Kairos Moments

I came across a term I was unfamiliar with this morning while doing a Google search. That term is “kairos moment,” and I wondered what it meant. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines“kairos” as: “a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial actionthe opportune and decisive moment.”

GotQuestions.org provides a longer definition on the meaning of the Greek word “kairos”:

The word kairos was an ancient Greek word meaning “opportunity,” “season,” or “fitting time.” Another Greek word for “time” was chronos. A sequence of moments was expressed as chronos, emphasizing the duration of the time; an appointed time was expressed as kairos, with no regard for the length of the time. Thus, chronos was more linear and quantitative, and kairos was more nonlinear and qualitative.

The Bible uses the word kairos and its cognates 86 times in the New Testament (e.g., in Matthew 8:29Luke 19:44; and Acts 24:25). The word often includes the idea of an opportunity or a suitable time for an action to take place. When we “seize the day,” we are taking advantage of the kairos given to us. Kairos is related to the Greek word kara (“head”). A kairos is a time when things “come to a head,” requiring decisive action.

In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord refers to the coming judgment as a harvest: “At that time [kairos] I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn” (Matthew 13:30). By using kairos here, Jesus emphasizes the fact that Judgment Day is an appointed time, and at that time will occur certain things appropriate for the day.

There was “an appointed time” for John the Baptist to be born (Luke 1:20). The Lord promises to reward His servants at “the proper time” (Luke 12:42). Jesus predicts that Israel will be judged “because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:44, emphasis added). Each of these uses of kairos denotes a unique time in which something special was to happen.

The Bible warns that we should take full advantage of the opportunities God gives us. Unbelievers have the responsibility to respond to opportunities to believe the gospel. Jesus’ first recorded sermon was simple: “The time [kairos] has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:8). When the people of Galilee were confronted with Jesus’ life-changing message, God expected them to believe.

Governor Felix was listening to Paul speak, and “as [Paul] reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity [kairos] I will summon you’” (Acts 24:25, ESV). Felix wanted to pick his own opportunity to respond to the gospel, ignoring the opportunity of the present. In so doing, he did respond—he rejected the gospel.

Paul communicated the urgency of the gospel: “I tell you, now is the time [kairos] of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). There is a window of opportunity to accept God’s salvation, and we do not know when that window will close.

The believer must take advantage of opportunities to serve the Lord. “As we have opportunity [kairos], let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). We must bemaking the most of every opportunity [kairos], because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). And “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time [kairos] we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on November 13, 2014, titled, KAIROS = God – Time,” by Pr. Michael Jannett, pastor at Advent Lutheran Church, he uses the acronym “SOAP” to describe a kairos moment:

S (Scripture): John 14:2b [Jesus said,] “I am going away to make ready a place for you. 14:3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. 14:4 And you know the way where I am going.” 14:5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 14:6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 14:7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

O (Observation): Thomas hears that Jesus is changing course again. That is a “kairos” moment for him–a time to listen and pay extra attention to what God (Jesus) is saying. So Thomas chimes in, and wonders how the disciples are to make their way without Jesus?

A (Application): I’m sitting in an airport (as I type), awaiting departure for Detroit, MI, for an ELCA Youth Gathering training event. My flight was delayed a half hour. That was a kairos. A moment that catches my attention.

We all have lots of kairos moments. Sometimes we call it: coincidence, providence, happenstance, chance, aha moments, light bulb moments…I call them Kairos moments.

Kairos is a Greek word that essentially means “God-time.” Every moment that catches my attention is a moment for me to reflect on what God is saying to me, and to reflect on what I should do about what God has said to me.

Being delayed a half hour reminds me that rushing from one place to another is not healthy. “Abide, Michael. Sit. Wait. I have come to sit with you awhile as you write your devotion.” Cool. So I sit and reflect and share with you, now.

Thomas had a kairos. Jesus said he was leaving. “So where to, Jesus? We don’t have GPS. Or an iPhone.” Jesus responds that he is the way.

So maybe Thomas starts to realize (like we do, maybe) that following Jesus is not just a physical journey, but a physical AND spiritual one. That it’s about being shaped in a way of “being” that effects our actions and thoughts and beliefs, wherever we head…like Detroit, or home, or work, or school.

Next time a thought/event/whatever stops you in your tracks…pause…ask yourself, “What is God Saying?” And then ask yourself, “What would God have me do now?”

(Hint: if “what God says” tears you down and demoralizes you…that’s not God, that’s the devil. God brings life. God can bring anger or disappointment, but that message should be to a constructive end.)

Challenge: Share a kairos moment that you had today. If you feel really bold, answer the two questions:

1. What is God saying to me? And,
2. What would God have me do?

P (Prayer): Lord, you have spoken to us through the prophets of old. Now you speak to us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to listen to your voice and believe that you have called us to do greater things than “these.” Amen. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on July 24, 2020, titled, How A Kairos Moment Changes the World,” by Chris Walker, Director of Spanish Ministry and Director of Ministry Development at PRMI, he provides the following definition for “kairos”:

Kairos: Now Time

“Kairos” (kairos) is one of two Greek words used for time that is used in Scripture.

Greek dictionaries give the meaning in terms of

  • due measure,
  • a fixed and definite time,
  • the time when things are brought to crisis,
  • the decisive epoch waited for,
  • opportune or seasonable time,
  • the right time (Thayer’s definition).

Kairos moments are not measured by minutes or hours but by what is happening.

Examples from Scripture of where Kairos is used of time.

The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!Mark 1:15 (NIV) 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Romans 5:6 (NIV) 

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.Romans 13:11 (NIV) 

A kairos moment occurs when it is God’s time to act in human affairs.

The Holy Spirit is present and moving in a person, situation, or group to accomplish some specific work for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. (Quote source here.)

The following statement comes from the opening  paragraph of an article titled, Your Kairos Moment,” on OneChurch.family (the author’s name is not mentioned):

We’ve all come to these points in our life when a decision is made that changes every day that follows. Many times, you weren’t even aware that you, in fact, were standing in such a moment. A tipping-point or a kairos moment is usually discovered behind the scenes of an ordinary day. It’s the moment when desperation and courage collide. It’s the moment when great opposition threatens all that you know and you choose to remain unmoved by fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. It’s the moment when a choice of faith catapults you into divine destiny.

KAIROS… (Quote source here.)

So be on the lookout for kairos moments, and it all boils down to exercising our faith. GotQuestions.org states the following regarding faith (as found in Hebrews 11):

The writer of Hebrews opens chapter 11 with a brief description of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV). This statement should not be regarded as a complete definition of faith. Instead, the author focuses on two critical aspects of a much broader theological concept to introduce a famous gallery of Old Testament heroes of faith. The first vital facet of faith is that it is “the substance of things hoped for.”

The word for “substance” (KJV, NKJV) in the clause faith is the substance of things hoped for, is alternatively translated as “assurance” (ESV), “confidence” (NIV), and “the reality” (NLT). In the original Greek, the term conveys the idea of “a firm foundation,” “the real being,” “the actual existence,” “the substantial nature,” and “a resolute trust.” One sense of the word refers to a title deed or a legal document guaranteeing the right to possess a property.

According to Moulton and Milligan in Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, “faith is the substance of things hoped for” could be translated “faith is the title-deed of things hoped for” (Robertson, A. T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1960). Another commentary suggests that faith, as described in Hebrews 11:1, “apprehends reality: it is that to which the unseen objects of hope become real and substantial. Assurance gives the true idea. It is the firm grasp of faith on unseen fact” (Vincent, M. R., Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. 4, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887, p. 510).

The clause faith is the substance of things hoped for describes a conviction that already takes custody—here and now—of what we hope for and what God has promised us in the future. This present-day ownership of things hoped for and promised in the future is an inner reality. Right now, amid a global pandemic, financial crisis, and social unrest, as our world seems to be falling apart, we can stand on the rock-solid, unshakeable  promises of God’s security, rest, peace, provision, mercy, grace, and salvation. His Word can be trusted. We can have full confidence in the Lord’s promises because they are real and a firm foundation for this life.

This “substance” or “assurance” describes our inward response to God’s trustworthy, unfailing nature. We can be sure of the Lord’s promises because, as the writer of Hebrews goes on to show, biblical heroes of every generation have proven them to be true: “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death” (Hebrews 11:4–5). On and on goes the list. By faith Noah built the ark, saved his family, and became an heir of righteousness (Hebrews 11:7). By faith Abraham obeyed God and moved from his homeland (verses 8–10).

The writer of Hebrews presents example after example of those who demonstrated faith as the substance of things hoped for: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). From the patriarchs to King David to anonymous champions of faith, believers have trusted in God’s promises despite enduring unimaginable challenges (verses 17–38).

Faith, being the substance of things hoped for, is also an outward force. Possessing the reality of hope supplies believers with the motivation to endure trials and hardships. It results in decisive obedience—the kind that caused the ancient heroes of faith to act upon their hope. Faith, as the substance of things hoped for, activates believers to preach boldly, pray unceasingly, love unconditionally, serve compassionately, and work tirelessly “as long as it is day” (John 9:4). The inward substance of faith moves our hearts while the external reality moves mountains. (Quote source here.)

