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?


A year of great discontent…

July 11, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, pastor Freed used this very apropos quote – “Progress is not created by contented people.”  (Frank Tyger)

One does not need to be a scholar or history buff to know that most, if not all, of the changes (both large and small) that have happened in America grew out of someone’s discontent with the status quo. Even at our beginning as a new nation, many in what became known as America were content to be subjects of England and the rule of the English King. Throughout our history as a nation is has been discontent that changed the course of that history. Our discontent with staying put on the eastern side of the continent took the form of “Manifest Destiny” that drove explorers (and later settlers) westward. Discontent with the immorality of slavery eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation. Later, discontent with the social, legal and economic situation that had evolved in the nation, mostly in the southern regions of the country, led to the Civil Rights Movement. It could be said that man’s discontent with being stuck on the surface of our planet led to the creation of aviation and later space flight and our moon landing. There are tons of other examples and all were driven by someone’s discontent with the existing situation.

The word “content” is relatively benign. It means – “in a state of peaceful happiness”. For some who do not see the problems at hand, that may actually mean “in a state of blissful ignorance”. For others is more of a state of “resigned acceptance” of things that are wrong. A lack of concern about anyone but ourselves can lead to a state of numbness or callousness about the events happening around us. Others may take offense at any disturbance of their otherwise serene and prosaic environment.

The year 2020 is proving to be a year of great discontent. The discontent over the sexual exploitation of women in the educational, entertainment and business worlds carried over from 2019, with almost weekly exposures of new grievances. The jarring changes mandated by state governments in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic caused great discontent and exposed a long-festering rebellion against government authority and the basic concepts of society by groups on the fringes of society. Discontent boiled over into the streets in matters of race and inequality of opportunity in America. While the trigger for the protests in the street was the murder of a black man in Minnesota, the underlying discontent was with the continued and pervasive racial biases that dictate the day-to-day lives of people of color in America.

What will come out of all of this discontent? The hope is that changes will be made at a systemic level. Changes will be required to laws that support the bad behavior; but more importantly, changes will be required at the personal level. It really doesn’t matter if the law says it is illegal to discriminate, if we still do that in our hearts and minds at every encounter with someone different from us. That change will take longer and is impossible to legislate. Real change starts with you and with me. We must become discontented with not only the things that are happening around us that we know are wrong, but with our reaction (or lack of reaction) to those things. As I have opined here a few times, it is those “things left undone” that we must pray for forgiveness about, as well as the things that we may have done.

If you are to “love thy neighbor as yourself” you cannot start from a position of fear, hate and bias. Be discontented with that state of mind and seek to change it. Do not become satisfied and content with a state of affairs that positions you in comfort and safety while leaving many of those around you in poverty and despair. Take no comfort from your good fortune while ignoring the needs of your neighbors. Inequities are at the root of many of the problems that are causing the discontent that we see in our society right now – inequities of positional power or economics or opportunity. The systemic changes that are need must be aimed at identifying and righting those inequities.

If Tyger was right, this should be a year of great change, since it is already a year of great discontent. Let’s all look for the good that can come out of this discontent.


What is the new normal? It is simple.

July 7, 2020

Pastor Jack Freed used this quote this morning in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Everything is simple.”  (Mike Corrao)

Jack when on to write about keeping things simple and not overthinking things. He used the example of how a child might think about things – simple and straightforward, without the guile that comes with age. He also cited the words of Jesus – “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:9-17)

The point is that, in order to keep things simple, we need to avoid overthinking them and loading them up with interpretations, conspiracy theories and other mental baggage that are just figments of our imagination. We must accept things as they are and as they happen and then adjust our lives to fit the situation. Changing the way things are is not an option. Changing the way we react to things is within our power.

We hear a lot about the “new normal” these days, on the news shows and in conversations. We also see quite a few stories about people who are trying to deny or resist the changes that are required to live normally these days – those who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing is the name of personal freedom.

One might logically ask, what is “normal”? The dictionary defines it as “the usual, average, or typical state or condition”. The thing is that normal is, and always will be, a moving target. What was normal yesterday will not necessarily define what is normal today.  A simple example is how we dress each day. “Normal” dress during the summer months is quite different from that which is expected and normal during the winter months.

