Friday, June 26, 2020

A Drive In the "Country"


Today is a day off for me. And, as I sometimes wish to do, I went for a drive out into the county (I hesitate to say “country” anywhere in Sedgwick County...for me, “the country” would be southwestern Logan County or similar.) to see what was going on away from the city. I thought I would give you a few observations off the cuff.
  1. The road I chose, 215th West, is one NICE paved road...all the way from Goddard to Highway 96. The county has done a really nice job with this and other roads outside of the cities.
  2. There were more sheep and goats in pastures along the way than I would ever have thought would be in South Central Kansas. I don't know if they are being used as simply livestock, as are cattle, or if they are for 4-H or some other purpose. And I suppose that goats could be kept for their value as milk producers. Goat milk in the stores is rather expensive.
  3. The alfalfa is about ready to cut again. It''s blooming, and I expect the mowers and balers to be busy shortly.
  4. Several farmers (or else one super-big farmer) have baled straw this year in those big round bales. I'm not sure where that is going, but there's a lot of it that has been baled.
  5. Those guys who got their corn planted early were able to take advantage of the spring rains. Their corn crop looks good, and some is even tassling now. The guys who were unable to plant until recently will have to rely either on irrigation or the spotty and sporadic rains that come in the hot months of summer.
    And I saw one guy re-planting some beans in an area of his field that looked to be rather poorly populated with bean plants. That may be kind of a crapshoot this fall on getting a crop on the re-plant, if we have an early cold snap or two.
  6. There are some really nice homes in that area. Many probably are owned by “gentleman” farmers or city people who have moved to the county. And there are a few enclaves of home clusters in that area as well.
  7. Colwich is a larger community than I had originally thought. I'm not sure of the population, but it's a nice town. And if there was a church other than the Catholic church there, I didn't see it.
  8. The antenna “farm” that has been part of the landscape in that area since the 1950's is still there and very much a part of the country side. An antenna farm is an area where several radio and television towers are placed in proximity to each other.
  9. People will still wave at you using the steering wheel wave in the country. I think it's not so much as they think they know you as it is an acknowledgment of your presence along with a “thank you” for hugging the side of the road as you pass.
  10. The railroad that cuts through that area is alive and well. They've replaced a lot of ties, dumped new ballast down, and have upgraded crossings. Looks like the K & O is in this for the long haul.
Well, there it is...observations from one guy who took an hour and a half or so drive to see what he could see out in the “wilds” of N.W. Sedgwick County.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

One. Blessing.. At. A. Time.


Good afternoon.  It certainly has been an interesting couple of weeks.  Of course, I could probably say that about pretty much any two-week period of time these last months.  So much has been said about the state of our society, its faults and failures and our need to eliminate racial bias, poverty, despair, and hopelessness.  I sometimes look at all of the problems and issues we are having; then I sigh and relegate myself to the ranks of those millions who see so much problem that they admit defeat before they begin to fight the battles.
Some years ago, I trained to be an EMT…Emergency Medical Technician.  Those are the ones who help staff ambulance services, especially in the more rural areas of the country.  During our training on mass casualties, the thing that was drilled into us more than anything else was the fact that our first response upon arriving at a mass-casualty incident would be to freeze and do nothing because there is so much need we wouldn’t know where to begin.  We learned to begin by performing triage to determine who is most in need, who may be beyond need, and who can wait.  Then we concentrate on one person at a time, and once we begin to attend to that one person, we don’t leave them unless we hand them off to another medically-trained person for further attention.
May I suggest much the same for those of you who long to help in some way, but are unsure where to begin due to the great need that you see?  You first need to understand that you can’t fix everything…you can’t do everything…but you CAN do something.  You can put your energies and resources into something that will make a difference.  And by many of us doing the same thing, we can effect genuine and heartfelt change.
Jennifer White started ICT S.O.S. some ten years ago after learning about human trafficking in Wichita…looking at her own then 13 year old daughter…and determining that she would do what she could to fight that scourge.  She is the founder and Executive Director of an organization that now reaches into all parts of that issue…law enforcement, mental health, prevention, education, physical health, prosecution…and has been the driving force behind much of the progress that has been made in this area.
You may see, as you travel the streets of Wichita, Paxton’s Blessing Boxes installed here and there.  Paxton and his mom began that project four years ago when Paxton was six years old.  Today, there are over 70 blessing boxes in multiple states of the US, many of which are in the Wichita area.  As their web site says, “Everyone involved can make a positive change in a person’s life, ONE. BLESSING. AT. A. TIME.”
There are many, many other organizations, individuals, and groups who have seen the need, decided on one approach to meet that need, and have given time, energy, and resources to help meet that need… ONE. BLESSING. AT. A. TIME.”
You too can provide that one blessing for one person just like Jennifer, Paxton, and a host of people who are even now making a difference.  Rather than expending your energy on Facebook and Twitter posts where you are regurgitating and propagating some meme of dubious value…rather than using the blessing of free speech to divide, judge, and cast yourself as somehow superior, why not actually do something that will make a positive difference?  You don’t have to start a non-profit to do that.  Nor do you have to put food boxes together and stock them.  But you can volunteer for one already established.  And you can check in with your church for opportunities to serve the underserved.
You can put food into a Paxton’s Blessing Box.  You can help Jennifer and her volunteers sort donated goods and re-pack them for fresh-start bags.  You can pick up trash along the river or in a park.  You can volunteer at Botanica, the zoo, The Lord’s Diner, Kansas Food Bank, or some other such place.
Try being kind to those you encounter…the check-out people in the stores, wait staff in a restaurant, your barber or salon worker, the postal employee who sells stamps.  Give them an extra amount of appreciation for what they do.  Tip them well, if tips are allowed.
Shop local businesses as much as you can.  Let them know you appreciate their business and their desire to serve you.  Be willing to pay a little more to buy it from a local business than from Amazon.
Donate to the Homeless Outreach Team of the Wichita Police Department.  They have expenses not covered by city funds.  Find a local charity and support it with your time and resources.
Visit a long term care center when they open again.  Visit with those who live there and establish a relationship with them.  Volunteer at your school when they open again.  They could always use the help.  Or, you can volunteer with Senior Services of Wichita or one of any number of organizations…call 211 and ask for some suggestions of where you might be able to serve.
The opportunities are endless.  You can and will change hearts and lives.  You may never see it in your lifetime, but you can be assured that your compassion and generosity will never go to waste.  Find your niche…and fill it.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

