Who Are “All Those Who Call Themselves Christians?”

A friend posted a meme this morning on Facebook: “Let’s be honest.  If Jesus had been born 30 years ago, Fox news and the Republican Party would label him a dangerous middle eastern man who wants to impose socialism on the world and enable the poor.”


In the first comment following the post, someone made sure to lump in “all those who call themselves Christians…”

Unfortunately, the meme itself might ring a little true.  But, then again,  after building his ministry from scratch, Jesus was put to death at 33 – at the hands of the “most religious” in society.  It was also not a surprise to Him.  

But, when I see a few folks who speak out for social justice bash ALL Christians in the same breath, I can’t help but notice the hypocrisy and feel a little personally offended.   (Don’t misunderstand me: our hurt feelings are a far cry from true persecution…)  

And I can’t help but wonder how many “Christian-haters” are in the “social justice” crowd….

As a Christian, I abhor getting involved in political, divisive posts on social media which serve only to propagate more hate and division.   

(I’ve posted about this before, that social media has never been a good place for true, open conversation – especially about hot-button issues.  Real conversation begins with relationship.)  

As Christians, we’re called to “give to Caesar what’s his,” “to give and pray without “showing-off,” and to even expect persecution (Matthew 22:21; Matthew 6; 2 Timothy 3:12 ).

My point is that many true Christians are doing good works, and they’re working for social justice, for the right reasons.  They always have and always will.  It’s where countless schools, orphanages, and charities find their origin.

 

Christian says, Christian does.

Many Christians give and work behind the scenes, in ways that we don’t see.  They do it within the Church, within the community, across our country, and even beyond our borders.  

They open their homes to “the least of these.”  They give generously of time and money.  They are compassionate and loving.  They work tirelessly for the good of others.

Just because we don’t see it or hear about it doesn’t mean they “only call themselves Christians.”  It means we’re perhaps only seeing and hearing “horn-blowers.”  

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Being Christian doesn’t mean announcing and advertising one’s deeds & beliefs. Christians act in love and compassion, as a byproduct of their beliefs – without fanfare.

True, not all those who say, “Lord, Lord…,” (Matthew 7:21), who call themselves Christians, truly know Jesus.  And not all are speaking for Christ when they shout their opinions on Facebook.  

But many Christians are living, working, and speaking on His behalf…just not on social media.  (By the way, He’s not just our Jesus; He’s yours, too.)  


Social-media silence doesn’t mean condoning that which doesn’t agree with our beliefs.  

And just because some Christians aren’t speaking about things on social media doesn’t mean they’re silent or inactive.  Perhaps it means they recognize that conversations are better initiated face-to-face, one-on-one – where true relationships are formed.   (Jesus modeled that for us throughout Scripture, when He met people where they were – to feed, teach, and heal…)  

Why is it that if we’re not speaking loudly and publicly against something, then we must be in support of it?  

In the American South, silent soldiers ran the Underground Railroad.  Brave, yet silent, citizens, also smuggled Jews out of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Just like our silence doesn’t mean we condone something, we also can’t mistake silence for cowardice.  

So, let’s set some guidelines?

Maybe, let’s try not to lump everyone together when we speak or post?  Lets remember that labels impede our vision; they’re like putting blinders on.

And, Christian warriors, let’s keep loving and serving, not for recognition or because it’s advancing a political cause, but out of love and compassion – because God calls us to it, to affect real change in the world.

In the meantime, we won’t infer that the most vocal of social justice fighters are Christian-haters, because…

  1.  This idea is a little scary, don’t you think?
  2.  I’d really like to believe that these two groups are not mutually exclusive.

