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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

Click pic for 2015 post on "The Presidents Club"

The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

Click pic for "Revelation Song" sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean

Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Divine Perspective

Plane View New York CitySometimes when a trial (like long-term unemployment) never seems to end, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a “bigger picture” going on “out there” in God’s economy beyond our own little world. James 1 does tell us that our trials come to test our faith (and there’s no set time limit on any particular trial) which–if we allow it to–produces perseverance. And verse 4 states: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” However, there is a much larger picture going on in this world and our own personal trials do not just have an effect on us, although many times it may seem like it. In the broader picture, everything in God’s economy is wrapped up in this one verse, 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And that promise encompasses the entire world.

Four years ago this month I created this blog as an attempt to put into words what it’s like to be long-term unemployed. Of course, at that time I had been unemployed for one year and three months which seemed to me to be Way. Too. Long. In fact, after nine months of sporadic blogging accompanied by a whole lot of frustration at still being unemployed, I gave up on blogging and just wanted to FIND. A. JOB. . . .

Three months later (and now three years ago) I fired this blog back up in July 2011 at which point I had been unemployed for two years and three months. And it just took off from that point . . . and I mean like the wind. This month (July 2014) I’m celebrating four years of blogging on WordPress.com even though those first nine months are lost forever in cyberspace and there was a three-month cooling off period before I started again. Oh, and did I mention that the length of unemployment has now (to date) skyrocketed to five years and three months . . . Sigh . . . .

Who knew? I sure didn’t. However, over the course of these past five plus years living in the land of the unemployed, my view on life has considerably widened. There is something about the daily routine of work and other responsibilities that gets in the way of really “seeing” our world and it stunts our reality. Albert Einstein once stated, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” (quote source here), and that may be somewhat true in our own small world on how we perceive our own set of circumstances. However, on a broader scale, it simply isn’t true. For example, 9/11 wasn’t “merely an illusion.” Neither were the Nazi Germany death camps that killed more than six million Jewish people and many others during World War II.

This evening I ran across a short devotional in Our Daily Bread that doesn’t actually show up until later in the month (sometimes I have a tendency to peek ahead). It’s titled, Divine Perspective,” written by Poh Fang Chia, and she mentions a devotional passage found in Habakkuk 2:2-14. Here’s what she wrote:

Divine Perspective

For the revelation awaits
an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it,
i
t will certainly come
and will not delay.
~Habakkuk 2:3

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God (Hab. 2:3).

Those who don’t show any regard for God may seem to prosper at the moment, but God will ultimately right all wrong. God acts sovereignly in all that comes to pass so that everything works toward His good purpose. God’s plan will surely take place and be on schedule (v. 3).

We can’t sort out the whole picture from where we are in life; only God can. So let us continue to live by faith and not by sight. From His perspective, all things are working together for the believer’s good and for His honor.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise,
All my times are in Your hand,
All events at Your command. ~Ryland

Our times are in God’s hands;
our souls are in His keeping.

Live by Faith - HabakkukNow I don’t know about you, but “the ride on the ground” over these past five plus years of mine are much as Jason described above–chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. And I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see my total situation from a bird’s eye view looking down on it as an outsider might view it (e.g., the broader picture that is really taking place). However, in Jason’s situation, he was able to get out of the chaos and onto the observation deck high above it where he could look down and see that there was actually order and design to what he had just experienced. In other words, he saw a much larger picture and the chaos he personally experienced was just a tiny part of it.

As the author stated above, “Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God” (Hab. 2:3).

A year ago in June I wrote a blog post on Habakkuk that included all three chapters in the Old Testament book named after him. The blog post is titled, The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited (available at this link). Habakkuk could see the evil all around him and wondered, just like the rest of us do today, where God was in the midst of all that evil and asking God when justice would finally show up. And God responded by telling him there was something much bigger going on and that it was “awaiting an appointed time” (Hab. 2:3).

As stated in my previous post, in the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful (see Chapter 2 for details), he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

This brings us back to the subject of our own personal trials. We can’t see the overall picture as we are too close to it, yet God has a much bigger picture in mind that goes way beyond what we are experiencing. Of course, sometimes, just like Habakkuk experienced after God explained to him what was going to happen “at an appointed time,” the answer is disconcerting but ends with the demise of the enemy. We, as believers, are told in Hab. 2:4, See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” There’s that word again–faith–which brings us back to the reason trials enter our lives in the first place–to test that faith and produce perseverance (see James 1).

The same theme is found in Hebrews 10:36-39:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

We are to live by faith, and trust God for the outcome. And in living by faith we, like Habakkuk at the beginning of Chapter 3, end up praising and worshiping God for who he is, because He is ultimately in control all the time.

While we may only see the chaos . . .

That’s not the whole picture . . . .

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay. ~Habakkuk 2:3

YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” (2009) by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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The Triumph of Grace

Come boldly to the throne of Grace - Heb 4v16 - 6-2-14I have been a Christian since I was a young girl (age ten). Even during the years (and there were a bunch) when I was floundering around in my faith I never lost sight of my relationship with Jesus Christ. He has been the foundation and the Rock I have anchored my life to through all of the ups and downs in the course of my 62 years (as of two days ago when I celebrated my birthday) of living on this planet of ours.

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) states:

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace
to help in time of need.”

I have to admit that most of the time I’m not so good at the “come boldly” part of that verse, not that I don’t pray. I do . . . a lot (and silently most of the time). But I’m learning more and more what it means to “come boldly.” And my boldness is still a bit on the timid side. That begs the question, “Can one be timidly bold?” Okay, maybe “timid” isn’t the right word . . . .

I read a devotion today on “A Daily Way” titled “The Triumph of Grace” (reblogged below) that reminded me that “God’s plan oftentimes has curves we never expected” and that “Waiting on God can be difficult at times. In our anxiousness to see Him move, we have a tendency to try and prod God along” (both quotes are from the reblogged post below).

