Keep God as the one constant in your life…

August 4, 2017

The only thing constant about life is that there are no constants…everything changes – that’s vaguely what the ancient philosopher Heraclitus was alluding to when he said that “life is flux”.

 

Every now and then I stop and think about how things, little things, change in my life from day to day or week to week. For a while I was going to gym and working out every day. Then it became three times a week and now it is maybe 2-3 times a week. It’s not that I consciously decided to stop going all the time, but life changed and I got too busy to women looking at watchgo every day and then too busy to go 3 times a week and now I really have to make a special effort to go twice a week.

 

The same thing happened to my blogging. For a while I was posting to this blog every day, then maybe 3-4 times a week, then maybe 1-2 times a week and now maybe 1-2 ties every two weeks. I didn’t stop loving to do blog posts, but I ran out to time because I let other things take precedence over spending that hour to write a post.

 

There are many other examples that I could expound upon and many examples in your life that might come to your mind. Life changes and our daily routines change with it, sometimes causing things that we used to like to do to fall by the wayside. Our faith and churchthe practice of it in our daily lives can become victims of life’s changes and distractions, if we don’t make a special effort to recognize God as the central constant in our lives.  For most that means taking time out once a week to attend church.

 

I’ve posted here a couple of times (perhaps the posts might be considered to have been rants) about the hegemony of sports, especially youth sports, on the practice of religion in America. We certainly didn’t see that change coming.  Whole families are taken away from church because of soccer or female soccer playerbaseball or other sports (hockey in the winter) that are now played or practiced on Sunday mornings. One could hope that somehow the families involved took time later in the day to home school their children on the importance of God and religion in their lives, but I suspect that is more of a dream than a real hope.

 

So why make God the one constant in our lives? I would ask in reply to that question; what else do we have, if not God, to serve as an anchor, a constant, in our lives?  God is the only thing that we can imagine or point to that never changes. Our beliefs may waiver and our minds may wander from time to time; but, every time that we turn back to God, He is the same. He never leaves us and He never stops loving us, even as we wander away, distracted by other demands in our lives.me

 

It is worthwhile to take a moment each day and at least acknowledge that fact, that God is the one constant, in our lives. Just reaching out to God as the touchstone in our lives on a daily basis will serve to keep us grounded in values that will also serve us well in meeting life’s challenges. I have shared here before the very simple, yet immensely powerful little prayer that I use to reach out to God – “Not my will, but thy will be done.” That simple little sentence incorporates belief, acceptance, surrender, and hope all in one phrase and is a great start to any day. Try it yourself. It will help you keep God as the one constant in your life and you will begin each day unburdened by the concerns and fears that you just handed off to God.

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Make a decision today to change your tomorrow…

April 20, 2017

Two recent quotes from the Jack’s Winning Words blog make sense to use together –

“None of us can change our yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows.”  (Colin Powell)

And

“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.”  (Unknown)

Did you ever stop and think about how things change in your life? We all get used to doing things the same way each day, it becomes our daily pattern and we become comfortable with those patterns because they don’t require new decisions from us; we can just continue doing what we’ve always done and there’s a sense of comfort to be found in that. Staying in your daily routines/patterns can also become restrictive. One doesn’t stretch at all and learn new things or meet new people if one does the same things in the same ways each day.

I recently posted about improvising and putting a little jazz in your life. That is a decision to take your life in a different direction. It definitely will impact and change your tomorrows. Maybe you start with a few small decisions like taking a different way to work or finally saying hello to the co-worker that you’ve been meaning to meet. Maybe smell-the-rosesyou decide to finally accept that invitation for coffee or a date with the person who has been trying for so long to ask you out or maybe you finally decide to ask out that person whom you have been secretly wanted to go out with. Maybe you just decide to take some time out of your hectic and busy schedule for some “you” time – time in which you aren’t trying to “accomplish” anything other than to have some time for yourself. That may be what you need right now.

Perhaps the decision that you will make today that changes your life is to get back to church and to re-establish your relationship with God. Many wander away from organized religion as they grow into adulthood and get caught up in the demands of day-to-day life. It is easy to push religion and church down your priority list, maybe afterchurch soccer or hockey practice or below going shopping; until it falls off the bottom of the list and is no longer a part of your life. You can rationalize it by saying, “I still believe in God, but I just don’t like churches and going to church.” You may even think that you’ll maintain your relationship with God through personal prayer time; but, that, too, falls by the wayside. Just like going to the gym is the only real way to have the discipline to do a good workout, going to church each Sunday is the best way to add time (and discipline) for your religion into your busy schedule. It is a habit that you need to keep in your life.

