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Eat or Die

Elijah-altarElijah was one of those Old Testament prophets who was bigger than life. He boldly confronted the political and religious leaders of Israel and successfully challenged their false Gods. On one occasion, he actually put to death Israel’s false prophets after defeating them in a challenge between their gods and Elijah’s God. However, Elijah learned that doing the right thing does not always bring popularity and good will. After the slaughter of the false prophets, the Queen of Israel committed to kill Elijah, so Elijah fled into the wilderness. We read in 1 Kings 19:4 that he became so distraught over Jezebel’s threat that he prayed to die.

It seems that Elijah had forgotten how God miraculously consumed not just the sacrifice but also the wood, stones and soil around the altar during his competition with the prophets of Baal just a few day before (1 Kings 18). He also seems to have forgotten how God had birds miraculously bring him bread and meat to eat and the miracle with the never-ending flour and oil in Zarephath (both in 1 Kings 17). Elijah lost sight of God’s power and provision and was willing to just lay down and die.

Fortunately for Elijah, God had not forgotten him. When Elijah was ready to give up, God was there to take care of him. In this instance, He sent an angel to give Elijah bread and water to eat to regain his strength for the journey ahead. So good was the bread God provided that Elijah was able to go on the strength gained from it for forty days!

How often do we allow our circumstances to get us down? Like Elijah, it is easy for us to forget all the good that God has done for us when we are in the midst of trouble. Like Elijah, we may sometimes feel like just laying down to die.

But just as God did not forgot Elijah, He does not forget us. When we face the troubles of life, God has a way for us to get through them. When we feel like there is no way out or that death may be better than living through our circumstances, God is ready to help. But like Elijah, we have to accept God’s help. God may not send birds or an angel to show us He is there, but our simple prayer, “God help me!” will open the door to his aid.

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Originally published at http://www.myguidon.com/chaplains-corner-eat-or-die/

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Why You’re Being Deleted

Internet1I remember being shocked when Barrack Obama won his first term as president, fully believing that the Republican nominee would win (just as I was shocked when the Republican won in our most recent Presidential election). My pastor at the time suggested my surprise was a result of having only friends, and reading/listening only to commentators, whose views aligned only with my own political perspective. In the months following that epiphany I began to expand the friends I followed on social media and joined more discussion groups outside of what had previously been comfortable for me. This new endeavor was not just in the area of politics but also theology and social justice. The result was my gaining a better understanding of the “other side” while being able to enter into conversations which sometimes caused me to adjust my view of things and other times helped me to sharpen my existing view.

While much of what I have experienced in this widening exposure has been positive, along with the good has come a realization of the nasty. While I have tried to remain respectful when discussing hot issues with others, I’ve seen many who just discount the person along with their opinion. Replies are often rude and demeaning while many are so dogmatic about their opinions that anyone who holds a different view is branded a heretic or just stupid. The possibility that perhaps there could be differing views on issues, while holding to a Christian ethic, seems to be a foreign thought to many. Sadly, some of the worst offenders are those who on another thread will sound compassionate and loving. I’m baffled by how a so-called Christian can be so holy in one post and so nasty in another, as though it is as simple as flipping a switch.

Internet-meanIn recent weeks, it seems like the nasty has been overwhelming the good, not to mention some of the frightening views held by some people, to the point that whenever I spend much time on social media, I walk away discouraged or stressed, often fearful for the future of my denomination and country as I see the disrespect (not difference of opinion) exhibited by Christians and ministers toward the POTUS, the United States, my denomination and just about anybody with a differing view from theirs. From memes to posts to comments, I often don’t see Christ in them. This is sad.

Serving in the military in a secular world, alongside soldiers and chaplains of all stripes, I’m sufficiently exposed to differing views in the areas of politics, theology and social justice, so I am realizing that I  don’t need as much input from virtual friends and online communities who on one hand tout living a Christ-like life while on the other act more like the Devil. My real life is stressful enough, I don’t need to be bombarded on the web with what has become a daily -sometimes hourly- attack on my values, religion and politics, all of which are just as sincerely held and biblically based as those launching the attacks. Don’t get me wrong, I can take it and I can engage with the best of them, but why should I?