Well, I have to admit I never saw the curve coming six years ago when I first applied for the job in Houston in May 2008 that I was hired for and started working at in September 2008 and then subsequently lost seven months later (and now over five years ago) in April 2009. And since that time I’ve done my share of “trying to prod God along” to get my life out of this limbo-land of unemployment I’ve been stuck in for way too long now, to absolutely no avail. I’ve also been known to beg a time or two (and plead, and stomp, and spit, too).

It’s not that God hasn’t been active in my life. In fact, He’s been extremely active. However, His activity in my life has not been in the ways I was hoping for, but in ways I couldn’t even begin to imagine before this trial of mine began over five years ago. Indeed, these past five years have become a living reality for me of what God has clearly stated in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

waiting-295150This blog, originally started on July 20, 2010, has been part of that story. During this time I’ve also met and talked with a lot of folks and traveled, starting in May 2012, to many cities to include Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, Washington DC, Biloxi, and cities all around Florida in my quest to find employment but also because I love taking road trips.

And I’m still unemployed . . . .

The urge to continue to “try and prod God along” is still there, but at this point in time I still can’t see the whole picture (not that I ever could). There are obviously pieces to this puzzle that I’m not aware of–pieces that still need to be put in place. The height of my activity during this time took place primarily in 2012 and 2013, and there has been an apparent “winding down” (from all of the traveling) since my move back to Orlando two months ago; however, I am still anxious to move on with my life . . . to get off “hold” and move forward again.

As the reblogged post below reminded me (in the last paragraph), especially regarding these past five plus years, “God does not let us venture into new territory alone. He prepares the hearts and minds of those we are to encounter on our journey so that the fullness of His plan becomes apparent in the aftermath.”

The definition of aftermath is “the period of time after a bad and usually destructive event; a second-growth crop” (source here). Losing my job in Houston over five years ago was the “destructive event” leading into “a second-growth crop,” at least in my particular circumstance. And I’ve been living in that aftermath ever since that day I lost my job. Now I’m waiting for “the fullness of His plan” to become apparent (as it’s been unfolding over these past five years).

So I continue to wait, but I’m a lot less timid and a little more bold then I was five years ago. God tells us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Okay . . . I will!!!

Care to join me?

YouTube Video: This is one of my all time favorite worship songs (I’ve recently posted it on another blog post) titled “Revelation Song” sung by Phillips, Craig and Dean:

Click link for video: “Revelation Song

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

~see reblogged post from “The Daily Way” below~

The Daily Way

Reading about the apostles of the New Testament, our views can be skewed somewhat by knowing the entire timeline of their ministry. We read highlights and letters, dramatic bits and pieces of lives that proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus along with the power of the Gospel. The days, months, and years they spent waiting for God to do the impossible in a post-resurrection world seem but mere pauses in a flurry of God-orchestrated activity.

Regardless of the vision we may have for our lives or the direction we have been led by the Holy Spirit, we cannot expect to get ahead of God’s timeline. After Jesus left the earth, the disciples spent a substantial amount of time waiting for prayers to be answered as well as wondering when God was going to rescue them from dire situations. We, too, must be willing disciples, waiting patiently for God to work in…

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God’s Offer to Us

John 3-16I’m old enough to remember the days of hellfire and brimstone preachers. Sin was serious business to them and they wanted us to know just how serious it was. Sometimes they may have focused too much on God’s judgment and not enough on His mercy and grace, but we humans have a great capacity for complacency in our lives, so they wanted to make sure we understood the consequences.

Fast forward several decades . . . now the very opposite has blanketed America. Sin is treated as if it is inconsequential as in the oft quoted phrase, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” (quote source here). The message nowadays is that grace covers everything so we can do as we please, using that as the perfect excuse for just about anything we want to do.

There is a balance between the two extremes and it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. When I started this blog over three and a half years ago now–on July 20, 2010–it was not with the intent to focus on Christianity here in America but rather as a place to write about what it was like to be unemployed during one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history and in our own lifetime. I spent the first several months (through April 2011) just getting that hang of blogging (there is really no set of rules to go by although there is a lot of advice on the Internet about blog writing). I don’t remember how many blog posts I wrote before I deleted all of them in frustration at the end of April 2011 and decided blogging just wasn’t for me. However, three months later–on July 8, 2011–I fired my blog back up again and it just took off the second time around . . .

. . . And I’ve been writing about that “balance” since that time. I’ve written blog posts on both sides of the issue–writing some very hard hitting “hellfire and brimstone” posts and also a number of “grace filled” posts. Obviously, the “hellfire and brimstone” posts haven’t been nearly as popular. However, sin is still very serious business to God, and that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time regardless of how “in tune” we might think we are when it comes to “all things Christian” in America today.

However, the focus of this post is not on “hellfire and brimstone.” The message is a very simple one, yet one that is more important than any other decision we will ever make in our lives. It is more important then deciding who we marry, what career path we choose, climbing the social and/or corporate ladder, how much money we make, or how we can make a name and legacy for ourselves in this world. It is more important than knowing all the “right” people, or hobnobbing with the rich and famous, or acquiring as much education as possible (and, hopefully, not accumulating a mountain of debt in the process), or hoping to write the next New York Times best seller.

Before I go any further I want to state that there have been times when I have been writing a post that I feared the reaction some of them might create, but I felt compelled to write them anyway. Our society has become too “soft and easy” to the serious issues in life, and as you know if you’ve been reading my posts, “soft and easy” wouldn’t exactly describe a lot of them. However, I’ve never written any of them as if I was an outsider to the human race. No, I’m just as human and just as fallible as anybody else.