A Blue Hope

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For six years, I’ve lived about an hour and a half from Myrtle Beach, and still haven’t gone there just to inhale its beauty.
I’ve gone there once for an appointment and once for a comedy show (laughter is medicine, you know).  But, the heat and travel are hard on me, because I have ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a misunderstood – and mysterious – illness that impacts every aspect and moment of my life. It affects the autonomic nervous system, immune system, the endocrine system (and others), so there are about thirty “overlap” syndromes that usually accompany it (including Fibromyalgia), making symptoms very unpredictable and debilitating: extreme muscle & joint pain, extreme fatigue, orthostatic intolerance, photosensitivity, loss of sleep & cognition, memory deficiency, chills/sweats, dizziness…on & on.
Many suspect  the origin of ME/CFS is a virus, and there’s no cure (yet).   Research has actually shown that it is “more disabling than MS, heart disease, virtually all types of cancer, patients undergoing chemotherapy or hemodyalisis.”1   One doctor/researcher, who studies and treats HIV and ME/CFS, said (in 2009), “…if I had to choose between the two illness, I would rather have HIV”2
I’ve tried to avoid discussing my illness (or minimize the situation by just referring to “health issues,” because I truly don’t want to be pitied and/or bring everyone down.  So I’ve become a hypocrite instead.
When most people ask how I’m doing, I say “good” or “fine,” and try to move on.  But, I’m never “fine.”  Not physically.  I’ve had this for about twenty-five years, and it’s a little like having neverending mono, that gets worse when you overdo it.  It’s likely that some folks believe I can’t possibly be so sick, because I’m a master at pretending to be okay for short periods of time, but I (and my family) pay for that for days later…
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But I do have my “good” days.  And I’m finally behaving – strictly following my doctor’s advice and stopped railing against it.  It means not just eating right with conventional & alternative therapies, but restricting steps and keeping my heart rate down, with low impact exercise like stretching/yoga and light housework.  It’s counterintuitive to what most people would consider a path toward wellness, but it’s what I have to do.  With ME/CFS, overexertion results in a sore throat, swollen glands, chills/sweats, and debilitating pain and fatigue for days to follow.
And I’ve had battles:  I’ve spent so much time trying to prove my worth, trying to prove that I CAN do something, anything, that I’ve kept myself even sicker.  I’ve asked God, “Do I not have enough faith to be healed?”  I’ve fought so hard to not identify with my illness, that I wouldn’t allow myself to accept it.
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It’s clearly through this weakness that God wants to be glorified.  But every time God’s tried to reveal this truth to me, I’ve tried to redirect my service.
And it never fails…when we hand the reins over to Him – He helps us soar!
I believe God’s led me toward photography to supplement my writing.  It’s giving me a much-needed creative outlet that doesn’t tax my ME/CFS-foggy brain, (or perhaps it’s helping to release it a little) and it gets me into God’s creation, where I can be filled with His glory, His healing, His very breath.
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I joined a photography group at our church recently.  We get to enjoy one another’s company and learn from each other as we take trips to noteworthy spots across this beautiful state (SC). (Oh, yes, and usually enjoy a great meal!) I haven’t explored South Carolina at all, so this is such a treat.
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Since I’m trying to obey my doctor’s orders, however, I have to plan, plan, plan… It’s called “staying within the energy envelope.”  I have to rest to conserve energy, but I often pay for it after the trip.  I’ve recently concluded that it’s better for me to not commit to plans, because the nature of my illness is too unpredictable, and I’m far too likely to push through so as not to cancel (and appear a “flake”), thus crashing for days…The push/crash cycle is not good therapy.
For this trip to Huntington Beach State Park, we were supposed to meet for lunch first, then head out for photos.  Because I wanted to get the early morning and the moonrise, my sweet husband decided he would head up Friday night with me, to make a date night of it.  We thought it would be better to get a night’s rest than to slip a midday nap in the uncomfortable car on Saturday – I couldn’t have made it through a whole day.  Oh, you lucky folks who own RVs!