With my faith still very much intact (and, hopefully, yours is, too), be on the lookout for kairos moments. I’ll end this post with the words from Hebrews 11:6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards…

Those who . . .

Earnestly . . .

Seek him . . . .

YouTube Video: “Help Is On The Way” (Live on June 10, 2021) by TobyMac:

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All Things Are Possible

Most of us have found ourselves in a Catch-22 type situation from time to time. They are awkward, frustrating, confusing, and infuriating, to say the very least. Wikipedia defines the meaning of Catch-22 as follows:

catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations. The term was coined by Joseph Heller, who used it in his 1961 noveCatch-22. An example is:

“How can I get any experience until I get a job that gives me experience?” –Brantley Foster in The Secret of My Success.”

Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to, but has no control over, because to fight the rule is to accept it. Another example is a situation in which someone is in need of something that can only be had by not being in need of it (e.g.: the only way to qualify for a loan is to prove to the bank that you do not need a loan). One connotation of the term is that the creators of the “catch-22” situation have created arbitrary rules in order to justify and conceal their own abuse of power.

Joseph Heller coined the term in his 1961 novel Catch-22, which describes absurd bureaucratic constraints on soldiers in World War II. The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “Catch-22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in creating the request and thus cannot be declared insane. This phrase also means a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. (Quote source here.)

For anyone who has ever found themselves in a Catch-22 type situation, the definition above is a moot point as you know exactly what it feels like and how impossible it seems to be in order to escape from it.

In an audio file with attached transcript published on July 12, 2018 titled, When You Are Confronted with a Catch-22 Situation,” by Dr. Harold J. Sala, speaker, author, Bible teacher, and founder of “Guidelines for Living,” he states:

“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2, KJV).

It’s a catch-22 situation, one where you can’t win. That expression “catch-22” was made famous by a book by the same title, one that came out of the war experiences of Joseph Heller. Heller was flying over France in World War 2 when shrapnel hit his plane, a B-25 bomber. Up to that time, he had been pretty well fearless, but no longer. He wanted out.

His emotions formed the backdrop of his most famous book, a 1961 novel called Catch-22. In the book, John Yossarian decides he doesn’t want to fly any more dangerous missions so he invents a mysterious liver ailment, sabotages his plane, and tries to get himself declared insane.

Here’s the predicament. Yossarian learns that in the military, anyone who really is insane has to be excused from flying dangerous missions, but the catch is that he must ask to be excused. But “anyone who is smart enough to show ‘rational fear in the face of clear and present danger’ obviously is not insane and must continue to fly.”

Yes, you’ll find Heller’s expression “catch-22” in the dictionary. It’s defined as “a problematical situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem…” or “an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation.”

The fact is that catch-22 situations have been with us for a long time and are still very much part of life. That’s what confronted the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt and were trapped by the Red Sea, the mountains of Pi Hahiroth, and the Egyptian Army. That’s what confronted Daniel when he either had to bow to the image of the king or be tossed to the lions. A catch-22 situation also confronted King Jehoshaphat, who had committed to serving the living God, yet was confronted with the armies of Moab and Edom.

Sometimes people feel that they are in a catch-22 situation when a marriage goes bad.  The choice is stay there and suffer or feel that you are wrong in walking away from it. In business you face it when you know that a fellow employee is cheating on the company. Do you report the situation and face the consequences of being a whistle-blower, or do you violate your conscience by keeping quiet?

Catch-22 situations are grim apart from one thing, the one who can eliminate the hopeless feature. It is God. When Jehoshaphat faced a catch-22 situation he cried out, “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Did you hear those words, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you”? God is always enough.

When Daniel faced a catch-22 situation, he chose to either die with integrity or to allow God to bring him through the difficulty.

There were lots of times when David faced catch-22 situations, but he learned that God makes a difference. He cried out, “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2, KJV).

One of the reasons that God allows catch-22 situations is so we learn that He can roll back the waters of the Red Sea, and stop the mouths of lions, and turn marriages around.

Joseph Heller–not God–is the one who invented that phrase–catch-22! The good news is there is nothing too hard for God. Have you learned this?

Resource reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. (Quote source here.)

In another article using that same passage found in 2 Chronicles 20 that was published on April 2, 2020, titled, Praying in Impossible Situations,” by Greg Laurie, author and senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, he writes:

Do you feel like you’re in an impossible situation right now? Maybe the “what if” has become reality for you, and there’s no apparent way out. Maybe a national crisis has quickly become a personal crisis.

I recently read that nearly half of the country believes the deadly coronavirus is a wake-up call from God. Perhaps you’ve had this kind of “wake-up call” in your own life, and you’re looking for answers.

If so, it’s crucial to recognize the power of God that can take place through urgent, storm-the-gates-of-Heaven type prayer.

We find an example of this in 2 Chronicles 20, where the bottom had suddenly dropped out for Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. He received the devastating report that a vast army was coming against them.

But Jehoshaphat responded with three things that we can also do when crisis comes our way.

1. He Prayed with His Family

Where did Jehoshaphat begin? He prayed with his whole family. He said, “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (verse 12). Then we read, “Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord” (verse 13).

That is such a powerful scene. Here was a multitude of vulnerable people with an invading army coming against them, and King Jehoshaphat was saying, “Lord, we are depending upon You. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

Humanly speaking, it is a picture of weakness. King Jehoshaphat was saying, in effect, “Lord, here we are. We have the kids. We have an army coming toward us. What am I going to do here? Our eyes are on You.”

Many times we think of prayer as a last resort. After we have exhausted every other possibility, all we can do is pray. But that is what we should have done in the first place. It has been said that if you are swept off your feet, it is time to get on your knees.

Jehoshaphat shows us the importance of united, family prayer.

God answers the prayers of His people and can turn around radical, hopeless situations when His people go to Him in prayer.

2. He Recognized that the Battle Was the Lord’s

Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, faced a dilemma. His enemies greatly outnumbered him. To make matters worse, his enemies had joined forces with the other enemies of Israel and were coming to destroy him.

It was hopeless. There was no way that he could meet this army with what he had. He was going to be destroyed. What did Jehoshaphat do?

The Bible says that he “set himself to seek the Lord.”

Take another look at the content of his prayer: “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NKJV).

The Lord answered Jehoshaphat, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you” (2 Chronicles 20:15–17 NKJV).

He prayed, looking for an answer. And God answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer, intervened, and rescued them.

Jehoshaphat recognized that this crisis was out of his control. God turned an impossible situation around.

3. He Led with Worship

So Jehoshaphat and his army went out to meet their enemies, but they put the worship team out front.

We read that Jehoshaphat “appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 20:21).

The Bible says that when they began to sing and praise the Lord, the enemy started fighting among themselves and destroyed each other.

Something supernatural takes place when people worship, more than we may ever realize. Even the enemy’s power can be broken through worship.

When we don’t know what to do, we can always pray and worship.

Maybe you are facing what seems like an impossible situation right now. You may not be able to see a way out. But God can. Call on Him. Then stand still and see what He will do.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Faith

Here is a picture of a vulnerable people who don’t know what to do, who are completely dependent upon God. It is a great picture of what to do in time of need.

God answered the prayer of the king and dramatically altered his circumstances by destroying his enemies. Remember, you can turn to God in prayer in desperate circumstances, and He will hear your cry. (Quote source here.)

On April 15, 2019, I published a blog post on my second blog, Reflections,” that is also titled, All Things Are Possible (click here to go to that post). That post goes into great detail regarding what is meant by all things.” I’ll end this post with same reminder from that post that includes a verse found in Romans 8:28 which states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” “All things” include our Catch-22 and impossible situations that seems to have no solution from a human perspective.

Therefore, let us never forget in the midst of our difficult circumstances no matter how impossible they may seem to be, to pray, worship, and give thanks to God, and remember that…

With God . . .

All Things . . .

Are Possible . . . .

YouTube Video: “The God of the Impossible” by Lincoln Brewster:

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Choosing Joy

I have always liked the word “joy.” I often buy Christmas cards that have “joy” written somewhere on the cover or inside in the verse, and I have two decorator pillows that have “joy” embroidered on them. I even have a newly acquired coffee cup that has “joy” written across the front of it. However, with all of those external reminders about “joy,” I realized that lately I need to get more of it inside of me instead of just seeing it on all of those external reminders.

I have always thought that joy is different from happiness. Happiness seems to be something fleeting or momentary, and it doesn’t last long; whereas joy is an internal feeling that is not dependent on circumstances. As I was looking online to see what the differences were between the two words, I found an article that asks a question in it’s title–Is there a difference between joy and happiness?”–and the answer is found on GotQuestions.org:

There is no explicit difference between happiness and joy. Both involve the emotions, both are pleasurable feelings, and both are mentioned in Scripture in passages that equate the two.

