intolerance

Recently I began reading a book by Raymond Khoury called The Sign.  The premise of the book is centered around a group of environmentally concerned scientists who create a device using smart dust, that when used, creates an object in the sky that confounds other scientists and is misinterpreted as a sign from God.  Underneath the surface of this story is another story about corrupt politicians and theologians who know the sign is fake but continue to preach it as a sign from God.  In addition, they manipulate a priest into believing the sign is real.  The reason they do this is to create a leader that will be seen as a new messiah.  After the priest has enough followers, the corrupted will expose the sign as a fabrication and millions of followers will be forced to believe that Christianity is a sham.  As a side note, when the priest in the book learns that he has been set up, he goes public and states we are all gods and show it by what’s in our hearts

At the end of the book, the author chooses quotes from conservative leaders who believe that Jesus could possibly return in our lifetime.  In mockery, the author states that Christians will follow anything blindly and that Christians will vote to elect anybody that mentions they are a believer.

Usually when a book comes out that has a very negative view of Christianity, I am able to look past it.  I usually have a very different view of these books.  I see them as a chance for people to discuss Christianity and to correct what is wrong.  Lately, however, I’ve been noticing that the books are getting more and more insistent that Christianity is only mythical, and nothing else.  I recently picked up another book by Steve Berry which posited that the Templars, a group of monks with military training that were formed in 1119 AD, guarded literature that proved that Jesus was not the Messiah.  It became a race of good vs. evil to protect the information.  Maybe these kind of books have always been around and I’ve just avoided them, but it seems to me that these books are becoming more intolerant of belief other than their own.

I don’t usually feel the need to come to the defense of God(He does alright without my help) but I think I need to come to the defense of His people.  First, Raymond Khoury states that Christians are like sheep and will follow anything that has the word God stapled to it.  I would hope this is not the case.  And in fact, the Bible is very clear that Christians are supposed to put things to the test.  If messages don’t coincide with what the Bible teaches, Christians are asked to ignore those messages or, at the very least, challenge them.

Next, many followers believe that Christ could come back in their lifetime.  What makes that a stupid belief?  Why are atheists so sure that Christ doesn’t exist?  According to research, there may be anywhere between 2-3 billion Christians worldwide.  There may be 1 billion atheists.  It seems to me that if Christianity is a delusion then it must be a very powerful one that 3 billion people are sharing.  The odds that 3 billion people can share in a delusion are astonishing.  Even more astonishing than people sharing atheistic beliefs.

In order to be fair, this is the part of this blog that could be offensive to atheists.  Atheism has always seemed a lazy religion to me.  If atheism is true, then the atheist has nothing to lose.  There is no danger of Hell and Heaven wouldn’t exist so there would be nothing to gain from it, either.  However, if Christianity is not real, then Christians have everything to lose.  Heaven would be a sham.  Why would anyone in their right mind put all their hopes and dreams in to something that is a sham?  It just seems unlikely and a huge gamble for 3 billion people to take.  I wouldn’t have taken it if it was fake.

But, I have to admit, many secular authors are right, Christians have done many atrocious things in the name of God.  Wars and blowing up abortion clinics just to name two.  Donald Miller, in his book Blue Like Jazz, recalls a time when he was in college  and he helped construct a confessional booth that was put out on campus.  Prior to opening it up, Miller instructed his friends that they wouldn’t be accepting any confessions.  Instead, they’d be giving them.  They would apologize to the students for all the things that made it hard for them to believe in God.  As a result of doing this, Donald and his friends were able to get students to come to Bible studies.  Sometimes I think that might be a step in the right direction.  Admitting when we do wrong.

I also have to say that there have been leaders in the church that don’t represent Jesus very well.  As long as there are Pat Robertson’s and Oral Roberts’ in this world that say stupid things like 9/11/01 was God’s reaction to homosexuals, then Christianity will seem intolerant when, in fact, Jesus tolerates people by separating them from their actions.  To use a modern saying “Hate the game, don’t hate the playa.”

I think part of the reason people are so intolerant of Christianity is they confuse it with religion.  Religion is man made.  In many ways, I think its our need to put structure to God.  It helps us understand God.  But, like all man made things, its fallible and can cause problems.  I once heard someone say, I forgot who or where, that religion is designed by man to get to God while Christianity was designed by God to reach man.