No Answers


Good morning.  I trust you have at least a measure of wellness within you, not only physical wellness, but mental, spiritual, and emotional as well.  We can’t be 100% well in any of those areas because we are human and live in an imperfect creation.  However, we also struggle to improve the wellness-factor for ourselves…and for others as well…as much as we possibly can.  And that brings me to my thoughts for this week.
If you’ve been cognizant of the news this week, you know of the death of an African-American who was being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  That event has sparked days of protests and sometimes unlawful conduct not only in that city, but in other parts of the nation as well.
You also celebrated, in some way, Memorial Day this past Monday.  Many of us took time to remember those who have gone on before, and we especially were mindful of those who gave their lives in service to the nation.
As far as my world is concerned, there are several things going on that I would rather were not reality.
I am concerned about at least three of my friends who are battling cancer of some kind right now.  The prognosis is uncertain, and I am concerned for their welfare.
There are those in my family who are dealing with unemployment, illness, and other issues of life and living.  They are trying the best they can, but the times aren’t conducive to a quick fix for much of what is happening with them.
I’m thinking of one of my long-ago classmates who has been battling MS for over 20 years now, and slips a little more each week, it seems, into a state of disability and need.
And I’m mourning along with a friend who lost her baby five years ago this week in a miscarriage.  She and the family are having a difficult time this week, remembering the child who is not with them.
And, of course, I am concerned for the COVID 19 pandemic.  We are continuing to move as a world and a nation into uncharted waters, desperately hoping that medical science can find an answer sooner rather than later, and meanwhile are still wearing masks and social distancing.
So, what do we make of all of this?  And especially for the Christian, how do we reconcile what happens in life with what we believe about a loving and compassionate God?
I know I don’t have the answers to these kinds of questions.  I’ve wrestled with them myself for many years and have heard countless Christians give their thoughts on the subject.  Nothing seems to quite gel, however, and I am always left with a feeling of incompleteness and a longing for a better explanation.
Perhaps the best answer that I’ve heard came from the mouth of Ravi Zacharias, recently deceased.  Ravi was a Christian apologist and founder of RZIM Ministries, which is carrying on with the work of Christian apologetics.
"Through the process of suffering, you realize how finite you are and how desperately you need the very presence of God to carry you through,” he said.
This is Jay again.  I know that isn’t a full and complete explanation that many of us would like to have.  Even reading and understanding the book of Job in the Old Testament, where Job dealt with incredible suffering, questioned God about it, and received the answer that has resonated down through the ages…even that doesn’t fully answer the question.  For you see, God’s answer to Job basically was (short version), “I’m God and you aren’t.  Why are you questioning me?”
May we realize just how finite we are.  May we understand how desperately we need God to carry us through the suffering we experience.  May we extend compassion to those we know who are suffering.  And may we continue to praise the God of the universe for His marvelous love, even in the face of the greatest tragedies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Conspiracy Poll


The publisher “The Atlantic” ran a poll of 2,023 Americans in mid-March asking them whether they believed one or more of 22 listed conspiracy theories. The results are interesting to say the least.
Only 9 percent of respondents didn’t express some level of agreement with any of the 22. Here are several other results:
Percentage
Conspiracy Believed
54%
The “one percent” of the wealthiest Americans secretly control the government.
50%
Jeffrey Epstein was murdered to conceal his activities.
45%
Genetically modified food dangers are being hidden from the public.
43%
An extra-judicial deep state is secretly embedded in the government.
37%
Mr. Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election and is a Russian asset.
28%
Hillary Clinton provided nuclear material to Russia
20%
Mr. Obama faked his American citizenship.
29%
The threat of COVID 19 is being exaggerated to hurt Mr. Trump's chances at re-election.
31%
The COVID 19 virus was created and spread on purpose.
15%
School shootings are “fake news.”
15%
The number of Jews killed in the holocaust has been exaggerated.
30%
The dangers of vaccines have been concealed.
26%
The dangers of 5G technology have been concealed.



An Old Hymn


I happened to listen to the old hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” yesterday on-line.  The tune was familiar; however, the first verse was different than what we sing in our fellowship, and was the same as what we used to sing in the Old Mennonite tradition, as I recall.
This morning, I started in on some research to the words of the song, wanting to find the original text.  I found out that the song has been modified many times from the original by several different people, and has at least five verses.  We usually only sing three, and two of those three verses are changed from the original.
I’m not going to put all five original verses in this post.  If you want to see them, see the Wikipedia article on the song.  I will post the first verse, however, along with the verse that we sing in our tradition so you can see the very substantial change in the tone of the entire song, just from the change in the words of the first verse.

Our version:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me ever to adore Thee; may I still Thy goodness prove,
While the hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love.

Original version:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

I don’t know why the words were changed, and the “melodious sonnet” and “flaming tongues above” were deleted from our version.  I suspect that someone thought that the original words were too fanciful, or perhaps too figurative.  However, in my estimation, the entire message of the song is reduced by the substitution of words.
I see the hymn-writer coming into such a state of thanksgiving and praise in that first verse…thanksgiving and praise for the grace that floods in streams never-ceasing, that he longs to break out in a heavenly song known to the angels of heaven.  And I might even use the word “ecstatic” to describe his feelings at the time he sings this verse.
The altered first verse, however, quickly brings one back down from the “streams of mercy” thought to one of something more down-to-earth and practical.  And while I indeed am filled “with joy and love,” there’s nothing ecstatic or supernatural about my experience.  It’s…well…practical.
You may well have different thoughts about these verses than I have.  The words in this post are my own.  And that’s OK.  You may not be able to relate well to “flaming tongues” and “sonnets.”  But you need to know that the original writer of the song had specific thoughts and ideas in mind…and someone else has modified those thoughts and ideas to suit his or her own taste and belief.  That’s not, unfortunately, an unusual occurrence with older hymns.  Many have suffered the indignity of having words, thoughts, and entire verses altered, removed, or added because of someone’s personal belief and preference.  Obviously, you can detect my bias here toward singing the hymns as written.
In any event, know that we don’t sing the “old songs” just because they’re old.  We sing them because they’re good, powerful, grateful reminders of God and His relationship with His creation.  Don’t dismiss the old songs just because they’re old and traditional.  Use them.  Use them in your worship, thanksgiving, and adoration of God the Father and Jesus Christ our redeemer.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Two Good Men


