Month: November 2015

Focus

Rumors abound. They have always been bothersome things, and most of the time not true. The most noticeable notion of those today are polls. Granted, some are better than others; some are more accurate than others; some are done with the best methods available. Yet, they amount to rumors.

We can remain focused on our beliefs and goals in spite of what “the latest poll” says. If you can think of it, record what any given poll says now will happen in the next election. When the election is over, look back and see who was accurate. Since the polls are so diverse, some will no doubt true, if simply by the law of averages. But most will be off, and some will be way off.

Do not be carried away with the predictions of others. Don’t worry about the overall number of professing Christians in our country or the world. My experience is many of them do not participate in polls or surveys anyway. Not that these are totally useless, but I find them to be discouraging, and I don’t need that. So, keep on keeping on. Remain focused on what is right, true, good and beautiful. Stay the course.

Looking Back

I’ve heard it said that hindsight is 20/20. I’m not so sure, but it likely is better than a present look. We look back at things done 100 years ago or more, and easily become critical of actions of those who lived at the time. For example, I am reading a well-researched book on the actions and plans leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew the U.S. into WWII (At Dawn We Slept). Seeing both governments and both militaries attempt to plan, gather intelligence, and use diplomacy is an amazing thing after the fact. Much of the material researched is from testimony of those involved after the war.

Much criticism has been aimed at the U.S. policy of interment of Japanese Americans at the time. If we could understand the fear and anticipation in both countries at the time, we might understand a little better. There was espionage being conducted on the Hawaiian islands, and it contributed immensely to the success of the daring raid. There was also reason to believe spies were on the U.S. west coast at the time. This does not justify everything done at the time, but most of those things were done out of concern for security and not prejudice. Nationalism can lead people to do drastic things.

A balanced look sometimes takes 50 years or so to be able to see things objectively, and often it takes that long for good information to settle out. Letters are discovered, classified documents become available, and a good look at the methods being used at the time make it easier to imagine the mindset of those at the time. We are too quick to judge. Our immediate media and communication capability should not cause us to assume everyone knew everything at the time. Even now, most of our initial information is wrong. Let’s not rewrite history based on our current condition. It’s not fair to our predecessors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fallacy of Our Comfort Zone

Emotions are God-given, and allow us to connect with other humans we could not otherwise engage. It promotes love, happiness, joy and sorrow. It allows us to empathize with another person, and cry with them. They are uniquely human, despite what people would like to think. For example, I have no reason to believe that a deer looks at a sunrise, and thinks about how beautiful it is. Nor do animals mate because they “love” each other. The light of day and reproduction motivate the animal world to act as it does.

Emotions among humans can drive us to do things we do not think about, and often do badly without thought. If we react to the anger of a person toward us, our reactions will likely be disastrous. If we can give even a second’s thought, we can rather have a response that is much more appropriate.

Whether we are in worship to God or campaigning for office, thought must be present. We may look for a “worship experience” which lifts us to high emotional levels (not that feeling good in worship is bad) but scripture tells us time after time God desires followers who want to follow him, despite how we feel at any given moment. Neither does a married couple always feel close, but have decided to remaind together because of deeper commitment and, yes, duty. People make demands of elected officials too much out of emotion, without thought to the outcomes. Promoters of such emotional actions do not do so from a genuine love for change, but for power and money.

Let us think about our existence, and embrace the joy of that thinking. Reflection brings a greater appreciation of what we have. Strictly emotions will lead us to a roller-coaster existence, and we wake up each morning “offended” and “uncomfortable” about something.

Plan for It

What if you knew ahead of time someone would treat you badly, but you just didn’t know who or when? If you expected to have a hard time sometime in the future, what would you do about it? You can’t do anything about what hasn’t happened yet.

The point is, we know it’s going to happen. We know we are going to run into trouble sooner or later. If we knew when, we would stress out and become either frantic or depressed. Not knowing allows us to live even while knowing we won’t always have good days. This isn’t about dreading the next problem, but about not being surprised when it comes.

I have learned a good way to control anger at a particular person is to lower my expectations toward them. If I no longer expect them to act a certain way, I am not off-guard when they don’t. It has made a huge difference in my ability to keep their behavior in perspective. I ask myself “What would cause a person to act that way?” Just the thought that there is something behind it takes the focus off me, and on what load they may be carrying. This is not meant for us to become pessimistic about people or the world, but if we can recognize we are all flawed, we won’t act as if we should all be perfect.

Presence

Never underestimate the value of your presence with another person. Particularly if they are in trouble, grieving or fearful of what’s going to happen in the future. You don’t have to fix anything, because you can’t. You don’t have the ability to reverse a cancer diagnosis or make an employer re-hire someone who has been fired.

