Monday, October 26, 2009

Get the Picture

Get the Picture

My granddaughter Zoe celebrated her first birthday recently and she had two parties. I took pictures and gave her parents a scrapbook filled with lots of pictures after each party. Each of the two scrapbooks is a little different, but both of them are filled with memories.

One day Zoe will grow up and begin a life of her own and her parents will open scrapbooks and remember her journey. After my own children grew up, I realized how valuable and wonderful those pictures were. I put them together in those white cardboard clear plastic frames, on colorful scrapbook paper and hung them on the walls of our living room. With a turn of my head, I traveled back through time to moments in the lives of our children.

My wife, Sharon took most of those pictures, but our parents gave us pictures to travel back into our childhood. Now, I seem to have taken on that role. Perhaps that is because my children gave me a digital camera. Photographs need dates and names for those who will receive them after we die. Someday our journeys will be memories for our children to share.

You, too can give that gift to your children. It is worth the time and effort, and your gift of photos will be treasures. Share your journeys in scrapbooks, and make enough for all of your children.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Be Mice to Elephants

Be Mice to Elephants

This is one of my acrylic paintings It was was based on one of my ink drawings, and it is different in some ways. The ink drawing is above my painting.

The symbolism is simple. Elephants are supposes to be afraid of mice, but I think that mice are afraid of elephants because they are huge and powerful. Still, if we use the other idea, something interesting happens. The little mouse stands up to the huge elephant, confronts what he is afraid of and conquers his fears.

There are people that believe that the elephant would just step on the mouse, and the mouse should avoid elephants. If we were talking abut cats and foxes, I would have to concede that point. When you use symbols, you have to refrain from adding too much stuff. I say, "Stick to elephants and mice!"

That allows us to learn something. We can stand up to our fears and do something about them. Can we actually make friends with our fears. When we reach the point when we are no longer afraid, we can live with whatever we were afraid of.

Perhaps we may learn from the mouse. Our strength and our size do not have to be equal to or greater than what we fear. We conquer our fears when we draw on something inside of us. If we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains, and elephants, and other things. Find the verse in the bible and look up, "With faith, all things are possible."

You remember the phrase, "Are you mice or men!" If we accept the meaning of our metaphor, mice deserve a better reputation. Something small can overcome something great and powerful.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two For Jesus -Tom and Rachel

Two For Jesus
Tom and Rachel

We talk a lot about giving our lives to Jesus and serving him and yet most people don't get much farther than that. Tom and Rachel are God's servants. Tom works with the high school youth and Rachel works with the junior high youth. They belong to a church that believes that every member should find an opportunity to serve Jesus and to serve Jesus in some form of Christian ministry.

Rachel has a gift for serving junior high youth. She understands them and she connects with them. I saw her with them in her Sunday school class. Their faces lit up as they entered the room and saw that she was there. It was obvious that they love her.

Tom has a gift with high school you. He understands them and he connects with them. He can play with them and share the fun. He also talks to them about Jesus Christ and they listen to him. It was obvious that they love him.

It was refreshing to share their home with them last weekend. I felt the presence of Jesus Christ, their love for him and each other and us. They are two for Christ and they are making a difference in the lives of youth. I smile when I think about my son and my daughter. No, they are not brother and sister, but I refuse to use the phrase, "daughter in law." She is much more than that. She is my daughter and I count that as a blessing.

I was a pastor for eighteen years. Seeing them at work in ministry for Jesus Christ brings me great joy. They are two for Jesus and they shine, their lights shine for Jesus.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Listening Fills Our Emptiness

Listening Fills Our Emptiness

I have been writing a blog for sometime and today it occurred to me that listening fills our emptiness. I wonder how I can write a listening blog. Since my blog entries have no comments from readers, I wonder if anyone reads what I write.
I thought about that and I also saw that a true listener is not filled with his/her own words. In fact, a true listener is a blank page, and that allows him or her tp focus completely on what the other person is saying, and see the para language, the nonverbal messages that add meaning. Should a blog be a blank page?

Those who speak to us require some feedback, just enough to encourage the other person to share his/her thoughts, but not some much that the flow of the other person's communication is interrupted Effective and fulfilling listening takes practice. Many interactions will be short, but meaningful. A message that is too long may lose the attention of the listener, even an experienced listener.

I went shopping and I noticed the enthusiasm of the woman who was assisting the check out clerk. She had very short hair, shorter than a crew cut and I said to her, "I like your hair," She ran her hand across the top of her head and said,"Thank you." I asked her if she liked her job and she answered, "I applied when I was living in Seattle, and they hired me on the spot. I moved my husband anf family so I could work here."