Last evening, I watched a KPTS (our local public televisions station) program called “One-On-One.” It is an interview show where the host interviews a person from the area. That person may be a politician, business person, volunteer, media personality, and the like. It is usually one who is fairly well-known in the Wichita area.
The edition that I watched last night was an interview with Merril Teller, retired chief meterologist for KWCH, the CBS affiliate in Wichita. Many of you will remember Merril. He's doing fine in retirement, and seems to enjoy being able to “go and do” without the burden of work.
Teller has been with KWCH since 1981. He has seen huge changes in both the television media as well as the way weather is presented on the air. His 38 years of work at the same station (although it has changed hands several times and call letters as well), is seldom equaled anywhere in the broadcasting industry.
The host asked Teller a question that took him back to the early years of his career when KWCH was dead last in the Wichita market. It was not a good time for the station. It was a time of old, outdated equipment, large turnover of employees and talent, and generally not a good place to work.
Merril reminisced that the turnaround came when a couple of guys from Hays, Kansas purchased the station, poured a lot of cash into it, brought in new management, and made the station much of what it is today...number one in the market. Those two guys were Ross Beach and Bob Schmidt, who at that time owned the Hays and Goodland television stations as well as several radio stations and cable television franchises.
Merril hasn't been the only one who has credited Beach and Schmidt for the turnaround at the station. Several of the personalities who have since retired from there have credited them with bringing the station back from the brink.
I knew Mr. Beach and Mr. Schmidt. I worked for them for several years at both Hays and Goodland. They were great to work for. They cared for their employees, gave us everything we needed to succeed, and kept the stations in good equipment. They were personable, approachable, and well-respected in the community. The culture in their world was one of honesty, integrity, ambition, drive, and compassion. In later years, they engaged in several philanthropic endeavors, including a revamping of the Hays-located Sternberg Museum and the establishment of the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center on the campus of Fort Hays State University. It is no accident that their purchase of KWCH brought about change that resulted in hurtling that station to number one in the market.
This post, unlike most, has nothing to do with religion...but rather is one that looks at two good men who were able to effect profound change for the better wherever they were, through the timeless principles of honesty, fairness, integrity, and compassion. Those principles, contrary to what we see much of nowadays, are not outdated or passe. They continue to work whenever and wherever they are invoked. Use them. Believe in them. Let them guide you in your daily life.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Freedom Is Calling. So Is the Cage.


Last weekend I read an article in the latest issue of Christianity Today titled, “Freedom Is Calling.  So Is the Birdcage.”  Sandra McCracken, the author of the article, talks of driving down a highway recently, and seeing a truck that was carrying poultry in open-air cages.  No doubt they were going to some kind of poultry processing facility.  She then said that on some days, she feels like one of the birds on the poultry truck…caged in the confining circumstances of daily living, barreling down the highway of life on an open-air truck to who-knows-where.
We Christians often find ourselves in the same place as Ms McCracken.  We don’t wish to be like the poultry in the cages, but sometimes we find ourselves there due to life circumstances.  Overwhelming sadness, uncertainty of the future, unrelenting workload, the breakdown of normal living, and sometimes our own stubbornness can keep us caged up like the birds on the truck.  And sometimes we wake up in the morning and have no clue how we got to that point in life.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.”  Paul reminds us of the truth of the freedom in Christ in Galatians.  In that same letter, he says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Our freedom in Christ doesn’t depend on the uncertainty of life and the breakdown of normal life and living.  These past couple of months have certainly been a time of sadness, uncertainty, and life that certainly isn’t normal.  We may feel like we are somehow caged up in the circumstances of the day, unable to function as we would like.  Our emotions may be on a kind of roller coaster, especially if we are temporarily out of work, if we aren’t sure if the place where we work will open again, or if we are having difficulty maintaining some kind of family normalcy.
Those emotions…those ups and downs…those experiences are normal in a situation such as the one we are in right now.  However, as Christians, let us also remember that we have a freedom that transcends the freedom of not having to stay at home or not being able to patronize a local business.  We have a freedom that helps temper the emotional roller coaster and the experiences of day to day living.  We have a freedom that cannot be taken away by a virus, a government order, or the loss of a job.
Our experiences may fluctuate from day to day…and that’s normal.  Our true freedom, however, remains secure in Jesus Christ.  He is the key.  He is the open gate.  He is the one that calls us out of the cage and into the freedom of eternal life…both now and forevermore.

Is God Taking Us To a New Place?


A few days ago, I happened upon a testimonial-type sermon given by Sandi Patty.  Patty, as many of you know, is a gospel singer who began her career about 40 years ago.  Since then, she has accumulated a closet full of awards…multiple Grammy and Dove awards, and many other accolades.  She is known in gospel circles simply as “The Voice.”  Her vocal range of over three octaves, and her command of her voice is on par with the greatest of singers.
As you may also know, Patty went through a very tragic and public failure in the late 1980’s.  She has admitted to an affair with a married man while married to another, and  has endured the disappointment and displeasure of many in the Christian music world.  She is now married to that man, and has been for the past 25 or so years.  They have a blended family.
In her sermon, Patty talks about that time, the tragic aftermath, the sorrow, repentance, and restoration that has taken place since then.  She uses as Scripture for her story, the story of Noah and the Flood.
Now, you might think that to be an unlikely portion of Scripture to use in such a sermon.  However, her point was two-fold.  In Genesis 8:1, the verse starts out, “But God remembered Noah…”  When the Bible talks about God “remembering” someone, it is more than just a recalling of that person.  The sense of the Hebrew is looking upon someone with concern and favor.  Patty believes that God remembered her and her family in the way that the Hebrew states.
Second, when the ark finally came to rest, and God told Noah to depart the ark, Noah most certainly wasn’t in the same place as he left.  God had taken Noah to a new place.  In the same way, Patty believes that God took her and her family to “a new place.”
Actually, this is a normal thing for God.  If you recall, God took Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Israel, the prophets, the twelve disciples, Paul, and many others to “a new place.”  And in that new place many of these people settled down, had families, and served God where they were.  Some, such as Paul, never did really settle down after God had taken him to a new place.  But they served the Lord as they were capable and able in the place where God had brought them, just as Noah fulfilled the command of God to be fruitful and multiply in the new place where God had brought him.
As I listened to her message, I had to bring her points up to the present day with the COVID 19 virus pandemic.  The thing perhaps on your mind right now, given the circumstance of the day, may be, does God “remember” us during this pandemic?  Is God looking upon us with concern and favor?  I believe He is.  I believe God is well-aware of our individual situations and circumstance, and “remembers” us through this trial.
Second, is God taking us to “a new place” through the COVID 19 epidemic?  Is He moving us out of our old place of comfort, our place of security, our place of normalcy, the “ruts” that we find so comforting, and into a new place of some sort?  Now, I’m not saying that God is CAUSING the epidemic.  But I have to wonder if He somehow is using it to reach His people in some way that will eventually result in a revival, in some of us anyway, of love for God, service to others, and developing a closer walk with Jesus Christ.
I don’t know the answers.  I am barely able to formulate questions.  But I do know that God is never-changing, ever-trustworthy, and love that never fails or disappoints.  Be assured that He remembers you, loves you, and in taking you to a new place will ever watch over you.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Door of My Lips


