Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (New International Version)

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation

A new year, and a fresh start, given us every morning thanks to the new life promised us in Jesus, thanks to His sacrifice, death and resurrection. We don't have to be who we were, we don't have to be where we come from, what matters is who we are in Him and where we're going from here with Him at our side. God's blessings on your 2009, may it be a year of change and hope and of new beginnings!

Me ka pule,

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.
--John Piper

About NOW- from Wikipedia

The Twelve Days of Christmas, and the associated evenings of those twelve days (Twelve-tide), are the festive days beginning the evening of Christmas Day (December 25) through the morning of Epiphany (January 6). The associated evenings of the twelve days begin on the evening before the specified day. Thus, the first night of Christmas is December 25–26 and Twelfth Night is January 5–6. This period is also known as Christmastide.

Over the centuries, differing churches and sects of Christianity have changed the actual traditions, time frame and their interpretations. St. Stephen's Day (or Boxing Day), for example, is December 26 in the Western Church and December 27 in the Eastern Church. Boxing Day, the first weekday after Christmas, is observed as a legal holiday in parts of the Commonwealth of Nations and was traditionally marked by the giving of Christmas boxes to service workers (such as postal workers and trades people) in the United Kingdom; December 28 is Childermas or the Feast of the Innocents. Currently, the 12 days and nights are celebrated in widely varying ways around the world. For example, some give gifts only on Christmas Night, some only on Twelfth Night and some each of the 12 nights.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

RNC Candidate Distributes 'Barack The Magic Negro' Song

RNC Candidate Distributes 'Barack The Magic Negro' Song
No, I'm sorry, this is not a case of bleeding heart liberals being "politically correct," this is a case of top level Republicans showing their true colors- mean spirited, ugly, racist colors.

Can you believe this? Chip Saltsman included this CD in his Christmas card, along with a letter asking members of the RNC to make him their chairman? Friends, even if this were not blatant racism, it is not acceptable, mature behavior for reasonable adults seeking power and responsibility.

And this is the kind or tripe that Rush Limbaugh puts on his show all the time??!! And you "Ditto Heads" think it's funny? Please take a good long look and consider what he really stands for stands for.

Racism, bigotry, intolerance, and xenophobia are not "Family Values." I'd say that some prominent Republicans had better denounce this fast and loud if they ever want to be taken seriously again on "moral" issues! What Jokes Would Jesus Tell (WJWJT)?

Be like the moon, reflect the Son

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I have seen the light!

John 1:1-5 (New International Version)

John 1

The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Shine on me

Isaiah 30:26
The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Burn Baby, burn!

Isaiah 10:17
The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers.

Merry Christmas!

The fifth and final, center candle in an Advent wreath is the "Christ" candle, because on Christmas morning, the light of the world came to us in God's Son, His Word made flesh.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

1 John 4:8-20 (New International Version)

8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

I know most people think of 1 Corinthians 13 as "the Love Chapter," but after all, 1 John 4:8 is the verse that declares that God IS love. 1 John 4:18 is one that I've cited millions of times durring the recent elections. The right-wing and conservative "Christians" seem to like to try to literally scare the Hell out of people. I think that 1 John 4 has important lessons for us all, and not just for Christmas. But I agree that 1 Cor 13 is important too- read it replacing the word love with the name Jesus and it demonstrates the truth of 1 John 4:8. It's very convicting to replace the word love with your own name and see how UNtrue the chapter becomes.

Know this much this Christmas, that Jesus loves YOU.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let's face it-

What is love? TRUE love? Genuine love?

REAL love is sacrifice:

John 15:13
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (as everybody knows, John 3:16)

1 John 3:16
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Profound thought

Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.

- Christina Rossetti
"Love came down at Christmas"

Last week in Advent; Love

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Zen of Christmas

Here's a couple of ways to understand and achieve JOY that our Buddhist friends might appreciate, although they are both totally grounded in sound Christo-centric theology:

JOY= "Journey Outside Yourself,"" and of course the classic-
JOY="Jesus, Others, and lastly Yourself"

It's all about being selfless and unselfish.