I prayed Friday afternoon that God would bless our trip with safety and reveal His Glory!
Then, guess what happened?
We needed to rush our new kitten (showed up in the neighborhood a week earlier), Emma, to the vet.
I’d taken Emma for vaccinations the day before, and she’d been a little lethargic.  I figured she’d perk up, though.  But before we left, she walked across the room all wobbly-like.  And she was warm when we picked her up.  Uh-oh.  So, off to the vet for fluids and anti-inflammatories.  She was going to be fine.  We left her (already acting better…the “wobbly” was soreness in legs) in the care of our cat-whisperer son, Chase, and headed off – late – to the beach.
We were supposed to get dinner first.  Now we’d be lucky to catch the moonrise.
Although, I was determined to go to the beach near Huntington Beach State Park, maybe Surfside Beach.  My sweet hubby patiently informed his directionally & temporally challenged wife that he was planning to just drive straight toward Myrtle Beach and grab the first parking spot available.   Hmmm, we’re running that late?
Okay, Lord, I’ve put all of this in your hands.  You’re steering the boat.
Well, the moon shots were a mess.  I’ve taken some decent moon shots before, but I was in such a rush (we couldn’t find a spot for a few minutes), that I had the camera on the wrong settings for the first few minutes. And the moon had already risen way above the horizon…  And by the time I’d figured out the settings were wrong, I couldn’t remember the correct settings.  Did I mention a big symptom is the memory thing.  Not just an “I forgot where I put my keys,” but legitimate, twice-tested, medically-documented memory issues.  I may not remember your name five minutes after you tell me…but maybe tomorrow?
So, the moon started getting way up into the sky, and my dear, sweet hubby is playing Sherpa for me, so supportive of everything I do.  Did I mention how great he is?
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And I was tired and hurting.  And extremely hungry.  So, we packed it up.
My consolation was to be a nice seafood buffet.  I love oysters and crab legs, but seldom get the treat.  And, really, who goes to beach (especially when you rarely go), and doesn’t eat seafood?
Well, we do, apparently.
At 9pm, we headed to one of the best seafood buffets listed on the “interwebs,” and it was closed.  Really!?  So, we headed to the nearest, “second-best” listed and it, too, was closed.  Seriously!?  We were starving, and not willing to take the chance of another restaurant being closed, so we went to a popular steak restaurant next door.
The steak was excellent, so I’m not really complaining (just a little).
I asked, “But, Lord, you don’t want me to have seafood?”
He reminded me, “Who’s steering this ship?”
The early bird gets the worm.
We got back to the room so late we decided not to even try for sunrise, which woul’ve been rough for me on a “good” day.  But we still managed to get to Huntington Beach State Park at about 8:30am, heading to the easiest spot for photos – a dock out over the marsh.
I noticed Jose before we even set foot on the walkway.   He looked as much at home there as anything else, in his slouchy, hunter green tam hat, with a huge camoflauged lens sitting atop a tripod.
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He began to ask me questions, with a slight Cuban accent – about my camera, my methods, etc.  And so began my one-on-one lesson with an international photography professional (of 40 years).  Looking back, I’m kicking myself for not asking more questions. (I always worry about bothering folks… Ugh.)  Of course, he ended up teaching me the very things I’ve wanted to learn in the field!  (e.g. He showed me how to read the histogram & watch for blow-outs – on my own camera.)  I didn’t even have to ask.
The best part about meeting Jose was the man himself.  He comes to Huntington beach every year, but this year, his wife’s aunt turned 110 years old, so they were celebrating the milestone birthday.
He asked us how we liked his hat, as he demonstrated its multi-functions – moving it back and forth on his head.  He lost his favorite hat of ten years on a recent photography trip (I think to Argentina?).  He’d hung it on a tree to dry and had forgotten it.  So this was his new hat.  I think it looks fabulous!
And he told us stories from his trips around the world, to Africa and Iceland… about searching for red pandas and polar bears.  He described an up-close and personal encounter with a wild polar bear.  He was told that the only reason he wasn’t eaten was because the bear must’ve just eaten.  You can read all about Jose’s adventures on his blog:
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Then, Jose  offered to hook my camera up to his lens — his 400mm f2.8, intimidating-looking lens..

