Christianity

Spoken Word – When Did We Lose Our Souls?

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I sit and I intently ponderEmpty Soul

mind focused and filled with wondering

when, where, how, and why

did life become so parched and dry?

So empty of any depth or meaning

filled with loud, judgmental screaming.

Shouts of “justice” and “my rights”

verbal outbursts, tantrums, fights

all while claiming to be seeking

peace and harmony

fairness and equality

hand-shaking unity

when in actuality

The order of the day has become

division and strife.

No regard for any life

save our own – me and mine.

Don’t disagree with me this time

or I’ll unload my every thought,

feeling, and selfish opinion all over you and yours.

Hiding behind computer screens

phones and social media scenes

fingers clicking furiously

to rip apart right from the seams

anyone who dares to disagree

or have individual thoughts, unique perspective,

or a mind that thinks differently, no matter how refective.

What an offensive

concept.

The “causes” of the conflicted day:

marriage for the straight or gay,

exposed nipples for baby’s meal

or modesty.

Are leggings real

pants?

Black lives matter.

Blue lives matter.

Lions and elephants and dog lives matter.

All lives matter.

Except of course

those that haven’t left the source

of sustenance that is their mother’s womb.

They don’t matter til they’ve crossed into the room

caught by a doc

and uttering that first crying wail.

Oh hell.

Don’t even go there.

Refugees and aliens

Open the borders. Shut them again!

They’re dying, and starving, and being killed.

But they’ll come into our country and steal

our benefits, our jobs

our dignity.

Really?

Do we give it up that easily?

Fly the colored rainbow flag.

Stars and bars

No that one’s bad

Why? Because “I said” it is

since one man wore it when he did

a horrible

heinous

evil act.

In fact…

My cause is greater than your own.

My voice is louder

passion prouder and

Damn it, I. Am. Right.

Is this what we have become?

People who scream

riot and ream

anyone and everyone over the coals

who dares to oppose

our singular views?

Judgmental “truths”.

Closed-minded, open-mouthed expectations of compliance

with nothing but selfish reliance

on platforms that are so wrapped

in politics or personal agendas

that we’ve forgotten how to live?

How to love?

How to be simply

humbly

authentically human?

And allow others to be the same…

Respectfully humane.

When did our hearts become so hard?

When did we lose our souls?

We must hit our knees. Get on our face.

Crawl into the secret place

where we can quietly

silently

wide-openly

heart-rended

weepingly listen, and plead

for mercy from the One Whose bleeding

hands and feet and sword pierced side

spirit surrendered died

for every freedom and hand-crafted life

that you are targeting with strife

and hatred

and vilifying accusations

of bigotry

ignorance and…

Just.

Stop!

Can we extend our hardened wounded souls

out to the Father to be made whole?

And cry compassionate tears for those

who are hurting

lonely

abandoned

and longing

for someone to affirm that they belong.

Allow His love our hearts to pierce

and His eyes to be ours with grace so fiercely

extended to everyone bought by His death.

That bear His warm life-giving breath.

His adoration.

His absolute and undeserved grace.

Just as we do.

I earnestly

fervently

passionately pray that we can truly repent and

Recover.

our.

Souls.

image, by Cheppy Japz, found at: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/empty-soul-cheppy-japz.html
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Are You One of The “Tolerant” Swine

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My son and I were recently discussing the current cultural fad of crying for tolerance while being completely intolerant of anyone who dares to disagree with an individual’s particular views, lifestyle choices, beliefs, etc.  We were both explaining our frustrations with the immaturity that is so evidently displayed by those who demand that one think, act, or believe exactly as they do or else be given the moniker “Intolerant Bigot!” or the like. And then there’s the ever over-used, misquoted and misrepresentation of Christ’s words “Judge not” if one dares to speak a word of dissension with a popular opinion.

We both find it amazing that so many are completely blind to their intolerant “tolerance” and are so very narrow-minded and arrogant that they are unable to entertain, or even calmly listen to, a differing perspective – and will vehemently debate that theirs is the only right perception – all while hurling insults and infantile name-calling towards the offender who dares to not share their opinion.  Simply, and discouragingly, amazing.

