Monday, October 2, 2017

What the World Needs Now...

I don't often show my emotions physically while listening to or reading news, but today I shed a few tears. It's not that I don't care deeply about the multitude of recent tragedies which occurred from national disasters, but something touched me particularly with the Las Vegas incident. Perhaps it was because it followed some senseless violence that left three dead and two wounded in my own home town in the early morning hours of Sunday. We aren't used to this, and I pray to God that we never become so.

I think my grief came mostly because of the innocence of the victims, and the inhumanity of those who committed the heinous crimes. What makes some humans want to hurt others? I still believe it is a minority of individuals who perpetrate such evil in the world, but I am most worried about how to respond.

Naturally the gun control debate will arise. Sure, criminals will always have guns, but they aren't the ones I am worried about anymore. I'm concerned about people like the Vegas gunman who seem to be okay and then go off on a rampage. We don't know why he did it, nor can we understand why some actions are borne of radical beliefs stemming from religion or race, for example.

It's a no-brainer that people, who don't know the proper use of guns or have a mental illness instability predisposed to harm, shouldn't have access to them. Regardless of how either side of the gun control debate feels, they should all agree that guns require a certain responsibility, and not everyone should be endowed with "the right" to have them. How to address that is the question.

But, how do we stop all of this madness where a man wants to kill others? It comes down to societal change, I think.Personally, I don't want to live in a world of fear, and I certainly don't want to live in a world where violence must be answered with violence.

Jesus proved true, positive change comes by changing the heart of man. In the end, I realize that may not happen with everyone, but perhaps we can still affect some change to make this world a better place, and that means we must look at ourselves.

How do we treat our fellowman? Do we constantly put ourselves first or do we actively try to answer some of the need that exists? Do we answer violence with violence? Do we promote justice and caring?

Perhaps what tragedy shows us most of all is that the greatest need is love, and I believe out of that will surely come the good that we seek instead of evil.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Good Days and Bad Days – September 22 is One of the Latter

Some days are ones you want to remember forever, and some are days you would rather forget. September 22 is one of the latter. It’s also the day that changed my life drastically.

Eleven years ago on that date, my beloved husband and soulmate left this world. I can’t begin to describe the devastation in my very being that accompanied that experience. Praying for a miracle until Steve’s last breath, I can only say that I did not feel anger at God, but I was extremely disappointed.Today, I still feel the pain of loss, but it is different.

If you’ve read many of my blogs, you’ve probably noted quite a few have regarded prayer, and my journey toward a deepening faith. Over the years, God has proven to me that He will help make lemonade out of lemons.

So what has the past shown me? Prayer is still important. Although I can’t fathom why Steve wasn’t spared, I do know this – death is not a punishment. How could an afterlife filled with love and understanding be bad?

I also know that God’s promise to be with us in time of trial is real. What I could not voice to others, I could to God. Lamentations, wailing, searching for answers were all in His domain; no one could understand them more than He.

While I would certainly rather have Steve beside me, healthy and loving, I know that God has provided me with opportunities to make some good from my tragedy (and, yes, I do consider his loss a tragedy).

  • I have been given the gift of writing inspiration. To be able to touch and encourage others is quite remarkable.
  • To be a Stephen Minister and help someone who is going through some of the same challenges I myself have been through, is a true privilege. To know that I am simply doing God’s work is a humbling honor. 
  •  Realizing that our purpose in life is to love and encourage one another is a blessing. And to know that we have the power to make this world a better place for ourselves and others is highly gratifying.
  • Simply to know that our lives have meaning, and that faith gives hope, is a true gift from God.

Eleven years ago, I could not speak my faith as I do now. That was partly due to not really understanding the full spectrum of my belief, and not actually acknowledging that it is He, and not I, who determines what is best for (and in) the world. Frankly, I’m glad that isn’t my responsibility, but most importantly, I have comfort and peace in knowing Steve is in good hands until eternity unites us once again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hype and Reality

Although the eclipse was to be 99.3% in our area, it appeared more like the darkening skies before a rain storm. Initially, two of my neighbors and I anticipated the hype surrounding the total eclipse of the sun might actually yield something spectacular, even though we fell out of the total blackout path.

The lampposts in my community sensed that it was nearing evening even though it was just 1pm, the insects began their chirping, and we could feel a slight drop in temperature. But, alas, it was not our fate to experience the majesty of the event. Heavy cloud cover prevented us from even a peek at the moon crossing between the earth and sun.

So, for the three of us who donned chairs by the community mailbox and looked skyward, the hype didn't meet our expectations. But, it was reality and certainly did meet, and even exceed, that of others.

I guess we could equate that somewhat to faith. Sometimes we maybe expect too much, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong to do so, or won't happen − just maybe not for us. Take for instance the prayers for a miracle cure for a loved one (been there, done that). It's disappointing and sometimes disparaging not to bear witness to it, but there are still many miracles that happen all around us.

It's easy to hype our expectation, but when the outcome is not what we wanted or anticipated, we have to remember that it still doesn't negate the reality that it can and does happen. I think that is what faith in prayer is all about answers are sometimes, yes; sometimes, no; and sometimes, not for us but for others.

I won't be here in approximately 100 years when the total eclipse again occurs in my area, but there are other locations where the total eclipse will occur as early as in 2024. I'd love to see it personally, but even though I probably won't, I know the hype (just like prayers) will still be reality for some.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Shack Reaction

I've read The Shack by William Paul Young twice − once when it was first published and then before renting the newly released movie.  I was grateful that the movie pretty much followed the book since one of my biggest pet peeves is when a movie doesn't.

