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MEMEs That Make Me Go, “Huh?” 4

Straight from the view of my “that one site” wall, here it is, MEMEs that make me go, “Huh?”

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Let us start off with a good old-fashioned pun, eh?

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Those stupid Minion memes always make me wonder why people think it is a good idea to just post pithy sayings with those dumb yellow things, but this one takes the award for most awkward. What?! How in the… wait, what?! I mean, it just, hold on… what?! Why? I’m a… gonna… oh my goodness this thing freaks me out on so many levels. I’m just about, I don’t know what… Argh!

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“So go off by yourself in the mountains, and never see anyone, ever, again.” Is he going off to see one of these people he knows in more than one place? Thanks Spirit Science for putting a meme together that is just so unrelatable.

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And God makes sure that they all look like supermodels. Gag me with a spoon. Sorry I had to pull out that rare treat from the 80s, but it had to be done. Oh you southerners who have such a rare talent for finding this stuff.

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Sometimes I don’t get the idea that maybe people can just type out what they are thinking, but then that gets me mad that they are being so vague and weird that I don’t want to deal with them anyway. So, I suppose this is the acceptable way to be aggressively vague and still get people to like your stuff. Special thanks to KUSHANDWIZDOM.TUMBLR for this one.

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The fun thing to do with these memes is to read just the words that are different. Like so: “Don’t stopping using. New life easier create life, factors to addiction again.” See? Makes sense, yes?

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This week seemed to emphasize memes that didn’t have a lot of pics to it. This one tried a bit, but, what the heck is it supposed to mean? Maybe the surprised faces signify an alternate universe where you dismissed them and never thought about them again. Special thanks to FB/Liamdineen.

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If I came across a door like that out in the middle of the forest, I would definitely go into it. But why does it sound like a pitch to sell vacuums door-to-door?

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Wow! You don’t have any anger issues at all mister feeling down. I am glad that you didn’t put a picture to go along with this though. I can’t imagine what that one would have been like. That “Psychotic” in the stylized font is telling though, isn’t it? I worry about the “friend” who posted this…

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Ha… Good job lazy person from BuzzedVegas. We think our jokes like this are unique to the place we live, until we move. This is like, “If you don’t like the weather in [insert your State here] wait 5 minutes, and it’ll change.”

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Okay, I’m with you here, @andystanley, or is it #CatalystDallas, or maybe you’re that weird arrow, bolt thing. C’mon, just tell me who made this so I can complain that they didn’t use the picture of the lonely lady on the bench in a busy park, or the one with the guy sitting sadly against a graffiti covered wall, or the kids eating ice cream while one is apart from them all. This is just a guy doing a presentation that in slide number 3 it says, “Organize to your vision statement,” while a folding chair is forlornly in three-quarters of the frame. That makes me more sad than anything. Maybe the outsiders think it is weird that you are pretending this is some seminar about making change and not about new life. Maybe everyone taking down this note forgot that this is all about Jesus and His love for us and our love for the world. Maybe cool lighting and casual dress doesn’t in the least make outsiders feel like they are in Christ when Christ is forgotten in our churches. Maybe we’ve forgotten that Church isn’t a neat presentation and everybody being in nice orderly rows. Maybe we have misplaced the idea that Church isn’t about being inside, anywhere, but going outside, and not bringing people in, but revealing Christ out there and allowing Christ to “make changes”. Alas, we could write books about how much we’ve forgotten. Oh, wait. They have. And they are sitting on our bookshelves, unread, unwanted.

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Frivolous Facebook Final Fundamentals

(Writers note: These are the final transfers of facebook posts that I’ve wanted to keep. I am speaking to you now within a parenthetical statement, because of some commentary I want to say, so as not to confuse the post from any comment regarding it therein.)

December 6, 2013 – So, I just got a call from a security company wanting to see if I was interested in free wireless security in exchange for putting up a sign in my yard. This thing I was talking to was totally a computer with computer responses to things I said. It said it’s greeting twice in the exact same inflection and wording when I pretended like I didn’t hear it. I told it, it was a computer, and it said, “I’m not a computer.” Later on, I said it was a computer again, and it said the same thing: same voice, same inflection. I told it to prove to me he (it) wasn’t a computer. It said it was calling to find people who are interested… I interrupted and told it to tell me a movie it has seen recently. It went back to telling me it was looking for people interested… I yelled, “You’re a computer,” into the phone and hung up. Ha! Take that computer pretending to be a person. The revolution will be on us soon people. You better learn to recognize what is a real person and what is a machine. Have a conversation with that too perfectly sounding voice, their programming can not handle your awesomely, organic questioning.

(Following is three statements that I was intending to turn into “I believe” commentary. It was going to be much like my “Strange Confessions” and I may continue it on my new page.)

February 20, 2014 – I have to realize that I’m am not working on the same plane of reality as most people. My reality borders on fantasy bordering on weirdness bordering on self deprecation bordering on the outer limits.

February 20, 2014 – I believe child prodigies are people who were able to access the part of their brain that can do time travel and they came back into their own baby bodies with full knowledge of the life they just lived, and are doing it all over again with obvious advantages.

February 21, 2014 – I believe some telemarketing companies make background noises that sound like hundreds of other telemarketers quietly mumbling their business to hundreds of other potential customers. Think about it: Why don’t you ever hear something like, “Jack, you want to got to Joinkies for lunch today?” or “Who drank all the coffee?” or “Susan, I want those human recipe reports on my desk in five.” or “I just got another human to sign up to join the collective, it’s going to be quite a day when we reveal our final plans.”

(Another commentary I found hilarious enough to keep. You gotta make yourself laugh, right?)

April 27, 2014 – Facebook: Bringing families together that you never knew existed to the ultimate family reunion. Then they sit around showing you all their photos of dogs, cats and other plethoratic materials with the quirky sayings and such that they’ve collected over the years, while there is a great softball game to participate in and the cold fried chicken your grandma makes only once a year sits there, unconsumed by you, but you can’t get away.

(This one is just comments from a link I shared about this article. It was regarding witnessing to Mormons, and a friend from Utah asked me something and I knew what she was thinking so I answered her. She is a conservative so I was trying to appeal to that, but she kept coming back to saying I sound like a Mormon, in thinking that I have truth and you don’t, which is true, but we don’t necessarily come out and say that. You discuss matters, and she wasn’t willing. It is a reminder to me how even those who are attacked for their beliefs are not disqualified from doing the attacking. So, you’ll see.)

Her: So, are you saying that everyone who is not an “evangelical Christian” is not a Christian at all?

Me: Since I know you are asking from a Catholic perspective, to me a Christian in this reference is of the Protestant tradition. I understand that many religions and/or denominations believe in a partial biblical understanding and sometimes mythical tradition of Christ and still call themselves Christian. I’m not sure your stance on Mormons calling themselves Christian, so as to be accepted more by the mainstream, but I would not call them Christian. In the same way and in my adherence to the bible alone I would not include Catholic in that reference, but that is not to say many Catholics aren’t Christian… Does that answer your question? Feel free to ask follow up, I’d love to discuss it.

