Natural Disasters – Where’s God?

It first occurred to me, or, at least it first got to me, back in 2005 around the end of August when hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I remember seeing an aerial view of the devastation: miles and miles of houses and businesses underwater. I couldn’t help but think of how many of the owners must have been devout Christians who had prayed intently to be spared. Yet, they had not been spared. Couldn’t God, with all his majesty and power have heard those prayers and acted upon them to quell the storm as Jesus had done in the boat when his disciples had feared they would all be drowned?

What about those poor people who went up into their attics to escape the floods during Katrina? Surely they prayed earnestly for salvation of a very real kind, someone to come and rescue them. Yet many died in those attics as the flood waters rose. Where was God in all of that? And now we have Hurricane Harvey hitting the Houston area, dropping 50+ inches of rain in some locations.  What of these people and their prayers?

I couldn’t understand any of this until I remembered two things: 1) Our ways are not God’s ways, our thinking is not God’s thinking, and 2) Jesus himself prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would take the cup of suffering from him and not make him drink of it. But, as we know if we’ve read the Bible, God did not take the cup away. Jesus did suffer and die. However, Jesus rose from the dead. And that fact has saved the world countless times over. In fact, one could easily argue that it has served as the basis for the modern world. Because of Jesus, men have treated each other with more love and kindness than they ever would have without him. We’ve built our western civilization around peaceful co-existence and justice.

One thing that always comes with a natural disaster is the out-pouring of love and support. People come from all over to help. Money and essentials are provided. When governments are paralyzed by red tape and are slow to act, people come forward and give of themselves. NGOs such as The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army help with shelter, food and clothing.

Natural disasters strip people of the non-essentials. We lose everything in the flood or fire or earthquake. When that happens, we find out who we truly are and what is really important. Stripped of all our worldly goods, we learn what a hold they had on us. We are forced to ask for and accept help from strangers.  When we don’t know where to turn or what to do, many of us turn to God.

Maybe that is why God allows natural disasters. He knows they will bring out the best in us, AND, they will make us turn to Him for help. But, they also bring out the worst in some people, don’t they? We often see wholesale looting of stores and private property. Still, the good always out-weighs the bad, even though the ugly deeds get more attention in the media. If we can believe in the good, and if we can believe that “the best is yet to come,” we can get through the storm, the flood, the fire and the earthquake and put our lives back together again.

Today, I saw the mayor of a town in Texas, whose own home was flooded, encourage others and say: “God is good. All the time, God is good.” If we can say that and believe it, we can get through anything. And here is a secret: if we keep saying it, and say it often enough, we will come to believe it.  When we come to believe it, we will see it manifested in our lives.

Paradise

Been thinking about… what comes next after this life? What will Paradise be like?

We all fear the suffering that may be involved in making the transition at the end of our earthly lives.  We don’t like to think about it, so we keep our days packed with activities that keep our minds on other things.  We kid ourselves into thinking that life will go on and on even though we know it will someday come to an end.  But once we have made the transition, and are in that other realm, wherever it is, what will it be like?  Some say we close our eyes here and wake up there, no transition, no pain.  That would be great.  No guarantees, but we can all hope for the best:  a quick and painless passage.  I’d vote for that!

Some say that we cannot know what comes next.  We cannot know what heaven will be like because God does not want us to know.  They say that if we really knew how great heaven was, we would no longer be happy here on earth.  Others say the Bible tells us all we need to know and can know with any certainty about a place called ‘Heaven’ or ‘Paradise’.  This life is hard, at times.  For some it is VERY hard.  Thus, we look forward with great hope to a better ‘life’ in a better ‘place’.  We like to think our reward is in Heaven and it well may be.  But, we have to wait until it is our time and that is determined by God.

If we try to rush it and get there faster by taking our own life, we will be sad to find out that we’ve cheated ourselves out of much of what heaven has to offer.  It may be that the difference is so staggering as to be like the difference between homelessness and a life of luxury.

I confess, I am one who believes Paradise or Heaven is a real place and our spirits go there when we die.  At least some part of that which we know as ourselves somehow survives our physical death and lives on in a place that is like earth in many respects, but different in others.

The part of us that moves on is proportional to the love we have demonstrated while alive on earth.  The more love we have shown, the bigger our spirit, the greater the reward in heaven.  We could sum it up like this:

Much love, much reward.

Little love, little reward.

