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Jack

This is a silly thought I had – why are carved pumpkins called “jack-o-lanterns”? So, I looked it up with the magic of the internet. It seems that it comes from the 1500s when all those stories, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and fables were being told and nearly every little boy was named Jack! Jack and the beanstalk. Jack and Jill. Jack be Nimble. Jack of all trades. Little Jack Horner. Jack-in-the-Box. The House that Jack built. Jack Sprat. Jack Frost. et al. It turns out that Jack is a general term for a boy.

Even earlier, the name Jack was originally used as a generic name for peasants. Over time, Jack worked his way into words such as lumberjack and jackass, the commonly used term for a donkey. Of course, John was once used as a generic name for English commoners and peasants, (John Doe) which could be why Jack came became his nickname. But additionally the Normans added -kin when they wanted to make a diminutive. And Jen was their way of saying John. So little John became Jenkin and time turned that into ultimately Jack.

Young boys used these hollowed-out and lit-up root vegetables to spook people. Irish legend has it that this use of jack-o’-lantern was named after a fellow named Stingy Jack. Jack, thinking he could trick Satan, made a faustian bargain with him; the devil had the last laugh, condemning Jack to an eternity of wandering the planet, unable to enter either heaven or hell, with only an ember of hellfire for light. 

There is something about names that matter. In the beginning of time God named everything. It gave meaning and identity to all the things He created. God Himself is known by His name(s) and we know about who He is from His names! And, there is power in the Lord’s Name – “His name is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are saved” (Prov. 18:10).

People of all time, throughout history, have learned the Name of the Great I AM. It is whispered in prayer. It is weighty enough to be called on the battlefields and in prison cells. It is held onto by those who are persecuted and it is the hope of those who grieve. It is the Name that refuses to be minimized by our agendas. It is the Name that saves. It is the Name uttered daily around the world, with or without regard for its value and potency. It is the Name above all Names.

I am awestruck that God wants to be known and wants to know and love me! Even more, He knows my name! He wrote it on His heart and carried it to the cross! In Ex. 28, we learn that Aaron and his sons used to have to carry the names of the Israelites on their hearts in memory and for judgment before the Lord.  The weight of such a responsibility would have been unimaginable at times and God knew that man could not atone for their own sins. When Jesus died upon the cross He took on this responsibility, so no man is required to carry this weight any longer. Through Jesus’ death we are offered the gift of salvation and God also removed the weight of our sins and placed them upon His Son, Jesus Christ! He now carries our names and our sins upon Himself!

Additionally, God has put His name on my heart. (Jer. 31:33)! As a Christ follower, I am further struck by the fact that everyone matters and there are NO “Jacks” in God’s eyes. He sees me. He knows me. He calls me by name. I am not generic or invisible. I am loved. I am His, like Woody belongs to Andy.

So, back to the original question that led to this post, I am NOT a jack-o-lantern. I am a lightraider who carries the Light of the World, shining like a star in the universe. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the Name of Jesus! (Matt. 5:16).

Side note: Perhaps we could start a trend with OMJ (Oh My Jack).If Jack is a generic name for any male person, it makes more sense!

RBG

Today is Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year. It is said in the Jewish community that when a person dies on this Holy Day, they are considered to be a person of great righteousness Ruth Bader Ginsburg died today. A brave champion of equal rights, RGB paved the way for women everywhere, including me. I am grateful that my daughter and those that follow will have a better future because this petite giant spoke truth, loved justice and lived humbly.

I am struck by her passing the ways others are over a movie star or an athlete. I didn’t even know her, but because of her pioneering voice and her persistence, I enjoy a more equitable existence. Because RBG stood strong and forged the path she did all the way to the Supreme Court, she made a way for the next generation to speak up for marginalized people and advocate for those without a voice. She empowered women, reminding men of our dignity and worth, just as Christ Jesus offers each human without regard to gender, ethnicity, age, race, et al. She was resilient, smart, funny, kind.

I also reflect on other strong female heroes. There is another Ruth. She was a poor widow from Moab who was determined to walk into a new life and build a relationship with God. She kept moving forward, caring for her new family, gleaning in the fields and risking it all by approaching Boaz. She was brave and godly and became King David’s great grandmother.

There was Esther. She started off as an orphan immigrant who created a strategy to save an entire nation at the risk of her own life. She used every resource to thrive in a world gone sideways.

