Screens, Screens, Screens …

Have you ever noticed how important screens are to our lives?   What about the almost unlimited number and sizes of screens?   Screens of various types are in our lives at every turn.   In our cars, workplaces, shopping malls, living room’s, gas stations, hospitals, doctors’ offices and of course, our pockets.   I think you would be hard pressed to find a place where we are without reliance on a screen of some sort.   Even as I write this blog, the letters I’m typing are forming on a screen in front of me.

In the mornings I like to try and get somewhat healthy, so I go to a gym to workout.   Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not a workout maniac, just trying to exercise my legs and get my heart rate up.   But even this place of personal care is not void of the influence of modern screen technology.   As I walk in, I am confronted with a counter for check-in where my phone screen has to flash a code in from of the computer to register my visit.   Once ready for my daily duty, I’m confronted with a line of twelve very large flat screens, all providing various content for my intake.   What to watch?   What to pay attention to?   What the heck is important!   All of them biding for my cognitive attention.  

Let’s go through the list.   The first screen on the right tells me that their particular product will help me in my weight-loss dilemma.   How do they know I’m fat?   That’s kinda rude ya know, I’m only slightly pudgy regardless of the muffin-top!   So, I scan to the left.   The next screen has multiple messages firing at me like a machine gun.   The commentators are voicing their views on the Middle East as correct and even go as far as to tell me what I should be doing as a concerned citizen.   And if that’s not going to capture the moment, there is a red banner scrolling across the bottom giving me local news headlines and weather.   But wait, here it comes, yes, the DOW index just crossed the 13K mark!   Woohoo, life is good!

Well. I’m still searching for something meaningful and relative to my day in the life, so further to the left I go.   Aaaagggg!   Iran was caught lying again!   Oh, but they have an excuse.   I guess the many lives that they shot down by accident should be excused, no, maybe there is some sort of purposeful retaliation we should consider.   On the next screen a doctor has been accused of various pornography charges against children.   Now I’m not motivated to walk on the treadmill, I just wanna strike out in anger over such an atrocity.   Throwing up comes to mind.   I understand I can’t burry my head in the sand, but I still hate hearing of such violent dysfunctional crimes against kids.

Ahh, finally a screen I can get into.   McDonalds is offering a new double quarter pounder!   This screen is almost dripping with fat and cholesterol.   The slow-motion sizzling burgers perfectly placed between the buns with just the right amount of sauce oozing out of the right places is almost mesmerizing.   But wait, it’s a nice thought, looks satisfying, but do I really need it?   No!   The next screen is just black.   It must be broken, or maybe someone just hated what it was showing so much that they put a curse on it.   Anyway, “she gone.”

Ahhh, this one looks promising.   Remember, I’m on the treadmill looking for some relevant content that will motivate me and keep me in tune with the day.   Oh no, it’s a music video!   A series of quick images, totally unrealistic and almost incomprehensible flashing before my eyes with music that’s kinda cool, but for the life of me I can’t understand a thing she’s saying.   Now, a scan even further to the left takes me into a news room.   There are newscasters with despair all over their faces and background images playing that are disheartening.   To make matters even worse, yes, there are three lines of information scrolling across the bottom.   This only adds to the drama, or confusion, depending on you’re point of view.   Do you think they go to school to learn to sound so emotionally distraught?   It seems like sensationalism has invaded the gym this morning!

The next screen is some kind of a talk show.   Not a whole lot of defining background there, so I really don’t know what’s going on.   Actually, the audio on this channel isn’t working anyway, so upward and onward!  

Why are the things we are presented in the world not kind hearted and loving?   The next screen is showing a mug shot of a man authorities claim is a serial bank robber who was out on parole and held us another bank!   Really?   That’s news?   My mind wanders … “S T U P I D” comes into my thoughts.

All I want is info coming into my brain that will help me in my overall life.   How to love people better.   How to live more fulfilled.   How to be safer and find a good school system for my kids.   How to live today as a loving concerned human being.   But there is hope.   Another screen is showing me how to eliminate my anxieties over long term major automotive repair cost.   For only pennies a day I can have an extended high mileage repair program that guarantees me relief from upcoming major repair cost.   Even on my high mileage older vehicle, guaranteed!   Sometimes I wonder if I have the words “stupid” tattooed across my forehead.   So, for pennies a day you’re going to guarantee me that you will cover the extensive repairs to my ten year old piece of junk as they happen?   Really?   Only because I’m a preferred customer?