John 3:16

John 3:16

I was reading a couple of devotions this morning that hit home on two critical and important issues. The first is what we ought to say when we need to say it, and the second is the very simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both reminded me of something very important that all of us who call ourselves Christian should remember. And both remind us that it’s not about us, but about God’s power through Jesus Christ to change us–and others–too.

The first devotion comes from the March 14th reading in The President’s Devotional (2013) by Joshua DuBois:

What You Ought To Say

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and
magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how

and what you should answer, or what you should say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour
what you ought to say.” ~Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV)

How many times have the words just . . . come to us? And yet for some reason, we still doubt that they will.

God is not just a God of external blessings, of improved situations and needs that are met. He also blesses our language, particularly when we’re under pressure, and we don’t know what to say.

The next time we have to go in front of a crowd, let’s seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And he will “teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

~Dear God, bless my language. Prepare me to say a word to your people today and each day in the future. And when I don’t know what to say, I trust that you will step in. Amen.~

As I read this, I wondered how often we have a tendency to just “hang out” with other Christians? And how often do our conversations focus on the very same things as the rest of the culture at large–how to make more money, how to get more of “the good life,” how to look good and be accepted, etc.? When was the last time we relied on the Holy Spirit to give us the words to say to others, especially a whole world out there who doesn’t know Jesus Christ or have only seen the plastic image representing Him in our “get more” brand of Christianity that saturates our culture. Folks, let us not forget that we are His representatives on this earth. Unfortunately, most of the time we act just like the rest of the culture. What’s up with that? No wonder so many folks “out there” are not convinced that Jesus Christ is real.

The second devotion is by Aaron Householder, senior pastor at Southview Baptist Church, for March 14th in Open Windows by LifeWay Publishers. The devotional passage for this devotion is Romans 10:12-13:

God’s Offer

“For whosoever shall call upon the
name of the Lord shall be saved.”
~
Romans 10:13 (KJV)

Whosoever. I trust that meant you; I am thankful that meant me. We praise God for our salvation. But does whosoever mean the wickedest woman you ever knew? Does whosoever mean the man who treated you so terribly wrong?

We say it does. But we don’t always live like it does. And we may not share Jesus like we know He will save anyone. We may not pray as if we know God can change the hardest heart. We sometimes lack trust that God can convince and change even the most cynical and sinful. We also hesitate to speak His Word in kindness and with boldness as often as He offers us the opportunity.

No matter what someone has done, no matter where they have been, and no matter what has been done to them, God will forgive. God can save. He did it for you. He did it for me. He will do it for whosoever will repent of sin and trust in Christ.

So let’s share Jesus with great faith. Let’s be winsome in our witness and pray to the Lord in confidence, knowing that He saves all who call upon Him.

~Father, I praise You for saving a whosoever like me. I pray that You would use me in leading someone else to Christ soon. Give me courage, wisdom, and Christlike love.~

For those of us who call ourselves Christian that is what life is all about at the very bottom line. It should be the focus of everything that we do and the basis of what gives us meaning in this life. We are not here to “get everything this life has to offer” but to offer the only true source of life that there is to others–personally knowing Jesus Christ who can change our lives now and forever. And He will be there to guide us in the midst of everything that we do (or encounter) in this life, no matter what our occupation is or how much money we have or don’t have, what our status is in this life whether pauper or King/Queen, and no matter what circumstances we might find ourselves in (planned or unplanned). God is no respecter of persons and He doesn’t play favorites (see James 2:1-13), and we shouldn’t either. “Whosoever” includes every human being on this planet.

John 3:16

John 3:16

We need to take our eyes off of everything our culture has to offer us and put them back on the One who redeemed us in the first place. We need to lay aside our complacency and our own lust for more of everything in this life and live for Him, and not just for ourselves. That is when the rest of the world will take notice, and that is when Jesus Christ will become real to them (and to us, too).

There is a lost and dying world out there who needs to see the reality of Jesus Christ, and if He isn’t evident in those of us who call ourselves Christian, how are they ever going to be convinced that He is real? We need to clean up our own act and stop living like what we do doesn’t matter. It does matter. And the whole world is watching . . . .

Whosoever shall call . . .

Upon the name of the Lord . . .

Shall be saved . . . .

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish
but have eternal life.
~John 3:16 (NIV)

YouTube video: “Higher Love” sung by Salvador (on their CD “Make Some Noise” 2013):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

What Has Happened to America?

nobody-cares-001-jpegThe question, of course, is rhetorical. I am already well aware of the answer.

I am currently in the middle of a dispute with my new landlord who purchased the house where my efficiency apartment is located on December 30, 2013. Mind you, for the past almost two years that the previous owners have owned this house (an investment company), it has been going downhill (it was built in 1938). They put it on the market to sell a scant one year after they purchased it (guess they just weren’t making a profit, right?), and had to lower the original price they were asking for (because they got absolutely no response for months) by almost $100,000. Since that price was lowered back in October, we had a variety of “potential buyers” come through to look at it (sometimes I felt like an animal in a zoo with curiosity seekers peering into my private life), and the three fellows from Rhode Island who looked at it were especially obnoxious. However, one of the groups of “potential buyers” (local to this area and well known in the community) ended up buying the house and the sale closed on December 30, 2013. Well, at least the parade of potential buyers ended at that point.

The first shock from the new owners came when I opened the downstairs door that leads up to my apartment on January 3, 2014, to find a large envelope stuffed in the doorway that included a one-year lease with an increase in my rent of $100/mo. I was shocked to say the least and refused to sign it (for a variety of reasons and not just because of the substantial increase in rent). However, I asked them to justify a $100/mo. increase in rent considering the current shape of the property. This is a very old house in disrepair because the previous owners didn’t give a crap to keep it in good condition (the swimming pool in the backyard looks like a swamp and has had no chemicals or any type of maintenance performed on it since the end of September 2013 if that tells you anything). The water is the color of tar, and I’m expecting frogs to start jumping out of it anyday now. Not even an alligator would want to live in it. And the backyard? The maintenance on it ended back then, too (with the umpteenth maintenance man quitting or being fired and they decided not to hire another one for this particular property since it was for sale). So much for an investment company owning this house and property.