I try to regularly read one or more of the Psalms, usually in the morning hours before things get busy.  I don’t always get there, but it’s a goal.  Today, I happened upon Psalm 141.  In that Psalm, the writer is asking God to keep him from doing evil.  Verse 3 of that passage sort of jumped off of the page toward me.  Here’s what it says out of the Christian Standard Bible translation:  LORD, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.
Do you see what the writer is saying?  The literal vision of this is of God Himself being the guard posted at the door of his lips…the door representing the passageway through which the words are spoken.  The writer is asking God to not let anything “through the door” of his lips that is not appropriate or proper.
That literal vision may not be as far-fetched as one might think.  If we are Christians…if we are children of God…God Himself dwells in us by his Holy Spirit.  We are vessels, so to speak, for God’s Spirit.  And if that indeed is true, then it would not be a stretch to imagine God’s Spirit at the door, or opening of our mouth, allowing nothing unwholesome to come from it.
In fact, Paul talks about this “unwholesomeness,” and connects it with the Spirit of God in Ephesians 4, starting with verse 29.  Listen to what he says.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Grieving the Holy Spirit of God is right in the middle of a paragraph about wholesome speech, kindness and compassion.  As Christians, we need God’s Spirit at the (almost) literal doorway of our speech.  And we need that same Spirit guarding what we type in social media or otherwise write.  It is so easy to speak or write before we think.  It is such an easy thing to say something that, once said can never be recalled.  And with social media, what we write there is out there permanently for the whole world to see from now on.
I had never before thought about God being a guard stationed at the “door” of my lips.  I must say that when I think of it that way, it is much easier to just keep quiet if I can’t say something beneficial, and it is much easier to think about what I am about to say before those words get past my lips.
We’ve all been guilty of saying or typing something we later wished we could recall.  Having God at the “door” of our lips means that we won’t have to worry about that anymore…that if we let Him vet our speech, we will say or write nothing that is inappropriate or unkind.  It’s only when we tell Him that we no longer need Him that we tend to get into trouble with our speech.
As we continue in this self-isolation of the COVID 19 pandemic, let us be doubly careful that we allow God to guard the door of our lips…that we indeed be kind to one-another and forgive as God has forgiven us.  To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Blessings…

Saturday, April 18, 2020

In the Storm


It has been said by many that we're all in the same boat, regarding the Corona virus, social distancing, staying at home, etc. It has also been pointed out by many that we may be in the same storm, but not all of us are in the same boat. Some of us are in boats that are sturdy and safe. Others of us are in boats that are sinking and there is no lifeline or repairs that are available.
Depending on your intent and your point of view, both of these statements are correct. We ARE all in the same boat...the Corona virus boat. But we also have differing experiences in this boat, which makes the “same boat” analogy insufficient to say the least.
My guess is that many of those who are relatively secure during this time are looking a the pandemic as a “same boat” kind of thing. They are looking at their own experiences, and are extrapolating those experiences to everyone else. They err in that they fail to see beyond their own experience and into the lives of others who might not be so blessed.
Then there are many of those whose lives are really precarious right now, with insufficient food, insufficient funds, and insufficient toilet paper see the pandemic as a storm with different boats trying to ride it out...some boats are weathering it well, and others are quickly disappearing out of sight into the deep. These are the ones the “same boat” people fail to see. These are the ones who are struggling each day to just get through the day with kids at home, home schooling, finding food, hoping the landlord understands, and trying to make it through until the next sliver of money somehow comes their way.
I've used the “same boat” analogy in the recent past myself. I no longer will do that, because I now see that many don't have the safe and secure boat...instead, they have the sinking, floundering boat. My family has been blessed with continued work, even if stay-at-home work, monthly pension and government checks, and money in the bank. We have a freezer full of meat, enough toilet paper for the next year (we did NOT hoard...we've had an abundance for many, many months), and the means to purchase what we need in the way of veggies, fruit, milk, bread, etc...even if at higher prices.
If I am in a “safe and secure” boat, and I see someone in the same storm as I, floundering in a sinking boat, what should be my natural inclination? Look the other way? Belittle them for having a sinking boat? Send words of encouragement in a note in a bottle? Or throw a lifeline to them? Well, I think you know the answer. I shouldn't have to spell it out for you. If your boat can safely hold 4 more people, find 4 people who are floundering and invite them into your boat.
And if you're one who is floundering, don't pretend it's all OK. Those in the secure boats can't always tell if you're sinking. You might have to reach out to them and let them know you need help. It's no crime to need help from time to time.
I once was told by a wise man that yes, God loves a cheerful giver. But in order for there to be cheerful givers, there must also be gracious recipients. Can you be a cheerful giver during this time? Or do you need to be a gracious recipient? Either way, we are all in this storm together. Let's help each other ride it out to the end.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Welcome to Another World