You might be thinking, why should I make any changes in my life; I’m happy with where I am and what’s going on in my life. I go to church each week and even read my bible on occasion. That’s great that you’ve achieved a state of contentment in the routines of your life and have religion as a part of that routine; but, I would challenge you with the question, “Are you achieving your potential in life?” Each of us has a God given potential to not only be happy with our own lives, but to help make the lives of others better, too. Maybe that’s the next level in life that you can strive to get to. If you can say to yourself, I’m happy with who I am and with what I have and with my life in general; then perhaps it is time to consider what you could be doing to help those around you, who are not as fortunate as you, get to that same place. Why?

Consider this – “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to havehelper faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:14-17

So, maybe the decision that you make today that will change your life is one of devoting some part of your life to the service of others. It doesn’t have to be your full-time job; but, it should be a commitment that you make with what time and resources that you have available. Maybe it starts with weekends at a shelter serving soup or perhaps making visits to shut-ins in your community. Maybe you join a community group in a food drive or volunteer to help with a charity event. There is always need in every community for those willingseerving othersto devote some time and effort to help others.

Don’t get hung up on what you haven’t done with your life in the past. Remember Colin Powell’s opening quote and focus upon changing your tomorrow. You are just one decision away from changing your life for the better. No matter how good your life may seem, there will always be something missing until you fill that void with God and start serving Him and serving others. Only then will you be able to experience the peace that passes all understanding. Have a great day and think about making that decision that will change your life.


Perhaps our Native Americans had the best concept of God

October 26, 2016

From a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come this – “Goodbye to ‘he’ and ‘she’ and hello to ‘ze’?  (CNN.com)

Jack was writing about a new pronoun being suggested as a way to remove gender orientation when referring to someone. He went on to comment about our tendency to refer to God as He. I recall how my daughter used to amuse Jack when she was in his Confirmation class by always referring to God as She.

The whole issue of labeling God with some gender-specific term that reflects how we think of ourselves is part of the interjection of man’s own ego into his religious beliefs. Wejesus-as-light tend to think of God in our own image. Our ego is so big that we believe that He made us to look just like him. Of course that means for many that He is a tall, good looking white male; perhaps with white hair and beard, because He is old, after all. And His Son, while born in the Middle East in ancient times, somehow ended up looking like a modern European white male in most of the great paintings of ancient Christian religion. Amazing how that happened! Even today there are those who continue to insist that Jesus was a white man, just like Santa Claus.

Perhaps the most gender and image neutral description of God that I have heard is from Native Americans who called God the Great Spirit. While rooted in pagan origins, Native Americans saw God’s presence in all things; praying-indiannot just in mankind. They also saw a caring, loving God who provided for them and watched over them and all of the inhabitants of the earth. Their view of the Great Spirit didn’t have the pronoun ze, but it lacked the need to be classified by gender or even by species.

If we can start to think of God more along the lines of the Native Americans’ Great Spirit we can drop not only the gender issue, but all other issues that we currently use to judge people. It is unfortunate that some who claim to be religious put on the mantle of the Bible and religion while condemning others for alleged lifestyle transgressions against their “religion.” Those same holier-than-thou people would likely have joined the pharissesPharisees of the day in condemning Jesus for befriending and eating with tax collectors.

Much of modern religion has been contrived by man to make the unknowable somehow fit into what our small minds can conceive. Since we can’t really get our heads around the concept of God, we humanize Him by assigning to Him human attributes that we feel comfortable with. He, after all, must look a lot like us, since we have decided that He made us in His image. We don’t see the Great Spirit in all things as the Native Americans did, just in us. It is a relatively easy step for many to take to believe that he must also have the same prejudices against those whom we condemn as being “not like us.” After all, if God is on our side, how can he be with them, also?

It’s unlikely that the general neutral term ze will gain that much traction, especially in religion; but, perhaps, if we put a little more of the Great Spirit mentality into our religious practices we would end up closer to the true meaning of faith. May the Great Spirit be with you.


