Who abandoned whom?

November 10, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed revisits an age-old question – “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes into hours?”  (Gordon Lightfoot, from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald song) 

The Lightfoot song paid homage to the tragic sinking of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior during a storm, but the sentiment of God somehow abandoning us in our times of need is the focus of that line. The real question, in my mind, is who abandoned whom in those times? Does God in fact let us down and leave us hanging out to suffer; or, did we wander away from our faith in God during those times?

It is so much easier to put your trust in faith in God during good times or times when there is no emergency or threat. It feels good to thank God for our good fortune; for being there with us or maybe just protecting us from making a mistake. But what if that mistake happened or we suffered an injury or maybe a loss. Why do we immediately think that God must have abandoned us?

God never promised us a life without setbacks. Indeed, He even said that our lives will be full of event or tests of our faith in Him. He also promised to be there without and not to test us beyond our abilities –

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)

But, the most important thing that he promises us is the one thing that should give us the greatest comfort during the trials that we may suffer – life after death. After all, most of us might imagine that the worst thing that could happen, the worst outcome of a hardship and the worst possible conclusion to the dilemma that we are in is that it kills us. If we steadfastly cling to our faith, even that outcome is not something to be feared.

It is not God who has abandoned us in times of great duress, but rather us who have wandered away from our faith in God. Therefore, one should not lament, “God why have you forsaken me?”, but rather pray, “God forgive me for my lapse of faith and return to me the trust in you during this difficult time.”

The good news for those who temporarily wander away from their faith during a time of hardship is that God is patient and relentless in His love for us – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

So, who abandoned whom? In answer to Gordon Lightfoot’s question in his song – God’s love didn’t go anywhere. God’s hand is always out to provide us the help that we need. You have but to turn and reach back to Him to receive His grace and help.

Have a great day in God’s hands!


Time to move on to the next game…

November 9, 2020

Pastor freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, this morning, “Let the healing begin.” (Joe Cocker song)

The same sentiment has been used by President-elect Biden himself and many others since he election was called in Biden’s favor. Certainly, it is important that the healing process take place in America – in our politics, in our rhetoric and in our actions. However, right now, in the minds of far too many people, those words sound like the sanctimonious trash-talk of the victor and not the olive branch that they were probably meant them to be.

Before the healing can begin, the anger in the environment needs to die down. Most times the sentiment on the losing side of any contest/conflict is one of disappointment. The high hopes of persevering to a victory had been dashed; however, if it was perceived as a fair fight, the loser must accept that he was bested that day and move on.

For some this election feels more like a lost football game where the refs made a bad call, or at least the fans think it was a bad call. That feeling was heightened throughout the election campaign by unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud or irregularities. The post-election feeling is most like the reaction to that pass interference call that wasn’t made on the last play of the game, – the play that would have led to victory. A missed call like that most often leads to anger, even if the replay shows it to have been the right call. Usually, in the sports world. by Wednesday of the next week fans have put the last game behind them and focuses upon the next game.

A major difference in this situation, of course, is that we are all in this game. The decisions that were made over the last four years affected us all and the decisions that will be made in the coming four years will affect our lives. Some may say, “Well those last four years under Trump didn’t kill me, so I guess I can survive the next four under Biden”. However, those last four years also contained the COVID-19 virus and many feel that the lack of an adequate National-level response to the pandemic did lead to the deaths of an awful lot of people. The campaign promises of Biden foreshadow a greatly different response to the pandemic – one requiring more sacrifice and discipline than we have yet shown as a nation.

Step one in our collective recovery is probably to admit that many are angry about the election outcome and perhaps more than a little afraid for their future. There is plentiful advice available about dealing with anger, such as

Think before you speak. …

Once you’re calm, express your anger. …

Get some exercise. …

Take a timeout. …

Identify possible solutions. …

Stick with ‘I’ statements (and not “They” statements). …

Use humor to release tension.

All of those things require that one regain control over themselves enough to actually do any of those things. Maybe “Take a timeout” should be at the top of the list.