Back to the issue at hand–the substantial rent increase. Mind you, my kitchen area is falling apart as it was built with particle board that is probably older then me (okay, okay, they might not have had particle board back when I was born, but you get my drift). Someone stated to me that it might be from termites but then I’m not sure anyone cares as there has been no evidence that anyone does actually care. The showerhead on my shower only half works (hence, I just shower half of my body at a time–okay, okay, so the humor in this situation is running a bit low) and the bathtub has a liner over it (because the original owners of the house didn’t want the expense of putting in a new bathtub) that sometimes fills up with water and has to be drained and, well, if you could see pics, it looks pretty nasty. Also, my toilet is broken but I managed to fix it myself with some superglue and by taking the top off the tank in the back so that I can push the plunger thingy (for lack of a better term) down each time I flush it so that the entire town doesn’t lose water from the constant draining of my toilet tank.

And for all of this my rent gets increased $100/mo. starting on February 1, 2014, from the new owners who haven’t yet even taken care of my first maintenance request to please just fix my toilet (which has been broken since the previous owners still owned it). Oh yes, I can certainly see why the new owners feel justified in raising my rent $100/mo. Want to know what they had to say to me when I told them that considering the shape of the house and specific areas in my apartment that an increase in rent AT ALL was way out of line? Here’s a quote from an email from them written to me on January 4, 2014:

Hopefully we will show you that under our ownership and maintenance there will be many advantages to you and the other tenants. Unlike the previous management we will be making several improvements including a new roof, paint, air conditioning, pool, etc. As you know all of these cost a considerable amount of money. We did not buy this location to keep it in disrepair as we do not operate that way. I hope that you will come to understand that we purchased this property as an investment and we have to charge a certain amount of rent to cover our expenses. At this time an apartment the size of yours with utilities included and no lease rents for far more than $600.00. We have set the rent at $600.00 beginning February 1, 2014.

As for the issue with the toilet, we will have a new toilet installed at your convenience.

Show20me20the20Money_thumb_500x270_72909_answer_1_xlargeReally . . . . Well, it’s now January 9, 2014, and I have received no phone call from anyone wishing to “install a new toilet at my convenience.” However, at their convenience they are expecting me to start paying $100 more in rent per month starting on February 1, 2014, for the privilege of having them as new owners/landlords. NOT . . . .

Don’t even get me started . . . .

“An apartment of my size” (as she stated in her email above) . . . . My apartment is an efficiency apartment located in a house built in 1938 (and in a current state of disrepair) in the downtown section of a town where the rent for a two-bedroom apartment isn’t even what she is expecting me to pay starting on February 1, 2014. And since when are the expenses of an owner the responsibility of tenants? For crying out loud I can’t even get them to fix my toilet in a timely manner (shades of the previous owner second time around) yet they are more worried about recouping the cost of any expenses on an old house they just purchased that is in considerable disrepair so they decide to screw me, the tenant, for an extra $100 bucks per month to help recoup their expenses? And they bought this house for what reason? Obviously, they only care about themselves and their “investment” and screw the tenants. Lucky me . . . .

Welcome to America in the 21st Century . . . .

And thank you for letting me get this off of my chest. If I only had the money, I’d buy a motorhome and hit the road . . . .

YouTube Video: “Money” by Pink Floyd:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Endurance Will Be Our Witness

Endurance . . . does anybody have it anymore? Do we cave in when the hard times comes to make is easier on us? Do we just “go with the flow” because it doesn’t require full commitment to something or someone other then ourselves (for Christians, that is commitment to Christ)? Do we compromise what we say we believe (in other words, do we even really believe what we say we believe)? If we cave in the hard times, we don’t believe what we say we believe and it’s all smoke and mirrors. Talk is cheap and easy. Endurance is not. Which do we prefer? Anybody? Here’s a great little blog post from “Thought For the Day” to get you thinking about the whole subject of endurance. Who wants to be a wuss, anyway? It’s easy to be a wuss . . . . Think about that, folks . . . ~Sara’s Musings

Thought For the Day

I hate to admit it, but all we have to do is look around and we can see our society seems to be falling apart. Divorce is so common, no one thinks anything about it. At one time, it was looked down on and now it is almost expected. No one is shocked when they hear that one of their friends is divorcing due to one spouse having an affair. Couples are refusing to remain faithful to the vows they made; students drop out of school when the studies become too tough; suicide is becoming to no longer shock anyone.

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What Matters Most? (Reblogged post from Rich Brown)

It’s been a year now since I have reblogged another blogger’s post, so it’s about time. Here is a post titled, “What Matters Most” by Rich Brown at ForeWords. ~Sara’s Musings

ForeWords

Ordinary Time (Proper 11)
Amos 8:1–12, Psalm 52, Colossians 1:15–28, Luke 10:38–42

I’m going to stick with the Old Testament lectionary passage this week. Not that Luke’s story of Mary and Martha isn’t a good one. But right now is a good time to return to the words of the prophet Amos:

This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When…

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Celebrating Three Years on WordPress

3rd AnniversaryOn Saturday, I will be celebrating my 3rd anniversary as a blogger on WordPress. On July 20, 2010, I started up this blog site without any idea of what I was going to do with it. Those first few months were very “iffy” and the posts “scattered” and without any consistent theme (other than the fact that I was–and still am–unemployed). By April 2011 I was so frustrated with it that I deleted everything I had written at that point and gave it a rest. Then, on July 8, 2011, for no particular reason and with three previously written blog posts, I fired it back up again . . . .

