Are you all-in?

October 7, 2021

A couple of quotes that I picked up from the Jack’s Winning Words blog just seem to fit together this morning –

“Love is, or it ain’t.  Thin love ain’t love at all.  (Tori Morrison)

“Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.” (Bob Dylan)

Jack used the first quote today and commented on recalling “thin soup” from his life during The Great Depression, which extra water was added to soup pots to thin out the soup and make it go farther. Thin love, or watered-down love, he opined is as unsatisfying as thin soup. The Dylan quote he used some time ago in another post and he commented on the inability to have partial faith in God.

It is not possible to say that you believe in and love God only some of the time. However, what sometimes happens those who believe, is that they get distracted and wander away from God from time to time. Jesus told a parable about sheep that occasionally wandered away from the flock and how the good shepherd searched for those sheep to bring them back into the flock.

The events of life can distract us and cause us to wander away from our faith. We may become too focused on success in our work life and begin to ignore both our family and our faith. Perhaps we get so wrapped up in the secular events of our family, like sports practices and games, that we abandon our churches and temporarily lose sight of our faith. In some cases of the loss of a loved one, we may become overwhelmed by grief or remorse or even anger and turn away from God. That is the “How could God let this happen” reaction to a personal tragedy.

But the words of Morrison and Dylan provide the answer to our questions and the relief of our pain. If you love God and believe in him, but have wandered off; let the good shepherd, Jesus, find you and lead you back to the flock. Just like in a poker game, you must play the hand that you’ve been dealt in life, so either fold (not a good option at all) or go all-in with your faith. There is no thin love for, or partial belief in, God; you either got it or you ain’t. If you got it, let Jesus find you through all of life’s challenges and lead you back to the flock.

Are you all-in?

It is not karma…

July 11, 2021

Pastor Freed used this quote recently in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.”  (Unknown)

There is a concept that many people believe in called “karma”. The thought is that people get what they deserve to get. Similar thoughts lead to sayings like “things come around that go around” or “He/she had it coming to them.” Karma.

But, today’s quote actually begs a different response or point of view. It may be couched in religious terms by changing it to read, “We have no right to ask God, ‘Why did you let this happen to me?’ when bd things happen unless we also thank God for every moment of happiness that comes our way.” It is not karma, it’s God’s will.

For the longest time in my life I was one of those who only turned to God in the bad times, the times that I needed His help. I seldom thanked God for the good things that happened in my life or even recognize the things that didn’t happen because He is with me. It did occur to me to be thankful for the bigger things, perhaps the things that I had prayed fort help with, but the little things, especially the little things that didn’t happen just escaped my notice or thanks.

I don’t recall exactly when I became more aware of those little things, aware enough to thank God for once again saving my bacon, but I do now think more often about the events of the day and how something (karma or God) went right or didn’t happen, when it easily could have gone the other way. I chose to believe that God was with me and watching over me during those events or non-events.

We were told in the Bible – “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…” (Genesis 28:15) We were also given free will, which allows us to do both good and evil things. The devil often throws temptation in our path and many succumb to those temptations and wander away from God. But God is always with us, living the back of our minds in what we call our conscience. That small voice that tells us what is right from what is wrong is the voice of God quietly providing guidance.

So, it is really not karma that got us through the events of the day – good or bad – but rather God watching over us. That is why I now look back over each day and see the times when God was there to make something good happen or to save me from something bad by making it not happen. I spend as much time thanking Him for the good as praying for His help with the bad.

What about you? Do you thank God for the good things that happen in your life or the bad things that He saved you from? Do you wait until you are in trouble and need His help? Do you get what you deserve? It is not karma.

Don’t give up a second of peace…

May 12, 2021

I saw that quote in a Pinterest post somewhere and it resonated. Anger is a terrible thing and a waste of time. Angry people are usually tense people and that tension is bad for the heart as well as the mind.  Anger is usually directed at someone, although it can be directed at an inanimate object, which is really dumb.

Anger and hate seem to go hand-in-hand, because hate is the most convenient outlet for anger. You often hear angry people saying, “I hate that person (or that thing)” when they are angry at someone or something. I often us the retort, “hate is such a strong emotion to waste upon an inanimate object” if the person is talking about hating a thing. My wife hates that little phrase. Perhaps I overuse it.