Her: I see what you are saying but I disagree for the most part. No, I do not think Mormons are Christians… But THEY think they are. They also believe that they are doing the absolute best thing by Christ as possible. But to exclude and/or dismiss anyone that blatantly, well it makes you exactly like the Mormons. They too like to think they are the only “true”church, the only ones who got it right, and the rest of us are screwed. It is not your place to decide who will or will not make it to the top.

Me: I understand what you are saying and I want you to know that I am not the one who make the decisions. I don’t want to say anything that would divide any further so I have a question, you can answer here or pm, Do you know the difference between Catholics and Born Again/Evangelical Christians? If you do and think I’m an idiot for asking, just say, “Duh!” but I want to make sure of semantics before I go any further.

Her: To answer, not really. But I can also tell you, I don’t care either. If you want to attempt to convince me that salvation and Christ’s love is an exclusive club that only a few can have will be a waste of your time and mine. I am sorry you feel the Catholic church let you down. I am quite happy and I feel no need to judge anyone.

Me: Fair enough, and I’m sorry if any of my words have made you angry. You must sometimes know how it feels when you post something conservative and your liberal friends don’t understand. You’d like to convince them of your intent and how logical the conservative viewpoint is, but they won’t hear you. It has happened to me and I very rarely post anything political because I don’t want to hurt or alienate anyone. I realize that I won’t convince anyone of anything but I want to make sure at least that they understand my semantics. I appreciate my Catholic upbringing and never feel as if it let me down, but that it is fully realized through my understanding now. This format is not the best way to discuss things, I enjoy one-on-one relationships best, but I must be true to what I believe and write, and have an answer for those who disagree, just like we both do when our liberal friends say something,,, (for want of a better term) in ignorance. If we sat down on a park bench or for coffee, without the world watching, we could discuss freely and understand each other better.

Her: It’s funny, I know you mean well, but you have no idea how much like a mormon you sound. I think we understand each other perfectly. You really don’t need another format to explain better what you believe. I also don’t need A different format to have my relationship with Christ explained to me by anyone who thinks that by it’s difference, it is somehow wrong. Your “label” is no different than any other human created label. There are many paths to salvation, and much like the mormons, you think you are on the only one. I think your work would be best directed towards atheists and their venomous need to not just not believe, but to destroy the belief and freedom to believe in others. The need to rank and file your fellow Christians is misguided.

Me: Well, I guess you shut me down.

Her: I didn’t mean to shut you down. I was/am offended that you would dismiss so many really good people as not Christian simply because it doesn’t fit they way you believe. Our God is a tolerant, loving, God. He knows His children are screw ups. There are many paths, I am glad you found yours. If you save one you are doing good.

Me: Part of my blog name is “Rebellion” and one of the things I am rebelling against is that we no longer (if ever) really share with each other our lives, our ideas, our faith, ourselves. We assume things about each other in order not to overburden our minds with compassion or empathy. I don’t ever want to be that way. Since I’ve been in West Plains I’ve had lots of opportunity to find out about people by asking them about their motivations for what they do and what they believe. I assumed since I was from SLC that they would be interested in me. I became disillusioned about relationships, but through love and care of some great people, I have realized that it is part of my burden too, to know and love people no matter who they are. In writing, and seeing others write, political positions of the conservative side, those in opposition just want to silence you. “Don’t give them the opportunity to speak,” is the liberal mantra, so I rebel against that in really trying to find out why they believe. Most liberals believe that even questions are an attack on their ideology. It is a sad world we live in. So even though some of the things you say about me are correct, many of the reasons you may assume I got here are wrong. I understand you not wanting to have a conversation, that I’m just trying to convert you, but there is more to it than just what you have seen in the world, I’m deeper than most representatives of my faith that you see portrayed in the media. Either way, I am glad we are still conversing.

(For my last, I was saving this “Strange Confession” because I wanted to post the story I wrote, but haven’t gotten around to it. Perhaps when I find it, I’ll post.)

May 26, 2012 – Strange Confessions: I read a lot of Stephen King when I was younger, sometimes still do. Although now, I think he’s more deranged now then he was then, but that is another story. Anyway, I wanted to write like him and when I took took a creative writing course in high school I wrote a couple of short stories in honor of my creepy dark side influenced by King. The first one was called, and I still remember, “Killer Born from a Barbecue.” The narrator was a man who married an “ugly”, unsympathetic, rich woman who had a sister married to some other guy possibly for the same reasons. He was thinking how awful his life was and what he could do to get out of his situation. How his life led up to this point of thinking so much about money that he married for it and so disliked his wife, her sister and husband. The dialogue was him answering curtly to her vacuous questions as he barbecued and her sister and husband were out in the hedges playing croquet or something. Suddenly the husband of the sister emerged from the hedges with a bloody ax(mallet) screaming and coming towards the narrator and his wife intent on killing them. Whoa, dark stuff, yeah?
The other story was this same killer years later living in a culvert near a park and coming out to listen to some people playing classical music. A sweet old lady took hold of him and brought him to her house so she could feed, bathe, and give a homeless guy a second chance. I remember thinking would he kill her or would she be actually evil. But I actually ended it with him running out of the house screaming because she was killing him with kindness.
I liked both stories and remember them fondly because it reminds me of where I came from, who I am now, and how hard it is to reveal who you were to people who know you now and what will they think of you. But, we need to remember where we came from, because that is what formed and shaped us into who we are. I believe I still have those stories somewhere, and wish I would of kept all of who I was but, alas I’m really not that sentimental.

~Stranger

Transitions

I am a thoughtful guy. I have been told that once in a while. My best friend from high school told me this. One of my best friends now thinks it chuckle worthy how much I ponder motivations, reasons, transitions, life. And in the immortal words of Paul McCartney, “What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know. ‘Cause here I go… again!”