Once people have curbed their anger a bit, they can move onto dealing with their fears. The advice to identify possible solutions is a great starting point for that. By doing that, you are empowering yourself to become a part of the solution and not to play the role of the victim. Unlike the mythical football game that I used as an example earlier, this “game” called life is never over. That one bad call that you think the refs made is last week’s news and the game goes on.

However, there is a role for everyone in this game, even supporters of opposing viewpoints and solutions. One can get to work supporting candidates for the next election, which for much of the legislative side of government is only two years away. There will be parades to march in again (hopefully next year). There will be local and state-level positions of influence that need to be filled. Of course, there will be tweets and Facebook posts to be made, videos to be uploaded to YouTube and TikTok and  blog posts to be written. These are things that one can be doing, beyond just being angry.

The “healing” that needs to begin is not the abandonment of the opposing views, but rather the reduction of anger and disappointment and finding ways to move on with new actions that one hopes will influence everyone in that direction. It’s sort of like being a loyal football fan of the team that just suffered a big defeat. You move on. You get ready for the next tailgate session and the next game in resolute hope that better days are just ahead.

Perhaps the words from Martin Luther King Jr. that are on a sign in my yard expresses what must be done now – “We must move on with an arduous faith in the future.” Keep the faithit’s Wednesday in America – it’s time to move on. There is a bright future ahead and another game next weekend.


DISCONNECTED…

November 7, 2020

I’ve been trying for some time to put my finger on how to describe the feelings that I have about the current state of things in the world and in my life. The word “disconnected” keeps popping up and I think it is perfect to describe that feeling. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s world upside down and for all of us it has led to disconnects. Disconnects from our normal work world. Disconnects from our normal social world. In addition, disconnects from our normal religious world.

Many have been sent home to work, cutting us off from the normal interactions that we have at work and from the sense if identity that comes from those interactions. The normal conference room meetings, hallway conversations and day-to-day job activities in the workplace provide a big part of the framework that we see as our identity. We may still perform most of the same job activities, but doing so over a Zoom link does not bring with it the same since of identity. The fact that we don’t even have to get up and get ready to go to work adds to the loss of identity. Where is that person in the nice suit or business casual outfit and who is this slob still in pajamas at 10 AM in the morning?

As a Realtor and an outside sales person, I have noticed how disconnected I have felt, while I was unable to call on clients in person. Sure, I could still send emails and text messages and make phone calls, but there has been very few face-to-face sales calls. It has become much too easy for regular clients to just back off making their normal buys, when we were not meeting in person. How disconnected have you become from your “normal” work environment?

Socially, not being able to get together or even to go out to eat in a restaurant was certainly disconnecting during the time we were all in the lock-down by State mandates. Even now, eating in a restaurant is not anywhere near the social event that it used to be; plus, we are now advised to not even gather in groups around the Holiday table. The social fabric of our lives has been rendered and we have withdrawn into our nuclear family groups. How disconnected socially has your life become?

On the religious front, my church, like many others, has not met regularly in person since March. My church had one social event this summer (an ice cream social)  and has held two drive-in church services, with mixed results, in terms of attendance. The age of our congregation (probably averages 70+) and the guidance of our Synod Bishop continue to dictate caution and not holding in-person services. I produce and post videos of our church services each week and we have been fortunate to have the continued support of our musical staff to provide music for those services, yet it is not the same. Most of the church related groups – the book club, the knitting club and the women’s group  have continue to meet and that helps keep those bonds intact. The Pastor holds a “coffee hour” via Zoom each Sunday at about the time that services would normally be over and that helps some; but, for many there is a growing sense of disconnect. How has your religious life been impacted by the pandemic?

I think the important thing is to acknowledge these disconnects and to take positive action to overcome them, rather than letting them drag you down into depression. Things are not going to be the same for quite a while, if ever; so we need to adjust to the “new normal” and find ways to reconnect at work, socially and in our religious lives.

Our work life identity may have switched from our office or cubicle to the little box down and to the left on the Zoom screen, but we are still responsible for the important aspect of the business that we were hired for and we need to feel good about dong that job. Maybe it’s time to force ourselves to get up, get showered and put on all of our “work” clothes; even if it is just for a Zoom meeting – no more “waist-up” dressing.