. . . And it just took off like the wind blows!!!!!!!! (Sort of like Forrest Gump who could run “like the wind wind blows.”) I think of Forrest Gump as being the quintessential Baby Boomer movie as it spans several very important decades in Forrest Gump’s life that made the Boomers who they are. And like Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) who got a rather rough start in life but triumphed over his significant challenges regardless of how others may have felt about him, my blog site struggled at the beginning until the focus became very clear a year later and it just “took off,” and also regardless of how others may have felt about my particular take on certain sacred cowswithin the broader subject of American Christianity.” And this is my 228th blog post that I’ve written since I fired it back up two years ago. Woo Hoo!!!

I have no particular topic in mind for this blog post other than as a celebration of three years on WordPress; however, I ran across a couple of verses this past Tuesday that I read in the book of Job on Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av on the Jewish calendar (click on link to read my blog post on Tisha B’Av), that gave me pause for thought and consideration so I will start there.

The setting for the two verses in Job is right after all of the horrific tragedies hit Job and he was mourning in a pile of ashes (the ashes of his life pulled out from under him). After a rather lengthy dialogue between Job and his three “friends” that was going nowhere fast over the course of many chapters (see Job 3-31), we arrive at Chapter 32 where a young man named Elihu offered his advice to Job. Even though Elihu was young, he was full of God-given wisdom beyond his years, and the advice he gave to Job (see Job 32-37) was advice we can all learn from when we are in the midst of trials we just don’t understand, either.

Regarding the two verses that really stood out as I read Elihu’s monologue, the first verse is found in Job 36:18:

“Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
    do not let a large bribe turn you aside.”

Celebrating 3 years on WordPress

Celebrating 3 years on WordPress

The older I get the more I find that money can buy just about anybody’s loyalty nowadays (although it seems an oxymoron to be able to “buy loyalty”). Loyalty to self, maybe, since money is god in America. Greed and the love of money has saturated the landscape and inundated the Church at large, and nobody seems to pay any attention to what Paul had to say to his protégé, a young pastor named Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:10 which clearly states, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Unfortunately, many folks in the Christian arena today in America are Biblically illiterate (in other words, they spend very little time reading or studying the Bible and applying it to their daily lives or taking seriously the basic tenets of Jesus’ teachings as well as the teachings of His disciples and including the apostle Paul). Instead, we live just like the rest of the culture while maybe going to church on Sunday morning. So why do we go to church on Sunday morning? Church attendance is not a prerequisite or guarantee to heaven. There are reasons to attend church, but as a “guarantee to heaven” is not one of them. And living like the rest of the culture all week long isn’t, either.

It seems as if our god is really money (greed, materialism) and all it can buy (people, possessions, etc.), as we certainly don’t live like we really believe the verse in Hebrews 13:5 that clearly states, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ No, we are seldom content with what we have and our society screams at us to buy “bigger, better, more, more, more.” We are never content. No matter how much we have we always want more. And we never, ever understand the truth that Jesus clearly stated when He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” So we serve money and claim to follow after God no matter how we get the money. And if we don’t believe that, think about how often we think about money and how we can get more of it as compared to how often we think about God and how to serve Him and others instead of ourselves.

The second verse closely follows the first one and is found in Job 36:21:

“Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.”

When we are given a choice to do the right thing but it will cost us to do so (resulting in any kind of affliction including alienation, loss of popularity, loss of status, loss of money and/or possessions, loss of our job, or any other kind of loss), do we choose the safe path that will cause us no immediate harm and keep us a part of the status quo even though it is evil and capable of destroying someone else instead? Will we just turn a blind eye or lie or say nothing by our silence when we could correct a wrong that has been done to another by speaking up in their defense? I wrote about this very topic in a recent blog post titled, When Silence Is Not Golden.”

Let me put it another way . . . would we forsake a family member, a friend, or a colleague if it was to our own benefit–financial or otherwise–as in spreading gossip meant to demean or destroy (which is at the core of gossip), planning someone’s harm, accepting a bribe for any reason, or screwing over a colleague for a promotion or for some other type of favoritism and/or acceptance? We don’t mind afflicting others as long as it doesn’t affect (or afflict) us and especially if it will benefit us in some way. We want to be on the receiving end of the “good stuff,” not on the painful, suffering end that we inflict on others. And we don’t much care about those we afflict as long as it is not us. So we lie, cheat, steal, gossip, maim, and destroy others for our own benefit in a myriad of ways. And we even smile most of the time while we are doing it. And then we sit in a pew on Sunday (or a couch at home) and think that makes it all A-Okay.

It’s not “A-Okay” . . . .

Most folks like to think of themselves as basically good, decent folks. After all, we only harm others if they harm us first (a little tit-for-tat,” right?) or we harm them (gossip and passive-aggressive behavior are two favorite means of harming others) because we are jealous or envious, or we want what they have, or it will benefit us in some way–financially or other, or we feel self-righteous, or judgmental, or we just feel like being mean and nasty because we can be and they have no recourse, and the list goes on and on and on ad nauseam. Yeah, we are all just basically good, decent folks at heart . . . . R-i-g-h-t . . . .

Change starts with us . . . .

Is anybody listening?

Anybody?

“And that’s all I have to say about that” ~Forrest Gump

Feather from Forrest GumpTo celebrate my 3rd anniversary on WordPress, I’m posting one of my very favorite songs (actually, a combination of two songs).

 

 

 

YouTube Video: “Glad” & “Well All Right” by Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and crew at Madison Square Garden:

Photo #1 credit here
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Photo #3 credit here

Full Circle

Full CircleI began this blog three years ago in July 2010 as a way to express my frustration in dealing with long term unemployment. I was new to blogging at the time and I was also one year and three months into being unemployed, and my frustration level had peaked as I never dreamed I’d still be unemployed by that time after losing my job in Houston in April 2009. Well, if you’ve been reading my blog posts you know that I am still unemployed four+ years later.

