Thank You for My Troubles

There are benefits to being a grateful person, it is good for our souls. Being thankful helps us get through tough times and tends to bring to mind thoughts of empathy for others. Christians may have heard that God wants us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2).  In Islam, believers should be thankful throughout the day. For Taoists, gratitude will automatically move you toward positive power, with some commenting that they can feel grateful for the influence trouble had on them, but not thankful for the pain they suffered. There is a Buddhist prayer “May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion.” When the troubles come, can we find a reason to be thankful and find the good when things are going so bad?  Let’s challenge ourselves to do it:  fight fear with trust, battle despair with hope, conquer weakness with strength, crush doubt with faith, repel hate with kindness, replace anger with peace, honoring God with praise in our struggles.  Never stop praying and always find a reason to be thankful.

Thank you God for my sadness, feeling down is not where you want me to stay, so recognizing this encourages me to seek joy.

Thank you for the problems I have to face at work, at least I am being paid to deal with them and find solutions and make improvements, and you so often provide ideas to help.

Thank you for the times when I feel lonely so that I may find comfort in knowing that you, God, are always there and will never leave my side.

Thank you for the housework and laundry that never goes away, if I had no home, clothes or possessions, my “to-do” list would be different but by no means better.

Thank you for my losses and heartaches. If I hadn’t loved so much, it wouldn’t hurt this bad.

Thank you for my health troubles, these physical ailments remind me to listen and to take care of my body, where your Holy Spirit resides throughout my life.

Thank you for transportation challenges, because I need a ride, friends and family have been there for me to get me where I need to go, or perhaps some days you use car trouble as a way to protect me.

Thank you for disagreements, confusion, only with differences of opinions and times of questioning can we have an open mind for what is new and the desire to learn and understand.

Thank you for my weariness and fatigue, this is a signal that I need to find ways to rest and rejuvenate.  By letting go and letting you carry my burdens, you will renew my strength.

Thank you for the pressure and stress that comes my way, this discomfort may be your way of pushing me onto the path that you, God, want me to follow.  This test may be critical for my spiritual growth.

Thank you for putting us into situations that seem impossible, only then will we be able to experience the miracles that you have stored up for me and my loved ones.  When our hope is all but lost, divine authority can prevail and we can trust that nothing is impossible for you God.

God, thank you for my troubles.  You are in control.  You are good.  You are able to bring me through.

Facing Your Fears

Photo by Emre Kuzu on

When I was a teenager, I had a reoccurring dream.  My brothers and I were going to cross an expansive arched pedestrian bridge over a large body of water.  It was a gorgeous, warm summer day.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining.  We were laughing and having fun.  We would decide is was a great day for crossing over the lake.  Once we made it to the middle of the bridge, everything would change.  A storm would come in with dark clouds, heavy rain and fierce winds.  Soon the metal side rails of the bridge would bend and break with large sections of the bridge crashing into the water.  My brothers and I would hang on as long as we could but eventually we would each fall to our deaths.  That was how it seemed to me as I awoke shaken, scared and glad that this was just a dream.   It all happened the same way in my dreams, many times, over a period of several months.  My brothers and I would be fearful about going on the bridge but with the fine weather, we thought we’d be able to make it across without trouble.  I never quite knew why we were so eager to get to the other side of the bridge.

One night, the dream was different.  It was the same bridge and I was with my brothers again, but this time the weather was terrible.  It was winter, we were in a snow squall, the skies were dark and the winds were wicked.  The lake below the bridge was frozen solid.  We were afraid but we encouraged each other and thought that at least this time the weather wasn’t going to take us by surprise, we already knew it was awful.  We would hold tight to the rails the whole time we were making our way along the bridge.  We’d be prepared for the worst.  Just like before, as we made it to the middle zone of the bridge, the storm worsened and the bridge started to rip apart.  We hung on.  A couple sections of the bridge broke apart crashing down, this time breaking through the ice.  We tried our best not to fall but our best wasn’t enough, we lost our grip and went down, one by one.  We each broke through the ice, but instead of death or waking up out of the dream, we lived.  At the time of impact, it was like a protective bubble formed around our bodies.  We went through the ice into the water and the bubble allowed us to breathe underwater.  We could swim and move whichever way we wanted without any pain or discomfort.  We could easily see where we would need to go up through the ice if we wanted to return to the surface.  Soon we were doing flips and having a great time.  We couldn’t wait to tell our parents about the exciting adventure we had.  After that, I never had the dream of the bridge again.

Have you found that your walk with God is sometimes like my dream?  We may be asked to go somewhere that scares us.  There are risks.  We could get hurt or die.  The amazing thing is that if we can trust God to be there as we face danger, He will provide a hedge of protection.  We may fall, but God has us in His hands.  Should we stay on the side where it is safe?  Or should we take the chance to face our fears and perhaps experience something amazing and exhilarating that God has in store for us?  Trust God when you are fearful.  He will never let you down.

Isaiah 41:10   Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When I Pray…

When I Pray…

Let my prayers be full of praise to our great God who holds our lives in His tender loving hands.  When I pray, let my heart be ever-thankful for the blessings, beauty and bounty that God has created.  In my mind, let God remind me to see the positive side of any situation.  Let no seeds of negativity or hate planted by the devil take root.  Dwell on the best, those ideas sowed by God for our benefit.

When I pray, let my words express my love for God and others.  May my conversations with God be laced with amazement and faith that the ruler of the universe is always there for me 24/7.  That’s incredible!