Strength to go on

Nehemiah 8:9-12 (New International Version)

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Christmas is Jesus' birthday. Every Sunday is Easter, which is His re-Birthday. So take strength from the fact that He finds joy in you. You are His child, His "pride and joy." When our strength is zapped and we are weak and exhausted from depression or despair, we need to seek Him. By spending time with God, in prayer, by reading the Bible, by singing to Him- He renews our strength. Here's something that I've been praying every day for a while now-

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

~Psalm 51:10-12

Even in my grief for my brother-in-law and my aunt, even in my anxiety about work and money, even in my disappointments about my dreams, I can remember that Jesus was born and died and rose to save me so that I could be in a relationship with Him. No matter how bad I've been or how much of a failure I think I am, He loved me and has prepared a place for me with Him in Heaven. Surely if there's no joy to find in any of my other relationships- I can find joy in the fact that the very creator and ruler of the universe wants to be my friend, my brother and my father.

I hope that no matter what you've been going through this year and no matter what worried are heavy on your heart- you cans still find joy in the miracle of Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Joy of the Lord is my strength

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

"The French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne mapped 100 facial muscles in 1862. He pointed out that false, or even half-hearted, smiles involved only muscles of the mouth. But "the sweet emotions of the soul," he said, activate the pars lateralis muscle around the eyes.

Since then, physiologists have talked about the Duchenne marker in a smile. It's a slight crinkling of crows-feet and a droop in the eyelid toward the temples -- along with a lift of the cheeks and the corners of the mouth. You know the sign. You recognize true delight in a friend's face.

Now psychologist Paul Ekman has gone back to the smile and found out something very important about it. The Duchenne smile, it seems, is accompanied by increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex -- known to be the seat of positive emotions." ~by John H. Lienhard, The Engines of Our Ingenuity

That's right, the very act of smiling activates neurons in your brain that can help elevate your mood. Sounds absurd, but it's true. And, Duchenne would argue that you can sense when someone is just pretending to be happy or if they're pretending to be glad to see you just by looking at them. A few years back, I wrote here about how what joy really is, is being connected to others, being in relationship. Duchenne, Ekman and Lienhard would probably agree that joy is that "I'm so glad to see you" glint in one's eye.

No wonder the blessing in Numbers 6:24 says "may God's face shine upon you, smile on you, and look favorably upon you." I know when my children are excited that I've come home from work it makes my face "light-up." God is always glad to be with us, He loves us so much, just thinking about us makes Him happy.

Psychologists recommend interacting with others rather than isolation when we're depressed. No wonder. Joy is about feeling connected and unconditionally accepted.

But it's not just something you receive. Joy is one of the greatest gifts that you can give. Doctors and scientists have also discovered a thing called "mirror neurons." When you see someone with a genuine smile, it triggers the smile neurons in your own brain. When your parents warned you that if you lie down with dogs, you pick up fleas, they mean that if you hang out with negative people, you pick up negative attitudes yourself. If you're having trouble with the blues, surround yourself with positive, upbeat people and sooner or later, you'll probably start to come around too.

Likewise, if you want to affect the emotional climate around you, smiling and being positive is a great way to start.

Remember that scene in the movie 'You've Got Mail,' where Meg Ryan tries to use a credit card in the cash only lane of a supermarket and Tom Hanks comes to her rescue by treating the cashier with good manners, kindness and a smile? One thing about joy is that it is something you share. If others see you smiling and experience you as warm, they are more likely to believe you are a nice person and more likely to comply with your requests.
“There is now compelling evidence that smiling causes people to feel happy. Requiring people to smile, no matter how they really feel at first, results in increased positive feelings; frowning conversely decreases positive feelings. Robert Zajonc and his colleagues show that smiling leads to physiological changes in the brain that cool the blood, which in turn makes people feel happy." ~Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Anderson, C.A. “Temperature and Aggression: Ubiquitous Effects of Heat on the Occurrence of Human Violence”, Psychological Bulletin 106 (1989): 74-96.

Zajonc, R. B., S. T. Murphy, & M. Inglehart, “Feeling and Facial Efference: Implications of the Vascular Theory of Emotion” Psychological Review 96 (1989): 395-416.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Joy in our weakness

As regular readers may have noticed. Our family is having kind of a "blue Christmas." That makes it tough to write about this week's Advent topic, joy.