I’m feeling like I’m in the middle of a transition point: It has been a little over four and a half years since we moved from Salt Lake City, and I believe those of whom I would call friend are truly beginning to forget me. No worries, I’m not bitter or anything, just pointing out the normal path of these sorts of things. I still see their stuff on that one site and I occasionally like or comment on posts and vice-versa them to me. This is not the way a hearty relationship keeps afloat, yes? Alas, things are winding down from that initial transition to a new place. I have been in West Plains long enough to finally figure out a large, parochial, baptist church is not a good fit for me and my family. We have been with another group of believers for almost a year now and I believe the mists of our comings and goings in the many buildings of our former gathering is dwindled to the point that people might not recognize the auras of our former selves lurking in the corners. We had no one come and visit us seeking the how’s and why’s of our departure, and there is fewer occasions of having to explain to people where we have been when running into them at some store or the library. The biggest shock of late is that one of my best friends, someone who was there with me from the beginning of being here in West Plains, has transitioned to Florida. He worked for the large church and because of shrinking congregational numbers, was laid-off. Thankfully he now has a job with Wycliffe, unfortunately our relationship faded the last couple of years because of hard circumstances that still remain unresolved. Praise God that all will be made right in heaven. The other jolt came from hearing that the pastor there had been voted out. I am saddened, but I understand that God is working in this whole situation to heal and grow those who need it. I pray that all involved will see His hand in all this, even when it is still sharp and stingy. Interestingly enough, it is hard to see that these sort of things happen because of what a friend calls pastoritis. It has been a couple of years since I’ve seen the construct of the modern society within the church, is doomed to a cyclical pattern of growth, loss, blame, transition, and hopefully growth again. Some never recover from the transition point here because they look for some man to have all the answers for their problem in the first place, when it should be each other we fall upon, and mostly God who bears the brunt of our sorrows. It is also interesting that I keep reading in 1 Corinthians about how the church there regarded the leaders as one of the most important things to follow, or be “of”. Put a man on a pedestal, seek the answers from him and he will always fail you. I love this man and I am sorry that he now finds himself in this situation of our making, of this Western church society we have built. Pray for that church that they would not seek the answers they need in a man, but find it already there, within themselves, that it is God who dwells in them.

We just got back from an eleven day “vacation.” I say vacation, with the quotes, because I don’t see the vacations we take as equal to what I normally see spoken of or pictured on that one site. Not that I compare. It’s just that I’ve always had in my mind the idea of a vacation as taking off in a jet plane, not seeing anyone you know, or thinking about work, and staying for several long, careless days at the beach, or camping in a National Park, or staying on a cruise ship, or visiting another country, or a high interest amusement park or site of historical significance. It seems that people posting on that one site have much more opportunity or availability or just plain cash to make those things happen. Also, I don’t want you to think I am unsatisfied with how our time off usually goes. It is visiting friends or family, hanging out or hanging in, going to places we are eager to go because of cheap clothes or good eats or cooling off, but always a place where we know someone.

Getting back to my point: our vacation consisted of visiting three kinds of family; family we chose, family of my wife’s, and family of mine; in that order. We went to Kansas City to be with some friends of almost 20 years, to eat and shop at the thrift stores and used book sellers. We then proceeded to Yankton, South Dakota, where my wife’s uncle is the interim pastor at a church that voted out their pastor, who then quickly went down the street, opened and new church and dragged a third of the congregation with them. (The pastor I refer to above has already sought to sell his home here, which I believe is a good choice, a hard choice, but the right choice.) There are a lot of broken people because of this and (for the sake of making it easier, I’ll call him “my uncle”) my uncle believes God has developed him for such a time as this; for over 45 years! I intended to rest and take it easy there but for some reason I was troubled and restless there. More of the family joined us from Denver, whom we haven’t seen for three years, and the husband is an active sort who likes to do lots of things, and I joined him in his endeavors, but that isn’t what made me troubled. I started to feel the pull of work, and the tension associated from being away, the dread of going back. This part of this last 4.5 years of transition has been the transitioniest. I can truly say that the defining aspect of this position in regards to point-of-contacts and managers, has been change, and never really for the better. The final stop of our tour was Des Moines, IA where my brother, his wife and family reside. My mom flew in from Salt Lake to see our kids in addition to his: it was a win-win for her. I really had a good time with my brother and his family and my Mom, but thoughts of transition began to invade my thoughts and made me more irritable than usual. I drank a little too much, which was probably a horrible choice on my part because of some transitions happening with my brother. I didn’t get drunk, but I had some of the hard stuff, and relaxed… perhaps, too much. I enjoy the tasty beverage when “vacationing” but this wasn’t the time or place. Some would definitely tell me otherwise, but I know, between me and God, that I was wrong.

On the way home, an 8 hour drive, I began to think and pray about my situation here in West Plains. I no longer want to be discontented with my work. I want to minister where God wants me. I have a calling to be creative and I want to get more organized when it comes to assigning myself a task to create, as well as to sell myself when the time comes. I thought of many different things I could do to fix my failures, uplift the listlessness of work, and create on the way. Many things that came to mind were practical, but impossible unless I invite Him to change me to make it a habit within me. I cannot go through this transition alone. I see my friend doing many things, but I don’t hear about God in a specific area he introduced me to (I will write about that another time). I see my uncle and diving into was God has involved him for the last 45 years. I see my brother desperately needing Christ, apart from the hour or so he may or may not encounter Him on Sundays. I see my former pastor being forced into figuring out God’s will for his life after it seemed that this town could be a place for life. I see a friend thankful to be released from a difficult position, that he was so content to be in, and hope and pray that all works well for Him, especially in the character building God may have for him now. I know I can’t do this alone, and I am so afraid, because I have jumped before in the past, in the wrong direction, but I have learned a lot. Does God have something for me 45 years in the making? Or am I to be content with the character building of the last 5? Transitions are happening all around me, all around us, every day, in every corner of the world, and He has His hand in every part of it. Am I to let go of the idea that I am His comic/cosmic relief, or see a God who truly sees me as I am and what I need? I am glad to have our Tuesday night fellowship group and look forward to sharing this time with them. I look forward to God possessing me and my life transitioning to a life of constant prayer, and hope and trust in Him. I will ever praise Him, ever praise Him.

In the course of the next few months, I will be transitioning away from that one site. I will be posting all my favorite posts and stuff from the “Stranger in Rebellion” Facebook site, then deleting my account. I have also found some old journals that I am going to transfer here. If you are a regular reader and appreciate my character on that one site, please let me know if there are some reasons I should consider not getting away from it, I would like to know and am not fully convinced, but I am transitioning in that way. This is a much better format for me in where I am going, so I hope you might follow me here if you don’t want to be forever away. Thank you, o constant reader, and fellow transitionist, hope to see you soon.

~Stranger

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Today was a completely fantastic day! God is at work in West Plains and especially through the fellowship of Township Line. I still am amazed and thrilled that He brought me into this group to see Him grow bigger and more incredible with every week. And this weekend has just begun.

Thursday we went to the West Plains Motel to hand out some flyers announcing our meeting at the park on Sunday night. The motel is almost all low-income residents and many of them need a little hope in their lives. Our family was the only ones going around and we decided that it might be prudent to ask the office if it was okay to knock on doors and hand out flyers. The lady at the desk didn’t give us approval as she wasn’t the owner, and I was able to leave some in the office. We walked around and talked to some people outside their rooms and told them about our gathering. (If you didn’t know, Township Line is gathering in several different places around the community this summer for meal and services, to get to know people and stretch out our leadership/relational skills.) Many people’s responses were positive and I hope many can come and see a people blessed and sharing the blessing of love and grace He has given us.

