Making the Best With What We Have

2014-11-22 10.12.10Tonight I sat down in front of the television with my Popeye’s box and said a little prayer of Thanksgiving. I don’t always do that. I say grace in the right settings, but I don’t thank God every time I eat. Now you know. Hope you still love me.

Why say thanks tonight? Maybe it’s because I had a great day.

It was the couple of hours the grandkids and I spent delivering Thanksgiving bags this morning. We delivered five bags. They all went to houses in neighborhoods I would very likely avoid at night. We delivered to small houses. The entrance to one was a long handicap ramp.  It was obvious the folks who lived in those houses were not well-to-do, but the houses were neat and well-kept. The people we met were courteous and thankful for what we brought. There was a sweet spirit in each of them. One of the homes was so welcoming with a cozy sitting area in the front that we wanted to just sit and visit. At one stop one of the kids said “I would want to live here.” When we finished, we discussed what a great experience it was. Nicky said it best, “They make the best with what they have.”

Our pastor had advised us to look for opportunities to share the gospel. We didn’t get that. We got opportunities to visit people who lived the gospel. The spirit of the Lord was already present in every home we visited. We were blessed and challenged to meet followers who in many ways have a lot less than we do, but who make the best with what they have.

Isn’t that what Thanksgiving really should be. Isn’t it insufficient to realize that we are blessed? Doesn’t it fall short to thank God for our blessings? Shouldn’t the real purpose be to check if we are making the best with what we have. Isn’t that our purpose: to take all that God gives us and put it to its best and highest use?

I haven’t been doing that. That has to change.

Honesty

I was watching Fox News last night. I know that makes me a right-wing wacko, but whatever. When one of Bill O’Rielly’s guests called something a “lie” Bill corrected him saying “misrepresentation” was a better word. Really, Bill? I thought this was the “no spin zone.” Please comment if you can explain the difference between “lie” and “misrepresentation.”

Apparently it’s politically incorrect to call a lie, a lie. I heard yesterday about a child who is having a problem with “misrepresentations.”  If kids hear lies, called anything else, is it any wonder that they don’t think lying is a big deal.

A recent article I read gave advice about teaching kids honesty. Maybe our nation’s leaders and our television personalities could use an honesty short course as well.

Model it – Most behavior is learned. We can’t expect the people who admire and model us to act differently from us. If you expect others to be honest, don’t lie, about anything.

Teach it – There are plenty of examples, some of them in scripture, about the value of honesty and the pitfalls of lying. Kids, politicians and news people need to hear them. We once had a President whose nickname was “Honest Abe.” That was a very long time ago.

Enforce it – Kids who lie should be punished. It’s tougher to enforce honesty in adults not under our command. Can’t we at least start with being honest about their lying?

Encourage it – We should expect honesty and, since it’s become so rare, point it out when it occurs. Honesty and courage are linked. We lie because we fear being found out. We lie because we are embarrassed by the truth. We lie because we are chicken.

Reward it – Let’s try, at least once a day, to tell someone, “Thanks for being honest.” If we look for opportunities, we may find many. A friend will tell us the truth. We could all use more friends. We could all be better friends.

Oh, by the way, the lie and the liar being discussed on Fox News, was our President.  Sadly, he’s not nearly the only liar out there, but shouldn’t honesty start at the top? I used to cringe at the joke: How do you know a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving. Now it seems the joke has universal application. I’m really not picking on the President. In three hours of news watching, nearly everyone who spoke said at least one thing that was obviously not the truth.

Honest Abe, how we miss you.

Be blessed.

 

 

Complain – Compare – Compete

I spend lots of time reading articles in my search for good blog material. What? Surprised I sometimes need inspiration? Don’t be. Yesterday I read an article about three things that happy people don’t do.  The three things were Complain, Compare, and Compete. My first thought was, “Good Advice.” If I did less of those three things, I would be happier.

However, the words kept running around in my head and they just didn’t seem right or, God forbid, “biblical.” Follow where I drifted.

Complain – I hate complainers. I hate myself when I complain. I hate complaining, because I don’t know what I’m suppose to do about the subject of the compliant. I’m told men are fixers. I don’t like it when someone I love complains and I can’t fix it. I know I’m “just suppose to listen” but I’m a man. I can’t do that at least not comfortably. I feel embarrassed when I complain and realize the person I’m complaining to can’t fix it either. I also hate it that he/she wasted time listening.