This wasn't an ordinary company. Those that they hire start at $11 an hour. Getting her new job was a major event in her life. It required her to move a long way from her home and start a new job. Her enthusiasm flowed from her new job, and she seemed to love her job. It was obvious that the company gota good deal and a great worker.

A lot of people don't seem to have the time to talk or listen. They are too busy.
It seems like the times when men sat together smoking their pipes and sharing with each other has ended. Perhaps they are like the dragon, in my picture. relaxing and smoking his pipe. He is alone and his scales protect him.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nobody Wins

Nobody Wins

Darwin wrote, "Life is the survival of the fittest."

The conflict of nations, ethnic groups, street gangs, and tough men and women may be about survival, control, dominance, and gaining wealth. Sometimes it is about freedom an protecting innocents. When innocents are killed during a war, a drive by shooting, or by a shoot out, it is called collateral damage. It seems to be an escape clause and to be derived from the reasoning that it is normal for innocent people to die during the lethal part of violent human conflicts.

We live in a world where we need warriors and war machines to protect us from our enemies. We need police men and women to protect us from violent criminals and street gangs, and organized crime. More and more citizens study the martial arts and/or get gun permits because they have watched innocent people beaten or killed, and they don't feel safe.

If Darwin is right, if may be helpful to learn how to use a hand gun if you live or work in violent parts of our cities. That might keep a woman from being raped or any number of people from being killed for the money in their cash registers or wallets. Do we live in a world that requires us to take these measures to save our lives or save us from severe beatings? Martial arts can also help to insure our safety. Will the inability to protect ourselves result in more death and/or severe beatings?

In every case, the use of violence may leave another person, good or bad. injured or dead. Canada has used a radically different approach. Canada does a good job of taking care of the needs of its citizens. They have created a system that offers food, shelter, and medical care to all of its citizens. They believe that all people deserve that. In that country crimes and violence are very rare. What would happen if every nation had that kind of system in place?

President Obama is facing huge opposition from Republicans and many Democrats because he wants to insure that every American has medical care. The rich say that his national health plan will raise taxes and they have TV ads to convince the people to oppose it. Obama's approval rating has dropped to fifty percent. It cost a lot of money for Canada's approach, but it also includes decent housing and food, and reasonable financial help. Canada has created a country where violence and crime are very rare. Why is our nation unwilling to embrace that system? We see them as socialists and we are told that socialism is bad, but if that means that all of their people are valued and cared for, is it bad?

Our system is failing and our homeless and unemployment numbers have increased dramatically. The number of blue color jobs for America's work force has fallen to its lowest level. Sixty five million working Americans have no health insurance. Though the crisis in our country began in the seventies, we have just begun to see that our nation is in trouble. Most of our auto makers are bankrupt, and service jobs are going overseas along with many "professional" jobs.

In our battle with drugs, violence, and crime. it seems that nobody wins. Two percent of our citizens are living in overcrowded prisons and jails The majority of the inmates were convicted for drug related crimes and we have very little money for counseling and rehabilitation. When there is little or no help, there is no hope.

Perhaps it is time for more Americans to vote,YES, for America. Less than thirty percent of us vote, and/or give $ to support candidates. Our votes, many more voters, may change our country and help our president to help all Americans. That would be a win win situation.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monsters Are Real

Monsters Are Real

One night my son came to talk to me. I was smoking my pipe and working on a model. It was late, but his question led me to put aside the model car and talk to him. He asked, "Daddy, are monsters real?" I thought about his question for awhile, about what monsters mean to a little boy. Do the monsters in our dreams express the bad things in our lives that we have to face everyday?

When I was a graduate student I took lessons in Kenpo karate because I needed some exercise. A father brought his twelve year old son for lessons. He had a good reason. Three bullies stopped his son at the beginning of his paper route. They took his papers out of his newspaper bag everyday and threw them randomly all about. I taught him Kenpo and he worked hard. Finally he was ready. The three bullies appeared as usual and the boy followed my instructions. He took off his news paper bag and said, "I don't want to hurt you." They laughed at him. He placed his left hand on the leaders left shoulder and delivered a rams head punch to his stomach. The leader fell to the ground gasping for air. The leader wasn't hurt; he just got the wind knocked out of him. The boy made his point and the three bullies never bothered him again. His bullies were monsters in his eyes, and he was afraid of them. After he dealt with them, he wasn't afraid anymore, but they were afraid of him.