While talking about the increasingly argumentative nature of society and their intolerance for varied viewpoints, I said simply “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.  It’s not worth the argument.”  This got me thinking (a dangerous thing at times) about the nature of swine and what this portion of scripture could possibly mean.

Consider: Swine will eat anything.  They have no discernment or discriminating tastes. Whatever is placed in front of the swine, if hungry, will be devoured.  A swine will eat until he is full, but as soon as there is a vacancy in his stomach, he will devour whatever else is immediately available to satisfy his hunger urge. Isn’t this a picture of what has become of our society?  Whatever is most visible, and touted as important most often, is grabbed hold of and devoured by indiscriminate people who swallow it all without question and then look round for the next great outcry that they can scarf up to feed their hunger for drama and self-importance.

The government says that an issue is critical (like, for instance, a flag) and throws out its “feed”, filled with vilifying language, particles of semi-true information, and subtle innuendos that all who don’t swallow the hand-fed swill are hateful and bigoted folk.  So society gobbles it up without bothering to examine what they’re devouring for corruption, rottenness, or truth-vacant toxins.

“Religion” throws out the seeds of dissension and animosity, under the guise of “righteousness” and “favor”, and demands that others live up to impossibly perfect-looking standards created in the mind of a pompous (not pious) human who claims to be speaking for God.  However, the example being set is a far cry from the examples  of grace, love, humility, and even truly righteous judgment – given by Christ.  Yet because it is peppered with improper scripture and seasoned with legalism disguised as holiness, it is gobbled up almost madly by those who are naive and emotionally vulnerable – only to be self-righteously vomited back out over others in an effort to obtain some sense of spiritual self-significance………… (Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?)

The media feeds one-sided images of violence and controversy every few days, seeming to delight in the fact that their negative, offense-stirring, hatred laced “commentaries” do nothing to improve society or encourage unity in a nation that is torn.  Instead, they throw around words like “bigots”, “racist”, “intolerant”, and “prejudice” with a glibness that testifies to their belief that society is but a mass of ignorant beasts who will fight and battle for a piece of whatever has been thrown at their feet to eat.  Sadly, much of society has proven the media’s belief to be true by acting like mind-numbed, illiterate swine who cannot think for themselves and are too lazy to try.

For God’s sake.  When did our society become so obtuse?

Is it not obvious that society is being led to the slaughter completely engorged on the tripe with which they have been slopped? Devouring the fecal matter that is being fed by a self-aggrandizing government, some very visible but very wrong religious charlatans, and an arrogant media – all while refusing to seek out the truth buried in the filth, or to graciously allow for differing perspectives, opinions, and choices – is the norm for most these days.  The crude simpletons.  The “swine” of our society.

How about wading through the waste that is being offered and digging through the dung to find some balance?

How about refusing to swallow the rubbish that everyone who disagrees with you is an intolerant bigot, and give tolerant space for differences?  (I thought intolerance was the refusal to accept differences anyway.  But I must have gotten that wrong somehow.)

How about having intelligent conversations about important issues instead of stale squabbles about things that will be nothing more than refuse in the grand scheme of things?

Here’s one.  So many things go on around us while society gnaws on and feuds over the noxious and negligible filth that we’re being malnourished with to distract. How about actually reading and researching some of the real crises happening?  Things like people being slaughtered for their beliefs.  Children being sold as sex-slaves.  Personal agendas being passed through government – riding incognito on the coattails of a bill – that take away more of those rights everyone so adamantly cries out for… the list is long when it comes to real things we should be feeding on instead of the tripe that is so easily accessible.

Refuse to be a swine. Read. Research. Entertain opposing opinions.  Listen to perspectives different from your own. Seek out truth.

You might find some real pearls of wisdom amidst all of the rubbish.