What I really want this morning is a screen that is not trying to fool me, mislead me or take advantage of me.   I feel like the world of screens and technology around me is hard at work seeking my demise.   What would the day look like if the screens I looked at offered blessings, hope, true humanitarian concerns and legitimate ways I can help from my little home town without worrying about getting ripped off?   What if I flipped the channels until I found the “Jesus Network?”   What would you watch?

A Letter From the Stable

In those days that I created the world, I knew that the creation would be filled with pain, suffering and sin.

I knew that the creation would be also be a place of beauty, elegance, wonder and excitement.

For nothing I have ever created is imperfect.

But all perfect, even if you do not understand it.

In the beginning I took six days to create a wondrous place filled with perfect peace and love.

In fact, love was the foundation of the Creation, and all that I have ever done.

So, I created in love.

First, I created light.

So that all could be seen.

So that nothing would be hidden.

Secondly, I created a great expanse called sky.

It was to surround the earth.

To provide air, rain and beauty.

Thirdly I made the waters and vegetation.

To grow and be beautiful.

To sustain life and to do it abundantly.

Fourthly I created the stars.

Beautiful lights, worlds of the unknown, my creativity unleashed.

For my creation cannot be limited.

Fifthly I put life in the seas and on the ground.

It was paradise streaming with life.

Swimming, flying, walking, running.

Sixth, I created a masterpiece … man.

Made in my own image.

Filled with beauty and wonder.

Free will and choices.

And on the seventh day I watched, enjoyed and saw that all that was created was perfect and filled with my love.

When I created man out of my great love I created life in my own image.

In the image of perfection, deity and love.

When I created Adam, I created him with all of the characteristics of Myself.

Perfect yet human.

The same, but less.

An image, but different.

As an artist expresses his love through paint, I expressed mine through flesh and blood.

Perfect yet imperfect.

The love that I created Adam with had the ability to chose.

You see, love is partly a choice.

You can choose to love, or you can choose not to.

Humankind has today become so familiar with the choice not to.

You know it as “hate” or “indifference.”

These are simply a words that are used to describe the absence of love.

And that absence is by choice.

Adam had love in his heart like mine but he struggled with the aspect of choice.

This was not unexpected, but actually part of the growth process for what I created in my own image.

I have never chosen unwisely or sinfully.

My choices are based on my love.

My love is sacrificial, always putting others before myself.

Adam chose himself first long before he ever ate of the forbidden fruit.

This was the beginning of the journey humankind had to go on.

But love is meant to be shared, thus my motivation to create life.

I wanted to fulfill the love that I am by sharing myself with others.

And let others share the love that is in themselves.

Adam and I had a perfect relationship but the love in his heart was bursting to be brought forward, so I created for him a partner with which to share.

Eve was a beautiful example of myself also.

Made in my image, yet different than man.

She knew love and expressed love in other ways than Adam.

And she was a pure joy to both of our hearts.

But the love inside of her encompassed free will and choice also

She was free to make her own decisions on how she would live.

How she would express her love.

She, like Adam, was completely free to chose.

All of my creation was beautiful and perfect.

The heavens, the earth, the living creatures, the angelic realm and humankind.

For love to be perfect, it has to be free.

Love has to have the opportunity to express itself in many ways.

It has to have the opportunity to fulfill itself.

It has to be able to fill others as it empties itself.

But where free will exist, the opportunity for corruption exist.

Where free will and love intersect, choices can collide.

It is the choice that love by nature must make.

So, because of free will the creation started to fall.

Not unexpected, but expected.

But tempered by my unfailing love and provision.

The heavenly realm too saw corruption.

The corruption of many angelic members of my family.

And humankind was led into this corruption ignited by one that I love so dearly.

His name is Lucifer.

He was perfect in all of his ways.

He was beautiful, exquisite and precious in all ways.

Yet selfishness, vanity and arrogance influenced him to rebel.

And in that rebellion Lucifer influenced so many of my lovely family to rebel also.

