Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What Kind of Christian are You???

I remember when the word "Christian" meant "follower of Christ" and Christians cared for the sick, the poor, refugees, and showed love for all mankind. Oh, wait... it still does!  But now the term has been twisted by right-wing extremists so that it seems to mean, "self-serving haters of the down-trodden, sick, poor, or any other race." It's to the point one must ask, "What kind of Christian are you?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Christians live on some type of moral high-ground, doing all the good in the world. Not at all. Sure, there are countless examples of people, even whole congregations, doing wonderful things in the name of Jesus, sharing His love and example by building homes, buying coats for cold people, and sharing food. But you don't have to be Christian to do this... you just have to be a good person and love others. Tons of people do the same things every day without a thought towards Jesus or any type of religion at all. It's just what caring people do.

In this case, how did these things become associated with being Christian? Or, just as important, why would it be a problem if these things were NOT done? Yes, there are poor people. Always have been, always will be. Sure, there are sick people. Tough luck. No reason to go out of your way to change that, right? Besides, some of "them" aren't like "us" and so it really doesn't make sense to help them out, right? Matter of fact, it doesn't make sense to waste valuable tax money on educating poor people, or helping them have a place to live, or food to eat.. it's not like they'll go away if we do. There will just be more poor people to take their place. No, much smarter to use this money to help out your friends and take lavish trips.  

But that's NOT right. How do I know? Because Jesus said"When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me."  The good people around him asked, "When did we do that?" He answered, "Whenever you did it for others no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me."  (Matthew 25:35-40)

There are folks running around, spouting off about being Christian, but they hate others. "Love your neighbor" only counts if they happen to love their neighbor, and it doesn't extend to strangers that can't help them at all. The reason for reminding others they're Christian is for selfish reasons at times, but nonetheless, this is their claim. It might be good for their business and sure helps for political reasons. 

But there's a reason they feel the need to say it so much... because you wouldn't know otherwise.   Showing hatred towards others is not Christ-like.  Taking away needed services such as education and food are not Christ-like. Screaming hateful things towards others is not Christ-like. Where is the compassion? the mercy? the generosity? the love?  

This is an extremely distressing situation to me.. I'm not used to feeling ashamed of people that claim to represent my faith. it angers me to be in this position, which in turn bothers me for feeling anger towards them.  All I know is what Jesus taught, and showed by example. I'm far from perfect, but it doesn't stop me from trying to live by His example.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" (Matthew 7:15-16)  The fruits of the spirit (of God) are love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.  Considering we are all known by our fruits (our results), some of these fruits are missing in action.  

Non-Christians see those that call themselves Christians protest funerals, scream hateful things at refugee children, and use their clout to cut back Headstart programs, benefits for Veterans, and food stamps. They see them refuse to treat those of different races fairly, and deny people's rights if they disagree with them.  Is it any wonder some non-Christians think Christians are mean hypocrites?

It isn't that "Christians" are like this, but that those false Christians are not following Christ, and therefore, are not Christians, despite whatever label they claim.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

So The Moon Isn't Made of Cheese After All...

Reflections on the Moonwalk

It certainly doesn't seem that long, but it's been 45 years since man walked on the moon. Among all the random memories of my childhood, this day is one of the ones that stands out to me.  When I hear the phrase, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," or hear someone mention the moonwalk, it's as if it all comes to me, in a chunk of memories, even though as an adult, I realize they aren't all related. Yet, they ARE related because in my mind, my brain put them all in a file called, "Day of Moonwalk." Apparently, it's all or none with me. (I tend to get the big picture and "know" the fragments intuitively when writing books as well.)

As odd as it seems, I suppose that half of the people alive today, everyone under the age of 45, were born after the moonwalk - it's a historic event that happened before they were born, lumped in with ancient pyramids, medieval castles, the Pilgrims, and world wars.  "Modern folks" don't realize just how scary this was... we didn't know if they'd make it back alive, and if it'd change them physically in some way. (yes, it was a real concern!) This moon-walking thing was a really BIG deal!    Being in mid-July, this was most likely pretty much about all that was going on. We were in the middle of summer break and in Tennessee, this meant it was hot and humid... with few air conditioned places available.

I was 11 years old, just old enough to understand what was going on.  Days earlier, we watched the rocket lift off that would carry men to the moon.. yes, the moon... what a fascinating thought. In the days between launch and touch-down, television stations explained the science behind the mission. But the part that touched me was the humanness behind the story. The astronauts had families, kids my age, that might never see them again. I wasn't the only one to fear they'd crash when they landed on the moon, or miss the pick-up connection, or who knows what? Two landed on the moon, and one circled around in order to pick them up for the return home. One of my memories of that time was my sadness for him - taking the chances but not getting to walk on the moon. I felt sorry for him.

Finally "the day" arrived - they'd be actually stepping out on the moon "in the middle of the night" or so I thought... Years later I looked it up and discovered it was just about midnight Central time. Completely unrelated to the moonwalk in any way that I'm aware, we went shopping earlier in the day. it was such a special trip - to Kmart.  (Yes, indeed, a sheltered life since that was exciting! But back then, people didn't shop as often as we do know and there were fewer places to go.)  I vaguely remember that we bought quite a few things, but I only remember two things, and think of them when I think of the moonwalk.