 Maybe it’s time to venture out to a restaurant or to go shopping at the mall (just remember your mask). Maybe you can sit down and call those people that you’ve been missing and have a nice, long conversation with them. I’m sure that they have been feeling lonely, too.

Or, maybe it’s time to watch a church service video and sing along with the music. The video’s that I post on our YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSTzf6Jn_j2iepSePY4yiyw?view_as=subscriber –  have the words posted for each song, so that the viewer can sing along. I invite you to try this week’s service at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4_YVyPz6o&feature=youtu.be

 I won’t tell you that you shouldn’t feel somewhat disconnected, that’s just how things are for a while; however, you can take positive steps to reconnect and to feel more like a part of the new normal. I’d even suggest that you buy a mask with a smiley face on it, just to start some conversations and to give yourself a smile when you look in the mirror or see yourself in your little Zoom box. When someone on the Zoom call asks you, why you are wearing a mask on the Zoom call, tell them that you heard about computer viruses and didn’t want to catch one. That may get a laugh and a conversation started. In fact, this picture from the internet is the perfect virus mask for that.

The key is that you do something about feeling disconnected. Reconnections won’t just happen, you have to make them happen. Get up. Get showered. Get dressed and get reconnected!


What will you build?

November 5, 2020

We live in acrimonious and disturbing times that cry out for a return to the values that many of us grew up with and the lessons that we learned in Sunday School (back when people went to Sunday School instead of out to the playing fields) – humbleness, honesty, integrity and caring for others.

I recently saw a post on Facebook that read something like this – “Those who have success in life should build a bigger table not a bigger wall”.

That saying seemed to me to sum up both the state that we are in and the decisions that we must make going forward. It sums things up by pointing out our choices. We can either share the wealth of our nation and our people with those less fortunate by building a bigger,  more inclusive table for all; or, we can decide to husband what we have been fortunate enough to achieve as a nation and a people by building walls to close ourselves off from the world.

Of course, the table and the wall are just symbols of the political and socio-economic decisions that we must make going forward. Most of us probably try to teach our children to share their toys with playmates or siblings when they are very young. It not only keeps the peace, but it’s the right thing to do. I’m not sure when we stop trying to teach them to share, but somewhere along the line many “learn” how to be selfish or uncaring for others. Maybe they see how we act as adults and take their cues from that behavior. Imagine what the children have learned from the adults around them recently.

Another vexing thing is how many so-called Christians have joined in “build walls” side of things. I can’t find any references to building walls anywhere in the words of Jesus, but there are many about sharing and caring for others. Jesus would have chosen to build a bigger table and not a bigger wall. In fact he instructed his Disciples  his last meeting at the table to go out and share with all.

So, what will you build? We all have some success in life, even if just being alive is all that we can think of at the moment. Give of yourself. Choose to share your life and time with others and not to wall yourself off. Build a bigger table, not a bigger wall.


Trust your faith “sense”…

November 2, 2020

Pastor Freed started of his week with this post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words –  “Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it.”  (Jack Skellington)

He went on to write about things that we see can’t see, but in which we still believe. Of course, in that category he included God.

Humans tend to rely quite a bit on their senses of sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching as a basis of believing that something is real. Things that we can see like the wind, we can still sense as it touches our faces or hear as it rustles through the trees or howls outside the house. Most of the time we will not have to see the skunk to know and believe that it is there (or has been). We also have a range of emotional “senses” that tell us when we are sad, happy, frightened or maybe in love.

Then, there is our “faith” sense – the feeling of peace, calm and assurance that comes over us when we sense our faith in action and the presence of God in our lives. People often express those feelings when they have felt the hand of God in their life, many cases in times of great sorrow or danger, but also in times of great joy.

There is that sense of relief in “knowing” that you are not alone and a warm feeling of safety and security may wash over you. You can’t “see” God, but you know that He is there. You feel His hand on your shoulder just as sure as if He was standing next to you and you “hear” his words – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

So trust your “faith sense” as you go through your day as we have been told – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews/11/1)

Do you have conviction in your faith, even though you cannot see it? Can you feel it working in your life? Can you see it guiding you through the day?


What kind of karma are you making?