Those first few months of blogging were a real struggle–not so much from a writing perspective but because I had no consistent theme and the posts were “all over the place” (much like my frustration level). By the end of April 2011 (which also was the 2nd anniversary of when I lost my job in Houston), I deleted all of the posts I had written and decided to take a break. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever try blogging again; after all, what I needed was a job and a life again, and blogging just seemed to exacerbate the frustration I felt from my attempts at trying to find work after applying for close to 400 jobs at that point in time. However, three months later, in July 2011, I started it back up again and, as the saying goes (and 222 blog posts later . . .), the rest is history.

This post is about celebrating these past three years and the changes that have occurred in me since then–changes that have put Jesus Christ back in His rightful place in my life and that have opened up my life and understanding in ways I could never have imagined even three years ago. Many of my blog posts are the direct result of those changes. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can’t know how to live this life in Jesus if we don’t spend significant time in His Word and getting to know Him through study and by praying for wisdom, insight, and understanding. Living on the fumes of a pastor’s sermon cannot and will not change a life, nor will focusing on ourselves and what we want. Getting to know the Creator on a personal level will change everything about our lives. He has a plan for each and every one of us but we have to get our plans and agendas out of the way so He can show us His. There is no other way.

As I mentioned in a post I wrote several days ago titled, Faith That Conquers,” I’ve been planning a trip to Washington D.C. as I haven’t been there since I attended a conference there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University (1990-91). Unfortunately, a situation with my ankle has postponed it for the moment but I haven’t taken it off the back burner. And, I can’t think of a better or more inspiring place to visit to celebrate America’s greatness and everything America stands for from our past right on up through today.

No weapon Isaiah 54v17There is one other place I have longed to visit, and that place is Israel. Israel and the Jewish people have a very special place in God’s heart and the Old Testament is filled with stories and prophesies regarding the creation of Israel and it’s rich history which includes folks like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, King David, Elijah, Elisha,  and all of the prophets, and many, many others, too. Israel is also known as “the apple of God’s eye”  (Zechariah 2:8), and it is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and where He ministered during His time on earth until his crucifixion and resurrection. And Israel and the city of Jerusalem will play prominently in the future role God has in store for this planet of ours. Zion is another term frequently used in the Bible which “generally refers to the city of Jerusalem (and is used in conjunction with Jerusalem), and the entire Land of Israel, and . . . to the Jewish people” (quote source here). That brings me to one of my favorite passages in the Bible that is found in Isaiah 54 (NIV), and it is full of promise:

The Future Glory of Zion

“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children
of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.

“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
 your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.
 In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

Centuries ago, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 30:2-3 regarding the restoration of Israel after it’s destruction back then: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the Lord.” And again Jeremiah 33:7 states, “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.” And after 1,878 years Israel became a nation again on May 14, 1948 (source here) and it’s economy is booming.

It is my hope that once my own “economy” is booming again (e.g., employment/income) that I can visit this great nation of Israel that God raised up centuries ago, scattered around the globe after it’s destruction, and then brought back to life again in 1948–a nation so rich in heritage for us as Christians and where Jesus Christ walked and ministered during His years on earth and gave His life so that we may live (for those who believe).

As Israel has come “full circle” after centuries of being scattered, I have great hope, too, that after some very difficult years filled with unbelievable learning experiences that I, too, will soon finally come “full circle.” And if you are currently experiencing difficult and trying times (and who isn’t?) . . .

It is my hope that you will, too . . . .

And on that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite jazz instrumentals by David Benoit on his CD titled, “Full Circle” (2006).

YouTube Video: “Beat Street” (2006) by David Benoit: 

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here 

Faith That Conquers

The New New ThingOkay, okay, this isn’t “A Silicon Valley Story” but it is “the new, new thing.” And, I’m pretty sure my niche is definitely here on this blog site. I know I mentioned in my last post that I had started a new blog site and I called it “a new thing”; however, after writing two blog posts on it, it really isn’t turning out to be much different from this one. And while I won’t trash that site yet, I can hear the wrecking ball in the distance . . . 😉 Some things just need to be trashed. (UPDATE: I completely trashed it on June 8th and I just replaced that blog post mentioned above with one of the posts I wrote on my new blog site that no longer exists.)

May 2013 has been an interesting month for me. I think I’m glad it’s over, too (along with another birthday on May 31st). Besides the never-ending frustration of being unemployed for a zillion years now (okay, maybe not that long, but it sure feels like it), I was hoping that by starting the new website that I could sort of “showcase” my writing skills to potential employers with the hope of possibly landing a writing gig. (You do know that I want to be a writer when I grow up, right?) And, most employers (except for Christian employers and that’s still a “maybe”) probably aren’t interested in reading what I write on this blog.

Well, after encountering a bunch of hacker issues on that particular blog site (no point in going into the details) and writing two blog posts that were not significantly different in topic then what I write on this blog (well, they may have been a bit more “edgy” then what I write on this one–after all, I’m pretty sick of being unemployed and going nowhere fast or slow or at any speed, really), I decided that it was best to leave the month of May in the past, and start fresh again in June.

I am in definite need of inspiration and I’m not getting it by what I’ve been doing lately. So, I’ve been thinking about taking a road trip to the most inspiring place I can think of right now–Washington DC. It’s about the same distance as my trip to Houston, but Houston wasn’t too inspiring (after all, I lost my job there over four years ago now). It’s been years and years since I’ve been in Washington DC. In fact, if I remember right, the last time was when I attended a national conference (NASPA) held there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University.

lincolnmemorialMy first stop would be at the Lincoln Memorial. I can’t think of a more inspiring place to start my tour. If it was possible (and it’s not, I know . . .) I’d like to crawl up on Lincoln’s lap and ask him for some advice. He had a pretty tough life and, of course, he was assassinated at the end, but slavery was abolished under his tutelage. And that is a very big deal. A VERY big deal. Slavery was one of the worst blights ever to appear on the American landscape.