Many of the angelic beings made in my image also.

I would forgive them, but they were unwilling to return to me.

In my unfailing love I have been walking with humankind on a journey of suffering.

Many believe that I have been indifferent to the plight of pain of humankind.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

I have felt every illness.

I have suffered through every loss.

Experienced every death.

And I have cried every tear along with humankind.

You see, I am a loving God, and cannot leave or abandon my family in anyway.

I love them, especially you.

So, before time began, I established a pact within myself.

I swore an oath that could never be broken.

I would offer myself for the redemption of my creation.

Humankind, my so dearly loved family.

When the time was right, when enough of history had been accomplished, when my people were broken enough to look beyond themselves, I came into the world to die.

I came as an infant.

But I was never focused on the death of myself, through my Son.

I have always been focused on the life filled with love that was intended from the beginning.

I’ve been focused on restoring my children.

But just like yeast causes bread to rise, love must overcome the ability to choose anything other than Me.

You see you were created to be in a perfect loving relationship with me.

You were created to find your identity in Me.

And in that relationship perfection is found.

Perfect peace, love, contentment, purpose, enjoyment and existence.

But you have to learn to love Me enough to trust.

And trust enough to allow my will to guide your free will.

All because of the love I have placed in your very being.

In my perfect love I chose to enter the world in the worst way possible.

Not to claim your love but simply to offer mine.

I came as a helpless infant of an unwed mother.

Helpless, human and in love with you.

Willing in my perfect love to sacrifice and to lead you amidst your rebellion back to me.

There were two that I brought together for this purpose.

Mary and Joseph.

Mary was so young and Joseph so caring.

I knew that it would not have made any sense to them to tell them more than I did.

I kept them in the dark most of the time, not wanting to create in them a heart of anything less than total devotion to me out of love.

Mary and joseph accepted the lot for their lives… as I knew they would.

They learned more and more, in every step, how to trust me.

But this lesson of trust was not without immense difficult pain.

A pain that I experienced with them.

You see, I never leave my children, never.

Finally, the day arrived for my entrance.

The angels in heaven were stunned when I told them that there would be no fanfare.

No news coverage, no royalty, just animals, the damp air and a feeding trough.

This was a time of excitement both in heaven and on earth.

And poor Gabriel was just beside himself.

He just couldn’t just stand by without telling someone.

So, with my blessing I sent him to visit the shepherds.

They were both stunned and excited.

And he was so full of joy and excitement.

So, I came into the world amidst great pain and suffering.

There were few that realized what was going on.

And sadly a few that sought to slaughter the masses because of the fear of what I might do to their so-called kingdoms.

You see, at this point love had collapsed in the human heart and had been overtaken by self-centeredness, hypocrisy and self-adoration.

Loving one’s self is the product of a heart that no longer focuses on me.

It is a heart that only is self-seeking, not sacrificial.

In the self-seeking heart true contentment can never be found.

For it does not exist outside of a loving relationship with me.

This was the beginning of a short life that I would live in the physical world I created.

It was a life spent in total anticipation of your acceptance of the love I brought to the earth.

Godly love.

A love to renew your heart.

This love was not without the highest of cost.

It would cost me my life.

It would cost me the life of my dearest Son.

It would cost me everything.

I don’t expect you to understand what this cost really was.

Just understand that I held back nothing and gave up everything.

The pinnacle of this love was shown on that lonely night.

In the midst of the damp cold air.

While the animals were restless and Joseph’s heart was filled with anxiety and anxiousness.

And Mary’s heart just prayed.

On that night I too was filled with loving anguish, looking forward to every person that would eventually say “Yes” to a relationship with me.

And suffering the weight of those that would not.

So, on this day of remembrance.

At this time of celebration.

Will you come back to me?

Not just in word or motivation.

But in heart and action.

Will you give up everything like I have for the sake of what I first created you to experience?

My love, in a perfect place

In perfect union with each other.

Tonight, will you choose Me?

Will you?

Pure …

The room was dark, and machines worked together in an unnerving melody pumping air where it would not go without help.   The rhythm of pumps and motors combined with the stench of urine and alcohol swabs made her stomach sour.   But still she was determined to see for herself what she knew her parents were holding back.   Her brother Michael was hospitalized with something that she couldn’t begin to pronounce, yet understand.   And all seemed without hope.