It's finally occurred to me 1) that true joy is not necessarily the same thing as a temporary sense of being chipper and bubbly and 2) there are no doubt plenty of people who, like me, are having a hard time figuring out how to find joy, genuine, saccharine or otherwise. So I'd like to share a powerful resource with you. Joy in our Weakness, by Marva Dawn, is an amazing book that can help us discover genuine joy in the most painful and confusing times.

"Neither a commentary on the book of Revelation nor a devotional work -- though it offers aspects of both -- Joy in Our Weakness is instead a theological and practical guide that ushers readers into the very presence of Christ and His Lordship over the powers of evil. Marva Dawn writes compassionately for those who suffer, for this book was born out of her own struggles with physical limitations and chronic illness, and it is intended to help the whole Church learn how to find Joy in every circumstance of life, especially in trials and sufferings... The Revelation's original purpose -- to comfort afflicted, suffering believers..." From the Synopsis on Barnes &
Bad things happen to good people, but God wants to wipe away every tear. What is more, He wants to turn our ugly hurt into something beautiful and useful. No matter what we've been through, He can use it, and use us to help others face what they have to go through. That gives hope and peace through sharing His love.

Promise I'll write more about joy tomorrow, but I'm pressed for time today.

Me ka pule,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In the spirit of the season, this year-

I hadn't made any collages for a while, nor had I made any real social/political commentary for a while. This seemed to fit the spirit of the season this year. Hope Santa brings you everything you need (get it?).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Confident, competent ministers of the Spirit of God's Law

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

- 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

This was Sojourner magazine's verse of the day. I've always argued that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter. Of course, that could be because I've got A.D.D. so bad and I'm terrible with details. No seriously, it makes me think about Jesus scolding the teachers of the law in His day for "screening out a gnat, yet swallowing a camel," in our sinful desire for "justice" and our own pious self-righteousness, we lose sight of the true meaning and intent of God's Word. If only we'd act justly, love mercy and walk humbly- instead of acting pious, loving justice for others but hypocrisy for ourselves and walking smugly with delusions of godliness!

This verse is fascinating because while on the one hand, it talks about how our competence and confidence aren't our own, they're totally unearned, they're entirely God's- on the other hand, it makes clear that we, WE are to be His ministers. Ministers in the spirit of His new covenant. The covenant of love and forgiveness.

I may be a worm, I may, like St. Paul, be "chief among sinners," and yet without any seminary training or official ordination, God wants to use me to minister to others. To administer His love and grace, His mercy and forgiveness.

What an honor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third week in Advent; Joy

Actually, I'm having my doubts as to whether this is supposed to be the Angel's candle or the Shepherd's candle. I do know that it IS supposed to be the candle for joy. Regular readers will understand if I'm having a hard time writing something about joy in the midst of my grief this year- but I will try. There is reason to be joyful, just be patient with me, I'll write something before next Sunday. Of course my home computer is infected with malware, so that doesn't help matters.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes ... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
German pastor and philosopher (1906-1945) imprisoned and executed for his attempt to overthrow Adolf Hitler.

The right focus can bring peace

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~Philippians 4:8
The shepherds in Bethlehem had to have thought it was Armageddon when they saw all those angels in the middle of the night. They had to focus on the star and the gift that the angels promised it would lead them to.

This time of year we all get frantic with busy-ness. Decorations, shopping, wrapping, planning, cards, cleaning, cooking, work, traffic, relatives... As a teacher I'm dealing with semester grades and final exams, as a coach I have a slew of basketball games to take cheerleaders to, and purchase orders to submit for supplies to order and repairs to make for the next quarter...

Whew. It's dizzying. And yesterday, I shared with you that I have a whole litany of depressing things that I could easily complain about if I wanted to become discouraged and distraught.

So here's a hint. Listen to Paul's advice in Philippians, focus on the positive. This is a sure-fire way to bring you peace, His peace in the middle of the craziness of the season.

Or as Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang in the holiday classic, "White Christmas;"
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings
While you're counting those blessings, remember who gives them to you, and thank God for them. And thank Him especially for the gift of His Son, Jesus on Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

STRUGGLING to find peace

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.

- Etty Hillesum,
died in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 29. From An Interrupted Life, a compilation of her diaries and letters.