And my next stop would be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where so many, many soldiers of my generation died at way too young of an age in a war that divided our nation and brought scorn to those who did returned. Another blight for which the creation of “The vietnam-memorialWall” has provided much healing especially for those who served in Vietnam. And, of course, there’s the Washington Monument, dedicated to our first president, George Washington. And, a tour of the White House would be nice, but due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration tours have been cancelled.

There is much to see and I’m sure I’d plan to pack in as many sites as I can during the few days I’m there; but mostly, I want to go there because it is the greatest place of inspiration and dedication to America and what America stands for in our nation. And I’m in need of inspiration . . . (a job would be nice, too).

I’ve been alive long enough now (61 years) to have seen a deterioration of America over the past few decades. It started when we threw God out of the public schools and the public arena; drugs became highly fashionable with the invasion of the hippie revolution, as did a major decline in morality on a large scale; and there was the whole women’s lib movement as well as the civil rights movement that brought two significant issues to a head that certainly needed to be addressed, and there was also the “God is dead” movement followed by the “Jesus freaks.”

The disco era bought in shallowness as a mainstream lifestyle and the 80’s brought in the “Me generation” with all of it’s excesses in greed and materialism (on a mass scale), and somewhere along the line making money became our god and God was put on a shelf. Even our churches started catering to the culture to draw and keep crowds, and the birth of mega-churches produced “the 20-minute sermon” to go along with our fast food and fast paced society. Our lives became a long, never-ending “to do” list of things and events and how to make more money. Spiritual maturity ended right after the “get saved” prayer and the Bible was relegate to a shelf on the bookcase except when it was dusted off to take to church on Sunday morning (if we even took it or if we even attended).

Wall StreetThen there was the Wall Street crash right after the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date–9/11. And we started a “war on terror” overseas and here at home. Over the next few years there was a housing boom that was really built on nothing more than a “house of cards” waiting to fall. What looked like a real boom for several years wasn’t . . .  and it fell with the second Wall Street crash of September 29, 2008, the greatest crash of all that sent shock waves around the world and the world economy reeling.

Of course, the unemployment rate started to skyrocket in 2008 when the “house of cards” started falling and the recovery ever since has been very slow and in many cases, nonexistent (for those like myself who are still unemployed). We live in troubling times.

Times, of course, have always been troubled . . . ebbing and flowing with whatever is going on in the world and our own culture at the time (the two are intrinsically intertwined). And we threw God out of the public arena in the 60’s–fifty years ago now. The very principles this nation was founded on no longer seemed to matter to anyone (at best, we’re admonished to “keep it quiet”). Now when the tough times hit, there is nothing to fall back on. We have a whole generation (primarily people under 40) who have been raised with little or no “religious” values of any kind or if they have been raised with them, they are shallow at best and never meant to be an “anchor” for their lives. Faith in self is their motto (or maybe faith in technology).

the Cross of 9-11Let’s look at how Americans responded after 9/11. For a few months after it happened people flooded into churches all over the nation and God was mentioned everywhere, but in very short order life went back to “normal” and God was put back on the shelf and faith in ourselves was back full force. But what will happen if something worse happens in the future (after all, terrorism hasn’t disappeared)? If people haven’t put their faith in anything other than themselves and/or their own financial resources, what will happen when it all collapses? Where will they turn?

I feel fortunate to have been raised in an era when Christianity was still very much a part of the fabric of America. It’s not that everyone in my generation (the Baby Boomers) adhered to it–in fact, many didn’t–but it was still there and widely available. Discipleship was taken seriously after conversion and we knew there was a “growing” process to a new life in Jesus Christ. The focus was on Him and learning how He expected His followers to live, and not on all of the focus on “us” that started happening in the 80’s (or possibly earlier) in mainstream Christianity. We can’t ever get to know Jesus Christ if what we are looking for most of the time is what He can or will give to or do for us and/or if we were brought up to believe that our sin doesn’t matter or that sin is irrelevant (just look at how the whole topic of sin has died out in the past few decades).

These past four plus years of unemployment have been some of the hardest years of my life, and I know that if I didn’t have my faith in Jesus Christ along with the Biblical knowledge of how to live my life (not perfectly, mind you, but knowing the direction it should be taking), and without having a relationship with Him that is “two-way” and not just “my-way,” I don’t think I would have survived for this long. My faith in Jesus Christ (and not faith in myself) is the anchor that holds my life together, and while many folks in our society today ridicule such beliefs I find it amazing that they ridicule something they don’t even understand, nor do they even try to understand. They just mock. But what will happen if/when the bottom falls out of their lives? The Wall Street crashes have proved that any monetary support that people have built up over the years to support themselves could be wiped out in an instant and that happened to millions during the Great Depression. Faith in self and/or money is no faith at all.

Do you want to know the type of faith that conquers the world? It’s stated in I John 5:1-15:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

This life is not just about the “here and now” of how to keep ourselves going and trying to stay away from trouble as much as possible and/or trying to accumulate as much money as possible (circumstances have a way in interfering with that as we all know). It’s also about eternity, which lasts forever . . . forever . . . . I am amazed at how trite people take the concept of eternity, if they even allow themselves to think of it much at all. This life on earth isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.

Many of our early leaders in America like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were strong believers in Jesus Christ and they were not ashamed to lead with the clear knowledge and conviction that they were not in charge, and that God was (and is) ultimately in charge. And, this nation was founded on Biblical principles and with the eroding of those principles over the decades there has been an eroding in our culture. But just because our culture has eroded, that doesn’t mean we as individuals should allow our faith in Jesus Christ (if we are truly His followers) to erode into a shallow type of Christianity that looks and acts no different from the rest of the culture and will not stand when the tough times comes, and they will come as they always do.