I am not suggesting that physical violence is the best way to deal with our monsters. In fact, I believe it is seldom necessary. There are times when it may save our lives, or when it is the last resort. Many times the confidence that I gained from learning Kenpo karate was enough to send a bully looking for some one else, a person that is afraid of bullies. We need to stand up to our monsters and deal with them, or we will always live with fear. Words are powerful. Words can often solve our problems with our monsters.

Some situations don't allow us to deal with our monsters. That doesn't mean that we have to fear them. They may be people close to us who are unwilling to deal with their stuff. They are passive aggressive, and they avoid any kind of conflict, even when things may be resolved. We learn to let go and let live in those situations. Those situations may hurt a lot and it may be hard to let go of our pain.

After a few moments, I answered my son, "Yes, monsters are real, but Jesus is bigger than our monsters and he can deal with them." My son smiled after we prayed, and went to bed. I wondered what about the monsters he was facing.
He is grown up now, and he is very good at dealing with his monsters.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Loves More Than One, But No Infidelity

Loves More Than One, But No Infidelity

We watched an interesting episode of Star Trek Enterprise. Once again, Captain Archer had offended the aliens. His dog, Porthos, peed on one of the tress that they considered sacred. The doctor sent the aliens genetic information about Porthos, and they should have known that something in their environment would make his dog very sick. If they had warned Captain Archer, Porthos would have stayed on the star ship, Enterprise. Porthos got so sick that the doctor wasn't sure if he would live through the night.

The aliens demanded an apology for Porthos' indiscretion. Captain Archer felt that they owed him an apology because his dog was dying. The aliens made plasma inductors and his star ship needed one. He would have to apologize or the aliens would not give them a plasma inductor. He loved his star ship and his crew, but it seemed that he loved Porthos more. Porthos was dying and he was very angry, and there was no way that he would apologize.

Captain Archer's love for Porthos, his star ship, and crew was appropriate, but conflicted. The doctor told him about one other kind of love that he was unaware of. Actually it wasn't really love; it was sexual tension. Tpol, a Vulcan woman, and his science officer was the object of those emotions. He would never act on those feelings because their were rules in place that forbid sexual relations between the two of them. He asked the doctor what to do and he told him that it was enough to be aware of those feelings. He spoke with her in the privacy of his room, about his situation with the aliens. As she left, she acknowledged that it was a good thing that there were rules in place that kept them both safe.

The doctor also helped him to sort out his feelings about Porthos and his responsibility to his crew as a star ship captain. His apology to the aliens required him to go through an elaborate ritual. His reward for doing it well was two extra plasma inductors, for a total of three instead of one.

We have jobs that we love, family that we love, and many of us have pets that we love. We may have friends, and hobbies that we love. Sorting all of that out may be difficult and we may have conflicts to resolve. Sexual tensions are not intentional and they,too, must be resolved. We are human and feeling arise from time to time. The most import thing is to be aware of all of that.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Triumphs and Tears

Star Atheletes


Triumphs and Tears

I watched her perform in her pink gymnasts' outfit. She was a young person, just barely an adolescent. I knew that gymnastics takes a great deal of discipline and the goals are precision and perfection. Her routine realized that goal and then she stumbled on her landing, the very last part of her routine. That mistake cost her dearly. She put on a proper face, a winning smile, and yet I knew that she must have been crying on the inside. I wondered how she would handle that later in her private moments. A lot was expected of her and one mistake meant failure.

A female long distance runner had performed poorly at a previous event. The TV announcers predicted that she would not win a medal. She had performed well at other events and she was praised by the press. It seemed that the press and TV media were clear about the fact that no one believed in her anymore. She fell behind during the first part of the race and the TV announcers continued to make negative comments about her performance and they constantly repeated their prediction that she would fail. I wondered what she was thinking and feeling during her race. Did she believe her critics? Had she given up on herself? It all seemed so impossible, and yet I did not give up hope. Gradually she began to catch up and she was very close to the front runners. It was nearly over and then she seemed to fly as her speed increased dramatically. It was nip and tuck as the group neared the finish line and she finished just a few inches ahead of them. She gave more than she had and I saw her on her back gasping for breath. When she received her gold medal, she was barely able to stand. She was not injured and she would recover. She definitely had that something special that few people have and she won the day in a great triumph of will.