The story offers a different approach to God's view of the world, one to which I know some Biblical scholars even subscribe in regard to God's "punishment." I will leave it at that. The movie did fail to include what I consider one of the most important aspects of the book which more or less proves the experience of the main character to be true. I'll leave it at that, too.

My biggest concern, however, wasn't the movie or its message. It was people's reaction to it as stated in their comments.

On one hand, you have a religious sect that takes exception with the way God is portrayed. He can't be black or a woman, and you must incur the wrath of God. Some of what these Christians cite to approbate their beliefs (not unsurprisingly) is from the Old Testament. I won't speak any judgment on that, but I prefer and believe in the loving God whom Jesus introduced us to in the New Testament.

Now, on the other hand, you have the atheists. I honestly don't know why they even bothered to see the movie, and maybe they actually didn't. There was a good deal of profanity. disdain, and outright loathing for Christians in some of their comments. I think this disturbed me more than the presumed fundamentalists who truly think they speak God's word.

I wondered what in someone's life would cause them to so vehemently deny that there is something greater than themselves. You can explain how things happened to create this world, but where did it begin? Substance had to come from somewhere.

In the end, it wasn't the difference in what I believe versus their non-belief that disturbed me. I simply felt sad for them. I also felt sad for the world because these are not the people who make our world a better place. Hate of any kind, from any group, never makes a positive difference for mankind.

I've known some very good, caring and kind people who were atheist or agnostic so the people who made these disparaging comments carried something different with them. The "great sadness" in The Shack refers to a specific matter, but I think there is another sadness that needs our prayers.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Compliments and When to Accept Them

I don't have any narcissistic delusions or over-exaggerated problems with humility, but compliments are sometimes difficult for me to accept, dependent of course on what they are. When someone praises my writing, I often find it difficult to take credit I know where my inspiration comes from. But yesterday, I had no problem accepting two compliments.

For many years, I've served as a lector at my church. At first, it was a little daunting because I always read at the service which was broadcast live via our local radio station. It's not that I'm shy (as anyone who knows me will attest); it's just that I didn't want to mess up reading something so important.

Years later, I now say a little prayer before I read scripture because I really want my voice to carry the profound nature of the subject matter. I want there to be no question about the message of what I am saying to convey God's word. Simply put, I want my voice to honor God.

Yesterday, two people told me I was successful. (Others have done so in the past, but yesterday was especially meaningful.) The first told me he always enjoys it when I read. The second thanked me for reading because it was important to him for passages to be read with authority. He could really "hear God's words coming through my mouth." Now that is a compliment! It's not praise for me and what a good job I did, but rather a confirmation that God answered my little prayer to give glory to His word.

I keep thinking of something our Pastor said in a recent sermon. He asked us to think about where we fit in, much like teenagers trying to find their place in society. I guess we all go through that awkwardness upon accepting a Christian life. Where do we end and where does God begin? The simple answer, I think, is that God is within us and we just have to decide if we accept His direction rather than our own. I admit that discerning that difference is sometimes a challenge.

I think, or I hope, I'm getting better about understanding and doing God's will rather than my own. At least I know that my prayer as a lector yesterday must have been right.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

PF Day!

July 12 is PF Day, otherwise known as Patent File Day. This is the day my son Chris and I file utility (non-provisional) and design patents for a new mobility walker. After more than two years of honing our design, numerous prototypes, financial investment and loss of sleep, we are taking the final plunge following a patent pending application made a year ago on July 12, 2016.

This is truly one of those times where we have to say, "it's in God's hands now." In fact, there were many anxious moments when I had to talk to myself with encouragement. It always came back to Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

The aforementioned comforting verse clearly means trust in the Lord, but in actuality, trusting God wasn't the hardest part. It was trying to decide if this project was my will or God's, even though I'm sure it was devinely inspired. Nevertheless, you can bet a few prayers went in that direction!

So now I say it's in God's hands. If it is a success, I'll definitely know it was more than just my desire to bring a new and truly innovative product to market − one which could help many people. It might also make me a better philanthropist, but that's a selfish wish on my part because sharing our blessings with others is truly one of our greatest gifts.

So now we wait to see what God has planned as I approach medical manufactures and distributors. In any case, I don't need to stress over the outcome because I am more than grateful to know it is in His hands, and He is the one in charge.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Still Relevant

Our Pastor gave another very provocative sermon Sunday about a subject that I once thought irrelevant to me or to most other Christians in the U.S. The sermon was in reference to Jesus telling the disciples people will "hate you because of me."

Persecution of Christians only happens now in certain countries or areas with no tolerance to our religion, right? But the Pastor explained this a little differently, and one to which I could now relate. It references how we see things, what we do, and how we act. And sometimes, that does get us into trouble. It doesn't mean consequences of martyrdom by any means, but there can still be a negative response.

Pastor Brian's point was simply that, unfavorable responses aside, we should still do what is right regardless of how others see us or disagree. And, yes, I have to admit there are times when that's gotten me those unfavorable responses from others. I suspect that can be said for many of us.

Even other Christians disagree about how we should act and what we should believe. Just look at the derision during and after the last presidential campaign. Everything centers on understanding what it means to follow Jesus, and it's a little spooky and unsettling to me to see how that differs among members of our own religion. In the end, I think that Jesus' commandment to love one another surpasses all else.

As my personal faith deepens, I do things differently than I once did, and I see priorities differently too. It's not so much about me anymore, what I want, or personal preference in relating to others. I see Jesus' commandment as mainly twofold: Trying not to purposely hurt other people (which I may inadvertently do because all humans fail); and focusing on kindness and need. I'm far from perfect in doing any of that, but I'm going to keep trying to do the right thing as Pastor Brian said.