Saturday, February 23, 2013

Maybe Tomorrow, I'm Just Not Into It Today...

What is it you need to do, or for that matter what you dream of doing?  Both are constants in our lives for most people, and for most are often sadly unachieved.  Do you want to exercise more?  Lose weight?  Work in a different field?  Become better at the work you do?  Read your Bible completely through or investigate your faith and learn more?  Serve others in some way?  Play and instrument?  Give and participate in causes you know are serving others?  I could go on forever with listing things, but you get what I mean.  There is a never-ending litany of things we will go to our grave wishing we had done.  We will beat ourselves up our whole life for not doing those things, too. 

I have a favorite phrase that has always inspired me.  “It’s not the things you do in life that will stay in your mind so much as the things you didn’t do.”  So why am I harping on this?  Because I think that waiting for the inspiration to do something is the wrong way to go about getting where you think you might like to be.  Whether it’s cutting the lawn or getting a bachelors degree, the secret to being motivated is to start doing whatever it is and then the motivation will come after.  I like psychologist Jerome Bruner’s way of putting it: “You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling that feel yourself into actions.” 
I remember when I first started working out.  I was exhausted and I felt like I wanted to throw up.  I was so exhausted I went to bed at 7 p.m. that night.  But it’s strange looking back on that miserable (forced at the time) experience…now I feel an absolute demand in me to run and lift if I miss even a day at it.  It didn’t take long to get to that point either.

Interestingly, I think this applies to so many things that it is mind-boggling.  Consider for a second, the idea that love and happiness comes more as a by-product of actions than it does as a full-blown feeling before hand.  Do the things you know you should do in a relationship, and the relationship grows.

So if you want to grow in a certain direction, start with the right attitude and take actions NOW that will propel you in that direction.  Don’t be deterred at first by the lack of a feeling of motivation, it will come as the by-product of your progress.

Monday, February 18, 2013

They Are Watching Me

We live in interesting times.  I know a good many people who are conspiracy theorists beyond any reasonable interpretation.  Like most extremists they are impressed by slick presentations that often have no real factual basis.  Other times they seem to stumble on real facts that can be very troubling.  I’m not one of that group that sees a conspiracy in every situation, and in fact I think it is hard to cover up the truth for long.  We are a difficult type to muzzle, and someone always spills the beans.  The only secret well kept is one that is told to no one.  (By the way, I also don’t believe there is a secret group of humans called “illuminati” that rule the world.)

The government has a responsibility to insure the safety of its citizens.  It is the prime responsibility, and to do that we have evolved over the centuries in ways never dreamed of by our predecessors.  The government now can monitor your every move, your location, and your dialogue through phones and internet usage.  Not only “can they” but they do.  The Patriot Act gave them authority to listen in, and we want them to be successful in preventing terrorism in our homeland.  To a certain extent it has been successful.  Other government agencies at a local and state level have used technology to good effect in preventing crime and apprehending criminals through well placed cameras, aerial over flights, and court permitted wiretaps, etc.  All of these methods have their place and purpose and were instituted with lofty and ethical purposes in mind, but as a species we have a poor track record when it comes to perverting the good things we have.  So it is likely that these methods of keeping us safe, will eventually become the means to enslave us and be perverted into hideous evil.  One only has to look at how things have turned out in other civilizations to know this.  The power to do things corrupts those who wield it. We have perverted all these God given gifts at one point or another without fail, whether it was authority, power, influence, music, sex, marriage, food, possessions, inventions, etc.

To me, much of this governmental intrusion is of little import, because I know that God sees everything I do.  He knows who I am down to the littlest detail.  He even reads my thoughts, which fortunately the government can’t do.  How much more important it is to me to consider that God knows my every thought and move, and that living up to his expectations is the only true need in my life to worry about.  God gave us good things that we could use to our advantage and gave us the ability to imagine and develop things out of the basics that he provides for us.  Our responsibility is to use them for his glory and not ours.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Is The Bible Always To Be Taken Literally?

My life’s work has always been writing, so the use of words is a subject near and dear to my heart.  I know that there are types of writing that stick basically to the facts, like the crime reports I wrote as a police officer and the budgets I wrote as a manager.  I know there is writing that is purely fanciful like the humor essays I wrote for newsletters and books. I know the fiction books I write are purely fanciful, and I know there is much in between all of these that employs both the literal and the not so literal in serious essays, literature, and poetry.  One such document is the Holy Bible.  Please note that I used the term Holy and am in no way trying to diminish that in the things I say here next.