Many people who are Christians share their beliefs and it is seen as proselytizing.  Christians are demonized when sharing their faith.  We are accused of shoving our beliefs down others’ throats but let me put it to you this way.  Lets say for a moment you found a way of life that was life changing.  That you are guaranteed Heaven for your belief and that by following God, you are sent to a place with no tears or pain and you are given a better body than the one you have.  Wouldn’t you want to share that?

Secular society wants us to change the channel or ignore their lifestyles when we disagree with them.  However, when they disagree with us, they want us to shut up.  Why is that any less intolerant?

Just some food for thought.

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New Year’s resolutions

I know that I’ve been writing a lot on here but I’ve found a need to get things out in writing.  Each year, around this time, I start listening to the Counting Crows again.  The reason:  December is usually a long month for me and their song  ‘A long December’  usually gives me something I can identify with.  The song talks about the hopes that ‘next year will be better than the last’.  Each year I end up singing it at least once, and each year I end up looking behind me hoping, beyond hope, that the following year will show promise that things will improve.  I guess that’s usually the reason that I don’t usually make resolutions.  They depress me if I can’t live up to them.

But what’s wrong with looking ahead with hope.  I know I need to this year.  I haven’t had a banner year.  I lost my job again and had to quit a second one because my earnings on SSDI would have been threatened by keeping it.  I’ve had the brakes on my car nearly fail, both my laptop and my desktop break and I’ve had fights with friends that have left me feeling like I failed on a grand scale.  I still don’t quite understand either of them.  I’ve needed to borrow money a few times and food at least once.  So this year I need to make a resolution that things will ‘only get better'(Howard Jones)

So What are my resolutions for the new year?

1. I need a new job.  I don’t want a job that I can barely get by on and at the same time I’d like to find a job that I’m proud of having.  I don’t want a job that makes me feel like I am not getting anything worthwhile accomplished.

2.  I’d like to start taking better care of myself.  I’d like better eating habits.  I’d like to be groomed better.  Wear better clothes.

3.  I’d like to start putting myself out there.  I’m great and meeting women that want to be my friends but I’d like to get beyond that.  I’m terrible at this part.  I’m socially inept.  I love going out singing but meeting new people is really hard.  I’m the guy that sits in the corner alone.  If a woman thinks I’m attractive, I either act one of two ways.  I get super shy or super clingy.  Neither of them are very attractive but I think I’m an all in or all out kind of guy.  I have no idea what to do if someone starts dirty dancing with me, or flirting with me.  I don’t know when I need to stop being attentive or when I’m being too attentive.

4. But there’s a flip side to this:  I’d like to stop meeting women that remind me of the things I don’t want in a woman.  I am really good at meeting these types.  I am the bomb sniffing dog of meeting people that remind me of what I don’t want in life.  I’d like to meet a woman that has a faith in God that understands that being a Christian does not exempt me from making terrible mistakes but that works through the pain and hurt with me because she knows the spark in me is worth knowing.  I need a woman that will fight to keep things going, even when things are bad.  One that will not make friendship expendable if things start to hurt too much.  And if they do will show the courage enough to  work through it.

Also,  I want to be the man that is worth fighting for.  That shows integrity and admits when he is wrong.  I want to be a man that doesn’t make a mockery of love.  That tries to show the characteristics of 1cor 13 ( Patience, Kindness, Goodness, self control, does not envy or boasts, keeps no records of wrongs, is not boastful, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things).  I am not there yet but I would like to get closer.  I need to understand also when to let things go.  When the love I show becomes a “pearl before swine”.

I’d like to see a few other things happen this year as well.  I would really like to start performing live music out and about.  I have a lot of music in me.  I’d like to share it.  Play coffee houses, bars, churches.  I started getting ready for that this year.  Next year, I want to see it happen.

I’d like to start writing things that will make a big difference in someone’s life.  I don’t want to write fluff pieces anymore.  Fiction writing is difficult for me.  I think its because I’m afraid I might find things out about myself I don’t want to know.  For some reason fiction seems to cause me to dig in deep.  I’m not a big fan of that idea.  In addition, fiction seems too powerful because you create things and become a creator, which also scares me.

All in all, I want more out of life.  I don’t want a life of existence.  I want things that start helping me see life with wide eyed wonder.

What are your resolutions?

I guess(lyrical poetry)

There is nothing worse than failing at  meeting the expectations of a friend

 

I guess I turned out diff’rent

than you wanted me to be

guess my eyes have held the saw dust

that you didn’t want to see

guess you’ve gotten out the score sheet

and you’re coming out ahead

guess I’m choking on the words

that I wish I never said.

