Now The Silence

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Frankly speaking the Orlando atrocity created a stunning silence.  It is too painful to mention. 
 

It is incomprehensible that anyone would want to kill, hurt, maim anyone let alone the LGBTQ community. Everyone I know who tries to speak is stunned by the enormity of the offense. Words don’t flow.

‘America the Beautiful’ is such because we focus on freedom of life and liberty.  We learn from each other.  The miracle of the constitution is that it allows us to recreate the meaning of democracy in each generation upholding basic principles that feed each generation.  But this type of behavior…?

The pundits will come up with fancy words to help ameliorate what has happened.  Words like deranged’, ‘terrorist’, ‘homophobic’.  This might make us all feel better. But the words are meaningless.  We don’t need explanations nor excuses nor defense of our Rights. We hunger to rediscover the simple basic human tenet of love for God and respect for each other.  They are pretty synonymous in many ways.

Jesus said: ’Peace I leave with you’. Peace to appreciate who “you” are. Peace to appreciate the distinctiveness of your neighbor.   Peace to share beneficial wisdom.  Peace to comprehend the difference between right and wrong.  Peace to comprehend that some ways of living are better than others. Peace to forgive the sins and shortcomings of neighbor. Peace to forgive yourself for your own shortcomings. Peace to live with yourself and the memories of past actions that you may want to erase from personal history. Peace to celebrate the wondrous gift of life. Peace opens up life opportunity.

Life opportunities change whenever we meet and talk with each other.  The world is transformed through a humble acceptance that we are all tenants on this planet.  It is loaned to us by God.

Some humility and sharing between us never hurts.  Thoughts, prayers, tears are with the LGBTQ community in Orlando as they sort through this horrid experience. May we discover the  commonalities between us so we can all appreciate each other in all our idiosyncrasies and differences.  Who knows. Perhaps you and I will change through the experience?

And for our elected leaders:  There is no reason that persons cannot have the right to bear arms. And there is no reason that a Congress elected by the people cannot come up with a gun control law that restricts access to these deadliest weapons to protect us all. 99.9% of us don’t want to walk around with arms to protect ourselves from our neighbor.  We want to enjoy our days with our neighbor!  America is the country that went to the moon and is exploring beyond the limits of space. We have the capacity to create a meaningful law and process.  Our elected leaders need the will to do it. And if they don’t want to do this. We don’t need them. We need leaders with a passion and commitment to serve the common good. To serve the people so we may live in peace.

Now the Silence.  Now the peace. Now the empty hands uplifted.

Now the kneeling. Now the plea. Now God’s arms in welcome….

 
 


Only The Beginning

  Only the Beginning

Version 2

Some Scientific Leaders are finally willing to say with confidence that the concept of God has run its course.  We don’t need it anymore because science has led us beyond it. Thank God someone is confident about something.  We can now all relax and relish in the ‘brotherhood of humankind’ as we go – together ‘arm in arm’ where we have never gone before. Variations on this theme has been repeated in billions of ways over the length of human history.  Sadly. They all eventually die. Somehow though God won’t go away. 

I have tremendous respect for science and scientific discovery.  I love science and the study of science. But opinion is just opinion. Scientists can speculate about God as can anyone.  Thank God that everyone does!  But you wouldn’t ask your surgeon to fix your computer would you? Or your baker to fix the leak in your roof?  We would normally seek out those who have more experience in the area of our need.

Okay. Science might show some of the inadequacies of religious tendencies and beliefs when they drop into the science arena.  Of course, it is easy to point out the inadequacies of religion. At times religion has been used to fill a black hole of scientific knowledge. Then science finally discovers an indisputable fact that is in its area of expertise. The religious ‘stand in’ goes down the tubes. Like the world is more than round. It’s more like a globe. Or how about the universe is more complicated or spacious than just a few several layers. It appears to go on beyond forever. We probably all know that by now.

Every generation needs to challenge the God concept. Especially the story of God taking on the form of human flesh and dwelling among us.  This is not an easy story to understand, appreciate and believe.  I am among the doubters too – as all believers over time.