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[SIDEBAR]
At the end of the dock was a gorgeous great blue heron, hanging out in front of the reeds, in perfect view.
I’d been disappointed (okay, a little pouty) after our last photo outing to Swan Lake because some of the “able-bodied folks,” who got to actually walk around the place, got fabulous shots of a great blue heron.  I, on the other hand, had to plant my butt down on my fold-up stool in the spots closest to the parking lot.   I great blue heron is one of my favorite birds and I’ve been dying to get a shot of it…
I must concede, however, that I got some great shots of the birds at Swan Lake precisely BECAUSE I had to plant myself down in one place for a while and study the area.  So, I’m now incredibly thankful for that.
And, now, as I put further trust in my Lord, I find that He had something even more special in store.
[End SIDEBAR]
Because, on this exceptional day, He not only had this statuesque great blue heron prepared for me to capture in a photo, but He had prepared a mentor and the use of his most equisite equipment already trained right on the heron! (When I found out more details about the lens – after using it – my hands shook…good thing I didn’t know how much it cost before I used it – I would’ve knocked it over, for sure.)
Jose did discuss, with Andy, some compromises for a better lens for me in the future.  I’ve been a little frustrated with the quality of the kit lenses that came with my camera.  I didn’t realize I’d notice so much.  But I don’t see a quality new one anytime soon, (since I don’t imagine anyone’s going to rush to make a donation to a GoFundMe page for a new lens for me – teehee), so dear family: Please send gifts cards for B&H Photo. [insert big smiley face]
Although I offered to take my camera back after a few moments, off of Jose’s lens, he told me to take my time.  So, in addition to the great blue heron, I got a quick shot of what I think might be a tri-colored heron, which was also hanging out near the reeds, before handing the lens back over.  But what a gift, indeed!
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Thank you, Jesus!
Before we left, I was hoping to get a shot of the great blue heron flying off.  It didn’t move…for a long time.  Finally, Andy told me, for the second time, that I needed to put my sunscreen on – “Right now!” – because the sun was coming out strong. (I can’t really be in the sun, because it stings my skin, I burn quickly, it makes me sick, I have a flare-up… Wah, wah, wah. You get the picture.)
So, I started putting the sunscreen on, and there goes the heron.
Whoops. I should’ve put the sunscreen on the first time Andy told me to do it.
I managed to get some good shots of flying herons later anyway, with my own lens…
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Andy and I were planning to return with the group after meeting them for lunch.
We asked Jose where else we could get good shots of the birds.
He said, “Africa.”
Ha.
He also said “Florida is good; if you cant get good bird photos in Florida, then you might as well give it up.”
Then he said the best time to get shots was at low tide from the causeway (right in front of us), mostly in the early morning,  because the birds would all go feed (perhaps even the storks in the trees).  Obviously, the afternoon light (low tide was at 2:15pm on Saturday we were there) wasn’t ideal, but I still got some interesting shots.
We said our good-byes after taking a few more shots, and went to rest and cool off in the car until lunch.
I immediately looked up some of Jose’s work.  It’s a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  I felt even more honored to have been tutored by him in the field after seeing his quality photos.  Again, if you don’t have time to check out his blog, just take a look at some of his work on his smugmug site.
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Feeding Time
I also awaited intructions about where we should meet our crew for lunch.  I was sure they’d send us the address to a seafood restaurant.  After all, we were at the beach – at Murrells Inlet, the “Seafood Capital of SC” (It said so on the sign).  Right?
Nope.
We went to a burger joint.
So, I asked, “Lord, why don’t think I should have any seafood this weekend?  I’d settle for a piece of salmon right now.  I just don’t understand…?”
I must say though, I had an excellent, and filling, black & blue burger (cajun seasoning with a blue cheese spread) with sweet potato fries. Yum.
We, as a group, returned to the park to enjoy the offerings of the causeway, where the birds were also eating, hunting for little silver, splashing fish.
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(great egret)
INTERESTING FACT #1: The alligators dig holes/burrows in the mud for basking in the sun to keep warm.  But the holes left behind will fill with water during low tide or drought, which helps other species to feed, drink, or breed.  The alligators are vital to a healthy ecosystem.
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INTERESTING FACT #2 :  The birds hang behind the alligators for protection.  They get protection for their nesting offspring, while the alligators get to munch on the fallen young from an overcrowded nest.  It’s not entirely pretty, but it’s necessary, and mutually beneficial.