It’s several weeks into the Corona Virus pandemic, and life continues on down a bumpy and uncertain path with no defined end in sight.  We may think that to be a strange and unfamiliar way to live life, but we have to understand that our lives are lived that way all of the time.  Oh, we may well fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve made the path straight and smooth, and we think we have placed a well-defined destination at the end, but the reality is that all of that is illusion, and we really have no clue what our path holds in the future and not the slightest concept of what lies at the end.
We delude ourselves into thinking that we have control of our lives.  We plan ahead.  We think ahead.  We work hard to smooth things out for the future.  We many times even go to the extremes of scheming and finagling in order to make things look like we want them to look.  But as we are quickly finding, all of that can be for naught when something like the Corona Virus comes calling on the world.
Our financial plans go into the pits.  Our health is in peril.  Jobs go away.  Resources dry up.  Shortages appear.  Even human interaction is limited.  Our money is worthless if there is nothing on the store shelf to purchase.  The paths of our lives suddenly are filled with bumps and potholes that nothing can fill or smooth away.  We begin to think just a day or week ahead instead of a year or decade ahead.  Our world shrinks markedly as we shelter in place and become concerned for basic necessities in the next day or two.  All because of an unseen speck of genetic material that invades our bodies and spreads rapidly through societies around the globe.
Well, welcome to the world of most of the human population.  For most of the humans who are or ever have lived, this is their world.  They live from day to day.  Many earn just enough money at work one day in order to buy food for the next day.  And if they’re sick and can’t work, or if work isn’t available, they don’t eat the next day.  They have no savings accounts.  They have no credit cards.  They have no transportation.  They have no hope of affording medical or dental care.  If a tooth breaks off or becomes infected, they live with it.  If they become ill, they do their best to survive the illness on their own.  Next year?  They don’t even know if they’ll have the next day.
And you might think those people are congregated in third-world countries, but I tell you they are right here…on our doorstep.  They are those who, although they may or may not be homeless, do not have the resources to tap into the services most of the rest of us take for granted.  Government programs pretty much keep these people in some state of existence, but those same programs often through their regulations unwittingly (or not) keep these people from ever making any progress in life and living.
These are the ones in the Section 8-type of housing.  These are the ones living alone in a run-down house in a run-down neighborhood.  These are the disabled, the homeless, the addicts.  These are the throw-away people in our society.
And when it comes to those in third world nations, I can’t begin to understand the depth of the poverty.  I’ve been told stories by those who have been there and seen it.  I’ve seen photos and movies.  But the comprehension just isn’t there for me.  It’s a different world.  It’s a different way of thinking.  It’s survival at its basic level.  Tolerable water for the day.   Tolerable food for the day.  Stay away from predators.  Have some kind of basic shelter from the storms.  Provide some kind of protection from those who would harm.  And do it on a daily basis.
I can’t help but think that we’ll be called to account for how we think of and deal with this kind of poverty.  I can’t help but think that we have some kind of responsibility beyond feeling sad for the people in these situations.  I can’t help but think that there is an expectation that we sacrifice at least a little in order to make things better for others.
So, when you next are feeling somewhat down or depressed because the movie theaters aren’t open, you can’t go to your favorite restaurant or hang-out, and your hair is starting to show its natural color because the salons are closed, think about those who don’t even have those things in their minds, let alone are feeling sad because they can’t access those services.  Thank God for the blessings you have.  Be kind.  Share.  And walk humbly.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Another Day


Well, it's another day with stay-at-home. The daylight outside is getting longer, and the days inside are getting longer as well. We are beginning to adjust to the new normal, but that adjustment is anything but easy or quick.
We have discovered that many (not all, of course) of us can work from home and accomplish much the same work as we do when we go into an office or business. We are realizing that we can use those things in our kitchen called cooking utensils, and that we can create some good food. We are finding things to do with our time, such as cleaning the house, working on puzzles, catching up on reading, or any number of other things. Some of us are using connectivity such as Zoom and other platforms for the first time. You probably have developed your own routine during these days.
And it looks like it won't end anytime soon. Contrary to the idea that we would be over this by Easter, it looks as if we'll be in this situation through April and well into May...possibly June. We'll tire of the puzzles. The house will have been thoroughly cleaned. We'll long for the privilege of eating at Olive Garden. Our hair will have grown considerably more than we would have liked. And we'll find that our limited cooking skills have become somewhat tiresome.
But I'll tell you now, these are first world problems. Much of the world has nothing like the house we live in. They haven't a clue what a puzzle is. How do you clean a dirt floor in an open-air hut? There are no Olive Gardens in the bush. Self-care often consists of finding water for the day that is decently clean. And as for cooking...well, it doesn't take much to cook the same corn mash every day, day after day after day.
The more I see and the more I hear, I'm convinced that we are in this for the long haul. And when it's over, it won't be the same as it was. Just as 9-11 fundamentally changed the world, so this as well will fundamentally change how the world looks and works. We will have lost another measure of our innocence. No longer will we assume that medical science can save us from anything and everything. No longer will we assume that if we only have enough dollars accumulated, we are invincible. No longer will we believe that the world will continue to go merrily along day after day giving, providing, and making our lives wonderful and fulfilled.
The gods of medical science, wealth, and national pride are being cut down to size by a virus that can't be seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled. Medical science started out behind, and has scrambled to catch up ever since. Our wealth is of no value when the economy has stopped. And our national pride is suffering because of government's inability to swoop in and save the day...instead, government is limiting our freedoms, throwing money it doesn't have at the problem, and displaying incompetence, lack of planning, and bureaucratic bungling in the face of an unseen enemy.
I'm not going to end this with platitudes such as, “We're all in this together,” or “Social distancing,” or some other. This will be a long, grueling slog over the next several months. And it will be years before any semblance of normal returns, if it ever does. My hope is that we will have examined ourselves, our community, and our society during this time and will have not only determined to make some fundamental changes, but will have actually begun to effect those changes. And what might those changes be? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Patternism in the Church


I’m reading a book by John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University, called “Searching for the Pattern- -My Journey in Interpreting the Bible.”  In the book, Hicks compares the “blueprint hermeneutic,” (command, example, and necessary inference…some would add expediency to that) that traditionally has been the pattern for churches of Christ with the “theological hermeneutic” that is, he says, the life of Jesus.  Here is what he says about that more fully.

