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10 Things I Learned from Mr Rogers November 23, 2016

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I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Which means I was at least 3 or so in 1968, when it first came on the air.  Or, um, I was three or so when I was able to watch, whenever I started, sometime between 1968 and 2001, when Mr. Rogers went off the air.  At that young an age, I could at least listen and comprehend, in my 3 or so years old way, that something interesting was on the television.  I laughed when Mr. Robinson (Eddie Murphy) came on and kind of mocked the show with a take of his own, envisioned somehow through his own neighborhood’s eyes.  But looking back now, that was kind of a sad social commentary.

Today I was reminded of the life-lessons I took from Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, when a facebook friend said, in a sad political and social commentary, that “Mr. Rogers didn’t adequately prepare me for the people in my neighborhood.”

The sad side of this is the true side.

The true side of this coin she tossed is that Mr Rogers met neighbors who were neighborly and friendly and rational.  His neighborhood had nice people:  the mailman, the delivery man, the repairman, the policeman, the chef, the neighbor.  And many other regular neighbors and guests  He didn’t meet the selfish, the judgmental, the hateful, the angry, the bitter, the unpatriotic, the terrorist.  Well, not always.  Whenever he did meet someone who wasn’t on their best behavior (I might have seen one or two puppet characters behaving badly, or he might have read a letter about how to handle someone like that), there were gentle, loving life lessons to correct the behavior, like one might have seen in Mayberry:

I think sidewalk bike riders and other law-breakers are all  the same.  It’s just the degree of offense.  When caught early, and corrected, anti-social behavior grows up to become law-abiding, society contributing, helpful behavior.  When allowed to continue, anti-social behaviors grow up to be bigger anti-social behaviors.  Sometimes it’s not a parent’s fault.  Sometimes the kid is just that sneaky, they get away with it once and then do it again, the second time, bigger.  Sometimes it is a parent’s fault.  Sometimes the parent doesn’t offer any corrective words when appropriate, or other measures, when they may be appropriate.  A kid sometimes picks the wrong people to be friends with.  And sometimes, it’s just the kid growing up to be a worse version of their parent(s).

This is about to be a gentle, political, rant.  There’s a little x on the top left of your screen, you can click it now if you don’t want to hear it.  If you didn’t like my comment about parenting, or about your innocent, sweet little hoodlum, you probably won’t like the next sections, fair as they may be.  [x].  Before I upset you.  I’ve thought this out and so any responses will be appreciated, but not necessary.  If you like it, fine, if you don’t, also fine, but critical remarks will not be acknowledged.

Clinton said a lot of good things about her plans for America.  She has experience in the political arena and is used to brokering deals with foreign authorities.  The deals haven’t always been great for America, but she did what she did in the service of her country, and even Trump acknowledged her contributions and labors for America.  She also has a history of involvement in several scandals, from Watergate to Benghazi-gate to email-gate to the illegal trade of $400M for four out of 8 hostages being held by Iran.  The trade, though illegal wasn’t as bad as the trade of 5 Afghani Taliban terrorist prisoners for one deserter who shall be nameless because his name isn’t worth mentioning.  All these scandals were known to Democrats and they still couldn’t offer us a candidate  worth voting for.   Those who voted for her felt the scandals could be overlooked in the interest of promoting a candidate who had experience and could continue the mode and policies of the present President.  Like the bike riding kid, she got away with a lot of things, from way back in the 70s, and possibly earlier, through to recent history, earning reputation, power, and fame, and it only grew until she was the Democrats’ pick for President.

Trump said a lot of good things about his plans for America.  While not particularly politically savvy, he has experience in the business arena and is apparently a good deal broker.  The deals haven’t always been great for the other side, but Trump seemed to come out all right, so if he’s dealing for America, for all of America, maybe he’ll make us come out on top.  He also has a history of difficulty controlling his mouth.  He’s brutally honest, he talks $#!+, he thinks he’s THE $#!+, as the saying goes.  If he doesn’t like you, you know it.  If he likes you, either you’ll know it right away, or the tape will be released after it’s too late to choose a better Republican candidate.  He’s a little bit of a primate.  If he thinks you’re hot, he’ll let you know.  And apparently, some well hidden women, at least hidden or kept quiet until it was too late to choose a better Republican candidate, finally told America that Trump liked them a LOT more than they liked him, and took it upon himself to demonstrate those feelings physically.  We hope they were just a political ploy to divert votes to Clinton.  It would be disappointing, but not surprising.  Those who voted for him felt the stupidity could be overlooked in the interest of promoting a candidate who promised to NOT continue the mode and policies of the present President.  Like the bike-riding kid, he talked a lot of sass and got away with it from real estate to Miss America to Trump University, earning reputation, wealth, power and fame until he became the Republican President Elect.

You may have guessed, rightly, that neither one of these two were, in my opinion, the best candidate for President.  But the Electoral College has spoken, presumably, and Donald is headed for the White House.  Neither of these two candidates would have fared well if people had paid attention to some lessons I learned from Mr Rogers.