The creativity, the courage and the competence of Miriam, as a child, who approached the princess and delivered the future deliverer of God’s people, securing God’s promise and affirming the role of women in leadership. I learn persistence and intelligence from this defender of the faith.

Even Eve, who often gets a bad rap, led the way through grief, shame and estrangement without support of a mother, sister, girlfriend. She never knew the treasure of God’s Word, or the wisdom and joy of the Holy Spirit. She didn’t know the power of salvation, grace and forgiveness; yet she had strength and hope enough to carry on and pass onto many who came after her.

These are just a few of my heroes who spent their lives making life better for others. They used their gifts, talents and energy for something bigger than themselves. Like RGB they were faithful, courageous and strong and chose to participate without knowing what was ahead. We all face fear and loneliness, grief and confusion, and yet we can look to those around us and those who have gone ahead of us to learn how to live better, stronger and meaningful lives in spite of our situation or circumstances.

I pray that my kids will see me as a feminist too. I want to be a person who does not see liabilities in my gender, age, race, nationality, etc. Rather, I want to be remembered as one who stood up to injustice, one who used her gifts and life for something (and someone) bigger than herself, one who was notoriously grateful to be the Lord’s image bearer and ambassador, and one who loved others fiercely and with kindness.

Thank you Ruth. You are Notorious!

KAW – A Grateful Heart

Katherine, Janet, Nancy

My mom has 2 sisters – one older and one younger. Yesterday (9/9/20) Katherine, the younger one, passed away in Rhode Island at the age of 81. She was a mom to my 3 beautiful cousins, a grandmother to John and Eva, a friend, an army nurse, a cancer survivor, a therapist, a shop owner, a world traveler, a button collector, a macrobiotic cook and more; but to me she was my Aunt Kitty.

Some extended families are close. We are blessed to be one of those families. In spite of always living on opposite sides of the country, we spent time together on the phone and in person, not just when we were kids, but all the days of adulthood too! In recent years we played Words with Friends and regularly had several games going at once. In spite of how smart my aunt was, she cheated. I am sure of it! There are words she played that NOBODY knows what they mean and how are they even in the Words with Friends dictionary?! It didn’t matter – I loved playing with her and trying to beat her, which was only on occasion!!

One time while the Wheelers were on a trip to California to visit us, we decided to drive down to Tijuana, Mexico. Aunt Kitty wanted to get some paper flowers like my mom had (we never found them, but that is a side note!) By “we”, I am referring to Aunt Kitty and 14 year old me (The oldest of the Wheeler grandkids), my 3 siblings and my 3 cousins. Aunt Kitty drove my parents’ station wagon and on the way home, on I-5 somewhere in San Diego area, we had a flat tire in the fast lane. So Katherine and I got out and went around the back to get the spare tire and tire jack. I was so convinced that I knew how to change a tire because of an episode of I Love Lucy, in which she tries to change one, without succeeding, of course. Katherine had not ever changed a tire either, so we started in – nevermind reading directions (which Jennifer and others in the car were doing and trying to get us to listen) and nevermind that we were on the shoulder of the fast lane of the freeway with 6 young kids all wanting to “participate”. Calm and encouraging, my aunt trusted me with a task I was really not able to complete, although Jennifer and Martha probably would have done it in Indy 500 pitstop speed. Eventually a kind, yet nonplussed highway patrol car pulled up and asked us all to get back in the car while He changed the tire for us. The point is that, besides being a lifelong humorous memory, I was valued, my opinion trusted and I felt respected by an adult whose view of me was extremely important.

Katherine is one of the most generous people I have ever known. She never withheld her time, her knowledge, her home, her laughter, or her love but instead shared gratefully. When I think of the practice of kindness I immediately think of Aunt Kitty. I learned to be grateful and think the best of others simply by watching her. She always saw the best in people and taught me, by example, how to put a positive spin on situations.

Aunt Kit taught me about healing, crystals and herbs. Her own health crisis led her on a journey around the world to include methods beyond the traditional medical field and she shared what she learned with others. Her store in Wickford, RI was named The Grateful Heart. It was the oldest building in the village and her tagline was “an old house welcomes the new age”. But the name of the store was just another reflection of Katherine Ann Wheeler*. She had a grateful heart and lived with thanksgiving and happiness. I will miss her all the rest of my days.

I love you Aunt Kitty!