In retrospect, I’d rather have this God dwell among us than the secular ones we hear about every day on the news. That is, the ones dedicated to violence and destruction and ending human life in one way or another.  Some use the guise of religion to justify their social theory. It doesn’t take much genius to see through it.  Like the social science gods who give us concentration camps and genocides. Other scientists who take a scientific advancement and immediately find a way to make it into a weapon of mass destruction. How about the nondescript gods who traffic in people in modern day slavery.  Not to mention those who convince people everyday that they have no choice in life, victims of social conspiracies with no opportunity before them but to demand the glorious state to provide for their needs. The lines of followers are long in these areas.  It is almost always someone else’s fault. These are the black holes of human god seeking achievement. 

I prefer a God of life myself even if the concept is antiquated for some.  But it does give life over death. It is only the beginning. You will see.



My Story. Your Story. Our Story

Pastor Abstract! – Version 3
It has been a challenging week. 
 
We all have them.  I set some goals for myself and set out to accomplish them.  This is a constructive practice for me.  I get more accomplished this way even if I don’t get to everything. And at the end of the week I have something to look back on and to measure what I accomplished. I am pleased with where I am even if everything did not turn out exactly as planned.  I know that next week will get me further along the way. Hope your week was okay too! You just have to keep at it.  As someone once said, ‘Perfection is not possible but you will find excellence along the way’. 

Opportunities are always found along the way just as frequently as obstacles and problems. Some think I say that just because I have read it in books. Not so.  Results from experience speak more than a thousand words.  Books confirm what I have learned from my life experience. The confirmation excites me because it tells me I am on the right track! And if the written word contradicts I know that either I’m on the wrong side of experience or the book is off track, based in theory and not practice. There is more of the latter than the former.  

I confess. I missed a mountain of opportunities over the years. Wow. If I only knew then what I know now!  But it doesn’t matter because I still can learn and adjust and latch onto the opportunities I come across today.

One day I want to tell you my personal story. Perhaps then you will understand why I think the way I do and why I see opportunities where others see mountains of formidable difficulties and challenges. You have never heard my story.  I know you would better grasp some of my idiosyncrasies and why I talk the way I do.  Yes, you would know me in a very different light. And in the sharing of course, I would get to know you in a brighter light!  I hunger for that.

I have a friend here who owns several music stores.  He sells all kinds of musical instruments from guitars, drums and every band instrument you can think of.  He has the ‘classical’ instruments too.  I never knew that his true love is repairing fine, antique musical instruments.  Instruments like violins, cellos, bass and the like.  He currently restricts his practice to repairing instruments for collectors and antique dealers.  He is a dedicated Artist.  This is his Calling in life. 

He plans to shortly open his repair to the public. He hasn’t done so previously because collectors will gladly wait.  The public wants and need their repairs ‘now’ as they are using the instruments.  Management of the Music stores, not his true love eat up a lot of his time. But not for much longer.

I found all this out by chance.  I had taken my violin to him for new strings.  He brought me into his workshop and the rest was history!  It was beautiful to see antique instruments in pieces finding their life again. Others would have given these instruments up ‘for dead’.  But of course, he knows what they can do and will do when they come back to life. He even told me the history of my violin. Its origins. Its mercantile purpose. Almost how it came to be in my hands.  He is quietly looking for people to work with him in this craft.  What an opportunity for someone who may want to share in the love of this craft from the ground up! Is this not an opportunity for someone who shares the same love for instruments?

Life is filled with all kinds of circumstances that are setbacks and simultaneously extend the seed of opportunity.  If you ever get to a point in life where you feel like quitting because you are overcome by setbacks try keeping this in mind.  If what you are currently doing doesn’t work for you it probably means that you weren’t meant to do just that.  Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by it. Be thankful that you have learned ‘that’ much so you can go and focus on something that will get what you need to get out of life. This is one reason I love to associate with Business owners.  There isn’t a business owner in the world who doesn’t have setbacks in multiples areas on multiple occasions. They wouldn’t be in business if setbacks dictated their reaction to their craft.  They have to find the opportunity in the midst of their circumstances. Get close enough to the best ones and they will teach you how to read the setbacks as opportunities or messages of a ‘cease and desist’ order, if you know what I mean.  It seems that we would all benefit from a similar approach to the setbacks in our own lives. Learn how to read the  messages and focus on where the light ahead of you shines. Not the darkness. 