A dictionary definition of “happiness” is “a state of well-being; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” A definition of the word “rejoice,” related to the word “joy,” is “to feel great delight; to be glad.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” words about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times.

Jeremiah 31:13 says, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; / I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Here, in the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, the words “gladness” and “joy” are used synonymously. And Proverbs 23:25 says, “Let your father and your mother be glad, / And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.” Being glad is the same thing as rejoicing in this verse. Unless we are willing to say that gladness and happiness are completely different things, then we must say that joy and happiness are linked.

It is common today to hear believers speak of a difference between joy and happiness. The teaching usually makes the following points: 1) Happiness is a feeling, but joy is not. 2) Happiness is fleeting, but joy is everlasting. 3) Happiness depends on circumstances or other people, but joy is a gift from God. 4) Happiness is worldly, but joy is divine. But there is no such distinction made in Scripture, and forcing a distinction between two words that are so obviously close in meaning is unnecessary.

If a person is joyful, then he or she is happy. There’s no such thing as glum joy. We cannot drain joy of emotion and still call it “joy.” When God’s Spirit gives us joy, then we are happy people. Christians should be joyful; happiness should characterize our everyday lives.

James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” Christians can be happy, even in the midst of difficulties, because we know “the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (verses 3–4). As we persevere through trials, with God’s help, our faith strengthens and matures. By God’s grace we can be happy despite our circumstances.

Joy is often presented as “true” contentment based on faith. Happiness, in contrast, is often thought of as “false” or “superficial” emotion dependent on circumstances. But this is a false dichotomy. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests we divorce joy from happiness. The two are equal.

Of course, there are different types of joy and happiness. There is a joy that comes from the world, such as “the fleeting pleasures of sin” spoken of in Hebrews 11:25. There is a joy that is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). There is a temporary happiness and an eternal happiness, but we can call both “happiness.” We don’t need to split hairs between the meaning of “joy” and “happiness.” We just need to decide where our joy comes from. Are we happy in the Lord, or are we content with the happiness the world affords?

Solomon tried the world’s brand of happiness and found it to be lacking: “I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless. ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1–2). The joy of the world is hollow, but the joy of the Lord is rich and abundant. The world’s happiness will fade with time, but God’s people will be happy forever.

“Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). (Quote source here.)

Given that explanation, joy and happiness are equal in their meanings, but both differentiate between the happiness and joy found in worldly pursuits, and the happiness and joy found in the Lord.

However, I found another article published on August 13, 2020, that differentiates between joy and happiness. In this article titled, What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?” by Glory Dy, content editor and contributing writer on Christianity.com, she states:

Joy and happiness are two different emotions that are somewhat similar but are actually very different. Joy is attributed to something very consistent and internal, while happiness tends to be triggered externally. (Quote source here.)

She lists five key differences between happiness and joy, with descriptions given for each of these differences in her article at this link:

  1. Happiness is External; Joy is Internal
  2. Happiness is Bliss; Joy is Selfless
  3. Happiness is Pleasure; Joy is a Sacrifice
  4. Happiness is Achievable on Earth; Joy is a More Spiritual Connection with God
  5. Happiness is Not Necessarily Good: Joy is Purely Good

And she ends her article with this summary:

Many people tend to have difficulty differentiating happiness from joy. However, it is actually very simple. Happiness is merely external, fleeting, can sometimes only be for pleasure, is only achievable on earth, and can sometimes not necessarily be good.

Joy, on the other hand, is internal, selfless, sacrificial, a spiritual connection with God, and is purely good. We need joy in our lives just as we need the Father and Jesus in our lives. That is why, to be able to attain joy, we must receive Christ, follow Him and His teachings. (Quote source here.)

Joy, of course, is also listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

GotQuestions.org explains what the fruit of the Holy Spirit is as follows:

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:91 Corinthians 12:13Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian’s life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This passage describes all people, to varying degrees, when they do not know Christ and therefore are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful flesh produces certain types of fruit that reflect our nature, and the Holy Spirit produces types of fruit that reflect His nature.

The Christian life is a battle of the sinful flesh against the new nature given by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As fallen human beings, we are still trapped in a body that desires sinful things (Romans 7:14-25). As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us and we have the Holy Spirit’s power available to conquer the acts of the sinful nature (2 Corinthians 5:17Philippians 4:13). A Christian will never be completely victorious in always demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the main purposes of the Christian life, though, to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives—and to allow the Holy Spirit to conquer the opposing sinful desires. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to exhibit and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, it is possible! (Quote source here.)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I need to cultivate more joy internally in my life and take my focus off of all the “external” stuff that is going on all around us in the world today. With that in mind, I found an article published on January 7, 2020, titled, 10 Ways to Get Your Joy Back,” by John Lindell, Lead Pastor at James River Church, and author of “New Normal: Experiencing God’s Best for Your Life,” published in April 2021. I’ll include a list of his “10 ways to get your joy back” below with more explanations on each one available at this link:

1. Joy is something God can restore

PSALM 51:12, Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (ESV)

2. Joy is found in God’s presence

PSALM 16:11, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV)

3. Joy is the result of righteousness

PSALM 97:11, Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. (NLT)
ECCLESIASTES 2:26, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. (NLT)

4. Joy is found in delighting in God’s Word

PSALM 119:111, Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. (NIV) I like the way The Message reads, “I inherited your book on living…”

5. Joy is the result of speaking with wisdom

PROVERBS 15:23, To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! (ESV)

6. Joy is produced by righteous hope

PROVERBS 10:28, The hope of the righteous brings joy… (ESV)

7. Joy is found in answered prayer

JOHN 16:24, Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (ESV)

8. Joy is produced by the Holy Spirit

GALATIANS 5:22, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy… (ESV)
GALATIANS 5:25, Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (NIV)

9. Joy fills our heart as we remember the good things God has done through the people He has placed in our lives

PHILIPPIANS 1:3-5, I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. (GNT)

10. Joy comes when we trust the Lord

PSALM 40:4, Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord… (NLT) (Quote source here.)

I do believe I’m starting to feel more joyful! I’ll end this post with the words found in Nehemiah 8:10b: Do not sorrow…

For the joy . . .

Of the LORD . . .

Is your strength . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Joy Of The Lord” by Twila Paris:

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Speak Life

Personal insults–they infect conversations whether in person or on social media or in group settings. They occur in families, and among friends, and even from strangers. And often they come out of the blue when we are least expecting them. And they are meant to hurt, intimidate, and humiliate whoever is the target of them, especially when the insult hits below the belt.”

So how do we respond when a personal insult is targeted at us? And what is our initial response? Shock, anger, humiliation? How about rage, or striking back?

That’s the response they are looking for, waiting for, hoping for. So don’t give it to them. That is the best response.

As I was researching this topic online, I came across an article titled, Ad Hominem: When People Use Personal Attacks in Arguments,” (author’s name not mentioned), that states the following:

An ad hominem argument is a personal attack against the source of an argument, rather than against the argument itself. Essentially, this means that ad hominem arguments are used to attack opposing views indirectly, by attacking the individuals or groups that support these views.

Ad hominem arguments can take many forms, from basic name-calling to more complex rhetoric. For example, an ad hominem argument can involve simply insulting a person instead of properly replying to a point that they raised, or it can involve questioning their motives in response to their criticism of the current state of things.

Ad hominem arguments are common in both formal and informal discussions on various topics, so it’s important to understand them. As such, in the following article you will learn more about ad hominem arguments, see what types of them exist, and understand what you can do to respond to them properly….

A basic example of an ad hominem argument is a person telling someone “you’re stupid, so I don’t care what you have to say”, in response to hearing them present a well-thought position. This is the simplest type of fallacious ad hominem argument, which is nothing more than an abusive personal attack, and which has little to do with the topic being discussed….

There are various types of ad hominem arguments, each of which involves a different way of attacking the source of an opposing argument. These include, most notably, “poisoning the well,” “the credentials fallacy,” “the appeal to motive,” “the appeal to hypocrisy,” “tone policing,” “the traitorous critic fallacy,” “the association fallacy,” and “the abusive fallacy.” (Quote source here. Each of those types are discussed at length in the article.)

In a post published on May 13, 2020, titled, How to Respond to Insults,” by Dianna Miller, on her blog, dressedinfaith.com, she writes:

We’ve all been in this situation. Someone gets very angry with you and insults you for no understandable reason. Sometimes, it may be the result of an unintentional mistake you made. Other times, you may just be the unlucky person with bad timing. Either way, the insult is completely unjustified.

I know my first instinct is to say something insulting back, but it has to be just right. It has to be a perfect zinger that expresses exactly what I’m feeling and hurt the other person as deeply as they hurt me. You know, it has to be the perfect comeback line.

Fortunately for me, I am not one of those people who is quick on her feet when trying to immediately get back at someone. Yet, that doesn’t mean I haven’t come up with something before to hurl at the other person. How do I usually feel after I do this? I don’t feel so great about it!