With a grateful heart,

Miriam

Me and Aunt Kitty

*Like me, Kitty never had to change her monogram. Additionally, she never had to change her name on her social security card because she married someone with the same last name! Dr. John P. Wheeler.

My Beautiful Daughter

Dear Em,

This has been a weird season but the best part for me has been the few months we have been under the same roof again. I am sorry, not sorry, for the turn of events that left you jobless and homeless. I am sorry you both have gone through so much trauma and hurt, but I am grateful that you are leaning in to hear the Lord and allow Him to hold you in the midst of this squall. I hate that we all are getting so good at this grieving stuff. I am not sorry that I have gotten this window of time to be with you and Connor in meaningful and fun ways.

Today is your birthday and I am pondering the miracle that is you. 28 years ago you were born. You were so independent even then, helping to choose your name, deciding to come early (which is the only time you have been that I am aware of) and changing my life forever. I remember teaching you how to walk and to read, how to pray and how to do many things, but that was when you were a child. It was my “job” and my privilege to teach you about life, love and introduce you to God, who trusted me to care for you, His precious treasure. It was often an overwhelming responsibility. Thank you for overlooking my shortcomings and forgiving my failures. I am grateful that you love well and that you continue to see the glass as half full.

You were fierce and full of wonder from the very beginning. You had the best belly laugh, as though you contained all the joy of heaven in the core of your being. You came into this world hungry with curiosity and adventure as you took everything in. You were happy, generous with affection, and you oozed silliness. You were a force to be reckoned with. You noticed every sensitive situation and injustice with compassion. (Your enneagram 9 was there from day 1). You thought in creative and determined ways and you always wanted to please.

Your love is so deep and you keep giving it to friends and family. You show it in the way you try your best and never give up, and in the way you forgive those who bully, marginalize and think differently than you. You “get” that love covers a multitude of sins and that love is the answer to every pain, the way through every heartbreak and that it never fails! Christ in you, the hope of glory, calls you forward in a world that needs His healing power more than ever. You know the Light of the world and He shines brightly through you (Matt. 5:16). You are talented, smart and beautiful. You are brave and intuitive and you teach me many more things than I ever taught you. It has been my honor to be your mom. Today we talk and laugh as women. You are no longer just my child – You are my friend.

Enjoy your day and remember that I love you. I am thankful for you. I am proud of you. May this year, and always, be another opportunity for you to show the world what light and wonder and love really look like. And may God get all the credit.

Mom <+><

Eight Three One

So today is many things. It is National Trail Mix Day, Jeff Tuten’s birthday and the day that Princess Diana died. But it also represents a magical number. The summer that I worked as a counselor at Mount Hermon’s Redwood Camp in the Santa Cruz mountains was a special summer for me for many reasons.

One of the best parts of most weekends was that my bestie, who lived in nearby Watsonville, would come and get me to enjoy some adventure together. Most weekends we would savor one or more scoops of the best ice cream ever at Marianne’s Ice Cream, 1020 Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. There are well over 100 flavors of ice cream to taste and try. Usually we knew what we were going to have, but I would often get almost a second scoop’s worth by trying as many flavors as I could before settling back on my favorite Mandarin Chocolate, Macapuno and Strawberry Freeze.

One day that summer we walked into the shop across the sand covered floor to the chin high counter, without waiting in a line. We were greeted by the the owner, Sam Lieberman, who often waited on customers, eager to share in the happiness that a scoop on a cone would mean. He was a creative genius with flavors and on this day we noticed a new flavor called 831. We asked him to give us a description as we tasted a spoonful on the end of a popsicle stick, the traditional taster at Marianne’s. “It’s like a MudPie, so it is coffee ice cream with crushed Oreo cookie crumbs and hot fudge swirls,” Sam said. Mud Pie is a decadent ice cream dessert invented in the ’60s in San Francisco for an upscale restaurant so it enjoyed a nod to a local treat, like Alice B. Toklas Fudge Brownie and Gilroy Garlic.

We asked Sam why he didn’t name this flavor Mud Pie and what the significance of 831 was, thinking perhaps it was the number of flavors he had invented, his birthday or the address of the store. He leaned over the counter, lowered his voice to let us know this was an important secret he was sharing with us. “It means I Love You”, the owner whispered. “It stands for 8 letters, 3 Words, One feeling,” he elaborated. We gasped and looked at each other with wide eyes, knowing we had new vocabulary to add to our already abbreviated insider lingo.