“Love Wins” and the Confederate Flag

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Recently we spent a week away to get a break from the stress and struggles of work/life.  We had no wifi while on vacation, and perhaps that was a good thing. What I was able to see on my newsfeed – at random moments and locations during the week – made me sad and frustrated.
So much dissension. So much division. So much immaturity and selfishness.

With all of the controversy surrounding flags and gay marriage this past week It seems that, if someone disagrees with another person’s opinion/choices/convictions, then they are “hateful”, “stupid”, “prejudiced”, and to be immediately unfriended. Really?

As has been so prevalent of late, it seems that if one person flies a flag according to the heritage they’ve learned – and another sees it as a hurtful reminder of things or a symbol of division – then those two individuals cannot ever abide in the same “space” as friends, family, or comrades. The ONLY possible explanation is that one or the other is filled with hatred, bigotry, and evil.

Or if one agrees with the Supreme Court decision – and another does not – then those two individuals also cannot possibly occupy the same “space”, the same family, or the same circle of friends. One or the other of them MUST have a heart filled with spite, ugliness, and (again) hatred.

So let me make sure I’ve got this right. You cannot rightly hold a differing opinion from another person in your life. It can’t be rationally discussed. The differences can’t be reasonably heard. No agreement, compromise, or even agreement-to-disagree can be reached. Having different opinions causes such a breach in the relationship that it cannot be overcome – and the relationship is set aside because someone doesn’t think, act, believe, speak, just like you do. Is that how it is?

What a very boring, predictable, immature, and narrow-minded life that thought process dictates.
To surround oneself with only those who are a mirror image is to design a life void of creativity, challenge, and critical thinking. To only be around those who think and act as we do is to stifle any chance for growth or increasing in maturity. To demand that those you know be no different… hold no different opinion/conviction… and to characterize them with unkind and hateful labels, if they dare to think differently, is arrogant and prideful.

When you have walked every step that someone else has walked, and you have heard – and really listened to – the experiences, learnings, and cultural biases that have brought them their convictions and opinions, then, and only then, can you begin to understand whether someone’s heart is truly evil and knowingly full of hatred. I can guarantee that, the majority of the time, that is not the case.

However it’s much easier to spew venom towards someone who disagrees with us than it is to have REAL, HONEST give-and-take conversation in order to learn from one another.

Last time I checked it was entirely possible to disagree with someone’s lifestyle, choices, or thoughts and still love that person and/or treat them with respect and dignity as a God-created human being. If you find that isn’t possible, no matter which side of an issue you stand upon, perhaps a SELF-examination is needed.

Time to grow up.

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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11056543_10152919842641179_8700559709711379137_oAs the internet is overrun with the story of the Duggar family’s skeletons in the closet, and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) coming out, the opinions and commentaries are on the verge of “breaking” the internet.  Opinions range from staunch defense of the Duggar Family or Jenner’s choices, to absolute outrage about the same.  There are those who attribute every perceived failure to Obama and the Democrats – or to Conservatives and Republicans (which, btw, are not one in the same).  Others cannot voice their opinion without it being done via creating an argument that blames the issue on religion and either the belief in God, or the lack thereof.  Still others seem to have lost all sense of decorum, dignity, respect for others, or even self-respect and spew their thoughts with vile words, profanity, and crass indifference to the feelings of any family members who may be hurt, or offended, by their damaging words.  Disagreeing with “popular opinion” earns the labels of “hate mongers” or “bigot”, “Intolerant” or “ignorant”.

It’s a disturbing trend.  A quick and violent shove towards mind-numbing same-ness and lack of sufferance for those who dare to be different – or at least those who dare to express their opinions that differ from the supposedly moral, or immoral, majority.

Can we put our big girl/boy britches on and grow up?!

Disagreement with an opinion, no matter how popular that opinion, does not equal “hate speech” in an intelligent and thinking society. Simply disagreeing with someone – or their lifestyle – does not indicate hatred or evil. It is entirely possible to disagree, even vehemently, yet continue to treat one another with civility, respect, dignity, and fierce love.

This, my friends, is why we were designed with a mind, will, and emotions rather than created as clones of one another all marching in the same direction and step. What would be the point and purpose?