With this in mind, I have decided to unplug a bit. I am going to leave groups whose posts are more critical than helpful; unfriend FB friends who are consistently disrespectful rather than uplifting; unfollow organizations that have values that are in conflict with mine; and spend less time online reading and listening to people, groups and organizations that I have little in common with. In doing this I think I’ll not only be fine, but will have a less stressful life and may even thrive in more of a face-to-face environment rather than one existing only online.

Let me finish by saying that I share this not to make a big deal about a personal decision or to get in a last “jab” on those who I disagree with, but rather that my reasoning for becoming more distant from social media may help others who may also be feeling the pain of an anti-[everything] Internet to make some helpful and wholesome changes.

So for some of you this will be “goodbye!” for others, please be kind.

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The Devil Made Me Do It!

flip-wilson_NBC-Television-492x630Readers over the age of fifty may remember the comedian Flip Wilson, whose television series in the early seventies was the second highest rated show on network television. One of the comedic characters Wilson played was Geraldine Jones who often justified her questionable actions by saying, “The Devil made me do it!”

While Flip Wilson is credited with making this phrase famous, his character Geraldine was not the first to use it. We find the first use of this phrase (in so many words) in Genesis 3:8-15, which is the account of God confronting Adam and Eve for their disobedience to Him. He first asked Adam what happened, who answered by blaming his sin on Eve. Then when God asked Eve for an explanation, she blamed her sin on the serpent, who represented the Devil. Blaming the Devil for our sin may have originated with Adam and Eve but from these first human beings until now, people have been “passing the buck” and blaming their sin –or disobedience- on the Devil or someone else.

This is an example of human nature, at least human nature since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, but the Devil takes the rap for much more than he is guilty of. More often than not, it is not the Devil who made us do it, but our own poor choices. When confronted with temptation, we have a choice to say either “yes” or “no.” When we choose to say “yes” we can’t blame it on the Devil, we are to blame and are held accountable for our choices. Grant it, we are influenced by evil, by sin, by our human nature, but it still boils down to that moment when we decide what we are going to do.

eden5The great news in all of this is that we are not left with only the influence of evil. God has provided for us the help that we need to make the right choice when confronted with doing right or wrong. He has given us his spirit, the Holy Spirit, to empower us to do what is right and to convict us when we do what is wrong. Greater news still is the grace that he gives us when we do make the wrong choice. Grace, unmerited favor, forgiveness for our sins, restoration to right relationship with God. These are God’s promises, and this is the good side of sin.

So, when confronted with a decision to do what is right or give in to what is wrong, call on God to help you do what is right. But if you fail and make one of those bad decisions, hope is not lost! Call on God for forgiveness and renewal and his grace will be poured out on you!

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This article first appeared (edited) in the print edition of the Guidon, 7 June 2018, and on the Guidon online, 7 June 2018.

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Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire

I was just 14 at the time, but remember there was more to the fire than the news was reporting. I could sense my mother was more troubled than news of a random fire just south of our home in Cincinnati would produce, but my questions didn’t get many immediate answers.

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Shot of the Beverly Hills Supper Club in flames the night of May 28, 1977. David Kohl photo

Later, the news would report that the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire was the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, a title which it still holds today. 165 people died with over 200 non-fatal injuries incurred. One of the things I remember about that night, and the day after, was the seemingly endless list of names of the identified dead scrolling up the screen as my mother watched in dread, as though she was expecting to see a name while praying she wouldn’t.

As it turned out, there was someone at the Beverly Hills that night who my parents knew. My dad had been talking to him about spiritual things, trying to get him to return to God from his backslidden condition. The Christian-holiness sensibilities of the 1970’s led my parents to see this gentleman’s presence at a nightclub as confirmation of his refusal to return to his saving relationship with God.

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The bar at the Beverly Hills Supper Club

I’m sure this man my parents were so concerned about didn’t even imagine that May 28, 1977 would be his last day on this earth. I’m sure as dad talked to him about his spiritual life and eternal destiny that he assumed he would have another day to consider his future. I’m sure it wasn’t even on his mind that his decisions that night would determine his ultimate -and eternal- destination.

