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Oops!

I just posted a blog I wrote early Monday morning–and today is Wednesday.  I could have sworn that I had hit “publish”, but maybe I didn’t.  Oh well.  Sorry for the confusion just in case you have already seen it.

These late summer mornings are a great time to sit down and reflect, so here I am in the swing again, the sun trying to shine above the thin, spotting clouds.  Ralph, our bassador, seems to be hunting under our shed.  He goes out there, and barks.  The only clue I have is that it looks like something may be under it.  He is 11 years old and has arthritic pain in his hips and spine, so being active like this is good for him.

This Wednesday morning, though, my mind is numb.  The rain that was suppose to leave almost 2 inches, left just under a half inch and the plants in the woodland flowerbed have not even lifted their foliage up.  The wild ginger is the most obvious with its circular leaves lying flat on the ground.  So, this morning, I give in to watering.  It takes 30 minutes in 4-5 different spaces to complete the job and it is easy for me to get distracted, so I set a timer.

Setting a timer seems a little anal, but when I start one project, I have a tendency to get so engrossed that I forget everything else.  Today I need to order my days so I can get things done without overlooking something or putting it off–again.

Having a dyslexic and ADD brain can be frustrating, but days are never boring.  I certainly do not think linear (from point A to point B to Point C, etc.) and have a problem moving from one task to another.  My brain works more like a maze:  point A may be where I start, but it might be in walking to complete point A, I stumble into point Z which becomes the priority–at least until I shift and stumble into point

So here I sit in the swing, still sleepy from a less than 7-hour sleep, and the timer about to go off for the first sprinkler move, the dryer buzzer, too.  And what have I accomplished?  Only a bit of social network cleaning.  Guess I had better close for now.  Hope each of you have a delightful, productive, even restful day.

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Social media are today’s glass houses

The familiar saying, “He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” keeps bubbling up in my head.  This morning I suddenly realized that today’s social media is the equivalent of the glass house in this saying.

According to the website, https://www.phrases.org.uk/, which I accessed this morning,  “PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN’T THROW STONES – “Those who are vulnerable should not attack others. The proverb has been traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ .”   . . . [and] Benjamin Franklin also referenced this saying with a slight adjustment,  “‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors’, if your own windows are glass.'”

Today we live in a transparent world when we step onto the world wide web through any of the social media available to us.  The social media is our glass house and what we post has the potential to damage another as easily as a stone destroys glass.

When I taught high school students journalism, I used to ask students would they want their grandmother to read what they wanted to print (yes print medium rather than broadcast medium was the standard in the 1970s and 1980s) if that was said about them. It seemed such an easy way to have them self-edit their work before publishing anything.

Today, that no longer serves as a good test as we are so removed from the social stigma’s of the ’70s and ’80s when grandparents were part of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.  Now the grandparent has evolved to those in the Baby Boomer generation who lived through the 1960s and 1970s when social standards began shifting–or tumbling.

Today we need to teach our young people, and maybe reteach even the younger Baby Boomers, that what they post on social media is forever printed in one manner or another.  The social media makes spreading gossip or menacing words so easy and once posted is there forever.

True, the social media has the positive value when spreading good news or complimentary words, but sadly our society seems not to share them as readily as they do the negative–another concept that needs direct teaching.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people from the first click of the electronic devices that what they say has tremendous power to damage someone else’s life.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people the power of the social media to do good, also.

Once that final click to post is made, there is no way to take away the effect of the words posted.

Let’s use the social tools we have available to keep the glass houses in tact rather than destroy with social media stones.

 

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Dare to Dream

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Vacation Reflections: Love God. Love life. Love one another.

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Teacher Appreciation

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Mission Rebounds: The Old Testament scorebook

given on Sunday, February 28, 2016

Scripture connection: Isaiah 55, NLT

Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation

55 “Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
    I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know,
    and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

 

Basketball season is wrapping up and it is almost time for the big college playoffs commonly referred to as The Final Four. Locally the game keeps everybody on pins and needles, too. What is it that makes competition so entertaining! Adrenalin surges when there is a foul or the opponents score. The heart beats hard and the crowd comes alive when the home team rebounds adding points to the team’s score.

Lent is a season of reflection much like when a season ends and it is time to review the team’s performance. The Christian team uses Lent to carefully analyze how well we carry out the mission God has given us: to love one another. If we follow God’s game plan, the result will be the transformation of not only our lives, but the world’s. God’s mission will rebound returning to the Garden of Eden He created.

In order for God’s mission to rebound, Christians must reflect on our individual performance as well as evaluate the team’s performance. This can be rewarding but it also is painful. Lent is the time for such analysis.

Every team does this. Each player must review his or hers own performance, the coach must review the overall function of the team plus his or hers own coaching skills. Then the team comes together for reflection and creates an improved game plan. The mission, God’s mission must rebound.

Right now the video of the world seen daily in the news broadcasts might seem like God’s scorebook filled with losses. Lent is God’s annual video replay. The game plan began with God choosing the team, the ancient tribes of Israel. The playbook opens with the Law now preserved in the first five books of the Old Testament.