Don’t try to explain it, just believe…

January 13, 2016

Every now and then I get off on an ego trip and think that I should try to tackle some really weighty topic here, like religion. I started down that rat hole recently.  One theme that I biblehad in mind was to write about the various books or spiritual writings that underpin the religions of the world. The Bible was the one that I am most familiar with and I knew the names of a few others from some of the religions that I at least know exist.

So, off I went on the Internet, making various Google inquiries to try to see what might be out there to read for some research. What a dumb idea! Within 5 minutes it became world religious symbolsapparent that the topic and the approach that I was taking are both overwhelming. Just looking at the so-called “major” religions of the world yielded more than 55; most of them having various books or writings which provide the foundation for the beliefs and practices of the believers in those religions.

The list if spiritual writings would have numbered in the hundreds and the list spanned everything from complete books to some ancient stone tablets and even included some fairly modern essays. That brought to mind the thought that a new religion might be based upon beliefs found on the writings in modern communications media, such as blog posts. I suppose that would be possible; although, I think a religion based upon Tweets would be too light weight to survive the test of time.

This definition of religions from the BBC web site that I found to be most interesting, mainly because it is generic and inclusive enough that it can be applied to all 55 of the world’s major religions:

Religion can be explained as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

It was interesting that in almost every case the original religions have undergone numerous splits into factions, each with a different take on the practice of the religion or different interpretation of the same supporting materials and beliefs. It does not take one long to see the hand of man in all of the world’s religions or to recognize the influence of the human ego in the editing and presentation of the various religious scripts and books that exist. Since most claim to be divinely guided, it must have kept God busy, or at least amused for some time, as each new translation or interpretation required His “divine guidance”.

Of similar interest is the art that accompanies the writings for many religions. Again the ego of man is center stage with depictions of the major figures within the religion looking amazingly like modern men of whatever region the artworks for that religion is based within. The exceptions seem to be the far eastern religions where many of the “Gods” of the religions are certainly depicted as looking anything but human. Maybe that’s where the “superhuman agency” aspect is applied.

A fairly consistent, but somewhat troubling, theme that runs through most of these religions is that the adherents truly believe that their God is the only true God and that they are the onlydisagreement2 ones who “get it.” They are “the chosen ones”, so to speak. That serves to provide the underlying justification for much of the “them vs. us” mentality that is presently associated in the modern world with religions, at least in some places. Very few of the religions of the world actually recognize the other religions and most look with pity or disdain on those who do not believe as they do. The docks of human history are apparently filled with those who missed the boat on the one and only true religion when it sailed.

Of course there is always the possibility that all of the world’s religions are “true” and that the names that various religions have associated with the “superhuman agency” that they believe in all point to the same enigmatic entity. Since man has appointed himself the author, editor, keeper and interpreter of his own religious texts and books, he has essentially documented his religions in ways that made sense to him in whatever place and time he began to believe. The creators and keepers of the written materials stifle all argument within the community of believers, as I said earlier, by claiming that the words that were written and the edits that were later made were all “divinely guided.”  How convenient for them.

The further down this rat hole that I went the more it became clear that this is a topic that defies logic or clear explanation, and is a topic that is not to be tackled within the confines of a blog post. That was OK, because it brought me back to the beginning and the realization that religion is something that really cannot be explained, but must just be believed. We make personal choices in our lives about which religion to affiliate with and what and how much to believe, as well as which of the rituals to observe. That also serves to differentiate religions from faith, since faith has no requirements for dogma or ritual observances. Each can exist without the other

The practice of our faith, through religion fills a very real need in our lives and the ability alone at sunsetto set aside logic and just believe allows us to accept that which we cannot explain. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it – “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”  The fact that moral codes have been created around those beliefs also provides a needed part of a civilized social structure. We need religion in our lives because without it there is a vexing void in our understanding of the world and what is happening around us. Religions help us define the boundaries in life, beyond which you do not need to understand, just believe.

So, I’m not going to spend any more time trying to explain religion, I’m just going to go back to believing. However, maybe I’ll spend a little time praying for all of the unfortunate people who missed the boat on in my religion. Maybe they just don’t get it.