I can point to numerous bible verses which support the idea that grumbling and complaining are not good things. Yet if something isn’t right, shouldn’t I take it to the one who can fix it? Isn’t there someone out there that can fix stuff?

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.” Psalm 142 1-2

I guess I would change this one to “Complain only to God then shut up and move on.” Doesn’t have the same ring to it, but sorry about that.

Compare – I have bought myself plenty of misery by comparing myself to others. I live with a “stones throw” of the richest guy in Acadiana. That leaves lots of opportunity for comparison. Yet, my greatest encouragements come when I visit the brothers at Angola. That sets up some comparisons that make me very grateful. If I compare my situation with most of the world, I am truly blessed.

I also get motivation from comparison. I am motivated when I compare my energy level with those of the energizer bunnies I know. I am motivated when I compare my walk with those who are far ahead of me spiritually.

I guess I would change this one to; “Compare carefully.” Yes. I like that.

Compete.  I know “striving” is not a good thing, but aren’t we in a race and isn’t there a prize? “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Yes. That’s the verse I was thinking of.

I mean if I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, doesn’t that mean I should be doing something. Maybe competition has become politically incorrect, but in life there are winners and losers. The one who dies with the most toys ISN”T the winner, but the goal is to store up treasure, as long as it’s heavenly. I don’t recall a beatitude that goes, “Blessed are those who sit in the stands and cheer.” The cheerleaders are the ones who have finished the race.

Maybe I would change this one from “compete” to “Complete.” We have a task, to complete the work that Christ started in us and in our world. We do it through His power, but it still requires us to DO.

Complaint only to God. Compare Carefully and Complete. There that sounds better.

 

Evacuation

We are in day two of evacuation two. Everyone made it through the night. The report from Pelican Pointe the nursing home is that the nature of the leak has not yet been identified. We don’t know what substance is leaking or exactly the source.

It is unclear how long our guests will be with us. We have plenty of help at this time. We do ask that if you are available to help that you be ready to come to Amana to help if we should need help. This would be most likely if we need to move the residents and clean up.

Your continued prayer is appreciated.

God’s Guidance for Our Good

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— Romans 6:5-6

Sin by another name. Recently I addressed the myth of “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” That should leave you with a question. What do I do about someone who is caught up in “sin?” Well, first off never forget we all sin. We are all caught up in it to some extend. Nevertheless, loving others has to include acting in their best interest. If we will remember that sin is harmful behavior, our path becomes clearer. God did not just arbitrarily decide that certain things would be allowed and others not. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what is good for us and what isn’t. Sin encompasses those things that hurt us, others, or our mission. God has provided guidance for our good. Acting against that divine guidance is sin.

Avoid label obsession. We should be concerned when we or someone we love is hurting himself, others or the mission. Very few will positively respond to a reminder that they are sinning. It seems silly to say that sin is a “bad” word. It’s certainly politically incorrect. Today, sinful activity is fine. Pointing out things that are sinful is what’s forbidden. If we want to get through to people and make a difference,  should not our approach be to point out that we are concerned about harm. It’s great if we are at a point in our spiritual walk where the mere knowledge that God said it is good enough for us. The truth is none of us is always at that point and most of the world is hardly ever there.

What’s the harm? When the Holy Spirit impresses upon us that we need to be involved in someone’s walk, look for the harmful behavior. Address that. Sin is activity which God has identified for us as  harm producing or running a risk of harm. If we are concerned about what we consider sinful behavior in someone we care about, but can’t find the harm or risk of harm, maybe we aren’t the one to deal with the situation. Maybe what we think is sin, really isn’t.

People are most resistant to advice that begins with “You need to . . .” What we fail to do is often harm producing and sinful. We need to have a prayer life. We need to be in communion with other followers of Christ.  People really need to see these activities make a difference before they will be motivated to do likewise. Let the positive activities in our lives speak for themselves.