We can’t fully know from day-to-day what our decisions will have on our future but we can live in such a way that we know whatever our future holds, we are in God’s hands. If we have given our hearts to God and are allowing Him to guide our lives and decisions, our choices -while they may be our last- won’t leave others grieving about our future.

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Photo credits:

The Beverly Hills on fire: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34045531

The Beverly Hills bar: The Beverly Hills Supper Club bar. Photo courtesy of the Kenton County Public Library

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Pentecost Sunday Invites You to Love!

This coming Sunday many churches will be celebrating the Day of Pentecost as reported in the Christian New Testament in Acts 2:1-21. On this day, originally a Jewish holiday celebrating harvest time, the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised, came to his disciples in the Upper Room as they were together waiting for that promise to be fulfilled.

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

(Acts 2:1-21, NIV)

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A typical Western image of the Pentecost. Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308).

We read in the Acts passage about the sound like the rush of a violent wind, what appeared like tongues of fire resting on each of them, and their preaching being understood by people from all over the known world. Amazing! But even more miraculous was what is found in the simple words, “and they began to speak.”

The disciples had essentially been hiding out since Jesus’ crucifixion, afraid that they may be next. Even when Jesus was alive, their message often didn’t match their actions as they lived in fear, confusion and doubt. But now, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke with confidence and assurance that the crucified and risen Jesus was not just a good man or even a prophet, but was God became flesh to be the Savior of the World.

Throughout the remainder of the Christian Bible, the Holy Spirit’s acts through the apostles of Jesus and the Church as a whole form a major part of world history. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Christians took the good news of Jesus Christ as far as the Roman roads would take them and the Church continued to grow. More than that, the Holy Spirit infused believers with a love greater than any other, which moved them to serve and give to others in need and to live in a way that encouraged peace and acceptance.

Today, more than ever, the world needs the love that the Holy Spirit provides. We need to better care for each other and be more accepting of those not like us. This Pentecost Sunday would be a great time to begin a life more full of love for God and others. The Holy Spirit will help you, just ask. Others will follow your example, just love. Recipients of your love will thank you, just care!

 

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Gates, Walls and Parades: A Biblical Approach? (Another Necessary Response to Nazarenes United for Peace)

“You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”  is a quote that came to mind when I saw the new post by Nazarenes United For Peace. This quote was said by Inigo Montoya in the movie Princess Bride, to Vizzini in response to his continued use of the word “inconceivable.” I think that it may apply to Nazarenes United for Peace’s use of Isaiah 60:11 in response to the United States President Donald Trump’s position on border control and immigration.

I’ve already given my thoughts about Nazarenes United for Peace in another response to one of their posts, “An Altar Call” so I won’t go into it again here except to say that I don’t question the integrity or Christian commitment of any of the leaders of the group. I offer this response in a desire to help people properly apply Scripture instead of picking a verse that fits a view and using it in support of a position regardless of context, original meaning or universality (proof-texting).

Nazarenes4Peace-gatesOne of this first things I noticed was how the LXX translated Isaiah 60:11:

And thy gates shall be opened continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; to bring in to thee the power of the Gentiles, and their kings as captives.

So ironically, contrary to a call for peace and peaceful entry of immigrants into the United States, this verse actually speaks of military victory and forceful enslavement of conquered kings.

Another thing that struck me after I read the rest of chapter 60 to understand the context of verse 11, was how if we were to actually apply this verse to modern United States of America, we would also need to equally apply the verses around it. What would that mean?

Build the Wall. Applying all of Isaiah chapter 60 equally would mean applying verse 10 which would support immigrants, or more accurately, conquered foes -now slaves- rebuilding the nation’s border walls. This goes a bit further than candidate Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall. In Old Testament time, people of defeated nations would often be taken captive to serve the victors as slaves. Applying this today would perhaps mean instead of deporting illegal aliens, they would be rounded up to build the wall along the border.

