Break the grip of ego…Be at peace

February 7, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog today featured this saying – “We can have peace if we let go of wanting to change the past and wanting to control the future.”  (Lester Levinson)

Out Pastor always says, “Go in peace, serve the Lord”, at the end of our church service. One of my favorite people, Pastor Doug McMunn of the Milford United Methodist Church often interjects, “Be at peace” into conversations. We also have been given a promise of be at peacea “peace that passes all understanding” when we join Jesus in Heaven.

So, what is this peace that is so important and how might we achieve it? I think today’s saying in Jack’s blog is the key – we must let go. The thing that we must let go of is our ego, the thing within us that drives us to try to understand and change the past and to control the future. Our inability to surrender to God’s will torments us and keeps us from achieving peace.

That constant need to understand and to control is our own ego inserting itself between us and God. I don’t think that there is anything particularly wrong with trying to understand and learn from something that happened in the past, but it is also necessary bored2to let it go, to put it in the past and get on with life. Instead, we beat up ourselves for what we perceive were our mistakes or we blame others for their influence on the outcome of things. There is no peace to be found in playing the “coulda, woulda, shoudla” game over and over in our minds.

Even less peaceful is worrying about the future; fretting about what might happen and how we might be able to control things. Our minds are wonderful things, but left untethered they are as likely to come up with a nightmare, as they are to conjure up a pleasant dream. There is nothing wrong with having some contingency plans in place; however, dwelling on how to control every possible thing that could go wrong is both wasteful and fruitless and certainly not peaceful.

How can one break the grip of our ego’s and be more at peace? Instead of surrendering control of your life to your ego, you can surrender it to God and trust the direction thatman praying He is taking you. I’ve shared the little prayer that I use many time, but I truly believe that it is the key to achieving peace. I just stop myself, usually in the midst of what my ego is telling me is a crisis that I must somehow try to control, and quietly say to God, “Not my will but thy will be done.” I usually experience an immediate sense of peace and the crisis fades into the background noise of life. Try it. Maybe it will help you achieve peace, too.

So, as you go through the rest of the week, put your trust in God and, as Pastor McMunn would say…Be at peace.

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Save your eyes…

February 5, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog today used a quote from Mahatma Gandhi – “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

I thought about that and another popular saying crept into my thinking – “Revenge is a dish best served cold”.

It occurred to me that what Gandhi was saying is that revenge is not a dish to be servedeyes of revenge at all, either within the heat of the moment or in a more calculating way. Seeking revenge for some wrong that one perceives has been committed against them goes directly against the principals of Christianity. In Matthew Chapter 5, verses 38-40, Jesus said, 38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

It is hard in the heat of the moment to turn the other cheek, as Jesus recommended, when you have been slighted or scorned, or in some other way offended. Our reflexive reaction is often to strike back immediately. I hope that your faith gives have enough self-control to stifle that reflex.  It should be less difficult to do so once the moment has passed and you have time to think about it. It is in that time of reflection that you should regain the perspective that your faith gives you and chose to turn the other cheek, instead.

Taking revenge is often followed by regret for having allowed yourself do so. You realizemen hugging that you have lowered yourself to the level of the person who you believe has wronged you and that never feels good. A second evil action does not make right the initial evil action. Rather, reaching out with forgiveness and love to that person not only makes you feel better, but it may help them, too. They may secretly be regretful of the hurt that they have caused and your forgiveness will bring closure to that regret and may bring you a new friend as well. Nothing works better to smother the flames of hate than a blanket of love thrown over the flames.

So, rather than seeking revenge for the wrongs that you believe someone has perpetrated against you, seek out that person and tell them that you forgive them. Bring reading-bibleclosure in your own mind to the incident and perhaps in their mind, too. In a world to often full of people blinded by the “eye for an eye” manta of revenge, remember another old saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Turn the other cheek, forgive and keep your eyes open. The world can be a beautiful place if you have the eyes to see it as such. Have a wonderful and forgiving week ahead.


Which demons live within?