Today we know that the Old Testament story is filled with mistakes of the people. The leaders of Israel made mistakes much like coaches who fail to develop a winning team. There is no doubt that the Law of Moses was simple: just 10 rules to follow and none of them complicated. Unfortunately, God’s opponent Satan was uncannily good at convincing humans to make mistakes.

Still, the dismal record of failure also includes opportunities God provided to repent, to make right some wrongs, and to be forgiven. Even when leaders made terrible mistakes breaking the God’s law, God did not give up on his team. Wrongs were righted. God forgave them. They were redeemed.

But look at what else is included in the Old Testament. Not only is the Law provided, illustrated with stories, but also the prayer book. The book of Psalms includes the prayers, hymns and liturgy that we use even today. The prayers reflect the full spectrum of human emotions. Some psalms praise and some cry out, but one thread ties all of them together—God’s love wins; the mission rebounds.

The psalms are the cheers and rants of the crowds. In sports, cheerleaders lead fans to spur the team to put out that extra energy to rebound and make a change in the team’s performance.

Certainly there are times when the cheers fail, but the cheerleaders, the coach, and the team work together to rebound. The psalms are tools that help the faithful continue the mission. God sees; God hears; and God loves. He responds, too, when he hears the cheer “Two. Four. Six. Eight. Who do we appreciate!” The psalms respond, “GOD!”

The Old Testament helps teach men and women how to live a God-centered life. God-centered living affects every facet of life, and reading Proverbs, we find how the wise sayings can guide the faithful to continue God’s work. The scriptures are God’s instruction manuals   including the library of videos to review.

Sadly, as we know in our own lives, humanity has repeated mistakes. It is a pattern we try to stop, but the world throws so many temptations at us that we become distracted from God and we make mistakes again. In reading through the verses of Isaiah, we are told:

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

 

Every time we err, God knows and he is always ready to forgive. The reflective time of Lent gives us that opportunity to honestly evaluate how well we are following God’s mission. The words of Isaiah assure us that God knows and listens for our awareness and confession so that he can forgive us.

The Old Testament records how the faithful succeeded and how they failed to maintain God’s mission. The different stories march God’s story through time. The story does not change even though the culture changes, education changes, political leaders change, commerce changes, and even the climate changes.

Prophets tried to warn the generations that failure to keep God’s mission would lead to destruction. Some prophets, of whom Isaiah is one, spoke openly about how God loves us and forgives us. But forgiveness comes only when one is honestly aware of what they have done wrong. Isaiah’s verses in chapter 55 speak to us yet today:

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

 

Are you reading the scriptures? Are you reviewing the video of your life right now? Are you doing your best to stay God-centered?

In the lectionary’s commentary, the only way God’s mission rebounds is if. . .

. . . [we] name our sins and repent of them so that we might have life. . . . Pay attention to the way sin has us in its grip. To truly repent, we need an awareness of what we’ve done—and not done—that’s led us into this waterless land. Repentance reorients us toward God’s love and mercy, where we find sustenance and rest.

 

This is the same thinking a coach has as he reviews the game’s video and enters the next practice. He then offers guidance or advice as to how the player improves. And with each rebound, the mission to win the game becomes one play closer to reality.

Certainly honest reflection and corrective action is necessary and often painful, but the outcome is winning eternal life with God. The commentary shared Augustine’s thoughts about our restless desire to win:

. . . [God] understands our restlessness to be a result of our sin; we are restless because of our repeated attempts to take refuge in something other than God.   When we mistake any other good thing—whether it be love of another person, food, money, material possessions, sex, you name it—for the Ultimate God, Augustine argued, our hearts remain restless, unsettled.

 

God is our coach and he has assistants that are recorded in the Old Testament as prophets. In the New Testament, the story continues with the Apostles teaching God’s commandment to love one another.

God’s mission depends on our rebounding from our sin to follow his commandments. The coaches in our lives are God’s co-workers who can review the video and guide us to improve. Read the scripture from Genesis through Revelation to know the story and to learn how God’s mission is our mission, too. We are responsible for God’s mission to rebound.

Closing Prayer

Dear God,

Each day I read your word,

See your world,

And meet your children.

I am reminded of your love.

 

As we reflect on our lives,

Help us see our actions honestly.

Help us listen to our coaches,

And help us name our errors.

Then accept our pleas for repentance.

 

As we rebound and recommit to your mission

To transform the world by loving one another,

Coach us to improve living a God-centered life

So we can score redemption leading to life eternal

Beside you and your son Jesus Christ. –Amen

 

 

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Mission Failed: The Fall of Man & Woman

to be given on Sunday, February 21, 2016–2nd Sunday of Lent

 

Scriptural connection: Genesis 3:1-11, NLT

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[a] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

 

Text references:

  • Study Notes from Genesis in the Life Application Study Bible.
  • Chapter 2 in Christopher J.H. Wright’s The Mission of God’s People,

 

Reflection:

One of the earliest life lessons taught children begins: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of when or where this saying originated, it reflects how God wants us to live. Unfortunately, evil is all around us. We see it, hear it, and sadly we speak it. Would God’s mission, assigned to us, be successful or even necessary if these three simple principles were maintained?