Our lives are not so different. Success requires a lot of hard work, perseverance, and discipline. Sometimes one mistake can lead to failure and we must decide if we will move on and get back on track. Some days it seems like no one believes in us and we must believe in ourselves. I wonder how we acquire that something special that few people have, and I know that it makes all of the difference.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Windy Day

A Windy Day

There is a place in Seattle, near an old. abandoned steam plant where people gather to fly their kites. Dragon kites, and box kites and many more kinds of kites can be seen soaring in the sky. There are adults, youth and children holding on to kite strings, and wearing smiles. They feel a wonderful freedom as the wind sails their kites across a big blue sky, and some of them soar very high. Sometimes strong winds free the kites from their hands and those kites sail away to distant destinations.

A kite becomes a friend and it's always hard to lose a friend; some times a friend must be set free because we can't control the wind. We blame ourselves and yet it is the wind that chooses to free to kites and friends from us. Eventually they may return. I saw an old man return a kite to a child and watched a child hold her kite gently in her hands. The little girl said to her kite, "Why did you leave me? I love you." Many love songs begin like that. I saw a kite sail in the sky free as a bird and then return to a little boy. He held the kite almost too tight and said, "Welcome back friend." There is a joy that fills our hearts when kites and friends return to us.

Our children can be like kites; they fly higher and higher and one day their strings, their ties with family slip through are hands and they fly way. We pray that the wind will be kind to them and that they will continue to soar beneath the warmth of the sun. They usually return and yet they may feel that they do not need our help to fly. That's what it means to grow up and begin a new life. Our children were born to learn how to fly on their own.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dreams and Nightmares

Dreams and Nightmares

There is a line in a Simon and Garfunkle song, "And we've all gone to search for America." In these days of chaos and growing unemployment lines, many of us are asking, "Where have all the jobs gone?" Peter, Paul and Mary sang a a powerful folk song, "Where have all the Flowers Gone." I want to convert the poetic chorus to our situation. "Where have all the workers gone? Gone to unemployment lines every one. Oh, when will we ever work. Oh, when will we ever work? Where have all the jobs gone? Gone to other nation every one? Oh when will we ever learn? Oh when will we ever learn?"

Chaos erupted as quickly as the bullet from a hunter's rifle and the American worker fell in silence without a requiem. While we were sleeping unaware, the American dream became a nightmare. A computer programmer's forty dollar an hour job went overseas to a stranger who does the same job for ten dollars an hour. Microsoft's empire gained more profits when all of their customer service jobs went to India. Verizon sent their customer service jobs to Mexico. Oh so many manufacturing jobs went to China and finally the jobs in the American automobile plants crashed in a car wreck of astronomic proportion. The needs of greed broke our banks and the items at our stock market were all on sale at bargain prices, Retirement plans felt the heat and there were no fans.

Millions of Americans are searching but only a few are finding work because companies are tightening their belts and there are no notches left. The real jobs that Americans had are now only figments of our imagination. The jobs that were promised Americans left without saying good bye. Like the old cowboy ghost towns, American manufacturing cities are filled with empty storefronts, and vacant houses. Factories have become monuments to our nations decline.

Our president, Obama, is working hard to bring order out of Chaos, but he faces a lot of opposition from those who profited from our nation's decline. Yet a ray of hope shines because a growing group of CEO s have discovered that those who benefit from America should contribute to it. We can support our president at the polling places with our votes and we can stand up and speak out for America. I am glad that I voted for Obama because he is a man with a vision for America, a man who may earn a place in history if we give him the support he deserves.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Climb Every Mountain Until You Find Your Dream

Climb Every Mountain Until You Find Your Dream

A day without a dream is like a car with an empty gas tank.
A day without a dream is like a bird with out wings
A day without a dream is like a sailboat without wind

My son Tom and his wonderful wife Rachel are rock climbers. I can only wonder about what they feel after they complete their climb. I am inspired by the rock climbing pictures that they sent me and I am in awe of their climbs.

Every good thing in our lives begins with our dream about how we would like our lives to be, about who we would like to be, about what we would like to do, about what we would like to accomplish.

Our dreams can come true if we are willing to climb the mountain and reach the top. The climb requires persistence, requires the courage to face obstacles and overcome them, requires faith in God and faith in ourselves when the climbing gets hard and we are afraid of falling.

Tom hurt his shoulder and he won't be able to climb for awhile. He will heal and he will climb again because he has faith and a strong will that says, "I can and I will do it." He will continue to pursue his dream because he has already accomplished many things and there are more things that he knows he can do, because he will never give up, never quit.

