His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Another Day, Another … ah Hell

I don’t want to write about it … but I am, compelled by something, maybe someone. Another day, another mass shooting(s). I could probably post this on any random day and it would apply. But today, it feels like the fabric of humanity is ripping apart, or that’s how it feels to me, whatever the fabric of humanity is. In El Paso. And Dayton.

What do I want? Answers? Escape. Escape from the tragedy, the torment, the pain of it all. Today I feel helpless to help—I can’t even help myself. I can’t free myself from that ripping feeling in my gut.

So, quiet place, close eyes, breathe, slowly. Go inside, and look. There’s Jesus—his Spirit within me, always here, always waiting. He smiles—a sad, compassionate smile. He holds out his arms, I fall in, and my soul weeps, his arms wrapping around me, comforting me. And we mourn together. And I feel it—His love that heals wounds, and his peace.

Oh Lord, please help. So many people, so much pain, so many out there, in Texas, in Ohio, hurting, wailing, shattered.

If you’re reading this and you too are hurting, maybe look inside yourself, to your soul, living just below the surface. And more than your soul, you may see His Spirit there, waiting, smiling, maybe even crying, for this hurts him too. And maybe the two of you can hold each other, and cry together, just below the surface, His Spirit and your soul.

And no matter what’s going on elsewhere in the world, in your little world you can have some peace, and love. And if enough of us surround ourselves with the love that comes from Jesus living inside us, it may spread to others. I think that would help.

Will the mass shootings stop? I doubt it. Humanity is too broken. But maybe we aren’t helpless to help, for the help just might already live inside of each of us, waiting for us to look His way.

 

The ways of the world aren’t helping, so maybe it’s time to look beyond the world.


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Paradise Aflame

Some of us have called it paradise. Why? Well…the weather, the small-feel towns scattered among the rolling hills, the wineries—lots of wineries. And just something you might label “environment.” It’s something that seems to be in the air (pardon the cliché).

Well, right now there’s smoke in the air. And many of the hills, wineries, and towns are now ash and black destruction. Homes that recently purred with lively families are now silent piles of dead ash.

But please believe me, it’s still paradise. Why? Because of the people. The hearts here are the biggest, the best. Firefighters, volunteers giving money, cloths, time, and hugs at evacuation shelters—it’s these people who breathe paradise back into our smoke-filled air.

Yet that’s part of what happens when things like this happen. The best sprouts out of the ash left by the worst, whether fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, whatever.

For those of us who have lived through, and died in, the wild fires of Sonoma County, California—may God bless us all.


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Hell Just Over the Hill

It lurks just over the hill. I don’t see it, but I feel it. We all do.

I look out the kitchen window to the hills less than a mile away. The Beast vomits destruction in the valley on the other side. It sucks in mountains of air to fill its hungry lungs, and blasts out pain, despair, and sometimes death. It has already swallowed much land, spawning shelters full of refugees. It’s hungry for more.

Those brave men and women are over there too, battling with the Beast. From all over they come and fight, often hand-to-hand, trying to save us. At night, while we lie in our beds thinking about everything but sleep, the battle goes on—the Beast never rests. Dear God, please protect the hero’s fighting against the Beast.

Oh, there’s not just one Beast. There are at least five of them out there. But they’re connected somehow—one evil mind, five separate bodies, five times the hunger.

I’m pinned to the ground, helpless, the Beast standing on my chest. Well, that’s how it feels sometimes. It’s heavy—this feeling, this knowing, this sense that at any time the Beast will storm over that hill and fly straight for us. Oh, we’re ready to flee. But to leave everything behind—we’ve been in this house for 32 years. Our sons grew up here. So many memories… gone, left behind. But don’t give up yet.

Maybe 3000 homes lost…so far. More victims, more refugees. It covers us in this blanket of sadness. My stomach feels like I’ve swallowed the pain and fear of the victims and the fighters on the front lines. I swallow my own fear too, almost with every breath—trying to wear a calm face, a helpful face. But I’m full. I feel I can’t swallow any more.

I go to the store, trying to find normal. But you hear it in our voices, as we wait for the Beast to make its next move. And the stench of its rancid breath pouring over the hills makes it hard to find normal.

These Beasts are not alone. There’s more, just over the next hill in Napa, and beyond. The Beast—the fires that devour Sonoma County.

Dear Jesus, please forgive my dread-filled words. The Beast distracts me. But I won’t give up—never will. Time again to ignore the Beast and turn my mind to You. You will guide me through this valley of the shadow of death (sorry to lift those words, but they feel so fitting right now). Jesus, You will give me the strength I need to pull myself out of bed each morning and find ways to make the most of the smoke-filled days. So what do You want me to do today? Where can I go to help others who may have lost their home to the Beast?

I heard that at times like this, it’s helpful to think about things you’re grateful for. Well, dear Jesus, I’m grateful for Your presence in my life. I’m grateful for those moments where you act through me. Enough mourning—let’s go act.


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Independence Day – Are We All Celebrating the Same Thing?

As I begin to celebrate the independence of the United States of American, I wonder… how many of us really know what we’re celebrating? What does this day mean to the different people I see in the store or on the street? For some of us who enjoy the rights and privileges of being US citizens, has this day morphed into just another excuse for a party?

Also, as a nation, how does our condition today compare with what was envisioned 241 years ago, and then codified in our Constitution several years later? What has sociatial evolution, along with the strife that currently chokes many aspects of our lives, done to our countries original values? How far have we drifted from some of the things we should probably be celebrating?