November 1, 2020

Recently Pastor Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning WordsKarma is what happens to a person because they caused it by their actions.” (Free Encyclopedia) 

I guess I had the wrong definition of karma in mind until I read that and went and looked it up myself. I had thought of it more as a benign and passive thing that we just stumble into, rather than something that we actually cause by our own actions. That immediately brings to mind the question – What kind of karma am I creating?

We hear often of a person having good or bad karma, which must then mean that the person was doing good or bad things to cause what happen to them. Maybe karma is a variation on the old phrase, “What goes around, comes around” or the even older advice from the Bible,

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6: 7-9)

So the good or bad that we are doing (sowing) will determine our karma and what fate awaits us, not happenstance. It is also important to heed the warning not to give up doing the right or good things in life. It is tempting to take the shortcuts in life or to turn away from a problem or a person in need, but it is not the right thing to do. That is just making bad karma.

It would seem that making good karma by doing the right things in life and making good decisions is based upon taking the time to think about each decision that you make within the framework of right and wrong. That presupposes that one has a solid understanding or foundation for that framework of what is right and wrong. For Christians build that framework upon the foundation of their faith and the guidance that they receive from the teachings of Christ that they find in the Bible.

If our karma is based upon our actions, and our actions are based upon the teachings of Christ; then we can have nothing but good karma and good things will happen to us. Maybe starting out each day with a little prayer asking God to help you make the right decisions to achieve good karma will at least get you thinking in the right way and started in the right direction.

May you day be filled with good karma.


Just imagine…

October 30, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Where there is no imagination there is no horror.”  (Arthur Conan Doyle)

Halloween is a time when we let our imagination of scary things run amuck. Our imaginations can also take us to good places and provide the fuel for hope for a better future. Sometimes we call imagining without any particular direction in mind daydreaming. We let our imaginations run away with us.  John Lennon challenged our ability to imagine things in his song – Imagine.

There is an interesting, and one might say necessary, interplay between imagination and faith. Indeed faith cannot become strong in someone’s life without imagination. Religion is built upon things that we cannot physically see; rather we must believe and try to  imagine what God and Heaven and other major part of our religious beliefs must be like. That is both good and bad – good because our imagination allows us to wrap our heads around what would otherwise be enigmatic, but bad because it confines our understanding to the pitiful limitations of our own imaginations.

We are told that we will experience a peace in the afterlife that is beyond understanding and then we try to imagine what that must feel like. We are told that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in his Father’s hose, a place with many rooms and we imagine a giant Motel 6. We buy into the cartoon images of people with wings standing around talking to each other and the thought that we will again “see” everyone who has gone before us, as if we are at a vast family reunion.

Like most, I have tried to imagine what joining all of the souls that have gone before in the afterlife might be like. The best image that I can conjure up is the final scene for a character from a sci-fi TV series. The character I remember is Odo. Odo played by René Auberjonois, is a fictional character in the science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He is a member of a shapeshifting species called Changelings and serves as the head of security for the space station Deep Space Nine on which the show is set. In his final scene at the end of the series, Odo rejoins the “great link” a vast ocean of shapeshifter souls, each a tiny drop in the is ocean and yet all joined together to make up the formless body of the “great link” ocean. He dives into the ocean and is gone, but still there. Imagine your soul joining all of the souls that have gone before in heaven (the “great link”) where you are nowhere and everywhere at once, all connected, yet each separate. Imagine that.

What do you imagine when you think about God and heaven? I know that you are imaging for something better than a Motel 6.


Keeping safe from the burglar…

October 28, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote –

“While disease is a mugger, age is a cat burglar who steals but a single day each night, and the thief has learned patience.” (Madeline Albright) 

Lately we have been hiding from the Corona Virus mugger that is running rampant in our world ravaging those whom it has infected; however, there is no way to hide from the cat burglar of age that creeps up on all of us stealing yet another precious day from us each night. What we can do, all of us, is to steal a part of each day back from that burglar by getting the maximum value and enjoyment out of each day such that there is nothing to regret having done or not done as sleep casts it’s nightly veil over us.