No love, no reward.

Heaven is all about love, so those who have not learned how to love well in this life will find heaven a very empty place.

Many say there is a hell and evil people go there.  It is a place far from God and all that is good.  It is a place of eternal torment.  It is a place where everyone lies and does shameful things.  It is a place of heat and thirst.  I believe it exists and is all of that, and more.

I’m convinced where we go when we die is determined in large part by what we firmly and deeply believe.  Thus, when we think about heaven and imagine what it will be like, we are actually providing Jesus the raw materials for creating our eternal resting place.

What we experience on the other side of the veil will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.  How do we know?  Because many have gone there for short periods and returned to tell about it.  Many have written books and talked about what they experienced during an NDE or Near Death Experience.  They report having vivid memories of a place and experiences MORE REAL than anything they’ve ever known.  If we accept their testimony and believe what the Bible says, nothing in this life begins to compare with the wondrous peace and beauty and love we’ll experience in the life to come.

We will experience comfort beyond compare. We will feel as if we’ve finally arrived home after a very long and tiring journey (about which we will have no memory whatsoever).  Friends and relatives who’ve preceded us in death will meet us and welcome us.  They’ll throw a party to celebrate our arrival.  We’ll sing and dance; we’ll eat, drink and be merry.

In heaven, we will feel love beyond anything we have ever experienced before.  It will be stronger than that of two lovers newly engaged; better and more caring than the love a mother has for her child; it will be seen and felt, tasted, smelled and heard. It will surround us and infuse us and fill us with joy to the point we’ll want nothing more than to remain there forever basking in this multi-sensory experience.

We’ll meet The Source of that Love, a figure of brightness like that of an arc light, yet pleasant to look at. The Source will assure us of our welcome and the importance of our being there. We’ll be so enthralled with meeting The Source that we will never want to be separated. And, in fact, we never will be separated because we and The Source will be One.  Truth is we’ve always been one, we just didn’t know it, didn’t see the connection.  Now we will see that we are not only connected but also inseparable.  Jesus said, behold I am with you always until the end of time.  Truth is, God The Source is with us forever and especially in Paradise where there is no time, no beginning and no end, only NOW forever.

Through the Source, we will know everything we need to know.  All our questions will be answered.  All will make perfect sense and we will understand things that confused us and puzzled us before.  However, many of the questions we had in our earthly life will vanish.  Things that seemed important will dwindle to insignificance in the Light of the Source.  Any question that does come to mind will be instantly answered.  Before we even think to ask it,  the answer will be given.

Our bodies will be young and healthy.  We’ll be able to do all the things we did in our youth and never get tired or run out of energy.  Imagine swimming across a lake UNDERWATER without having to come up for air.  Imagine running a marathon without even breathing hard.  We’ll be able to lie in the sun for hours with no fear of sunburn or skin cancer.  We’ll be able to get the perfect tan.  Our bodies will be perfectly toned and we’ll be the ideal weight for our height.  Our BMI will be perfect, and we’ll be able to eat and drink whatever we want, as much as we want without fear of gaining weight or getting sick.

We’ll never get tired.  We’ll be able to climb mountains higher than Mt. Everest without oxygen and without stopping to rest.  We may pause to enjoy the view, but we won’t have to stop to catch our breath.  Heck, we’ll be able to summit Everest in the morning and go for a swim in the Indian Ocean in the afternoon.  Once at the top, all we’ll need to do to get down is think intently about where we want to be and we’ll be instantly transported there.  We won’t even have to ask Scotty to “beam us up.”

Nothing will harm us.  We won’t have to be careful about what we do.  We’ll be able to run and jump, even play Superman and leap tall buildings at a single bound.  Nothing will be impossible.

 

Relationships will be different.  We’ll enjoy each others company, sometimes in the most intimate ways imaginable, perhaps even more intimate than we can imagine.  We’ll actually be able to feel what the other person feels as if we were them.  What better way to insure that we bring as much pleasure to our partner as to our self?  We won’t have to guess at what the other is feeling.  We’ll know because we’ll be feeling it ourselves.

When we talk to another, we won’t have to guess at what they are thinking.  We’ll know because we’ll be one with them.  We’ll share thoughts and be able to communicate without words.