When I pray, I should try not to run through a list of needs for myself or even for others.  Let me ask what I should give much more often than telling God what I want.  Let me praise more than I plead.  Let me give compliments much more often than airing complaints.  Instead of ticking off names and problems, let my prayers demonstrate the trust I have in the Lord.  He knows our needs better than we do and His plans are for our good.  Praying for His will to be done shows that we are dependent on His Love and that we are standing on His promises. 

Let my prayers speak of my appreciation for the strength we are given to overcome our challenges, for the hope that God gives for our future.  Let me recognize and see the miracles that take place all around.  God puts people in our lives to fulfill His purpose, for this, let me be grateful.  May I follow the example that Jesus taught by showing compassion and reflecting His good in my interactions with those around me. 

Let my prayer time involve listening for God’s voice and understanding the actions He asks me to take.  Let me freely surrender my control to God.  When I pray, may my words be with appreciation and honor for the love, joy, mercy, peace and forgiveness that God has generously poured onto me.  Let me be forever filled with awe for the powerful, wondrous ways of God.

Hallelujah & Amen!!!

Will You Blossom?

We all have seeds planted in us.  There may be dreams, gifts, even sorrows and hurts that are sowed in our souls that hold the potential for growth.  Many of the seeds may lie dormant.  Most seeds have a hard time growing unless they receive the attention, water, sunshine and nourishment they need to germinate.  The seed may be trapped in a hard shell which resists the initial steps in a long process.  Is it worth it even to try?  Getting to the point of blossoming will take a lot of time, often years pass where nothing beautiful is showing.  At times, the growth that has started may look barren and dead like a dried branch.  Yet, sticking with it, the next season may bring an improvement.  The roots may need time to develop.  Are you growing on the inside, establishing a strong foundation for how you will reach the heights that are in your future? 

There will always be obstacles in the way.  Years of progress and expansion may be followed by pruning and being cut short.  Don’t give up.  The end result is something spectacular.  God has place these special seeds in you.  He will give all the nourishment needed to get to your time of blossoming.  There will be challenges which have a purpose to make you strong.  Your blossoming will not be “one and done”.  Your growth and blooming will be a repeat performance.  The difference and meaning God puts into you to let you bloom can propagate as you plant seeds into others.  The world may be fighting you and doesn’t mind seeing you whither.  That cannot be an excuse.  God will be there to provide what you need in all seasons.  He can remove the weeds that may try to choke you out.  God and all the Heavens are rooting for you and are thrilled to see you blossom abundantly.  Give them an awesome show!!!  

New Neural Networks to Fix Our Brains

Think about it!  Think about anything.  We’ll need our brains to do it—our incredible mobile supercomputers that never sleep and control all the physical and mental processes of our bodies.  Scientists say that our brains, like our muscles, need to be used often to stay strong and function well.   Some talk about neural plasticity.  This is the property of our brain that allows it to create new neural networks which help us to process our emotions, to think in certain ways, and to understand and learn new things; it is how our brains work.  Children have the most brain flexibility.  Isn’t it amazing how little kids soak up information to learn about their world and build their language and communication capabilities?  It’s a good thing that most people go to school when they are young, our older brains may struggle to take in all the new ideas at a rapid-fire pace.  As our brains age, it becomes more and more important to keep exercising our neurons.  For example, doing math problems and mental calculations, make us better at doing math problems and mental calculations.  Practice makes perfect!  At any age, what we focus our thoughts on has a big impact on the quality and direction of our lives. 

What are you fixing your brain on?  Do you have a goal that you are working to achieve?  Is your mind doing its part to give you the discipline to make the daily choices and take the actions to reach that milestone?  If you are working on a change, like losing weight or breaking an addiction, is your brain helping or hindering your progress?  Does your brain focus on your physical desires and temptations?  Or are you able to create new patterns of thinking which bring new and improved behaviors?  You have to get your “head in the game” if you want the best chance of winning.  Sports professionals are told to envision themselves performing at top form.  This helps prepare them for success during the actual competition. 

Reading, listening, repeating words, songs and facts allows the brain to memorize and be able to recall them later.  Our brains love to dwell and to get stuck on a circular loop.  Repetition is essential for strengthening neural connections.  These may be good brain networks to build.  Sometimes your mind might get in a rut thinking about all the things you must do or latching on to worry or anxiety.  What can you do to stop the cycle of negative thoughts?  Many can find help and hope in mindfulness and meditation.  That’s wonderful when relief can be found to your mental anguish by achieving control over the thoughts entering your brain.  But it can be very difficult to clear thoughts from your mind and quiet your brain.  Feelings of guilt, anger, loneliness, sadness, distress and other ideas fight hard for your attention.  So rather than empty your brain, why not fill it?  Fix your thoughts on God instead.  Ask Him to replace old patterns of thinking with something new.  What consumes your mind, will control your life.  Fix your brain on praise, gratefulness, joy and love. 

Let’s pray for one another that we can fix our brains on God and be filled with His perfect peace.

Why Did God Destroy Sodom?

In the last few decades, it seems a lot of people have come ‘out of the closet’. Maybe it would be better to say the closet was replaced by a community.  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals now come together to support one another and seek acceptance.  Celebrities, siblings and children are being open about who they are choosing to love as their significant other and what gender they identify themselves with. 