We may hear people saying, “I hate that about you” or maybe  “I hate you for that” when they become angry with someone about something usually some behavior. We sometimes hear the phrase about angry people, “He/she was stewing over that”, meaning that they were allowing themselves to be consumed by the anger to the exclusion of all else.  

If we really stop and think about it, there is really nothing that being angry can change about whatever happened to put you in that state of mind. Anger usually results from events that is now in the past, so they are done and there is no way to change what happened. Instead of anger, one might benefit from trying to learn from the events, especially if those event are likely to reoccur if nothing changes. A failure or a rejection that sparked your anger really needs to be analyzed for things that you could change the next time, in order to be more successful.

As the little quote says, anger take us away from being at peace. Perhaps it would help if we reinforced our peace of mind each morning with a prayer. We could ask God to be with us during the day and to help us stay at peace as we encounter things that might upset us. Thinking about God being there, so that we can reach out to Him for reassurance and to steady ourselves may help us maintain that peace during trying times during the day. It can’t hurt to try that.

So don’t waste your time being angry. It accomplished nothing and is bad for your general health. Instead, be at peace. You’ll feel better and the world around you will be a better place for it. I have taken a little liberty with this Bible quote, but we are told –

“Do not be anxious (or angry – ed.) about anything, but in everything, 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 minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

I’ve posted here before in blogs about a local Methodist Pastor, Doug McMunn, who will often greet people with the little phrase “Be at peace”. Doug is a person who always seems to be in that state of peace and being around him is a calming thing. Maybe, when you next encounter an event that is making you angry, you can whisper Doug’s advice to yourself and “Be at peace.”

Wouldn’t you really rather be in a peaceful place in your life?

Be at peace.

Who is watching you?

May 5, 2021

Two quotes that I’ve been saving to write about just seem to go together.

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”― Eleanor Roosevelt

Purkey’s quote is the better known and one that is often referenced, especially the first few words. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote though not as well known is none the less quite true and good advice.  At the core of both is the need to just be you and live your life without letting to many concerns about what others may think of you dictate how you act. That is not to say that it is OK to do anything illegal or harmful just because you fell like doing it. There are norms within any society that dictate a few limits to our behavior.

Most of us do stop to think about what others may think before we act on an impulse to sing out loud or dance in public; but sometimes the impulse is just too strong and we do it anyway, not caring, in those cases, what anyone else may think. The hesitancy to express love for someone else out of fear of rejection is probably something that many have experienced. Maybe it was a crush on someone in school (maybe even a crush on a teacher) or perhaps some fantasy about a popular entertainment figure that played out in your mind. Most get over this unrequited love, but some went on to become stalkers and get into trouble over it.

So, within reason, whether it’s dancing or singing or loving, it is important to do what is in your heart and not let the criticism that may follow dictate your actions. Implicit in Roosevelt’s quote and at the end of Purkey’s quote is the real key message of both – live life like it is heaven on earth. If you start each day with a positive, upbeat attitude and with a sense of gratitude to God that you have been given another day in Paradise, the whole day will go better for you.

Instead of looking ahead at the day and asking yourself, “How can I get through this day?”, ask instead, “How can I make this day even better for me and for someone else?” Why? Not because someone is watching you; but because God is watching you. God gave you another day and is watching to see what you will do with it. We are told in the Bible –

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

You know in your heart that doing things that are harmful to others or illegal are not “good, acceptable and perfect”. God did not put those things in your mind, or your heart and you can feel that they are not right. Through prayer, search your heart for the things that God put there and do them, instead. Then you will be living like it is heaven on earth. If you do that, maybe others will sing along with you when you thought that no one was watching.

Have a great day doing the right things. God is watching you and others are waiting to sign along with you. Live like it’s heaven on earth.

See the wind…hear God

May 3, 2021

The quote that Pastor Freed used today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, is from poet Christina Rossetti.

“Who has seen the wind?  Neither I nor you: 

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I: 

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.” 

I was inspired to wax poetic, too –

Who has seen God? Neither I nor you:

But when things happen in our lives,

It was God passing through.

Who has seen God? Neither you nor I:

But when we bow of heads in prayer,

We know God is nearby.

Who has seen God? Maybe none can say:

But those who believe without seeing,

Will walk with God today.