Today was another adventure with this group: A woman in our fellowship wanted to have block parties in differing places where some of the members live and serve and present the gospel to children. This was the first morning she had it and it was at her house. She was nervous about getting everything together and that kids would even come. There were a few kids that came and a little late at that. But she needn’t worry as God is at work in His people and what took place honored God and I believe got some of the kids thinking.

The puppet group was invited to do a song and skit that was supposed to be the majority of presentation of the gospel. The puppet group we were involved in at our former gathering, sort of dissolved after the leaders of the team started going to Township Line. (God has seasons in mind not only for His people, but also for those gathering in His name. I have no ill will towards the former fellowship we gathered with, it was just time for us to move on. I’ve never considered it a severed relationship, just a different one. I still love and see many of them and hope for growth and love to grow there.) So we have a few puppets and a new stage was built, so this was the trial run. It was a lot of fun as my wife and two youngest daughters helped out for a song. (My oldest, who started out in the puppet group with me, was taking the ACT, so she wasn’t able to make it.) My wife and I had a skit planned where she stood out front and interacted with a puppet in talking about “Whosoever” shall be saved. Well, since we had such a late start, my wife had to go pick up our oldest from The Test at the time we were going to do the skit. We had a back up plan of one of the guys replacing her. He stood in and was great. He did some ad-libbing; of which my wife was adverse too, and did a great job talking to the kids at the end.

Tonight we had a community dinner that we provide once every few months or so, that people from all over come and enjoy a free meal, and we get to meet them and find out what is going on in their lives. We got there a bit early and people were working and trying to get things prepared. Some kids were underfoot and I proposed to give them all a little walk before people started showing up. Walking down the block, we heard some loud shouting and raucous behavior down a blind alley. Three very tall, shirtless college basketball players came out and I put myself between the kids and these “boys”. As they were past us, I called to them, “Are you guys hungry?” They turned and looked at me and hesitated, then answered the obvious, “Yeah.” I told them we’re having a free meal of steak and hamburgers just down the street and they were invited to come. They said okay, but I wasn’t sure if they’d show. They did show up and brought one of their friends with them. It was great. I got all their name, although I don’t remember any of them, and found out one was from Dayton, another Pittsburgh, and another Atlanta. I wasn’t able to talk to the other one, but I find it incredible when I find out where people came from and then find themselves in little ‘ole West Plains. Some of the other guys from our group got to talk to them and it was wonderful that they came. At the time of their leaving, (with bowls of fruit cobbler and ice cream in their hands), one of them gave me a hug. It was incredible and I’m tearing up now as I type thinking about what a blessing it is to be blessed by someone you don’t even know, nay barely let them pass by as God used my voice to call out an invitation to them. What fun! I met lots of regulars who come to these community dinners and many new faces. This is such a great opportunity to meet people. There was an announcement about tomorrow’s services and some woman I was talking to asked me what denomination we were. I told her we were non-denominational and that we believe in the bible and that Jesus is our savior and died for us and we don’t have to do anything but accept His gift of mercy and forgiveness to be with Him forever, but that doesn’t mean we can do what we want, our lives should reflect the thankfulness we have and shared with those in the community and that is why we have these dinners. She was smiling and very interested, then told me she was a Catholic. I told her a little bit of my background, growing up Catholic in SLC. I told her she should come tomorrow and she said she would hope to.

God is so good. I’m reeling with joy. My cup overflows. I am so thrilled to be part of this work and I am continually praying for His Spirit to move in and through His people here in West Plains. I have shared with some of those in our former group about this summer movement and invited them. Many are enthusiastic and say they will come, some worry that it will look bad to gather with those not of their group. I praise God that one day all division will be wiped away and we can come to Him under His banner and praise His Name forever and always. Amen. And please continue to pray for this time, thank you.

Even in this dark time when there is so much uncertainty, and I watch the news and feel depressed and distressed, I know God is at work in the little things, the small bits, and it grows and grows. Thank you God.

~Stranger

(Author’s Note: I won’t be writing Sunday Scrutinizations for the summer because in addition to my flyer/dissemination leadership duties, I will also be with the kids during the actual sermon time, but I will be writing about what is going on and hopefully interview the people in leadership in this movement.)

Seeing Specks Through the Log

Strange Confessions: I grow weary of what others are critical of others for and thus grow weary of myself…

I know, I know. Sounds confusing, but I realize that I’m in a circular mess in which the thing that I’ve been bothered by lately is in turn something I should examine within myself. First, as always, a little bit of background and reasons why I come to where I am now.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, which as most of you know is a bastion of Mormonism. I, however, was a Catholic. Many of the things I saw my Catholic friends and family doing was done in direct opposition to what might be expected of a Mormon. For example, coffee, to a Mormon, is regularly regarded as a forbidden drink, so, perhaps, a Catholic, being a religious type person, and not wanting to be associated, thought of, or regarded as a Mormon, will regularly and in public consume mass quantities of the stuff just to show the world how un-Mormon they really are. (Wow that sentence has a lot of commas in it. I wonder if my English major friend will judge my work harshly by the mass quantities of commas used in that last sentence.) I assume that many a religion has an averse relationship to itself because of the culture that surrounds it, as it was in many ways that I witnessed in SLC.

When I became a Christian, I found out more about how Mormonism came about and their beliefs. As I talked more to Mormons I realized that many of them did not know what they really believed. A common remark that Mormons would utter when faced with a question they could not answer was, “You should talk to one of our elders.” Many Mormons understood life as presenting to the world a facade of goodness, pleasantness, rightness and a surety in all the those behaviors. Yet they couldn’t say why they did certain things, where those ideas came from, or whether or not those things were actually laws in their code or just things to try to do. They were in fact what I would call, a Cultural Mormon. I felt sad for them because they were as Reb Tevye, strolling down the ways, singing praises to Tradition, yet not nearly as flexible in their thinking as our sad hero of “Fiddler on the Roof”. They would not be moved. Which in some ways is a good thing, but when it comes to reasonable dialogue, there is a wall that is very difficult to breach.

As I moved to the “Bible Belt” I saw the same thing, yet from the Christian standpoint. We all hear about those who understand our faith to just be a Sunday-only, self-righteous and condemning belief system, but I saw a little more of it here than out in Mormon country. Mormons tended to judge each other by how much less their “brother” was doing the “right” thing. When you get into a culture that emphasizes a right way to live within yourself, you tend to get people who look at all others behaviors in minute detail. We as Christians should live in such a way that we know the right thing to do and understand the fact that we really can’t do any good in our own strength and so better the relationship with Him who works through us so that the natural behavior that comes out is improving every day because of how much we know our God and how thankful we are to Him. Many times though, unconsciously, we fail and fail, again and again in the same area that we forget our God and the power we can draw from Him. We begin judging ourselves against what others are doing or not doing, much as the Mormon is bound to do. They have a hopeless religion where more and more they have to compare and contrast themselves to others. We have a faith that says He is able to complete in us what He began; and that is our sanctification: the way we display the fruits of the spirit more and more the closer we get to Him.