Why are we so uncomfortable being with someone who is hurting? I believe it’s the age-old human tendency to fix everything. It bothers us when someone is sad or crying in our presence. If we could forget about solving the unsolvable problem and listen with our hearts instead of our heads, we could truly be helpful.

Giving a hug does more than any words we might attempt. Sitting quietly while they talk is what they need. Crying with another person who is crying tells them we are hearing them. If we can imagine ourselves as a heart with ears and no mouth, we can be helpful. Practice it and they will thank you without you having to do anything but show up.

Too Close?

How do you respond to a “wet paint” sign? It’s okay to be honest. You are rare if you can walk away without out at least taking a close look. I almost always touch it to see if the paint is really wet. I don’t necessarily believe that someone lied when the sign was put there. I just need to know if the sign is still necessary.

Scripture tells us that the forbidden fruit was on a tree located in the middle of the original garden. It seems to me it should have been placed in a far corner, or in a cave or surrounded by other trees so as to be hard to find. Yet, there it was, in the middle, with easy access to its so-called benefits.

What were the benefits? According to the temptor, it was knowledge. If they wanted to know what God knows, they should eat the fruit. What’s more, they did learn something, and the fall began. Still, why in the middle? Since scripture tells us God tempts no one, he left it for the serpent to tempt Eve, and for her to tempt Adam. We do it to ourselves. I believe the lesson has always been for us to learn to trust someone other than ourselves ultimately.

How Bad Can it Get?

As news gets faster and more detailed, I have heard many people talk about how the world cannot stand much longer. They are pointing toward the second coming of Jesus, and how God won’t allow things to keep going as they are.

If we look at history, we see many times when things would have seemed the same, if people had been aware. The flu epidemic of 1917-18 would have scared everyone if 24-hour news and facebook had been available. Also, the American Civil War and the French Revolution must also have seemed to those living through them as near the end. When two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, it would have seemed no doubt the end of the world there. We could go much further back and list many more times.

Scripture tells us God has in the past let things go so long as for sin to be recognized for what it is. How long is that? We don’t have the answer. Only he knows where the line is, and when we “get it” regarding evil and things we do to each other. The longer we avoid recognizing evil, the longer we may have to see it among us.

Overall, the world has been this bad, and if it stands, will be this bad again. This the nature of fallen humanity. What can we do? We can talk with our families, neighbors and communities and make those better. This is where a difference can and will be made. One person, either elected, appointed or crowned will not solve it. We can.

Bridging the Gap

No matter how sound a bridge is, no matter its structure, or its material, it will be of no use unless it touches both side of the gap. We need both ends to connect if it is to be complete. What if it only connected one end? No one would bother even getting on it. If we want to connect one idea with another, there must be solid truth to connect the two.

That which is holy cannot dwell with that which is unholy. Purity and impurity cannot mix. Blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth or brain. We have a problem. We are not divinity, but evil at our core. We have better moments, but on the whole we are corrupt when compared to incorruption. Instead of sacred, we are secular. So, what can we do, if anything?

We can only respond to what has been done. Our bridge that connects both God and man is Jesus. He is both divine and human. Only with God is this possible. With him, we can begin to cross the bridge and eventually connect with the other side, and we never have to come back! We only have one bridge, so we don’t want to miss it.

Fight or Not?

When seemingly in trouble in the garden of Gethsemene, Jesus allowed his disciples to take two swords. When the time came to fight, and Peter used one of the swords to cut off a man’s ear, Jesus told him to put it away. Why?

Though the two commands seem to be contradictory, I believe Jesus used both to teach them (and us) about not fighting. Though they were now equipped with weapons he wanted them to practice not using all the weapons at their disposal. Does this mean anything to us?

It does, especially in the area of our words. A good debater has the words to be sharp and overcome his opponent, but there are times not to do so. Sometimes winning involves restraint. As the song says, “Silence is golden.”

The Perfect Place

Looking for the perfect place to work, go to church or school seems to always be our goal. Yet, we never find it. When I left the Army, I felt I was most qualified for a certain type of job. I even prayed for that opportunity. After waiting longer than I wanted to find one, I did find work. After about a year of hectic, stressful work, it dawned on me. This was exactly what I had describe in my prayer! I had an idealistic picture of it, and it turned out to be much different than I expected. Since then, I’m very careful what I ask for.

Unless we go somewhere where there are no people, we will always face problems. Looking for that mountain top where we are alone (or with someone else) the moment we arrive there will be problems. It’s simply people, and we are broken and flawed. We contribute to that atmosphere. We can improve, and should always be about doing better. We can also help others do better. If we want them to be patient with us, we must also show patience.

Eventually, if we have faith, we will dwell in that perfect place. It won’t be because of us, but because of God who only can make us perfect. I’m looking forward to that, and will finally experience what we have been trying to do all along. As a very wise man has been saying, “See you at the House.”