       In the past, people struggled more with determining whether “coming out” was the right action for them.  Some lived a hidden life to avoid the judgments from others. Will the reaction be one of rejection or acceptance?  They have already felt isolation and have been affected by harsh opinions from society.  Homosexuals have been called abnormal, disgusting, sexually deviant, and immoral.  They may be considered sinful by religious organizations, criminals by intolerant governments, disliked by those who do not even know them, and sadly even becoming the target of deadly hate crimes.   They wonder how their parents, brothers, sisters, friends, classmates and co-workers will act when their true, self-identity is revealed.   Some loving family members may even consider it a “phase”; the person is just confused and will come around eventually.  A mother may believe that once her son finds the right girl, he’ll become “straight”, as if it were a decision he made and that he could make another choice any time he felt like it.  Overall, with all the trouble and risk associated being non-heterosexual, why would someone voluntarily elect to be so ostracized?  Is this simply attention seeking behavior?  Perhaps for some.  If the person cannot bear the thought of letting their parents or community know their real selves, life can become a game of ‘cover-ups’, with fear that the truth will be disclosed.  One thing is certain, everyone has an opinion on homosexuality and more often than not, the emotional response is strong, even extreme.  How many families have been broken apart by it?  How many children have been disowned?

      Many years ago I met a man that was gay, a friend of a friend.  I had heard him talking before seeing his appearance.  His voice was that of an older woman.  With that quick introduction, I believed that homosexuality must be based on biology and hormones.  The balance of biochemistry had shifted him from having the masculine characteristics that would be expected, and, instead, clearly feminine elements were being expressed.  He didn’t make a choice about this; he was made that way.  Just as every one of us is a unique combination of chemistry and biology beautifully brought to life, this was just one more element of the diversity of natural human development.  God made each of us special, without mistakes.

      Christian and Muslim believers may contend that “homosexual behavior is sinful”.  These people may not intend to disrespect anyone, but they firmly hold on to what they feel the Bible or the Qu ‘ran teaches on the subject.  Their level of acceptance may go so far as saying that judgment for how we each of us acts is to be left in the hands of God or Allah, but they may continue to think of gays and lesbians as sinners.  Christians may cite sections in the Bible as the basis for the conclusions they draw.  On that, my thought is, “No, I don’t think that is what the Bible says.” 

      One section of the Bible often quoted relative to homosexuality is I Corinthians, Chapter 6 verse 9&10, New Living Translation). 

9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality.

10 Or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

The judgement on homosexuality is equal to the judgement on greedy people and drunks or those that cheat people.  There were people acting terribly in the Church of Corinth; there was fighting, arguments and jealousies.  Some of the people were saying that they can do anything they want and still be considered followers of Christ (I Corinthians 6:12, New Living Translation).  But this section talks about how not everything is good for you and gives a warning about not becoming a slave to your behaviors.  Taking parts of the Bible and magnifying them without giving consideration to the context in which they were written can lead to misinterpretation. If I look only at the first verse of I Corinthians Chapter 7, it says “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” or “It is good to abstain from sexual relations” depending on the translation (King James Version & New Living Translation).  In verse 7 of the same chapter of the letter Paul is sending to the new Christians in Corinth, he wishes that all men were like himself, able to resist sexual desires.  But he knows most cannot have that much control over their passions, so he basically tells people to get married so you are not tempted into immoral actions.  In the verse right after the one condemning certain types of people to be excluded from God’s Kingdom, it talks about how Jesus died for sinners (I Corinthians 6:11) and then in the last verse of the chapter, a summary is provided.

 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God

20 For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

       I had always heard that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because homosexuality was rampant in those cities.  But reading Genesis 18:20 (King James Version), the Lord said “their sin is very grievous.”  He didn’t specify, but God and the angels looked long and hard to find at least ten righteous people so that the City of Sodom could be spared.  In Genesis 19:5, men come looking for the angels that had arrived to save Lot’s family and the men at the door want to rape the visitors.  Lot was even willing to turn over his two virgin daughters to the evil men outside his door in exchange for the protection of the angelic men within his home.  How horrible? 

      The real answer about the sin of Sodom popped out at me when reading Ezekiel Chapter 16, 49-52 (NLT), spoken to Jerusalem.   

49 Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

50 She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.

51 Even Samaria did not commit half your sins.  You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did.  They seem righteous compared to you.

 52 Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.

So, some of the biggest things that the Sodomites did wrong was not caring for the poor and being lazy.  In the KJV it said the people of Sodom were “haughty”.  I had to look that one up.  Haughty means arrogant and disdainful and treating people with scorn.  This doesn’t say anything about sexual orientation.  Societies who judge others as unworthy of God’s love instead of extending it, are falling into the trap that the people of Sodom were in.  In Ezekiel Chapter 18, there are many encouraging words from the Lord regarding sins of the soul, contrasted with doing what is right and lawful, and the life and death consequences of each of our actions.  It talks about how we are each responsible for our own thoughts and whether we choose to be righteous or wicked.  This section lifts up God’s way of dealing with us as just.  We will each be judged according to our ways.

      There is sure a whole lot said on the internet on the subject of homosexuality.  I am sure you could find opinions and convictions that line up with a full spectrum of feelings on the topic.  What I’m sharing here are my own individual thoughts.  I can find many speaking out in a similar fashion and many others who would contradict me.  I found thoughtful words from Janet Edmonds in “The Bible Doesn’t Say That Homosexuality is a Sin”.  I found heartfelt words from Matthew Vines.  There are people that say you cannot change the interpretation of the word of God just to fit the current changes in culture.  But you have to admit that the hateful and abusive culture of the world needs changing, thousands of years ago and today.  Things are pretty messed up.  Knowing that God gets personal with us as individuals, He wants to work on the hearts of each of us, in whatever unique situation we find ourselves in. He wants us to be humble and have a teachable spirit.  He wants us not to judge others “lest we be judged.”  He wants each of us to know that we are loved by Him.  God knows what is best for us and wants us to figure that out through a relationship with Him.   