Ironically, the area code of the store is now 831, but that flavor no longer exists at Marianne’s as it did that day in the late 70’s. Today there is a caramel ice cream flavor with hot fudge and crushed chocolate cookies called 1020, which is the address of the iconic ice cream shop. There is also Mud Pie, which is coffee ice cream with almonds and crushed Oreos. Even though there is not a flavor called 831, we still celebrate the love of ice cream and our friendship, not just today, but everyday! Happy 831 to my BFF. I love you!

2020=40 YEARS

82380

I told myself I wasn’t going to say anything this year but I am taking it back. Today is the tenth anniversary of my last wedding anniversary! Aug. 23, 1980. 4 decades (aka 2 score) ago I married James William Mohler. It is hard to reminisce publicly because I have the sense from some comments that people think I am still grieving. Well, after 10 years without Jim I can say I think I will always mourn the loss of my other half, but I do not grieve in the same way as I once did. Many things are different now than they were 40 years ago. And yet some things are the same. “The more things change, the more they stay the same, ” is a quote by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr and it rivals the statement by cynical King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Change and constant are 2 sides of the same coin. Life changes but it is still the the same as each life is unique while still following similar patterns.

Forty is a significant number. In the Bible it is usually associated with testing and trials we endure as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Think about it. 40 winks is the perfect nap. 40 Below is cold (same temp both Celsius and Fahrenheit). POTUS 40 is Ronald Reagan. 40 is Ruby wedding anniversary. 40 spaces on a Monopoly board. 40 players on an MLB roster. Forty is the only integer whose English name has its letters in alphabetical order. Saul, David and Solomon each reigned for 40 years. 12 spies searched Canaan for 40 days. 40 lashes is a lot of beating. 40 weeks is a full term pregnancy. Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. It rained on Noah for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses and the children of Israel wandered for 40 years. Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. 40 Days of Lent. 40 days between the Easter and Christ’s Ascension. XL is forty in Romans numerals. WD-40 is a great product. It is perhaps debatable that there is really anything profound about the number 40 over any other number; yet it is fair to say that it is a sufficiently large number, representing an amount large enough or long enough to remove doubt, prove a point, learn a lesson, live through another generation, and confirm an established reality.

I think that summary applies to me in regard to my anniversary. I was married for half my life and it was long enough to remove all doubt that God had a plan for us as a team and I was loved by my husband. It was grand enough to create another generation or two. It was more than enough to see a glimpse into God’s eternal plan for marriage and it is still enough to bless my life for its duration. There is something that comes with age that often isn’t valued in a throwaway culture, where new is more highly valued than old. Yet there are so many things that are made better and stronger and more beautiful with years. I am one of those things – better and stronger and even more like Jesus (beautiful) because of the gift of marriage to Jim.

“My Hit Parade” (not in order) Top 40 things I loved about being married….to Jim

  1. someone to help with the chores
  2. someone to scratch my back or zip up my dress
  3. Someone to worship with
  4. Someone who knows the song of my heart and reminds me of the words when I forget
  5. someone to cook for
  6. someone to laugh at and with
  7. Someone to go places with
  8. Someone to hold my hand
  9. Someone to hold me accountable
  10. Knowing someone was praying for and with me
  11. Someone who made my tea just right
  12. Someone to go on a walk with
  13. someone with wisdom and discernment – judgment that is trustworthy
  14. someone who nurtured our kids
  15. someone who is financially responsible great provider
  16. someone to dream with and then make a plan to make those dreams become reality
  17.  someone to make memories with
  18.  someone to garden with
  19.  someone to believe in me and value me and make me a better person
  20. someone who knows me intimately
  21. someone to make music with and enjoy music together
  22. the ways you valued me and our relationship
  23. The way you loved our children
  24. The way you would wake in the night and kiss me gently
  25. The way you loved my family and friends
  26. The way you listened to me and kept my secrets
  27.  The way you reflected Jesus (PTPOG)
  28. the way you lead with integrity ALWAYS – a man of your word
  29.  family worship together
  30.  playing games together
  31. making life fun
  32.  Your gratitude – always being thankful for even the little things (clean clothes, food, ideas,etc)  so I never felt taken advantage of.
  33. Your punny humor and silly wit
  34. Your encouragement and kind words. My Barnabas
  35.  Your intelligence and creativity
  36.  Your intentionality
  37.  Your magic with its banter
  38.  My teammate
  39.  My best friend
  40.  My love

The Author of My Story

I love books. I cannot even remember what life was like before I learned to read. I remember when I got my first library card and when my mom signed me up for the Weekly Reader book club. I loved Scholastic book club at school and the chance I would get to run into Walden Books to get the next Nancy Drew mystery with my allowance. My Aunt Janie always sent books as gifts and later when I lived near her, we swapped them and talked about the stories we read. Books became friends with whom I had shared some intimate adventure. When I lived in Waukegan and worked at the library, often after work my friend and I would leave at 9pm (closing) and head over to Borders until it closed at 11pm.