The reason that we seldom notice and rail against most of the changes to our normal lives is that those changes usually take place over an extended period. We have time to adjust. Certain events like deaths often happen suddenly and without warning and they do disturb our normal lives. Many changes are so small that we don’t perceive how our lives have changed to accommodate them or we have time to adjust our reactions to those changes.

Then there is a pandemic and everything changes rapidly and greatly. Our “normal” lives are turned upside down and nothing feels normal anymore. What are we to do? Perhaps the advice that Jesus was trying to convey provides the answer. We must become like children, accept the changes and go on with life. Trying to resist the change that COVID-19 has brought with it is both futile and harmful. Those who refuse to accept it, refuse to wear masks in public and refuse to social distance as a means of keeping others safe are like the little child who throws a fit when things don’t go his or her way. Central to their behavior is their absolute self-centered refusal to be concerned for the safety and well-being of others.

Jesus told us that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39), not that we must love ourselves above our neighbors. Not practicing the safety measures that our health experts have recommended to keep others safe is a sure sign that we are not heading Jesus message. Wearing a mask and social distancing is not about you; it is about committing to the safety of those around you – it is about loving your neighbors. It is simple. It is about doing what is right.

So, what is our new normal? It is all of the things that are expected of us to fulfill our roll as part of a society and not as an anarchy of individuals. It is showing love and respect for our neighbors by doing the things that have been recommended to keep us all safe. It is being childlike in our acceptance of the changes required in our daily lives without throwing childlike fits when those changes make reasonable demands upon us. It is acting upon the words of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves and doing our part to keep them safe.

It really is simple.  It is the new normal.


Show the world what you believe…

June 27, 2020

I saw a quote while searching for something on-line that I had to save, because it rang so true.

“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.”  (Sukhraj S. Dhillon)

A hallmark of the younger generations seems to be putting their beliefs into practice, at least for many who turn out in the streets to protest things that they believe are wrong. While their elders (which includes my generation) may share many of the same beliefs, they have not been labeled “the silent majority” for no reason. Their actions and behaviors do not reflect those beliefs. Why is that?

While the term “politically correct” was coined more recently, most of us who are older grew up in a society where standing out or being noticed for your actions in support of yor beliefs was discouraged from a very young age. The old phrased “children should be seen but not heard” dates back to the late nineteenth century (and maybe earlier), but it was still the rule in the Twentieth Century. Most in the older generations were raised in an environment that encouraged “going along to get along”. That same environment encouraged us to look the other way when we saw racial injustices by the police or anyone and to tolerate the bigotry against gays and others who were “different”. Anyone showing empathy for the plight of any of those groups was immediately labeled a “bleeding heart liberal”, which was the precursor to today’s conservative hate label – “socialist”.

But, what of us, as individuals?

Events too large to ignore, like the Corona Virus Pandemic and the public outrage over recent police brutality against people of color test our beliefs and our behavior. Recent news stories about people congregating in bars and on beaches without regard to safety measures for themselves and others point to a society that is self-centered and bereft of societal concerns or obligations. This is a reflection of the “I got mine, you go get your own” mentality that drives us much of the time. And, the protest marches over recent police killings of people of color have yet to drive meaningful action or reform in Washington or at many State and local levels.

You may be tempted to say, “What can I do about that?” You can start by wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing. That is not an act of selfishness; it is an act of regard for the well-being of those around you. Perhaps you are not the type to take to the streets to protest, but you can take to the ballot box to vote. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable shouting slogans at a rally; but, you can put a sign in your yard in support of a candidate or an idea. You may not take the megaphone to shout for justice; but you can talk to your friends and express your concerns and opinions. You can at least put your beliefs into some form of behavior that shows the world the beliefs you hold. If you get really brave, you can volunteer at a local food bank or shelter – actually doing something about the hunger that exists in every community, instead of just being concerned about it.  

Beliefs that are hidden away or suppressed are like faith that is not acted upon. The Bible tells us –

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. …”  (James 2:14-26)

I have a sign on my front lawn right now that shows a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

What matters to you? If you believe in something, show the world through your works as well as your words. Change your behavior to reflect your beliefs.