The often ‘chance meetings’ I make during a week that lead to new associations and friendships often appear as happenstance or serendipitous.  They may be that at the moment. But I believe there is a Divine will at work providing opportunities for me to meet people and learn new ways at looking at old things to get where I need to go. Looking back on life I cannot believe that it just happened by chance.  No. I have beautiful children. Beautiful wife. Wonderful associations and experiences over many years. Not all the experiences were positive nor efficacious. Probably my own fault that they didn’t all turn out the way anticipated.  But they all brought me where I am today. I don’t regret where I am today.  I couldn’t be here without all those experiences. I thank God for that. 

I know this is happening to you too. It happens to everyone.  Only those with a heart for life sense that something needs to change.  The first step to resolution is somewhere in the realm of ‘stop’, ‘look’ and ‘listen’. Someone is talking to you and showing the way. That someone is Divine.  Just know it!



Focus On Faith

Mark 16:1-8  New International Version (NIV) 

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’

The Easter story may seem ‘anti climactic’ with an empty tomb and some bewildered women running away in fear. Especially so, as human drama is spelled out daily in the meditations of the past week.  

Who hasn’t experienced the euphoria of success, failure, disappointment, deep friendships, great company, great moments, betrayal, disillusionment, exasperation, hope? We can easily relate to these. The meditations are anchored in our experience.    But an empty tomb?

For those who are having difficulty with the last story:  

Let me put it this way. We have choice in life.  The women chose to visit the tomb. They didn’t want to ‘let go’. It was their choice to do something which they believed was the right thing to do. They were hoping to glean something from the experience.

 Hope is the active force that provides the opportunity to create life or life opportunity from every moment.  Even the last moment. Even the moment that appears to be on the opposite side of death.  That is why the refrain is repeated, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.”  The emptiness of the physical space, the void does not offer life opportunity. The hope in the Christ offers opportunity. The Christ does not dwell in empty places.  For the living it translates like this.  We have a life. We can build it with a purpose in mind or we can trash it through arbitrary experience. The choice is always ours. Much anger is expressed in life because the choice is our own. There is comfort in blaming others for giving us ‘thirty pieces of silver’. Those thirty pieces are never sufficient. They never satisfy. And as Judas discovered, they cannot be returned.

It’s very simple: ‘Don’t allow the interests of others define what  you are going to do or who you are to become. Own your own life! Go and do something with your life. Make something of your life. Let it be a life guided by a purposeful mindset that leads to a meaningful life not just a multitude of experiences.

The Holy Week meditations give a taste of the Christian life mindset. Christ teaches us the most meaningful and worthy perspective on life and all that it involves. A Christian mindset is founded in eternal principles. You will need more than a week to understand the Christian mindset and to reveal what it means in your life. It starts with focus on your life.

Seek your life purpose or renew your purpose and go for it!  Don’t be afraid of your purpose. Fear only what is holding you back. And it usually is fear. Get out of the empty tomb. Go for it with Christ’s blessing! Common experience runs away from faith and belief in what God enables us to become. It is a short step to make ourselves the center of the universe with our priorities. It is a shorter step to discover self as the victim of the world around us. 

Jesus could have blamed everybody too. But there is a difference between describing the world through the eyes of our circumstances and describing the world through unchanging principles of truth. Jesus says ‘Forgive them’. This means we can always start over our ‘life choice’. We can ‘make it’ or ‘trash it’! Jesus describes the world through principles that are eternally true not circumstances which are subjective and changing; temporary.

The resurrection story invigorates. Its richness is not found in the written words. The story’s richness is found in our lives as we meet or read about those who start over everyday and create a world filled with God’s blessings. The resurrection story is proved true every day in the living of Christ’s example. Life truly is in the living. The simple words of the story are rather dull until you place your own life in the mix. Add the Christ. Then it comes alive.

Have a wonderful life in Christ!

 


Daffodils

The Daffodils are in bloom. Already!

There was that saying, ‘April showers. May flowers.’ It may still be true but so is ‘February sprinkles. March blooms.’

Plants grow in spite of everything that could impair their success. We are in drought. Moisture is low. We see dew, fog, perhaps an occasional sprinkle shower that entices us to want and plead for more. The daffodils say it is time to grow. Survival and growth are possible. We see problems. The daffodils see solutions.

I read somewhere that ‘every problem has its solution.’ This is certainly true. The solution requires that I take ownership of the problem. Even if I don’t believe that I caused the problem!

