Please Forgive Me

Art-please forgive me

It is easy for those us far removed from brutality and riots who live in self-imposed rural isolation to imagine that none of this has anything to do with us. But it does. It has to do with me.

I must face my prejudices: the prejudices I tell myself I don’t have, the prejudices that color the way I look at black people, obese people, angry people, liberal people and all kinds of people who have the audacity to be someone who is not like me. Because, after all, I am right. Didn’t you know that?

All my life I have modeled my life after Jesus Christ, who doesn’t have one prejudiced thought and who loves every person unconditionally. I love him deeply because he laid aside heaven to become a person—a poor, minority person—and willingly gave his life to redeem me from sin, not the least of which are my prejudices against other people. How can I, then, having been completely and irrevocably forgiven, persist in thinking that I am better than another person. Doesn’t the Bible say, “…the Scriptures say, No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent” (Romans 3:10).

Because I think I’m right. And that means I’m better.

This  kind of thinking creates slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, fascism, and the Inquisition. This kind of thinking divides churches, societies, and nations. This kind of thinking starts wars that drive millions into refugee camps and birth worldwide chaos. This kind of thinking creates the haves and the have nots.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have witnessed tragedies in the church: anger, division, shunning, and ridicule. What causes this? People like me who know “I’m right.” We even use Scripture to defend our mistreatment of others. God forgive us.

I have knelt before God in the past weeks and asked him to forgive me for thinking that I’m right. Because I’m not right. Only God is right. “The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20).

God forgives me.

And now I’m asking you to forgive me.

Easter and the Coronavirus Crisis

yellow garage hibiscus April 2020I went into the garage to look at the plants I have over-wintered and will soon take outside. Imagine my surprise when my hibiscus was already blooming — in the dark! This bright yellow bloom was a ray of God’s sunshine in a totally unexpected place; just like Easter.

 

Jesus Christ shattered everyone’s expectations.

His Kingdom was spiritual, not physical. He loved his enemies rather than working for their downfall. He embraced the untouchables of society. He submitted to treachery, violence, and crucifixion, which was counterintuitive for everyone, even his closest confidantes. And, most importantly, he achieved his goals through dying.

“Look, I am making everything new!” says the risen Christ (Revelation 21:5). And so He has—and is. The great truth of Easter is redemption: buying back what was destroyed by sin and creating life as fresh and pristine as the Garden of Eden. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The very foundation of our hope is starting over with an entirely different kind of life. But we keep trying to save what has been spoiled, rather like trying to get food from the old peelings of life instead of planting new vegetables. We hang on to what cannot live when all along the answer lies is abandoning it, dying to self, and accepting new life in Christ.

We must come to the end of trusting ourselves and our resources and instead trust God and his resources.

And this is very hard for us, who have been born into a world that treasures the physical and seeks security in material possessions.

Could it be that the current coronavirus pandemic can help us at last? Can we stop seeing the negative and look for opportunities that God is laying before us on every hand? Can we begin to live as Jesus taught, that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions, and that he will care for us every day according to that day’s need? The apostle Paul lived on the edge of disaster for much of the last part of his life. Imprisoned, beaten, flogged, misunderstood: you name it, it happened to him. See (2 Corinthians 11:23-29.) From jail, Paul wrote “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul discovered that true hope grows in the most unexpected places.

In Acts 16:16-34, he and Silas sat, their feet in iron stocks and chained to several soldiers, their backs clotted with blood from inhumane beating with rods. They were there because of proclaiming that Jesus brings life for everyone in places no one was looking. The mercenaries, religious leaders, and merchants were scared to death at their shocking words, because it meant that everything they depended on for security was being jeopardized; so they instigated their beating and jailing. But Paul and Silas realized that the violent reaction was proof that God was working, that he was turning the world upside down, and they were a part of it! they began to sing—at midnight. It was so unheard of—music in that hellhole of a reeking prison—that the prisoners were dumbstruck. And then a massive earthquake shook the foundations of the jail, springing open all of the jail cells and shackles on the prisoners’ arms and legs. As the dust settled, the jailer, certain that the prisoners had fled, drew his sword to kill himself. When Paul called out, “Don’t do it! We are all here.” It was too much for the jailer. He rushed into Paul’s prison cell, fell to his knees, and asked how he could be introduced to, and live, in a world like that.

The magnitude of Christ’s resurrection overwhelmed them with its wonder and they couldn’t help celebrating.

Note: The world of Paul and Silas was in crisis. Their lives were imperiled. Instead of complaining, however, they could see the marvel that was occurring. The magnitude of Christ’s resurrection overwhelmed them with its wonder and they couldn’t help celebrating. When Paul first came to Christ, the vision on the road to Damascus knocked him off his horse and struck him blind. In that jail cell, it was happening again: a realization of the power of God to make all things new, particularly people.

God wastes nothing. Let us not waste this crisis by only asking God to keep things as they are. Let us ask him to make everything new, especially us!

Perhaps, in the middle of this crisis, God is answering prayers that we’ve been praying for years.

Handling your Coronavirus Fears

man with mask coronavirus

I don’t know about you, but I have been fighting worry and sometimes panic over the current coronavirus pandemic. It hits me early in the morning as I am waking up and can unexpectedly any time set my mind racing into all kinds of what ifs that make my stomach lurch. I also know, as a survivor of continuing clinical depression, that anything can trigger this sudden stagger in my emotional balance. If I’m not alert to what’s ongoing, other triggers can flood in, creating a downward emotional spiral that can lead to total despair.