I wish I knew how exactly to do that. Something I'm discovering is that most of us lack peace because we don't stop struggling.

Last summer I found out that I had high blood pressure because of the triglycerides in my blood. My other cholesterol levels were fine, but I was "pre-diabetic." I would have to lose weight, exercise daily, and give up all sorts of carbs and starches. I felt terribly frightened and depressed. I felt sorry for myself.

My wife asked me to stop writing my weekly column in our local newspaper because apparently neighbors and colleagues were avoiding her and talking about me behind my back because they disagreed so vehemently with my columns that scrutinized Sarah Palin and researched John McCain's connections to the "Keating 5" and the mortgage crisis. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I had tied up my whole sense of identity with being a writer, even though it was barely more than a hobby- really I'm an Art teacher.

I was getting a lot of hate email and negative blog comments besides one or two letters to the editor. That compounded on top of 8 rejection letters in a row from syndicates for either columns or cartoons. Once again I was struggling with depression, feeling sorry for myself.

I was just starting to get over it (grief/withdrawls/just taking a break from it/letting go of something that I'd let become too important to me- whatever you want to call it) when my mom had a scare with a spot on her lung (which turned out to be an infection, not cancer- thank God), then one of my Aunts was killed in a car accident, and most recently my brother-in-law took his own life.

It is very hard not to feel sorry for myself.


So, how to find peace?

Less of me, more of Him. If I look inward, I find disappointment, weakness, sadness, selfishness, anger, darkness, brokenness. But if I look to the cross, I see a God who loves me enough to die for me, to be persecuted and flogged, humiliated and tortured, so that I can be in a right relationship with Him.

If I look to Him, he shows me other people who have their own hurt whom I can offer comfort and support to. He shows me that I am not alone.

He brought people to me to tell me how much they had liked my column and miss it. People who complimented my writing.

I lost almost 40 pounds in 6 months and while I have to take blood samples every other day, my glucose levels are good and I don't need any medicine or insulin.

He brought throngs of people to me with their kindness and support in my grief. He brought people who shared their joyful and funny memories of my brother-in-law. He brought me closer to my wife, my own brother, and to my other brother-in-law.

I have a lot to be grateful for. I just had to stop struggling, look around and see that everything would be okay. It's like someone who's flailing their arms around fearfully because they don't know how to swim, when all they have to do is relax and stand up because they're in such shallow and still, calm, placid water that they're perfectly safe.

Do you want to know how to find peace? Stop fighting it.

Not practical enough for you? Take these simple steps:
  1. Thank God for what good things you CAN think of in your life
  2. Try to be gentle, kind, peaceful toward others
  3. Pray
  4. Repeat steps 1-3
Here's the way the Apostle Paul put it:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:4-7

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where it starts

"Peace begins with a smile."
- Mother Teresa

Cherokee Wisdom

This sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit and fruit of the sinful human nature found in Galatians 5:21-23. I don't remember where I found this, but I think it's pretty profound:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 wolves inside us all: One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Peace Quote

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

- Eleanor Roosevelt,

in a 1951 radio broadcast

Ask, Seek, Knock, for bread

Spiritual Bread Luke 11:1-13
from a Feb. 2008 column in the Mapleton PRESS

FYI: 'Bethlehem' is Hebrew for 'House of Bread' or 'bakery.' Ironic since Jesus himself is the 'Bread of Life.' Since this week's part of the Advent wreath is the Bethlehem candle, I thought that this old column inspired by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be appropriate for an Advent devotion.

Last month, I started re-reading a book of sermons by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called “Strength to Love,” from 1963. Many people would be surprised by what a Biblical teacher King was because we tend to take him for granted as a cultural icon or a Black leader or a political activist.

One chapter in particular struck me as something that we could all use these days. Let’s face it, this is a time of high anxiety and stress for many of us. Governor Culver recently tried to reassure Iowans that we’re in better shape than the nation as a whole to face the coming recession. But come on, things have been getting hard for all of us for a long time.

Wars, stagnant wages, increasing costs of living especially gas, food, heating fuel and health insurance, talk of climate change, cultural change, and global competition have all left us a little frazzled. Perhaps you’re finding that just the challenges of daily life, let alone personal tragedies and crises are wearing you down.