And so comes to my point: One of the first examples, of what can come about in this culture, I witnessed, was a woman who left a church angry because someone wouldn’t give her the money she believed the person should have given her, because after all: he was a Christian. I see that a lot. People who are frustrated with another believer because they believe that those others are not fulfilling their Christian responsibility. “How should we deal with those who aren’t behaving like Christians?” I hear. Now, it is one thing to call someone out for committing adultery, it is quite another to call out someone for not giving money when they were called to. We do not know what other people are called to or not. It is not their story we are living out, but ours. We should look at our motivations, our attitudes. I see it on Facebook; how someone generally calls out people because they suck, or are evil, or are mean. Like we should be surprised. Posting a general statement about how evil people are does not help any situation, nor does it display any type of love, compassion or understanding that we should display as Christians. I say this not to hurt but just to remind you who you are, and that the world is watching.

There is one place in the Bible that it tells us about dealing with someone who may not see as clearly. It is when Jesus told us that before we deal with the speck in someone else’s eye, we should take care of the log in our own. It hit me today that it is not described as a log because our problems are bigger than others, but because dealing with our own issues if INFINITELY more important than dealing with others.

I see that I may be trying to deal with someone’s speck in their eye and not looking at my own log, but perhaps I need look at the situation in the same way I see my driving. I have come to view other drivers as an individual that is going through something I may not understand. Maybe they are slow because of a death in the family. Maybe they are rushing because this is the last opportunity to proclaim their love to someone before they fly off to Japan. I don’t know what is going on in people’s lives, and maybe they shouldn’t post generic angry stuff on that one site, but that doesn’t mean I should get upset with them. God deals with us all in a variety of ways. May I always be reminded to examine myself when I see the specks in others eyes.

~Stranger

Why Should It Be? You and I Should Get Along So Awfully

Question 10, inspired by this article.

Amherst College: “Sartre said, ‘Hell is other people,’ but Streisand sang, ‘People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world.’ With whom do you agree and why?”

Ah! Well done Amherst College, well done. Use your questions to discover our stance on two of the most outstanding politically left philosophical, as well as artistic minds of the last century and their seemingly contradictory “statements.”

Let’s start with what Sartre said and why: “Hell is other people,” was a line in Sartre’s play “No Exit.” It is a play about three people who have been condemned to Hell. This Hell that they are in is a room, with no exit… forever. These people only see themselves by how others see them. In the case of only being able to understand yourself from how others may see you, is perhaps the Hell that Sartre envisioned. Sartre himself probably did not “hate” people as may be suggested by the question posed, because of what you are trying to contrast, but may have in fact hated the idea that what people see, by our actions or words, is what they judge us to in fact be. There is so much more to us than our actions or words. We are made up by our history, by our thoughts, by the way we interpret the world, its people and it’s culture. We all have come to conclusions about who we are by everything we have observed and decided how we see these things. How shallow, in fact, what a Hell it would be to live and be judged by people who don’t really know all these things you have seen and how that has made who we are now. You cannot understand from these statements that I believe we all have excuses for our behavior, for we should come to the conclusion that we should not act on every impulse, but be able to control ourselves, that is true humanity, true relationship. If it wasn’t, we’d be all going around killing each other, and stealing, and demanding, and destroying; for there are some philosophies that espouse the notion of doing what thou wilt. Anyway, Sartre does not believe that people are the poison that makes our life Hell, it is just Hell when we don’t know each other; a thought I say “cheers” to, and raise my glass high!

Now, on to what Barbara Streisand “said.” The statement here is from the song “People” from the musical “Funny Girl.” The musical is based on the life of a comedienne from the Ziegfeld Follies days and her turbulent romance with a gambler. Now, I haven’t seen the play “No Exit” or the musical “Funny Girl” so I am surmising a bit about what each of these quotes might mean in the context of a small amount of research I did on the two. What I see from the time this song is sung and the lyrics therein, is it is kind of sad song about how as adults we have lost our childlike ease of entering into a relationship, and that we get to a point of either admitting we don’t need anyone or we have an unhealthy co-dependency towards anyone who shows any interest towards us. Consider this lyric: “We’re children, needing other children / And yet letting a grown-up pride / Hide all the need inside / Acting more like children than children”. The song is filled with regret about how we betray each other, how we don’t really understand that we do need each other, and how lucky those people are who have that knowledge. Those people who have a healthy need for others are finding those of the same need. How horrible it is to have an unhealthy need that you go to those who hurt us the most. It is much like a Hell that we have developed around ourselves, because of those we attract.

You ask me who I agree with and why, when each of these statements are, at the core, almost saying the same thing. Superficially though, I would agree with both. Dealing with people sometimes is like Hell, if Hell were a temporary situation, but it is not. We have to have patience and love for those we deal with, because we never know what they have been through. I have a really hard time with people who are going way under the speed limit in front of me, or those who come up way fast behind me and stay there, on my bumper. However, I do not know their situation. Maybe they just lost their husband, or are hurrying to that meeting they have hoped for in the last 5 years. We never truly know each other at the core of our being. What made us do those things that may so drive others insane? Have patience. Have compassion. Have control. We are not an island dealing with self and self alone, but we do have to deal with how we react to situations. Many people choose not to know why others do the things they do, they just want to stay angry. I know there is differences in our beliefs, but do you just believe by tradition or have you worked out things in your own mind? Have you closed your mind on something solid, or are you still open to what others may say?

You people at Amherst College, have you done your best to understand why others believe the way they do, or do you never give the opposing viewpoint an opportunity to voice their experience? I would hope that as a college considering someone whose view is Christian and conservative, would not reject me outright because I’ve come to my conclusions through the experience of the life I have led. I understand your possible progressiveness. I would see to it that I sought out to understand of all my classmates, professors, and faculty by hearing about who you are and how that came to be, and that you would give me and those of similar ideologies equal opportunity. Let us not break down the structure we have built our “Universities” around; the one from many. You have asked a question that revolves around people and our relationship with all, give all the chance to learn, from all.

~Stranger

Disillusioned: My “Final” Say on Politics

I am disillusioned by politics and I wish more people would become as disillusioned as well. The opportunity is there, they just have to snatch it and hold it close. There is no shame in that. I’m not calling for people not to participate in the political system, but to just not expect that your particular party is doing what you voted and/or expected them to do. I have been disillusioned since the middle of George W Bush’s first term. I would have considered myself a liberal by the time I became politically aware; sometime in high school. Calling myself, at the time, politically aware is a misnomer. The only thing I was aware of was that Reagan was evil, at least that is what I heard, or thought, or understood. Come to think of it, I don’t know where I got that idea. I just somehow knew he hated the environment, women, poor people and peace: of course he was evil. Opinions change.

