In this time of Divisiveness, don’t forget who YOU are

It is the Lenten Season and I am trying to be good and have daily devotion. Even though I work for a religious business (a church camp), I have to admit that, sometimes, I fall short of reading the Bible daily. I converse with God daily and I try to be a good listener, but the education component is sometimes missing-except during this season.

Today, my devotion took me back to my upbringing.

My dad was a small business owner. I was raised in a small/mid-sized city and I was sure that everyone knew who my father was (silly child!) What that did for me was to help keep me on the straight and narrow. (http://www.co-z-aire.com/)

I didn’t want to do anything that would cause shame to my family or in any way impact my father being able to do business. I was so sure that my actions might impact my dad being able to have customers. I may have been very naive, but it was something I always thought about when I had a choice to make; ‘How will this affect the family name? Will Dad lose business if I do this, or that?’

Today, I was reading about being part of the family of God. It made me think about what I do daily. Do I think ‘How will my actions affect my Godly family? Will Dad (God) lose business if I do this, or that?’ I will have to honestly say that I do not always think in those terms.

I am not a bad person but I could always be better.

Yesterday, my son had me take a survey to “determine” my political temperament. Where did I fit on the political strata? The questions were very black & white and very polarizing. I answered honestly and I think my son was surprised that I was almost smack-dab in the middle of the fascist/libertarian & right/left quadrants.

circle UM logo  When I take “what are you?” political tests, I always rank as a conservative Republican. If I were to take a religious test, I would be right where I am supposed to be. As a United Methodist (click and learn more about the UM Church) , I am allowed to have my own beliefs and still feel confident in my political views. You see, the United Methodist Church is made up of all peoples. And studies do show that over 50% of church members are conservative but over 50% of the pastors are liberal (I do not have exact percentages but you can read this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/05/on-the-political-leanings-of-methodists/483683/ )

I think my son was surprised at the results. I told him that I try to see all points of view and try to be compassionate and understanding. But there are times when I do not think about my God Family when I do things. I don’t think about how God might look at my actions.

While the majority of people in the United States believe in God, the percentage is dropping – http://www.theharrispoll.com/in-the-news/harris-polls/Americas-Belief-in-God.html . I think it is apparent when you see how violence has escalated, how insensitiveness  has increased and how people are louder, ruder and less kind than in the past. I think that people are hard and combative and not willing to sit across the table and break bread. It seems to have become ‘It’s my way or the highway’ attitude.

I try not to be that person. But I also know that I need to be more concerned about my God Family and think first how God will react to my actions. Just as I don’t want my children to behave inappropriately, I, as a child of God, need to make sure that I do not behave inappropriately. I need to make sure that my words are loving and not divisive; that I use proper language and not words which are polarizing, degrading or downright tasteless.

Today, I want to be aware of my God Family; that I make sure I do not do anything that would embarrass my Father or take ‘customers’ away from His Business. What a wonderful world we would have if we all just tried to make our family proud.

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Charlie Hebdo: In the trenches equal to Vietnam?

The images live in my mind, watching reporters put their life on the line. The tall weeds acting as a wall, separating the reporter from the carnage that was occurring before the lens. The sounds of the helicopter engines were so loud that the reporter had to yell into the microphone. That was how I learned about the Vietnam Conflict. It was because of those correspondents risking all that I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be that reporter, dodging bullets (and bombs), putting my life on the line to get out the truth.

It is reported that 63 news correspondents lost their lives during the Vietnam Conflict. Some of those deaths were execution style, others from stray artillery fire, while, at least one, French Journalist, Michel Laurent, was killed while trying to rescue another correspondent. http://pathofhistory.com/2012/05/28/michel-laurent-on-one-of-our-photographs/. Laurent, a photographer for the Gamma news Agency, was the last correspondent killed during the Vietnam Conflict.