Time will have no meaning in Paradise.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow will all run together.  We’ll be able to go back to yesterday or on to tomorrow.  Because of this we’ll be able to be in more than one place at the same time.  Also, we’ll be able to travel instantly to anyplace we want, anywhere in the universe.  We may even find that we can move between universes popping in and out of them at will.

We will not be able to think an evil thought.  We will not be able to say or do anything that will hurt another person or cause them any anguish.  We’ll live with a permanent smile on our faces and love in our hearts for everyone and everything.  Every utterance will be an encouragement to others.  It will exude the love we feel for them.

Since we can bond intimately with others, we’ll be able to communicate without words.  This means no language barriers.  It also means no barriers of any kind to open communication with anyone we meet.  If we want another person to know our thoughts, all we’ll have to do is think of what we want to say to the person and they will know what we want to tell them.  We’ll still be able to have private thoughts.  But, if we want to keep our thoughts private, we’ll be able to to do so.  But, that will seldom be necessary as we won’t have any thoughts that we’d want to hide from others.  God, of course, will know all our thoughts in Paradise just as God knows them now.

Traveling from one place to another will be effortless.  We can be there at the speed of thought, if we want, or we can go the old fashioned way, one step at a time.  Probably, we won’t take steps but merely move along effortlessly gliding up and down hills.  We’ll be able to walk on water just as Jesus did, so bridges will not be needed, but they’ll still exist for aesthetic purposes.

Nothing will die, so if we pick a flower or a bouquet, the flowers will instantly grow back.  If we drop a picked flower on the ground, it will immediately take root and grow where it was dropped.  If we step on the grass and crush it, it will spring back leaving no sign of our footprint.

Since there is no time, we won’t age.  We’ll have all the time we need to do whatever we want to do.  We’ll be able to dine with Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David and Jesus separately or all at once.  Imagine visiting Martin Luther or Galileo or Copernicus.  We’ll be able to sail with Columbus and hear about what they found directly from the early explorers.

Since we’ll have access to all knowledge and understanding that exists, we’ll be able to discus the Theory of Relativity with Einstein and Quantum Mechanics with Max Planck.  We’ll be able to read all the books we’ve wanted to read but never had time to.

Writing will be fun and effortless.  Our thoughts will appear on a screen or page just as if we were talking to a flawless speech-recognition program.  When we are done with our “dictation,” the book will appear instantly and be accessible to everyone.  If we think of a change we’d like to make to it, we can do so instantly and every copy will be updated immediately.  Those who have read it already will know about the change.

We’ll receive instant feedback on our writing efforts, too.  Feedback will resemble  comments at the end of a blog post except they’ll come directly to our minds when we are ready to receive them.  All comments will be constructive and we’ll be able to respond to them if we like.  We’ll also have the option to have comments open to all who read the work.

Scientists will be able to do complex experiments and have the results analyzed instantly and papers published quickly.  Peer reviews will not be necessary because the margin for error will be zero.

Thinking about what we will do in paradise leads to some interesting conclusions.  God will assign us duties based on our interests and experience.  Whatever we do, we’ll enjoy it immensely.

Heaven will truly be a blessing in every respect.

I don’t know about you, but the more I think about heaven and being there forever with Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit, the source of all goodness and love, the more I want to go there.  Thankfully, the Lord assures me that someday I will join Him there.  He assures everyone that they will join him in Paradise if they are baptised and confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead.

See you in Paradise!

 

The Limbic Brain, Honoring God and the Magnification of Gifts

There was a very interesting series of articles on aging in the Oct/Nov 2016 AARP magazine. In Part 3, p 36, The Happiness Cure for Aging talks about the Limbic Brain. It says, in part:

“The Limbic brain is the part of the brain that runs our emotions, and it may be the most important brain component we have. Complex emotions from the limbic brain are one reason mammals dominate the earth and reptiles don’t. The reptilian brain (the purely physical brain) has control centers for fear and aggression; it runs on negative reinforcement. The limbic brain (the emotional brain) invented love, joy and play in mammals. It lets us love our young and work in groups. A third part of the brain (the thinking brain) speaks the language of thought and words.

“These three parts of the brain are intricately wired together, but careful research shows that most of the time our emotions are in the lead. Emotion is stronger than thought. We are social and emotional creatures from start to finish. So staying connected turns out to be a biological imperative, a critical part of the good life — and a real challenge as we age.