Even though we cannot “see” the wind, we can see the results of it being there. We cannot see God either, but those who believe in God will see the results of Him being there.

While one cannot see the wind, we can feel it on our faces and know that it is there. We cannot see God, but we can feel Him in our hearts and know that He is there.

When the wind blows, we hear a rustling in the trees. When God speaks to us, we hear a whisper in the back of our minds. That brings to mind another quote that I’ve used here before that reminds us to make time for prayer –

“Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud.”  (Greg Olson)

Will you hear the whispers of God? Make time in your life for those quite moments of prayer when you can hear the voice of God. Maybe that rustling sound you hear in the trees as the wind passes through is the whisper of God trying to talk to you.

Shhhhhh….God is talking to you. See the wind and hear God

Let God be “the one”…

April 2, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used a quote that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe – “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure.  I make mistakes.  I am out of control and at times hard to handle.  You be the one who nurtures and builds.  You be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, the one who looks for the best in people.” 

In his post, Freed speculated about whether it might have been Joe DiMaggio or maybe even John F. Kennedy, about whom Marilyn was speaking. I thought, when I read it, perhaps it was more like a prayer and God is the “You be the one” being addressed. Pastor Freed opines that Marilyn was a complex person, often misunderstood. Perhaps she had come to the realization that she needed to let God be in control of her otherwise out of control life.

Whether Marilyn was, in fact, asking for God’s help or not; the rest of us certainly could benefit from turning control of our lives over to God. Let God be the one who understands and forgives us, who nurtures and builds us and brings out the best in us. It is as simple as believing and uttering the little one line prayer that I have used here before – “Not my will; but, thy will be done.”

If you can bring yourself to that point, where you surrender completely to God’s will in your life, amazing things can happen in your life. God will forgive you and bring out the best in you. Life may continue to be chaotic all round you, but a sense of peace will descend upon you that will allow you not only to cope, but to thrive.

A great deal of the stress and anxiety that we have about the events of our daily lives is formented out of our fear of the unknown, our inability to answer the question what comes next (after death). Jesus provided the answer to that question in his death and resurrection. For those who believe, there is a place reserved for them in the “next”.

Get your reservation for what is next by letting God be “the one” in your life. You will find that your concerns about what happens in the here and now will melt away. God will bring out the best in you.

Let God be “the one” in your life.

Going through, not going to…

March 25, 2021

A couple of quotes, the first from the blog Jack’s Winning Words and the other something that I saw on-line recently seemed to go together

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”    (Winston Churchill)

“My small personal hell has an expiration date.” (Michelle Goldberg)

Jack wrote that Churchill had a very rough early life – he basically went though hell and that prepared him for resolve and perseverance that he needed later in life as the leader of a nation at war. If I remember correctly Michelle’s personal hell had to do with depression, which she overcame.

We often refer to the trials or tribulations of life as being like hell for us and I think it is important to keep both of these saying is mind. One must keep on going with the thought that “this too shall pass”.  It is all too easy to quit when going through a though time and to sit there wallowing in self-pity. Yet self-pity never provides an answer to, or a way out of, the situation.

Sometimes the problem that you are facing comes with a built-in expiration date – a specific time when something will either happen or not happen. Of course, you may be envisioning the worst possible outcome of it happening (or not happening). You have imagined your own personal hell, which almost never happens. Other times you must take the initiative to set the expiration date, meaning that you decide when to move on and out of this personal hell – to keep going.

It is important to keep Churchill’s advice in the forefront of your mind and to keep reminding yourself that you are only passing through hell and that you are not imprisoned there. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone on this journey. God is always with you, offering you the strength and comfort of your faith to help you through the crisis. There is no expiration date on God’s love for you. Though there may be temporary pain or shame or loss, God will not abandon you and his love for you is steadfast.

So, no matter what person hell you may be going through, reach out to God for help. It is on that day that you set the expiration date for your personal hell and continue your journey out of that hell. You were just passing through and God will show you the way out.

Have a great day and keep on going. You’re just passing through.

May The Force be with you…

March 16, 2021

“…No matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” ― Albert Camus

In the Star Wars saga the “something” that was within the Jedi that they used to push back against the evil in the world was called “The Force”. The Jedi trained to be able to channel the Force and draw strength from it. In the real world that we live in, that something that is within us is called faith. Through prayer and belief we call upon the force of our faith to help us get through tough situations  – the world pushing against us.