As Christians, we are taught not to pay back insult with insult. Instead, we are taught to pray for them and ask God to bless them. It is not easy at times as emotions can certainly get the better of us. Yet, I know my response not only plays a role in how the other person will feel but also how I will feel.

Many times, someone’s behavior towards us may have nothing to do with us personally, especially when from a stranger. Stopping to pray for them gives me perspective. They may be having the worst day of their life and need prayer. I don’t need to add to their heartache even if I’m feeling offended.

The same can be said if I know the person well. An angry response certainly doesn’t solve anything or make the situation better. In fact, it just stirs up more anger for both parties. While a kind response may not immediately resolve the situation, prayer for the person who offended me also calms my spirit. I can place my stress and anxiety about the situation in God’s hands. I know He will work in both our lives to meet both our needs.

We inherit a blessing when we treat others with respect and when we shine as an example of a life changed by Christ.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. —1 Peter 3:9 (Quote source here.)

And in answer to the question, What did Jesus mean when he instructed us to turn the other cheek?” on GotQuestions.org, the following answer is provided:

In Matthew 5:38–39, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” The concept of “turning the other cheek” is a difficult one for us to grasp. Allowing a second slap after being slapped once does not come naturally.

In the section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He commands us to turn the other cheek, He addresses the need for true transformation, versus mere rule-keeping. It’s not enough to obey the letter of the law; we must conform to the spirit of the law as well.

Much of the material surrounding Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek complements the nature of His coming, which was characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners. At the same time, Jesus affirms the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, He tells us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us (Matthew 5:41) and to love and pray for our enemies instead of holding enmity against them (verse 44). In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure inside and out and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

A word about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Jesus here speaks of personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not have to involve literal, physical violence. Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. Did someone insult you? Let him, Jesus says. Are you shocked and offended? Don’t be. And don’t return insult for insult. Turn the other cheek.

Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse is helpful: “Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort” (Concise Commentary, entry for Matthew 5:38).

Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. He was not setting government foreign policy, and He was not throwing out the judicial system. Crimes can still be prosecuted, and wars can still be waged, but the follower of Christ need not defend his personal “rights” or avenge his honor.

There was a time in history when a man would feel compelled to protect his honor against one who slandered him or otherwise besmirched his character. The offended party would challenge the offender to a duel. Swords, firearms, or other weapons were chosen, and the two enemies would face off. In most cases, senseless bloodshed ensued. Samuel Johnson wrote in favor of the practice of dueling: “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” The problem is that “invasions of character” are exactly what Jesus told us to tolerate in Matthew 5:38. Turning the other cheek would have been a better option than dueling, and it would have saved lives.

Retaliation is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Turning the other cheek requires help from on high. Responding to hatred with love and ignoring personal slights display the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and may afford the chance to share the gospel.

Jesus was, of course, the perfect example of turning the other cheek because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him. Instead, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Peter 3:9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called…

So that you . . .

May inherit . . .

A blessing. . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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A Sign of Our Times

An article published on September 13, 2021, titled, Study Reveals Stunning Statistics About Profession Christians,” by the Charisma News Staff at CharismaNews.org, reveals some interesting stats from a study published by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University. The  following statement is from the article:

George Barna, the lead researcher at the Cultural Research Center, says that the term Christian has become “somewhat generic” rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ.

“Too often, it seems, people who are simply religious, or regular churchgoers, or perhaps people who want a certain reputation or image embrace the label ‘Christian,’ regardless of their spiritual life and intentions,” Barna says. (Quote source here.)

Some of the statistics on errant perspectives mentioned in the article include:

  • 176 million American adults identify as Christian, but only 15 million, or 6%, actually hold a biblical worldview.
  • 58% of people who identify as Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is not a real living being but merely a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity.
  • 7 in 10 adults (69%) have adopted the label “Christian” to identify their faith, this large group entertains a wide range of perspectives that are not in harmony with biblical teachings.
  • 58% believe that if a person is good enough or does good things, they can earn their way into heaven.
  • 72% argue that people are basically good.
  • 71% consider feelings, experience or the input of friends and family as their most trusted sources of moral guidance.
  • 66% say that having faith matters more than which faith you pursue.
  • 64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value.
  • 58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into heaven.
  • 57% believe in karma.
  • 52% claim that determining moral truth is up to each individual; there are no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time. (Quote source here.)

The article concludes with the following paragraph:

Christians are also likely to reject a number of biblical teachings and principles. For example, slightly less than half (46%) believe that the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s plan for humanity, across all cultures; just 40% believe that when they die they will go to heaven, but only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior; only one-third (34%) believe that people are born into sin and can only be saved of the consequences by Jesus Christ; just one-third (32%) believe premarital sex is morally unacceptable; and about 1 out of every 4 (28%) believe that the best indicator of a successful life is consistent obedience to God. (Quote source here.)

The term “Christian” today has too often become a hodgepodge of things that are not even remotely related to what it means to be a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. The term “Christian” is first mentioned in the Book of Acts in the New Testament (see Acts 11:19–26). GotQuestions.org provides the following information as to what it means to be a true Christian:

According to Acts 11:26, the followers of Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch. Why were they called Christians? Because they were “followers of Christ.” They had committed their lives to “walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

Other Scriptures explain how a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ and begins this relationship. For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 reveals that a person becomes a Christian by faith, not by following a list of rules or good works: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” A true Christian has faith in Jesus as the Savior.

Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” A true Christian is unashamed to say Jesus is Lord and believes Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

First Corinthians 15:3 says this message of the resurrected Jesus is of “first importance.” Without Jesus’ resurrection our faith is “futile,” and we are “still in [our] sins” (v. 7). A true Christian lives by faith in the resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

Paul writes, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ…. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:916). A true Christian has God’s Holy Spirit living within.

The evidence of a true Christian is displayed in both faith and action. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Jesus put it this way: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). A true Christian will show his faith by how he lives.

Despite the wide variety of beliefs that fall under the general “Christian” label today, the Bible defines a true Christian as one who has personally received Jesus Christ as Savior, who trusts in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins, who has the Holy Spirit residing within, and whose life evinces consistent with faith in Jesus. (Quote source here.)

It is not the world that shapes Christianity. It is Christianity that shapes our personal world if we allow it to shapes us. We cannot fit it into our own mold or liking or lifestyle; we must be willing to fit into its mold. We cannot change the tenets of the Christian faith to be what we deem is acceptable to us; we must be shaped by the tenets of genuine faith in Jesus Christ. And we cannot make Jesus Christ into an image that we want Him to be; we must be conformed to the likeness of His image, and not our own. As Romans 8:29 states:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

In an article published on April 2, 2016, titled Making Jesus in Our Own Image,” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, he states:

Many years ago now there was a scholarly movement that became known as “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Scholars said “Let’s try to get behind the Gospels to find out who Jesus really was, and what he was really like.” So they took bits and pieces of the Gospel testimony and made a picture of Christ. One of the shrewdest things that was said about this movement was that these scholars were like people looking down a well to find Jesus, but didn’t realize that the “Jesus” they saw was really just a reflection of themselves from the water at the bottom of the well!

Sometimes I feel this is actually what has happened in popular evangelicalism. Our “Jesus” is actually a reflection of ourselves. This is the constant danger when we don’t simply open the Scriptures and listen to their testimony about Jesus: we make a Jesus in our own image, usually domesticated. Sadly, much that dominates the Christian media seems to fall foul here. Any Jesus who isn’t both Savior and Lord, Sacrificial Lamb of God and Reigning King, cannot be the Jesus of the Gospels. And any Jesus who does not call us to radical, sacrificial, and yes, painful, discipleship, cannot be the real Jesus…. (Quote source here.)

Regarding the results of the survey posted above, if we really don’t believe some or many of the basic biblical essentials of the Christian faith that make it Christian in the first place, then why do we call ourselves Christians? What purpose or whose agenda are we really following? And if we are basically following what we want in life and only give God a nod on Sunday morning, yet we call ourselves Christians, isn’t that hypocrisy?

One of the questions asked on GotQuestions.org is Why are all Christians Hypocrites?” and their answer is worth considering:

Perhaps no accusation is more provocative than that of “hypocrite.” Unfortunately, some feel justified in their view that all Christians are hypocrites. The term “hypocrite” enjoys a rich heritage in the English language. The term comes to us via the Latin hypocrisies meaning “play-acting, pretense.” Further back, the word occurs in both classical and New Testament Greek and has the very same idea—to play a part, pretend.

This is the way the Lord Jesus employed the term. For example, when Christ taught the significance of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving for kingdom people, He discouraged us from following the examples of those who are hypocrites (Matthew 6:2516). By making long public prayers, employing extreme measures to ensure others noticed their fasts, and parading their gifts to the Temple and the poor, they revealed only an outward attachment to the Lord. While the Pharisees performed well their dramatic role as public examples of religious virtue, they failed miserably in the inner world of the heart where true virtue resides (Matthew 23:13-33Mark 7:20-23).