10)  There’s a yellow flashing light right at the beginning.  If you paid attention, when you grew up you might remember it.  And flashing yellow lights mean to be cautious, and pay attention.  In my opinion, voters threw caution to the wind when voting for either of these two.  We Americans should have exercised more wisdom, greater caution, in selecting our candidates from both parties.
9) The next thing you see is a sign that says “Hi.”  Even though you’re cautious, be friendly.  In the theme song at the very beginning, Mr Rogers reaches out in an offer of friendship.  Even though he’s asking if the listener will be his neighbor, the song conveys an unspoken offer, that the singer will be a neighbor, if the invitation is accepted.  Our candidates traded volleys of insults, verbal jabs, rude interruptions, and if we were looking for a person offering friendship, these two don’t measure up.
8) “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s clear and bright or rainy and cloudy or grey and snowy.  The rain provides drinking water, never a bad thing.  The rain also helps plants grow, to provide food.  The snow also provides water for the earth, and the cold makes the best bread flour, and otherwise gives the earth a season of rest.  The clouds protect us from solar radiation.  And bright sunny days help our emotions, and provide vitamins, and are catalytic for plant growth during warm seasons. And we’re alive, and if we’re neighbors, we have each other for support and encouragement.  That’s how it’s supposed to be, anyway.  Our candidates and our media were all overly critical of what was bad about the candidates, instead of talking about whatever good things there were to say about them.  Even at the local level, the campaigns were so negative it was difficult to choose because every ad for every candidate I watched only talked about how bad the other guy was, and not about the good things they stood for.  I strongly disliked the negative campaigns.  I want to hear what you stand for, not what you stand against, and I want to hear what makes you a good candidate, not what makes the other person bad.
7) Mr. Rogers puts away his jacket in the closet.  We’d all do well to put away our things when not in use.  I lose things all the time, when I don’t put them where they belong.  He also takes off his shoes, or his rain boots, and puts on house shoes, to avoid tracking in mud or dirt from outside.  These habits minimize cleanup.  Not putting away now, when it takes a second, leads to a mountain of cleanup that takes a long time to process later.  Same with correcting behavior- earlier is much easier than later.  We voters need to see the dirt early and choose clean candidates, like clean shoes, and discourage the muckraking that always seems to shade the last stage of the campaigns.  Disclosure and not coverup would give us the cleanest possible candidates.  If you did something bad, unless it’s habitual and you have no intention of changing course, you should confess it, change course, and then do your best.
6) After hanging up his clothes in the closet, he gently closes the door.  He doesn’t leave it open, to be in the way, or slam it in anger.  There was so much anger from both sides of this campaign, if those two lived in the same house there would be nothing but doors slamming.  Hillary wanted to slam the door on anyone who wanted to know what she had really done, which was all of us, and Donald wanted to slam the door on anyone who didn’t believe his campaign promises were realistically possible, which was all of us.
5) While changing shoes, one shoe is playfully tossed into the air from one hand, and then caught in the other hand, with a slight smile near the end of the song.  Ordinary things are what we have, and there’s no reason not to enjoy the ordinary things in life.  If you don’t enjoy your ordinary things, and you don’t enjoy your ordinary life, and do the best you can with the ordinary, you’ll never experience happiness, the surprise of success with simplicity, of honor with humility, even if life gives you more.  I struggle with this lesson.  But I see people who don’t get what they want and they throw a fit in protest, like the kid who lost his bike.  Sometimes in life we hope for better, we hope for more, and life gives us the ordinary to see if we’ll still celebrate.  Trump said he expected to win, and wouldn’t say how he would react if he lost the election.  Clinton was far more gracious in loss than I expected Trump to be. But I hear Clinton supporters being far less gracious than their leader. I also hear about Trump supporters being less interested in building a team, and more interested in gloating. If we’d paid closer attention to the way the candidates spoke, about themselves and about their opponents, we might have done things differently. We voters should look and listen, carefully.

4) When Mr Rogers had a guest, his guest was special.  Did you see what happened, starting at 12:27, and up to 12:33?  Even the fish were special.  “And very beautiful.”  Not just the fish, but the people too.  Mr. Rogers loved the arts, and music of all kinds, and wanted us to know that behind the beauty of the music, were beautiful musicians.  Starting at 14:25, he met the quartet of talented musicians, lovely ladies.  He spoke to them respectfully, and treated them honorably.  This, Donald Trump, is how you speak to, and about, ladies, whether you’re on the record or not.  This, Hillary Clinton, is how to win elections, and how to broker better deals.  No scandal is necessary from a political official.  Only gentleness.  Occasionally firm gentleness when it’s called for, but gentleness.  This, fair candidates, is how you act, and react, when in a position of power.  Did you see Mike Pence’s reaction to being called out for standing for what he believes in?  He was gentle. He took no offense.  Mr. Trump:  do it like that.  Did you even hear one word from Clinton’s running mate during the campaign?