Rev. King talked about Jesus’ parable of the man who knocks on his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for bread found in Luke 11:5-8.

“The traveler asks for three loaves of bread,” Dr. King wrote. The three things we need most are faith, hope and love.

“In a generation of so many colossal disappointments, men have lost faith in God, faith in man, and faith in the future…in the midst of staggering disillusionment, many cry for the bread of faith.”

“There is also a deep longing for the bread of hope.” Dr. King continued, “In the early years of this century many people did not hunger for this bread. The days of the first telephones, automobiles, and airplanes gave them a radiant optimism. They worshiped at the shrine of inevitable progress. They believed that every new scientific achievement lifted man to higher levels of perfection.”

But as we all know, came WWI and WWII and the Cold War. We realized that technology won’t produce a futuristic utopia. We may have more than enough food to eradicate world hunger, but greed and corruption prevent us from ever being able to get the food to who needs it. The twentieth century left mankind wounded and disillusioned.

King lamented that “the light of hope went out, and they roamed wearily in the dark chambers of pessimism. Many concluded that life has no meaning… But even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”

If anything, we’ve learned too well that life is not fair. Some people don’t even see the point in trying anymore.

Finally, MLK pointed out what we are most starved for.

“There is the deep longing,” King wrote, “for the bread of love. Everybody wishes to love and to be loved. He who feels that he is not loved feels that he does not count. Much has happened in the modern world to make men feel that they do not belong. Living in a world which has become oppressively impersonal, many of us have come to feel that we are little more than numbers.”

We all need to find ways to get out of bed in the middle of the night and come to our neighbor’s aid. We all need to try to feed others in anyway we can but we should also remember where to turn when times get worst.

Luke 11: 5-8 has a man asking to borrow bread from a neighbor, but in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus teaches the disciples the Lord’s Prayer and in 11:9-13, He urges us to pray and ask God’s help for anything we need. If we need faith, hope, or love, all we have to do as ask, seek, or knock.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pacifist Psalm

Psalm 120
1I call on the LORD in my distress,
and he answers me.

2 Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.

3 What will he do to you,
and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?

4 He will punish you with a warrior's sharp arrows,
with burning coals of the broom tree.

5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!

6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.

7 I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) 1971
By John Lennon

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas War is over
For weak and for strong If you want it
For rich and the poor ones War is over
The world is so wrong Now
And so Happy Christmas War is over
For black and for white If you want it
For yellow and red ones War is over
Let's stop all the fight Now

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas War is over
And what have we done If you want it
Another year over War is over
And a new one just begun Now
And so Happy Christmas War is over
I hope you have fun If you want it
The near and the dear one War is over
The old and the young Now

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

War is over if you want it
War is over now

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Lord, like your servant Nicholas,
make us hold loosely to our material wealth
and instead be generous with our gifts for the good of others.
Grant us a passion for Your PURE word,
so that we expose those who deliberately try to mislead or misrepresent
Your Gospel for their own benefit.
Give us so much faith that You can do things through us that are totally disproportionate to anything we would be capable of without you.
And give us a heart for the poor, for the oppressed and the weak.
And as much as we admire and celebrate his example,
remind us to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas, just as Santa would.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The "jolly old elf" we know as Santa Claus, is, in fact, Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of the city of Myra in what is now Turkey. Nick was passionate about his faith. He attended the council of Nicaea (as in Nicaean Creed) and is said to have punched out a guy (Arius) for trying to argue false doctrines. The story says that the other bishops at Nicea were shocked at such rude behavior and defrocked the clergyman. But then Jesus appeared to them, standing next to Nicholas, so restored him to his office.

Supposedly, Nicholas was born to a wealthy family in Patara, Lycia. His parents died, and he inherited a considerable sum of money, but he kept none of it. In the most famous story about his life, he threw bags of gold through the windows of three girls about to be forced into lives of prostitution.

One legend held that, like the prophets Elija & Elisha, God used Nicholas to raise people from the dead- children who had been murdered, as the legend goes. But the important thing is that Nicholas didn't seek fame for himself, but wanted only to serve his Lord Jesus.

Saint Nicholas was renowned for his great kindness and his generous aid to those in distress. Among the kind and miraculous acts attributed to him are saving three young girls from prostitution by secretly providing them with dowries, and saving sailors caught in stormy seas. He is considered the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors, among others.