Focus through prayer…

June 23, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”  (Aristotle)

I have a feeling that for many the current COVID pandemic is their darkest moment, especially for those sickened by the virus. I have posted here in the past about hope and the four candles (or points of light) in our lives – Peace, Faith, Love and Hope (see Where there is hope there can never be complete darkness).

In that post I talked about a YouTube video that showed Hope being the last candle left burning when all others have faded in us; however, it has always bothered me that it was hope and not faith that was shown as the last candle burning in that video. I my mind, faith is what supports hope. If we have faith in God, we can continue to have hope that everything will be all right or at least that what happens is God’s will.

Therefore, in order to focus upon, and see, the light of hope during dark times; we must first clear our minds and vision through faith. We attain that focus through prayer.  It is in prayer that we are able to set aside our fears and uncertainty and appeal to God for His help getting through the crisis. It is in prayer that we are reassured that God will never leave us. In prayer, we rediscover that He will give us the strength to get through whatever challenges we face. Prayer allows us to focus upon and see the light of hope in that darkest hour.

Let us all take Aritotle’s advice and focus upon the light. In this case, let’s focus upon the light of faith, from which the lights of hope, love and peace will be relit in our lives. We can achieve that focus through prayer.

In the Bible, we are told – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” (Philippians 4:6,7)

-AND-

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

It is that second to last part of the quote from John that we often don’t get – “ according to His will”. Too often, we see things only from our own perspective. We may say, I prayed that I wouldn’t get sick, but I did anyway. Alternatively, perhaps, I prayed that my dad, spouse, child wouldn’t die, but they did anyway. Don’t let the lights of faith and hope go out in your life. What happened was God’s will.  You can’t understand it, so don’t try. Just accept it and move on with your life.

Let your faith be the light from which the other candles of hope, love and peace are kept burning in your life.

Focus through prayer to see the light of faith in your life.


Worrying doesn’t help…

June 15, 2020

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this Charlie Brown quote – “Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening; It just stops you from enjoying the good.” 

Charles Schultz shared quite a bit of wisdom through his Peanuts comic strip of the years, as have other creators of great comic strips – the strip Calvin comes to mind. Today’s quote reminds us that worrying not only wastes time, but solves nothing and may actually cause harm by preventing one from seeing and enjoying the good things in life.

Worrying is certainly different from planning. One can look at some future event and do good planning for it – formulate a strategy for approaching it, what things to be aware of or to avoid and such. Planning is good. Worrying, however, is more about imagining all of the bad things that might happen, most of which are out of your control, and trying to think up solutions for them, too. Why worry about the weather, for instance, since you cannot control it. One may plan for bad weather by packing an umbrella or a jacket , in case it get cold; but spending time worrying about how it might change thins does not good.

At the root of our worries is something that I’ve opined her about in the past – our need to solve the unsolvable. Our minds are always trying to find the answer, to solve the problem, to see a way out of the situation. In many cases there is no solution, things just have to happen. In those cases, the “solution” is to let go and stop trying to find the solution. The prayer phrase, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” is the solution in those situations. Putting your trust in God’s hands and accepting that whatever happens He will be there with you to get you through it is the key to stopping the worrying.

Many times our worries are about upcoming interpersonal interactions – how will my date go or how will this person react to what I have to tell them. We are concerned (worried) about how we will be perceived by the other person or how the other person will react to the event. Maybe we are even afraid of the reaction the other person, and so we worry about it. None of that worry will have any effect on the situation, other than to consume us and prevent us from enjoying  other things in the interim.

Once you have given your worries to God, you are free to turn your attention to those good things that are going on in your life. You may be surprised how much that is good was going on around you while your attention was focused upon worrying. Maybe the Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t worry, be happy” will start playing in your mind.

There’s a new week ahead. Don’t worry, God’s got your back.