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After a little while of watching the birds feed, through the lens of the camera, I was able to anticipate the very moment when the bird was going to strike.  Wha pure exhilaration – to see, up-close, a bird’s eyes zero in on a fish and watch it’s body quicken in preparation, and to know when to take a continuous shot.
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I’m also learning to more quickly go back and forth between still photos and action photos.  Helpful.
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Is it strange that I think this wood stork photo would make an interesting birth announcement card, even though it’s a very odd-looking bird?
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Above is the wood stork, below is a white ibis.
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My dear, sweet, doting hubby went back for the car and picked me up at the shelter in the middle of the causeway.  Have I mentioned how much I love him?
The following are some of my favorite shots of the day:
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[SIDEBAR #2]
There was another couple in the shelter taking photos, together; they shared equipment.  I’m trying to coax Andy into taking up photography with me.  He takes great photos on his iPhone.  And this was the first getaway (even date night) we’ve had in a long time, and we had a blast.  As a bonus, we could share the same wish list. [grin]
[End SIDEBAR #2]
I was in pain and worn out by the time we hit Atalaya, which is the historic, Moorish-style, winter home of 20th-century sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington.  So, I took a good, long look at the outside – it’s gorgeous. Then, a friend said it was pretty much just a lot more of the same on the inside.  Hmmm… two bucks seems pretty steep to walk through “more of the same.”  Right?  [big, toothy grin]  You have to smile about it, right?
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We closed our day with group photos in the oversized adirondack chair in front of the gift shop (not on my camera).  A sweet little lizard, not even two inches long, insisted on joining us.  I was mesmerized by him.  It doesn’t take much to amuse me.
As with any activity, I am paying dearly for it, but as you can see, it was so worth it!  It was a glorious night/day, with fabulous folks!  And we only suffered one injury, to our photography group’s leader — during the group photo.  Note to anyone who doesn’t have a remote shutter release: get one, if you can’t run 5 yards in 3 seconds.
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On Sunday morning, God revealed a few things to me.
I’ve been lost about the direction of my blog.  I knew I was supposed to write about my spiritual, journey (of growth, healing & walking in the Spirit), but I wasn’t ready to talk about my illness, because I’ve been afraid of sounding like a whiner who just wants to gain sympathy or pity.
And you’ve heard of Picasso’s “blue period,” where his art reflected a deep depression that lasted for several years?  Well, I’ve feared that if I opened the flood gates to write about my chronic illness, that it’s all I’d ever be able to write about…that my “blue period” would never end.  Because this illness is just that – chronic.  I wanted to first prove that there’s more to me than this illness.
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But I can’t write authentically unless and until I write about this part of myself that has helped to shape me, and continues to play a huge part in my everyday life – my story.   Like Paul’s thorn, when I accept my weakness as part of my story, then God can use it to reveal His glory.
For too long, my illness has just been some big, bad bully to be endured.  But, what if my “alligator” can PROVIDE and PROTECT, in God’s plan?   And, I just haven’t been able to see that, because all I can do is fixate on its teeth?
It may not be pretty, but it is part of my own ecosystem.
When I realized that it was time to come clean about my illness, for now through more of a “photo journey,” my first instinct was to start yet another blog – with a fresh start, a new name (it would be the third one).  But “walking a lighted path” still defines my journey and my goal, as well as the transformative process.  He pulled me out of darkness long ago into the light, and is continuing to light my path.  And, as if that weren’t enough, I went to church to hear our worship leader pray for the Lord to “light our path.”  And the name and topic of Sunday’s FABULOUS sermon by Dan Lian, describing the character of God?  It was called, “I AM the Light of The World.”
This last “Sunday morning revelation” gets a little personal, but it’s an excellent illustratration of God’s love and provision for every little thing, for each one of us:  I had asked Him to protect us and provide for us on our trip…  Sunday morning, I woke up to [ahem] a “visitor” that should make a monthly appearance, but no longer does (perimenopause – what joy)…  When it does, I’m often anemic and very fatigued – on top of everything else – and it normally knocks me down.  To best replinish iron, I usually crave, and consume…you guessed it – red meat (a big steak or a burger).  So, I’ve not been nearly as symptomatic as usual in that regard.
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God sees the WHOLE picture, even when we’re whining about seafood.
I’m learning, step by step, to trust and see that God brings hope and healing to and through even the “blue period.”
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Footnotes:
1   (Hooper and Marshall)
2  (Dr. Nancy Klimas)