God created a world designed to meet our needs and all he asked was that we take care of it. That mission seems so simple, but the decisions humanity makes damages our world. From the smallest piece of trash we drop on the earth’s surface to the worst crime against one another, the mission has failed.

Consider the Garden of Eden’s story if the old maxim “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” had been applied. Eve would not have seen the apple nor heard the serpent. She would not have goaded Adam into eating the fruit.

But considering the “what if” of the story will not make a difference. The Bible story summarizes one of the very raw truths about humans—we make mistakes over and over. The literature of the Bible carries us through every type of mistake men and women make generation after generation. We failed God’s mission. We still fail God’s mission and fearfully we will continue to err:

  • We see evil. Consider what we watch on TV, the big screen, our tablets and computers. We see evil portrayed fictionally and in reality, even watching in real time when networks interrupt with breaking news. Evil exists in Christian and non-Christian communities. Evil is visual as images degrade human worth or record horrors of war. Evil is packaged as entertainment or as news. Evil no longer is masked, it is publicized, and sometimes presented as good while greed is interpreted as profits.
  • We hear evil. The words we hear are in casual conversation, possibly overheard in a store, or through the scripts of the entertainment we choose. Evil is expounded in what is said as well in how it is said. Evil is modeled through bigotry, unguarded comments around young people, and screamed as road rage boils over. Language can severe relationships, erode self-images, and even start wars. Sadly language is oral and words spoken cannot be erased. Evil fills our ears and destroys us.
  • We speak evil. What we see and hear all too often causes us to speak evil outwardly, too. Consider how young children brought up in homes where abuse is part of daily life. The words they hear all too often are repeated outside of their homes. We speak what we learn. We tell others what we hear in rumors. We risk sharing negative opinions without knowing the ‘rest of the story.’ Each time we speak out in anger or ignorance we speak evil. What words we share have the potential to create or to reproduce evil in so many ways.

 

Back to the story of Adam and Eve: If Eve had not seen the serpent (Satan), not heard his words, would she have talked Adam into eating the fruit? This is a “what if” question that is no longer important to consider literally, rather it is a question to ask of ourselves. If we do not see or hear evil ideas, do we still speak evil?

In Wright’s text The Mission of God’s People, the failure of the mission is analyzed on four levels: physically, individually, socially, and spiritually:

Human disobedience and rebellion against the Creator God brought disastrous results (Genesis 3-11). Evil and sin weave their way into every aspect of God’s creation and every dimension of human personhood and life on earth. . . . God’s mission is the final destruction of all that is evil from his whole creation. Our mission therefore has to be as comprehensive in scope as the gospel the whole Bible gives us. (p.40-41)

 

Right now, Lent is the season to reflect on our lives as Christians. Are we living a God-centered life that keeps us focused on the mission of loving one another and caring for our world or are we failing the mission?

Granted evil surrounds us and living in a country that allows for each person to define one’s own ideology, it is difficult to live out a mission to share the message of loving one another; but if we do not do our best, what happens? Will evil win or will we see that God wins?

As God’s co-workers, let’s turn the old adage around:

  • See the evil through God’s eyes. Do not look away when evil appears. Look at the news through God’s eyes and offer a prayer for those who offend as well as for those who are victims. Show others through your own actions how to love that will counter evil’s effect.
  • Hear the evil with God’s ears. Using God’s ears, hear the words that can hurt our children, our spouses, our families and our friends. Listen carefully to learn why evil words are spewed out. Identify the source of evil and do whatever you can to relieve that source.
  • Speak the love of God. Whenever possible, use your words to share God’s love. Step in and say “Stop!” when someone is using evil words, hurtful words. Love one another unconditionally. Speak the message to all that you meet in as many ways as you can. The more love we share orally, the more evil we can destroy.

 

Yes, the mission creation created failed when Eve and Adam ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. The act of disobedience and rebellion is considered to the “the fall of Man/Woman.”

God had created the Garden of Eden because he loved us so much that he wanted to meet our every need. All He expected was that we take care of His creation—the earth and all that is in it, including flora, fauna, and one another. By taking care of God’s creation, we defend ourselves from evil. As Christians we accept the responsibility to carry out the mission.

Can we change things? We cannot go back and fix evil that has happened since the beginning of time, but we can pick up God’s mission and do all that we can for all we can in as many ways as we can as long as we can. We can see evil through God’s eyes; hear evil through God’s ears, and speak God’s love through our words and our actions out loud in the community in which we live.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

We read the scripture, remember the story,

and now stop to reflect, to review, and to renew

the mission you created.

We see the evil surround your earth and the people in it,

and we stop to ask ourselves how have we failed

to keep the mission you created.

We look forward from creation throughout history

and seek guidance from generations of the faithful

struggling to carry out your mission.

Thank you for loving us unconditionally despite failing

to trust your words and your messengers

teaching us how to live your mission today.

Let our efforts to live a love-filled life caring for your creation

demonstrate your unconditional love to others

and keeps the mission alive for generations yet to come.

–Amen

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