“The good news is that you can foster positive emotions by consciously creating positive environments, driving away stress and loneliness, and reaching out to others. Happiness comes primarily from connection. And being part of a group means giving back to the group. Altruism is a biological need.

“Connect, commit and care!”

I don’t know about the Limbic Brain being the most important, but emotions certainly are something to be reckoned with.  I remember reading once that all of our decisions are really made on an emotional level seconds before we consciously think about them and “make our decision.”  I don’t know if that theory has been proven or not, but I do find some evidence of its truth in my life.  I often find myself reacting strongly to something and then having to go back and figure out why I reacted so strongly and whether or not my emotional response was appropriate or not.  Then, I have to do something with those emotions.  They need an outlet — a physical and emotional outlet.

The clearest case in recent memory for me was on election night when Mr. Trump won the election.  Along with all the election-day pundits, I was caught off guard.  I knew very well the impact the “Joe six-pack” element could have from the election of Jesse Ventura here in Minnesota some years back.  When people get totally fed up with the existing order, look out.

I heard one man whom I respect say “I voted for change.”  Yes, and “change” we will get.  Obama was for change, too.  The question we must ask is what kind of change?  From what to what?

Like it or not, Trumps election put the stamp of approval on racism and bigotry in the minds of some supporters and some are acting out based on that belief.  Mr. Trump may not endorse or support such actions, but they are occurring none-the-less.

My emotions definitely kicked into high gear on Nov 8, and as a result, I have had to take action to try and channel them into positive directions.  I needed an outlet for all of the pent-up energy.  This blog is one of the results of my efforts to diffuse those strong feelings and channel them into something positive.

Another effort is that of doing a daily meditation and posting a Bible verse and some commentary on my Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/bob.jasper1)

Over the years, I’ve found that the best way to work off emotions is through physical activity.  So, in addition to this blog and my Facebook posts, I’ve also started an exercise regimen that includes renewing my membership in the Y and working out there several times per week.  I’ve also gotten back into taking prayer walks around the neighborhood when the weather permits.

I like what the article quoted above suggested as strategies for combating aging:  connect, commit and care.  We can connect through social media, true, but we can also connect through church activities and various community service organizations.  We can connect not only to those who think as we do, but also to those who need our help.  We can commit to helping them in some way.  There is no better treatment for depression or a simple case of the doldrums, as my mother used to say, than to get out and help someone.  Get involved in their problems and you will soon forget about your own problems.

When we commit to helping others and when we follow through, we show that we care.  It doesn’t have to be in some big, earth-shaking endeavor, either.  It can be something small to start with.  My wife baked cookies and gave them away to neighbors and to support our church’s Mission Jamaica work.  I helped by delivering them and getting a sign made for the bake sale:  small things, but every little bit helps.  And who knows what unknown good those little acts did.

I’m a firm believer that God takes our small gifts and magnifies them.  He magnifies them in two ways:  He magnifies them to the receiver, but He also magnifies them in our own hearts so that we become even more generous.  The more we give, the more we want to give.  I suspect there is some brain activity that takes place so that brain function and growth occurs whenever we bend our will to help someone else and do so with a glad heart.  I think it may be something like what an addict experiences.  He or she takes a little dope and they want more and more.  Only in the case of doing good deeds, the effect is positive, not negative.  Also, while the addict will experience a build up of tolerance so it takes more and more of the drug to reach a “high,” the “high” we get from giving and doing good deeds grows and grows.  I’m quite sure there is a chemical/phyisical change that takes place in the brain when we do a good deed.  The more we do, the greater the change.

They say you cannot out-give God and I believe it.  The more we give to God and to others in the name of the Lord, the more we get in return.  We don’t give with the expectation of getting something back, but if we give with the right motivation, we surely do get something in return.  The Bible says that with the measure you give, you will receive.

At this time of year when we have a natural tendency to give, our limbic system is nourished and we experience that good feeling that comes from being generous.  And it is good to remember that the more we give, the more we receive.  We may not get our just rewards in this life, but we will surely get them.  As my wife likes to say, “Our reward is in heaven.”  And, my belief is that heaven starts here and now, today, when we do things that honor God.

When we honor God, He honors us.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Running from Hell … Chasing Heaven

IMG_2994Been thinking about some good books…

“The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.” (Oswald Chambers – My Utmost for His Highest – Dec 15)

I don’t know about you, but I resonate with that statement. When reading, the things that ring my bell are things I find in print that say something I’ve been thinking about or struggling with, and say it better than I can.  Either that, or they bring out something that has been fermenting deep within me and that I’ve been wanting to say, but just couldn’t find the words.