Jesus is the answer. We need to never forget that it’s not about behavior change. It’s about new birth. The answer to sin is Jesus. If your interaction with a person bound with sin doesn’t include Jesus, you have, at best, pointed out the problem without providing a solution. Loving the sinner, ultimately means showing them Jesus in what we say and in what we do. Never point out a problem without providing the solution.

Next time: Harm to others and Harm to Mission.

 

Regrets

I have regrets. You have regrets. All God’s people got regrets. Some days seem to bring them out more than others. I woke up this morning to remember that some of my dearest friends are spending the weekend at Angola. I regret not being there. I have attended lots of these weekends over the last twenty plus years. The weeks of preparation are a painful blessing. The weekends are always different and always awesome. I just couldn’t do it this time, but I have regrets.

Tonight I will attend the first game of the UL basketball season. I’m taking two of my grands. It will be fun. However, it will be hard not to remember the games I took my dad to. For years I would pick him up, load him and his wheelchair into my truck and sit with him in the handicap section. It will be hard not to remember the night I loaded the wheel chair into the back of  my truck, only to find it wasn’t there any more when we got to the Cajundome. I will recall the night my dad forgot his glasses and wanted to borrow mine just when the cheerleaders were performing. I will remember our talks and visits with my baby brother. The games were great, but they kind of run together. The moments with Dad and Jim jump out with clarity. I regret I didn’t pick Dad up more often and that I can’t do it tonight.

Last night I attended our SALT meeting. It’s a monthly gathering at church for those over fifty. It was wonderful, great food, fellowship and worship. I regret the meetings I’ve missed. I regret the many chances I’ve had to gather with other followers and was just too busy or forgot.

It’s easy to pile up regrets. Even wonderful times with precious grand kids, fellow believers or sports events can remind us of the many opportunities we’ve missed. Having regrets is unChristian. Followers of Jesus should take only the briefest glances back. We need to look ahead to keep our eyes on the one we are following. We need to live in the moment to enjoy the fullness of life that following Him brings.

Regrets for us are foolish. For followers, like no one else, have an eternity for do-overs. We can’t undo what we’ve done or failed to do, but we will be able to spend quality time with wonderful people for all time. Jesus restores what we have wasted. No regrets.

 

Let’s Just Love

In the early morning hours, the Lord brought an article to my attention: Debunking the “Love the Sinner. Hate the Sin” Myth.   I know I could just say, “I noticed” or “I read” and not bring the Lord into it, but don’t you believe that God leads us? Plus I’m going to need as much divine support as possible with this post. I will be taking on one of the most beloved “sayings” of the modern church, “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” The article I mentioned laid out three very good reasons to consider this idea a myth. I’ll add some of my own.

 

 

Did you know that “Hate the sin. Love the sinner” isn’t from Jesus or the scripture. It’s quote from Mohandas Gandhi, who may have been quoting Augustine.

Justin Lathrop correctly points out that “Jesus has never been about hate. Jesus talks about love and grace and mercy, but never hate. So introducing hate into the conversation is automatically a deviation from His teaching.” Jesus didn’t shame people. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman at the well or the prostitute in the square. He loved them and gently guided them into a new life.  Finally, are we really suppose to be the sin police? “We aren’t responsible for fixing, removing, or condemning someone’s sin. We’re responsible for love. God takes care of the rest.” I would note we ARE responsible for fixing, removing, and condemning our own sin. Something only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s such a big job you would think we would have little time for the sins of others. Not so.

Here’s my take. Sin is not good. Sin is bad. Sin separates us from God. Without a recognition of OUR sin we can not come to repentance, conversion, and sanctification. So what’s wrong with “Hating the sin and loving the sinner.” Here goes:

1. We discriminate. We don’t apply this to everyone. If we are all sinners, and we are, we should HATE something about everyone. That’s a lot of hate. Think about it. “I love my wife, but I hate her sin.” “I love my grandkids, but sure hate their sin.” We don’t think like that. We hate public sins. We hate the sin de jour. We hate sexual sins. We aren’t too concerned about gluttony or gossip. We hate murder. We have less problem with haters. That’s too close to looking in the mirror.

2. Hate is not suppose to be our trademark. Jesus didn’t say “By this will they know you are my disciples, by the way you hate sin.” Wasn’t that what the Pharisees were so good at? They were not Jesus’ favorites.