Things left undone…

June 13, 2020

Each week in our church service we start with a prayer of forgiveness in which we ask God for His forgiveness for our sins – the things that we have done AND the things that we have left undone. For most there are probably just a few things (if any) that we have done for which we should seek forgiveness; however, for all there are probably many things that we have left undone. For many it may be passing by on the other side, instead of stopping to help (see Luke 10:25-37). Forgive me for things left undone.

We may think we are too busy to stop and help or perhaps we think it is none of our business and we don’t want to get involved when we see an injustice or witness things like bullying, domestic violence or police brutality. Some may stop to record the event on their phone, which is what we see on the nightly news. However, what is often left undone is the intercession to offer help. Being a witness is not the same as helping. Sitting on the sidelines and going “Tut, tut, that’s terrible” is not the same as jumping in to help or joining the protest march. Forgive me for things left undone.

Sitting at home and watching events unfold on the nightly news is another example. When protesters are marching and demanding change in our society, being an observer from the comfort of your home is leaving things undone. Watching a protest march on Facebook live is not the same as being there. Even “Liking” or commenting on a post to agree with the position being  taken is not the same as making your own post or expressing your own feelings. Forgive me for things left undone.

The things that we don’t do aren’t all about negatives. Many are actually very positive things that we leave undone because we just don’t make the effort. Smiling at the person you pass and saying ”Good morning”, or perhaps simply opening  the door for the person behind you at the store are examples. It isn’t that we don’t care, it’s usually that we just done think about it. We are so focused upon ourselves and what we see as important in the moment that we don’t notice the opportunity to show kindness to others. Forgive me for things left undone.

One may think that they are busy trying to do the right things themselves and don’t have time to worry about others, but that is not what God wants us to do. Look at just a few of the times from the Bible that we are told what is expected of us –

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

 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17 )

To which we are left to say – Forgive me for things left undone.

Perhaps the advice that we should heed is found in the Nike slogan – Just Do It!


Life goes on, just like this…

May 31, 2020

In his blog, Jack’s Winnng Words, Pastor Jack Freed used this quote recently – “Life is a series of commas, not periods.”  (Matthew McConaughey) 

What McConaughey (and Jack) was alluding to are the pauses that we occasionally encounter in life, like the pause that one makes upon encountering a comma in a sentence. It is not the end of the sentence, just a pause before the sentence continues. Sometimes, life takes off in a new direction after the pause; but most of the time it just continues.

The current Corona Virus Pandemic has certainly thrown many commas into our lives and maybe sent us off in new directions. We hear about “the new normal” and see all around us the impact of the changes that have occurred. Life will never be the same. There is no going back to the old normal. That has actually always been the case; it’s just that change normally takes place over longer periods of time and occurs in different areas at different times. Businesses come and go all the time; it’s just that so many usually don’t go at the same time. Big events that were cancelled in the entertainment and sports world caused disappointment, but changed little in most lives. The economic disruption is both real and painful, but it too shall pass. Comma, comma, comma.

The pandemic has caused disruption in most lives and destruction is some lives; but, for most, there is more life ahead, after this comma. Our challenge is not to be stuck on the wrong side of the comma; not to let ourselves be bogged down in lamenting what was, but to get on with what will be. We cannot change what has already happened, but we definitely can change what will be – what is on the other side of this comma.

It is time to acknowledge this comma in our lives, time to pause and take a deep breath, and time get on to the other side of the comma. This is not a time to let frustration and anger rule our lives. It will take all of our focus, energy and creativity to adjust and flourish in” the new normal”.  We don’t have time to waste railing against the change or lounging for the way things were.

Perhaps you can use this pause in you r life to also to also revisit, and maybe revitalize, your faith. If you have so far been spared the agony of this disease or maybe have gone through it and recovered, you can take a moment to thank God. You can also pray for God to give you the strength and determination to continue on the other side of this comma. God is the one constant amidst all of this change and can serve as your touchstone as you seek to move beyond this comma in your life.

What is on the other side of this comma for you is yet to be determined. Maybe it’s? Or maybe it’s!


Find Your Happy Place…Find God

May 20, 2020

I saw “Find Your Happy Place” on the cover of the Readers Digest that my wife gets. I didn’t read the article in that edition of the Digest, but I did Google “how to find your happy place”. It turns out that there are quite a few places called Happy Place, more than a few of which are bars or liquor stores. Hopefully you don’t find what passes for your happy place in them.