Then, too, there is something about seeing words in print.  It is like following a footpath through the snow that someone else has forged.  It makes the going easier.  You are not sure where it will take you, but you trust that it will be to someplace that you will enjoy.  Maybe it will take you to a high point where you can see the landscape for miles around or to a babbling brook that will fill your soul with peace, and perhaps your creel with trou

For several years now, I have been interested in books written by people who have died, gone to heaven and returned to write about their experience.  The photo shows some of them.  I’ve also read one account by a man who visited hell and literally got the “hell scared out of him.”  It is titled 23 Minutes in Hell.  You can hear Bill Wiese and his wife talk about the experience online athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5obMsaXLYyI

I had an experience of being in hell myself, once.  It was not fun.  I thought everyone was lying to me.  After all, Satan is the Father of lies in the Bible.  So, clearly, in his realm, the truth would not be highly prized.  I was also very thirsty and literally could not get enough water to quench my thirst. This went on for some time. I had to devise clever ways of detecting if someone was lying to me. Sometimes, I would lie to them just to see how they would respond.  The thought of spending eternity in a place where everyone lied and where you were constantly thirsty was enough to make me very glad when I discovered that I was very much alive and it was only a nightmare of sorts.

On a much more pleasant note, I recently read Chasing Heaven by Crystal McVea.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  I read her first book:  Waking up in Heaven a couple of years ago.  Both were very good books and well worth the time spent reading them.

In Waking up in Heaven, Crystal talks about the much more pleasant experience of visiting heaven, becoming one with God for a while, then reluctantly returning to earth.  Her description of heaven and the overwhelming, unconditional love she experienced there transformed her.  She came back a different person.  She reveals how different in her latest book Chasing Heaven, written 5 years after her near-death experience.

She says that she was so close to God in heaven that she actually became one with him and that His Love enveloped her, washed away all her sin, and made her feel clean and whole for the first time in her adult life.  It made her feel as she did when she was a small child, innocent and full of the joy of life.  It was more powerful than anything she had ever experienced.  Despite all the bad choices she had made in her life, God made her realize just how much He loved her.  Chasing Heaven is about how her life changed and what she did as a result of that experience of being one with God.

Though she was just a suburban housewife, mother of 4 (including twins), and a third grade teacher in a small Oklahoma town, she found herself being forced outside her comfort zone and into totally new roles as she sought to regain that closeness to God that she had experienced in Heaven.  And as she acted upon God’s instructions to her to tell people what she could remember, she found herself in situations and places she never dreamed she would be in, like worshiping in a biker church, or feeding homeless people in a Church Without Walls, or entering strip clubs to pass out gift bags to the dancers.  Crystal says that by turning our will and our lives over to God, we can all experience that same closeness and love that she experienced in heaven.

The key, Crystal says, is obedience.  When we feel a nudge from God to say something or to do something, we need to obey.  After all, when Jesus called his disciples, they did not hemhaw around.  No, the dropped what they were doing and followed him.  Today, we would say that is impulsive and irresponsible, but I think Jesus still comes to us and asks us to do things without questioning or waiting, but just do them.  Drop whatever it is you are doing and do what He is asking you to do.

I have heard amazing stories of what has happened when people have been instantly obedient.  For example, a pastor said that he was praying for a couple and felt that he should call this man.  He resisted, he had others to pray for, but the feeling persisted and became very strong.  So, he stopped praying and called the man only to find out that his wife was at the hospital having their baby prematurely and the man was just then leaving for the hospital.  The pastor was able to meet them at the hospital and be with the man and his wife when they got the bad news that the baby had not survived.

A few years ago, I became interested in books by people who had “near-death” experiences.  A pastor mentioned one such book in her sermon.  The book was To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD. I was instantly drawn to it because I felt a medical doctor would not be prone to flights of fancy.  Also, she would know whether or not she had actually been clinically dead or not.

In that book, Dr. Neal dies in a kayaking accident in Chile when she gets trapped underwater for several minutes.  It is a fascinating story and includes a host of miracles that enabled her to survive the ordeal.  She says that while she did not get to actually enter heaven, she did get to spend some time with Jesus and see the “Pearly Gates” and the walls of the City of God.  She says she felt such peace and such a huge welcome from the companions that came to rescue her and the other beings waiting for her near the gate, that she did not want to come back.