 

Where does fear come from?

 

  1. We need to remember that Paul and other New Testament writers are very clear that Satan is the source of fear and doubt.

He prompts panic and fear at every turn and we have to immediately recognize and resist him (often repeatedly) and ask God for help.

James 4:7-8

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

hope-promises-god-400x-1

  1. Fear comes from not knowing the Bible well enough.

The Bible offers wisdom and hope at times like these: strong and dependable answers that have stood the test of time for every generation—from those dying in the Roman Colosseum to us in the twenty-first century facing the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, when I am in crisis, my mind seems to go blank, unable to remember important passages that will help me. That’s why I have created  and printed off the following  scriptures that help keep fear at bay.

Isaiah 41:10

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” –

Mark 6:50

“Immediately he [Jesus] spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’”

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

John 14:18

No, I [Jesus] will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

  1. Fear comes from doubting that God’s Word is really true.

Jesus was tempted by Satan, who twisted scripture in an attempt to make Jesus short-circuit God’s plan for redemption. But Jesus knew the Scriptures and quoted them accurately, defeating Satan. Do not doubt that God’s Word is utterly dependable. God’s Word is our sure defense against evil, worry, and untruth.

Luke 1:37

For the word of God will never fail.

Mark 13:31

Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. (Jesus)

John 1:1-5, 14

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it….

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

  1. Fear comes from not understanding God’s character or believing in God’s strength and comfort.

However, God is the source of all comfort!

2 Corinthians 1:3

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (italics mine).

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Psalm 91:1-2

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.”

Psalm 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”

Matthew 6:26, 32-22

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’….’So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Matthew 11:28

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’”

  1. Fear comes from not knowing how to access the peace that God promises to those who have put their trust in Him.

  • Pray, pouring out your heart to God with thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:6-7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

  • Understand that God’s peace is promised specifically to believers.

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

  • Concentrate on God instead of your fears and problems

Isaiah 26:3-4

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”

  • Trust in God utterly to work things out.

Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:35-39

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Philippians 1:6

“Be confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

And most importantly…

When life seems unstable and you can’t find the clarity you’re longing for simply praise God. Thank him for all that He is doing and all that you trust he will do.

None of us can know what pressures others are facing for both themselves , their families, and their friends or employees. But God knows. At this time of worldwide emergency, I urge you to depend on God and his Word as your first and final line of defense.

You and not alone. Ever.

 

Fingerprints on the Heart

hug_therapy“Everyone makes someone happy: some by arriving, others by leaving.” When I first heard this, I laughed because it is so true. And then I wondered, Which am I? Which are you?

Like fingerprints, each of us leaves behind evidence of our presence. Like fingerprints, we may not realize they’re being left behind—everywhere. Unlike fingerprints, the evidence we leave behind is on people’s hearts and lives, not their doorknobs.

Recently my pastor said, “Whatever Jesus touched, he transformed.” So true. He left fingerprints everywhere: fingerprints of healing, love, joy, and hope. Like the fragrance of bread baking in the morning or the lingering scent of rose petals, the beauty of a gentle and loving spirit makes life full-bodied and wonderful. The opposite is also true: a disapproving or angry spirit poisons the atmosphere like an unpleasant odor.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The master of ceremonies and bridegroom at the wedding in Cana of Galilee didn’t know where the excellent wine came from, but the servants knew. They had, at Jesus’ request filled six huge jars with water and suddenly the water became wine. Did they ever forget that moment? (John 2:1-10)

Jesus and the disciples were caught in a vicious storm on the Sea of Galilee. Their boat was awash and almost capsizing when the disciples, although experienced fishermen, frantically awoke Jesus. He stood in the wildly pitching boat, quietly speaking to the storm. “Be quiet! Hush!” The wind and waves ceased. “Who is this man?” They were stunned and afraid. “Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27)

“Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched him. ’I am willing,’ he said. ’Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared” (Matthew 8:2-3). Likely this man was universally shunned and abhorred. But Jesus touched him. Unforgettable.

Even during and after the inhumane flogging and brutal crucifixion Jesus left his fingerprints behind. “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).

Whether it was the mothers of the children that Jesus welcomed, tousling their hair, (Matthew 19:13-14) or the woman caught in adultery to whom he said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more,” (John 8:1-11) Jesus’ purposeful kindness and warm welcome was an unexpected wind straight from heaven, refreshing everyone that was near him.

I remember a couple of my college professors who left fingerprints on my heart. Because of reasons I won’t go into here, I dropped out of college during my senior year. I had to get the signatures of each of my professors to complete the process. One professor in that Christian college was extremely disappointed in me, and said something to this effect.” You came here to serve others, and now you’re going to serve yourself?” The second professor was surprised, but not disappointed in me. He said, “I believe in you, David.” Those reactions are as fresh in my heart as the day those comments were made, and I’m eternally grateful to the second professor who valued me more than my decision.

texy box

We don’t even have to be the ones involved in an interaction to be affected. Years ago, at Walt Disney World, we were waiting in line after a long day for the monorail to take us to the parking lot. Everyone was tired, but most of us were managing pretty well. One boy, about ten, said something to his father, who began yelling at him. We are all instantly uncomfortable, and horrified when the father cuffed the boy on the side of the head. The look of humiliation and anger on that boy’s face sticks with me still. That father didn’t only irreparably harm his son, but left a sickening cloud over the rest of the day for hundreds of people.