Reporters, photographers and their support staff have always been in the middle of dangerous situations. The New York Times posted an article in 2006 that reported the following statistics:  From 2003-2006, 83 reporters and their support staff had been killed in Iraq,  17 were killed in Korea and 69 in World War II. The desire to report the news, while relatively safe, has always held risks. Reporting the news is not always about the cute babies and feel good events; sometimes it is reporting on natural disasters, or man-made disasters. Journalists, in all genres, put their lives out their, even when they do not expect it.

But who would think that media specialists would be risking their lives by just showing up to the office. That is what happened today with the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo, a French Satirical Magazine. At this writing, twelve have died and the terrorist were still at large. French police described the scene as “carnage” and the attackers were heard yelling “Allahu Akbar”, which is an Islamic phrase meaning “God is Great!” (Multiple sources for this information, USA Today, NBC News, Fox News)

It is one thing to consciously put your life out there based on the story you are going to cover, a natural disaster, or war or conflict. It is a totally different affair to be attacked and killed because of a satirical editorial cartoon, or a controversial  story that was objectively written, in the security of your office.

I am an American! I believe in our First Amendment right which allows freedom of press: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.. – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1.html#sthash.nXPWiqsw.dpuf

It gives me a heavy heart to know that, in these modern times, people still are losing their lives for expressing their opinion, in a controlled media. I know that there are exceptions to every case, but I believe that opinions are opinions and facts are facts. Charlie Hebdo does not discriminate; no one is immune to their satirical cartoons. While I do not like what they draw (it is very sexual and inappropriate), they have left nothing untouched. There have been cartoons on the Pope, on the French President, the British and the reason for the latest attack, the Muslim faith. I have not read of an attack initiated by the Pope or the President of France against Charlie Hebdo. (I have purposely not put a link to the Charlie Hebdo website. It truly is not something I would read and will not promote it. This is about an injustice to the employees by their senseless murders)

Rewind a few weeks, and you have the controversy with the movie The Interview. North Korean President, Kim Jong Un threatened retaliation on Sony Pictures if The Interview was released. The Sony hackers, reported to be from the North Korean government, threatened movie goers, the studio itself and the United States if the movie was released. After much consideration, Sony did release the movie online and in independent movie theaters. The online and VOD release earned 31 million dollars in two weeks. They will earn six more dollars from me today as I plan on renting it this afternoon, in support of a fiction movie that someone did not like.

I am a Christian woman. The Christian faith is challenged all of the time but you do not see me taking up arms to tell someone they are wrong. Some how, I do not think God finds violence the best way to handle these situations. I myself, am not without controversy. While I do not know for a fact, I am pretty sure that a relative of mine unfriended and blocked me on Facebook because my words did not set well with them. I thought this person had gotten off of Facebook (which does happen). But after some research, I found this person’s name on the FB page of other relatives. I put out facts, disputing their opinion, which is what a responsible individual would do to squash rumors and editorials represented as factual news. Because of that, I have been cut off from this family, which is sad. I really enjoy this person and their family. I do miss seeing the family posts.

But back to the news…it is apparent that the trenches run from the war-torn countries in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and so many more, to the desks of cartoonists in Paris and to the big screen. Too many think that violence is the end all to silencing that facts and opinions of others. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have used it a lot in the past six months and I end it here today:

Dr. King’s Question To Today’s Social Movements

http://justinh.org/2013/08/29/darkness-cannot-drive-out-darkness/

Find peace in your heart and the ignorance of others cannot weaken your fortitude.

 

I believe in Jesus, but I am not a Jesus freak!

Did I catch your attention? If you are a faithful Christian did you think my comment was sacrilegious? Believe me, that was not my intent. I believe in Jesus and I am a Jesus lover!

I am watching “The Today Show” and Bill O’Reilly is going to be interviewed. One of the discussion topics is teaching about Jesus in the public school system. I am not against people learning about Jesus. I think he did, and will do, miraculous things on this earth. I will hold off on my comments until I hear what Bill says.