Jesus never called His disciples hypocrites. That name was given only to misguided religious zealots. Rather, He called His own “followers,” “babes,” “sheep,” and His “church.” In addition, there is a warning in the New Testament about the sin of hypocrisy (1 Peter 2:1), which Peter calls “insincerity.” Also, two blatant examples of hypocrisy are recorded in the church. In Acts 5:1-10, two disciples are exposed for pretending to be more generous than they were. The consequence was severe. And, of all people, Peter is charged with leading a group of hypocrites in their treatment of Gentile believers (Galatians 2:13).

From the New Testament teaching, then, we may draw at least two conclusions. First, hypocrites do exist among professing Christians. They were present in the beginning, and, according to Jesus’ parable of the tares and wheat, they will certainly exist until the end of the age (Matthew 13:18-30). In addition, if even an apostle may be guilty of hypocrisy, there is no reason to believe “ordinary” Christians will be free from it. We must always be on our guard that we do not fall into the very same temptations (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Of course, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. Perhaps all or most of the famous hypocrites among Christians were in fact pretenders and deceivers. To this day, prominent Christian leaders have fallen into terrible sins. Financial and sexual scandals sometimes seem to plague the Christian community. However, instead of taking the actions of a few and using them to denigrate the whole community of Christians, we need to ask whether all those who claim to be Christians really are. Numerous biblical passages confirm that those who truly belong to Christ will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus’ parable of the seed and the soils in Matthew 13 makes it clear that not all professions of faith in Him are genuine. Sadly, many who profess to belong to Him will be stunned one day to hear Him say to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).

Second, while it should not surprise us that people who pretend to be more holy than they are claim to be Christians, we cannot conclude that the church is made up almost entirely of hypocrites. One surely may concede that all of us who name the name of Jesus Christ remain sinners even after our sin is forgiven. That is, even though we are saved from sins’ eternal penalty (Romans 5:16:23), we are yet to be saved and delivered from the presence of sin in our lives (1 John 1:8-9), including the sin of hypocrisy. Through our living faith in the Lord Jesus, we continually overcome sin’s power until we are finally delivered (1 John 5:4-5).

All Christians fail to perfectly live up to the standard the Bible teaches. No Christian has ever been perfectly Christ-like. However, there are many Christians who are genuinely seeking to live the Christian life and are relying more and more on the Holy Spirit to convict, change, and empower them. There have been multitudes of Christians who have lived their lives free from scandal. No Christian is perfect, but making a mistake and failing to reach perfection in this life is not the same thing as being a hypocrite. (Quote source here.)

As I read the article with the survey mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was reminded of something Paul told Timothy, his protege, near the end of Paul’s life that is found in 2 Timothy 4:3-5. The following are those verses taken from The Message Bible:

You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.

These are the days in which we are living. The truth is stretched to fit our feelings and emotions, and thus it is perverted. Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He doesn’t change with our desires or whims or anything else we can come up with. So let that ring loud and clear…

Jesus Christ is the same . . .

Yesterday, today . . .

And forever . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

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I’m Back and Complining

No, that isn’t a typo in the title of this blog post. During my short break from blogging (less than a month) since I published my last blog post on this blog, I’ve learned something new, and it’s known as “Compline.” In short, Compline is an “end of day” prayer (a longer explanation is below).

Since my last blog post, I’ve been spreading my wings this past month and trying some new things. One of those “new things” has been becoming involved in a two-hour class that meets once a week at a local church, and it is a class for women who are new to living in this area where I moved to last fall that helps to acclimated us to our new surroundings in the community. It is held at a very large church in a beautiful facility, and it has been quite enjoyable getting to meet some women in this area.

This past week after we met (we also stay and have lunch after the meeting is over), as I was leaving the building, there were a number of publications and other materials about the church and it’s various offerings on a table, and I picked up the latest copy (September/October 2021) of a publication titled, Good News: Leading United Methodists to a Faithful Future.” As I was looking through it, I came across an article titled, Prayers When Things Are Dark,” by Tish Harrison Warren, a priest in the Anglican Church of North America, and the author of several books. She opens her article, which can be read in its entirety at this link, with the following description:

It was a dark year in every sense. It began with the move from my sunny hometown, Austin, Texas, to Pittsburgh in early January. One week later, my dad, back in Texas, died in the middle of the night. Always towering and certain as a mountain on the horizon, he was suddenly gone.

A month later, I miscarried and hemorrhaged. We made it to the hospital. I was going to be okay, but I needed surgery. They put in a line for a blood transfusion, and told me to lie still. Then, I yelled to Jonathan, lost amidst the nurses, “Compline! I want to pray Compline.” It isn’t normal–even for me–to loudly demand liturgical prayers in a crowded room in the midst of crisis. But in that moment, I needed it, as much as I needed the IV… (Quote source and continue reading at this link.)

I never heard of “Compline” before I read this article. I was raised in a non-denominational church that had a tendency to hire pastors with Baptist backgrounds, and later on in my life I attended a very large non-denominational church where the senior pastor came from a Methodist background, but the church itself was not a part of any denomination. I also worked for several years at a small private Catholic university, and later I worked at another small private university that was affiliated with the Assemblies of God; however, in both cases, I was not required to be a Catholic or a member of the Assemblies of God; however, the latter required that staff members held to a Christian worldview.

In all this time of being affiliated in some way with various Christian institutions, I never came across the term “Compline,” so I was fascinated to learn more about it after reading Tish Harrison Warren’s impassioned article linked above. As I researched the subject online, I came across an article in the Anglican Compass” titled, What is Compline?” by Porter C. Taylor, the Rector of St. David’s by the Sea Episcopal Church in Central Florida. He states:

…Maybe you’re familiar with Compline and maybe you’re not. It doesn’t really matter…yet. In either case, this ancient prayer hour is prayed at the conclusion of every day and ought to be embraced as a powerful tool and beautiful liturgy. My goal in this post is to inform, equip, and empower you that you might add Compline to your daily routine and continue telling time liturgically rather than chronologically.

…Compline was the last service of the day, to be said by the monks in their dormitories before bed. It was a simple service without flourishes or flashes. St. Benedict had this to say about the simplicity of Compline:

“Let Compline be limited to the saying of three psalms, which are to be said straightforwardly without antiphons, after which let there be the hymn of that hour, a lesson, a versicle, the Kyrie, and a blessing to conclude.” (Source: “Commentary on the American Prayer Book” by Marion J. Hatchett, HarperCollins Publisher, 1995, p. 144.)

To this day, Psalms 4, 31, and 91 form the backbone of the service. Psalm 134 is often included as an additional, optional reading. Whereas Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were designed as Cathedral offices, to be prayed corporately, Compline has always been a monastic, private office used in the comfort and seclusion of one’s habitation. (Quote source here.)

While there are different formalities in varying denominations, I am not familiar with Anglican, Methodist, Episcopal, or Catholic forms of worship as in the past I have not been a part of any of them, so this is new to me. What I discovered as I read the articles on Compline that are linked above is that I wanted to find something I could do in the privacy of my own apartment, informally, along the lines of what is done in a Compline service at church (which is an evening service).

As stated in the second article above, the backbone of a Compline service includes reading Psalm 4, 31, 91, and 134. And also stated in the article and quoted above by Rev. Taylor, he states that “Compline was the last service of the day, to be said by the monks in their dormitories before bed. It was a simple service without flourishes or flashes.” Therefore, it could be as simple as offering these psalms as a prayer at the end of the day.

My interest in “Compline” comes from the experiences I have gone through over the past dozen years when my life took a distinct turn in a direction I never expected it to go in, especially given my age at the time, and it never did go back to the way my life had been before that event happened that changed my life so dramatically.

This past year has been a big change for me as I moved into an apartment almost one year ago that brought to an end a rather fruitless search for income-based senior housing over a six-year period of time that, due to circumstances beyond my control, left me living in hotel rooms as my only housing option during those years I was searching for income-based senior housing. And once I gave up looking for it, that is when I found this apartment I am currently living in which is not income-based but I can afford the rent for a while, and it is in an “all ages” apartment complex. I haven’t given up my search for income-based senior housing, but this apartment is a very nice reprieve from hotel room living, and I feel like I got a big part of my life back again. Yes!

I moved into a completely empty apartment almost one year ago, and I had no furniture or other household items to put in it as I lost all of mine a dozen years ago; so I had to go looking for new furniture, and the last time I bought furniture was back in 1997! I was in “sticker shock” to say the least, but during the first few months in my apartment I purchased was I needed, and I love feeling like I have a real home again instead of a small hotel room to live in.

I was surprised to find that during my first few months living in this apartment that I had to adjust to having my own place again as opposed to the very transient nature of hotel room living. Unless you’ve “been there and done that,” you won’t understand but there really is an adjustment period. Of course, since we are still in the middle of a pandemic that has changed life as we knew it ever since it started back in March 2020, most social settings were “cancelled” and most activities went “online.” When I moved into this apartment last fall, it was located in a community 20 miles north of the hotel room I had been living in, so I was not that familiar with this area. Churches, colleges, bars, restaurants, shopping centers, and many businesses were still operating mostly online at that time, so the usual places to go to meet new people were closed down, and they only started to open up again this past spring and summer.