Have a Military Parade. Applying the second half of verse 11 as we do the first half would mean that President Trump would get the parade that he asked his military leaders to explore. In the time of what we call the Old Testament, when a nation’s army returned victorious, they would parade through cities displaying their military might and the conquered Kings. This would be equivalent to the military parades we see China, North Korea and the former Soviet Union putting on to show off to the world the strength and power of their military machine.

Have a Strong Military-and Use It. Verse 12 goes on to describe how any nation that does not yield to Israel’s policies (“serve” them) would “perish”, be “utterly ruined.” Today, that would mean enforcing U.S. policy around the world through military force, causing other countries to “serve” the U.S. through its trade agreements, military treaties, and other policies or else face the full force of American military might.

The United States Would Become Rich. If we apply verse 5 equally as the other verses, we would see the wealth of the world come to the Unites States. Other nations would have to suffer diminished wealth as the U.S. grows more wealthy. This would fit into Trump’s desire to re-negotiate former trade agreements to better benefit the United States. It would be the commercial application of “America First.”

Of course, any scholarly reading of Isaiah 60 would not render the interpretation I pursued above, including that of verse 11 offered by Nazarenes United for Peace. We know that Isaiah 60 speaks specifically to the nation of Israel from verses like 14 when Isaiah writes that “all who despise” them “will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” But before we too quickly apply this passage to Old Testament Israel or even modern Israel, we have to understand that it is prophecy. So really, it extends beyond the people of Israel to Christians, but not American Christians, future Christians. As participants in the New Covenant, we’re grafted into the Old Testament prophecy of the future Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God Today. There is no denying that Christ ushered in the Kingdom of God. We become citizens of the Kingdom when we become true followers of Jesus Christ. There is, without question, an existence of the Kingdom of God in our world today as we experience the presence of God in the person of Jesus and the Spirit of Christ in the Holy Spirit. But as real and present the Kingdom of God is today (“already”) it hasn’t fully come (“not yet”) so we can’t apply all of the future prophecies of the Kingdom to today’s world.

Yes, we want to be Kingdom people. We want to live as though the Kingdom is fully come, because as citizens of the Kingdom -Kingdom People- that’s how we live, but that doesn’t make the Kingdom any more fully come.

The Kingdom of God to Come. The not yet of the Kingdom is yet to come. Its fullness is what we long for. It’s reality is what much of prophecy points to, including Isaiah 60. We can read prophecies like Isaiah’s and get a picture of what the future Kingdom will be like. We can read the Old Testament prophets and peer into the future. While we would love to experience today what is yet to come, no attempt to hasten the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom will make it happen. We can and should live as Kingdom People, but we still must wait for the Kingdom to fully come. We can’t apply future prophecy, particularly that which applies to Israel, to the United States of America.

So how should we understand Isaiah 60:11? As prophecy given to Israel, the People of God, looking forward to Zion’s restoration, when their gates no longer need to be closed in fear of external enemies, but rather open-both for commerce and as a display of victory. It’s a vision of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God when this world as we know it will cease and a world fully in line with the will and nature of God will come. It’s Israel’s future. It’s our future.

With all of that said, what more do we need to remember? Proper attention to context. Proper interpretation. Proper application.   These are what is needed when we appropriate Scripture to support our political views.

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Dad’s Funeral: Sorrow & Celebration

The Weeks Leading up to the Funeral

From about Thanksgiving, it was hard to get dad out of bed for just about anything. From bed, he would ask for ice cream and Diet Coke. At the beginning, he would feed himself, but as the days went on he would ask to be fed.  Not being able to get him to his regular doctor, we were advised to take him to the Emergency Room. The first time, they assumed that he was weak because he wasn’t taking his medications faithfully, so we went home determined to see that he took them all every day. On December 18th, after a couple of weeks without improvement, we couldn’t get him to get out of bed to take him for a doctor’s appointment so were advised to call an ambulance to take him to the ER. This time, they blamed his weakness on not getting up and using his muscles.  Twice he was in the ER, and both times they couldn’t find anything really wrong with him and sent him home.

On December 28th, 2017 my sister Laura (visiting for Christmas) and I took him to the doctor (with help from Hannah and Jordan to get him out of bed and dressed) to get a referral for home health care to try to help him get his strength back and get back on his feet. At the doctors office, they couldn’t get a good blood pressure reading so, assuming he was dehydrated, sent us over to the Emergency Room. By that point he was pretty weak and not able to get up for much of anything. Little did we know, he would never come home.