The musical "Man of La Mancha," has a beautiful line in one of its songs. Don Quiote sings, "Climb every mountain until you find your dream." We discover our dreams after we get our bodies in motion with enthusiasm. We discover our dream as we climb our first mountain.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There Are Hidden Faces

There Are Hidden Faces

There are hidden faces lost in a crowd
There are hidden faces waiting to be found
Jumping Jim-a-knee, they're so quiet that they're loud
Zipping, zapping, feet a flying we are all just trying
Did I say trying? A jet airplane is so slow compared to
The very speed that you and I do fly just to get by them.
Look, oh no don't look! Diddley dum de dum; have you ever seen even one?
They are totally boring and not even one of them has any fun, if you don't count chewing big wads of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum.
They are totally, otta boatlley, and scrim bittley yodely beneath our lofty pride, and we all know that they have no true feelings inside.
Though it is tip tiddley true that if you put them down and make them frown, tears often come to their eyes, mere amusement for us to make time fly.
There are choices; you can ignore them, or abhore them, or if you choose, then you can mop the floor with them again and again.
They are after all, faces lost in a crowd
They are faces waiting to be found
Some might write you a note and leave it on your desk, hoping that you might do all of the rest, might honor them and make them your guest.
They often write words of desperation, words of loneliness and exasperation,
"Won't you please be my friend, I really need a friend. We could do things together and we'd have lots of fun. Please, oh please, you could be the one. Without you I'll ne lonely and oh yes, I am almost undone.
I myself, yesterday afternoon, I found those words in a note on my desk; it was the first face I have ever seen in the crowd and it looked very human, I must confess.
To tell the truth, I almost failed the test; I came oh so close yo saying , "yes."
Today I searched for that face in the crowd; for some reason I was no longer so proud.
I shouted at the top of my lungs, "Where are you, hidden face in the crowd? Come out, oh yes come out, and I'll give you my yes. Yesterday you reached out and well you know the rest. I crumpled your note that you left on my desk, and threw it away lest I pass the test, the test that says I am better than you and I am the best."
Today my face in the crowd vanished, wilted like a spring flower at the end of the season, cut from the field and imprisoned in a vase, lost in a crowd and no longer part of the human race.
You lived out your loneliness and I lived out my pride, threw your life away like I threw your note in the garbage can.
Yesterday you committed suicide; yesterday you died.
I promise you that I will look and find the faces in the crowd,
I will reach out and I will make new friends.
We will spend time together and have lots of fun, and none of them, not even one of them will ever, no never, be lonely again.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Danger, Roadblocks, and Birds

Danger Roadblocks and Birds

We walked the trail and saw the bird on a treetop not far from its nest. We observed its nest on top of a power pole and we saw the danger. The nest was built by the bird to keep her children safe, but it was clear that they were in danger. The power lines were connected near her nest and when lightning shoots across the sky they become a welcome target. It appeared to be a paradox because the most dangerous place may have also provided the safest place for her children, a place that kept them safe from predators. She sat atop a tree nearby and she could see the surroundings, and any threat to her children. In a world of nature invaded by man, the little bird had done its best.

I wondered if the people from the power company would take down her nest. I am not sure, but it seems that the power company people have reasons for doing things like that. Perhaps the little bird's nest building was her attempt to adapt to the changes that man has made to her environment. The question was, would we allow her to continue living with us. It was clear that the future of the little bird and her children was uncertain.

On the ground where we were walking, we noticed a sign which read," DANGER." The sign was near the trail, a warning to us as we walked and observed the beauty of nature. The sign almost read, "KEEP OUT" and "NO TRESPASSING." A list of reasons was also on the sign. Man had not only made life difficult for the little bird. man had also created places that weren't safe for us.

A chain link fence kept us from walking on a concrete bridge that spanned the river. There was a warning without reasons and we wondered by man built the fence. We wondered if humans make our world a dangerous place to live in, and like the little bird, we wondered how we could/can adapt to that. We saw clearly that people make the world a dangerous place to live in. We all can make a long list of those dangers, though I have no idea why those dangers become television entertainment.

We start early teaching our children the danger signs, and add more as they grow older. Some people make our world an unsafe place for children, and they don't wear danger signs. Some people make our city sidewalks an unsafe place to walk. We know the about those dangers and they are ever present.

People move to the suburbs to build their nests, make their homes in safer places, but after awhile the dangers seem to follow them. I wondered what would happen if we put DANGER SIGNS at the entrances to our communities which included a list of reasons.