In 7th grade I was allowed to write a book for my English teacher. And that was when I learned the reading books is a lot easier than writing stories! As invested in the characters I read about in other books, I found it extremely difficult to create a protagonist that I would ever want to know or a plot that captivated anyone to keep reading. You would think that I would have learned then to put the pen down on my own life story! I am a great reader, but I cannot write my own story with as much creativity and love as the Grand Story writer, God.

The Bible says that Jesus is the author and finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:2). He is writing my story, and I am promised that it has a happy ending! He has included amazing characters, written in plot twists I never saw coming, and dialogue I never would have imagined. Sometimes I have tried to edit the Lord, or looked ahead to figure out how the story will end. I have been known to pick up the pen many times and try to write it myself. Worse yet, I have even tried to write my kids’ stories or tell God what I think would be a great story line instead of trusting Him for the best story. And perhaps worst of all, I have arrogantly thought the Grand Story was all about me?! My story is NOT an autobiography. It is, rather, a biography of the Lord and every word is precisely right. Every event and subplot is a tool of His grace and each chapter advances His purposes!

I reread the chapters of life with Jim often and with deep gratitude for the the way the Author wrote it. I am so glad I couldn’t read ahead to the tragedy that came at 30 years, when Jim’s scenes moved to heaven. While I can’t say I like the way it was written I do trust the one who is creating it. In the margins he has developed my character and continues to teach me that He knows me better than I know myself, and He writes the best endings, beginnings and in-betweens (Rom.8:28). To the very last chapter I love Him and rely on Him more and more with hope and joy, as I continue to learn to put down the pen and let Him tell the old story of Jesus and His love!

Stupid is as stupid does

This is a relevant quote from the movie, Forrest Gump! I am not sure what happened to everyone in 2020 but it feels like we are definitely living in the era of stupid. Why are so many people adopting moronic behaviors? Why is it all so absurd? I know there have always been stupid people and crazy behaviors, and I have not excluded myself in all of this, but this is really getting weirder and weirder all the time! (And, BTW – I live in So Cal where we have our own fair share of mindless dweebs.) The Houston Asterisks cheat and get away with it, but a Dodger pitcher gets suspended for the equivalent of 22 games for throwing a wild pitch and making a crybaby face. The President continues to accuse black candidates of being in this country illegally and other bizarre claims. Other people think that staying home safe is a violation of their religious right to corporate worship! Others think that wearing a mask causes dental problems! What is happening?!

I am baffled by the recent barrage of memes and comments people are posting on their social media. First of all, why has faith become so politicized? I doubt that Jesus would be a democrat or a republican and I really do not believe that government is going to fix our problems. The ONLY thing that will fix our broken, fallen, sinful world is a Savior! For the record, it is my faith that does not allow me to ignore things such as the spread or risk of Covid 19, by example. I could respond to other current events in similar fashion; It is because of my faith that I submit to authorities placed over me, love my neighbors as myself, avoid usurping God’s role as Judge, and do my best to protect the lives of the vulnerable. This is why I wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, connect with others via Zoom and worship online at home. It is my desire to exemplify the heart and actions of Christ. I fail often but I cannot see angry, hateful rebellion as an appropriate answer in scripture.

One of the stupid things that is messed up is how people think that by posting short answers and comments to deep and complicated issues they will build bridges and convince everyone that their view is the best one, or that they will actually change someone’s mind! Actually, It doesn’t really do anything but cause more division; it builds a wall because no one is really open for debate. Rather than accepting criticism or another perspective, more comments are posted OR deleted. I have been on both sides of a severed friendships because I expressed a different or opposing view to a broad generalization. It reminds me of what I call the banner people (aka Jonahs). Banner people are the ones at the end of a parade or sporting event (google if you can’t remember what such public events are) who shout brimstone sermons through a megaphone or carry tall banners with Bible verses. They don’t really care to win people to their side as much as they just want to be heard and spout judgment on others, like Jonah did on Ninevah. We need to be discerning, gentle and thoughtful as we share our convictions so as to not harm our witness.