Ownership gives control over circumstance and allows one to move forward with resolution. Casting blame on someone else removes the ability to control both circumstance and outcome.

The global cultural milieu today is looking for someone else to resolve our problems. Whether it be government, imperial powers, wealthy corporations, tycoons, nationally mandated programs. But no entity can resolve personal life issues.

Jesus said ‘Take up your cross and follow me’. He didn’t suggest that we should throw the cross on someone else’s shoulders nor cast it on the ground for someone else to pick up. It’s mine.

The path to salvation begins when we accept ourselves and our situation as it is and commit to transform from that time forward. It is personal. Individual. It involves ownership. The decision moves us on to places that we have never been following an incredible life model!

And if the daffodils decided not to break forth with life? We wouldn’t know. We might recollect that the daffodils haven’t come forth this year. That would be it.

Similarly, those who decide against owning their problems can be reassured of only one thing. They have arrived at the pinnacle of their life experience. It will always be more of the disappointing sameness.

On the other hand the Daffodils come forth and allow us to experience their brilliant color, vibrant strength moving in the wind. They trumpet the message that every problem has its solution. And the solutions surround us.

The Jesus story is colorfully filled with rich stories of life solutions. ‘Take up your cross and follow me’. The solution may be difficult and hard but it does exist. We all need hope that our life challenges are resolvable. We all need hope that we are building the character to move us onto the next level of greatness. Lets follow together!



It’s Pretty Bad

I have to admit it. It’s pretty bad.

Turn on the media and immediately discover that highlighted world events are heavily weighted toward pain, suffering and destruction.

Yesterday for example. I heard that the multi millions of dollars paid as kidnap ransoms by European governments to organizations like the ‘Al Qaeda’ in Africa is financing their killing machines. You can do lots with billions of dollars of ransom money. Apparently gangs and tribal clans kidnap the foreigners and ‘sell’ them to organizations who want to offer them up for ransom. European Governments and corporations pay well. Sounds like the 21st Century version of 19th Century slavery. Can’t beat the cash gain. The European taxpayer pays the bill. This is reported calmly and nonchalantly as if this is just the way the world is. Better learn to put up with it.

Closer to home we have the flood of children on the US border to escape the gang lawlessness in Honduras and countries further north. Don’t do what the gangs want and they don’t just kill you. They take out your parents, brothers and sisters too. Maybe a friend or two or a neighbor who comes to your aid. It is easy to understand why mothers would send minors alone to the USA for even the slightest hope for life. The stories of human atrocity are so disgusting that I empathize with those who want to believe it is fabrication. Oh that it was.

Whatever happened to the results of all that ‘foreign aid’ poured into countries to help build up the people’? It began in the 19th Century and continues to this day. Where are the human building results?

Government at best builds management infrastructure,bureaucracies, administrative paycheck jobs. They don’t build people. People learn from each other. How to think. How to react. How to live. Bad religion teaches bad religion just as good religion provides an entrance to a meaningful future.

I prefer to turn the radio off. Shut down the TV. Limit access to the print media. I don’t want my thinking to be perverted by the global turbulence that exists even on my own home turf today.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not into denial, ignorance or apathy. I just know that I must first know who I am, who I must become and be firmly grounded in this before I drop myself into the murkiness of human irrationality and the illogic of human violence and behaviors that are prolific in all fronts of the public media. This includes the voice of ‘the neighbor’ who gets a full dose of it every second. I cannot resign myself to believe that this is how life was meant to be. I doubt that you can too.

We humans need grounding in the belief that we are made in the ‘image of God’. The ‘God of life and life in its fullness’. Not the gods of death and destruction. Can you imagine what would happen if our thinking and our actions gravitated from the ‘image’ of being the ‘image of God? It would be impossible to mistreat another human. Even the atheist could accept that!

Most would agree that we humans were not created to be complacent, non reactive consumers of life as it is dished up to us according to someone else’s plan. We were created to become something from the abilities that God placed within us. This is not the same as thinking good about myself, accepting myself as I am, being nice to others, trying to improve ‘me’, judging everything by my invisible standard as if my standard of measure is okay. Nor is it resignation or giving up on the hope of life. Achieving perfection is beyond the reach of us mortals but excellence is not.