As the summer progressed, I visited a local community college to find out if they had any classes for seniors that I could take as a way to meet people in my age range, and to start getting connected within the community. I did end up finding two online classes (discussion groups) that meet on a weekly basis, and I joined them in July (they are still ongoing). And I also found out about the in-person class I’m currently taking at the church that I mentioned above when I stopped there to find information on senior activities that they offered. They were finally starting to offer some “in-person” classes for the fall term starting in late August.

So what does all of this have to do with discovering “Compline”? Actually, it has a lot to do with it. Since Compline is something that is done at the end of the day right before bedtime, it give us time to reflect on the things going on in our lives and the lives of others, too, and in particular what has gone on during that specific day. And it brings our focus back to God and being grateful for all He does for us, even in the challenging times we face.

It is a great way to end the day with a time for reading those four psalms that are often read/prayed as a part of a Compline service found in Psalm 4, 31, 91, and 134. And it’s a great reminder, too, of where our true strength comes from as found in Psalm 46:1 which states, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.” Indeed, He is, and that’s a great reflection to consider as we go to sleep for the night no matter what we might be going through at any given point in time.

I’ll end this post with these words which are so appropriate to use for Compline right before bedtime that are found in Psalm 4:8 (NIV)-In peace I will lie down and sleep…

For you alone, Lord. . .

Make me dwell. . .

In safety. . . .

YouTube Video: “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

And So It Goes (Again)

If you read my last blog post that I published on this blog on August 6, 2021, titled, Over the River and Through the Woods,” you’ll know I’m in a bit of a “writer’s block” phase right now, and I think it has to do with the fact that I’m just a bit bored with writing on this blog after 11 years of doing it. So I’m off to seek some inspiration!!!

I’m taking a break,
and I’ll be back once my muse
is inspired again.

Stay tuned…

YouTube Video: “Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here and here
Photo #4 credit here
Photo #5 credit here

Over the River and Through the Woods

Metaphorically speaking, this summer I’ve been traveling over the river and through the woodstrying to get over the hump of being bored with trying to come up with ideas for blog posts. I’ve been publishing blog posts for over 11 years now, and while I get into a slump occasionally, this slump (call it writer’s block) that I’ve been in lately has been over two months long. While I have still been publishing blog posts during this time, it seems like it’s been a real effort akin to swimming in molasses to come up with anything interesting to publish.

This morning I got an email from WordPress regarding someone who had “liked” my last blog post on this blog titled, And So It Goes,” published on July 26, 2021. It was from a blogger on WordPress, and in the email there were a few links to blog posts on their blog, so I clicked on the first link, and that blog post, published on July 12, 2021, is titled, Blog for Passion, Not for Accolades–The Secret to Longevity in Blogging.” It made me smile as I read it…

I’ve never published blog posts for the accolades as mentioned in that article linked above. My main blog has over 80,500 hits on it right now since I started it over a decade ago; however, that is not a lot of hits over that length of time. My second blog that I started in April 2018 has 6,500 hits on it right now, which isn’t a lot, either. So while I don’t think I’ll be getting any awards for marketing skills or traffic numbers, maybe I’ll get an award for longevity. I don’t make any money off of either of the two blogs. It’s mainly a hobby.

I’ve been blogging for this long as it has been a creative outlet for me after losing a job 12+ years ago that I never expected would lead to long term unemployment. As I stated on my blog’s main page:

I started this blog in July 2010 as a way to journal my experiences with long term unemployment as I lost my job at the peak of a recession that occurred back then in April 2009, and I was never able to secure another job in my professional field after a solid six-year search for it. I guess you could say I’m officially retired at this point in time (although I’d still rather be employed).

It actually started as sort of a diary/journal on my journey through long term unemployment, and eventually it has turned into something more, and that is how this blog came to exist.

On that blog post I mentioned in the second paragraph above published on July 12, 2021, titled, Blog for Passion, Not for Accolades–The Secret to Longevity in Blogging,” by G. T. Ihagh, a contributor on Motivation and Environment, he writes:

Eventually, it will happen: after a period of doing something you love, you’ll lose interest and even forget why you started doing it in the first place. Whether it’s a calling, a career, or a relationship, you’ll start to lose passion and feel trapped.

Generally speaking, when you are doing anything for passion, at some point, you will likely experience a loss of interest; surprisingly, almost every person does: musicians experience this; sportspeople experience this; entrepreneurs experience this; bloggers and writers do too.

It happens to the most gifted people: along the journey of their calling, they lose steam and start to harbor thoughts of breaking up with their passions. Even if they achieve success, they eventually get to a point where their success no longer matters much.

Why? Because the reason they followed their passions in the first place, was no longer able to continue motivating them. Along the way, many bloggers dreamed of quitting, and actually stopped blogging, checked out, and moved on.

Although you might have started blogging for passion and not accolades, you might have lost motivation along the way because you didn’t get enough accolades or even traffic; regardless of what happened or will happen, if you don’t give in and quit, you can be able to develop enough strength to continue blogging for passion—not for accolades—and end up getting more than you ever dreamed of.

Blogging for passion will determine the course of your blogging or online publishing work and longevity which will help to establish your online legacy—the end product of your passion!

Blogging for passion is what differentiates someone who creates something meaningful and memorable, from someone who just gives up because they weren’t able to get enough or any accolades.

If you continue blogging for passion, you will always find out that there are better blog posts you are yet to create. If you stop blogging for accolades which can lose steam, and continue blogging for passion which can keep or maintain steam, you’ll surprisingly find out that there are better blog posts you are yet to create…. (Quote source and his complete article are available here.)

So, I’ve decided to stop beating myself up because I feel like I’ve had a rather unproductive summer so far when it comes to blogging. After all, as the blogger mentioned above, “there are better blog posts you are yet to create.”

I do have a variety of interests, but I try to keep this blog limited to subjects regarding Christianity, which in and of itself is a huge subject. And the Bible is still the best selling book of all times. According to TheBibleAnswer.org regarding the number of Bibles sold each year, the article states:

The Bible is by far the world’s best-selling book of all time. No other book, fact or fiction, even comes close. Most estimates place the number of Bibles printed each year at over 100 million. 20 million Bibles are sold each year in the United States alone. Based on this number of 100 million Bibles printed per year, the following statistics show a breakdown for the number of Bibles that are sold or given away for different time frames.

    • 273,972 a day
    • 11,415 an hour
    • 190 a minute
    • 3 a second

Even With Bible Apps, Millions Of Bibles Are Still Sold Each Year

It is estimated that between 1815 and 1975 there was 2.5 billion copies of the Bible printed. A more recent estimate places the total number of Bibles in print at over 6 billion. These are absolutely staggering numbers.

An obvious trend that has no doubt affected the sales of printed Bibles is the ability to download the Bible on our devices. Bible apps have and are being downloaded by the millions. YouVersion’s Bible App alone had been downloaded over 400 million times by the end of 2019.

Even so, based on the number of Bibles that have been sold in the past, and are still being sold every year, there is obviously still something to be said about owning and having a printed Bible in your hand.

Bibles Sold In 2020

Many online bookstores reported record sales of Bibles for the year 2020. The surge in sales is attributed to people being closed up in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has caused many to turn to the Bible for hope in these trying times.

The trend toward downloading Bible apps continued in 2020 as well. A couple of interesting statistics handpicked from 2020.

  • Searches on the YouVersion Bible App totaled over 600 million. 
  • Fittingly so, (Isaiah 41:10) with it’s encouragement of “do not fear” was the most searched and read verse on the YouVersion App in 2020.

On a side note, in addition to being the most sold book, the Bible has long been claimed to be the most shoplifted book as well. Go figure. (Quote source here.)

Within Christianity, there is an extensive list of topics on a wide range of issues and subjects (see this list at Gospel Coalition). But even at that, from time to time, writer’s block can set in, and part of it could be caused by what’s going on in the broader culture today.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started back in March 2020 that has literally rocked the entire world, and it is still very much ongoing with the “variants” like Delta continuing to spring up (and yes, I did get my two Pfizer Covid vaccine shots on May 20th and June 10th), a number of changes have been occurring throughout our society. Sometimes I think about writing on some of those changes, but then I realize I want to keep what I publish simple and without conflict, and I’ve never been into picking sides in fights where nobody is listening and nothing is resolved.

So the issue for me this past couple of months has been trying to find topics to write on that won’t ruffle feathers, but sometimes in a climate like we are experiencing in today’s culture, almost any topic has the potential to ruffle somebody’s feathers. And that perhaps is some of what it behind my writer’s block right now.

Out of curiosity, I just now Googled “what to write when you don’t know what to write about,” and one of the links that showed up from that search is an article published on June 5, 2018, titled, What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write About,” by Alice Vuong. She writes:

Write about your struggles

You may not feel very inspiring but people are often inspired by you just showing up and it’s even more powerful when they know you’re struggling to be there. Be there and tell your story.