Click here: to read some of my Columns from 2002,-2007! INCLUDING my annual "interviews" with Santa Claus (St. Nicholas)!

Visit to find out more about the historical Nicholas, and the world-wide cultural phenomenon.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Reason to hope; Psalm 80:1-7

1 Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock;
you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth

2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.

3 Restore us, O God;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.

4 O LORD God Almighty,
how long will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?

5 You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.

6 You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.

7 Restore us, O God Almighty;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A mighty good leader is on the way

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch. This is the name by which He will be called: "The Lord is Our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 33:15)

He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Jehovah Tsidkenu means "The Lord, our Righteousness." God's judgment would be terrifying were it not for God's mercy. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Jesus is that righteous branch of the house of David, we can stand before God because of His righteousness, not our own. That should give us all hope.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Reason for Hope

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 35 & 37-39 NIV)

Neither financial struggles nor recession, neither mid-life crisis nor identity crisis, neither stress nor insomnia, neither your job nor your family, not illness, not accidents, not drugs and alcohol, not sexual identity, not suffering physical abuse, nor sexual abuse, not emotional or mental abuse, not depression, not anxiety, not anger, not even suicide.

That's right. You read it.

Recently my brother-in-law took his own life. He had suffered from alcoholism for decades. He'd been through rehab/recovery programs something like five times in the last 12 years. He'd been hospitalized and treated for depression, both with traditional counseling/therapy and medication. Mind you, I'm not excusing or condoning his decision, but I also recognize that mental illness is no less an illness than MS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, or Leukemia. And I know that my brother-in-law knew Jesus and loved Jesus and felt broken and like there was no escape and no cure. Others might accuse him of not having enough faith, that he just needed to trust God more. He knew he lacked faith, if he had had hope he would still be here.

My pastor offered us a beautiful quote from Martin Luther, "I am not inclined to think that those who take their own lives are surely damned. My reason is that they do not do this of their own accord but are overcome by the power of the devil, like a man who is murdered by a robber in the woods."

So, just like the loved ones of someone who's suffered from any other terminal illness for years, I know that now at last, his suffering is over. He is safe in his Savior's arms, cured and forgiven.

He very well may have felt that he was giving up on God, but God did not give up on him.

NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Even in our deepest despair, even in our grieving, there is still hope.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Looking for a good read?

I may not be writing a weekly column for the Mapleton PRESS anymore, but I have tried to clean-up and organize six years of columns and made them easier to find on my main blog. Why not peruse through the humor, history and humus. It's full of "Sex, Politics, and Religion- not necessarily in that order." Or at least, liberal politics, the my misadventures parenting three little girls, and the joys of living in small town Iowa and good old fashioned Midwestern, down to earth common sense Lutheranism.

At least take a look at a couple of columns and give it a chance.


Hope of a protector

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.*

*The "Collect of the Day" for last Sunday (11/30/08) in the Lutheran Service Book.

Monday, December 01, 2008

8 Ways to be Blessed

Thursday, October 4, 2007 the Mapleton PRESS

It's been years since I taught at a Lutheran high school in L.A. I enjoy teaching in a public school too, but I really missed getting to talk directly with kids about their faith. A few weeks ago, I got the chance again. I began teaching the high school Bible Study, Sunday mornings at our church.

I really wanted kids to hear what Jesus actually taught and believed. This brought me to Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes (the blessings) from His sermon on the Mount. I won't re-print them here, because I'd like to encourage you to look them up.

One of the things that we learned (that frankly, had never dawned on me before) is that in this passage, Jesus isn't DESCRIBING what He thought were good people, He was PREscribing how He'd like His followers to be. Also, just like with the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20), God offers a promise (a blessing or "beatitude") that will come to anyone who lives out each of these 8 qualities. EX: If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you'll be filled.

I thought it was important to look a little closer at "Blessed are the Peacemakers." Let's be clear, Jesus is talking in more broad terms than that. He's not saying "blessed are the antiwar protesters."