 

Laura and I with dad on December 28th when we took him to his doctor’s appointment

The ER doctor admitted him to try to get things under control. He was in the Lebanon hospital for about a week before before they discovered significant blockage in one of his legs and sent him to the hospital in Springfield. We tried to visit, and take mom to visit, as often as we could but the hospital in Springfield was over an hour away, so it was tough.

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Dad being visited by mom, Emily and Hannah on December 29th, in the hospital in Lebanon.

.In Springfield, they operated on dad’s leg and said the surgery was a success, but the next day it closed back up and he was no better off. The surgeon didn’t think that dad would survive surgery to remove his leg, so mom decided not to have it done. At this point, there wasn’t much they could do but keep him comfortable, at least now he could eat ice cream again!

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Even with a feeding tube (to avoid him choking) dad was all smiles at the hospital in Springfield on January 9th

We were able to get him into a skilled nursing facility in Lebanon where mom could visit him more often. His first night there was Monday January 22nd, 2018. With the leg not having circulation, infection grew and became too much for his body to fight and he passed away on January 29th at about 11:20 p.m.

 

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I took this picture of mom and dad just about 1 1/2 hours before dad died.

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Mom kissing dad goodbye about 8 minutes after he took his last breath.

The rest of the week was full of making arrangements and receiving guests. Once my sister Laura got to town, we met with the Funeral Home and made plans for a Saturday visitation and funeral.

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The Day Before the Funeral

Mom had been asking a lot about dad, not remembering his passing. She wanted to see him again, so we went to the Funeral Home to view his remains. It was very hard on mom, and us all, to see dad no longer full of life. Even knowing that what we were viewing was only a shell and he was no longer there but in Heaven without pain or physical limitations, our pain was real as we grieved his passing from this life.

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Two of mom’s sisters and a niece arrived Friday evening and we brought mom to the church to have dinner with them and Laura’s family…the church was where we could have room for everyone with no steps for mom to have to climb. It was great for mom (and us) to see her sisters Donna, Mary Ann and Mary Ann’s daughter Megan.

 

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The Funeral Service

Dad’s brother Byron, his wife Charlotte and their daughter Meredith got to the Funeral Home just before the service, having been delayed on their train ride from California. Several people were also there from Fort Leonard Wood, where I am assigned, as well as friends from church and even friends of Laura’s who came from Tennessee. We were very blessed by the support shown by our family and friends.

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My pastor from Freedom Church of the Nazarene, where mom and dad attended when they could, officiated at the funeral and dad’s granddaughter’s Emily and Hannah, his niece Meredith and I eulogized him. I also read a nice letter from dad’s brother Bob which told about their early life and the impact that dad has had.

 

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This pictures at the end of the video didn’t come through too well so here they are again in order:

 

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Dinner After the Funeral

The church provided a wonderful meal for the family after the funeral service. It was a great time to not only be nourished, but to visit together and talk about dad. One of the things that dad consistently did at Christmas and birthday celebrations was put bows from gifts on his head. Some of the grand-kids brought bows for us to wear while we ate, adding to the celebration of dad’s life and memory.

 

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Notes & Comments

Beside those who were able to attend the funeral, there were many others who couldn’t be there but sent us notes and made comments on posts about what dad meant to them and many times how he helped changed the direction of their lives toward God. We’ve been overwhelmed by the stories of how God used dad over the years and appreciate those who took a moment to share.

We also really appreciate the financial gifts that so many people gave to help pay for dad’s funeral-about the only thing dad didn’t plan for. The generosity  that we have seen has been so encouraging and a testimony to the impact that dad had on so many people.

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The Future

Now life begins to go on. It’s going to be really hard for mom, especially with her memory problem and having to re-live her grief whenever she is reminded of dad’s passing. Now also begins a year of firsts as we celebrate birthdays and special occasions without him. But more distant in the future, we have the hope and assurance of a reunion, when we cross over and enter Heaven’s gates, where I believe dad will be waiting for us.