February 3, 2018

Recently I heard a sermon in church about one of the many episodes in the Bible in which Jesus encountered people who were possessed by demons. Jesus cast out the demons and freed the people who were possessed from their afflictions. One can write these stories off as quaint folklore tales or maybe as representing a simplistic way to characterize the nature of sin and the way to deal with sins. They may be trivialized asdemon grabbinbg child being just the way that people understood or tried to explain things at the time. After all, they didn’t have Google back then; so, there was no way to look up what might be causing a behavior or an ailment or illness. Declaring that the person must be possessed by a demon was as good of an explanation as any and was widely accepted.

We tend to think of ourselves as much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the world around us these days, so demonic possession has fallen largely out of favor. The Catholic Church still has an active practice of exorcism for demonic possession, so perhaps they have not really gone away, but rather just fallen out of the vernacular. When you think about it, demonic possession is as good an explanation as any for the evil behavior that we so often hear about on the nightly news. It makes as much sense to explain the shootings, lawlessness and cruel behavior towards children and others to attribute it to the perpetrators being possessed by demons, as it is to try to figure out other reasons. Many crimes are attributed to drug addiction and the need to “feed the drug habit”. Perhaps it could be described as the need to feed the drug habit demon that is within that person. Once “cured” of that habit the ex-drug addict is said to be “clean”. Remember that people whom Jesus had cast out demons from were also said to be clean.

What of our own demons? Perhaps what we call sins are really the demons that live within us. According to Christian tradition the seven deadly sins are: envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. There is not any place in the bible where such a list exists, but each is identified somewhere in the Bible. You can Goggle “the seven deadly sins” and get references to where they appear. It is probable that all seven depression3demons live within us to some extent. It is only through our faith that we control these demons or cast them out. Sometimes incidents in our daily lives let one of more of these demons out and they temporarily control us. News stories of “road rage” provide an example of a personal demon that took temporary control of that person.

As we struggle to understand what could have possessed someone to commit a heinous crime – shooting innocent people or molesting innocent children – we are struggling both to understand their demons and to control those demons within us that want us to hate or fear them. I have been amazed and humbled by every news story of a group that was targeted for an attack by a demon-possessed person who find it in their hearts to forgive their attacker. We don’t see those stories enough on the news. When they do appear you almost always hear that they have prayed about it and that God told them to forgive their attacker. They have cast out thejesus-as-light demons that were within them that wanted them to hate that person and found a way to express God’s love to them.

The impact on the victims of being able to forgive is profound and in many cases, the impact on the perpetrator is equally profound.  The demons of hate and prejudice and fear that were driving that person to that heinous act have been driven out by the love of God expressed through their victims. For the victims, there is no closure to the incident more powerful or more healing than the act of forgiveness. That simple act casts out that demons that were introduced by the actions of the perpetrator and allows them to go on with life “clean” and free of those demons.

So, which demons live within you? Do you harbor demons of hate or envy against someone? Perhaps you have let the demon of drug dependency or alcoholism creep into your life and that demon has opened the door for other demons to control your actions. alcohol abuseMaybe the demon of depression has seized control of your life and cast you into a dungeon of darkness. Perhaps that little demon of self-doubt has grown into a monster inside of you and now you seek to hide from the world. Maybe you have let the demon of complacency or the distractions of the world lead you away from church and your faith.

Whichever demons may be in temporary control of your life, you need acknowledge them and then take a stand and cast them out. Taking a stand requires that you have solid footing upon which to base your life. Jesus told parables about the wise builder whowoman-praying built his house on rock and not on soil or sand, which might wash away in the storms of life. Your faith is the rock upon which you must stand to cast out your own personal demons and build your future. Once you have taken that stand and cast out your demons, you can live a “clean” life, free of the demons that sought to drag you down or hold you back.

So, I ask you; which demons live within you? Pray today that God help you cast them out, so that you can be clean.


Are you making progress?

January 31, 2018

In a recent post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – Jack used this interesting quote – Pablo Casals“Cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90.  ‘Because I think I am making progress,’ he replied.”  (Seattle Opera post). Jack went on to write about his grandmother who was still reading her Bible at age 92, even though she needed a magnifying glass to do so. She was still learning about God and Jesus and making progress in her relationship with God.