Here are a two things that are different today from what the founders fought for, and died for:

  • Free speech is under attack. 241 years ago, we fought for free speech, not against it.
  • The United States is far from being united—with division, conflicts, and even hate being the norm. Well, there was indeed division 241 years ago, but there were also common goals and ideals that helped keep us together. Maybe we’ve lost that common vision of “United States.”

The shackles on speech, along with our fractured unity has fed the plague of dysfunctional government, fear, mistrust, and more hate. And this all continues feeding upon itself.

So, what’s behind all this? Well, I’ll tell you my opinion. And if you disagree, please, please, please… speak out. Express your opinion, allow my opinion, and in that small way, allow free speech to have a small victory.

Anyway, here it is: at the heart of these problems is arrogance and selfishness. Arrogance is not willing to listen to an opinion different from its own. Arrogance demands that everyone agrees with it, and if you don’t agree, then arrogance will declare you a bigoted idiot. And such idiots should not be allowed to speak—so demands arrogance.

Selfishness is all about self (duh), at the expense of others. This is at the core of the division within the United States. Selfishness, being a sibling of arrogance, abhors the same things that arrogance does, but selfishness suffers in a different way. Selfishness is very weak and fragile. Selfishness cannot listen to opinions other than its own because selfishness is easily offended. Selfishness is the little toddler who has a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Selfishness demands safe zones on college campuses so it has a place to be insulated from different ideas that it does not want to hear.

To give strength to those who suffer from selfishness, soothe the angst of those who are arrogant, and re-unite our country, we need humility. Humility will heal the wounds, ease our fears, nourish trust, and give us the courage to let go of “me” and wrap our arms around “us”. And we will again be united.

Humility accepts the rights and opinions of others, whether it agrees with them or not. Humility is willing to listen to other opinions, without getting offended and throwing a tantrum.

Humility does not always require its way. Humility is willing to compromise. In fact, true humility desires compromise. For humility sees that with compromise, all sides win something—there are no losers with compromise, there are no losers with humility. Humility is kind and compassionate and desires that others do not feel the pain of losing. In this way, the only path to civility is walked in the shoes of humility.

Again, please, what do you think? Speech is free… use it. Let us at least be united in this—to willingly allow each other to express our opinions.

On this 241st anniversary of what may be the most amazing event in democratic history, I will humbly pray for humility.

 

“I (may) disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire (or maybe his biographer)


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Politics From the Pulpit

Churches are now free to speak out on political issues. What do you think of this? Is it good, bad, or are you indifferent to it? In addition to being very curious about your opinion, of course I’d like to share my opinion.

I think as time goes on, this new freedom for churches will produce more harm than good. It gives churches one more excuse to preach something other than what they should be preaching. Many churches have already drifted away from the purpose intended by their founder. Yes, that would be Jesus.

Did Jesus talk politics? Nope. He preached about higher things, things that touch the human soul. I think churches should follow their leader, not politics.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Please share, if you like.


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Finding Peace in the Face of Terror

(Beware – Jesus Christ inside. If you are uncomfortable with Christianity… well, I’ve warned you.)

 

Does the terror in the world frighten you? Though others share your fears, do you feel alone in your fear? Does it feel like you are standing alone against the fear that darkens your mood? Does it feel like we are fighting the same enemy, but each of us is alone in our private battle?

I think these questions make sense, for since fear is an internal and individual emotion, we cannot band together to combat our private fear.

Look, I’m no preacher. I’m just a regular afraid person, maybe a lot like you. But I’m not alone in my battle against my fears. Yet, because of what’s going on in the world, I’m concerned for everyone who feels the knot in their stomach pull tighter with each terrorist attack. I wish I could help people deal with the terror. Yet, as I said above, you are alone in your battle. I can’t join you there.

But someone can. Yes, this is where Jesus enters in.

No matter what you see on the surface of Christianity, the truth is that Christianity is all about a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. He’s alive, as Spirit. His body died, but his soul lives. And he wants to live with you.

A relationship with Jesus gives you a real sense that you are never alone. Jesus can be with you, helping you battle your fears. And he can help you understand why the world seems to be falling apart. There are answers that make sense, once you see them.

Jesus can also show you how to escape your world, and enter his world, the inner-mind where his Spirit and your soul live. And that’s where you can find a peace that confounds the terror of the outer world.

Do you want to find a way to fight against the terrorists and their efforts to infect the world with an epidemic of fear? If so, look for Jesus in your inner-mind.

If Christianity is new to you, there are lots of great churches and Christians who can help you. But no matter what path you follow, what’s most important is your personal time with Jesus. Go to a quiet place, empty your mind of the distractions of the world, (this is the hardest part for me), and look inside your inner-mind. With practice, you may start to feel Jesus there. And together, the two of you can win the battle against your fear.

 

 

(Originally posted on Dec. 5, 2015)


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Freedom from Stress

The stress of work climbs onto your shoulders and tries to wrestle you to the ground.

Troubled relationships reach into your gut, mess with your nerves, and stir up an anxious soup of sickness.

The world around us is trembling with explosions and death.

Do you sometimes feel like a tortured prisoner of life?

You know what I’ll say next. Those of us who try to follow Jesus know where our freedom comes from, though it’s often hard to feel that freedom.

Close your eyes to the stress. Look away from your anxious feelings. And look to the Spirit of Jesus within you. He will calm your nerves and set you free.