I know some people don’t believe such accounts.  Others don’t believe these people have actually gone to heaven because they have not actually died.  I believe they did die and they did go to heaven, or at least to a place close enough where they could get a glimpse of heaven.  Some, like Dr. Eben Alexander in Proof of Heaven, actually got to fly around heaven on the wing of a butterfly.

All 3 of these writers describe heaven as a place where you are filled to overflowing with unconditional love, a place where you are surrounded by indescribable beauty, a place where space and time are different and do not matter, a place where there is no pain or suffering of any kind, a place where everyone is happy, healthy and carefree, a place where questions are answered instantly, a place where people can communicate with each other and with God without talking.

What I like about these books is that the people who have had the experience say we can have that same feeling of closeness and acceptance by God here and now by seeking to know and do His will.  We don’t have to wait until we die or have a near-death experience.  And, it is not a matter of doing something to get God to love us more.  He already loves us to the max.  It is more a matter of our opening up to receive that love.  Reaching out and helping others and humbling ourselves before God are ways to prepare our hearts to receive the love He is constantly pouring out upon us.

When we admit we are a basket case and totally hopeless without Him, Jesus comes swooping in and restores us to a right relationship with Himself.  From that point we can begin to seek him with our whole hearts.  As long as we keep our eyes on Him and what He did for us, we can soar with the angels (or walk on water, as Peter did).  But the moment we doubt and let sin enter in, we begin to sink and must call out to God (Jesus) to save us again.  And He does, again and again and again…

References:

Eben Alexander, MD, Proof of Heaven: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008AK8FHM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Crystal McVea, Chasing Heaven: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015ND2BSW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Crystal McVea, Waking up in Heaven: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A25FG2A/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Mary C. Neal, To Heaven and Back: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0085CAIZ2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

 

Been Thinkin about… Doing a blog.

…thought about it for a while, bought a couple of books, read a little, and finally decided I needed to just dive in. I’ve seen people teach their infants to swim by just tossing them into the pool. Amazingly, babies have a natural ability to float and most don’t panic. Being surrounded by a liquid is a natural state for them. After all, that is all they knew for 9 months. So, being in a nice warm pool surrounded by water is the most natural thing for them.

I’ve been on Facebook for a few years, as many who read this probably know. I also had a blog years ago, probably 15-20 years ago. I don’t remember anything about what I posted there. It doesn’t matter.  I’m doing a new thing, or maybe I should say God is doing a new thing in and through me.

Oh, yeah, I’ll be using the “G-word” a lot.  If that bothers you, you probably are on the wrong blog.  However, if you bear with me (and I hope you will), you may learn something.  I’m not a Bible thumper, but I do love the Bible and I do think it contains the Word of God.

The photo above shows the wall of a Salvation Army church just down the road from where I meet each Friday morning with a group of CBMC men (Christian Business Men’s Committee).  We are a half-dozen or so men who meet faithfully every Friday morning to pray, read the Bible and enjoy some Christian fellowship as we breakfast together.  I’ve been meeting with these men since 1990, but took a break this past year and am now getting back into it.  They are a great bunch of guys and welcomed me back with open arms, much as the father in the Bible story of the Prodigal son welcomes his errant son home after he went off and squandered his “inheritance”.

I’ve been writing some of the things God has taught me in Facebook posts and in my journal for many years.  Now I sense God asking me to put these thoughts online and share them with others.  What I’ve been thinking about mostly revolves around how this world works and what is important. In particular, what is God teaching me today and where is he leading me?

Ever since the election (and actually for a year or two before that), my world has been turned upside down.  Values I once held dear seem to be trampled upon.  I did some of the trampling.  But, the election of Donald Trump was like turning an elephant loose to trample upon them.  It just seems like things I hold dear like honesty and honor and integrity no longer matter.  I know if you are a Trump supporter you will probably be clicking away right now, and that is fine.  However, before you go, you need to know that I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton, either.  Nor did I find Bernie Sanders to be someone I could feel good about supporting — he was too old and too angry for me.

Politically, I think our system failed us in this election and I was very angry about that for a while.  I’m getting over it now, but I understand the feelings of those who protest and say “Not my President”.  However, IMO, there are better ways than protesting in the streets.  One way is to protests online by writing to your Congress people and even to Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama.  Let them know what you think and why.  Above all, as Churchill said during the bombing of London during WWII:  “Never, Never, Never give up.”