Interactions don’t have to be huge like these. Just a friendly smile in the cashier’s line at Walmart or a long stare at someone who’s obese can leave joy or pain in our wake. Thoughtless comments linger after we’ve left like a stench, but warm acceptance brings joy.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Here we go again! A polar vortex is swirling down from the north and arctic air blasts those in its path. Temperatures plummet to bone-chilling numbers that don’t even register on thermometers. Window panes chatter in the unrelenting blast. Cars refuse to start or helplessly slide off the road into snowbanks only to be buried by snowplows before they can be extricated. Thousands of airline flights are cancelled, adding chaos to the subzero days and nights.Shoveling-Snow-Cartoon

This is nothing new. I remember my Dad telling about being stranded on the freeway in a raging blizzard as he was driving to Michigan to join my Mom and sister and her husband for my niece’s birth. He ended up spending several nights in a service plaza on the turnpike with hundreds of others. I ended up driving at a snail’s pace for five hours from the Indianapolis airport to Anderson, Indiana, on snow-clogged, unplowed freeways in a blizzard, normally a drive of one and a half hours, at most.  We’ve witnessed wind chills of minus 60 degrees, snow drifts that didn’t melt until April, and huddling around fireplaces when the electricity was off for days.

I sympathize and empathize with you ice-bound refugees surviving like lost arctic explorers in an endless snow storm. I pity you when your fingers and toes go numb as you shovel the driveway again after the snowplow creates a worse mess than you just cleared.  the curse of the snowplowI’m sorry you have to wade through ankle deep slush or watch helplessly as garbage trucks slide inexorably toward you on ice-covered roads. I remember the sinking feeling I used to get when the meteorologists would gleefully announce an approaching subzero disaster.

I do understand. Yes, I do. I endured thirty-four years of terrible winters and gloomy springs and the endless dreariness between January 1 and May 1 that torpedoed my mood until Eeyore seemed positively cheerful in comparison.

But…no longer! When we retired, we moved to Arizona! Today, January 31, Karon and I played tennis under sunny skies. I actually look forward to getting up each day where the sun shines over 300 days a year. Yes, it gets chilly here with the occasional hard freeze, and it can get toasty in the summertime (it’s a dry heat), but blizzards are a distant memory and I haven’t driven on an icy road in almost a decade.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not gloating. It occurs to me that we hear of a somewhat similar scenario in the Bible. In Genesis, the problem is not the cold, it’s godlessness. We learn that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, in selecting the best grazing land for his flocks, opted for the lush fields near Sodom and Gomorrah, and that’s where he moved his family. Perhaps he was unaware of the moral climate there, or thought it was unimportant. Like a polar vortex, godlessness swept goodness out of Sodom and Gomorrah like an arctic blizzard. Year after brutal year the evil worsened until no vestige of common decency was left. It’s worth noting that only God’s direct intervention helped Lot understand what was at stake. He barely escaped with his life.

Many people and places today are morally bankrupt with never a thought about goodness or God. The majority of our entertainment is empty of moral value, or introduces even baser lifestyles. Even innocuous distraction can clog our hearts and numb our souls. Social media can be wonderful, but a lot of it is depersonalizing and sinks to the lowest common denominator. The winter of godlessness is upon us and shows no signs of abatement. Nudity, violence, tasteless humor, and crime have become not only our entertainment but our lifestyles. Those who suggest fidelity, purity, and right are bullied and ridiculed.

It’s time we recognize what this blight is doing to us and choose to live differently. We must escape the soul-suffocating atmosphere and find warmth and light.

Not everyone wants to move to sunny climates, nor should they. There are many reasons to live where winters are difficult, like work and family. Some people like winter, so they say. Spiritual winter, however, is far different. There are no redeeming qualities in godlessness. Nor is there any hope where God is abandoned.

What is your climate of choice?

 

A Grand Idea

It was a grand idea: joining our son, his wife, and their three kids on a New Year’s cruise. Our grandkids are growing like weeds; you know, that accelerated kind of growth when one day they’re four feet tall and the next taller than you? We try to get together at least annually, which is a challenge since we live in Arizona and they in Alabama. They had decided to switch gears this year. The kids were tired of their annual post-Christmas freeze on the ski slopes and wanted to go where it was warm. One thing led to another and suddenly we were going with them. Fantastic! We would leave Mobile, Alabama and cruise to the Yucatán.

jon, ms, kids, ds, & ks jan. 2019

From the first I dreamed of it: five days of blissful, sunny travel; delicious, gourmet food; delightful ports of call; pampering by an attentive staff, and, best of all, time to play games, roam Mexican ruins, and catch up with family.  Karon and I had only cruised once before – thirty years ago. It could be that we viewed that twenty-fifth anniversary cruise through rose-colored glasses. In any case, we were excited and started packing a month ahead of time.