Write about your experiences

We’ve gone through tragedies, heart break, had accomplishments, created a life.

Write about what gets you through the hard times

It can be hard to write about inspiration when you don’t feel particularly inspirational yourself but if we look at our past work, you’ll find a wealth of information and ideas from your own experiences family, books, blogs, quotes, songs, your own work, habits you’ve incorporated in your life, movies and even random thoughts — the world is full of wonders that have provided us with brilliant ideas in the past and will again. (Quote source and the rest of her article are available here.)

Ms. Vuong has a host of great ideas for writing that you can find on her website, AliceVuong.com.

Another link I found on that search was to an article published on July 6, 2020, titled, What Should I Write About? A Simple Way to Answer That Question,” by Dave Ursillo, a writing coach and leadership coach. About 2/3rd’s of the way down in his article he hits on a topic that sounds like one of my own issues with trying to find something to write about right now. He asks the question, “What have I been avoiding lately?” In answer to that question, he writes:

Avoidance will show you the way

Asking yourself “What have I been avoiding lately?” is a simple question, and it’s a fast method for pinpointing a writing topic that’s near to the experience you’re living in the moment.

Better yet, the question produces a personal, meaningful inquiry that may help you better understand what you’re resisting and why you’re resisting it.

Whether you’re resisting a book topic, a blog post, submitting an essay to a contest, or avoiding something un-writing-related altogether, you can use your writing as a process for better understanding.

Here are two simple scripts you can use to tap into what you’ve been avoiding lately:

  • “If I’m being really honest with myself, what I’ve been avoiding lately has been ________. I’ve probably been avoiding it ever since ________.”
  • “Where is my avoidance coming from? My go-to excuse for not doing it has been __________. But maybe I’m actually resisting it because ________.”

Something powerful begins to happen when we write through the very questions, topics and struggles that inspire more self-knowledge.

First and foremost, we answer the question, “What should I write about?”

Better yet, when we use our writing to confront the topic of “what we’ve been avoiding lately,” our writing becomes a tool even more meaningful than for just telling stories.

When we write about topics that explore the journey of life as we live it, we get to know ourselves better and better.

Writing becomes an aid for our own healing, self-actualization and pursuit of happiness. (Quote source and his complete article are available here.)

Mr. Ursillo also has a host of ideas from his years of experience that you can find on his website, DaveUrsillo.com.

I do think avoidance has something to do with my writer’s block. However, perhaps right now I should start enjoying my time spent this summer traveling (metaphorically) “over the river and through the woods” and enjoying the scenery along the way. And perhaps when the crisp fall weather arrives my muse will come out of hiding. And while I’m waiting, perhaps some contemplation is in order–which brings me to a verse in a psalm that I will end this post with which is found in Psalm 46:10:  He [God] says…

Be still, and know that I am God . . .

I will be exalted among the nations . . .

I will be exalted in the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Miracle” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

And So It Goes

Last week (specifically July 20th), I celebrated the 11th anniversary of the day back in 2010 when I created this blog. It had it’s heyday as far as the number of posts published each month back in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. And even though I am not as prolific as I was in those earlier years, I still publish at least two blog posts a month on this main blog, Sara’s Musings.” Plus, on April 11, 2018, I created a second blog titled, Reflections.”

There are now close to 700 blog posts published on Sara’s Musing,” and add in another 100+ blog posts on my second blog, Reflections,” that’s close to 800 blog posts total published to date. That is probably the equivalent of 4, 5 or maybe more dissertations. I mention that because I was a dissertation short of obtaining a doctoral degree (an Ed.D.) in Adult Education from a private university in Florida back in the 1990’s. However, I doubt that my blog posts would go towards receiving credit for completion of a dissertation, but I have cited thousands of authors, professionals, and scholars, and I’ve published posts on a wide variety of topics under the umbrella of a Christian worldview.

Recently, I’ve read articles on how Christianity has taken a hit in America and that it is no longer in the majority. Articles, such as this article published on March 29, 2021, titled, “Church membership in the U.S. has fallen below the majority for the first time in nearly a century,” by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who runs The Washington Post’s religion vertical, states some of these statistics. She writes:

The proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue or mosque has dropped below 50 percent, according to a poll from Gallup released Monday. It is the first time that has happened since Gallup first asked the question in 1937, when church membership was 73 percent.

In recent years, research data has shown a seismic shift in the U.S. population away from religious institutions and toward general disaffiliation, a trend that analysts say could have major implications for politics, business and how Americans group themselves. In 2020, 47 percent of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. The polling firm also found that the number of people who said religion was very important to them has fallen to 48 percent, a new low point in the polling since 2000.

For some Americans, religious membership is seen as a relic of an older generation, said Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and a pastor in the American Baptist Church. Gallup’s data finds that church membership is strongly correlated with age: 66 percent of American adults born before 1946 belong to a church, compared with 58 percent of baby boomers, 50 percent of Generation X and 36 percent of millennials.

Burge said many Christians still attend church but do not consider membership to be important, especially those who attend nondenominational churches. But no matter how researchers measure people’s faith—such as attendance, giving, self-identification—Americans’ attachment to institutional religion is on the decline.

Burge, who recently published a book about disaffiliating Americans calledThe Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going,” predicts that in the next 30 years, the United States will not have one dominant religion…. (Quote source and article here.)

And in an article published on July 8, 2021, in the Economist.com titled, Nothing in particulars are America’s fastest growing religious group” subtitled, “They believe in God, do not go to church, and are largely detached from politics,” (author’s name not mentioned), the article states:

In April 1966 Time magazine stirred outrage in America when it published a cover story asking “Is God Dead?”, more than 80 years after Nietzsche had declared Him to be so. Today American religion looks less exceptional. According to a recent survey by Gallup, a pollster, for the first time a majority of Americans do not belong to a church. “We are officially living in a pagan nation,” rued the editor of one Catholic magazine. Pollsters attribute the slump in church membership to the rise of the “nones” or religiously unaffiliated, who now represent a third of the population. Yet it is a subgroup of the nones, those who believe in “nothing in particular”, that is redrawing America’s religious landscape.

Though usually lumped in with atheists and agnostics under the religiously unaffiliated category, nothing-in-particulars are a distinct religious group. They are twice as numerous as atheists and agnostics—nearly one in four Americans are nothing-in-particulars—and are growing faster than any religious group. As the cryptic name suggests, their defining characteristic is an aversion to being defined.

“They do not want to be pinned down,” says Ryan Burge, a social scientist and author of “The Nones”. In some ways they are remarkably average: unlike atheists and agnostics, who are predominantly younger men, they are more likely to be middle-aged, and are just as likely to be women as men. The majority of nothing-in-particulars believe in God, and a third of them attend church sporadically. Yet they reject allegiance to any religious group and are skeptical of institutional authorities. Wariness towards the Covid-19 vaccine is an example of this tendency.

Mr. Burge says nothing-in-particulars are alienated from society in more ways than just religious affiliation. They have the lowest educational attainment of any big religious group—only one in five have a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. Nearly 60% make less than $50,000 a year. When it comes to politics they lean neither right, like most white evangelicals, nor left, like atheists or black Protestants. (Only a third of them voted for Donald Trump according to Mr. Burge’s analysis of the Cooperative Election Study.) They rarely take part in political activities, such as attending a protest, donating money to a campaign or even putting up a sign in the yard. “Apathy is the big word that comes to mind,” says Mr. Burge.

Whereas Christianity has dwindled in America, nothing-in-particulars are growing at a breathtaking pace. Since 2008, when social scientists first began tracking them, their ranks have swelled by 60%. Mr. Burge reckons there are two reasons for their rise. First, as America’s religious makeup changes, it is becoming more acceptable not to identify as a Christian. It could be that their emergence is less about people leaving organized religion than revealing they were never really part of it. Nothing-in-particulars are largely drawn from that segment of Americans who have become disaffected as they have seen their economic prospects sink with recessions and the loss of well-paid blue-collar jobs. “They are just left out of society, sort of drifting in space,” Mr. Burge says. (Quote source here.)

So what do we make of it all? In an article published on January 11, 2018, published in The Atlantic, titled What It Means To Be Spiritual But Not Religious,” subtitled, “One in five Americans reject organized religion, but maintain some kind of faith,” by Caroline Kitchener, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, she writes:

A growing contingent of Americans—particularly young Americans—identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Masthead member Joy wanted to understand why. On our call with Emma Green, The Atlantic’s religion writer, Joy asked, “What are they looking for?” Because the term “spiritual” can be interpreted in so many different ways, it’s a tough question to answer. I talked to people who have spent a lot of time mulling it over, and came away with some important context for the major shift happening in American faith.

Americans Who Want Faith, Not a Church

Kern Beare, a Masthead member from Mountain View, California, believes in God and studies the teachings of Jesus. But does he identify with a particular religion? “Never,” he told me. The structure and rigidity of a church, Beare believes, is antithetical to everything Jesus represents. Instead of attending services, he meditates every morning.