My political understanding eventually came under the influence of my new-found faith as well listening to talk radio. I regarded life, and accountability and responsibility above all things when it came to politics, and I saw liberals as having none of those qualities. I went from one political spectrum to the other in a matter of months. When on one side, I dismissed any ideals of the other. That all started to change after GWB began throwing money at stuff to try to fix it. I soon realized that Republicans were no champion of the nation, the state, the individual. They didn’t provide the hope or ideal that they were supposed to be propagating to their constituents. Now that I see such a perceived failure of the other side, I expect many who follow the personality in charge to fall away in droves, following the tact of a reasonable person to realize no political party can truly accomplish what the ideals are set apart to be. It seems, that this is not the case. Many are sticking like the stubborn symbol representative of their party. Come on people! Step away from the politicking mass and fight for reason! Alas, in my disillusion, I seem to be standing alone. Nothing really changes, just the names and whether or not there is a D or an R following.

I see though that a healthy dose of disillusionment is what sets a reasonable, accountable, responsible person apart from a fanatic. Democrats are, it seems for the most part, fanatics. Yes, there are some Republican fanatics, but they are not trying to shut down the voice of the other side. Liberals are viciously trying to shut down conversations on abortion, on creation, on rights, on health choice, on religious liberty. They are unwittingly shutting down our freedoms. They don’t see that forcing people to accept what they are offering, that they are shutting down choice, and freedom. They are amazingly proud of their president, but can’t really say why, but don’t ask them, for it is an attack and you’ll be deemed a racist. You think perhaps I may be exaggerating a bit? I visit many popular culture websites, ones that deal with science and science fiction, fantasy and the “Con” life, movies and television, discoveries and history, comedy and the drudgery of life. Some headlines of articles that deal with the political stance of a cultural issue have words like “Idiots,” “Evil,” “Hate,” “Stupid” forgoing to end an argument by calling the particular conservative names. If you are any type of conservative you know what I’m talking about.

I really try to stay out of the arguments. In fact, on that one site, I have chosen to stay out of politics altogether, except for this one last political blog that I will link to. I’ve had some rather unfortunate situations occur with relatives and friends that I never intended. That one site is not necessarily the forum for civil discussion. So, what I want to say, needs to be said, then I’ll try to keep my peace.

First off let me say that I don’t hate anyone. I may get furious at the driver who is intent on not following any rules of spacing between cars at any miles per hour, but I don’t hate them. Nor do I hate your lifestyle choices. I don’t hate the person who believes life is less important than casual sex. In the same way I don’t hate the person who finds my belief in God and His creation, insane, and at the same time insults and degrades Him. No one is trying to stop you in your lifestyle or beliefs, at least no one who is reasonable. I want to encourage healthy debates. For me those choices are meted out on a personal and individual level. If you ask me what I think or feel or believe, I’ll tell you, and I’d like to know more about why you have chosen the way you think, feel and believe. If there is one thing I am, it is open, to hearing about you. I find it the most interesting thing, to find out why people believe what they believe; it is a part of our heritage, our culture.

Setting the healthcare issue aside, as well as foreign policy, wealth redistribution, immigration, non bi-partisanship, education, and Constitutional issues, this current president has done a fine job. I’d commend him on something specific that was worth standing up and cheering for, but one alludes me right now. The actions taken on the issue of marriage, of the current government, is what has brought me out of my political bomb shelter.

A conservative such as myself, may be seen by history as such a one as the KKK is seen now, if we do not bring the argument to a reasonable transcendence as to why we understand marriage in the way it was created. Within that statement lies the main problem: “created”. “One man, one woman,” we shout from the trenches. Others are more calm and willing to reason, but are rarely heard. For me, marriage is a sacred word. God gave it as a gift for mankind, as a symbol of what our individual relationship to Him is to be like as well as to propagate the species of man. If two women or two men are born or develop a strong sense of oneness between each other, and feel that someone of the same-sex will fulfill a purpose or completeness within them, then I am happy for them. I will not disparage or fight against what they deem fulfilling. Let us set aside why they may have come to be this way, for this conversation is about the term: marriage. Call their relationship what you will, make a new term, for marriage has already been taken. Yes, I understand the desire for acceptance of society and co-opting the word will hasten the day. The abuse that many have suffered in the name of religion, morality and normality is shameful, within all aspects of race, culture or creed. We should be just as loving and forgiving as our heavenly Father. Yes, I believe that actions and thoughts regarding what many a couple do behind closed doors or sometimes even out in the open is sin. I, am a sinner. A sinner who has been given Life and Life abundantly. God has and is still dealing with me in many areas of my life marred by my choice to sin, whether in action or thought. He deals with me on an individual level. What may be something I accept as good in my life may be seen as sinful to someone else. I fully expect God to deal with me or the person who sees me as sinning, to change our hearts and attitudes to His right and true way of thinking. If He does not do it here, than He will definitely in the life to come, when we will finally face Him. Many of my fellow Christians would never see a homosexual having the ability to truly come to Him, but I do not. God draws whom He will and those will have a choice, and God will accept them into His family, as they are. If God sees it necessary to change people after they come to Him, He will do so, or they will be in rebellion against Him. He is accepting and willing that all will come to Him and He has made it ultimately possible because of Him coming as a man and facing all temptation as man faces. It is on an individual basis that God changes, not corporately. He will never force you to come to Him, for that is not love.

Speaking of forcing, it seems that is what is happening to us conservatives. We are being forced to accept that what God has given as sacred is being used as political fodder to force an acceptance of what is sin. I hope I am not the only one speaking in such a way, trying to reason, to present our side. What I do think is happening is that some may see an article on homosexual marriage, find out the author’s perspective is conservative than dismiss it out of hand. I saw a video the other day of a conservative group on a college campus trying to interview participants of a Feminist conference. Someone found out the interviewer was from a conservative group and started telling everyone not to talk to her because of her background. She was followed around and as soon as she found someone to talk to, participants would tell the interviewees and mouths would close. Was that reasonable? It was a disgrace is what it was. That is what is happening today. Civil dialogue is being thrown out the window for shouting down your opponent. Battles are being won by insults. It makes me sad, very sad to what our freedoms has brought us: bondage. There is coming a day that what I say here will be marked as hate speech. It is already in some progressive European countries. Woe to us who have for so long given ground in the culture war, because of apathy and poor arguments, yet this is the way it was dictated to go. We have suffered too long contemplating self. This country was so great our only opportunity was self-examination. Let us look to the opportunities of not staring at our own navels. Go into the world and see what we so take for granted. Show the love God has poured out to us, if not for God than whatever you are thankful for and put it toward… not focusing so much on ourselves.