 

Let me say right here that spending time with family is the very best and this was no exception. We had a great room, unbelievably comfortable beds, and an ocean view. Our son and his wife had a suite where we spent happy hours playing games, watching the sunset from their balcony, and planning each day’s adventures. We thoroughly enjoyed our day of tramping together through some Mayan ruins and touring the beautiful coastline of Cozumel. We met great friends at dinner and enjoyed wonderful service by the wait staff, who remembered our names from the get-go and kept Karon’s coffee hot.

 

But then…

Right off the bat my dream of a blissful, sunny cruise was severely challenged the moment we arrived on board. We were herded with thousands of others out onto the Lido Deck where it was cold, drizzly, and there wasn’t much shelter.  Fake palm trees drooped by the pool and a lone, dreadlocked musician thumped out steel band music so loud that it rattled my teeth. We found the buffet, but, being new, didn’t realize how large it was and ended up at the taco bar where most of the condiments were already gone. By 1:30 our rooms were ready and we all gratefully trooped into the passageways to find them. Our spotless room with a clever towel-animal created by Alaine, our stewardess, awaited us. Unfortunately, the air conditioning worked way too well and it was freezing. Nevertheless, we figured out how to turn it off and took a nap.

 

In the afternoon we roamed the deck under leaden skies while sailing south. Where was the turquoise blue water? Where were the seagulls wheeling behind the ship? Where was the sunshine? I realized—sadly—that I had packed too many shorts and too few sweaters. Brave souls overcrowded the hot tubs and a few adventurous ones donned their bathing suits to get a cloud tan. We decided to explore the ship’s interior, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, it was freezing everywhere and I retreated to our stateroom to find a sweater. That night, as I got into bed, I told Karon, “Well, the worst is behind us. The sun will surely be out tomorrow.” Wrong. When we ventured outside the next day, we discovered that our “fun day at sea” was a repeat of the day before: gray skies and chilly temperatures. At least it wasn’t raining. All day long our cruise director reminded us about what a fantastic time we were was having.

 

So, you’re probably thinking, “what a whiner!” Yep. That’s exactly what I was doing. Just like the reviews you read of other people’s cruise experiences, some have a great time and others find something wrong everywhere. Some people complain about the shower head size and that their cruise to Hawaii plays Hawaiian music. For some the food is inedible sludge, but for others it’s delectable! Some rhapsodize about how beautiful everything is, yet another writes an entire paragraph about how dirty the windows are. How can these wildly divergent views describe the very same ship?

 

I think it’s expectations. Mine proved to be totally unrealistic. In my mind I had created an imaginary ship and destination where everything was perfect. When my expectations were not met, I felt sorry for myself. Once you start that game, it’s all downhill. Years ago, a good friend told me and Karon that, when you travel, you must be “infinitely flexible” and expect the unexpected. Then, when things happen, you’re emotionally prepared and can laugh about it. Very wise advice. Too bad I didn’t remember it for the cruise.

 

Perhaps the same could be said for life. Very rarely, it seems, does life turn out the way we had planned. Having specific expectations of how our lives will turn out leads to disappointment. Even expecting a certain day to be a certain way is preparing for frustration. Better to approach each day with “infinite flexibility.”

 

Expectations of what God will do and how He will act can also lead to disillusionment and depression. We pray that so and so will be healed, and they are not healed. We pray to find a mate, and we never do. We pray for work, yet time goes by without a job. Doesn’t the Bible tell us to believe, and that God answers prayer? Yes, of course. And He does. But God feels no compulsion to conform to our expectations or timetable. He has reasons and plans beyond our comprehension. We know He is good and that He loves us. Let us, instead of expecting him to do thus and so, simply live expectantly, watching and waiting for Him and learning to know Him in the process.

 

Expectancy—not expectations. This is how I need to live.

 

In retrospect, it was a great cruise (even though I came home with a terrible cold after spending five days with over two thousand of our closest friends). It was great because we got to spend quality time with our family with no ball practice, school schedules, work hours, gymnastic meets, or anything else. We played games, and laughed around the dining room table. We stood by the deck railing, played shuffleboard, ate ourselves silly, and connected in the very best way—in person. This is and will remain a treasured memory long after we have forgotten the less than perfect weather and the air conditioning.

 

PS We did have two sunny, warm days in Mexico with those turquoise blue waters and gulls wheeling behind the ship. And I finally learned where the dining room was.

Who Will Be in Heaven?

Heaven is as real as potatoes. I’m as sure there’s a heaven as I am that the sun will come up tomorrow. Heaven is wonderful beyond human imagination and will fulfill our deepest longings. It will surpass the beauty of earth because it is new and unspoiled, an uncontaminated Eden without pollution or destruction. We will have perfect, imperishable bodies untouched by sickness or deformity. No one will experience sadness, pain, or loss because blight and evil are altogether unknown. Above all, Heaven lasts forever because our host is God, Himself. Heaven is his and it is pure as He is pure.

The older I get, the more I long for Heaven. William Wordsworth famously complained that “the world is too much with us,” and I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t just that I’m older and weaker, although I am that. My heart aches for right in a world that seems overwhelmed by wrong. I crave kindness, love, and gentleness, but the world seems to praise the rude, arrogant, and godless. I’m weary of headlines brimming with murder and crime, and I’m so done with our society’s ridicule of what is wholesome and pure.