But, the purpose of this blog is not to protest, though I may from time to time share a political thought or two and welcome your comments.

No, my purpose is not to oppose anything or anyone, unless it is Satan himself.  Rather, my purpose is to share with you things that are important to me, things I find interesting and things I think will interest you.

Recently, I promised my friends on Facebook that I would post a Bible verse every day from my morning meditations.  This morning I came across one  that I found particularly impactful:

“You cannot serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and money.”  Matthew 6:27

I know there have been books written on this topic and countless sermons have been based on it.  But, what does it have to do with me, today, here and now?

Well, as I considered starting a blog, it meant I should use it to serve God and not try to make money with it.  In the past, I’ll admit, making money with a blog had occurred to me.  Just yesterday my wife showed me a YouTube post about a woman who bought a penthouse condo in Tokyo using her earnings from affiliate marketing.  I know there is money to be made online, but that is not my purpose.  At some point I may have to include advertising to pay for the site, but I’m hoping God will provide other sources of revenue for me to keep it going.  I’m retired and making money with my blog is secondary, at best, and way down the list of priorities.

After the above verse, another caught my attention:

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

I’ve had a cross-stitch of this latter verse on my bureau for the past 15 years.  It is one of the first things I see as I get dressed in the morning.  I’d like to be able to say I’ve done that every day, but that would be a lie.  Many days it has not even penetrated my consciousness.  Other days I’ve glanced at it and forgotten about it just as quickly.  Like most people, I’m just an average Joe Blow sinner.  Sometimes I try to do the right thing; often, I don’t.  Thanks be to God that there is grace enough to cover all my sins, past, present and future.

I find it interesting that in the “back story” context leading up to Matt 6:33, Jesus mentions food, drink and clothing, but he says nothing about shelter.  Of course, Jesus was an itinerant preacher who even said “foxes have holes… but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  He wasn’t concerned with having a place to stay.  With his reputation and ability to heal people and make them whole again, I’m sure he was welcomed by a variety of people to stay with them in their homes wherever he went.

Today, it is different, at least for us mere mortals.  We are not Jesus.  We are not God incarnate.  We do need a roof over our heads, at least most of us do.  Jesus understands that and provides.  He has certainly provided for me and my family in that regard, as well as providing food, drink and clothing.

So, what does that verse have to do with this blog.  Well, this is my way of giving back.  Of saying “Thank you” to Jesus for the blessings He has poured out upon me over the years.  As time goes on, I will tell you about some of those blessings.  And, it is not my aim to try to make money doing that.

One of the blessings, and it is a huge one, is sobriety.  By the grace of God and through the fellowship of AA I was able to put together almost 15 years of sobriety.  But, I have to admit, recently I had a slip.  This past summer and the summer before were not easy for me.  I love a cold beer on a hot summer day.  Of course, being the alcoholic that I am, one always leads to two and two to… well, you get the picture.

Thankfully, I am back on the wagon now and hopefully will stay there.  I still have those 15 years (5108 days to be exact).  I probably attended 2000+ AA meetings during that time.  I worked a good program and learned a lot.  So, why did I slip and take that first drink, you may ask.  That is a good question and one I will try to answer in my next post.

Another blessing God gave me is freedom from my addiction to nicotine.  After smoking for almost 35 years, I was able to kick that habit back in 1990 and have remained smoke-free ever since.  I always said that quitting drinking was relatively easy but staying quit was hard.  With smoking cigarettes, quitting was VERY hard, but staying quit has been fairly easy.  I gave up smoking with the help of Nicotine Anonymous, another 12-step program.

So, yes, I am a big fan of 12-step programs.  If you have an addictive behavior and you want to stop, there is nothing better, IMO, than to seek out a 12-step program that focuses on that addiction and start attending meetings, and keep on attending meetings.

I know the programs stress anonymity, and I’ve thought long and hard about that.  I will not intentionally break the anonymity of another member of any 12-step program; however, I have decided to break my own in order to better help others.  I think this is what God is calling me to do.

I hope you have found something useful here.  Something to make you think, perhaps some help for you or a loved one, and hopefully something to make you want to return and read my next post.  I will try not to bore you or waste your time.