Do You See The Truth When It’s Served Up By The Opposition? 

Facebook politics… 

…where what looks like the beginning of a conversation quickly turns into a virtual UFC fight.   

…where disagreements are taken as personal affronts to one’s morals, motives, and mental capacity.

…where the really discouraging – even disturbing – thing we see is that so many with vastly opposed views are unable to communicate with one another, much less collaborate. 

Rivalry and collaboration don’t mix well. 

When we vehemently defend one fallible person and everything they say/do, we’re pigeonholed by the political ideology/platform they represent, narrowing our own frame of thought and exposing ourselves to a biased, subjective perception of the truth.  Just the act of labeling ourselves also affords others the opportunity to define us and our beliefs.  And if we’ve developed a hatred of (or just a bitter rivalry toward) those representing the opposition, we’ll eventually find ourselves immediately discounting everything they say – even when it’s the truth.  

This is the stuff that breeds division and hinders free thinking and cooperation.    

The news media?  They don’t help us.  A little drip from the faucet here or there might be okay.  But it’s depressing when it’s on at full tilt – it’ll drown you.  And too much of one slant on the news borders on brainwashing. 

The truth becomes blurry when we look at it through the lens of bias.

Dr. Del Tackett, theologian, gave a perfect example of two opposing groups viewing the same truth differently:   

“I recall a championship football game between Tennessee and Auburn (my alma mater for my master’s work). Near the end of the game, the Tennessee quarterback threw a pass into the end zone. The wide receiver stretched out parallel to the ground to catch the ball. At the instant he did, the Tennessee players and half of the thousands of fans in the stands immediately saw it as a touchdown. But the interesting thing was that the Auburn players and half of the thousands of fans in the stands, and yours truly, at home watching on my television, immediately saw it as incomplete, that the ball had touched the ground before he caught it.”

Tackett says “The point is that we have a tendency to see what we want to see. This is true for believers as well as unbelievers and we need to be aware of it.”

A disturbing example I’ve seen making it’s rounds on Facebook is a Fox News video clip of Hillary discussing why kids join gangs.  She says a gang is like a family where kids find a sense of belonging, and that we must offer other positive alternatives – “positive gangs” – to attract young people.  

Conservatives say her statements are stupid and crazy. 

But synonyms for “gang” are “group, club, team…”  And we use these words everyday.

My husband once heard a pastor/missionary from an inner-city church in Miami speaking at a conservative church who said the exact same thing as Hillary. He lamented that a street gang member who’d attended his church for about a month left church to return to his gang because he didn’t feel the same sense of family at church that he felt in his street gang.  

My church also encourages special interest groups so that people feel connected “to something bigger than themselves.” They also have an entire youth ministry built around the idea of connecting students to God and to one another. The first words on the webpage for the ministry are “You Belong…”  

We all have an innate need to belong. Ironically, the very act of identifying with a political party, even a particular candidate, gives one a sense of belonging.  


If we want to be aware of the truth which surrounds us, we have to remove our blinders. 

Please hear me on this: I’m not a Hillary fan, nor am I a fan of Trump.  But that doesn’t mean that these two people are not competent and intelligent in their own rights.  They both give me reason to worry. (But I will vote for one of them.)

If Donald Trump (or another prominent conservative) had said the same thing, conservatives would’ve found the statement profound.  And liberals would’ve similarly shredded him to pieces.  (Proof positive: the reaction to Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech)

And the wheel goes round and round.  Attacks constantly abound from left to right, right to left, with different pieces and versions of the same stories being spun.  

If we don’t open up our own field of vision to get the whole picture on the truth (about anything) then someone else (most likely fanatics at the far ends of the spectrum) will always try to spoon feed us their truth.

Truth doesn’t discriminate…we do.  The truth just is.

So that we don’t develop tunnel vision, maybe we just need to check ourselves once in a while, by making sure that we’re still open to conversation, to hearing ideas from even those who disagree with us.  