Jesus is the pattern.  Jesus is the Word of God—our pattern, the speech of God.  And the incarnate Word of God embodies who God is and what God desires.
Disciples of Jesus follow Jesus.  The follow him into the water and are baptized.  The follow him into the wilderness and thus seek solitude with God in the midst of their trials as they discern and confess their identity as children of God.  They follow him into intimacy with other disciples, and thus week honest relationships with other believers.  They follow him to the table and thus experience relationship with others and commune with God.  They follow him into the world as missional people and thus are heralds and practitioners of the good news.  They follow him as leaders and serve rather than lord it over others.  They follow him into the assemblies of God’s people to praise God and thus gather as a community to celebrate the good news of the kingdom.  They follow him in disciple-making.  They follow him in pursuing mercy and justice and thus seek to embody a righteousness that declares that the kingdom of God has arrived.  Disciples of Jesus do not follow the church; they follow Jesus and thus become the church—an outpost of the kingdom of God in this broken world.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Get Up...Go On

I don’t know about you, but today, I’m feeling pretty much bummed out.  I don’t know what it is about today that makes me feel that way.  Physically, I feel fine.  Emotionally and mentally, however, and probably spiritually as well, things aren’t going so well.
Yes, I know we live in a different time with the Covid 19 pandemic.  Yes, I know many others feel much the same way I do.  Yes, I know that we are keeping stores closed and other people at a distance for a good reason.  But that doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on how I feel this day.  I think it’s a kind of a combination of things that are bringing me to this point.
I miss the interaction with people in the stores I normally haunt.  I miss the handshakes and the greeting hugs from others.  I miss the opportunity to get something at a sit-down restaurant.  I constantly am thinking about handwashing and hygiene.  I continually evaluate my recent past actions and whereabouts for any signs that I may have been exposed.  And the list goes on.
This stay-at-home thing is work.  It is mentally taxing.  It occupies space in my mind better suited to other things.  It sucks energy that is supposed to go to caring for self and others in a more “normal” manner.
And I don’t’ even stay at home.  Church work is exempt, for the most part, from the stay-at-home order, so we come into the office, at least for a short time pretty much daily.  Life goes on for our members, friends, and others we serve.   But there’s something that defies simple explanations of how people work and what makes us tick.
As with other things of this kind over history, we will get through this.  We will learn things.  We will vow to never let it happen again.  Politicians will fall over themselves claiming credit for any success that may be and distancing themselves from any failures.  We’ve been through enough of this kind of thing to know the drill.
And so it goes, to borrow a phrase from Linda Ellerbee.  Although we may all feel discomforted and out of sorts in some way, we have life to live as long as we have breath to breathe.  One doesn’t have to feel jolly and carefree in order to function.  One just needs to just get up and go on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Virus


I am writing this while listening to the Senate debate the pending legislation which will literally create out of thin air about two trillion dollars, which will be distributed to many different entities to help combat the financial effects of the Covid 19 virus.  As of this writing, the vote hasn’t been taken, so I don’t know how this will turn out.
Nor do I know how this whole pandemic thing will turn out.  We could turn the corner in a few weeks, or it could be several months that the virus hangs around.  And I suspect that the virus will always be with us in some form or another.  Hopefully, we can develop a vaccine to combat its spread, just as we do with influenza and other illnesses.
The other unknown is the recovery of the economy.  We may be in a kind of a morass of recession for several years.  Or we may snap out of it in a few months.
There is so much that is unknown right now.  We humans don’t like not knowing.  We like to at least THINK that we know what is coming our way, even when we know deep within us that we have no clue about the next minute, let alone the next day, month, or year.  We fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got the world (and our lives) by the tail.  And we live like it, too.  However, the reality is that we don’t know if we’ll take another breath, let alone eat another meal.  I may not finish this blog post.
The virus pandemic has made many of us stop and reconsider our daily lives and routines.  It has forced us to consider things besides whether or not the “Y” will be busy this evening when we go to exercise.  We now are considering things besides whether to get fried chicken or Chinese at the Dillons deli for dinner tonight.   We are now considering more of the basics and feel a great sense of helplessness against an enemy that is unseen, mostly unknown, and more stealthy than a cat pursuing a mouse.
We are being hauled up short by the truth that we really aren’t in charge.  We don’t know it all.  We haven’t prepared for all situations.  Our 401-K funds, our BMW’s, and our club memberships do little for us in times like these.  Suddenly, bread, hamburger, and toilet paper take center stage in our lives as we scramble to adjust to a new normal.
I don’t know how this will all end.  Yes, we’ve been through hardship before.  Yes, we’ve always managed to overcome.  But the scars of those battles last a lifetime.  Those who fought in WWII never completely shed the scars of battle.  The same for Vietnam, Korea, and Desert Storm.  Those of us who lived through the Oklahoma City bombing or the Twin Towers disaster will never be the same.  The assassinations of the 1960’s, the civil rights movement…those and others forever change us in some way, both as a nation and as individuals.  And this pandemic will also change us in some way.
My hope is that change will be for the good.  My hope is that we will become a better people…a society that recognizes its failures as well as its successes.  My hope is that we will begin to better acknowledge the God of heaven and earth and turn toward him instead of away.  Will those things happen?  I haven’t a clue.  But I do know that I can make a difference by the way I think, behave, and speak.  I can acknowledge God and serve him as best I can.
I can only change me.  God in heaven, I do acknowledge you as the Lord and God of the universe.  I repent of my failings in life…my greed, jealousy, sense of superiority, apathy toward the needs of others, and a host of other sins and failures.  Continue to work with me as a work-in-progress as I open my heart to those around me in service to them.  Give me the wisdom and strength to do “abundantly more than I could ever think or ask.”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Demonstrate Your Faith


I think it is important for you to know how we have made the decision to cancel services for the next couple of weeks.  You need to know that this was not a quick decision.  Nor was it one made in a vacuum.  We have worked hard to gather the best possible information, relying on several sources.  We have considered the desires and wishes of those in our church family.  And we have made the commitment that we would be good citizens and follow any directives from government agencies or officials regarding crowds and meetings.
We have been gathering information, seeking the latest announcements and directives, and meeting together as a staff for the past couple of weeks.  Initially, it was thought that this would be a mild thing, with not a lot of consequence.  However, there were daily updates alluding to the eventual reality that this was going to be much bigger than anyone thought.  We all were made rather breathless, so to speak, by the swiftness of the shut down of the normal way of life for many of us.
Doing the best we could in our information-gathering, and meeting pretty much daily with staff and keeping the Elders apprised of our discussions, we mutually came to the decision to basically shut down the building to all events except for those grief and support groups that felt they needed to continue to meet for the health and well-being of their participants.  The shut down will not at this time affect office hours; however, should the authorities recommend such, we will also close the office.  We will let you know should that happen.
This is a new normal for us.  We cannot visit at the hospitals or nursing homes.  We are reluctant to visit anyone at their home.  We are careful about who we let into the building during office hours.  We have essentially scrapped sermon series and Bible classes for the indeterminate future.  Our observance of Communion as a body has been suspended.  We no longer can gather to sing, pray, or listen to the Word of God.
And that’s OK, for a while.  We need to obey the governing authorities and demonstrate our faith in tangible ways that don’t put others in jeopardy.
For those of you who are members of RiverWalk, I ask you to continue your contributions to the church, as our expenses go on even though services do not.  You can mail them in, use some form of direct payment arrangement with your bank, bring them by should the office be open to accept them, or any other means you may have available to you.  We understand if you have been temporarily laid off or your source of income has been reduced due to the virus.  But if you can, please remember the Church in your financial plans during this time.
Check on your neighbors.  Don’t hoard supplies.  Wash your hands often.  Give to others as they have need.  And remember that the God of the universe loves you.