So you may be asking if I really need to make a trip to Washington DC to be inspired? Maybe not. But I want to go and celebrate a nation that is still the greatest nation on the planet, and celebrate the lives of all of those leaders and soldiers and other folks, too, who have made it great. And where is our nation headed? I don’t know. I can’t even find a job let alone answer a question as big as that, but I am grateful for our past and where it has brought us and I look forward to being inspired by all of those folks from our past while I’m there.

So, let me ask this question . . . what or who are you putting your faith in? If it’s anything (self, money, etc.) or anyone other then Jesus Christ, your faith will not hold, and you’ll cave in at the first sign of trouble. Don’t cave in. And if you don’t know Him, get to know Him now.

You’ll never regret it, no matter what circumstances come your way . . . .

YouTube Video: Here is Salvador singing that great Steve Winwood song, “Higher Love” (1986):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
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Photo #5 credit here

Change Ahead

change-ahead-crossword-iconI’m back . . . . Three days ago I wrote a very brief post wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2013 and said I was going to take a breather from blog writing. Well, it lasted three whole days!!! Actually, it lasted eight days as my last blog post with a topic, Lighting Our Path,” was published on December 11, 2012. I guess eight days was long enough! My fingers were typing in my sleep so I got the hint.

Christmas is only a few days away now, and yet another new year is about to enter the picture. I don’t know about you, but the years are going by way too fast. They always did, but lately they give “zoom” new meaning. And every new year brings another opportunity for change.

You've_Got_MailThere is a scene in one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the starring roles as Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, where Kathleen’s “Shop Around the Corner,” a children’s bookstore on the upper west side of Manhattan, is closing after 42 years (it was originally opened by her mother and Kathleen inherited it when her mother died) because the mega-bookstore, “Fox Books,” opened up around the corner from her shop. Shortly after the Christmas holiday Kathleen made the decision to close the store due to dwindling business caused by the opening of Fox Books, and in an email to a man she met online in an “over-thirty” chat room earlier in the fall (who turns out to be Joe but at this point in time she don’t know his real identity) she wrote the following: “People are always telling me that change is a good thing, but what they are really saying is that something that they didn’t want to happen at all has happened.”

When I look back at all the changes I’ve gone through in my life (sometimes I feel like that proverbial cat with nine lives), my favorite changes were those I was able to choose (e.g., joining the U.S. Army, going to college, going to grad school, moving to Florida, etc.), and the worst were those that were forced on me (e.g., like being fired from my job in April 2009 that has lead to this rather lengthy time of unemployment). For the most part, I’ve always been a fan of change as I get restless if I do the same thing for too long (except, of course, writing, but then there are a million things out there to write about so it never gets boring). But even “bad” change can be “good” in the end as was the case in Joseph’s life in Genesis when his brothers, years earlier, did some truly horrible stuff to him, and then, years later, they had to come to him for help and were terrified (you can read the entire story here). Joseph stated to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). What was originally a horrible change for Joseph turned out for good later on not only for him but for his entire family.

It’s encouraging to know that even “bad” change can work for our good, because God never changes (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17), and as the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 8:28, “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.” And if we truly love Him and have been called according to His purpose, that includes all the ugly stuff that has happened to us as well as the good.

When I look back over these past four years (actually, five years as the beginning of this “adventure” in my life started on December 7, 2007, when I learned that my division at my former place of employment in Florida was being dismantled which lead me to apply for the position in Houston in May 2008), I see some dramatic changes that have taken place in my life–for the good–despite the fact that I am still unemployed at this point in time. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned many of those changes.

Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Now that’s a change that is good for us, but it’s hard to follow especially in our American culture with every imaginable excess available 24/7. We get bogged down in the mire and hardly even notice it. Little compromises eventually turn into detrimental changes especially if we let the Bible and it’s wisdom take a back seat in our lives as well as our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

By the time I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job in September 2008 I was about as bogged down in my spiritual life as I had ever been (and I’m not talking about “church attendance,” either). Regular Bible study was sporadic at best and I never even thought that much about the whole issue of spiritual warfare in the believer’s life. The cares of this world had taken over, but I also noticed that the cares of this world had also taken over most of the other folks I knew, too. And we were all Christians. We had left our first love (Rev. 2:4) and allowed the cares of this world (worry, materialism, greed, gossip, envy, jealousy, judging others, anger, bitterness, etc.–that list is long) to take over, and we wanted the things in this world along with the attitudes of this world more then we wanted Him. Oh, we’d never admit that or perhaps really believe it but our actions and attitudes and lifestyles spoke volumes. And so when I landed in Houston, I did an about-face and started taking Bible study and my relationship with Jesus Christ very seriously on a daily basis. And I could feel the fresh wind of the Spirit begin to permeate my life again during one of the hardest work experiences in my life. When I lost that job seven months later, I knew He was right there to guide me not only during those difficult seven months but when the bottom dropped out when I was fired. And He’s been guiding me and changing me ever since. My world has opened up in ways I never could have imagined had I not decided to get out of the spiritual lethargy I found myself in by taking that first step to give Him quality time every morning before I did anything else (and yes, that meant I had to get up an hour or so earlier then normal and give Him that totally undivided time from the rest of my day).

In short, I’ve been cleaning up my act from all the mire that bogged me down in the first place. Didn’t say I am perfect at it and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but I’ve been changed from the inside out over these past four plus years. The words of the Apostle Paul in Phil. 3:12-14 (MSG) state, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

And neither am I . . . .

How about you?

YouTube Video: “Back in the High Life Again” (1986) by Steve Winwood:

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