Because disagreement shouldn’t look like a slammed door; it should look like a table.  And shouldn’t the truth always be welcome at the table – no matter who brings it?  

Where Are The Peacemakers?

With this Dallas tragedy, we’re once again rocking with the same waves of shock and mourning that follow every act of hate and terror.  

And the talking heads perpetuate a vicious cycle of controversy and division.

Seldom can two individuals peacefully resolve their differences, so how can we expect a country so divided by race, politics, and religion (fueled by media) to work it out?

Where is God’s intervention?

We raise our hands to God, begging Him to intervene.  We wonder where He is, in the midst of the chaos and destruction.

I believe He’s always throwing us life preservers, in the form of individual callings on our lives.

He asks each and every one of us to grab a life vest – to respond, not to the endless stream of inciting words of others – especially in the media – but to the undercurrent of His Truth that whispers to us in the still and silence.  

He also sends us life boats in the form of dynamic, influential leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Saint Francis of Assissi – peacemakers.   We need people who inspire others toward true brotherly love, compassion, and forgiveness, those who can rise above to bring people together without stomping on others, those who have the ability to transcend a denominational world view.  Jesus showed us how.

Because so few people have stepped into these roles in history, we’re likely to believe they rarely exist.  I’m more inclined to believe people rarely accept the challenge.  It’s usually served with a great heaping side of personal cost and sacrifice…

So I pray for the writers, speakers, and leaders that are now being set aflame for our plight!  

When we feed our worldly nature instead of our divine nature, we suffer a worldly fall…

I recently watched The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and O.J.: Made in America, both riveting accounts of race relations in America over the past few decades.  O.J., a gifted and all-around beloved sports figure and actor, had an opportunity in the ’70s to speak for the black community.   

O.J. said he should be viewed and judged by his character and deeds, not by the color of his skin…which is exactly the message the world needed to hear, and perhaps would’ve taken to heart!  But, since his celebrity left him mostly immune to the affects of race culture and bias, he chose to use the fruits of his gifts and talents only for himself.  

God gave him a voice and a calling, but He pursued selfish motives and desires. He had the opportunity to grow as a person and have a positive impact on society.  Often, the greater the gift and higher the stature, then the greater the calling and responsibility…

Tragically, O.J. reached the height of fame, then had the greatest fall.  And race relations…well.

Why should we step out on a limb?

If we each individually don’t step off the crazy cycle (reacting and/or engaging in the divisive rhetoric) and step into God’s will, we’ll each likely suffer a similar irony of our own implosion, collectively and individually.

We’re given gifts and opportunities to either help others or help ourselves.  So we must choose to either step up to our calling or sidestep it… Our choice determines our destiny.  

So, if your gift, your voice, can help lead people toward unity…please step up.  If you can speak for those who can’t, with Godly love and compassion, please answer the call.   

We’ve been praying for you, too.  

Embracing the Creative Walk

Angel Cloud
“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”    ~Luke 18:17 (NIV)

We rarely see successful artists who aren’t pouring themselves daily into their work, so I’ve been encouraging my son, who’s been gifted in artistic ability, to sketch regularly.

When a friend posted pictures of beautiful oil paintings that she’d completed in one day, from start to finish, I presented them as evidence that he, too — with practice — might one day produce artwork with the speed and ease of a Xerox machine!

That’s when the excuses, insteadspewed forth with the speed of a Xerox machine:  I don’t know what to draw; I don’t have time; I don’t have a proper work space; I don’t know what to work on because I have so many things started; The light bulbs have an orange glow…

It’s funny how quickly we can come up with excuses for not striving for growth and improvement.

But he’s not alone in that boat; I’m likely the captain.

A Childlike Wonder

Chase might have inherited some unfortunate  personality traits of the so-called “creative” person.

I too, tend to delay artistic endeavors and juggle many unfinished projects.  Because we creative types bore easily, I have to dig deep for motivation.  Self-discipline is a battle.

Does anyone else wield an oar in this boat?

But, there’s a flip side.  Along with the aforementioned characteristics, we can also be curious, passionate, and innovative; we usually don’t mind a little ambiguity or mystery; and we love to learn and can learn from our mistakes, even using them to our advantage.