A Great Opportunity


It is what it is.  I know that people have long ago tired of hearing that sentence.  However, it is just as pertinent today as it was years ago.  The corona virus outbreak world-wide is something that must be contended with just as it is.  It is not how we wish it to be, and we many times feel helpless to bring things back under human control.  We are stressed, concerned, and even worried that this thing may take years to recover from, and that the casualties will be high.  And those concerns may be well within the bounds of what actually happens.  We just don’t know now, and won’t know for a time just how this thing shakes out.
I’ve also heard or read many different opinions from a religious perspective regarding this outbreak.  Some say it is a judgment from God upon the present Administration in Washington, D.C.  Others say it is a general world-wide judgment, and the end of the world is coming soon.  Still others say it is a wake-up call from God for the Church to come back to the basics of the Gospel.  And yet others say that God intends for us to evaluate our own lives regarding out complacency, greed, and consumption.
All of those opinions may have some merit.  This IS a good time to do some serious self-evaluation.  This IS a good time to take a look at modern society.  This IS a good time to be sure we are ready for the second coming.
It’s also a great time to be and do the hands and feet of Jesus Christ as we minister to those in need…those who are down…those who have been thrown into the poverty pit by this virus.  It is a great time to give monetarily, give of our time, and give of our love.  It is a time for prayer, meditation, and reflection.
No doubt this experience will change us in one or more permanent ways as well as in several temporary ways.  Just as the events of 9-11 changed us, this experience will as well.  And that can be a good thing.  We may come out of this with a little more humility, a little more compassion, and a little more grace toward others.
So, let’s get through this together.  Let’s continue to pray.  Let’s continue to trust God.  Let’s continue to follow the pattern of Jesus and serve.  We Christians have a great opportunity here.  We need to take full advantage of it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Just Stop It !!


Today, a Facebook friend and fellow Christian posted something on her timeline that had to do with fact checking some of the President’s claims and statements.  The fact checking showed that several of his comments were either false or were substantially embellished.  The fact check also cited sources for its checks.
This type of thing (fact-checking), is done regularly by several organizations, checking the veracity of statements and claims made by politicians and others.  Some of these are, to be sure, biased in some way.  Others, however, have shown a remarkable lack of overt bias and a desire for the truth to come out.
My friend was immediately attacked by her Christian “friends,” who accused her of hatred, teaching children to hate, and spreading vicious lies about the President.  Their words were not at all spoken “with grace and seasoned with salt,” as the great Apostle Paul admonished in Colossians 4.  Rather, it was an all-out frontal assault, it seemed, on a fellow Christian.
I private messaged her to encourage her.  We had a short back-and-forth in which she made a statement to me that hauled me up short.  She was talking about one of her fellow church-members who she said had told her that it was acceptable to lie for the President.  Her exact words in her message to me were these:  “I had a woman at the church, some one so well respected by her peers tell me flat out that it was okay to lie for Trump and to post his lies because he is the best president we've ever had.”
Did you get that?  Did you see what this Christian woman ostensibly said to my friend?  According to her, it is proper to lie and to spread those lies…because why?  Because “he is the best president we’ve ever had.”  What does the Bible say about those who intentionally lie, gossip, and spread falsehoods?  Those who create discord and chaos?  Those who willfully sin?
As one Christian to another, where does one go when faced with this from another Christian?  How does one respond?  This is such a jaw-dropping admission that I have difficulty fathoming that anyone could sincerely believe and practice this…let alone someone who calls him or herself a child of the Living God.
I don’t care if it is Mr. Trump, Lindsay Graham, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Ted Cruz she is talking about.  This kind of behavior…this kind of rhetoric…this kind of attacking language…this kind of smug self-righteousness is wrong for the Christian in any venue, any time, any place, for any reason.  Period.  It is disrespectful, repugnant, and ignorant.  It has no place in the Christian culture.
Brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, it’s time to put this to a stop.  Christian people are putting themselves in danger of the consequences of willful sin by this kind of behavior and attitude.  Christian people are in danger of being guilty of dragging others into the same morass of judgment.  Christian people are in danger of causing great harm to the Christian faith in the eyes of those who are not believers.  STOP IT !!  NOW !!!


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Blessings


Earlier this week, I put a Facebook post on my timeline that extolled the wondrous blessing of automatic heat in the house via a furnace and natural gas.  That got me to thinking about other incredible blessings we have that we take for granted.  Here are just a few.
I turn a knob in the bathroom and a just-right mix of hot and cold, safe water comes out of the shower head, washes me off, and goes down the hole in the tub where pipes carry it to a treatment plant somewhere.  I don’t have to pump water from a well, carry it from a river, or heat it in a tub to get an incredible shower experience.
I move a lever and water flushes away human waste into those same pipes, carrying it away to be treated.  I don’t have to do anything else to handle the waste I make.  It’s all done for me in a safe and sanitary way.
I open a door in the kitchen, and take out a carton of milk that has been kept at a near-constant 37 degrees, keeping it and other food from spoiling.  I don’t have to bring in a block of ice to cool it, hurry and use the milk all at once, or worry that it will spoil before I can use it.
I lift a lid in the basement and put in clothing, some detergent, and maybe some color-safe bleach, and 45 minutes later the clothes are clean and fresh.  I don’t have to take them to a river or pond, beat them on a rock, or make my own soap.
I open another lid and put the damp clothes in.  About 30 minutes later, they are dry and ready to hang or fold.  I don’t have to traipse outside to hang them on a line, freeze-dry them in winter months, or iron them with an iron I heated on the wood-burning stove.
Today, when I get home, I’ll push a button in my pickup and a large door will open at the house.  I’ll pull in, turn off the engine, and push the button again.  I’m inside a spacious garage that keeps our vehicles frost-free in winter, makes it easy to get in and out of, and keeps them from being vandalized on the street.  And the garage is attached to the house, so I don’t have to go back outside to get into the house.  It is also lit constantly with a LED bulb in the ceiling that provides enough light to do what we need to do most times.
I could go on and on.  Furniture, mattresses, television and entertainment, streets, roads, air conditioning, parks, microwave ovens, dishwashers, recliners, C-PAP machines, lawn mowers, kitchen appliances…you name it and it is probably a relatively recent blessing that only a small portion of the world’s population knows about or uses.
And these are indeed incredible blessings, just like the blessing of the furnace.  Blessings that ultimately come, not from technology or science, but from the God of heaven and earth.  Blessings that are ours to enjoy, and ours to use wisely in service to Him.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Where Does He Go?


