Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Different Kind of Spoiler

There are many things that can spoil our innocence, but there's nothing like knowledge to do it. But sometimes, it's good to have the right information.

As I may have mentioned previously, our interim pastor is a Biblical scholar. He has directly read the  gospels from the Greek words written. I've also joined a Bible study class that's called the New Testament challenge, and I make every effort to attend because I don't know what I'll miss.

Most recently, our pastor confided that he watches only about half of the Biblical movies before turning them off because of their inaccuracy. And now I find myself viewing those movies in a different light, too, because of some subtle differences between the gospels and being enlightened to some of the political aspects of Jesus' actions. 


Recently, I viewed the controversial "Noah" starring Russell Crowe. I should have listened to my neighbor who said the movie was awful. From a Biblical perspective, he said it "had a guy named Noah and an ark." That was pretty accurate. Even from a non-Biblical aspect, in my opinion, the movie still deserved his earlier rating.

To add dimension, it included a group of fallen angels whom Noah solicits to help him. The fact that they look like burned Transformer toys is another issue. It was pretty bad all around. I wasn't expecting much after hearing reviews from others, but in this case, they were unfortunately right. But still, just like seeking God, we must discover some things for ourselves.

So, this is what I've learned. Don't expect accuracy in cinema that is directed toward entertainment instead of portraying what the Bible says. But I must admit that "Passion of the Christ" was probably pretty close.

In any case, it is good to know the truth, even if that includes differences in the gospels. And sometimes, I think it's good to have our innocence spoiled if it makes us think and seek God's presence in our lives.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Doing What is Just and Good



I’m writing this before the results of the elections are known, and I hope everyone reading this blog took advantage of the privilege and responsibility to vote. Being able to do so is standing up for what one believes is right, and not letting 20% or less of eligible voters decide what will be just.

I think praying about and casting our vote is honoring an often mentioned directive in the Bible to do what is right and just.( Check out the following to see what I mean: Right and Just references). 

I also believe voting is just one way we can and should stand up for those who need our support and acceptance. Laws are made by those we place in office and those laws impact the ill, the disabled, and anyone else considered in some way to be a social outcast. I remember that Jesus offered acceptance and love to everyone, including tax collectors, Roman soldiers, gentiles, etc. (If they were hypocrites or rejected him, well that was a different matter).

So regardless of which candidates you or I vote for, we should expect them to be fair and just. But sometimes, it’s hard to believe that they will fulfill that directive given the campaign ads. It seems some are more interested in imparting how bad their competition is rather than taking the opportunity to express what positive things they have done or will do. It makes one think that they are trying to get votes by making us choose the lesser of two evils.And I can think of a lot of Biblical admonishments about false witness and saying negative things to hurt our fellowman.

My church often includes prayers for guidance for those elected to office. I think that’s a good thing to do. We all need prayers to keep us focused on what really matters in life and the one after.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Honors - Give Credit Where It is Due

It's nice to be recognized when one realizes with humility that it's a true honor. Such was my situation recently when I attended the Kansas Authors Club annual convention held this year in Hutchinson. Receiving the KAC Service Award plaque was such a surprise that I only heard half of what was said about me. Later, I jokingly stated to colleagues that I think I received this just so I'd continue forever as the club's financial secretary!

Some time ago, I realized that my name wasn't that important - it's what I do that counts. And what I do, I credit to divine intervention. Because inspiration is my forte, that's really the only reason to know my name. Name recognition is how others can find my work, and perhaps be encouraged to do something positive. (Hebrews 10:24, "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.")

Years ago, when someone would give credit to God for his/her accomplishments, I took it with a grain of salt. Now I get it. But, still, when someone or a group recognizes your service, it's appreciated. In my case, so much so, that I chose to include the award plaque in a photo which will accompany an article I wrote for my local paper, the Lawrence Journal World. It should appear this month and it may contain information that will surprise some of those who know me.

The article centers on my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) 18 years ago. Many who know me are unaware that I have this neurological malady because I've learned to live with it so well. They sometimes assume I've had knee surgery since my left leg doesn't function as well as it should. But it's simply a matter of respecting the disease, and not letting it keep me from living a fruitful and accomplished life. I, like most people with M.S., make adjustments for fatigue and other symptoms which are kept mostly to myself. Seeing me type, no one would guess the partial and permanent numbness in my right hand, the result of the exacerbation that initially sent me to a neurologist for the diagnosis.

But enough about challenges - we all have them, seen or unseen. What is important is how we respond to them, and I feel very blessed. My faith helps me to live each day with the understanding that there is something much greater than I, and a whole lot greater than my name.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Words, Words, Words!“



“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” The individual who coined this phrase only got it partly right. While words only have power over us if we let them, connotations and the origin make a big difference.

Take for instance the word died. I never use that word when referring to my late husband. I believe that he passed on, as in transitioned to the next life. Died seems like such finality and passed away seems fleeting. My faith tells me that he still is, just on a different realm.

On the other hand, one of my sisters who lost her husband in March, won’t use the word widow. I’ve become very sensitive out of respect for her not to use this word in reference to her situation.

But these are truly minor when we think of words that destroy – words meant to inflict pain and abuse as well as idle gossip. The latter is something I choose not to pass on, if by some chance someone makes me hear it.  It just follows my conviction not to subject myself to shows and media that portray people in their worst behavior.

The origin is also important. I’ve known people who can say anything about anyone, but what they say really says more about them than the person they intend to defame. And then there are those whose words can cut to our very core. We respect or love them so much that whatever they say, we believe. And sometimes, we may not know that we, too, hold that power over others.