Being in ‘God’s image’ means that we hunger to be informed of truth and wisdom that gives life. It means that we read life changing materials, listen and learn to become a leader in our own right, in ways that we do not lead today. Lead in our homes. Lead in our neighborhoods. Lead in how we think and speak and act socially and politically. Associate with like minded people and you will grow from the association. You will change even if you don’t think you need to change! And eventually, the world will change around us. Without force or coercion.

The media does not serve well by informing me how corrupt the world is or can become. I know that from years of experience and from the stories told many a time by broken people. You have heard the stories too. It may be your own story.

There is another story though to be told. It is the story repeated millions of times by people who felt they were half-dead, bankrupt, or had dried up all their personal resource and inner strength. Many of these somehow made contact with Christian community. They were and are fed, loved and cared for and find a new life from new association and meaningful friendship. Their ‘love tank’ is filled. They find hope and opportunity.

This is the story of people like you and me who want more out of life than a daily hum drum of repetitious mundanity. It begins with new information which leads to new thinking. Association with like minded people creates a new social environment. The result is that we see the world differently. We relate differently with each other. The world begins to change one person at a time. I love it!

That’s why for the moment, I need to turn off the media. It’s time to grow and find true identity where God is the integral center.



The Cart Before The Horse. Our Preferred Position.

We live in a world where the cart goes before the horse.

We love to talk about results and focus on the success of our time. We win the game, love the music, enjoy the vacation, celebrate the promotion, love the new super highway, the new car, we love to get what we want. Results are king. The results are the cart full of our accomplishments. But it takes the pulling of the horse to take us anywhere significant.

Religion has little to contribute to the 21st century mind. This is the growing message that High School and College students increasingly receive from Science. We get that from the media and our neighbor too. I can appreciate why students absorb this conclusion. Science has made miraculous strides in the past two hundred years. It can describe the cosmos and its workings in ways that most of us cannot comprehend. Religion is just the horse. The science is the cart. And the cart is full of lots of goodies. The horse is looking tired.

A Calculus student once told me that it was possible to create a formula to do everything even when we cannot physically produce the results. I don’t doubt this is true. It surely must have driven people like Einstein to move ahead and show that correct theory leads to correct results. Eternal truths are not effected by our rejection or denial of the same. Truth and fact are eventually demonstrated by results. Profound belief in the eternal nature of truth is a requirement for anyone to persist in scientific discovery

when you cannot see the immediate and unqualified results. The horse moves the cart.

My student friend added that Calculus is about discovering the rules that exist in our universe. It does not create them. It cannot go beyond them. The universe is like a giant box and we humans may have the potential to diagram all the rules within the box. That’s a pretty big cart of stuff! And the horse keeps it moving, together.

Religion doesn’t mind stepping outside the box to the other side. Even the most negative forms of religion makes us think beyond ourselves. And the better religion which is forward looking pushes our thoughts and aspirations and achievements beyond our thinking. We call that action faith and belief. It takes us places that we would never go otherwise. The horse can canter and gallop when it gets moving. The stuff in the cart better be tied down or it will fall out!

Religion and science are twin sisters with distinct personalities. They shouldn’t be having spats between them. When you think about it they both lead us to awe and to appreciate the wonder of life. Science has fed off the faith of religion much to the resentment of some 21st century Scientists. With faith we learn that the twin sisters are both okay. And it is religion that pushes us over the limits to the other side. Even if the other side ends up being on this side.

I love the cart and what it contains. I love the horse too. We really can’t go anywhere without both of them. To get life right we will have to learn how to keep them together – in the right order of course.



Does anyone ever talk about their hammer?

No one ever talks about a hammer. Build a house and you don’t pull out the hammer and say: ‘Look at what my hammer did!’ No. Build a house and the hammer (nor any other tool) will get a mention. Instead, you will say, ‘Look what I have here! Isn’t it a beautiful house?’ Your focus is on the completion of the dream, the ‘end product’. Not the tools used to build it.

Money is like a hammer. It is a tool. You use it as a tool to do things. The only time you talk about a hammer is when you don’t have one and you need one. Money is very much the same. The only time people talk about money are those who don’t have money. They will talk about it ad nauseum in all kinds of ways: ‘I can’t afford that.’ Honey. We’ll take that trip when our credit balance drops’. ‘That was an expensive trip but worth every penny.’