And our creative nature influences our spiritual journey; it is what often propels us to take steps in our walk the Lord, so that even when we make a move in the wrong direction, we’ll likely learn from the misstep.

Even if we don’t see the whole path laid out before us, we’re okay with that.  We’re usually don’t mind too much that we don’t get to see the whole picture.

Adult “creatives” possess a childlike wonder.  We’re the ones who see angels in the clouds. We hear God’s voice — His wisdom — in random occurrences or phone calls from friends.  We feel God’s loving touch in a gentle breeze.  We find hope in rainbows.  And we believe that a hummingbird carries special meaning when it hovers in our path (Romans 1:20, Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 19:1-4).

Maybe it’s easier to have the faith of a child when we can embrace the mystery and truth held in each piece of the puzzle, as they’re revealed to us…

And if we’re in relationship with Jesus, don’t we see evidence of God’s love and faithfulness all around us?  Our talents and gifts themselves are given as a testimony to His promises (Hebrews 2:1-4).

God wants us to continually pursue Him and to be receptive to His pursuit of us! He wants us to have an unshakable faith.  And He wants us to be all in!

Striking a Balance

Just as successful, productive artists are able to maintain a balance of creativity and self-discipline, I think walking with Jesus requires a healthy tension of fixing our gaze on the Divine while anchoring our feet to His unwavering Truth, so that we don’t fly away.

Evangelist Oswald Chambers said, “The Christian life is a life characterized by true and spontaneous creativity…But Jesus Christ was always consistent in His relationship to God, and a Christian must be consistent in his relationship to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to strict, unyielding doctrines.”

Chambers added that, “People pour themselves into their own doctrines, and God has to blast them out of their preconceived ideas before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.”

We want to be open to growth and change as we pursue a relationship with Christ because we want to follow the Lord, not just the rules.

But it takes self-discipline, daily work, and commitment to a maturing relationship for us to be fruitful — to become successful followers of Christ.

In 2 Peter 1: 3-8, we read that He “has given us everything we need for a godly life.”  He adds, “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, to my fellow “creatives,” there is Good News:  As long as we commit daily to becoming more like Him, He will steady our gaits when our heads rise to the clouds (Psalm 143:10).

And if we want to become proficient in our craft…well you know that boat we’re in?  Maybe we should abandon ship and learn to swim.

Walking A Lighted Path

Lighted Path

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  ~Psalm 119:105 

We changed the light bulbs in the living room, from fluorescent daylight to soft white ones.  (They aren’t white, by the way; they have a dull, orange glow.)  My son, Chase, complains every time I flip them on, even threatening to leave the room if we don’t switch them back or turn them off altogether.

He has Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes him hyper-aware (and hyper-obsessive and critical) of light, taste, color, scent, sound, texture… But that’s also what makes him unique, and I love him for his view of the world.

And I understand him because I, too, am hyper-aware and obsessive about everything.  And, yes, I have a slight [ahem] tendency to lean toward negativity and criticism.

When we were kids, my brother would regularly call me a pessimist.  He once gave me a book called “14,000 Things To Be Happy About.”  You know what? That just pissed me off.

Things have changed the longer I’ve walked with Jesus.  It didn’t happen overnight, but my hyper-awareness of the world has slowly been redirected from gloom and doom toward the wonder of God…not completely, but hey, I’m a work-in-progress. (Philippians 4:8)

So more and more, rather than fixating on the “dull orange glow,” I focus on the pure white Light of God’s presence.  I’m acutely aware and grateful of His hand all over my life! 

I see His love, wisdom, and truth everywhere… in the beauty of His creation, in His enduring Word, and through the people sharing life with me. 

When I seek Him, He is there.  Always.  So I try to always seek Him. (Jeremiah 29:13

Growing in this truth and comfort, I’ve come to know an important lesson, one which I hope my son learns as he walks with Christ:  With eyes on Jesus, dreary circumstances don’t have to distract us, define us, or defeat us; we can choose to walk the Lighted Path! 

And we don’t have to change the light bulb, just our focus.