Matthew 12:37 states: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” If that doesn’t caution someone to be careful, I’m not sure what will. I always thought that Hell might include having to listen to all the bad things others said about you, and even worse, things you said about others that weren’t very nice and even discovering they weren’t even true.

But then we also note Proverbs 16:24: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” So it’s my job and everyone else’s to encourage others and reinforce good behavior.

You can bet that I’ll always try my best not to let idle and hurtful words slip from my tongue, but I’m not perfect. In fact, the ire that makes me most inclined to opine is when people are mean or don’t do what they should in regard to their fellowman. Then forgive me for what I say!

I take the responsibility to make this world a better place very seriously whether that means using words of encouragement or dismissing words that serve no beneficial purpose or are inadvertently insensitive. That is my expectation and my goal. I may not always achieve it, but like anything, if you don’t try, you won’t even have a chance of getting it right.  But ultimately, it’s good to remember “actions do speak louder than words.”


Monday, September 29, 2014

Doing the Right Thing Shouldn't be Unexpected

If you know me or anything about me, you probably know that I have what some would consider an over-developed sense of right and wrong. That doesn't mean I don't see gray areas, too; it's just that I think some things are no-brainers.

Today, I visited Kohl's Department Store and had a nice conversation with the young man  checking out my purchase. Afterwards, I scooted on over to another store in the same complex. After I left that store, I looked at my receipt from Kohl's and noticed that there wasn't a charge for the hand towel, only the bath towel. I'm glad I noticed before going home so it didn't necessitate another trip.

I returned to Kohl's customer service and explained that an item was missed. The sweet young lady at the counter seemed a bit surprised and thanked me saying, "that's awful of nice of you" [to come back]. I simply told her that it was "only fair." I'd say something if I were over-charged, so it's a no-brainer to say something when I'm under-charged.

So why do people not expect others to do the right thing? (Just look at how it's news worthy when people find a large sum of money and turn it in - like it's an anomaly). And why don't some people see doing the right thing as important? Maybe some of that is human nature, but we don't make the world a better place by applying a double standard.

I think of Luke 16:10  "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."

At first I thought that passage should be reversed. If you can be trusted a lot, you can probably be trusted with little, but it is true that if you can't be trusted with the little things (like bringing it to someone's attention if you're under-charged), then you probably can't be trusted with something bigger.

Personally, I'd love for God to trust me with a little more wealth so that I could help my fellowman more, but most of us would like that, too. So maybe God knows that it’s best to just let me keep doing my own thing and make sure that it includes doing it right.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Social Media and Friends




I recently celebrated by birthday (no need to elaborate on what number it was), and several thoughts occurred to me: It’s great to have friends and social media really does connect people.

Although I don’t use social media that often, it was a pleasant surprise to receive “Happy Birthday” wishes from so many people, many of whom pleasantly surprised me with their contact. It’s so nice that others think you are important enough to want to share in your day in some manner.  

I’ve also learned the value of social media to announce posting of my make-a-difference Examiner Articles, website and even this blog. I also appreciate when others share my postings or website and comment. I’m still hoping for more referrals via this media for my next book (see www.vickijulian.com to learn more or see the video of me talking about it).

On my actual birthday, my sons visited of course, but because of the weather, we postponed my requested picnic until after the extended-family party the next day.  That made my evening free to accept the invitation of my friends Darwin and Susan, who are actually more like family. They treated me to dinner and a movie, and ended my birthday in the best possible way.

Most people who know me are also aware that my birthday is always a little bittersweet for me. Eight years ago, my birthday occurred just two days after learning that my husband’s kidneys were failing, and I would lose him a full month and a half sooner than expected. Even with the terminal cancer diagnosis, he managed, while in the hospital, to rally family and friends to host a surprise birthday party for me. (I celebrate my birthday only because he wanted me to do so, just like the last time he could celebrate with me).

I believe that God gives us friends for a reason. Some become closer than others and some become family. I think of Matthew 6:20 (NIV): 20” But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” It’s our relationships that really count. Friends are just a little glimpse of Heaven where we can understand the enjoyment, caring, compassion and love that awaits us.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Importance of Knowing Your Religion



A Muslim Friend once told me that it is very rare for a Muslim to convert to another religion. That did surprise me, but after reading Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi, I understood why.

Like a majority of professed Christians who have never read the Bible in its entirety, I learned the same is true for followers of Islam. But unlike Jesus, who indisputedly lived a very just existence and life of love, the author cites some interesting things about Muhammad’s life that weren’t compatible with what he and his fellow Muslims were taught by Imams and other teachers of Islam. There were also some surprising statements that the author found in the Quran and hadith (a revered reference for Islamic law and history) which was compiled by Sahih Bukhari who is considered a reliable and scholarly source by most Muslims.  

It is not for me to judge the choice of others’ religions, but the book provided an insight that I had never before known. It also made me appreciate the sacrifices that some must still make to follow Jesus.  And it brought home the importance of knowing all that one can about the path one chooses to find God.

The Bible can be difficult to interpret and I’ve discovered many times from my pastor, who is a Biblical scholar, that translations can play a big part in changing what I once thought. Even without the same background to interpret correctly, I understand the importance to still read it because I discover something new each time I read it in its entirety.

So how did I manage to read the entire Bible several times? I bought one of those “read the Bible in a year” Bibles. It was the New International Version (NIV), which I also have on my Kindle. Additionally, I have a hardcopy of the New Revised Standard Version (NSRV) which some of us ELCA Lutherans tend to utilize most.

Now, back to: What did I learn after reading the aforementioned book? Lots! Not only did I learn about Islam from a formerly devout Muslim, but the importance of knowing about one’s own religion. I’m confident that I have chosen for myself the correct path to God via Christianity, and I will never stop learning. But, the journey is one which each of us must determine and independently travel.