To really understand it, it may be worth your time to take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:16-20. Basically, being a peacemaker, is being a bridge-builder, someone who reconciles rather than becoming defensive, entrenched or self-serving. A peacemaker is someone who helps heal and build relationships as opposed to holding grudges, burning bridges or hiding out on their own private island. Ultimately, a peacemaker is someone who helps others come to be at peace with God.

Jesus is the ultimate peacemakers since through His sacrifice, we who are born at war with God in our natures can become part of His family.

Try rating yourself on a scale of 1-4 (4 being the highest) on each of the 8 qualities prescribed in the Beatitudes:
* Poor in Spirit/ recognize your need for God
* Mourn/ admit your guilt, take responsibility
* Meek/ Don't always have to get your way or be in control
* Spiritual hunger/ Want to know God better, He is #1 in your life
* Merciful/ Empathetic, compassionate, concerned for others
* Pure in heart/ Open, honest, known for integrity
* Peacemaker/ Work out differences without having to get even, constructive
* Persecution/ Willing to stand alone for what is right, can take criticism without being defensive or feeling self-pity.

You can even turn Matthew 5 :3-12 into a payer,

Dear Lord,

Teach us to be poor in spirit, to always remember that we are nothing without Your grace and mercy- Thank You that because of Jesus, we can now be called Your children (1 John 3:1).

Help us to recognize that our choices and actions all have consequences, Lord. Make us responsible for our mistakes and our sins, and help us to see how our lives effect the lives of others.

Lord, help us to put the needs of others before ourselves and our own selfish desires.
Give us a hunger and thirst to know You, Your Word and Your will better, God.

Teach us to have empathy for others and to have compassion on others, and help us to learn from our pain and our struggles, so that we can bring comfort to others.

Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10)

Use me as a peace maker, as a bridge builder and a fence mender, help me to forgive those who trespass against me just as you have forgiven me. Make me Your ambassador, Lord.

Give us the courage to not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in and help me to not be ashamed of the Gospel, but instead, to let our light shine in this dark world, even if it means being made fun of or being unpopular.


Bad Fruit

From October 2007 on my main blog-

I've offended dearly loved friends by being so frustrated with them for seeing the Bush administration in a favorable light. I'm sorry, sue me.

Right is right and wrong is wrong, or as they teach you when learning how to mount a horse, "left is right and right is wrong."

You'll know a tree by it's fruit. Jesus said that. So okay, look at Republican policies and this Administration, then look at all those "bleeding heart liberals" (including Jimmy Carter) that you think are such America-haters and unpatriotic, slimy socialist- Which group has the right kind of fruit? Check out Galatians chapter 5 (it's in the Bible).

Bad Apples;

  • sexual immorality (Senator Craig, Senator Foley, Pastor Ted Haggard...)
  • impurity and debauchery
  • idolatry (Ronald Reagan, god of all that is 'Right') and
  • witchcraft (Nancy Reagan's Astrologers)
  • hatred (nooses in trees, torture at Abu Ghraib, xenophobia, racial profiling, gay bashing, alarm about illegal immigration, etc. etc....)
  • discord (The religious right, the Big-business right, the internationalist right, the Neo-Con right, the gun-nut right, the nut-job in the woods in a militia and or white supremist group right....)
  • jealousy (First Bill Clinton, now Hillary Clinton)
  • fits of rage ( Vice President Cheney telling people to "F--- Off" all the time)
  • selfish ambition (MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY, MONEY... big oil, Enron, stock portfolios, the Carlyle Group, Haliburton, did I mention big oil?
  • dissensions
  • factions and
  • envy (did I mention the Clintons?)
  • drunkenness (Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, and oh yeah, is 'W' a "dry-drunk?" How come no one cares that he usded to have a cocaine problem, but they freaked out when they heard that Bill Clinton once tried pot?)
  • orgies, and the like (well, okay, who doesn't like a good orgy? Republican or Democrat)

Good Fruit:
  • love (see also compassion, empathy, caring...)
  • joy
  • peace (blessed are the peacemakers, who said that? Hmmmm)
  • patience (okay, not me)
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness and (you're right, not me again, or any other political humorist or cartoonist)
  • self-control (yeah, I know- obviously I need to work on this one otherwise I wouldn't go off on rants like this or let my blood pressure go up every time someone compares George W. Bush to Abe Lincoln or Jesus or whoever. Breath, breath, find your happy place...)