How about all the conspiracies and controversies? It seems that when systems fail, so does logic and reason! In an effort to explain away fear blame becomes contagious. So, it would seem, does all sanity! Calling something a hoax or a lie may make people feel better but also increases paranoia. Perhaps that is why people are jumping to conclusions and excusing the current administration – they too have bought into such nonsense out of fear! (Microsoft and Bill Gates using a vaccine as the Mark of the Beast?! Really?!) I agree that this pandemic has taken an already self-absorbed culture and made it even more myopic and selfish, if that is even possible. Yet, we are to have a spirit of power, love and self-control rather than one of fear! Further, gullibility is not a spiritual gift! As followers of Jesus we are to people of truth. Falling for and spreading conspiracy theories does not honor the Lord.

Stupid is as stupid does. Why does everything have to be in black and white (no freudian slip intended) God made the word in living color! Why can’t people care about BOTH Covid 19 AND child sex trafficking at the same time? Why can’t people believe that Black Lives do Matter without coming to the assumption that the statement is exclusive and red, brown, yellow, white, rainbow and every other hue are less important? Why do people assume that because Trump is a republican that he will make biblical decisions and that all democrats are in favor of abortion. And, on a side note, how can believers want to repeal the Johnson Amendment yet not want government to meddle in their hiring practices (among other things), forcing them to hire transgenders, etc.?

Then there are the people who believe that there is only one issue to consider in our country and that is the issue of abortion. I am not in favor of abortion but I am also not in favor of other crimes, social ills and policies that threaten our democracy. Additionally, I find it interesting that Republicans are willing to side with a serial adulterer and womanizer and sociopathic bully who has NO faith rather than a practicing catholic, who by adhering to his faith would be against abortion, just because he is a Democrat. Perhaps this divide goes all the way back to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and a godly man, because the religious right decided that voting republican was the way Jesus would have voted. Back in that day, the goal of the religious right/moral majority was to take control of a political party. And that is what has happened! (For the record Jimmy was in good company with other powerful and godly democrats, including Billy Graham).

While I can agree with the support of a conservative Supreme Court, I do not understand the attitude toward minorities and immigrants (which we all are, unless we are native Americans), the defense for separating migrant kids from their parents, and the push against gun control any more than I can understand the defunding of the police, destroying the postal system or denying climate change! It is all so crazy!

Then there are the issues of character. I am not sure it is a good idea for christians to excuse away the immoral character and the irresponsible words of the current POTUS, while at the same time assuming such a person is anointed by God, which I have heard said. In fact, he has even referred to himself as the chosen one! I don’t see how Matt. 7:15-20 can be justified, which warns against false prophets. And Jesus spoke often against materialism and money, whereas Trump brags about his wealth. And then he had a photo op in front of a church, holding his Bible upside down, a symbol of the occult. I just don’t get it. The unbelieving world sees our heightened hypocrisy and our sinful duplicity. The fact is that, even though the democrats have had it in unfairly for POTUS, he has admitted to to illegal business practices. He did misuse the authority of the office for personal gain and in doing so he has damaged the reputation of the country. 20 years ago Clinton did the same thing! Neither should be ignored, minimized or excused. Wrong is wrong. Character counts. But perhaps my key issue is POTUS’ cavalier attitude and mean-spirited speech. There is no rationale for such disrespectful behavior – Jesus does not tell us to stoop to that level, but to live the golden rule.

So I am at the end of my rant – for now – and will end with the sad statement I began with – “Stupid is as Stupid does”.

I reread this and I am not sure I should even post it – so it may be deleted soon! Thanks for reading.

Resilience

So one more word that keeps bouncing around in my head is resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from trials; it is the response to tragedy and crises that allows one to move on despite the loss or trauma. Being resilient to me means I have the ability to suffer greatly without giving up and grow from it. I want this to define me. I want to recover quickly from setbacks. I want to be flexible and remain pliable in tough times. I don’t want to be described as a quitter, helpless, rigid or unable to adapt. This is to be the biblical norm for christians. In fact my favorite bible verse, Phil. 3:12-15 reminds me to press on, to forget what lies behind, persevere and keep following God, NO.MATTER.WHAT.