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Straddling Eternity

As my dad lay in bed Sunday, nearing his final moments on this Earth, I was at church in worship.

One of the hymns we sang was “Higher Ground” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., a hymn that longs for “a gleam of glory bright” with the prayer to stand on “Heaven’s tableland.” It seems Oatman had had enough of this old world “where doubts arise and fears dismay” and “Satan’s darts at [us] are hurled” but the best that he could hope and pray for was to only experience that Higher Ground by faith while continuing to pray until he finds Heaven in reality.

As I sang this hymn, or rather listened to it unable to sing, I became overwhelmed with the awareness that dad was closer than ever to his feet being planted on that glorious Higher Ground, he now being quite literally straddling eternity.

What a position to be in: one leg in this corrupt world with one leg on that holy plateau of Heaven! Ready to trade in his broken-down body for one that is incorruptible! Gently holding on to those he loves while longing to see the One who is love!

I could sermonize on how Christians can -and should- be living “above the world,” basically in the world but not of it, as New Testament writers admonish, but at that moment I found myself almost envying the place where dad is, wanting to scale with him the utmost heights he is on his way to.

But for now, I have to be satisfied to experience Higher Ground by faith as dad steps over to experience it in reality. As I watch him slowly slip away it occurs to me that maybe, if I listen closely enough, I’ll hear “the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground” as he joins in and sings with them on his short journey home.

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Will You Make a Difference This MLK Jr. Day…and Beyond?

MLK, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. (photo by author)

As we are  approaching Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, many people are looking forward to time off work. Some will enjoy a short trip to see family or friends. Others, however, may have different thoughts that come to mind, reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message.

The older among us may remember King and his fight for civil rights, the Watts Riots or the nationwide rioting after King was murdered. Those not as old, may remember the riots following the Rodney King beating in Los Angles. Some younger folks may have in mind the Ferguson riots.

What these events had in common, is that they were responses to unloving attitudes and actions between races. One side felt their rights were being trampled on. Others thought justice was not being done. Some saw privilege and racism, while others saw lawlessness and disrespect. None of these attitudes — which often lead to actions — can be present in people who wish to live in community. The problem is that too many times we work for our own welfare while neglecting the welfare of others, or worse: we walk over other’s freedoms in pursuit of our own happiness.

Fortunately, we have guidance, principles, even mandates, from sacred texts that if followed, will alleviate, if not eradicate, many of the divisions we see today.

One of these is found in the words of Jesus, in Luke 6:27-28:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To make it even simpler to follow, Jesus later said in verse 31, what would become known as the Golden Rule,

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

How much easier could it get? Before I speak or act, I just need to consider whether that word or action would be one that I would like to receive toward me.

If it isn’t, then don’t say it, don’t do it. It’s really that simple

Maybe this year, instead of just enjoying a couple of days off, we could use this remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. to recommit to living more by the “Golden Rule,” showing others respect and dignity, treating others as we would like to be treated.

This is my commitment; will it be yours?
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This post (written by Daryl Densford) originally appeared edited in The Guidon on 11 January 2018, titled What Does Martin Luther King Jr Day Mean to You.
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Trump Said What? (A modern-day parable)

Trump-Official-10There has been a lot in the news and on social media today about President Trump’s alleged comments about some other countries and their people. If what he said is true (which I can’t say for sure since I wasn’t there and really don’t know the character or integrity of anyone who is making the claims), he should be ashamed and somebody needs to help him. I am not that somebody. I don’t have access to the White House and I really doubt that he reads my Facebook comments or blog.

While it’s not exactly the same, my dad can sometimes be embarrassing. It seems like he needs to be the center of attention when we go out in public so is constantly trying to make people laugh. As he has gotten older what he thinks is funny actually isn’t and can sometimes be perceived as rude by some people. I used to apologize for him but I finally realized that people do not transfer my dad’s comments to me. They don’t think bad of me because of what my dad says. Ultimately, they take what he says with a grain of salt, realizing that he’s just a silly old man trying to get a laugh.