Will we always agree? Of course not.

Should we be free to express our varying opinions? With respect, kindness, and appropriateness – absolutely.

Will we convince others to agree with our feelings? At times we may.

When someone disagrees with us, and will never agree with us, is this a sign of an evil heart or villainous motives? Come on. Really?

And this one is specifically for those who claim “Christ-follower”….
Is it our responsibility to condemn others “outside the faith”, convince them of perceived wrongs, and convict them in the courts of our minds and social media feeds? No. It is not.
It is our responsibility to point them to the heart of Christ through our own actions, words, faith, and evident love. The rest is between them and their Father, God.

Why intolerantly crying for tolerance – from either side of the opinion – when what we really want is for everyone to think, act, and be as we are or they’re wrong, Wrong, WRONG?

For the sake of intelligent thought and growing up, let’s give room for mature and civil disagreement without cutting people off, arrogantly “unfriending” those who have other opinions, calling names, and resorting to overall petty immature arguments.

Please.

PS Christ-followers: (Holding fellow Christ-followers accountable to scripture is another thing entirely. We’d better be doing that – with all love and humility – or we can’t truly love one another well)

Who Are You – Really?

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When your words and actions can continue to be consistent – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when integrity follows you.

When your opinion of another remains the same – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you can be trusted with relationships.

When it isn’t necessary to play the victim role or the pity card for attention – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you are strong in character… and in internal stature.

When your personality and values do not change – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you carry yourself with authenticity.

When you no longer need to “keep up with the Jones” – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your security is not in things, and you have learned to be content.

When your convictions remain firm – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your beliefs are your own, and not wavering with the winds.

When your worship and wonder of God remains outside of Sunday mornings – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your “love relationship” is with God and not 4 walls of brick and mortar.

Who are you?

Taking no thought of who is present…… or who has walked away……..

Who are you?

God Can’t Make Me Sick

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God can’t – won’t – doesn’t make me sick.  He cannot do so.

I’ve known good people who got sick. I’ve known not-so-good people who got sick.  And I’ve known Godly people who got sick unto death.

I’ve also heard, at times, someone say “God made me sick”, God caused this for His purposes”, or “God must’ve needed another angel” when someone has died.

If I said “I hate to disagree” I would be dishonest.  I don’t hate to disagree.  I, very adamantly, disagree with the notion that God makes us sick or needs us in Heaven and so He causes us to suffer with agonizing symptoms and to waste away miserably and painfully with our families/friends aching as we die.  That is the opposite of the heart of Christ.  And Jesus – very boldly – said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”.

When Jesus walked the earth, He. Healed.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” – Matthew 4:23

“…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” – Luke 6:18-19

“but the crowds… followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:11

There are no instances where Christ made someone sick, or caused someone to be sick.  None.

There are no instances where Christ caused someone’s death because God “needed them”.  Matter of fact, Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up.  Four. Days. Later.

AND, Elijah and Enoch simply went to be with the God of the Heavens.  They weren’t stricken with a disease and painfully suffer until they died.  They “went to be” with God.  Moses, Methusaleh, Adam, Joseph, the list goes on of those who knew God and simply lived until they died.  They lived their years of promise and their bodies “resigned” so that they could be with the God Who made them.

Nope.  God doesn’t make me sick.  He can’t.  It would require that He go against His own character, which would make Him dishonest.  And God is not able to lie.  He is not capable of darkness.  There is no sickness or death in Him.

Then where does sickness originate?

As Christ-followers…. actually, as human beings created in the image of God, we have an enemy.  From the time that Adam and Eve were created to this day, the “enemy of our Spirit” – in other words Satan (yes, he does exist) – has sought to prevent us from drawing close to God, from trusting God, from understanding His fierce love, and from receiving His undeserved yet freely given grace.  He has fought, rather warred, against mankind in an effort to keep us from what he no longer has – a relationship with and direct access to God.

And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they opened the way for sin, disobedience, disease, and death to enter into the life of every man who would follow.  Sin. Darkness. Death. They all entered this, now fallen, world and were followed by natural consequences and all things “bad”.