As she entered, she heard a few of the prayer cards fall from the shelf.   They were a stark reminder that all hope was about abandoned, it was now totally up to God.   But where was God?   Why wasn’t He doing something?   What would it take for Him to save her brother?   A few more cards fell.   The room was cold, dark and reminded her of a tomb.   She was reminder of the tomb Jesus was in.   Surely, if Jesus could rise from His tomb, He could release her brother from his.

It seemed like hours that she stood there in silent agony.   Her eyes welling up and her lips quivering as she watched him struggle to breathe, she said a silent prayer.   It seemed as they had tried everything, and nothing was bringing the results they were hoping and praying for.  

The next morning, she was there when the medical staff made their rounds.   Her mother broke into wails of agony when they announced that a blood transfusion was his best hope, but his blood type was rare.   So, they suggested that the immediate family be tested for a possible match.   Mother, no.   Father, no.   Brother, no.   After an eternity it was her turn.   Sister, Yes.  

Relief and fear struck the room, like a blast of sulfur on which to breathe.   They were gasping for any air of hope that was possible.   So, she anxiously agreed to the removal of blood for her brothers needs.   She had never done anything like this before, much less been asked to give something so precious.   She looked into his face and found the courage to continue.

In a separate room the stage was set.   All of the medical equipment necessary was wheeled in like a caravan of train cars bringing the circus to town.   The noise of the machines became entwined with the rolling of carts and a commotion two rooms down.   This was not a happy occasion.   This was an occasion where she was being pushed to her limits.   There was no joy, no relief, only anxiety, fear and nervous perspiration.

The nurse tried to make lite of what was going to happen, in fact she calmly said “poke.”   As if that would help.   But it didn’t, in fact it only made things worse.   Now she was pale, ill and ready to vomit, but it had been a long time since she had eaten.   She started to shake and the nurse patted her hand and said; “It’s OK, its almost over.” 

With sadness overtaking her spirit she stared into the nurse’s eyes.   “How long before I die?”   And the room fell silent.

John 15:13 The greatest love you can have for your another is to give your life for them.

Because of her love for her brother, today they enjoy a special relationship, one that most never experience.   Jesus, you’re friend, your sibling, you’re brother, has done the same for you.

In the Greatest of Humility …

On January 1, 2020, the United Methodist Church USA will see a strengthening of the rules and regulations surrounding the issue of sexuality, ordination and the church.   As we all know, a special session of the General Conference of the UMC met in 2019 to address the pressing issue of sexuality and the division it has brought forward.   This issue had been a hotbed of dissension within the UMC for many years.   At that special general conference, the opposite of what was thought actually happened.   The regulations and restrictions against LGBTQI+ individuals were solidified and enhanced.   Not only were the restrictions not relaxed but they will now be held even more accountable come January 1,2020.

Recently the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC has rejected the rulings set down at this special conference.  Five of their active bishops have promised to provide “a safe harbor” for LGBTQI+ clergy.   OK, let me stop and ask a really important question: I though the Bishops were supposed to stand up for our denomination and our discipline, not violate it.   Besides, where do they get the authority to violate the established discipline of the UMC?   If I did it, I’d be out of a job!

In a recent interview Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky stated the following: “We make this statement out of a position of conscience with the clear affirmation that we don’t think the church has the authority or the power to limit the way God works in people’s lives.”  

I agree!    I don’t think we have the right to try and limit the way God works either, but I also don’t think we have the right to change what God has communicated.   He’s God, we’re not!   We don’t have the right to change Gods Word, its meaning, its context regardless of how hurtful or exclusive we find it in 21st Century culture.   Don’t get me wrong, I love all people, and wrestle with what to accept and what not to, but I believe that for the church to manipulate God’s Word for what “it” sees as how God “wants” to work in people’s lives is just plain wrong.   If God can create the universe by His will alone, if God can create life from dirt, if God can create a woman from a rib and if God knows how many hairs I have on my head at this particular moment, then I don’t have a problem with Him authoring a set of text and publishing them in the Bible, in fact, I see it as quite easy for the almighty!