Although it may have been available before, we bought a "new" rose called Peace that day. I remember thinking that it was such a wonderful name, one that matched it's delicate yellow and pink colors. (Read it's fascinating history at the link below.)  It's still a favorite of mine today, one I've purchased many times since. The special purchase that day was a color TV, our very first one. (Many shows were still black and white)  My guess is that perhaps my parents had recently received their tax refund or some lump amount of money because expensive shopping trips were definitely not the norm.  It was so exciting.

We were sent to bed early, but told they'd get us up when it was time. I was so worried for the astronauts that I had trouble falling asleep.  When we got up, that was the topic on TV of course. Walter Cronkite was our guide to all things historic back then and this was no exception.

it was quite ironic that we had a new color TV, as we used it to watch the fuzzy black and white video of men wearing white on a gray moon. It seemed an engineering marvel that we were able to actually see this video... and I suppose it was.  Even though I was still a child, I remember them planting the American flag on the moon.  "One small step for mankind. One giant leap for mankind." Oh, the possibilities...

One of the things that really interested me was the scope of the coverage and interest, from small towns across the country to big cities around the world - this was a worldwide event. After the moonwalk coverage, my younger sisters went back to bed - of their own choosing. But I begged to stay up to see more. They showed people all over the world gathered around a TV to see it. I remember seeing coverage of a lot of people on the sidewalk gathered around a shop window in some faraway country with this report on it. At another place, it was an interview with someone at the Royal Palace in London - how that touched my fancy! The reporters were in faraway places like Japan, Brazil, even Africa!

After the moonwalk, they had to be picked up for the trip home. That was a delicate undertaking, but obviously, one they accomplished. In the days that followed, there was TV coverage about the families waiting at home. No one knew what would happen to those that had been on the moon. Would they have some terrible germs? Once they arrived, they were quarantined for quite a while, just in case.

In terms of space travel, we've come a long way, reaching far, far out into the universe. We're unlocked mysteries and created new wonderings.  There's even an International Space Station, manned by people from around the world. But for all that, I'm not sure that we've really done things much more amazing than that trip to the moon so long ago.   It's hard to believe it's been that long.

Do you remember the moonwalk? what are your memories?

The History of the Rose called "Peace" 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our Lives are like... the Weather???

A Moment of Insight at the Red Light

This summer has been a roller coaster at times. Rather than the “Get hot and stay there” of some years, we’ve had warm days, cooler days, hot days, back and forth. After a too-cold-for-too-long-without-a-break winter, I think people are reluctant to complain as it hasn’t been terrible, and if it’s hot, there are cooler days in the forecast, so lots of breaks. 

Until today…..  it’s been hot for days, but “TOO HOT” today. The weather outside is so oppressively hot and humid that the weatherman called it steamy.   Currently, it’s 96 degrees, hot even for us, with high humidity… don’t even want to know the heat index as I know it’s well over 100. (Our average high for this date is 88.)  But we’re saved from sheer torment by the constant breeze. It’s a brisk breeze, the kind you have at the beach, but breeze or not, the air is just plain hot. 

As often happens in the summer, the increasing humidity will build up until the air finally says, “Okay, I’ve had it. Take this!” and with a rumble of thunder, it begins to rain. Forecasters are calling for pretty bad storms with hail, gusty winds, lightning, and rain… lots of rain.  In the next day or so, we’re expecting about 2” of rain – just what the gardens need.

But afterwards? Business as usual? Nope. We’re being treated to unseasonably cool weather for days. They’re calling for HIGHS in the 70s for a few days beginning Tuesday! Oh, the joy!  

Sitting at a red light about an hour ago, I watched what appeared to be waves of heat rising from the asphalt. (There’s a scientific explanation about this mirage but it’s been decades since I sat in science class, and chances are, didn’t understand it at the time anyway.) All I know is that until I take some time off to get my air conditioner serviced, I must drive with the windows down and it’s really hot when the car isn’t moving. 

 As I waited, the hot air stifling me, I thought of the forecast and suddenly realized it’s like our life journeys, all in a weather forecast! We just go along from day to day, noting the ups and downs, good days and bad, but not getting too bent out of shape over it.   Just as today’s heat is a hardship for some and annoying for many, it represents the hardships and bad times in life.  It could be something physical we deal with, or stress at work or with the family, but there are times when we struggle.  Some struggles are outwardly visible, like a job loss, or a medical diagnosis. Other struggles may be fought silently, with mental stress and uncertainty, perhaps even wrestling with our faith. Just as in a storm, we are rarely alone, even if it seems that way. God is there... always.

Then, as tears pour out, literally or figuratively, we are soaked. Afterwards, we could be drained or exhilarated, but not left untouched.  Then, the heat is gone… life calms down, and there’s a period of better times ahead. Problems aren’t gone, but under control.  The roller coaster ride of the weather forecast is like our lives, up and down, swaying a little from side to side, scary at times, and thrilling at others. 

So that was my insight. The light turned green and I continued my journey… but I may never look at a weather forecast in quite the same way again.