Why did God allow it?  Why were these things given entrance into the world? Because man chose.  Man chose to disobey and, therefore, to allow the spirit that was contrary to God’s to come into the world.

Why does God allow good, Godly, people to suffer with sickness? I don’t know why some are supernaturally healed and others remain ill.  I don’t know why some are miraculously preserved from death and others join God too early.  I don’t know.  And neither does anyone else.

There are some things we don’t understand.  But what we should understand is (again) where Christ said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen My Father”.  We should understand how the disciples continued to affect the world like Christ and they healed others in His name.  They didn’t cause others to be sick.  They didn’t wish sickness on anyone.  They DID admonish, at times after healing someone, to go and change the habits/patterns of life or suffer consequences worse than the original sickness.  However, the disciples never prayed for someone to get sick or gave them a sickness. They followed Christ’s example and healed… cured… those who were diseased.

If you believe that God caused you to be sick, or made you sick, then why ask others to pray for you to be healed?  Wouldn’t that be asking God to go against Himself?  Seems like a waste.  Or a contradiction.

Selah.

“Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

“…Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.…” – James 5:14-16

Don’t Leave the Tent!

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Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent.  When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses.  And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.  Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. – Exodus 33:7-11

This is one of my favorite passages in scripture.  Most people aren’t even aware that it is there.  However, I think it is a very powerful story of worship and of the presence of God.

Every time I read this snippet of the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, I am struck by several things.

The first is in verse 7.  It says that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting….”.  So the tent of meeting was placed outside of the camp, but it was available for anyone who wanted to go and seek God.  Anyone who wanted to be in His presence was invited to go out to the tent of meeting, at any time that they desired.  However, this short passage doesn’t mention anyone going to the tent except for Moses and Joshua.

The second is that, whenever Moses would go to the tent, the people would get up and stand in the doorways of their own tents and watch for a sign that God’s presence was visiting Moses.  And when they would see the pillar of cloud they would stand and worship from their own tent doors… they would worship from afar…

The people who had been rescued from the enslavement of the Egyptians, though invited, didn’t enter the tent of meeting to be in God’s presence. They stood at a distance and watched for their leader to enter God’s presence and then they worshipped without drawing near.  Never experiencing His presence for themselves.  Never investing themselves in taking the journey to where God’s presence was housed. Selah.  (Pause and think on that)

And then there’s Moses.  The passage says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend.  When Moses would go out to spend time in God’s presence, then God talked with him.  Personally.  Intimately.  Comfortably.  As if speaking to a close friend.

Finally, the passage names Joshua.  Scripture says that Joshua was a young man, and that he never left the tent of meeting.  He, in spite of his youth, made the decision to remain where God’s presence resided.  He did not leave.  He literally chose to LIVE where God was.  He determined that he wanted, more than anything else at that time, to spend his days – and his nights – communing with God.

Such a powerful “little” story.

In the Old Testament, the presence of God was housed in one location.  The Israelites chose to remain a distance from this place and worship God without drawing near to His face and presence.  They stayed, “safely”, removed from where the powerful evidence of God would appear.  Joshua, on the other hand, chose to remain incessantly where God was. Night and day He sought after God.

Of the two, who do we more resemble in these advanced times?  The ones who have been freed from the enslavement of the enemy, yet we worship the One Who paid for our freedom and liberty from afar?  Or the one who longed to be nowhere else but face-to-face with God?

God’s presence is no longer housed in a specific tent outside the city.  It is no longer inaccessible to those who refuse to leave the safety of their own comfort zone.  Wherever we are, God, Himself, is there….  Scripture, in Psalm 139: 7-10 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

And Jeremiah 23:24 says “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.”

There is nowhere that we can go where God’s presence does not reside.  His presence is in even the most secret of places.  And it is our choice whether to abide… remain… LIVE in His presence, or to stand back and watch others spend time with Him, as one spends time with a close friend, and miss out on knowing Him intimately.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

Don’t leave the tent.