Three little words – the greatest three of all time

April 4, 2015

It is Easter tomorrow and we will be using these three words. I belong to a church that is a part of the Christian Faith, in my case Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in West Bloomfield, Michigan. There are many religions other than Christianity. Most of them also have a book (we have the Bible – Old and New Testaments) that contains the historical foundation of their beliefs, whether it is the Talmud, The Bhagavad-Gita, The Vedas, Qur’an, Zhuan Falun, New World Translation of the Scriptures,The Book of Mormon or Adi Granth. Most religions also have some concept of an afterlife, somewhere one goes or some state that one achieves after the death of their earthly body. I would submit for your consideration that Christianity is the only religion that has documented proof. Lawyers, whether on the prosecution or defense side of a case would probably tell you that there is no stronger evidence than corroborated testimony from eye witnesses to the events being adjudicated.  In the case of Christianity, there is compelling and corroborated testimony by several eye witnesses to a remarkable event that confirms our belief in an afterlife. What those witnesses saw and reported can be summed up in the same three little words – He is risen.

The book that we use as our foundation – the Bible – has multiple, independent versions of the same events in the life of Jesus, his death and his resurrection. There are many other corroborating accounts in the books that were left out of the modern Canonical version of the Bible. Had He not come back multiple times to meet with the Disciples and confirm for them his resurrection the story would have moved forward with the belief that someone had somehow stolen His body and perhaps the whole Christian movement would have faded into history. However, accounts from the time record that He did return to appear before Mary Magdalen at the tomb and twice in a locked room with the Disciples and against on the road as two of the disciples travels to another town. There is a fascinating Web site that documents the many accounts of witnesses to this remarkable event. The evidence of these eye witness accounts is very convincing and confirms that He is risen.

Throughout his life Jesus went about doing the things that fulfilled various predictions of the future (prophesies) that had been made and recorded in the old testament, which was the historical basis of the Jewish faith.  Even his death on the cross was foretold and the empty tomb gave silent testimony to  the final fulfilment of the prophesies – the fact that on the third day after his death He is risen.

So, tomorrow morning we will all greet each other with those three little words – He is risen – and reply to that greeting with the retort “He is risen indeed.” We will hear sermons about the resurrection, then we will go home and celebrate the traditional, non-religious version of the holiday with Easter Bunnies, and Easter Eggs and family gatherings. We will feast on the Easter meal and perhaps end the day tired and in a stupor from too much food and drink. But somewhere, just before we drift off to sleep and head into another ordinary day in our lives, empty tombsomewhere in the back of our minds we will feel a sense of well-being and peace that comes from again hearing the echo of those three little words – He is risen.

Have a happy Easter because, He is risen indeed!


Veto hate…give love a chance

April 3, 2015

From the blog Jack’s Winning Words comes this timely quote –

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”  (Jonathan Swift)

I say timely because of the recent headlines about the hate that is being disguised as opinionatedreligious freedom in several states. There’s nothing that illustrates this little quote more than a bunch of good-ole, bible-thumping, conservative white guys in positions to create laws for the rest of us. They haven’t got enough love to really be called Christians, but they cloak themselves in that title anyway and then proceed to try to legislate life for those “who aren’t like us.”

Much of religion as practiced today by those of good-ole, bible-thumping, conservative white guys is highly hypocritical, espousing the moral high ground while occupying the lowlands of hate, discrimination and exclusion.  Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a good editorial on the recent spate of so-called religious freedom laws that have been passed in several states lately by their good-ole white guys legislatures. You can read it at –  http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/04/02/indiana-gay-rights/70830076/

His headline is Faith of force and exclusion not the only faith there is. He writes that there was even a law proposed by Sylvia Allen, a conservative female lawmaker out in Arizona, to require church attendance as a way, she thought, to reverse the moral decline that she see in America.

The hypocrisy does not stop at our own doorstep. Many of these same politicians puff themselves up and rail against the atrocities that they see being committed elsewhere in the world in the name of religion; while turning a blind eye to their own human rights
transgressions here at home. The simple fact is that all who trample on others or who promote hate, discrimination and intolerance in the name of their religion are wrong. They fail that simple little test that you see from time to time on those brightly-colored, WWJDrubber wrist bands that have WWJD on them.  If they really believe that Jesus would refuse to serve at a wedding because the couple being married are members of GLBT community then they have failed to understand the teachings of the very bible that they have been thumping all the while. BUT, they spit out in vile retort – “they’re not like us.” To which those on the receiving end might best reply – “thank God for that!”