Could those of us who long for heaven be simply creating a dream world? Are our ideas merely the result of poor education and lack of sophistication, the hillbilly concepts of backwoods snake handlers? After all, on every hand brilliant scientists with their astute minds pooh-pooh the existence of God. How can I integrate my belief in Heaven with that? And—can my belief in an exclusive heaven survive alongside the teachings of the world’s other religions? Is heaven even real?

The Bible Teaches Heaven

Yes, Heaven is real. I make that claim because that’s what the Bible teaches. It’s important, though, to understand if what we believe about heaven is what the Bible actually does teach. What many people today believe about heaven is a conglomeration of the Bible, popular culture, superstition, and even other religions. What is it you believe?

The idea of an afterlife seems to have been around as long as the human race. People are fascinated with it. The spark of human personality is so compelling that we cannot imagine this short life will end it. The afterlife is invariably linked to our understanding of the soul, that part of us that surpasses the physical and sustains the human spirit beyond the grave. Common among various religions is the idea that eternity is a place where we will pay for our sins or be rewarded for our goodness. Many eastern religions understand the afterlife as a place where one is in transition from one life to another or as a condition in which we continue to improve or regress.

Most religions teach, in one way or another, that people die in various stages of readiness for the hereafter.

  • Hinduism teaches that you have to achieve perfection to earn heaven. Reincarnation gives each person endless chances to “keep trying” to get it right. This can go on forever.
  • Buddhism teaches that each person can ultimately achieve Nirvana, but that It is neither justifiable or reasonable to believe in an eternal heaven or hell. Meditation, good works, and kindness help each person find inner peace and transcendence from the physical world.  “The wise man makes his own heaven while the foolish man creates his own hell here and hereafter.”[1]
  • Islam teaches that a physically rewarding heaven and horrible hell are real. Allah will compensate the faithful for what they did, or did not do, on earth. The virtuous will go to heaven; those who don’t measure up to the Quran’s teachings, to hell. In other words, going to heaven depends on what you do.
  • Mormons believe everyone will go to some level of heaven, and even that marriage will continue (for those who were wed in a Mormon Temple.)

Fake Heavens

 Today many people prefer to create a heaven with which they are comfortable. The recent flood of books and films that describe near death experiences and visions of heaven have clouded biblical teaching. Rob Bell, who famously founded the Mars Hill Bible Church later said that his book, Love Wins, led to a fallout with the congregation and forced him on a “search for a more forgiving faith.”[2] He now believes everyone will be saved and that orthodox Christianity is unpalatable.

He’s not the first—or the last—of a swelling number of Christians who are moving away from any idea of hell. God is perceived as “too loving” to send people to hell. Besides, any teaching that claims any lifestyle or habit is right or wrong is politically incorrect. I allege that a significant percentage of Christians have utterly abandoned any concept of living a holy lifestyle different from the lifestyles of non-Christians. Their “OMG” lifestyle contains just as much alcoholism, adultery, pornography, and self-indulgence as the rest of society. They ignore or explain away New Testament teaching that clearly labels sin for what it is. Is it any wonder that Christians like this readily follow the idea that what is “justifiable” or “reasonable” takes precedence over what scripture teaches about being a Christ follower? Such believers cannot imagine that they, their children, or loved ones might be excluded from heaven for any reason. They have therefore created a God who overlooks sin. But if God overlooks sin, Calvary was totally unnecessary.

What did Jesus teach?

Jesus said told Martha after Lazarus died, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  [John 11:25}. He told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them so that they could live with him in his father’s house [John 14:1].

 So far, so good. But Jesus also told Martha, “Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” To the disciples he added, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. [John 14:6]. He also warns us, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” [Matthew 7:22-23] And that is a warning not just for ourselves, lest we deceive ourselves into thinking we are following Christ when we are not. It is also a warning that we not be sentimental as though everybody who is a good person who died is going to be in Heaven.[3]

Here’s the real issue: sin. Neither good works nor being a good person erase sin. Meditation is useful and can bring a more serene lifestyle, but by itself does not take care of the sin problem. God’s heaven is exclusively for the sinless. This is not snobbishness or saying that Christ followers are better than other people. Christ provides a way through his sacrifice. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” [Romans 5:6-9]. God is just and merciful. His overwhelming love sent His sinless son, Jesus Christ, to forgive our sins. Who could be more forgiving than that? But hear this: rejecting this last and best option will keep you out of heaven.

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10 NLT).

Ultimately, I agree with C. S. Lewis, who said in The Great Divorce, “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell…. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.

 

[1] https://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/303.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Bell

[3] From an interview with John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/can-loved-ones-in-heaven-look-down-on-me

Captivated by Creation

 

cactus wren with beak full
Cactus wren, Arizona

I love the high desert where we live: comical cactus wrens dart through the underbrush, their beaks crammed with grass and weeds for their nests; soaring night skies glitter with stars; impossibly fragile flowers adorn our desert plants with astounding color. Even the harvester ants—that arrived in countless numbers and with interminable energy to pillage my newly planted lawn and carry off every last seed—are evidence of a brilliant creator.

 

Imagine being a witness to creation! This is what I imagine…

Long ago and far away, before the first tadpole wiggled in a ditch or the first bright green blade of grass pierced the earth’s crust, there was nothing at all, anywhere. Time had not begun.Light lay locked away in the treasure vaults of God’s mind.