People who have money don’t talk about money. They will talk about accomplishments. Next time you hear someone talking about money you might want to note that they probably can’t teach you how to make, manage or keep money. They don’t know how to keep it or use it properly themselves. Could be the person next door even! And they are probably bankrupt and don’t even know it.

Money is a gift. It comes from stewardship of God’s resources. That is why Jesus says… ‘everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Stewardship is not to be taken lightly. We only go round once in this life and so we are encouraged to seek excellence throughout. Not survival. Not resignation. Not greed, Not quitting. Likewise, the Apostle Paul writes to his young friend and helper Timothy to ‘command (those who are rich) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.’ Use well what you have received. Money is not a gift of course if you gain it from stealing, engaging in illicit activities or deny belief in God.

It has been well said that money itself is neutral. It is nothing unless a human puts it to use. Money only has three uses. You can use it to acquire things. You can use it to accomplish goals and dreams. You can contribute to causes and people in need. Most of us get caught up on the first one and trip up on the other two.

Truly financially successful people know that money is a tool that makes it possible to do the latter things in ways that the lack of money prohibits. It has also been shown that happiness is tied to accomplishing all three with our resources whether we consider ourselves wealthy or poor. A poor person can be as greedy or benevolent as a wealthy person. God’s stewardship is a serious and fun business to make life better for all.

Money is generally viewed as having intrinsic value. Everyone seems to know how to make money but not to keep it. And as we earn more money we need even more money as our debt loads increase. Our Government institutions follow the same pattern of insanity. Who is learning from whom?

Those reading these words are among the richest people in the world and yet most of us would say that we need more to ‘make ends meet’. There is not a shortage of abundance nor opportunity in God’s world. But there is a shortfall in how we are thinking and being encouraged to think and live with our wealth. You can make that change by learning to think differently about wealth. Wealth is not an evil nor a good. It is a tool that can be used.

It is possible to learn how to use money as God’s gift, a tool to be used in life. As Jesus said, Where your treasure is there is your heart also. Money is not a treasure. It is a tool.

Place your life on the top of money as a treasure and it is the same as placing your life on top of a hammer.

Really now? Would entrust your life to a hammer? I hope not.



Easter As A Child

I recall Easter as a child.

I had fun gathering chocolate eggs and eating them.

My mother prepared a special meal and I ate that too. Easter began and ended with that. Boredom set in quickly. I asked my mother, ‘What next?’ She said “go outside and play.” I did. I also finished my chocolate eggs.

The 21st Century is catching up with my experience. There are now community Easter Egg hunts, family gatherings, picnics, play, laughter and a rite of spring. Just another way to pass yet another day. All bereft of religious significance. What next? Go outside and play?……………Life is okay.

The 21st Century is infected with a general malaise of purpose. Life options and choices are limitless today. They are restricted only by one’s ability to stay awake. Personal judgement based on a standard of arbitrary likes and dislikes rule the command of choice. Everything is okay in our society so long as it is generally acceptable, average, mediocre.

The Easter story says life is dismal when lived as ‘okay’, average, mediocre. Don’t be duped into living the mediocre life.

I admit that the first hearing of the Christian Easter story sounds somewhat weird. There is mystery in the Easter story. Jesus’ body is placed in a tomb. The tomb is found empty and a cry is made that echoes throughout the centuries: “Christ is Risen.” “He is Risen indeed.” Hear this story each year and you seed the opportunity to appreciate the significance of life overcoming death.

Life is not a rich experience when focused on the ‘average’ and mediocre.

The distinction between the great and mediocre is not in what we think but how we think. The initial Christian story anticipated finding a body in a tomb. This is quite logical and acceptable. It is like finding Easter Eggs in an Easter Egg hunt and having a fine meal to boot!.

The mature Christian story finds an empty tomb. This is NOT anticipated and is neither logical nor acceptable. This is like realizing that if my life is to be transformed something inside me must radically change. In other words, My way of thinking must be transformed. I must think differently. I must relate to my life experiences in a different way. I need to think differently. This is like dying and coming to life again. Anew.

I recall attending a Presentation once on building a successful business. The Presentor was a successful multi Millionaire, philanthropist, a humble, accomplished leader. Everyone challenged his ideas as if there situations were unique and therefore different. He gently reminded the attendees that their way of thinking had gotten them into the problem situations they were in that day. They were there to learn how to think differently in their situations. ’Keep thinking the way you are thinking can only grant more of the same.’ Doing the same ‘better’ forever ultimately makes it worse. New thinking is required to grow into a new way of acting, behaving, doing life.