Life is a journey of discovery during which we accumulate knowledge (which one hopes eventually turns into wisdom) and we form relationships. In almost all fields of knowledge, we eventually reach the end of human understanding of that topic and conclude that only God knows the rest of the story. It is at those intersections that we begin to hunger for more knowledge about this God, who apparently is the source of all things. We desire a relationship with Him and look for some guidance on how to meet gods-hands-2Him and form that relationship. That guidance is contained in the Bible. Fortunately, for us, the Bible tells us that we have also been given a guide. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

One of the great dichotomies of life’s journey rages between the concepts of faith on the one hand and our own ego on the other. Faith demands that we let go of the quest for understanding and just believe; yet, our egos pull us in the direction of continuing to try to understand everything. We are driven by our egos to try to dissect things down into smaller and more elemental pieces that we can “wrap our brains around.”  Faith says, “Let it go and just believe” while our ego says, “there must be a way for me to understand this.”

At the root of that problem is our human tendency to see things and try to understand them only within the context of the physical world that we already understand. We god-micelangelo-sistenechapel-creative-commonsexpress this ego-restricted view of the world in our religious art, which always depicts God in our own image. We have a hard time conceiving of something that we cannot depict in a material way.

The leap of faith from relating to the things we can see and touch to accepting a God that we can neither see nor touch is the last chasm that separates us from Him. Jesus came to earth to provide a bridge so that we can make that we can jump that chasm in our “leap leap of faithof faith”. Jesus beacons us to jump and trust that He will catch us and take us the rest of the way.

So, why keep reading the Bible after years of doing so? Why keep going to church every week, after years of doing so? Why keep praying to a God that we cannot see or touch, after years of doing so? Why do we continue this never-ending journey to meet our God? Maybe it is that little bit of faith that we have already achieved that is providing us the hope that Pablo Casals expressed, “Because I think I am making woman-prayingprogress.” It is a journey that I realize that I will not finish on this earth; but, I hope that I get enough done here to be able to continue the journey in Heaven.

Are you making progress, too?


Nature or nurture; which will rule your life?

January 29, 2018

Jack Freed had a post in his Jack’s Winning Words blog recently, which featured the quote – “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  (John Bradford)

Jack went on to write about what separates those who commit heinous crimes, such as we have recently witnessed on many fronts; from those who restrain themselves and don’t do the wrong things. In his post, Jack posed the question of whether it is nature or nurture.

I’ve always been fascinated by the surprise and consternation expressed when someone in what we think of as a “trusted” position, such as a policeman or doctor or leader policeman(business or political) violates that trust to their own advantage. It’s as if we somehow suspend disbelief in human nature for those people until they prove that they don’t deserve our trust. That is probably a cynical view of the world, since it presupposes that those whom we trust don’t, in fact, deserve that trust.

A less cynical view of the world, which places unreserved trust in those in positions of power and authority, which might be called naïve; but, it is a more pleasant place to live in than the world of the cynic. In that world, everyone is assumed to have had the nurturing and teaching of the difference between right and wrong and to have embraced right over wrong in their lives. For Christians, that nurturing and teaching is based upon the lessons of Jesus in the Bible.

Perhaps it is modern society’s lack of embrace of religion that is at the root of many of the heinous acts that we see happening in the world today. Children who spend Sunday mornings playing sports, instead of attending Sunday School, are not exposed to the teachings of the Bible that might ground them properly in an understanding of right and female soccer playerwrong. Instead of the nurture of faith they are exposed to the nature of competition and, in some cases, a winner takes all attitude about sports and life. In too many cases, they are exposed to adults in coaching positions of authority who demonstrate to them some of the worst human traits of anger and selfishness. All too many of those youth coaches teach a win-at-all-costs outlook on life.

Is it any wonder, then, that we hear so many stories of college and professional athletes being caught up in bad behavior. They were on the athletic field on Sunday morning and not in church or Sunday School. They did not get the nurture of a religion-based understanding of right and wrong; they only get the human nature lesson of win or lose from their coaches and in some cases, a sense of entitlement grew out of their athletic successes.

Certainly, not all coaches are too obsessed with winning to try to teach their young charges some values for life. There are valuable life lessons that can come out of competing in sports and most good coaches will tell you that. However, most of thoseWWJD lessons need to be positioned within a moral context that might be lacking because of a lack of any religious nurturing. Few coaches have the time or take the time to worry about that aspect of their athletes lives.