The Bible is often taken literally by some conservative members of the faith, and often to their detriment I think.  Others view the whole book as poetry and fanciful in the far liberal side of what passes for Christianity, to the point that I question what it is that they believe is fact.  It seems clear to me that some parts of the Bible are statements and stories that are given to hyperbole and poetic license, while the majority is designed to be factual reporting and strong exhortation.  When you start talking about hyperbole and poetic license it makes many Christians nervous, after all, that requires interpretation to decide about it…and we don’t want any interpretation.  We want it to say what it says.  Well, I think it still says what it says, even if it is not meant to be a literal fact.

Let’s take an example.  Jesus is quoted as saying “consider the lilies of the field, they toil not and they don’t reap, yet Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as these.” (My translation)  Does that mean we should stop the cotton harvest and shut down the Levis factories and go naked?  NO, he is exaggerating for effect.  He wants us not to be obsessed with material wealth.  I think the same goes for turn the other cheek and a number of other things in the Bible.  You have to use some judgment in reading it and take it into context with what the real message is trying to get across.

Now when we get to the issues like Jonah being swallowed by a large fish we might want to go slowly and think about it.  Should we dismiss it as fanciful off the bat?  After all, dinosaurs roamed the earth in the past and we don’t know all about what lurks in the sea even today.  Scientists keep coming up with new discovered species in the deep that shock us all.  I was even shocked as a ranger to know that there were 400 pound sturgeon living at the bottom of the lake I patrolled in my boat.  So who knows what lived and happened back then.  We just know that if God tells us to go somewhere, we better do it…which is the point of the story in the Bible.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, if you are having trouble with the Bible as a book you can believe…don’t.  It is the inspired Word of God, don’t be fooled by those who try to pick it apart with arguments and say those “literalist” fairy tales aren’t worth reading.  

Just Another Choice - Love

It’s funny in our society that we only have one word for love.  We love pizza, we love our kids, we love Nascar and football, we love our good friends, and we love our wives and husbands.  We use the same word for everything and sometimes I think it is indicative of how little we understand love in our world.

The Greeks had lots of words for love.  I’m not sure why they got it and we haven’t.  Eskimos have dozens of words for ice and snow because it’s such a big part of their world.  Perhaps love was a bigger part of their world in Greece back in the time of Christ.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why Christianity flourished in Greece and Rome and not in Judea after Christ’s crucifixion.

Love is the central theme of Christianity. We rarely think about it that way, I suspect.  Mostly we think it’s about going to church, or giving in the offering plate, or not violating the ten commandments…which is all pretty sad if you think on it for very long.  What a small faith it would be, if that were all it was.  Jesus said loving God and loving your neighbor was the essense of faith.  We are to be in a “Love Relationship” with God and man.  So how did the Greeks define that?  One of their words for love was Eros.  We all know that word in our society from the erotica that is peddled by the media.  It is the love of loving: it embodies emotional love, physical love, the kind that is the rush of excitement.  It seems we look for that a lot in our choice of boyfriends and girlfriends.  Then they had the word Filial love for the brothers and friends.  It was the kind of love born of true understanding of who someone was, and that we were in it all together…semper fi!  LOL    Our word maniac comes from one of their other words for love…Mania.  That is the love of obsession.  The love that wants beyond all restraining, and it often takes form in love of wealth or power, but it can be the love of a person that possesses or stalks.  They called Stargy the love of dependents like children and other family members who counted on  them.  I suppose group leaders, pastors, firefighters and others might feel this kind of concern and love sometimes, too.  But the love that seemed most interesting and rare was Agape love.

Agape is love by choice.  It is often love that makes no sense, is selfless in nature, and seems to have no benefit to the one loving.  It is the love that makes marriage relationships really last…and most curiously, it is the love that God chose to bestow on mankind.

Friday, February 8, 2013

There Outta Be A Law!

I have always been bothered by the Christian statement that we are not under the law.  This is a difficult one for me to discuss.  Can you imagine if I went downtown and parked and didn’t pay my parking ticket and told the judge…”I am not under the law.”?  How far do you think that would go?  The judge would think that I was not a respecter of the laws or of him.  So this is another point about “choosing” that we’ve talked about before that is important to think about.  We constantly make behavioral choices and moral choices in our lives. Little ones and big ones.  Paul says in First Corinthians that we are free from the law and we are free from condemnation for our choices.  Hmmm…. 

Is Paul saying we can do whatever we want without consequence?  Is he talking about the sins of the Ten Commandments, or is he talking about other things?  And where does the matter of “degree” in your choices come in to play?  If we decide to murder, commit adultery, or steal with impunity, do we really have a true relationship with God at all in the first place?  Do we really have true repentance instead of  saying “I’m sorry, forgive me” and then going right out and doing it again repeatedly?  Do we say, “oh well, it doesn’t matter because I am not under the law”?  Believe me, I have heard people say that, and I doubt that is what Paul is saying. I have a feeling mostly what was in his mind at the time was the abundance of Jewish customs, Old Testament requirements, and legalism that existed then.  Also, the church at Corinth was notorious for problems of a “fleshly” nature, and was considered a very immature church in it’s understanding of God.