Let me quickly say that my dad isn’t that bad, his comments that embarrass me really aren’t that big of a deal and I likely have made more of an issue of them than what they are. But all of this talk about the POTUS and his comments have made me think about my dad and what it would be like if it wasn’t the President of the United States but my father and his comments weren’t about other countries or people but about my sister. What if the same situation was in my family, would the response of those in the meeting with the POTUS, the press, the public and even Christian leaders make any sense? Allow me to share with you a modern-day parable (sort of). I’ll leave it to you to make the application.

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If my father says something bad about my sister, he is wrong. If I tell my sister what he said and it hurts her, then aren’t I wrong?

My sister would rightfully be mad at my father for what he said about her and may thank me for telling her but I am still the one who caused her pain.

Did I help my sister by telling her what my father said? No.

Did I help my father by telling my sister what he said? No.

If I really wanted to help, it is my dad who needs it so I should talk to him. It doesn’t help my father’s attitude by telling my sister what he said.

If I can’t approach my father about it then there really is no benefit in telling anyone else about it, unless they could help him. Likely, however, the neighbors, the local homeowner’s association (HOA) or even other father’s in the neighborhood couldn’t help how my father feels, thinks or speaks, so by telling my sister and other people what my father said only served to hurt my sister. The neighbors may rally against him and raise a neighborhood outcry against what he said. The pastors of the churches in the neighborhood may preach next Sunday about how bad my father is and how my sister is actually a very good person and shouldn’t listen to my scumbag father. But has any of that helped my father? Nope. Has it helped my sister? Nope, again. It just kept the comments being said over and over again causing pain to my sister over and over again.

But the show of support should make my sister feel better, shouldn’t it? Not likely. In fact, if I hadn’t of made my dad’s comments public in the first place, she wouldn’t need feeling better. Actually, even if I shared what my dad said out of some ill-informed sense of duty to my family, if the neighbors hadn’t made such a big deal about it, dad’s comments wouldn’t have hurt her as much and in fact, she may not have paid any attention to what he -or I, repeating it- said.

Here’s something I didn’t know: my father has been trying to get help for how he talks and acts around the family. He has a counselor or adviser (more than one, in fact, and one of them is a minister) who listens to everything he says and privately tells him where he is going wrong and how to improve. As it turns out, he listens to them more than he would me, the neighbors, the HOA, or even the local pastors, because they aren’t constantly slamming him for what he says and does but instead offers constructive criticism that builds up instead of tears down.

What’s more, what my father said bad about my sister was just words. Yes, they flow from the heart and the attitude that created those words could become actions that could hurt my sister more. Fortunately, my father is not a single dad. There is my mother who, while she can’t control what my father thinks or says does have a say about what he does to my sister. Also, should my father try to do something bad to my sister, I would step in to protect her. Then there’s his advisors, who when the rest of us leave the room, set him straight. So, just because my father said something bad about my sister, that doesn’t mean that he can actually do anything bad to my sister because my mother has a vote and I have a vote and his advisers have a vote.

Bottom line:

Should dad be saying bad things about my sister? No,  he needs to work on that but what I, or anyone else who has been vocal about his comments, say won’t help him. And again, just because he says something bad it doesn’t mean that he will do something bad since there are others here to protect her.

Does it help my sister at all for me to air our dirty laundry to the rest of the neighborhood? No. That only serves to boost my own ego, get me favor with my sister and neighbors and maybe hurt my dad- all to my benefit, not to my sisters, my family’s or my neighbor’s benefit.

Does it help for the neighbors, the local pastors, the HOA or anyone else to rally against my dad and his comments and apologize to my sister on the neighborhood’s behalf? Not really. It just gets a bunch of “likes” on their Facebook comments and page clicks on their websites.

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.I know this “parable” only parallels current events so far and you’ll find plenty to disagree with, but hopefully it serves to show that there is more that we should consider about situations and the results of our comments before we pull out our soap box (or keyboard).

Finally, here is some wisdom from sacred writ:

Proverbs 17:9 offers a bit of good advice for us all: Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Proverbs 11:12 is a good proverb for President Trump (and all of us) to consider before speaking: Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 is a good word for those who may be offended by what people say: Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

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