Only God existed somewhere, somehow.

Some time, God began a journey, an amazing journey. He decided to take a walkabout through the outback of nothingness. When God began to wade through the void, in his wake swirled glittering galaxies, spinning solar systems, and worlds without number. The stars shone with the white-hot fire of new birth, but their brilliance was only a residue of God’s presence. His glory was so vast that his every movement sent showers of stars streaming into a million orbits.

For centuries, millenniums, perhaps billions of years, God walked, leaving suns and moons in his footprints. If we had been observers of this fantastic journey, we never would have guessed that these marvels of the heavens were only the forerunners of God’s creative genius! There was a moment when our world was set into the infinite vastness of his heavens like a turquoise jewel on dark velvet. To this spot God focused his more intense attention.

Great mountains heaved themselves up from lifeless seas and belched lava and smoke into the pristine air. This small planet seemed to be in the throes of becoming something. Clearly it was being readied for some grand occasion. But what?

In God’s perfect timing, it was finally prepared. Rich soil covered the ground. Warm sunshine bathed the hills and valleys.

Suddenly life overflowed God’s hands in unbelievable profusion. Fragile tendrils of plant life lifted themselves from the soil and hung quivering in the golden light. Great ferns spread out their green sails. Luscious fruit hung heavy on a thousand branches. Orchids set the treetops ablaze with purple and white fire. An aromatic fragrance filled the air, a smell of moisture, sweetness, and life.

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Redwood forest in Northern California

Crystal rivers and lakes reflected the transparent azure of the sky. The oceans seethed with living organisms, and soon flashed with the sudden movements of silver-sided fish and carefree dolphins. Ladybugs whirred into view, heading for richly petaled flowering trees. Their tiny gossamer wings, beating a thousand times per minute, brought them in for flawless six-point landings as though they had practiced for weeks. When they alighted, their wispy sails folded away like little parachutes under bright red enameled wing covers. Chipmunks skittered across the meadows as though blown out of a chute. Gazelles bounded in great circles, celebrating grace and life. Tortoises appeared like living lumps along the shore. A beating of wings heralded the arrival of flocks of iridescent birds, resplendent parrots, and graceful flamingos, a moving rainbow of color. Spotted fawns stooped to eat in the mottled shade encircling lush pastures.

In the words of master poet James Weldon Johnson[1]:

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down–
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.

Perhaps these words seem fanciful to you, lacking as they are in any scientific basis. Since people first arrived on the scene, some have had trouble believing God is behind our world and the universe. Today we worship science instead of God. Doesn’t scientific evidence that goes back billions of years cast doubt on the Creation Story? Not to me. I think it takes a far greater leap of faith to say it all happened from a Big Bang. A big explosion of what, exactly, and where did that whatever it was come from? And what  caused the Big Bang? How can an arbitrary explosion explain the phenomenal mathematics and science built into every single living creature? A Big Bang cannot explain the uniqueness of billions of people, each with unique fingerprints, voice prints, retina prints, and not to mention personalities. A Big Bang cannot explain intelligence, creativity, love, or loyalty. It was not happenstance that created birds that instinctively know how to build nests (every species a different type of nest, of course), or to migrate over eight thousand miles as does the arctic tern, using celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth’s magnetic field, and mental maps.

I was reading in 1 Corinthians recently and reread this verse, “God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Truth must be revealed. God can neither be proved nor disproved. Each of us must choose to believe. The psalmist wrote, “the heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship” (Psalm 19:1).

Every bird I see with its intricate feathering pattern and its ingenious design that allows flight; every plant I see with the ability to synthesize light into chlorophyll and produce fruit;

butterfly scales
Scales from the wing of a sunset moth from Madagascar. If you photograph these from the opposite side, they would be different colors.

every time I contemplate the fragile beauty of a brilliant butterfly whose magnificent colors are made up of microscopic scales; every time I contemplate nature, I thank God for his wisdom, vast intelligence, and pleasure in creating such a gorgeous world for us to live in.

George Bernard Shaw, that brilliant playwright and self-professed atheist, was once asked, “What if, when you die, you discover that you have been wrong and there really is a God?” He answered, “I will tell him that he gave us insufficient evidence.”

Some might respond by saying—or thinking—”brilliant retort.” No. It’s a tragic, smart alecky reply. To be so intelligent and yet be blind to spiritual truth is heartbreaking. You cannot discern God with human wisdom. But you can see him everywhere if your eyes and your heart are open.

 

 

[1] Excerpt from “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson

Come on. Beat yesterday. You got this!

(Guest blog by Jodi Shultz Klepper)

d0e721f7-be7e-44be-b24e-e336ab8b1e88-getty-916942690We are completely spoiled. No milking cows in the morning to have milk for breakfast. As a matter of fact, we have many options. Soy, Almond, lactose-free, full-fat, lower-fat, fat-free, chocolate, hazelnut, even pumpkin spice when the time is right. No more chasing a chicken around, killing it, plucking it, boning it, and butchering it when it is time for dinner. We just go to the store and pick out the parts we desire! If we want salad, there it is in a bag, washed and ready to eat. Veggies to munch on? Yep, all cut up and packaged to throw right in the picnic basket. And the grocery stores just keep making it easier and easier! Deli sections with ready to cook (or already cooked) meals, fresh breads and sandwiches already wrapped just waiting for a plate. An Olive bar, salad bar with steaming soup, chicken wing bar, sushi counter, and even a Starbucks—all in the Fry’s Marketplace one mile from my home. And Click List, where were you when I had babies??? Seriously, there is no room for argument, we are completely spoiled.