It’s clear that Paul also says here not everything is good for us, and we shouldn’t be mastered by anything (which again makes me think he was not thinking specifically about the Ten Commandments.)  We can get carried away and take things beyond what is good like gluttony, drunkenness, jealousy, sensuality, conceit and other forms of behavior.  These are the kinds of footholds Satan loves to use to bring us down and make us cross the other boundaries between good and bad. Food, alcohol, sex, self-respect are not bad things, but they can lead to bad excess when they are not within God-given normal boundaries.

The bottom line is: YES, we are not under the law (including the Ten Commandments) if there is true repentance…and that word means to “turn from” what you are doing that is wrong. (And our unsuccessful commitment to turn may need to be repeated some!  We’re not perfect, I know from my own experience!!)  Paul made a point to expel those who chose to continue unrepentant in these sins from the church.  To blatantly continue in something that is wrong and use the excuse that you are not under the law is an insult to the faith and Christ’s work on the cross. 


I often hear church leaders using the end of Chapter five in Luke as justification for all the changes in the form of church services.  They are anxious to attract the waning youth audience for the next generation of believers.  Sadly, sometimes I think they are just anxious to attract the next generation of collection plate fillers. Unfortunately, I think they misuse Luke in the whole context.  I believe Jesus was referring to something far more significant when he told them to put “new wine in new wineskins.”  He wasn’t just talking about singing Chris Tomlin songs instead of Bach.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care if you want a church that sings hard rock and rap and serves coffee in armchair recliner seating. What I believe is important is the relationship we have with God and the fruit that comes from that relationship.  Jesus lived in a time when the Pharisees made the forms of their religious system the “object” of their faith.  They stood on the principle that doing these forms would make them righteous and God (and more importantly their fellow men) would then benefit them and hold them righteous.  Jesus came with a whole new message that didn’t fit in their format at all!  He said God actually loved them regardless.  He said that their relationship with God was what was at issue and important, not the forms of their religiousity.

In fact, Jesus actually intended for our faith to be carried out beyond the walls of church.  I don’t think it is coincidental that most everything in the Gospels happens outdoors or in homes in context with other people’s daily living.  In fact, every time Jesus is shown to have spoken in “Synagogues” it was a disaster (overturning moneychangers, having them ridicule or try to stone him…or even just having his parents scold him.)  He demonstrated a “living faith” that transcended the idea of its containment in a building on Sunday.  It needs to be shown in your life every day.  If God is only a Sunday event and the message in your worship is tailored to entertain without substance and doesn’t point you to a relationship with God, and if your music and your coffee is really what you get out of Church and go there for, you’re in the wrong place.  If your church doesn’t develop your fellowship with other believers and support you in your faith so you can be a Christian in relationship with God in the real world 24/7, you need to look for a place that does. 

Make that your new wineskin.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


We become the choices we make. I don’t believe we are made just one way, though I concede that we have a lot of preprogrammed and genetically determined things about our make up.  We are influenced a lot by our environment, too.  But when it comes right down to it, we are responsible for us! 

The neat thing about becoming the choices and decisions we make throughout life is that it always gives us the opportunity to change and become something different.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen (by the way, researchers claim habits usually form in a couple of months of repetition on average.)  I’ve often heard it said in another way: repetition creates habits.  If you work at it, you can change outcomes.  Often it is a choice as simple as changing the places you go and the friends that you spend time with.  Who do you spend time with?

And that all leads me to the fact that the single greatest change factor in life in my experience has been choosing to learn about and “hang out” with God.  Prayer is an often misunderstood activity.  We tend to look at it as a gigantic shopping list of things we need to ask God to do:  “Forgive this, give me this, make this happen.”  Instead, I think prayer really is a chance for communication and fellowship with God, and if you look at it in any other way, you are likely to be disappointed.  I’ve often wondered how God feels being communicated with only when we want something out of him.  Imagine only hearing from your kids when they want money for something!  I think prayer as fellowship changes our whole outlook on life, our behavior and our fellowship with God.  Can you wives or girlfriends imagine your husband or boyfriend wanting to just sit, hug you, and talk to you on the sofa?  In relationship counseling I hear that all the time:  He won’t spend time with me.  He doesn’t listen to me or talk to me! He doesn’t seem to care!”

Make the choice…both with God and with someone special in your life.  See what you become with those new choices.