Okay, Bill just said that he wants kids to learn about Jesus as a person, not as part of religion. He explained that our government was formed around a Judeo-Christian religion and that children need to learn the background of our government. I totally agree with that.

When I was in junior high, my literature teacher used a book that would cause huge controversy now in the public school system. It was “the Bible AS LITERATURE”, edited by Alton C. Capps.  Introduction…”Modern civilization is greatly indebted to the Bible. The foundations of modern Western culture evolved primarily from two sources: Athens and Jerusalem. Western culture, particularly the English speaking word, is more indebted to the Hebrew influence than to the Greek.”

If you think about it, the school system teaches other religions as stories and cultural experiences all of the time. In my school system, Second graders are taught about Hanukkah. They read the story about the 8 days and the oil; some classes make potato latkes as part of the cultural experience. When I asked a teacher how they can teach about the Jewish faith and not say anything about Christmas, her comment back to me was that Judaism is an ethnicity, Christianity is a religion.

Greek and Roman mythology is taught in the school system. These are stories that are about the gods of their religion. As they have been known more for their story value than their religious value, it is acceptable to learn these stories in the school system.

I have often referred to “the Bible” literature book in my discussions with people about “teaching” the Bible in school. There are so many great adventures, life lessons, murder, incest, redemption, in the Bible. If people got past the “religious part” of the Book, they could read every type of genre in one book!

Now back to my Jesus Freak comment. I have always been a church goer. When I was young, even a snow storm would not stop my dad from piling all of us into the station wagon and driving the mile to church. There were times that we were the only family in church with the pastor who had to walk across the street. We were very committed to being in church every Sunday.

When I was in 8th grade, I had my first Christian re-birth. Even though I was a church goer, on that day, I really took my belief to heart and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Throughout the years I have had many re-births; when my grandmother was diagnosed and died from ovarian cancer in an 11 month time frame, the Sunday I walked into my church sanctuary holding my 5-day-old daughter and many more, small, Christian growth spurts.

As a Christian, I believe that it is just as wrong to witness to those who are not ready to hear His word, as it is to not witness to those who are prepared to open their hearts to hearing the Word of God. I am very careful with whom I speak my faith because I do not want to be “the person” that scares someone away from getting to know my Lord. But I also have the fear that maybe I miss out on an opportunity. It is through prayer and an openness to hearing what God wants you to do that you understand your walk in this life.

I think what I fail to do many times is listen, be still and listen. God speaks with me every day, I have no doubt. I don’t think I hear Him every day though because I fail to be still. If this was January 1, I would say that needs to be my New Year’s resolution. I guess that becomes my April 10th resolution.

I am best when I think of God as a parent. I look to how I have raised my children and I can relate to the expectations that God has for me because I have the same expectations for my children. I know that if I push too much, at the wrong time, I will only get resistance. But there are times when I push and my children are open to my words and I receive results; at the correct time, with the proper words, they are open to my words and actions.

The term Jesus Freak arose in the 60’s and continued through the 70’s. My definition is not a positive term but one that denotes a person who is pushy in presenting their witness. They are “out there” and are not in touch with the world around them. In my opinion, they are witnessing and not thinking about their words or actions; they are not thinking that their actions may be driving people away for Jesus, instead of drawing them near the faith.

We must live in the world. In the six years that we homeschooled, I felt it was important to be involved in the community. I did not put my children in the protective cocoon and sheltered them from the world. I believe that I have a duty to teach my children how to live a Christian life in a secular world. I cannot do that if they are not exposed to outside influences. I will not always be around to protect them. I needed to provide them with the tools to be strong in all circumstances. I needed to help boost their self-esteem and give them confidence to handle all situations.

I don’t believe that being a Jesus Freak is a positive model for them or me. I believe that living a clean life, a faithful life and teaching my children that a church family is important will help them to be able to go out on their own and stand up to the trials and tribulations of life.

I believe in Jesus and I pray that I will be open to being still and listening to know when it is my time to share my faith and the wonderful life a person can have with Jesus in their life.