      I feel for young people still in school and trying to figure out who they will be when they grow up.  If feeling attracted to the same sex is part of their emotional tapestry, or if they feel a conflict in the body they were born with, how much more difficult those years must be for them?  Kids can be so mean to each other.  Adults can be just as mean.  Churches and other religious organizations are making policies regarding human sexuality and it is disappointing when it seems the decisions are based on creating laws that exclude people and don’t make allowance for acceptance and love for one another.  Sometimes the rules become impersonal and take away the rights of individual communities to listen for God’s guidance for themselves. Should people attracted to same-sex partners really be lumped together with ‘abusers’ and ‘thieves’, and other evil people who won’t have a share in the blessings of God’s kingdom?  Is being a member of the LGBT community really a sin?

      What is sin?  God has tried over and over again to help us easily recognize it.  He gave Moses the Ten Commandments to share with his people.   Ten rules to live by.  That doesn’t seem so hard but for hundreds of years, people struggled with that covenant.  So Jesus comes.  He distills the commandments down to the essentials:  love God with all your heart and treat others the way you want to be treated.  Wow, it sounds so easy!  Are we able to do it?  When a man loves God and loves another man in a committed relationship, is he disobeying what Jesus said?  If he lies and tells people he is not a homosexual when in his heart he knows the truth, wouldn’t he then be breaking one of God’s Commandments? Let’s say he never held an evil thought toward others and trusted and listened to God throughout his life.  Is this man going to Hell?  When God looks into a woman’s heart and sees that she holds great love for Him and also observes the love she has for another woman, does God condemn her?  I say, “No, if the love in her heart is what is guiding her actions, then God is pleased with her.” 

      What if we looked at this from the perspective that individuals are placed specifically into our lives as part of a test of our ability to follow God’s desires?  Are we all able to love God and each other unconditionally?  Or is our ability to follow the example of Jesus’ love only in full force when our circumstances make it easy?   Are we only able to fully love those who we feel live the right way?  Life on Earth is filled with challenges, individual situations that drive our actions and beliefs.  The difficulties each of us face are as diverse as the people in the world itself.  If you or part of your family is impacted by homosexuality, don’t let the feelings it causes turn you away from God or let it interfere with relationships grounded in love.  Ask God how to respond and follow through on the messages He writes in your heart.  Through all things, let your thoughts and actions please God.  In God and by God, every single one of us is wonderfully made, equally lovable, equally special.  We all have a job to do in God’s Kingdom; we need to love and respect one another.  It is also important that we hold love and respect for ourselves, to develop the uniqueness that makes us into the person God intended us to be. 

      We’ll have many people cross our paths in our life’s journey.  There are people that sin by committing harmful, evil acts which cause emotional hurts, pain and suffering or physical death.  The Bible teaches that God will deal with the wicked.  If good people start doing evil, they must be put to death, while wicked people who start to do right can save themselves from punishment.  God says we are to give up our evil ways and think pure thoughts (Ezekiel 18:26-28).  We are able to find peace when we surrender ourselves into God’s hands and when we produce the fruits of the spirit, against which there is no law (Galatians 5:23).  For each person that is in our lives, we get to decide how we will treat them.  We may be asked to support them, pray for them, help them, care for them, no matter our differences.  We are not the ones to judge, we cannot see the state of someone’s heart.  God expects nothing less from us than for us to love one another just as Jesus has taught, the way He loves us.


Respect. Aretha Franklin sang about it, but has our modern culture forgotten how to show it? “Just a little bit?” Frequently we see it played out that when two people have differences, each is quick to demonize the other side. Insults, accusations, arguments and hatred are thrown back and forth in a game where there will be no winners. In today’s society, demonstration of mutual respect is sadly found to be lacking in politics, in neighborhoods, even in families. There’s certainly a better way for us to exist as members of civilized society.

Too bad we all couldn’t get down to the basics and follow the Golden Rule. Many religions teach a version of this common-sense virtue.

For example, in Hindu, the guidance goes back to ~3000 years B.C. from the Vedic tradition of India….

“This is the sum of duty. Do not unto others that which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517

Or as Confucius said in ~500 B.C….

“Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Analects 15:23

This has got to be Our Big God’s all time favorite way for each of us to behave.

From the video clips we see on the news, we are not doing so well at treating others as we’d want to be treated. Maybe we can blame the media because conflict gets attention and sells more than comradery. Yet, all we appear to be doing is stirring up intolerance. Two groups, standing at odds without anyone willing to be a bridge to find commonalities and ways to work together, doesn’t tend to lead to progress.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting where John Dingell Jr. was speaking. He served in the US Congress from 1955 to 2015. Someone asked him what was the biggest change he had observed from when he first started in Congress. I recall him describing the tight knit family feel in his early years. Party affiliation was less of a factor when it came to who socialized with whom. Dingell said people would get to know one another, their spouses, their children. They would visit each other’s homes and have meals together. This spirit of caring for one another could carry over into debates held on the House Floor regarding the best decisions to make for the country. Now, instead, there is marked party division. There is less effort taken to seek out common ground.

People want “their way”, which they think to be the “right way”, or it’s “no way”. The trouble is that in today’s complex world, as was the case years ago, there are big problems to solve. We need smart people with influence to come together to determine the proper path forward. On a global level, we need to find solutions for the betterment of mankind. The world is not as big as it used to be. We are all interconnected and what each part does has ramifications that are felt more immediately across country lines and oceans wide. We don’t need immature power plays, threats and intimidation. We need to listen. Hearing different points of view and being able to debate and discuss the best course of action can lead to transformation.