This season is very stressful, but would I say it is the most stressful time in my life? It is heavy for many reasons but it is not even close to things I have gone through earlier in my life. I may have some tougher things yet to come, but again, they are nothing in comparison to things others go through.

Earlier I mentioned that resilience is the biblical norm and what I mean is that the key to resilience is faith in the Lord. Paul says that though “we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8,9). I do not know how things will end, no matter how hard I try. This is where my other favorite verse comes in: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” (Prov. 3:5,6).

Faith does not mean that I will bounce back more quickly AFTER trials are over. Rather, it is the belief in a God who is Emmanuel, walking with me in the storm, that builds resilience. It is the promise of a loving and powerful Savior that helps me to grow hope and live in light of eternity. It is the calming presence of a loving God who endured the cross for me that keeps me going joyfully as I rely on Him to accomplish His purposes.

Relevance

Sometimes I struggle with relevance. Being stuck inside, isolated and away from community can do that. For me, not having a career anymore has made that worse. Is this something that matters for individual people? Even though it is really important that businesses and organizations remain relevant, or useful, innovative and up with the times, I am curious to know what the Bible says about being relevant and if my irrelevance is relevant!

I cannot ever remember being part of a church family that was not caught up in being relevant. When I was 10 years old, man landed on the moon and we watched it on TV at church. When the “Jesus music” took off in the 1970’s, it was a chance to win people through music that was set to drums and guitars and sounded like songs on the radio. Then there were the clean comedians and the full length movies that showed up in real movie theaters!  There are plenty of other examples but I think you get the idea that everyone wants to be effective in context of the culture, even Christians.

By definition I am using the word to mean one thing is pertinent or practical and useful in relationship to another thing; in other words, why it matters and how it is important to the situation at hand. When looking at scripture, the first thing I think of is the sons of Issachar who studied the times and knew what to do. (1 Chr. 12:32). The other passage that is often referenced is in 1 Cor. 9:19 when Paul says he has become “all things to all people”. These 2 things seem to offer an appearance to the idea of biblical relevance and yet somehow I am not convinced that relevance is very important in the grand scheme of things. Similarly, I don’t believe that the Bible can be made relevant; it IS always relevant and all we are asked to do is show people how relevant it is! Paul really wasn’t interested in being cool or “fitting” in to the world’s mold. He wasn’t willing to sin to share the gospel. I am not trying to sound judgmental but I really find that some activities now being considered “acceptable” are simply a compromise. In fact, I have heard people talk about what they can do or don’t have to do under the banner of the freedom that’s found in Christ. While there may be a pretense of serving Christ by the use of a certain activity, when the veneer is stripped away, isn’t it really about feeding one’s appetite for the world and justifying it?

Additionally, I think the problem is in trying to be so relevant that we lose sight of reality. Instead of getting as close to Christ as we can, we are trying to look so much like the world that no one can see Jesus in us. We are more enthralled with looking palatable to the world and somehow the gospel seems to disappear or lose its primary importance. What a futile task. It is impossible to stay relevant in a world that changes constantly. In fact the only constant in life is change! New grows old rather quickly and, since we have become a people fixated on “new”, we always need something different, something greater, something better. And so we steadily spend most of our energy trying to find the latest, greatest thing instead of leaning into the relevance of Jesus. When did it become a race to see how much we can be like the world and still be a Christian? 1 John 2:15 says clearly, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” James 4 adds, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Don’t get me wrong. I spent years in student ministry studying the culture and trying to creatively share the gospel in meaningful ways. I understand that there are important cues to avoid and I know that some of the things I did in ministry back in the day would now cost me my job and maybe even my witness. I know that what works in one ministry won’t work in another. I think that is what Paul is talking about when he was trying to be all things to all people or when the sons of Issachar studied the times, but the culture does not change the relevance and the reality of God’s inerrant Word!

So the question remains: How can I be relevant without swallowing the lie that I have to be like the world to win the world, or that I have freedom to sin? When God’s people can’t behave like Jesus because they have added to what it means to be like Jesus there is a problem. When your faith prevents you from exercising your faith then something is definitely wrong! Jesus was always relevant. So how can I go and do likewise? How can I do the right thing, at the right time and in the right way relevantly?!

I just reread this rant and somehow I am feeling better. Hmm wonder if that is relevant?!

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