Just as The Force in Start Wars was not a passive thing (like a force field that wards off the bad), but rather is called upon and used in an active manner by the Jedi warriors, we must also call upon and put our faith into action. In the movie the evil was called “the Dark Side”, in life we often say that it is the Devil at work.

Believing in the Force was necessary in order to use it. Believing in God is necessary to use Him in your life. It must be a lonely feeling indeed to be in a pickle in life and not have a belief in God to turn to for strength.

So, pray not that nothing bad will ever happen to you (that’s just not realistic); but, rather, pray that God be with you and help you make good decisions and strengthen you in the actions that you must take. Don’t just stand there and let life push you around, use the force of God to find the strength and courage to push back. Just as darkness vanishes in the light of the sun, evil shrinks away in the light of the Son – Jesus.

In the Star Wars movies the phrase “May the Force be with you” was used quite often. In real life phrases like “God Speed” or “Peace be with you” are often used in reference to our faith. We do not have light sabers in real life, but it has been said that the word is mightier than the sword and we do have the Words in our Bibles.

So let that something in you out and use it to help you push back against the challenges that life may throw your way. May the Force of God be with you and the light of the Son illuminate your way.

With God all things are possible…

March 9, 2021

Pastor Freed used this Muhammad Ali quote this morning – “Impossible is potential.  Impossible is temporary.  Impossible is nothing.” 

It immediately sprang to mind that in an earlier post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – Freed had written a post that pointed out that by strategically using a space and adding an apostrophe, the word impossible becomes “I’m possible”. Perhaps it is within that space that God entered into the picture and added the apostrophe, making it possible.

In the Bible, Jesus often used stories and parables to teach his disciples –

Matthew 19:23-26

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Men tend to classify things as being impossible due to their limited imaginations and lack of faith. Make a little space in your life for God and see if He can add His apostrophe and change the impossibilities in your life into possibilities. Ask God, in your morning prayers, to turn your impossible challenges into possibilities.

Have a great day turning your impossibilities into opportunities. God is with you.

The secret to a good life…

March 6, 2021

I always get a kick out of seeing a headline like that; as if there is really some great unknown secret that will immediately make life better, if only it were revealed to us. While there is no secret to a good life, there are bits of advice that we can pick up from others and implement in our own lives to make them better. One such piece of advice I got from a post to my usual source – the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Laugh when you can; apologize when you should; and let go of what you can’t change.”  (Posted by Carrie Goldring)

The other piece of advice comes from French philosopher Albert Camus – “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Our ability to laugh, especially at ourselves, is a great release from the stresses of everyday life and a necessary pause in the intensity that we sometimes put on ourselves in life. The ability to admit mistakes, own them, and apologize for them or make them right is also a necessity. Only through that process can we forgive ourselves get them off our backs. Finally, the ability to recognize those things in life that one cannot change and let go of them is critical. Our faith helps with that by allowing us to give those things to God in the simple prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

And then there is the advice of Camus. I don’t think he was saying not to be empathetic to the needs of others so much as not to be hung up on what others think about you or what you do. Many people spend an inordinate amount of time being concerned about the answer to the question, “What will others think?” before and after they do something. Even getting dressed in the morning usually involves that question for those people. Camus is saying that happiness does not come from others, but rather from within ourselves.

There are phrases that ae used within or vocabularies that point to the answer of living a good life – phrases like, “I laughed so hard that I cried” or “Those are tears of happiness”. Those phrases are describing examples of those moments in life that we let go of all else and live in the moment. We enjoy life. I have also heard the phrase, “I never felt more alive than at that moment” to describe some wonderful event in someone’s life.

Perhaps that is the secret to the good life. Again, I point to another quote from Albert Camus that sums this up very nicely – “Live to the point of tears.”

So the secret to the good life is to stop worrying about it and start living it – living it to the point of tears. A good start at living that way it to recall the words of the Psalmist – “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

If we wake up each morning and acknowledge and give thanks to God for giving us another day it is bound to be a better day – a day in which we can live life to the point of tears.

Now you know the secret. Say your prayer to thank God for this day and then go out and live your life to the point of tears. It’s going to be a great day!