Americans are leaving organized religion in droves: they disagree with their churches on political issues; they feel restricted by dogma; they’re deserting formal organizations of all kinds. Instead of atheism, however, they’re moving toward an identity captured by the term “spirituality.” Approximately sixty-four million Americans—one in five—identify as “spiritual but not religious,” or SBNR. They, like Beare, reject organized religion but maintain a belief in something larger than themselves. That “something” can range from Jesus to art, music, and poetry. There is often yoga involved.

“The word ‘church’ means you need to put on uncomfortable shoes, sit up straight, and listen to boring, old-fashioned hymns,” said Matthew Hedstrom, a professor of religion at the University of Virginia. “Spirituality is seen as a larger, freer arena to explore big questions.”  

Because over 92 percent of religiously-affiliated Americans currently identify as Christian, most “spiritual-but-not-religious” people come from that tradition. The term SBNR took off in the early 2000s, when online dating first became popular. “You had to identify by religion, you had to check a box,” Hedstrom told me. “‘Spiritual-but-not-religious’ became a nice category that said, ‘I’m not some kind of cold-hearted atheist, but I’m not some kind of moralizing, prudish person, either. I’m nice, friendly, and spiritual—but not religious.’”

Religion—often entirely determined by your parents—can be central to how others see you, and how you see yourself. Imagine, Hedstrom proffered, if from the time you were born, your parents told you that you were an Italian-Catholic, living in the Italian-Catholic neighborhood in Philadelphia. “You wouldn’t wake up every morning wondering, who am I, and what should I believe?” That would have already been decided. Young people today, Emma said on our call, “are selecting the kinds of communities that fit their values,” rather than adhering to their parent’s choices.

“Spiritual is also a term that people like to use,” said Kenneth Pargament, a professor who studies the psychology of religion at Bowling Green State University. “It has all of these positive connotations of having a life with meaning, a life with some sacredness to it—you have some depth to who you are as a human being.” As a spiritual person, you’re not blindly accepting a faith passed down from your parents, but you’re also not completely rejecting the possibility of a higher power. Because the term “spiritual,” encompasses so much, it can sometimes be adopted by people most would consider atheists. While the stigma around atheism is generally less intense than it used to be, in certain communities, Hedstrom told me, “to say you’re an atheist is still to say you hate puppies.” It’s a taboo that can understandably put atheists, many of whom see their views as warm and open-minded, on the defensive. “Spiritual” doesn’t come with that kind of baggage.

For people who have struggled with faith, embracing the word “spiritual” might also leave a crucial door open. Masthead member Hugh calls himself “spiritual,” but sees the designation as more of a hope or a wish than a true faith. “I hope there is more to this wonderful world than random chemistry… Nonetheless, I do see all of that as an illusion…That does not stop me from seeking something as close to what I wish for as I am able to find.” In his class, “Spirituality in America,” Hedstrom tells his students that the “spiritual-but-not-religious” designation is about “seeking,” rather than “dwelling:” searching for something you believe in, rather than accepting something that, while comfortable and familiar, doesn’t feel quite right. In the process of traveling around, reading books, and experimenting with new rituals, he says, “you can find your identity out there.” (Quote source here.)

The “spiritual but not religious” designation has been around for a while, and it’s not actually a new phenomenon but it has a much larger audience now. While that title wasn’t around when I was a kid growing up in a non-denominational church that hired mostly Baptist pastors, as I was growing up and going through my teen years, there were others around my age who, other then when they were in church, definitely went their own way without letting their parents know. And they grew into adults who were unaffiliated with organized religion (at that point, they might have attended church maybe twice a year on Easter and at Christmas). I imagine there are a lot of Baby Boomers(born between 1946 and 1964–my generation) who are like that who may, or may not, have gone back to the church in their later years since many are either in, or soon to enter, their retirement years. Age can have a mellowing effect.

Each person has to wrestle with coming to terms regarding what they believe spiritually, and there are plenty of forces out there in the world begging for our attention. My beliefs were determined at a very young age, and even though some of the rules and regulations got old at church, my core belief in God and Jesus Christ has remained intact throughout my lifetime. Indeed, they have kept me going throughout these past dozen plus years since I lost my job and I never found another one. That is devastating to someone like me who is single and self supporting with little money to go on, and at the time I lost that job I still had ten years before normal retirement age when I should have been working if I could have found someone who would hire me. There is no way I could have navigated through these years on my own power as I was clueless as the doors kept slamming shut in my face when I tried to find employment, and then when I tried to find affordable senior housing during this time while being placed on waiting lists that never ended. In fact, as I have been going through these past dozen years day-by-day, I realized in a way unlike at any other time in my life just how real they are and how my life has been guided because of my faith in them.

So I know Who I believe in and why I believe, but I don’t ever force my beliefs on others. Everyone has to make their own choices and decisions. And nobody can do that for us.

I’ll end this post with the words from Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him…

And He . . .

Shall direct . . .

Your paths . . . .

YouTube Video: “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by Matt Redman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Happy Birthday America

Today is America’s 245th birthday, and it is also known as Independence Day. Did you know that it was actually on July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress voted in favor of declaring independence from Great Britain? The Declaration of Independence was officially adopted two days later on July 4, 1776, and marked by the ringing of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This, along with 23 other facts regarding the 4th of July, comes from an article published on June 29, 2021, titled, “What’s the History of July 4th? Plus 23 Surprising 4th of July Facts,” by Lindsay Lowe, freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, U.K. Here is a list of those facts:

4th of July Facts

1. The Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4, 1776. That’s actually the day it was formally adopted by the Continental Congress, but it wasn’t signed by most signatories until August. 

2. American typically eat 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day, “enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times,” according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

3. Three presidents have died on July 4: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe.

4. John Adams believed that American independence should be celebrated on July 2, as that’s the actual day the Continental Congress voted for independence in 1776. 

5. Annoyed that Independence Day wasn’t celebrated on July 2, Adams reportedly turned down invitations to July 4 celebrations throughout his life.

6. Massachusetts became the first state to make the 4th of July an official state holiday in 1781. 

7. President Zachary Taylor died in 1850 after eating spoiled fruit at a July 4 celebration.

8. The famed Macy’s fireworks show in New York City uses more than 75,000 fireworks shells and costs about $6 million. 

9. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is held annually on July 4. In 2018, champion Joey Chestnut ate 74 hot dogs with buns in just 10 minutes.

10. Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1870. 

11. As of 2016, July 4 was the number one holiday for beer sales in the U.S., according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association

12. In 1778, George Washington gave his soldiers a double ration of rum to celebrate the July 4 holiday. 

13. Every July 4, descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence tap the Liberty Bell 13 times in honor of the original 13 colonies.

14. Eating salmon is a July 4 tradition in parts of New England. 

15. Small towns in the U.S. typically spend between $8,000 and $15,000 on their fireworks displays. 

16. President Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872. 

17. About 16,000 July 4 fireworks displays happen around the country each year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association

18. With many fireworks shows canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the American Pyrotechnics Association is asking for financial help from Congress to keep family-run fireworks businesses afloat. 

19. Starting in 1818, new stars and stripes were added to the American flag each July 4 to make the creation of new states. 

20. The U.S. Flag Code offers guidelines for flying the flag on July 4, and every day. 

21. John Hancock has the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence. 

22. The first July 4 celebration took place at the White House on 1801, hosted by Thomas Jefferson. 

23. One World Trade Center in New York is 1,776 feet tall to mark the year the U.S. declared its independence from Britain. (Quote source here.)

The Star Spangled Banneris the national anthem of the United States of America, and it was penned by Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer and U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, on September 14, 1814. The following background information is taken from History.com:

On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem,The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, at Terra Rubra, his family’s estate in Frederick County (now Carroll County), Maryland. He became a successful lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and was later appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.

After one of Key’s friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren’t allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.

The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843. (Quote source here.)

The following information is a brief history on the 4th of July taken from History.com:

A History of Independence Day

When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.

By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphletCommon Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.

On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.

Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of ConnecticutBenjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York—to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

On July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.

Early Fourth of July Celebrations

In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.

Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.

George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at the Battle of Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties—the Federalist Party and Democratic-Republicans—that had arisen began holding separate Fourth of July celebrations in many large cities.

Fourth of July Fireworks

The first fireworks were used as early as 200 BC. The tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. Ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” That same night, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over Boston Common.

Fourth of July Becomes a Federal Holiday

The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.

Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remained an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.

Falling in mid-summer, the Fourth of July has since the late 19th century become a major focus of leisure activities and a common occasion for family get-togethers, often involving fireworks and outdoor barbecues. The most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment isThe Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States. (Quote source here.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed these facts and brief history regarding the birth of America on July 4, 1776. I’ll end this post with two lines from the lyrics of the first verse in our national anthem, The Star Spangled-Banner”–O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave…

O’er the land of the free . . .

And the home . . .

Of the brave . . . .

YouTube Video: U.S. National Anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by Whitney Houston (audio recorded live at Super Bowl XXV):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here