3. Sin hating is not productive. Okay so we hate sin. Now what? Do we stand on street corners and yell about people going to hell? Do we talk incessantly about “sin?” Do we shake our heads at all the sin we see around us? Do we focus on the sins of others including those we love and fail to see their small victories over sin through Jesus? The sad truth is that the answer is “yes.” All too often we do all these things. Love, unconditional love, produces more life change than all the condemnation we are capable of. For people to know Christ they need to know us, if we are Christ bearers. We need people to be closer and more comfortable with us, not estranged and put off. Our occupation with the sin of others, (forgetting about our own) makes us clearly the hypocrites the world claims us to be.

4. We are no good at separating the sin from the sinner. We say we are to love the sinner, but we don’t. We treat the “sinner” differently. We consider “them” not one of “us.” We are afraid that we or our children will be soiled by contact with “them.” If we don’t want to associate with sinners, we better find us a dessert island.

We should not be blind to sin. In fact, we should be much more aware of sin, especially those sins that we ourselves specialize in. If we can notice that we ALL sin, we will be less likely to apply the “hate the sin” procedure. We will be more empathetic, better lovers, better carriers of Christ light.

It’s a question of focus. Sure we hate sin. We should just spend more time on the “loving the sinner” part. That’s where the life changing action is. Hate is not fun, productive or blessing producing even when the object of that hate is “allegedly” sin and not the sinner.

Mohandas Gandhi was a good guy, but I think I’ll go with Jesus and what He said and did.

 

Vets

10748954_394279847395887_854239313_nMy dad was a war hero. He served in the 4th Marine Division in World War II. He landed on Iwo Jima and other islands in the south Pacific. He was at the foot of the hill when the famous picture was taken of the flag raising at Iwo Jima. He was one of many heroes of that war. When the war was over the heroes quietly returned and picked up their lives. Their lives during and after the war earned them the title Greatest Generation. Their nation responded to the heroes by establishing college benefits, assists with home loans. Special heroes were given medals and became respected leaders in their communities.

10360704_10152516150805967_7287121625168118275_nI would never compare my service with my Dad’s. I served in the Navy in the Vietnam era. I was in the Navy for over eleven years. I went to Vietnam twice. However, I served safely on an aircraft carrier and I saw no real action and did not kill anyone or see anyone be killed. Many of my friends did. Our return home was very different from that of my Dad’s generation. We were spit on. When my ship returned from war, garbage was thrown down on our flight deck while we stood in formation. When on leave in San Francisco many would wear wigs so as not to be identified as military. Our war wasn’t popular and neither were we, the baby killers, they called us. Many of our “heroes” became drug addicts, homeless, or just never got over their post traumatic syndromes. Our nation’s failure to deal with our “issues” is a disgrace.

10403209_10154841135445370_3044599686087479846_nTyler is one of my heroes. He married my special girl, Jessica. He’s helping raise Kaydence. He served in a war that started out popular and ended up not so much so. The failure of the Veterans Administration to meet the needs of his generation is now a news item, sometimes. The stories of this generation of heroes is still being written. Tyler’s will be a success story. I can tell by the way he handles himself, his family and his life. I wasn’t kidding when I said he’s one of my heroes. I’m not so sure about many of the others that served. We are not treating them like my dad was treated. I guess we aren’t treating them as badly as my friends and I were treated. That’s not good enough. We need to treat them like the heroes they are. It’s important.

It’s not just important that we honor those who served. I remember well years after my service when at a Promise Keepers meeting all the Vets were asked to stand. We were given a standing ovation. I had never been thanked for my service before. I was one of many who openly wept.

It’s important we learn to honor others in general. As Christians we don’t honor our “heroes” like we should. We underpay pastors and missionaries. We forget the service of those who watch our kids and tell them about Jesus in children’s church. Lack of gratitude is epidemic. If we aren’t thankful to those who serve in uniform, we will never understand and appreciate the work and sacrifice of those who work behind the scenes every day of our lives.

It’s Veterans Day. Honor someone who served and is serving, whether in uniform or not, whether as a government employee or a dedicated follower of Christ. They don’t do it for the honor but they deserve it and we need to learn the importance of honor and honoring.