 

I guess I am expendable

at least that how it seems

guess it really doesn’t matter

what I hope for in my dreams

guess I’m putting away the outfit

that had an ‘s’ upon its chest

guess I’ll be taking up this class again

cuz I’m failing all your tests

 

And it really doesn’t matter

if I’d walk through Hell and then come back

or try to find the pieces for everything that we both lack

guess wrestling the angels won’t do me good this time

guess I won’t have to step outside to go looking for a sign

 

guess I’m one of the better ones

because this hurts like Hell

guess I hope you’ll see the diff’rence

but it’s still too soon to tell

guess I’ll throw my hands up

I don’t want to walk away

guess I’m going to be silent

cuz there’s nothing left to say

 

I guess I turned out diff’rent

than you wanted me to be

guess my eyes have held the saw dust

that you didn’t want to see

guess you’ve gotten out the score sheet

and you’re coming out ahead

guess I’m choking on the words

that I wish I never said.

How is this America?

A while back a friend of mine challenged me to write a political satire song.  A song that truly told people about how I feel about politics.  I’ve not written it yet.  This last election I didn’t vote.  I guess I really didn’t want the responsibility of choosing between two people I’d only want to wipe my hands clean of later.  Right now I’m not happy with either party.  Republicans seem to stonewall anything that democrats want to do by virtue of it being a decision made by the democrats, and the democrats are still blaming Bush.  I’ll be the first to admit that Bush made some pretty big mistakes but Obama, it’s your job now.  Stop blaming and start doing!!!  I find it really telling when a person in charge has to have a closed door session with a previous President to get things moving.

Why am I choosing to write about this?  Well I originally was going to write about New Years resolutions but I heard a news story the other day while I was in my car that made me ask the question: How can this be America?

Every year at Christmastime, the United Postal Service receives thousands of letters addressed to Santa.  According to ABC News, the letters are different this year.  Instead of children only asking for toys and other gadgets, kids are asking for money to pay heating bills, coats and clothes to keep warm.  Some asked for shoes.  But it’s not just children.  Parents are writing to Santa asking for a miracle.  Budgets are tight.  Money needs to go to food and parents feel a tinge of guilt when they can’t afford to buy the gifts that would guarantee to put a smile on their child’s face.  Parents are writing letters hoping that someone is listening.  From what I understand, some of these letters are getting answers.  Postal workers in charge of these letters are taking time to go shopping for the items in these lists.  While I applaud people stepping up to the plate and giving to increase holiday cheer, there is still the question how did it get this bad?  How can this be America?

According to most Americans we are the wealthiest nation in the world.  A land flowing with milk and honey.  Unlimited opportunities exist here.  But we are also a land that is in debt to the tune of 11.5 trillion dollars.  Let me put that another way:  That’s 11.5 with twelve zeroes behind it.  In addition, congress is deciding to spend another 1.1 trillion on our behalf.  What are they asking us to shoulder.  According to John McCain’s Facebook page our money is going to the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Bovine Tuberculosis research, cranberry and blueberry disease and breeding, and solar parking canopies.  So while the rest of America is struggling to buy clothes and keep their power on, you might be able to get your son or daughter a job with the Polynesian Voyaging Society for Christmas.

I guess I’m just confused how we can live in such a great nation and things can be so hard.  Are things so divided that ‘the haves’ really have and the ‘have not’s’ really don’t.  I know I wish better things for my extended family.  More work to pay bills, better clothes, better food on the table.  It shouldn’t be like this.  I know we are all supposed to make our own beds but it should be easier than this.  If this is the land of milk and honey, why are so many people still hungry and thirsty?

Thoughts on Christmas

 

Have you felt it yet?  According to the newspapers, sermons, television commercials and store decorations I should have.  But hearts are heavier this year.  Christmas Spirit just isn’t what it used to be.  I mean I still see the snow on the ground and the wisps of snow pass by my face as the wind picks it up.  I still see the cars lined up at the mall and the cars idled in the parking lot blocking out spaces their drivers are anxiously waiting to snatch up.  I still see see the children reaching upward to grasp their parents hand in their blue winter coats with their mittens dangling from the metal clasp that is fastened to the sleeves of their coats; the rising voices of parents in mid panic trying to find the perfect gift.  The fingers pointing, the people shoving, the music playing.  The hustle and the bustle of the holiday.