What will rule your life and the lives of your children – nurture or nature? Every sports parent thinks that they are doing the right thing to support their child in youth athletics. But, is it more important for your child (who is statically unlikely to grow up to be a professional athlete) to be out on the athletic field on Sunday morning or in church and Sunday School; where he/she might receive the nurturing exposure to religion and the concepts of right and wrong? They look to you for that leadership. What will you choose for them?

Nature or nurture, which will rule your life and theirs?


Be a beautiful human being today…

January 26, 2018

“True beauty is about who you are as a human being, your principles, your moral compass.”  (Ellen DeGeneres) – as seen in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

You may have heard someone described as being a beautiful person and you could tell from the context that it had nothing to do with his or her physical appearance. Beauty is a perception and the way that people act towards each other may be perceived as eitherhandshake being ugly or beautiful. Which impression will you leave with the people that you encounter today?

Looking at Ellen’s quote in inverse order; if one has a strong moral compass based in faith in God and a good set of principles that build off that moral base, then it should not be all that hard to be perceived as a beautiful human being because of how you treat others.

One of the most basic principles that our faith teaches us it to treat others, as we would want to be treated. Very few of us probably sees someone else and thinks, “I hope that they snub me, because I’m going to ignore them.” Recognizing and acknowledging others is one of the most basic tenants of our social structure. We all want to be recognized and, hopefully, we enjoy recognizing others. There is a beauty and a joy in the exchange of recognition when you meet someone that you know.  There is also anticipation of futurecompliment joy when meeting someone new.

I’ve written here in the past that one of the key things that governs how you view the world and other is becoming comfortable with yourself. Love who and what you are first and then you can love others. In Jack’s post he went on to quote further from Ellen DeGeneres – “You’re unique.  You’re not supposed to be like everyone else.  Promise to be kind to people, to brush your teeth every day and to floss.”  I’m sure the last two pieces of advice were just Ellen’s way of being funny. The first part of that quote is really about getting comfortable with yourself and the fact that you are unique. It is that uniqueness that makes meeting you interesting. It gives you something to share. It is the beauty thing that is within you.

woman-prayingSo be a beautiful human being today. Greet and interact with others. Share the experiences and outlook on life that make you unique and beautiful. You don’t need to look in the mirror before you go out into the world; just check your moral compass with a little prayer and ask God to give you the courage to let your unique  beauty shine through to others.

Now that’s a beautiful thing.


No worries, no regrets…

January 22, 2018

The little phrase “No worries, mate” became popular when the Crocodile Dundee movies came out and it is still widely use, albeit without the “mate” part. In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack reports on an article that he read – An article in Psychology Today asks, What is the worst emotion you can imagine?  Sadness, or maybe, fear, anger, frustration?  The P.T. writer claims that it’s, regret.  How often have you said, “If only..?”

How sad it would be to go through life constantly saying “If only I had…” If only I’d triedturtle that. If only I had said something. If only I had introduced myself. If only…

 

 

Resolve today to overcome your fears of trying or doing and get more out of life. Life is meant to be experienced, not just thought or worried about. The time that you spend worrying about possible bad outcomes could have been spent enjoying a new friendship or having fun doing something that you’ve never done before.

How much fuller your life would be if you occasionally had to say, “Well that didn’t work out like I hoped, but at least I tried and I learned something from having tried”; rather than constantly regretting that you didn’t even try and wonder how it might have turned out.

handshakeSo summon up the courage to try this week. Finally say hello to that person that you cross paths with every day and have always wanted to meet. Try somewhere new for lunch, maybe that little place that you have always wondered about trying. Take advantage of that free trial offer at the gym to see how working out might be for you. Accept that invitation that you’ve always turned down to join in an activity at your church or in your community. The key is doing it and not just thinking about it.

We use the phrase “I’m in a rut” to describe our lives sometimes and sometimes that rut can get so deep that it’s hard to get out of, hard to try new things. Break out of your rut this week and see if your life doesn’t become a little more interesting and enjoyable. You’ll never know if you don’t try and then you’ll just regret not having tried. At least if you try you’ll have some new memories to think about and learn from. You won’t regret having tried.

Take the chance and try this week.