I sometimes see or hear comments about those homeless people who you see on the streets, wondering why they don’t find employment, find training for a vocation, or otherwise get off of the street.  Let me tell you about one such man who is a “resident” of our church property in downtown Wichita.
Johnny (not his real name) came to our campus about six months ago.  He had just been placed on parole and got out of prison after serving time most of his adult life for several offenses.  When he was placed on parole, he was released with the amount of money he had in his prison account (less than $100), and the clothes he had while in prison.  He was instructed to report to his parole officer and establish a professional relationship with that person.  Transportation was provided for him to come to Wichita where his parole officer was located.
Johnny has a Social Security card, but because he has spent most of his adult life in prison, he has not worked enough quarters (he needed 40 three-month quarters) to qualify for Social Security or Medicare, even though he is 63 years old.  He COULD possibly qualify for disability when he turns 65, but that is not a given.
He does not qualify for food stamps or many government benefits due to his criminal record.  Because he does not qualify for food stamps, he also does not qualify for a government-paid cell phone, even though his parole officer has ordered him to obtain one so she can contact him when needed.  (And if he can’t get one, he is eligible for re-incarceration.)  He has no money otherwise to get a phone, and would not pass a credit check in any event.  He can’t get a prepaid phone because the companies that do that demand a home address.  He has none.
He cannot borrow money.  He has no credit history.  Family long ago disowned him due to his convictions and incarceration.  He does not qualify for many re-training programs or housing programs due to either his age or his history.  Most companies and businesses wouldn’t even look at him to hire because of his age and incarceration history.  He is relatively healthy, and takes advantage of free clinics whenever possible.  He keeps as clean as he can.
Johnny had to find his own counseling service, a condition of his parole.  He had to find one close to where he resides…our campus…because he has to walk everywhere he goes.
Johnny doesn’t want to be here.  He wants a normal life, or as normal as possible.  He is friendly, outgoing, and has a moral compass that works.  However, roadblocks seem to appear in his way each time he tries a route to get out of the cycle of homelessness.  Many of the programs designed to help…don’t help those like him.
So, where does Johnny go?  What does Johnny do?  What would you suggest to Johnny that would get him out of this cycle?  Which platitude that is often said would be the one he could grab hold of and lean on?  No address.  No transportation.  No phone.  No family.  No way to regularly wash clothes and self.  No income.  No government programs that he and I are aware of.  No ID other than a Social Security card and a prison ID.  Not qualified for Social Security or disability at this time.
And who does he turn to for help?  Thankfully, Johnny landed here.  We aren’t able to do much, but we can give him dignity, respect, and from time to time some food, shelter, a restroom, etc.  And we do.  But those things aren’t going to get him out of where he is…those are only going to help maintain him as he is and may prevent him from becoming a statistic of some kind.
If someone has the magic answer, I’m all ears.  Otherwise, we’ll keep plugging away with what we have to work with.  Blessings.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It's About Time


I recently posted a “thing” on my Facebook wall in which I lamented the lack of people writing posts…but rather they just post photos and memes.  One of the respondents, my friend and distant relative Melanie, said that she didn’t post much out of a fear of being attacked by others or turning the post into something political.
At the end of Melanie’s response to my post, she said something that bore through me to the core.  “I guess we can act like Christ said we should next year…or the year after that…or maybe just whenever it is convenient.”
Whoa!!  “Whenever it is convenient?”  Did she really say that?  Yes, she did, and she is absolutely correct.  Far too many of us who call ourselves Christians act like Christ only when we feel like it, when we want to do it, when it is politically advantageous, or when it will benefit us.  All the rest of the time, with a cavalier attitude, we belittle, begrudge, besmirch, malign, impugn, smack down, take down, put down, bully, and generally grind anyone who may disagree with us or have another idea or opinion into the dust.  It’s done all the time at the highest levels of government as well as between friends, relatives, and neighbors.
People are “unfriended” on social media, or are the ones doing the “unfriending.”  Relatives cease to communicate with each other.  Married couples divorce or separate.  Co-workers avoid one-another and don’t even recognize the existence of others with whom they disagree.  Sometimes, this is all taken farther along by a few zealots, and people are physically attacked, beaten, and murdered…all in the name of asserting that I am right and you are so, so wrong.
And then, when it’s convenient, some of these same people attend church, sing in the church choir, serve on a church board, teach a Sunday school class, take of the Eucharist, and proclaim their allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Do you think that God might be getting just a little tired of the charade?  Do you think that God just might be considering some kind of justice and retribution?
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.  .  (They) cry out to me, ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’  But (they) have rejected what is good.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
So, when will those of us who are Christians who are doing the maligning, putting down, and bullying going to begin to live like Christians?  Next week?  Next year?  In a couple of years?  Whenever it is convenient?  Or are we going to wait until God finally has had His fill and says, “ENOUGH!!”  Then we look around at the carnage of our lives, and wonder why things have worked out for us like they have and why God seems to be absent from our lives.
It doesn’t matter that the quotes of the Bible I have above are from the Old Testament.  God never changes.  If he was tired of the charade then, he’s also tired of the charade now.  It’s time we all took an unbiased look at how we interact with others, both on social media and in person.  It’s time we repented and started acting like the Christians we claim to be.  It’s time we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.