Oh, and don’t forget the companies that deliver boxes of fresh ingredients, with a recipe, and all you have to do is open and follow directions for a fresh, hot meal. Alexa, Smart phones/TV, Amazon prime even got one-upped by 2-hour delivery! Let’s talk online shopping for a minute…oh my goodness, my favorite. Am I complaining? NO! The blessings abound! So many wonderful tools, it all makes living a healthy lifestyle so easy…right?

Know better…Do better.

We know so much and have so much at our disposal. And yet we live in a time when obesity is an epidemic in the United States. Diabetes and heart disease kill moms, dads, brothers, aunts, sisters, grandmas, cousins, friends…not just numbers on a graph…people, loved ones, every day. Maybe you are still sitting on the fence trying to decide if it is worth the effort to lose the weight you want to. Maybe you are dragging your feet on your annual checkup even though you’ve been having shortness of breath. Maybe you just can’t cope like you used to be able to and would be embarrassed if your co-workers knew how much you drink. Please hear me, the time for change is now.

Here are some headlines from the local news today: (Thanks AZ family app)

“Woman struck by car, left with critical injuries”
“Teacher dies from flu…”
“Father of 4 kill at sports bar after fight over dog’s weight”
“Grand Canyon helicopter crash…4 rescued, 3 dead”
“Family IDs British tourists killed in Grand Canyon crash”
“Driver hospitalized after car hits pole in Gilbert”
“Woman killed by RV backing up at WestWorld in Scottsdale”
“Teen boy wounded in Glendale shooting”

This is some crazy stuff! Did any of these people expect to be injured or killed as they put their pants on yesterday morning? Doubtful. There are many variables that we have no control over. But what about the variables we can control?

  • We can enjoy the Fry’s’ amenities and eat more healthfully.
  • We can decrease our stress.
  • We can have open and honest relationships.
  • We can exercise on a regular basis.
  • We can forgive and let go of bitterness.
  • We can pray.
  • We can have meaningful hobbies and play.
  • We can learn and grow and heal destructive patterns.

It is easy to get overwhelmed if we try to change fifteen things at once! So, I usually pick one or two areas to focus on and then set some goals, short-term and long-term. I also like to hang a carrot out there…something I want or would enjoy that I can shoot for. A trip, a tattoo, dance lessons, plastic surgery…something you’ll work for! We are created to work and crave, we just need to get moving in the right direction and then we’re golden!

I’m so inspired by watching the Olympics. However, sometimes I look at my own life and think, “they are so disciplined and so driven, and I can’t even stay away from chocolate for a week”. Then comes a choice. I can sulk, feel sorry for myself, and beat myself up while I eat chocolate covered pretzels, OR I can be motivated by their accomplishments, put some gum in my mouth, and draft a plan! Creating a healthy lifestyle is a day to day journey. The choices keep coming and the struggle is real, especially when curve balls come and hit you in between the eyes. But please step towards health. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. That’s legit. So, come with me! Make some goals, find some friends for the journey, and create the life you want. It might take some time. But next week, you’ll be glad you started today! Come on…beat yesterday…you got this!

 

A Self-Entitled Generation

Wait! She married herself?

The concept of solo marriage hit the headlines in Italy September 2017 when Italian Laura Mesi married herself. The 40-year-old fitness trainer dressed in a white gown and was joined by 70 family and friends for the self-marriage ceremony, (which is not legally recognized). She paid $12,000 for the wedding, which included a three-tier cake topped with a figurine of just herself on the top followed by a whirlwind honeymoon for one to Egypt.

When 38-year-old Sophie Tanner of the UK celebrated her second wedding anniversary earlier this year, there were none of the usual trappings – no flowers or romantic meal for two; no hastily purchased card sealed with a kiss.

It’s not that her other half is remiss, but that on May 16, 2015, when the PR consultant took her vows on the steps of Brighton’s Unitarian Church, the person she swore to cherish for eternity was, well, herself.

Welcome to sologamy, or the practice of marrying oneself. This trend has been around for the last ten years. Is it catching on? We certainly hope not.

So far, this practice has been confined mostly to women as part of a woman’s empowerment statement. A 36-year old woman named Erika Anderson, from Brooklyn, famously married herself last spring. She said she got tired of people asking her why she wasn’t married, as if there was something wrong with her. “I think it’s hard not to adopt whatever society’s messages are … and I certainly think that one of the messages is, ‘You are not enough if you are not with someone else,’” Erika Anderson said of her decision to self-marry. The 37-year-old, who lives in New York, wed her university sweetheart in her twenties but the pair split when aged thirty after growing apart. Committing to herself, she said, was “an act of defiance.”

Some years earlier, another young woman named Dominique, at age 22, also married herself.  While Anderson had a public self-marriage ceremony modeled on the traditional kind with friends, a wedding dress, and a ring, Dominique got married in her bedroom by herself.  She had a ring also, but it didn’t go on her finger. She put it in her nose saying, “I breathe my vows every day.”

