Category Archives: Christianity

Jesus called us to be light and salt but we are becoming flames and vineger.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Every year I try to read a few books that I was supposed to read in high school but didn’t.  I just finished “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and chapter 28 had a section that made me think of our horrible failure to be Christ-like in “Jerusalem” and “Samaria”.  I’ll type some of it below, and you see if you can read “missions” into it.

“But, suppose we [the South] should rise up tomorrow and emancipate, who would educate these millions, and teach them how to use their freedom? …The fact is, we [the South] are too lazy and unpractical, ourselves, ever to give them much of an idea of that industry and energy which is necessary to form them into men. …and tell me, now, is there enough Christians [in the North]…to bear with the process of their education and elevation?  You [Christians in the North] send thousands of dollars to foreign missions; but could you endure to have…your time, and thoughts, and money to raise [the freed slaves] to the Christian standard?  That’s what I want to know.  If we emancipate, are you willing to educate?  [Would you help them with housing, jobs, job training, education for children, etc.?]  We [the South] are the more obvious oppressors of the Negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe.”

The book was published in 1852.  How much progress have we made in 163 years?

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A Political 23rd Psalm

After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper.  I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound.  Take a look.

Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.

So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue.  But this “psalm” gives me concern.  I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor.  In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something.  Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things.  We are all poor, and we all need help.

I don’t see this song as helping anything.  It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem.  It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another.  It seems to forget that each of us has some  kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists.  It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.

I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us.  A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us.  We  try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again.  Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle.  The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies.  The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey.   That’s where we all need to help.  Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships.  My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family.  Life can be  incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family.  Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.

So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t.  If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds.  We would  have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.

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Disagreeable

A friend of mine told me something that changed some of his habits.  He realized that he considered a book, article, commentator, or news report as “good” just because he agreed with it.  He felt there may be good books, articles, comments, and news he won’t ever consider reading or hearing  just because he doesn’t agree with them.  Hm-m-m.

I struggled with that idea for a few days.  Then I finally admitted that all my opinions will never be right.  I will always need some new input and fresh views.  If I only intake ideas identical to what I already have, it’s like an aquarium that never gets fresh water.  It’s the same muddied water just being recycled without any filtering system.  I don’t have to accept everything I hear, but I can never be renewed if I never hear anything new.  So I thought about where my first stop would be to hear or read something I found disagreeable.  I was mistaken with my choice.

I ended up on the web page for the Christian Left.   Since I thought I was part of the Christian Right, this web page seemed like the logical step.  I was really surprised by what I found.  The web page referenced a lot of Bible verses to support the position that Christians should help the needy.  Huh?  Well, of course.  Who would argue with that?  Well, it appears that the Christian Right has the image of opposing such liberal actions.  The Christian Right has an image of endorsing the well-known line “God helps those who help themselves.”  I know that isn’t right, not every Christian on the Right holds to that position, but I also know that many do.  I also know that some of the Christian Left consider cash handouts a primary solution to solving this issue – a deal-breaker for the Christian Right.   Unfortunately it seems that some of the loudest talkers for each side distract from a united, Christian effort at a solution.  It also seems that we’ve allowed this to become primarily a political issue, not a moral one.

Christians should care for the needy.  I can’t say I believe the Bible and disagree with that mandate.  The hard discussion is in the implementation of the command.  What is the best way to do it?  I think all of us agree that the current method of caring for the needy in the USA is broken.  So, what can we do together that will be better?

The intent of this post is not to bring up a topic (care for the needy) and find a solution.  I just wanted to tell you that I can find common ground when I really listen to the people with whom I thought I totally disagreed.  From that common place, we can listen, share, and pray on our journey to a solution.  Let’s stop accusing, pouting, and being defensive long enough to listen – both to God and our Christian family members.

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Selfish versus Self-Centered

I recently read a book by CS Lewis titled Surprised By Joy.  It was different from any other CS Lewis book I’ve read, more of a biography really.  Starting with his childhood, he journeyed through his life, and I read with interest as he moved from Christian to atheist to deist and back to Christian.  Like all his nonfiction work, I was bobbing just at the surface of comprehension most of the time.  Several concepts caused me to reread the same pages several times hoping his thought process would sink through my dullness.  One of his many thought-provoking concepts is the topic of this post.

He helped me see there is a difference between being selfish and being self-centered.  Both have a central focus of self, but selfishness does so to the exclusion of other people’s needs or longings.  Selfishness has no conscience.  Selfishness has no problem using others for the good of self.  However, being self-centered still allows for acts of service to others and cringes at even the thought of  hurting them.  Yet the person who is self-centered expects a payoff – they want to feel good about their service.  They may distance themselves from specific acts of charity, even if it truly helps others, if it leaves them unfulfilled.  Self-centered people may also find it necessary to receive acclaim or recognition for their generosity of time, talent, or treasure.

Both situations can be modeled by whirlwinds.  Self-centered people spin about expelling charity to others, but their energy to give depends upon what  self-satisfaction can be vacuumed into their vortex.  On the other hand, selfishness is a whirlwind that only captures.  It never releases what it takes, and it can never take in enough.

I honestly don’t know where my heart lands between these two attitudes.  I want to think I’m closer to self-centered, but I can easily catch myself being selfish.  I’m less selfish today than I was five years ago.  I’m making progress, and I take comfort in that fact.   Honestly, sometimes I have fleeting moments selflessness.  As crazy as it sounds, all three of these seem to inhabit me.  Regardless, the distance to where I want to be (selflessness) seems far away.  I’m pretty sure I’ll run out of time before I fully arrive there.

I trust some of you CS Lewis fans will have your opinions on what he meant on this topic.  I want to read those opinions.  These are just the thoughts that came to me from the reading.

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God Moment

I hear the phrase “God moment” used frequently by some friends of mine.  As I understand it, a God moment is when I’m jarred from my normal auto-pilot mode and reminded of God’s interest and activity with me.  I think God’s active in my life every day, but I seldom identify specific God moments.  However, I had one last week.

It was a wonderful, warm, and sunny day.  I had my 99-year-old Dad riding beside me in the car for a change of scenery from the retirement home where he lives.  Our windows were down, arms out the windows, and ears tuned to the sounds of the nature preserve we were driving through.  We stopped to sit on a bench by the river and tried to recall stories about the river that ran on the farm where I grew up.  The setting was prime spot for a God moment, but it didn’t strike me then.  My God moment came when we were driving away.  It had nothing to do with nature or even my Dad.

A very small boy and a man waited to cross the road until I drove by them.  The man was slightly stooped, his hand on the boy’s shoulder.  I passed very slowly just in case the boy darted away, but they remained still until I passed.  Just as I passed I heard the man say, “It’s safe now.  You can go, son.”

How many times have I been eager to run, not realizing the danger of an ill-timed move?  God held me still with his hand until it was okay.  Then, when the timing was right, he lifted his hand and said, “It’s safe now.  You can go, son.”   How many times?

That was my God moment last week.

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