The definitions and advice that comes back when you search on finding your happy place tend to involve doing things to distract and calm your mind, to stop fretting about whatever has been worrying you and focus instead on thoughts that make you happy or that made you happy once. The advice ranged from thoughts of a place that was visually satisfying or remembering an experience that was pleasant. The take-away is that your happy place is a state of mind more than a place.

The process of finding your happy pace is like de-cluttering you r mind; getting rid of all of the thoughts and imagined bad outcomes of whatever you are facing and focusing instead on thoughts that bring happiness into focus in your mind. I have opined here many times about how our imaginations, as wonderful as they are, can take us down rat holes of implausible, yet scary, outcomes to our problems. If we let our imaginations run away with us, we end up depressed about, or terrified about, things that will never happen.

The more that I thought about the advice that was available on finding your happy place, the more that it became clear that  what you were really doing is finding your way back to God. The techniques that are recommended to clear and clam the mind just allow one to get rid of the things that were keeping them from seeing God in their life and reaffirming their trust in Him. Being in one’s happy place allows one to let go of those problems and give them to God. It is a state of mind that allows one to pray, “Not my will, but thy will be done” and to give up ownership of the problem.

In the midst of the worst situation that any of us could have imagined, it is particularly important that we make the effort to find our happy place and re-engage with God. None of us is going to solve this problem by ourselves and for many it will be the most terrible thing that they have had to endure. Yet, waiting patiently in the background, in your happy place, is our God. Find Him and you will be at peace, in your happy place, unafraid of the future.

Find your happy place today…Find God.


Stuck in phase three…

May 17, 2020

I opined here a couple of times about the four phases that I predicted the people of this country would go through in this pandemic – see post What’s Your Plan? And my second post Time for Plan B. Those posts were made in March and April, which now seems like a long time ago. The first phase I liken to the shock and awe. The second phase is fear and anxiety. The third phase is frustration and anger. The fourth phase is when one accepts the current situation (it is what it is) and begins formulating and acting upon plans to make the best of it – finding ways to get on with life.

We have been through phases 1 and 2 and many have made it through phase 3 and moved on to phase 4, which is getting creative about how to live under the changes brought about by “new normal”. However, many seem to be stuck in Phase 3, primarily those who reacted in anger, due to their frustrations. Within a large population there will also ways be a significant portion who out of ignorance, obstinacy,  anger or all three will defy whatever they are advised or ordered to do. These are many of the same people who don’t stop at stop signs, because it is inconvenient for them to have to obey our stinking laws. They run around in T-shirts with “Live Free or Die” on them, which in the case of this pandemic should be changed to Live Free AND Die.

It would be easy to dismiss them as a radical fringe that should be ignored; however, their actions put other innocent people at risk. Unfortunately, when they return from their protest rallies they mix back into society (although some are easy to spot and avoid, since they refuse to wear masks in public) and go about potentially infecting others. When they get sick, they also demand treatment just like others who took precautions. No wonder the health care workers get so disgusted by their protest actions.

As Christians, this is one of those cases where we have to swallow hard and implement the advice that we have been given to “Forgive those who trespass against us”. I’m not sure that prayer is all that effective against anger and stupidity, but it is what we have to work with; so pray for those who can’t seem to get passed phase 3. Pray that patience, understanding and concern for others will overcome their frustration and anger. Pray for them to turn the energy that they are wasting in angry protest towards figuring out how to adapt to a situation that is not likely to change or go away.  Pray for them to go on to phase 4.

If you are one of those people who find themselves stuck in phase 3, you can pray, too. Perhaps praying, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” will help you pivot away from the self-destructive frustration and anger that you feel now and allow you to refocus on what you can be doing in a positive way to move on and adapt to the situation. Perhaps prayer will also help you see that the sacrifices that you have been asked to make are not a usurpation of your freedoms, but were put in place to try to help everyone be safer and able to move forward.

Get unstuck and move on to phase 4. We need your help getting on with life, not your protests. It’s not all about you, it’s all about us and a nation.