Having been founded by people who fled to its shores to escape religious persecution, the drafters of America’s founding documents – the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – went to great pains to craft an environment of principles, rights and laws that insured that religion would not again be used by government against its own exclusioncitizens. Government officials in several states seem to be trying to circumvent those founding intents. Many say that they are trying to return to “old values.” Perhaps they have overshot the mark a bit and returned all the way to the old values that were being imposed on those who sought refuge through escape to what became America. How ironic that they do not see the similarities in the discrimination that they are now trying to foist upon the citizens in the name of religion.

It is also telling about today’s America that economics seems to have a stronger role to play than the religious beliefs of those same legislators. Faced with economic boycotts over their new laws all are trying to backpedal on those laws as fast as they can, all the while defending their positions as defenders of the moral high ground. I’m reminded of the segregationist holdouts in the South during the civil rights movement, the face of Wallace buttonwhich was embodied in George Wallace standing on the steps of a school to deny entry to African-American children. Many of them thumped their bibles and claimed to have some moral right to discriminate against blacks. While most of those angry, good-ole, white guys have passed on; their progeny now stand on the steps of their own fortresses (apparently bakeries and flower shops, now) thumping their bibles and claiming the right to discriminate against a new group of people.

In two days we celebrate the defeat of death for us all by Jesus; perhaps sometime in our lifetimes we will gather to celebrate the defeat of exclusion and discrimination and the victory of love over hate. Maybe not this year; but, we can keep hope alive. WWJD? I think he would have vetoed those laws had he been the governor in any of those states. They certainly have no place in His world or His book. Celebrate the rise of the Son by embracing those around you who are different than us, rather than finding ways to hate them.


Believe…?

January 11, 2015

One of the most overused words during the last holiday season (and actually all the time) was the word Believe. Put that word next to a sports team logo and you have an ad for the fans. Put it next to a picture of Santa Claus and it becomes a Christmas message and put it under a picture of two people and a baby standing in a stable with a star shining above and it becomes a religious message.  It is abelieve favorite of motivational speakers everywhere. Believe in the product. Believe in the program. Believe in the company. Believe in yourself! There’s even a popular T-shirt with “I believe” on it.

What does it mean to believe? According to the dictionary to believe is to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.  Certainly, most those who run around all year with “Believe” T-shirts (or sweatshirts if one lives in the North) on for their favorite sports team believed in their team. Some still do and think that they got robbed of the chance to go all the way to whatever final playoff game or context exists for that sport. We all go through a time in our young lives where we believe in Santa Claus, some more than others out of hope in their desperate situations as much as belief.

thinking womanWe all, at some time or another, also need to take stock in what we believe in the religious sense. I have a hard time fathoming how those who claim to have no religious beliefs at all reconcile the inevitable end of life. They may state that what they believe is that when you die, that’s it, that’s the end, there is nothing else. Wow, talk about a dead-end belief (pun intended). Having no religious beliefs at all also leaves big questions unanswered – the How and Why type questions about life.

The concept of religions almost seems to be an innate human characteristic, something that is inevitable as human beings everywhere and anywhere cope with trying to understand the world that they live in. While I don’t have time here to go into a deep dive on that thought, I will someday. What I would present temporarily, as proof of that statement, is the spontaneous and autonomous rise of world religious symbolsreligious beliefs and the creation of rather complex religious ideologies that grew up around the world within totally isolated groups of humans.

When the first explorers arrived to the New World in North America they found a native population that had developed a complete religion around the concept of The Great Spirit – maker and keeper of all things in nature. To the south the Spanish and Portuguese explorers found very complex and ritual-oriented religious worship of the Sun god (note, not the Son) in place. Obviously those religions grew out of a common need of man to explain things beyond his comprehension and control. Other religions in other parts of the world sprang out of the same need, some creating elaborate hierarchies of deities, but all aimed at the same end – to provide an explanation for what man could not understand or explain himself. Most of these praying in different religionsreligions also had provisions for the concept of a soul or spirit within man and some form of existence after earthly death or even rebirth. People involved with all of these “religions” believed; because to not believe leaves one with nothing – no explanations, no sense of underlying order and no afterlife.

What things do you hold to be true, even though you cannot prove that to be so? It’s OK to have beliefs and even to share them with others.  Joining other people with similar beliefs in organized worship is both a reinforcement of your beliefs and comforting.  We all need to believe in something, because the alternative is unfathomable and frightening.  Every week in my church service we recite a creed that states our beliefs. It starts, “I believe in…”

So, what do you believe in?