If we begin each day thankful for God having given us yet another opportunity, we should end each day thankful to God for having been with us as we had the experiences of living through it. We should pause to reflect on the people that we met the challenges that we overcame, the knowledge that we gained and the joys that we experienced. That moment of reflection and thankfulness serves to steal back the day and lock it in our memories in a way that even the cat burglar of age cannot take from us. The longer one lives the greater is the treasure that is stored in those memories. Age may steal our endurance and our strength, and bring with it aches and pains to remind us that it is there, but, for most, it cannot steal our memories and need not dull our minds.

It is easier to retain those memories is one starts the day in the right frame of mind. Perhaps you could start with a little prayer asking God to help you:  

to be more open to new ideas and new people,

to be more calm and thoughtful in the face of the day’s challenges,

to be more ready to listen and less ready to talk,

to be more understanding and less judgmental,

to strive to love thy neighbor as Jesus loves you.  

If you actually lived the day with those thoughts in mind, I’ll bet that you will end the day with new treasures to add to your memories; memories that the cat burglar of age cannot take away from you.

Have a great and memorable day!


Keep on learning…

October 26, 2020

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words. Today, Pastor Freed used this quote from poet Robert Frost – “When I was young my teachers were the old.  Now when I am old my teachers are the young.”  He went on to write –  I remember seeing poet Frost read one of his poems at JFKs presidential inauguration.

I guess I must be getting old, too, because I also remember seeing Robert Frost at JFK’s inauguration on TV. At the time, I marveled that I got to see and hear a great poet that I had only read about in school before that. Of course that was back in the day when poetry and literature were still taught in school, along with writing in cursive.

When we are younger we look to older people to learn from, because we believe that they have learned things that we don’t know but would like to  know. As we become adults, we look to the people around us who may have already had experiences that we have not yet had. In addition, as we get older we look to younger people because we are sure that they have adopted and learned about new things that we have yet to try – like how to operate our smartphones.

The real point is to keep trying new things, experiencing new things and learning new things. By learning we continue to grow and life continues to be interesting. To stop learning is to just exist; and that quickly becomes boring. Every day we should wake up with a desire to learn something new and every evening we should be able to look back over the day and ask ourselves what we learned today. Sometimes taking that time to think about the lessons of the day is the only way to really understand that you did learn something today, even if that lesson was what not to do again tomorrow.

Maybe you can start your day by adding to your prayers, “God help me to learn from the directions that you take me in today.” Then at night add, “God let me see your hand in the events of the day and learn from them.” If nothing else, stopping to reconnect with God will make it a better day and, who knows, you might learn something, too.

I think this quote from Mahatma Gandhi is a good philosophy to live by – Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.  

What will you learn today?


You don’t need a key –

October 22, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this  lyric  from The Eagles song Already Gone (listen to it here) –

“So often in time it happens, we all live our life in chains,

and we never even know we have the key.”

It’s interesting that the lyrics right before that line provide the insight to understand it –

“Well, I know it wasn’t you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasn’t you who set me free”

Many things in life try to hold us down, to put us in chains and show us no way out; however we always hold the key to release ourselves from whatever it is that may be weighing us down – remorse over a past event or angst over a coming event.

The Eagles song was about a relationship that was ending and it was intended to be a victory song from the point of view of one of the people in that failed relationship. In the song the singer celebrates that he is already over the breakup by stating that he is already gone – gone on with life.

I’ve posted here a few times about getting over things and moving on with life – see my posts What’s Next For You and Are You Moving On?

The point is that you don’t even need a key to break the chains that you think are holding you. Someone else didn’t put those chains on you; you put them on yourself and you can throw them off. Maybe it is as simple as declaring victory as the song lyrics state and telling yourself that you are already gone – that you are already over it and you are moving on.

Sometimes throwing off the chains of guilt or self-doubt can be as simple as uttering the simple little prayer that I’ve used many times here – “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” You will be surprised at the immediate feeling that the weight of the chains that you have imposed upon yourself is lifted from your shoulders when you give your chains to God. You will feel free to move on with life.

Perhaps then, you will feel like singing the lyrics that the Eagles used later in the song –

Cause I’m already gone
And I’m feelin’ strong
I will sing this vict’ry song
I’m already gone.

You hold the key to your own happiness – use it and get on with life.