I still hear the arguments.  The “calling it x-mas takes the Christ out of Christmas”(ironic though in ancient days when Christians were being persecuted for their faith, their symbol to identify themselves was an X to avoid capture”) argument.  The “Should we call it a holiday or Christmas(Holiday is a form of the words Holy day, or sacred day) so we don’t offend anyone” arguments.  Should we put a manger on the court house lawn because church and state should be separate?  It’s all just a little much.

All this seems to make me want to think about the real meaning of Christmas even more.  So let’s take a journey back to the beginnings of Christmas.  When we think of Christmas today we think of sales and all the things listed earlier.  When the people before Jesus’ time thought of Christmas, they thought of an almost mythical coming of a king.  Throughout their history, to that point, the Jews had known that they were the chosen people of God and that a king was coming to solidify that designation for them.  They had waited years upon years for that to happen.  The coming of a Messiah was a promise but it hadn’t happened yet and it still seemed so far away still.

The announcement of Christ’s birth didn’t come in a mailer from a store or a catalog.  There was no money back guarantee or discount savings.  It came with something much better, a promise and a name…chosen.  The announcement came from an Angel.  Not a special moments rotund baby with wings and  a harp, but a Angel that brought power and instilled fear.  How do I know this?  Each time the Angel spoke the first words it said were “Do not be afraid”. The Angel first appeared to the father of John the Baptist, telling him that his son would be the person preparing the way for Jesus.  He didn’t believe the Angel and was literally muted until the birth of his son

The second person the angel came to was Mary.   The Angel told Mary that she was going to give birth to the Savior.  Her reaction was completely different.  She asked questions but she didn’t doubt.  In fact, she praised God and thanked Him for taking her oridinary life and making it extra ordinary!

When we reach Joseph in the story, we see a different man.  Joseph did not get Mary pregnant and that presented a problem for him.  A deathly problem.  Mary and Joseph were betrothed to be married.  In other words, they were part of an arranged marriage.  Sex outside of marriage was strictly forbidden.  Although Mary was still a virgin and Joseph had not slept with her, the appearance of marital impropriety caused Joseph some discomfort.  On top of this discomfort, Joseph and his bride-to-be had been ordered to take part in a census, which required them to travel.  So on top of causing him discomfort and getting him and his wife to be in all sorts of problems, he had to travel with her publicly.  Joseph had planned on leaving Mary.  He was ready.  But that’s when the Angel appeared to Joseph explaining that he would be the father of Jesus.  He stayed.

Angels also appeared to the Shepherds and Wise Men.  The Shepherds were lowly men.  The lowest of the low.  They were not trusted in society.  They smelled and no one really cared if they had an opinion, about anything.  They were minding their own business.  Not bothering anyone.  Just fulfilling their role in life.  And although they were untrusted by man, they were trusted by God.  They earned their right to a visitation from an Angel by virtue of their status.  They were told to get up and follow a star leading them to the long awaited one that would be their king.  They got up and went.  An interesting side note is that there are some who believe that the trip was a long one and that it might have taken them months to arrive at their destination.  In addition, can you imagine the sacrifice of trying to lead a herd of sheep to the destination?

As far as I know, the Wise Men are the only characters in the Christmas story that get two visits from Angels(again I could be wrong).  The Wise men weren’t really “wise men” by our definition of the word “wise.”  They were most likely astronomers.  That is probably why they were chosen to notice a star.  The Wise Men play a very important role in the story of Christmas.  They were advisers to the ruler of the land and they had been ordered by him to seek out the new baby boy and report back about the new king that had been born.  The reason:  to kill any threat to his power.   The first time the astronomers are visited by the angels, they agree to follow the angels instructions and follow the star.  I don’t think that was a difficult request for a group of people to follow a moving star that would miraculously hover over where Jesus was being born.  I think that the Wise Men would have followed by sheer curiosity alone.  A phenomenon like that would likely be too good to pass up.

The second time the Wise Men are visited by the angels, they are asked to protect Jesus by not returning home to tell their boss about Jesus.  Two things strike me as being pretty amazing about this detail in the story.  The first is the sacrifice that the Wise Men made by not returning home the way they came.  Did they have to go into hiding?  What would happen if they disobeyed?  Would they have to move and choose new jobs?  The second part that astonishes me is more of a question than anything else.  If the Wise Men were asked to report their findings to their boss, and they didn’t, does that mean that the star was hidden to anyone that threatened Jesus?  No one else could find it?  A large, bright, traveling star, in the night should be easy to find…..but it wasn’t.