Recently, I read an article called “The Art of Arguing” by Caleb Jenkins (Fowlerville News and Views, January 20, 2019). The author talked about the difference between arguing and debating. He said, in a debate, “two or more differing viewpoints are discussed respectfully and factually.” He shared good advice on the subject(s). It seems clear that we would be moving in the right direction if we brought respect and honesty into our conversations.

Differences between individuals that are handled disrespectfully can harm relationships. Clashes between groups can ignite violent emotions, with people getting hurt. Showing respect for one another demonstrates strength in character and morals. Putting R-E-S-P-E-C-T into practice would be an excellent start to following the Golden Rule. Set a high standard of behavior. Let’s not step down to a lower level.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Respectfully show God you can be the bigger and the better person. Pray over the situations. Ask God to grant restraint, patience to listen, grace, wisdom and discernment. Ask God for answers. Ask that you are given the strength of character needed to show respect generously and indiscriminately. “Sock it to me” (Aretha Franklin, Respect, Album: I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Universal Music Publishing Group, 1967).

When Souls Ache, There is Action to Take

It seems everywhere we turn there are people struggling. Perhaps a family member or friend is facing a health challenge. Or you hear about an accident or a natural disaster impacting strangers or those you know. Addiction, depression, grief, troubled relationships and hurts cause our souls to ache. Maybe it is you who is going through a tough time. Our hearts get heavy and you want to help or make the difficulty go away. The situation may not be fixable; it may be outside of anyone’s control. But there is always an action to take that is powerful and purposeful: PRAY!

Your prayer may be for a healing miracle or for peace and knowledge that God is holding the hand of each person involved. The prayer could be one of thankfulness for God granting strength and understanding to you. God’s Word has guided us that there are many ways to pray, there is no wrong way, and we can pray without ceasing. We can do it wherever and whenever we want. I’ve heard some people say that their problems are theirs to deal with, that God has more important things to do than to listen to their complaints and concerns. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The wonderful truth is that our God is infinite, omnipotent and omnipresent—His ability to pay attention to each and every one of us is never depleted.

God is asking for our action and thoughts and often we find what He wants us to do is in opposition to our instincts. Prayers for ourselves yield more power if they come from an attitude of humble submission, releasing control and surrendering it all to God. When praying for others, God wants us to be warriors. We need to have confidence to ask God to do big things for the benefit of aching souls. We can pray with thankfulness and tell God we trust Him. When we don’t know what to say, there is a song that says “Just say Jesus”. That is the amazing power of prayer and God, we don’t really have to say anything, just fix our thoughts on Him and He knows the reasons our souls ache. He knows the outcomes. He has invited us to enter His peace and put our souls into His care. We can know that no matter what happens, we can have hope, confidence and anticipation that when our earthly journeys end, we will make it to Heaven. We can pray with thankfulness for that.

Get your ‘to do’ list ready—PRAY TODAY! Aching souls are in need of your action. God Bless!

Harry Potter, Twilight & The Bible

Books, I love them!  Going into a library or a bookstore can be a step toward an adventure, an awakening of ideas, and the mastering of a subject. With all the books organized by author, by topics and right there within reach, you could travel far away in your imagination. Those feelings have fueled a lifelong passion for books. Whether reading to entertain, educate, escape, unwind, hear opinions or gain inspiration, I have been drawn to the written word.  You do not need electricity, a driver’s license or money, but oh, the places you could go!  To think that a book was so popular that it took the world by storm and left it changed.  This is what I wanted to read, something that many other people had or were reading.  Classic or popular fiction, would the book change me?  Whether it did or not, at the least, I would be able to decide what I thought of it.   Was it worth all the attention?   Did it give me new ideas or was it just an entertaining way to pass my time?

      As a young adult, I’d squeeze in an extra book in the summertime or between school semesters.  I enjoyed reading stories from Margaret Mitchell, John Steinbeck, Steven King and Ann Rice.  In more recent years, I would embrace both the Harry Potter and the Twilight series. These latter books certainly take the reader on a fun ride into a fantasy world of magic and super-natural abilities, where in the end, the power of love proves to be the greatest power of all.  The other thing wonderful about these books is that they brought back the joy of reading for a couple generations of youth being fully engaged in and inundated by all the videos that were taking over as the main means of sharing information.  Ah, the thrill of seeing how books can still change the world.

      One day, several years ago, I heard a DJ on the radio talking about the five top read books.  There are many different lists of top books based on various criteria.  I cannot say the source for the list I heard about that day, but as the titles and authors were read, I found that I had read four out of the five.  The one that I had not read was the Bible.  Well, I had read certain sections and had started to read it a couple times, but I had generally treated it more like a reference book.  Like a dictionary or an encyclopedia, I would turn to the part of interest and read the words out of context from the whole.  I never seriously thought about reading the Bible through as if it was a novel.  The small text and the number of pages had always intimidated me. 

      I knew there were schedules for reading the Bible in a calendar year, but I didn’t know anyone who did it, or if they had, it wasn’t a topic they talked to me about.  Sticking to a defined schedule wouldn’t be a good fit for my life.  There were weeks that went by without enough minutes in the day as it was.  I wasn’t going to set a goal that would have me quickly tossing in the towel or feeling guilty each day for missing the mark.  I already felt pretty stupid.  All these years thinking I was reasonably well read and looking to what others wrote and said to figure out what everything means instead of reading the Word of God.  It was about time I went to the source. 