Perhaps all of this talk about real dangers may motivate us to start changing our world, to start thinking about our society and the reasons that it is dangerous way to live. Perhaps we may ask the question, "Why is it a lot safer to live in Canada?"


Thursday, July 23, 2009


Romans 12:6-8
"If it is encouraging, let him encourage." Romans 12:8

I shared three list of spiritual gifts in my last blog. Originally, I waned to write about encouraging others. Then it occurred to me that it is important to see that there are many spiritual gifts from God, and we have different spiritual gifts. The gift of encouraging is only found in one of Paul's list, and their are other spiritual gifts that are found on all of the three lists.

Encouraging is such an important gift, and I wonder why it only made one list. I discovered that many of Paul's letters and much of his ministry focused on encouragement. "We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in the spreading of the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials." 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3
Paul often shared in his letters about sending encouragers to help Christians deal with difficult things.

Paul wrote a short encourager's prayer. "May our Lord, Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Encouragement is one of my spiritual gifts, and it is an essential part of who I am. We don't need to do much to use that gift. Encouraging others may be as natural as breathing. Sometimes it requires more, and then it may be useful to think about an important phrase, "Be interruptable." If a moment offers an opportunity for encouragement, we should be there for another person, even a stranger. If listening to a person is a need that offers encouragement, it may take longer. When we say, "How are you?" or "How are things going today?" do we really mean it, or is it just an empty greeting? I have seen people looking confused when some one attempts to tell him/her about his/her day.

I value those simple phrases because they offer the opportunity for human contact and genuine encouragement. Often a cashier at a checkout stand will share something at that moment. Perhaps we connected because I made eye contact and my voice resonated genuine concern. A previous customer may have been rude and my reply may be, "I am very sorry that happened to you. You always offer a smile and excellent service." The cashier often offers a big smile and the words, "Thank you."

People need encouragement and all of us can offer others encouragement. Some people see encouragement from a negative viewpoint. Sometimes I wonder if they are the people that need it the most. We do not have to apologize for sincere words of encouragement that come from the heart. We don't need to worry about people who reject encouragement.

Encouragement is not counseling. It may be standing with some one through a crisis, but it is not about giving advice. Encouragement may be listening or being with some one, but it's role is not guidance. We may offer empathy, but encouragement is not misplaced sympathy. Empathy is allowing ourselves to share the persons feelings. Too much sympathy may justify some one's staying stuck where they are. Some people seem to want to stay stuck, and they may need encouragement to move on with their lives.

Often encouragement is making positive contact with another human being. We can affirm the good things we see in another person and that may be the start of hope in their lives. My prayer is that we may all find a positive connection in the human family and set aside our differences. Hope for the human race may start there.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

God's Gifts

The Gift of Encouragement
(Romans 12:4-8))

Part 1 Romans 12:1-3
Considerations Before We Get the Job

I have my old, more than worn out, New International Version, bible in front of me. Reading it is like having a time of fellow ship with an old friend. This bible is a comfortable and familiar place that allows me to find favorite verses easier.

The first paragraph explains spiritual worship. Paul begins by asking us to think about God's mercy and offers it to us as the reason that we can offer God our bodies as living sacrifices to God. He explains that we should be holy and pleasing to God. If we want to be holy and pleasing to God we must not conform ourselves to the pattern of the world. We must allow God to change the way that we think about things. That allows us to test and agree to God's will for our lives. which Paul describes as good and pleasing.

Paul begins the second paragraph by dealing with two kinds of pride that will lead to our fall. Though he doesn't deal with this directly, he explains that we should not see ourselves as more important than other people. If we are conforming to the world we will seek power over others, a higher position, as well as greater wealth. Those things become the desires of our hearts and we give them our time and our attention. Spiritual pride sets us above other people, even other Christians because of our view of our relationship with God and what we feel is our dedication to being holy, obedient, and pleasing to God. We reason that we are better, and more important because we perform better for God. Paul tells us to draw on the faith that God has given us, and take a good, hard look at ourselves.

Part 2 Romans 12:4-7
Finding a Job in the Body of Christ

When I read Romans 12:1-3 it helps me to prepare myself to work for God. I ask myself what I want out of life, what I feel will make me feel happy and satisfied. I take a hard look at my life and I accept the fact that I have sinned and I need Christ's forgiveness and God's help in changing myself so that I will be prepared for God to hire me for a job in the body of Christ. That process requires the kind of honesty that is not accompanied by excuses, and requires a sincere desire to change. I don't have to be perfect to get hired, but I do need to deal with my stuff.