All that being said, it doesn’t resolve a thing.   My opinion verses your opinion.   So where will it all end?   It appears that 2020 is going to continue to be a year plastered with strife.   There will be arguments, people violating rules and church law, and yet we wonder why the church seems to be so disjointed and ineffective.   This coming year promises to be a year of church disaffiliation with the UMC and continued struggles.   In my lifetime, I’ve never seen the Christian church in such need!   Let’s all pray and ask God for the wisdom and attitude of heart to get through this as faithful witness for Christ.

Remember, its not about right or wrong, its about what God has ordained.   Its not about what I want or think really, its about God’s responsibility to make His creation aware of what He says is holy and what is unacceptable.   Especially since He is holding us accountable to live as holy a life as possible.   Again, I ask you, pray with me for God’s resolution to this dilemma!

The Elevator

Sometimes we have the weirdest experiences in elevators.   They can be like movie screens, displaying the hardships of a person’s life before a varied audience, or they can be like a silent film, leaving the viewers to “fill in the blanks.”   Elevators in hospitals are the most callous.   They don’t care if you are rich, poor, healthy, hurting, overly emotional or totally indifferent, they just don’t care!

The other day I was at a hospital to visit a friend that was struggling with life.   On the way up to their floor I was riding with a lady that seemed overwhelmed and quite anxious.   If it were even possible, I think she would have jumped out of the elevator even before the door finally opened.   “What’s the matter” I asked?   She looked at me like I had an alien sitting on my shoulder sticking his tongue out at her.   “Nothing that a few million bucks wouldn’t fix!”   “Really, let me see what I have.   It can’t be that bad!”   At this point she went on to tell me that her husband was getting ready to be released but the hospital bills were piling up faster than she could add them up.  

Over the journey of just a few floors I saw what should have been a grateful heart over the healing of her husband turn to stone over the worry of money.   I told her; “your husband gets to go home!”   Too many times I witness the husband or wife, or child or infant that will never leave that hospital floor.   Too many times I am reminder of the brevity of life and the fragile balance between fear and gratitude.   But life goes on.

When I reached my destination the anxieties, I witnessed on the elevator were simply washed away by the scene I walked into.   There was death and hopelessness circling the room, and there seemed no clear way out.   All hope for this room was encapsulated in a prayer to Jesus that ensued.   This prayer was a living testimony to Christ presented in a way that was without selfishness or fear, it was simply a cry for a holy moment, a moment when Christ would fill the room with His presence.   It was beautiful and hope was found abundant.

On the way down I met a father who had just become a dad for the first time.   He was filled with excitement, joy and gratitude, even though he was also exhausted.   He spoke words of affirmation and blessing and was openly praising God for the blessing of new life.   Yes, elevators can be a strange thing.

I’M A CHRISTIAN, BUT DON’T ASK ME TO …

Yes, I love all of the promises that scripture tells us are in the heart of God for us.   God has wonderful plans for each one of us, and in scripture we read that we can trust in Him regardless of how unusual or out of the box those promises are.   God has offered us His best, forgiveness, eternal life, perfect purpose and relationship with our Creator.   Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?

It sometimes seems strange to me, that the Creator God, who really needs nothing, would sacrifice all that He did to save me!   Why?   What the heck did I do to deserve this?   If anything, I’ve done things that would make me less worthy of God’s rich blessings!   But God is a strange and mysterious God.  

When I read the Bible, God’s love letter to humanity, I read about all of the wondrous things God has planned for me.   A life without pain, without suffering and without tears.   Eternal life encapsulated in perfect purpose and fulfillment.   Joy unspeakable and contentment with all things.   God offers to me an eternal life that is beyond human comprehension and explanation, and is a life that He always intended me to have.  

This should motivate me to extreme enthusiasm and excitement.   I should be climbing the walls with this realization, chomping at the bit to tells others what good things await me in the future, all provided by God who paid a price extreme just to get me back home.    Wow, just let that sink in a while.