      As I read the Bible, I did it with a sense of skepticism.  I wanted the words to prove themselves as more than something written by man.  Maybe you consider this irreverent? Also, is it wrong to approach the Bible as if it were the latest “NY Times Bestseller”?  To read it myself would let me see what all the fuss is about.  Would I like it and by moved by it?  I kept my mind open.  I allowed myself to be critical and to have doubts.  As opposed to bringing all my preconceived notions and what I’ve been taught before, I considered this to be a fresh start.  I didn’t go to the deepest level of disbelief as if to say, “I don’t believe there is a God, Bible prove I’m wrong.”  I knew that a Greater Power exists.  That belief has been based less on what I have read and more on what I feel.  But still, what is God like?  The way I look at it is that God gave me a brain that asks questions, why would He hold it against me to wonder about who He is?  Is He a vengeful God of “Fire and Brimstone”?  Is He Jesus, an All-Loving God of forgiveness and grace?

      I started with the “New Testament” since Christmas was coming in several weeks. This way the books I was reading would tie to the “reason for the season”…Christ.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are an easy, uplifting, read filled with the parables and the miracles of Jesus.  These are the Gospels, meaning “The Good News”.  Many of the stories were familiar to me from Sunday School and others were new to me.  I was surprised by Jesus saying that the people should not tell about miracles they witnessed.  At the time I read this, I thought, “Why not shout it from the rooftops?” 

      The Acts of the Apostles read like an action adventure book with shipwrecks and fabulous tales of visits to foreign lands.  I kept at it, not fully understanding the Epistles, Letters from Paul to the new Christian churches.  Later I would read a version of the New Testament with a historical perspective section precluding each book.  The statements made started to be clearer with knowledge of the context of the times and culture that Paul was addressing.  I started the “Old Testament” in March.  In all, it would take me sixteen months and 13 days to read the King James Version of the Bible.  I was not that quick, but I was proud of myself for staying dedicated to it. 

      At times I was shocked by what I read.  Sometimes, I thought “They didn’t tell me THAT in Sunday School!”  Stories of violence, cheating, lies, jealousy, incest, murder, war, power, weakness and conflict revealed real people, many quite broken and messed up. Other times I was energized by the Word and the new ideas that took hold in my head.  Some parts, I could not possibly believe were inspired by God.

      Now I wanted to discuss what I was reading with others.  Talking about God, the Bible and what people really believe, doesn’t always just happen naturally.  Sometimes you have to push the topic into the conversation.  Even once God was in the discussion, this isn’t really a subject that you can fully and openly debate, since everlasting life or death may be riding on this one.  The discussion can make people uncomfortable.  I’ve seen people have two styles.  One is where one side forcefully pushes their beliefs on the other person regardless of where the other is on their own journey.  Another way is that they play nice and try not to offend by not really diving deep, dancing across the surface of the questions.  Well, I feel this is certainly a debate that shouldn’t be handled by brute force.  There is a Jason Gray song that says getting to know God should be “more like falling in love, than something to believe in, more like losing my heart, than giving my allegiance.”  These words send a much stronger message to me than someone banging on their Bible and saying “if you don’t believe, you are bound for Hell.”      

“In the beginning…” with the earth being without form, with darkness all around,  I have no problems with reading about an All Powerful God speaking and making it so.  I’ve always considered the “Garden of Eden” to be an analogy, a story that was easy to understand, a moral and one I did not look to as being strictly literal.  As a woman, I don’t want to share the blame with Eve for having allowed evil into the world.  Pretty bad for Adam to cop out of responsibility and say “it wasn’t my fault, I just did what Eve told me to.”  Oh, come on now Adam, didn’t you also hear God when He told you “Don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge?”  You could have told Eve “No, we shouldn’t do this.”  But if Adam did resist, that wouldn’t give the story its intended meaning now, would it?   Does anyone ask how the snake (the Devil) made it into the Garden of Eden?  I guess it really wasn’t a perfect paradise if an evil element was present.  The lesson:  humans can easily be tempted to not follow the rules, to do what we want, to disobey God.  After eating that forbidden fruit, humans had to leave the Garden and face challenges of life on Earth. 

      What greater evil can be shown than to have two sons and one, giving in to jealousy, commits the first murder?  Brother killing brother, the Cain and Abel story tells how evil feelings can take the upper hand over our better nature if we let it.  This horrible episode happens so early in the biblical narrative of humankind.  The Bible says that the trouble between Cain and his brother started over God not respecting Cain’s offering of the “fruit of the ground”.  We are told that God had respect for Abel’s offering “of the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof.”  (Genesis 4:4)  Looking beyond the words, wouldn’t a good God accept and respect any offering if it came with the right attitude and purity of purpose?  God says to Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”  (Genesis 4:7)  God wasn’t looking at the offering but what was in Cain’s heart and He didn’t like what he saw.  Cain’s soul was sure ugly if he thought that the answer to his problem would be solved by bashing his only brother’s head with a rock.

      Now this little family of four becomes only three, with one committing the monster sin of murder.  The knowledge of good and evil sure wasn’t enough to keep this first generation on the right path.  Eve was happy when God granted her another son, Seth.  Cain leaves the presence of the Lord and the Lord put a mark on him that he wouldn’t be killed (Genesis 4:15).  The Bible tells that several generations later, Cain’s descendent Lemech slays a man and makes threats to kill more (Genesis 4:23).  What a wicked family tradition!  No women are mentioned as being born of Adam and Eve, and Cain is sent away and yet he still has descendants.  God put a mark on Cain to indicate to others that he should not be killed.  Adam and Eve as the first and only human beings on the face of the earth doesn’t jive with the early parts of the story where there are other communities mentioned.  In Genesis Chapter 6 Verse 2, it talks about sons of God taking daughters of men as their wives.  The Bible also says there are giants in the earth (Verse 4).  Interesting!    