Easter traditions are important. Traditions without faith teach no faith, Traditions without a story of hope teach no hope. Traditions without God ultimately teach meaninglessness. The Christian Easter story says life has exponential opportunity of experience, thought, accomplishment. It is all there for the grasping and understanding and the living.

Our thinking has brought us where we are today. We want the good life. Would you prefer best over good or better? Mediocre says all the options are okay. Are we satisfied with the results? Answer ‘yes’ and you can check the ‘average’ box. The Easter story says: ‘Try again!’ God says go for best.

This is where the road forks for the Christian believer and the world in general. The Easter story shows that God has a different way to interpret reality. Choose your superlative. The life of faith is richer, deeper, more profound, more fulfilling, more fun. The life of faith is not based on a selfish imposition of ourselves onto the world.

The concept of God pushes our thinking so we reach higher, think broader, deeper, more profoundly. God pushes our thinking until we realize that the abundant life does not exist until we learn how to serve the other and find ourselves through the deep relationships with others. Find your neighbor. Love your neighbor and you will learn how to love yourself and to love God.

God shows us how to think. We determine what to think. You can only accomplish this through a belief in God. The Easter story says this is true and wants us to believe it and say, “I know this to be true.”



Who Are You Hanging Out With?

 

I grew up in a multiethnic neighborhood.

A walk down main street left me breathless. As a young kid I heard more languages than I could believe were possibly spoken on the same planet. Walk into a supermarket and the plethora of foods, vegetables, meat cuts, colors, smells stopped you in your tracks. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of these sensations which were outside my family experience. That was of course, until my School became multiethnic and my friends in School reflected the diverse cultures. They invited me to share in their foods, their fun as well as meet their families. Language or no language I adopted bits of the cultures. I was hungry to learn ‘the languages’ so our relationships could grow beyond the feeling and emotion. It was a fun association.

Thank God not all associations are so welcoming. There were other associations too. The group of dopeheads, for example. They were friendly but didn’t exactly want me around. I would be the party pooper. Me ‘watching’ perhaps but with definite doubts about participating did not make the ‘high’ so much fun. It was the same with the drinking group too. Friends but not friends. Perhaps my presence added a layer of guilt or a touch of sensibility that the excesses didn’t really bring happiness. Only headache, bad grades and frankly deep set anger. Nobody wants the party pooper around. The party pooper didn’t want to hang around with that either.

There is tremendous power in association. Social study after study show that you will become like the people you associate with. Or they will become like you. Hang around the poor and you will most likely be or become poor. Hang around the rich and you will most likely be or become rich. Hang around people without hopes, dreams, character, goals, expectations, and you can expect to gravitate in the same direction. Yep. True too if you hang around those who consider themselves victims and can’t see an opportunity when it stares them straight in the eye. The world is filled with ‘Victim Theology’ called by other names.

Association is not just a matter of ‘rubbing shoulders’ with someone. The mind and the heart begins to focus on the wrong stuff. The conversation and thought process goes awry. The Christian Apostle Paul once wrote “Bad company corrupts good character.” Today we would probably say: “Keeping company with bad character corrupts good character.” Or how about this Proverb: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” You’re not kidding Wise Man!

Keep company with people who are bitter or angry or upset because they believe life has given them a bad turn and you can guess how your thoughts will end up. Keep company with people who are cheerful, optimistic, determined to find opportunity in adversity and you can guess how you will most likely end up also.

This surely makes a lot of sense. That is why we take measures to watch who our children associate with. We want them to have the best association in an environment that will cultivate their positive growth. It’s a shame that we don’t take the same precautions for ourselves. Not that I want to exclude anybody. But people who are negative, resentful, of a victim mindset might require some ostracism to realize that they are making the world quite painful for everybody. Well, almost everybody.

When you make a personal commitment to get the most out of life and to focus on doing things in life that really matter you will forget about the ‘victim’ position. You will begin to see opportunity in the fog. The lights will eventually turn on.

No wonder Jesus was called the ‘Light of the World’. He focused on the abundance side of life. Those who associate with Him have the best opportunity to see both the light and the abundance.

It pays to hang around people who see the light. That’s the ‘association’ thing. Take care with the company you keep.