All of this is what God has done for me, what God has provided for me, what God offers to all that will trust in Him explicitly.   But I’m called not to just receive these unearned gifts from God, but to respond to them in ways that honor Him.   I am supposed to cross the street of priority, setting my agenda aside, to help someone who is less fortunate that me.   I am called to be attentive to the strife of others around me, and to freely and joyfully respond to their needs because of what God has done for me.   I am called to share my abundance with others, not by writing a check and disappearing into the shadows again, but to actively engage others witnessing to them my joy, faith and trust in who God is.  I am called to relinquish my sense of control and ownership of God’s resources for the sake of allowing others to expand their horizons of faith.   I am called to be humble, considering others above myself, so that the body of Christ may be continually built up and supported.   I am called to remove gossip, haughtiness’ and pride from my heart in order to help others see the glory of God.   Like John the Baptist, I am called to become less so that Christ can become more in the lives and hearts around me.

So, when I find myself willing to do certain things for God, but not all things, especially the ones I hold on to that make me feel good, I have to reconsider my Christian walk.   Am I on the right path?   Am I hearing God’s Word and applying it to my behaviors?   Or am I lying to myself?

When God Created …

When God created human beings, He created imperfect life in a perfect setting and existence.   He created flawed human beings that started experiencing trouble from the very get-go.   Let me explain.

First, God created Adam from the dust of the earth.   A miraculous feat!   He created Adam during the time He was creating the earth and sky.   However, there were not any trees or grasses in the land until after Adam had been created if I read the Garden account correctly.   I wonder if Adam had any input into the kind of garden that God was going to plant?   Colors, design or texture.   Regardless, God planted a garden that grew and was beautiful and He placed Adam in the midst of it for a purpose.   Adam had certain responsibilities and a reason for his life.   He was to “work the ground and keep it in order,” as we read in the Message version of Genesis 2.  

So, God has Adam continue His work in the garden while plants were growing, being created and being designed.   God also established something for the first time in Adams life: things you cannot do.   Do this and that, but don’t do that one thing!

Genesis 2:16-17 God commanded the Man, “You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”

I wonder if Adam knew what God was talking about?   What experiences had he had that would give him an understanding regarding the concept of being “dead?”   Had Adam ever seen anything dead before?   How did Adam react to this, it certainly must have been a bit out of character in their relationship?   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying God didn’t do everything perfectly, I’m just wondering what kind of learning process Adam must have gone through prior.   Whatever the process it appears that Adam was not completely content in his heart.   Something was missing.   He had purpose and relationship with God, but something was still missing, or was he looking in the wrong places?

Immediately after placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to care for it, God recognized the need in Adams heart for a companion, a helper, a mate, another human being with different characteristics.   Adam needed another person for relationship.   So, Adam was put to sleep and God formed a woman as his helper.   What a beautiful picture this represents.   Evidently God was quite familiar with Adams need for companionship and purpose, therefore the reason for working in the Garden and the introduction of a helpmate.   God knew, that all of humankind, beginning with Adam, was in dire need of purpose and meaning through relationships, and that those relationships needed to be sought out carefully.

Where do I find them?   First and supremely, we need a relationship with our creator to know and understand our purpose and worth.   Nowhere else do we find that other than through our relationship with God.   Yes, we might look in a lot of other places or even in other people, but nothing can complete the human existence as an intimate relationship with the Creator, the One from whom we receive our value and worth.   Secondly, we need relationships with others around us.   It’s the way we are wired.   The key here is to choose wisely.   Chose God, and chose godly people for close intimate personal relationships.

The emptiness that Adam was experiencing in the Garden of Eden left him with that choice.   He could search to fill the emptiness through his relationship with God or he could look elsewhere.   But as we see, his choices were a bit limited.   He had God, Eve and lots of animals!   Why in the world were they drawn to listening to a serpent, a snake?   In a moment of weakness and deception Adam and Eve made a series of bad choices.  They listened to the serpent.   Not a godly choice but a flawed one!

As relational human beings it appears, we are all still on the same journey towards contentment and purpose.   We are searching.   Searching everywhere and inside the strangest places.   There is an emptiness found in the human heart that causes us to look outside of ourselves at times for purpose and value.   The problem we run into is that the solution is not found in the world or other people, its only found in a loving relationship with our Creator.   He is that answer!   It is God that has established our worth, our value, which He has placed on a scale where we are found valuable enough to die for.   Just sayin …