This started out as a statement I just needed to say regarding the horrifying political climate of today, but has grown into something I did not expect. I pray for this country and the relationship we have with each other, that we can talk again, share ideas and thoughts and why we do what we do or believe what we believe. It hurts me to think that so many relationships have been severed because of who is elected or what laws have been passed, but it doesn’t surprise me because even within the Christian community divorcing each other over the color of the carpet. I look toward the day when all will be made right. I look to the day where I am shown the error in my thoughts and deeds. I look to the day when all nations and cultures will gather at His feet praising Him and His works and His justice and His righteousness, in true unity and true diversity. I pray that we Christians will look beyond our own personal preferences and just desire to share the love that God wants us all to display, because He made us and loves us just as He intended us to be. Thank You God, thank You!

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinizations: Believing the Lie That Being Liked is More Important Than Being Loved

How are we to function as a church body?

Continuing in the series regarding the relationship of believers to each other we read the whole of chapter 4 of Ephesians. I noticed the amount of times one was referred to. It spoke of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. I also read about unity. Unity has been the subject of much what I have written about lately, although I may have not used the word. Let’s go back a bit in Ephesians and look at a couple of verses:

“in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” 2:22

“to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” 3:10

These verses tell us we are being “built together” and that we would know the manifold wisdom of God. This is all done in unity. This cannot be done in isolation. Together we walk worthy of the calling. We put God on display through our humility, our gentleness, our patience, and our love; for each other. We should see our relationship with each other in the church as a marriage. It should be the ultimate difficulty to break fellowship with other Christians.

Recently I and my family left the church we have been going to since we moved here. I never intended it as a “divorce” from the fellowship, in fact, we are still involved with a food ministry, the puppet ministry and my daughter involved with the Bible drill at the former church. I let the Senior Pastor know of our decision and many others as well. Although sometimes we run into people who haven’t seen us in awhile and demonstrate concern that we are not going to church. We assure them we have found a good home church and a great fit for us now, in this season of life, but it seems that they are overly concerned about our spiritual health, which is a good thing, but too connected with where they may be. It is a very hard decision to participate in another fellowship, we never want to hurt anyone, but we have to make the best choice for our family and most specifically the spiritual head of the house. I wanted to say all this as introduction to what is to continue in the look we had at Ephesians 4, with a few verses specified.

To each one of us grace is given (v. 4). What are some of the other gifts that God has given us? Each other. See verse 11, it talks about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We commonly see this as particularly personal, but I have never imagined it as the person given to us by God. They are gifts to us; the Church. I needed to be shown this as God has given this to us and to be very thankful to Him. Of course, what are they for? Verse 12, it seems again, I never saw it in the way presented. They are given to the Church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry and edifying the body of Christ. Now we have to ask ourselves, When was the last time I built up the body? I am many times wondering where are the people who know me enough to build me up, without thinking about the gifts I have been given and how I have been using them to fulfill God’s purpose to become more and more like Him. Verse 14 shows us what it will be like when we are bound together as God intended: that we should not be children, tossed about by every wind of doctrine. There are still many children in the church today and I believe that is one aspect of where God has grown my concern. God is everything. God is Truth. God is supernatural. God is my all in all. He gives me hope. He gives me purpose and meaning. When I see someone who is a Sunday only Christian, I have my concerns for them. But it seems as though they are the hardest to reach. Something else may be filling their hope and purpose and meaning. What does God really mean to them? I should know them and love them, and hopefully, someday be able to teach and edify them, but I know that ultimately it is God who changes people. I have my love and concern and purpose though. I want to see that the deceived see truth, that the children reach maturity. I know I am not perfect and would hope that someone loves me enough to say what I need to hear, so that I don’t remain a child or deceived, however the case may be. We need to speak truth into others lives, but we need to know truth.

So, we come to it: How are we going to get there?

  1. Press into the family. We have to know them and we have to allow others to know us (ouch!). I’m so good at letting out who I am on here, but it is very difficult for me to live out what and how I write. I don’t mind if people read this and I so hope they do, but if I can’t be open and honest face-to-face what good am I at laying it all out there. I am getting better though, thank God.
  2. We need to see clearly. Someone needs to tell me the truth, and they can only do that if we are part of the family. Press in, be ready, put down your defenses. (I’m talking to me here especially.) We should no longer walk as the Gentiles, in the futility (purposelessness) of mind, no longer in darkness keeping the light to ourselves or living in isolation. Behind every sin is a lie about God. Remember, God is great, God is glorious, God is gracious, and God is good. If we look at our sins it reveals to us we have believed a lie that goes against one of these characteristics. Complaining about our boss: we forgot God is sovereign, seeing all and has all in His hands, that He has been gracious to us expecting us to give grace to others, and that all our suffering is ultimately for our good.

We have believed for too long that being liked is more important than being loved. Let us not perpetuate the lie by only consoling and empathizing with those who sin, but also calling them out, revealing the lie that we have believed, making sure you do not consider yourself more highly because we all at one time or another believe the lie. Take the log from your own eye, but definitely remove the speck from your brother’s eye, whom you love.

And finally: Why don’t we speak the truth?

First, we fear that we will have the truth shown to us that we are afraid to see. Who are we? We are children of God, holy and made righteous by His blood. Our eternity is reserved for us in heaven, which is just a dim reflection of what we see here on this earth. We are chosen for a higher purpose and if we are unwilling to hear truth spoken to us, what do we deserve of what God has reserved? Truly we deserve none of it, but this is God, the creator of the universe, who knows all and sees all deserves our attention when He speaks to us through each other. Amen?

Second, we believe we are unworthy to be bearers of the truth. We are not to gain pride in throwing the truth around, but have enough humility to give someone what they need: the truth. We need it, they need it. We have it and have a responsibility to give to those we know and love. Never throw it in ones face, truth is not to be haphazardly spat out with disdain, but lovingly cherished and transferred.

Thirdly, giving truth is abnormal. The truth makes enemies, makes people uncomfortable, it shows that you have a concern more with being liked. They may not like me, we say.

Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, And a flattering mouth works ruin.” When we lie or perpetuate the lie we hate those, the bible says. Comfort without truth works ruin. It is obvious that when we just seek to be liked we can never truly love. Like a child who needs discipline, a loved one needs truth. They may hate you for the moment, but thank you for a lifetime.

Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Friends, loved ones, will cause hurt. Enemies kisses are deceitful. The truth will almost always hurt, let’s be prepared to hear it, I am from you.

Redwood trees are the largest trees in the world, but they have some of the most shallow root systems. How do they stand up? Their root systems are intertwined, they hold each other up, they support each other. Let us be as the Redwood trees. Let truth be our root and love be our bond.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinization: Discipleship on My Mind

If you read my post about being a cowboy, basically I was talking about discipleship. Whether or not it was about worldly knowledge or biblical, being a cowboy, in the way I was thinking, is about being a disciple. I may have always whined about not being formerly or properly discipled in my life, but that is not entirely true, which was possible the point of today’s sermon.

We started out having to personally answer three questions about discipleship:

  1. What is discipleship?
  2. Are you involved in discipleship? Why or why not?
  3. Who were the disciples of Christ?

I always think that the giver of sermons is always trying to trick us gullible congregants, so I try and look at what they are really asking. My answer to the first had to do with encouragement and teaching; you remember my post on encouragement, and the fact that disciple basically means learner. Pretty good, huh?