But there is more to this story than the major players’ reaction to following Angels.  There is the reaction to Jesus.  The Bible is not clear if the Shepherds brought any gifts for the baby.  Perhaps they left Jesus their best lamb, perhaps they left Him with praise.

The Bible is much more specific about what the Wise Men brought Jesus.  They brought him gold, frankinsence and myrrh.  Money and valuable perfume(Myrrh was also believed to have medicinal properties. ).  On the surface, these are not gifts for a boy.  But they are gifts for a king.  It never says anywhere if the gifts were bought or not but I’d like to think that each of the gifts came from their own coffers.  That they chose and sacrificed the best they had.

What am I getting at?  I think Christmas is all in how you approach it.  If you approach it as gift time, you might get the satisfaction watching your loved ones open gifts, but your joy might be short lived.  If you approach it as a hassle where you have to battle crowds, you’ll never find any meaning in the season.  If you approach it as a time where a baby boy would be born so that you could be chosen, you will find peace. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Lastly, the information in this post was gathered over the years from sermons, books, television shows, songs and articles that left an impression on me.  Unfortunately, I had none of them on me when I wrote this

 

Questions

This post is going to be different. I believe that everyone questions their faith. I also believe that the depth of your questions is a good indication of the depth of your faith(Thank you to Pastor Steve Rennick for pointing that out in a sermon). Today I’m just going to write out questions to God. Some of them are questions I’ve had, some are questions I’ve heard. If I miss one, please feel free to comment.

1. Do you know we are down here?

2. Why are you so quiet? Do we even want to hear you speak loudly?

3. Do you know you’ve set the bar pretty high for us?

4. Why are people lonely?

5. Why do people suffer if you are a good God?

6. What is it like to love without condition?

7. Was it hard to be fully man and fully God at the same time? Did the two conflict?

8. Do you ever get tired of us asking for things when we can’t give back(or won’t) to you?

9. Do you ever question our motives?

10. Do you ever wish you had made your creation to automatically believe in you?

11. What is perfection like?

12. Do we even want to know what life would be like if you questioned our existence?

13. What do you find funny?

14. Is there anybody here on earth you’d like to have a face to face chat with?

15. If you could give us one message what would it be?

16. Is there someone for everyone?

17. What do you do on Sundays?

18. When you see crosses does it send shivers down your spine?

19. Why is life so hard?

20. Why the aardvark?

Not proud of myself

I’m not proud of myself tonight.  My buttons were pushed and instead of not responding to it, I acted like an idiot and swore and told the person off.  I need to get this out but I’m trying to respect privacy and at the same time get this out .  Tonight a friend told me that the hours of time I spent listening to her talk about things going on in her life meant nothing to her.  I guess she thought that instead of me being her friend, I was trying to be a counselor.  Maybe I was doing both.

I recognize that people need a shoulder to cry on, but I also recognize that each time I was asked my advice, it was ignored.  And the process was repeated many, many times.  It was frustrating.  I did not even attempt bringing some of my issues to the table because they always ended up back on other issues.  It begin feeling like I was unimportant.  Tonight it reached breaking point

My friend is going through a hard time and she wants me to watch her suffer and do nothing but be there.  I have tried that.  I’m not good at it.  When people come to me with issues repeatedly and nothing changes, I start asking hard questions.  I believe in that maxim, if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.  That’s what I did….asked maybe too many hard questions maybe too much.  I will not watch my friends willingly harm themselves or put themselves in situations that are bad for them.  When my friends suffer and nothing changes, of course I want to see them out of it.  But where I fail, is realizing that some people need to go through pain and repeat things in order to move forward.  I have told my friends, I will be there when you fall but I will not help you fall.  That is a trip each person has to take on their own.  There is a fine line between helping and doing nothing.  a balance that needs to be struck.  I will NOT be the person that watches idly while a person self destructs.  But I will also not tolerate being told I wasn’t there for a person when I went out of my to be.  I care about this person but she thinks that the best way I can care for her is not do anything to prevent her from pain.  I would not be a friend if I didn’t show concern and want to help, but I guess I wouldn’t be a friend if I didn’t let you go through this on your own.  When you’ve made it through, and you need a real friend I’ll be here….but don’t accuse me of not being there when I have given hours of time to listen….and don’t expect me to do nothing if I see you hurting