Paul compares the body of Christ with our human bodies. All of the parts of my physical body work together to make me healthy. My hands do not say, "I won't be a hand because I would rather be the heart; the heart is more important and I deserve the job. Every part of my body knows what it was made to do and it does its job without an argument. The body of Christ is like that and every job is very important. Together we are the body of Christ and we belong to each other

Paul says that we are given different jobs and we have different functions in the body of Christ. He calls those jobs gifts because our jobs are given to us by God. He explains that we are given our jobs according to the grace that God has given us. That means that we are given the job that God has created us to do. In addition God has blessed us with the ability to do that job.

The List of Jobs/Gifts
1. If a man's gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
2. If it is serving, let him serve
3. If it is teaching, let him teach
4. If it is encouraging, let him encourage
5. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously
6. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently
7. If it is showing mercy let him do it cheerfully

Part 3 Paul's lists of Spiritual Gifts/Jobs
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
I want to talk about the gift/job of encouraging, but first I want to clear up some confusion. You have read one list of jobs/gifts and Paul offers two more lists.Paul

Paul explains, in the first paragraph that he wants us to know about the spiritual gifts because there was a time when we were seduced my false gods. Too often we view things as harmless that put us in real danger. When we read the horoscopes in the news paper we are conceding to a false god and believing that the false god knows are future. Children take part in popular role playing games and video games that have characters from the world dark side. We also watch movies and read books that deal with words and spells and forces that come out of the pit of hell. We dismiss them as harms stories meant only to entertain us, but Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons would be put on Paul's list, which cautions us not to visit these seductive and evil tools of Satan. They offer very real and evil powers to children and adults.

God offers us a power that is greater and uses that power to work for our good. Before we seek God's spiritual gifts we must leave the paths of hell and the ways of the world and begin walking in God's light.

Paul begins the second paragraph by explaining that there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the Holy Spirit. They work in different ways, but God works through all of them.

God gives us spiritual gifts to be used for the common good. We should never fall to spiritual pride and believe that we are better than other Christians or "Special," because God has given us a spiritual gift.

The Second List of Spiritual Gifts/Jobs
1. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom
2. To another the gift of knowledge by means of the of the same Spirit
3. To another faith by the same Spirit
4. To another gifts of healing by that one Spirit
5. To another miraculous powers
6. To another prophecy
7. To another the ability to distinguish between spirits
8. To another the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues
9. And to still another the interpretation of tongues

Paul concludes that all of these gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit, and God gives those spiritual gifts to each person according to his will and purpose.

The Third List of Spiritual Gifts/Jobs
1st Corinthians 12:12-31
Paul prefaces his list of spiritual gifts by reminding us that the Body of Christ, like our physical bodies, has many parts, but there is only one body. Paul makes reference to our baptism. "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we are all given the one Spirit to drink."
In 2 Corinthians verses 21-22 he explains what happened, "For now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what his to come." God doesn't care about what race or ethnic background that we have, or what claims other people or any legal system has on us. We are all part of the same body of Christ.

We can look at the body of Christ from three different perspectives. Some see it as a local church, others as a denomination, and still others as all of the Christians.
If we see the first two as units of the body of Christ, then they should all be able to work together as one body in Christ. Paul had to deal with two separate churches, the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. He also has to deal with conflicts between his missionary, gentile churches, and groups within his churches. Before we move toward receiving our spiritual gifts, we must understand that there is only one body of Christ and God is free to call us to serve any of the denominations and local churches. God will use us and the spiritual gifts that he has given us wherever he sees fit. Perhaps different units of the body of Christ have different missions and doctrines, but they are all part of the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of it. Paul reminds us in the third paragraph that "there should be no division in the body."

The Third List of Spiritual Gifts/Jobs
1 Corinthians 12:27-31
Preface - "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you are a part of it. And in the church God has appointed -
1. first of all apostles
2. second prophets
3. third teachers
4. then workers of miracles
5. also those having gifts of healing
6. those able to help others
7.those with the gift of administration
8.and those speaking in tongues

Epilogue - Paul reminds us that we are given different gifts/jobs. Why are there three different lists. Paul was not seeking to create a doctrinal statement. Paul was writing letters and answering questions. Though there are similarities, each list deal with at least one issue that needed to be resolved.

Next time we will look at the spiritual gift/job of encouragement.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Journey

The Journey

God has blessed me with a wonderful partner and we share our life journey together. She has given us a beautiful family and she has nurtured our children. She has offered me her love and she is my soul mate. I know that my wife, Sharon is a gift of God.