      I had known the story of Lot and the cities of Sodom and Gomorah, with Lot’s wife being turned into salt.  The part I didn’t hear was how the father and two daughters settled in a different land and the girls thought it was a good idea to get dad drunk and sleep with him as a way to get pregnant.  How messed up is that?  As I read through the “Old Testament” books, I kept feeling like there had been so much left out in my past Bible lessons.  Now the characters were coming to life, real people with feeling, difficulties, making good choices at times and sometimes making big mistakes.

      In the first three books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus) people make some pretty bad choices.  What surprised me is how the individuals may still end up leaders.  For example, Genesis Chapter 27, Jacob conspires with his mother, Rebekah, to steal his brother’s birthright from his father Isaac.  Pretty bad behavior I’d say.  Later we hear about Jacob’s sons, one being Joseph.  Joseph’s brothers sell Joseph as a slave.  They want their father to think Joseph is dead, so they show Jacob the multi-colored coat with goat’s blood on it.  What family drama!  Yet these brothers eventually become the founding fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. The theme of God’s forgiveness for past wrongs when people change the attitude of their heart is weaved in early.    

      In Exodus Chapter 20, there are seventeen verses that provide the Ten Commandments.  In contrast, it shocked me how the verses went on and on about other topics and general do’s and don’ts.  In Exodus 32:27-28, God had just told Moses “Thou shalt not kill” and yet Moses leads some of the people to slay their brothers, companions and neighbors because of the Golden Calf incident.  Three thousand of their brothers, companions and neighbors were slayed.  Moses said the Lord told them to do it.  How does this work now?  Do not kill unless it is justified?  I didn’t read any of God’s conditions for when and where He thinks killing is acceptable.  So Moses didn’t follow those ten simple rules after hearing the covenant from the Big Guy Himself.  In Chapter 34 through 40, the Lord “spake unto Moses” all kinds of commands about the tabernacle, the ark, the garments for Aaron, etc.  There are over one hundred verses where God is an interior decorator and fashion designer.  Then in Leviticus, you have God-the Food Safety Officer.  All the rules about animal sacrifice seem to be guides to protect the people from food borne pathogens and other risks.  Next up is God-the Doctor.  Verses give guidance on diagnosing leprosy and preventing it from spreading.  God also provides expert Real Estate advice and the rules for proper slave ownership.  Some of the text goes into great details about jewels, colors, cloth, dimensions, number of items, burnt offerings, fat, blood and on, and on.  As I read through these sections, I cannot help but ask if maybe more emphasis on the Ten Commandments would have really been God’s point.

      As I read through the Bible, I revisited many stories that I had heard before, but now they were in context with what occurred before and after.  It wasn’t just the story of David and Goliath from Sunday School.  That story was followed up by tales about David’s sins and the years he hid away when King Saul wanted him dead.  A generation later, there is trouble with David’s children.  One son raped David’s daughter, the guy’s sister.  David’s son tries to kill David, his father.  There is so much hatred, jealousy and so many evil acts. 

      I questioned the meaning behind the story.  I don’t want to only hear what others have to say about the stories but what do they say to me?  The books of Proverbs and Psalms contain familiar and cherished words.  Books by Solomon contain wisdom.  But when I read commentary about the Song of Solomon that say this is a book about God’s love for Israel or relating to the church as the bride of Christ, give me a break!  This reads like erotic literature to me.  The guy had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:1-11) for heaven’s sake!  Although Solomon had some high points in his life, women were his weakness and they got in the way of Solomon’s relationship with God.  Apparently, it has been stated that anyone who quotes Song of Solomon giving the section a literal meaning and not a symbolic one should be declared a heretic and will forfeit their spot in paradise.  So we are supposed to literally interpret Genesis but not Song of Solomon?  Who is making up these rules?  I say it is a bunch of men who want to tell people how to think.  Not God!

      Some parts of the Bible really tick me off.  For example, read Judges Chapter 19.  What a man allows happened to a woman is disgusting.  What a sick bastard!  In following chapters, huge wars start with many dead started by this one man’s actions.  Horrible!  There are stories in the Old Testament about towns being wiped out but the warriors take the virgins to be their wives.  The use and abuse of women seems to be condoned in the patriarchic text.  Even early on in the story of Abraham and his wife Sarah sending off poor Hagar and Ishmeal out into the desert.  In Ezra, Chapter 10, there are a number of men who “put away” their wives and children since they were considered foreign.  It irks me!  These women and children were apparently polluting God’s people.  The actions seem to not give consideration for any of the wives who worship their husband’s God. 

      There are other parts of the Bible that I find helpful and intriguing.  Like Ezekiel, especially Chapter 33:13-20.  These eight verses speak to me about the point of it all, that the Lord “will judge you every one after his ways.”  Then there are about two hundred sixty verses in Chapters 40-48 that talk about the design of the temple and a lot about the division of land.  To me these verses are hardly the point.  Daniel was interesting.  I knew about the Lion’s Den, I didn’t know about all of Daniel’s visions.  He talks of prophesies and admits that he doesn’t understand what they mean.  It foretells a lot about what was to happen between nations with kings rising and falling.  Historians have compared the statements with events that took place between countries from the north, south and east.  Did the vision describe those days or days yet to occur?  Daniel was told this would befall his people in latter days.  In Daniel 12:10, it says “Many shall be purified and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” 

      Micah 6:6-8 includes a comment that made sense to me regarding some of the Old Testament religious practices. 

6Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old.

7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

      Some words in the “Old Testament” books allude to the coming of a savior who will bear the iniquities of many.  Some of these books were written ~700 BC or further back.  The time gap between the Old Testament and New is about 500 years.  The continuity of the books of the Bible, written at different times, by different authors, but painting the same big picture is pretty amazing.

      Once I finished reading the Bible, did I feel it proved to me that there is a God?  I’ll be honest here, “No”.  My personal conclusion was that there were significant realities within the Bible that came to be written because of God’s divine inspiration and that there is a bit that was written by stupid men.  I gained a new appreciation for what the Bible shares about the depths of the human condition.  It surprised me how generation after generation, the pull to do evil is so strong.  The stark contrast is seen in Christ, with Jesus coming more alive to me in the reading of the Bible as a whole.  We see how he is too smart to be tricked and what angers him.  The power of his teachings come into light.  I hoped I was understanding the intended meaning behind the parables.  There is a lot to take in.  So I can now see why people would read the Bible over and over to get the most out of it.  I can see how different messages could ring more true depending on what life was throwing your way at the time. 

      All in all, the most concise guide for how best to live can be found in Matthew 22:37-40.

37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

In our complicated world and our confusing lives, I enjoy reminders to “keep it simple”.  This advice from Jesus is just right.  No one could go wrong by following those words as their guide.  So in the end, the Bible is a lot like the fictional tales of Harry Potter and Twilight.  There is conflict and emotional struggles, tragedies and triumphs.  People are torn between good and bad as they make decisions on what to do and on which leaders they will follow.  The main theme shows us that actions driven by love can overcome evil and that LOVE is the greatest power of all.   Any of us can tap into this superpower and heart filled with love gives us guidance on the right choices to make for our lives.  You gotta love that! 

Top Scientific Reasons for Knowing God Exists: Part II

In my last post I talked about some of the principles governing the universe that point to a greater power.  This time, let’s build on those foundations…

Chemistry & Biology:  Atoms and molecules grouped together to form solids, liquids, and gases.  Chemicals make up everything we eat, drink, breathe, and every material thing in the universe.  The rules for how the atoms and molecules combine make logical sense.  They follow a natural order with ionic and covalent bonding.  These individual components of matter can be subdivided to smaller particles:  electrons, protons, neutrons and even smaller proteons, quarks and other tiny constituents still to be discovered.  Science has figured out how to make polymers and plastics in every shape and many forms but we have not figured out how to make iron, wood or a steak without using nature as the manufacturer.  The energy it would take to convert one element to another element is incredibly great, the process is most often cost prohibitive.  The elements and molecules cooperate in living systems to form functional cells, circulatory systems, DNA, allowing for growth, reproduction, energy to live and so many more complex biological processes.  Humans need protein as nourishment, other animals and plants fulfill this need.  Proteins are biopolymer chains of amino acids.  These chemicals are produced within living systems efficiently, naturally, with no extreme effort required.  Yet, if humans try to replicate the chemical or biological processes in a laboratory, it at times proves to either be impossible or it takes too much time and energy.  If protein and other biopolymer synthesis was cheap, it could mean the end of world hunger, drastically changing the face of our global economy.  Theories proposing that amino acids and more and more complex organic chemicals formed in the primordial soup of an early earth do not seem to take into account the chemical and biological laws that work against this happening randomly.  If we cannot make these biochemicals effectively today with all the ways our societies have found to harness the power of nature, why would it just occur all on its own millions of years ago without a Creator or Designer?

Genetics and Evolution:  We understand how DNA serves as the genetic code, encrypting life, a blue print for every species.  Scientists have cloned life in a lab but they did it using a living species, tapping into the reproductive process.  We understand how our bodies function, but when those functions cease to work, can doctors always apply the right techniques to resume the life processes?  If a human goes without oxygen for a long time and dies, why doesn’t pumping the person up with a supply of oxygen restore them.  Life, being alive, is much more than simply the sum of the biological and chemical reactions.  There is energy, drive and consciousness that define human life beyond that which is purely physical.  Science gives irrefutable evidence that evolution is valid.  There are also starts and stops.  One evolutionary branch may reach an end (think Dinosaurs) while another has many sub-branches (think dogs, with the added help of selective breeding).  There are also complex systems that would require multiple evolutionary changes to be self-sustaining until various related components join together to be functional (ex. The eye).  Some systems suggest non-reducible complexity.  Purely random mistakes in the genetic sequence leading to a survival benefit replicated generation to generation is not a convincing sole argument for the development of more and more complex, sophisticated, living systems.  What makes more sense is evolution with a “Divine Push” now and then.  Like an artist using paint strokes to create a masterpiece, God could use evolution as the medium by which to achieve His creation.  God wanted diversity and beauty, by pushing evolution here and there, He got it.  We see it everywhere.  Eventually God wanted to endow His creation with some of His own properties, emotional intelligence, the ability to understand, and to love, not just survive.  God adds a soul into His homo sapien evolutionary product.  God grants Adam and Eve this “something extra” which separates humans from the animals and establishes us as God’s Children.       

These are some big subjects to consider in such an abbreviated way. I’ve certainly over simplified the topics but hope I’ve given some ‘high-level” rationale for how science can support faith in God.

Thanks for reading and considering these ideas.  I’d love to hear what you think.