The second question was, I believe,  the tricky one. I basically said that no one can handle me. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I’m not like regular folk, whether it be the fact that I don’t think like others or that I spill it all out on this keyboard; I think it’s just not normal. I’m a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, or I like to think that I am. I’m probably plain as day to some or just not worth the effort to others. Incidentally, I’m glad of the fact that my wife felt me worth the effort. The second part of my answer to the second question was, that I just don’t know what to do. And the third part of my answer was, is that I am constantly involved in discipleship. This is the answer that will give me the golden pat on the head for thinking outside the 52 ounce mug of soda. We all, in minor ways, are involved in discipleship, because people are watching us and we are watching people. We are learning constantly. We may not be going through some formal back and forth, but we see each other and how we live life. Those who believe that they know that they don’t know everything are always on the discipleship path.

The third question was in where he was being a tricksy hobbit as well, at least I thought he was. I said that all who know Him are His disciples. It wasn’t until at the end of sermon time when someone asked all the disciples names, did I realize he may not have been as tricksy as I thought he was trying to be. Perhaps that is how I would be as a sermon giver, always trying to trick you foolish congregants, ha ha ha! Wait, no. Never mind. I’d be the straight shooter. You know, the cowboy and all is an open book; straight and true.

The verses he used as a basis for his sermon was 2 Timothy 2:2 and Matthew 28:19-20:

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

His point was that we all need to be involved in discipleship. To me he spoke that I need to take a more conscious approach, rather than an unconscious approach. Which is what I normally do. We all have some pretty lame excuses when it comes to not being involved in discipleship: “I’m not spiritual enough.” “I can’t be discipled by someone less godly than me.” “I can’t do co-discipleship.” “I have to treat anyone I disciple the same.” He had more excuses, but I think time had gotten away from him. He was looking down, trying to decide what to eliminate, when the overdue pregnant woman got up to go somewhere, and someone behind me shouted out, “too long.” Sermon guy didn’t realize why “too long” was shouted, laughed and tried to wrap it all up. I’m approaching a deadline myself. I’d like to finish writing this as my wife and daughter are making jícama slaw in preparation for going to puppet practice and then hanging out with this beloved community tonight, and I’m still in give-up pants and socks. But, if you can read between the lines here and see the connection with what I believe a true cowboy is and the connection of discipleship and Frank Viola sending me a sample of his new book “Discipleship in Crisis” where you can still possibly get the free download here, that God is sending me a message: Step up to the plate bucky-boy and throw for that touchdown as you round up those I’ve prepared from the beginning. Great metaphor mixing, yes? Perhaps before I and my family can jump into the path he has set for us in proclaiming His kingdom, He wants me to get more… *cough* *cough* personal with others, or maybe this is the path. Whatever it is, He is speaking to me, leading me and I want to follow. Giddy-up and git cowboys and cowgirls! For the harvest is ripe and we all need to stand together.

~Stranger

Trials, Tribulation, Persecution and Love

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.”
-2 Thessalonians 1:3-5

We started studying 2 Thessalonians last night in our fellowship/bible study group, when one of our members started on how he was saddened by what he sees in the church today regarding the lack of love displayed among the believers. There was some discussion about the lack of persecution we suffer. The thought from the one discouraged is that the manifestation of love should just be something we strive for, and that is an obvious thing to me as well, yet still we find ourselves lacking. If we love Jesus we will obey his commandments, and He also prayed that we would love each other. So in our love for Jesus are we loving each other as we should? I haven’t felt much love from the brethren here, but what have I given out? Another thought was that our love is in not leaving each other over trivial matters, or divorcing as the word that was used. Would we, as a group that had been together for two years be strong enough to see each other through the next 10 years, or 20?

As I listened to the group I pondered my connection to these people. We started being with these people 2 years after we moved here. It was still a very difficult time for us, not only in the things we had left, but in seeing some of the ways Christians treat each other. It was a powerfully rough time. This group formed through some of this hardship and depression I was suffering. I was glad we decided to have it at our house, because it is a rare excuse I can come up with in not coming. Many a time there was that I would sit in silence most of the night, not wanting to share my thoughts of feelings. My belief in my lack of importance contrived itself to shut me up. It was noticed, but not pushed. Eventually I would give myself over to opening up, denying the feelings of not trusting people, and it was rewarding. The culmination was two Emergency room visits last year that allowed me to be myself, open up and start loving these people.

I shared that the way I feel about these people would keep them in my hearts for years to come, no matter where I end up. But it was only through the tribulation I went through that I felt this way. Even in the verses above it seems that their love, in some way, grew from the trials and persecutions suffered.

The other thing I shared is the idea that we aren’t really holding onto the idea that we are part of a way bigger thing than just living and dying. We have a grand hope and a kingdom to share. Our lives are truly supernatural and that makes us realize that what happens here and now is just so stinking temporary. Our goal is not in being happy here, but looking forward to the grand green pastures of being with our Lord and Creator forever!

One of the things I ask the children here, when I get the opportunity to hang out, is, “Does God want us to be happy and never have a hard time in this life?” All of these kids would say that God wants us to be happy and never suffer. Eventually, when we grow up, and if we remain in the faith, we are given the idea that suffering is for our good. That only the loving parent will discipline their children. We don’t get the idea that tribulation brings perseverance brings character bringing hope until we are “ready” for it. We may understand this concept, but the teaching or perhaps hope as a child that everything will be easy stays with us, and we don’t give ourselves to each other because dealing with other people is hard.

I also brought this up to some guests we have and she said that when going through a hymnal that was about 150 years old, she found in the topical index, “hymns for when a child has died”. Can you imagine that being in our hymnal today? How much is death such a common thing when we are doing hip replacements to 85 year-old people today? We hear in other cultures that when you are ready to die, you take your mat away from the village, lay on it and wait for death. We know that where love and hope and faith grows is where death can be just around the corner. We do not suffer in this country if we are not facing hardship and disease and death on a daily basis. We may believe we are, but in contrast, are we really?

Lately, to me, it seems that we are losing a lot of ground, culturally, to the amoralist society. I wonder about how much we fight these issues and wonder if we should. Especially when we should be looking at people changing on an individual basis and not an entire culture. The fight is right, but is it worth it? I ended up hoping to run into more sinners (of whom do not know Jesus), so that I can share the kingdom I am looking forward to. I pray that God gives me the words, but I have a life I lived in sin and now I am a child of God, and this is what I need to share. It’s not me who changes people, a culture, but God who changes lives. I still sin, why should I try and stop sin when some segments of my life is defined by it? Our world is turning upside-down and we are all here for a purpose, for this time, to this generation. May we grow in love and hope and faith through the trials now and the tribulations of the future.

~Stranger

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