the math and share the love.


Are we willing to pay the price?

July 14, 2020

In a post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people.”  (Saul Alinsky)

Right now, it feels like the price of democracy is an endless squabble between polar opposites, each intent upon destroying the other. There are many issues that the politicians in Washington should be able to agree upon, like fixing our decaying infrastructure and providing equal opportunity for all to succeed; however, agreement almost always breaks down over the issue of how to pay for those things. One side wants to tax the well off to help those less fortunate and the other side says, “I got mine, you go get your own and leave mine alone.” There is an almost total lack of any sense of “the common good”. In fact, one side has labeled that sense of the common good as “Socialism” and attached a stigma to that label.

It is a shame that so many people who self-identify as Christians at the same time reject the basic tenants of Christ to love thy neighbor as yourself. Repeatedly in the Bible we are admonished to take care of those in need and to help those less fortunate than us. It does not say, “I’ve got mine, you go get your own.”

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth.”  –  (1 John 3:17-18)

-and-

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” – (Proverbs 21:13)

I suspect that were he alive, saying and doing the things that he did back then, Jesus would be labeled a Socialist; especially if he said –

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  – (Philippians 2:4)

So the question becomes, is that Socialism or the price of democracy in looking after the common good? Is the availability of healthcare services for all a Socialist idea or something that is the common good? Is providing an education and equal opportunity to all of our children a Socialist idea or something that promotes the common good. Does insuring equal justice for all mean we have become Socialists or just that we have recognized that it as a key component of the common good.

If the key roadblock to agreement on providing these things is who will pay for them, have we become like the rich man who wandered away from Jesus when he was told he must sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. He left because he had many possessions and could not bring himself to give them up. He put his money and his possessions above doing the right things for the common good. He was unwilling to pay that price.

Not even the most ardent Socialists are espousing that you must give all that you have to help the poor; however, they are asking that everyone, especially the rich, give to support the common good of all. For the rich that price will be larger, because they have much to begin with; but for all there is a price we must pay to support the common good.

Recently we have been challenged as a nation by a virus that seeks to do harm to our common good. This far, many have not shown the willingness to pay the price (wearing masks, social distancing and good hygiene) for the common good. Those who refuse are essentially removing themselves from the common good and saying to the rest of us, “I’ve got my health; you go get your own.”

The choice is ours to make, like the choice give to the rich man by Jesus. Do we do what is right for the common good or do we wander off mumbling to ourselves about the price being too high, like the rich man. In this case, the mumbling will likely be caused by trying to talk while on a ventilator. I choose to make the sacrifices that I am ask to make for the common good of us all.

Mask up people!