Dominique went to the Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2011, where she helped about one hundred other women get married to themselves. Now, of course, she is a self-marriage counselor and minister of something called the Temple of Divine Feminine Flow. Through her website, you can purchase a ten-week, self-marriage, self-study program to prepare yourself for the huge step of getting hitched to yourself. If you want one-on-one private lessons with Dominique, it costs $50 per session. Not that she’s trying to cash in on the self-marriage concept or anything.

Whatever it is called, it is not legally recognized.  That is, you can’t marry yourself and then file a joint tax return or claim benefits. At least not yet. Outside of the Temple of Divine Feminine Flow, I’m not sure any so-called religion would recognize self-marriage either. However, that is small potatoes to someone who loves themselves enough to self-marry. Erika Anderson says that when people ask her if she’s married now, she says yes and then introduces them to her other half.[1]

This self-marriage phenomenon is just one more evidence of the seriously misguided people our society is churning out in record numbers. More troublesome are a significant percentage of today’s young adults who have been raised to think the world revolves around them. They have no clue of the long-term consequences of their immaturity. All of their lives their parents have told them they are special, apparently just for being born. A child coming down a slide is praised by his mother for being a hero (for allowing gravity to work?) Teachers in some public schools are forbidden to give failing grades even if students turn in no work or flunk their tests. (This is not hearsay: a current teacher told me this.) After all, we don’t want anyone to feel he/she is less valuable than another student.

Welcome to the self-entitled generation.

1024px-NOMG07HellHandbasketKidsWagon
Photo by Infrogmation – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1701065

It’s no wonder that twenty-somethings have no budgets, still live at home, and complain about how difficult “adulting” is. You cannot build a strong nation on people whose major accomplishment is beating their friends in video games or drinking the most alcohol. They have never been taught right from wrong and therefore they bristle when you suggest that their choices are inappropriate. They defy authority while imagining that the benefits that authority provides them are owed to them. You can rewrite history and delete from your textbooks the things and people you don’t like, but it’s still true that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Although flooding America today, self-entitled persons are nothing new. The world has had its share of those who flagrantly live as though rules don’t apply to them. I think we could say Absalom, son of King David, the first King of Israel, was self-entitled. He grew up in the palace where there were few rules and no consequences for those who broke them. He fostered rebellion against his father, slept with his concubines, and eventually had himself crowned king while David was still on the throne. The Old West spawned gangs of criminals. Italy famously produced its mafia called “Cosa Nostra” (Our Thing). Today’s cyber terrorists delight in wreaking catastrophe. All of this vividly demonstrates how society implodes when people are only concerned about themselves and their comfort.

Whether its professional football players dishonoring our flag or people who think that their Johnny-come-lately whims have more value than the eternal truths of scripture, I’m afraid that we may only be seeing the beginning of family disintegration and the unraveling of justice.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Most of us gripe about it. We commiserate together and roll our eyes about how society is going to hell in a handbasket. We spend our time lamenting what people wear (“I Saw it at Walmart” web site), we ridicule their so-called careers, and cluck our collective tongues at their never-ending stupidity, all the while praising ourselves that we at least have some sense. By the way, the “Going to hell in a handbasket” phrase has been in print since at least the 1800s.

We worry about it. It’s easy to allow these disturbing trends to dislodge our security and steal our sleep at night. We fret who’s going to run the government when these disorganized and dangerously imbalanced people land in public office. We fear that our nation’s moral fabric—already shredded beyond comprehension—will totally disintegrate. We are afraid of those who are different, imagining that they are no longer motivated by human emotions like ours.

We despair of the future, forgetting that God is still God and that there may be other viable futures for us that we haven’t even imagined. We cut off communication with the world and isolate ourselves as though the rest of the world has been bombed and we alone are left in our nuclear fallout shelters.

Could we try this?

Stop seeing others as “them,” and see them as individuals. When we group people together we tend to forget they are humans like us who want to succeed, to be loved, and find meaningful lives. Resist the tendency to jump on the bandwagon when others lump people together and blame them. Instead, look for and find one person you are writing off and start praying for them. Start a conversation. Send a card. Discover what would make them happy and try to make it happen. If you don’t know anyone who you would classify as self-entitled or a lost cause, maybe it’s time to find one.

Ask yourself about the history of the person of whom you are most critical. There are reasons people turn out the way they do. It doesn’t excuse bad choices, but it can explain them. Can we reasonably expect our fractured society to produce emotionally balanced offspring? Concentrate not on what they’re doing, or what you assume they’re doing, but on what you can do to build a bridge to them. Should they be cold to you or sluff off your attempt, don’t be discouraged. It takes time to build trust, and most of us could use some practice at building new relationships. Ask about the meaning of a tattoo or what they love about coloring their hair purple. You will surely learn something you didn’t know as well as starting up a conversation.

Cultivate a positive spirit. It’s so easy to see the dark side, or the glass that’s half empty. It takes work to see what is right. You may light a lot of candles before one stays lit, but that’s still a good thing. Ask God to alert you the moment you begin to criticize. It probably won’t take more than a minute or two. 😊 God still believes the world is worth saving. People determined to do right have rescued the world more times than history can record it. But they usually do it one person at a time.

 

[1] Thanks to my neighbor, Christopher Zimmerman, Whetstone, AZ, 2017 for the info. about self-marriage. Used by permission.