We have walked together for over forty years. During those years we have faced many challenges and we have grown. God has been our teacher and God has given us many lessons to learn. We agree that, in the beginning, we were two frumpy people fumbling with love, and we needed each other.

The part of our marriage that held us together during our hard times was and is our commitment to each other. There were days when we could have separated or divorced, days when we wondered why we chose each other. We were and are committed to each other and our love for each other held the belief that things would get better. We learned to blow on the coals in our hearts until the flame grew again and became a bonfire blaze.

We went through days when the experts, Christian and secular, advised us to declare bankruptcy. God has always been our source and God has always taken care of our needs. I worked three jobs and Sharon worked a full time job. There were Christmases that we had no money to buy gifts for our children. We had one thing to hang on to and that was and is our faith in God.

During our years together we have learned how important our family is and we thank God for the gift of our children and our extended family. Our family has always been there for us and we have done, and we do the best that we can for our family. Our family has been held together by the commitment that we have to each other. We share our journey and we walk together side by side.

The journey that all of us take does not come with guarantees. None of us know what the future may bring. We do know that God knows what he is doing. I found a little quote that sums up every thing, "Good morning. This is God! I will be handling all your problems today. I will not need your help. So have a good day!"


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Out of the Ashes, the Phoenix Rises

Out the Ashes the Phoenix Rises

We would go on as we always have, if there wasn't a catalyst for change in our lives. We may not like the catalyst because it is often painful, but it is a gift from our God and it comes from a greater wisdom. Going back to the place where we were is like taking three steps backward.

Where we are is not our final destination. We have arrived at a place of preparation for the next stage of our journey. We receive valuable training and we have the opportunity to make important changes in our lives. There is important work for us to do and we have two choices to make.

We are only meant to be there for awhile. Some choose to stay there because their pain seems to be more comfortable than change. They will never discover their true destiny. Others allow the catalyst for change to help them to let go and move on. At every stage of of journey there is a time to let go and move on. The gifts received from letting go and moving on are peace and new energy for our journey.

I have learned that pain points to a place that can heal and feel good again. I prefer progress to pain. It is a lot more than, "The Power of Positive Thinking;" it is the reality of positive being. We have risen from the ashes of our lives and we have given ourselves permission to soar and ride the thermals with the sun on our backs.

I have offered you a few pictures of me that show me in different stages of my journey.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

Perhaps one of the most painful things is when a person or persons lie about us/you/me, and there is nothing that us/you/me can do to change that lie. False words are like the glowing red hot branding iron, and they burn their image, brand the flesh, causing a lot of pain. The path to radical acceptance is believing that some good will come out of that, but that isn't always true. Sometimes the liar has personal reasons for lying, an agenda, or a cover up of his/her actions. It works for them and leaves the other person a victim. I have learned that honesty is not the norm for our society. Honesty is often much weaker than the lie. What is a human being without a conscience? What does a life journey mean if it's destination is not honorable and true?
Shalom is the only true answer to that and it offers kindness, gentleness, foegiveness, and grace. That is a path toward radical acceptance that I can walk,


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Three of my acrylic paintings

Three of My Acrylic Paintings

I like to use acrylic paints because they are forgiving (I can easily correct my mistakes) and they offer me many more color choices and lots more space. The last painting is a a copy of one of my ink drawings. I've added a few details and changed a few things.

My wife, Sharon advised me to create original paintings and the first two paintings are originals. In one sense the copies of my ink drawings took more time because my effort was to make an accurate copy. Yet, original drawings can take a lot of time, too, because a new creations require a lot of decisions.

My photographs could be better. I photographed them hanging on my wall and that was difficult. It would have been better if I took them down. I have created twenty nine acrylic paintings and there is only room for twenty seven paintings.

The first of the two left over paintings was inspired by a couple that got a divorce because of infidelity. The images in it connect in a paradox mixing graphic portrayals of pain with serene images of hope. The second painting shows the face of a man in chaos and turmoil. In addition to the man there are three animals; two bears and a tiger. There is also a woman who seems to be at peace amidst the swirling colors of chaos and turmoil.

I almost forgot my first two paintings. One is a scent set in the garden of Eden. There is naked couple and an evil serpent. The second painting shows a human sacrifice by Inca people, high up in their temple. The rest emphasizes the dark reality of it all.

No one knows what to call my art because my paintings and ink drawing are very unusual. I am not sure where they come from. Perhaps my imagination enjoys its work. I hope that you enjoy them.