3) Mr. Rogers taught love for everyone.  It was love infused with truth though.  When someone acted improperly, the puppets, usually, Mr. Rogers let them know how what they were doing affected other people’s feelings, and asked them to think about how that would look and feel if it were someone affecting them.    I wish politicians did that.  I wish military leaders, and other people in power, would do that.  I wish criminals would do that.  I wish vandals would do that.  People hurt other people because they are selfish and they don’t care about anyone but themselves.  They want what they want and aren’t thinking about anyone except themselves.  We all need to think about how what we do will affect someone else.  But more than think about it, we need to let those thoughts shape what we say, and what we do.  We have a responsibility to do what we can with what we have to make the world a better place, not just for us, but for everyone.  That is the very essence of truth and love together.

2) Your feelings are OK.  As I said before, people who voted for Trump were worried about Clinton.  People who voted for Clinton were worried about Trump.  It’s OK to feel your feelings, but it’s not OK to let your feelings  motivate reprehensible actions.  It’s OK to voice your concerns calmly and rationally.  Maybe someone else hasn’t thought things through well enough to realize how something might hurt another person.  If we understand other people’s feelings, and we care about other people, we will try to act in such a way as to not deliberately hurt others.

1)  We shouldn’t live for the big moments in life, because they might never come.  Clinton, devastated by losing, is now regrouping and demanding a recount of the votes to make sure she’s fairly treated by the electoral college.  She’s living to be the President, still.  But look at her running mate.  He’s gone back to work.  He’s doing it right.  It’s the little things that add up to the big things.  If you wait until something big happens, you will not be in the right place because you didn’t work at the little things and get yourself moving in the stream toward the big things.  You’ll be left on the riverbank, because you waited and didn’t get in the stream and start swimming.

0) People sometimes make mistakes.  Well, I sometimes make mistakes.  Like ending up with 11 items on a top 10 list.  When people make one mistake, after making it right, at least after apologizing and making it clear the mistake won’t be repeated, maybe the person who was wronged can forgive.  And when I make a mistake, I want to be allowed to learn from it and continue, after making course corrections.  But anyone who doesn’t learn from their mistakes needs natural consequences and friends who will tell them they’re on a bad path.  And needs to be restricted until they learn from their mistakes.  Like the boy in Mayberry whose smart dad sold his bike.  Otherwise he’d have sold out his own father, so who else wouldn’t he hurt as collateral damage in his quest for chaos and power?  Clinton has one scandal after another.  Trump has scandals too.  Those patterns of behavior make neither one my choice.  But in the spirit of the other lessons, and this one,  I’ll do what I’ve done for each president since I learned to do it:  Pray.  I will pray, because our elected leaders need protection, wisdom, and servant hearts, to do their jobs well for all Americans.

Pride and Predjudice and Christ-Followers April 4, 2016

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I attended an adult Bible study today, and I really enjoy how thought provoking it is.  Today the discussion surrounded the historic Jezebel, with our starting point at Revelation chapter 2,

18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds,your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

We chatted a little bit about the way the world seemed to be headed, and what an appropriate voice might sound like for the church.  One of our classmates was asked by her child, “What’s porn?” so she fielded the question as best she felt it should be handled, with an age-appropriate answer.  The child had been watching a television show that made a joke about a guy watching porn.  So the class discussed this in the context of Jezebel’s sexual immorality and the warning to the church at Thyatira.

We live in a time when Christians are supposed to be tolerant of everyone else and nobody seems to have to be tolerant of Christians.  What are we supposed to do?  Well, let people do whatever they want and shut up, seems like the world’s answer.  And, “deeds, love and service” sound like great and commendable works for any church, don’t they?  Except, what kind of deeds?  Love for whom?  Service to whom and for whom?

James taught about a “religion that God accepts:”  James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Our class had a discussion weeks ago in which I noticed Ephesians 4:15, where Christ-followers are instructed to “[speak] the truth in love” in order to grow.  If truth and love are in balance we’ll be balanced in our approach to the world.  Ignore love and we’re hammering people over the head with our truth: you’re a sinner on your way to hell.  Instant turnoff by the non-believer. Ignore truth and we’re not doing it right either, and people will flock to hear you tolerate, accept, even embrace, their sinful choices.  And without repentant hearts, people will end up in hell because we didn’t teach the truth, that there is such a thing as sin, but God loves us and wants us to repent (turn away) from our sin and toward Him.

It’s commendable to seek not to be polluted by the world.  This was the sin of Thyatira. They tolerated, embraced, and adopted the behavior choices of the surrounding community that were contrary to God’s intent for us.  What’s a Christ-follower to do?

Sinners are going to sin.  And sinners don’t like it when their sin is pointed up to them, and called “sin.”  In the modern era, sinners want their sin to be tolerated, accepted, embraced, even celebrated.  Sinners want to be proud of their sin, not be told it’s sin.  So we have parades and television celebrating and proudly proclaiming sinful lifestyles.  If a Christ-follower says anything they  are “bigoted,” “intolerant,” “hateful,” “judgemental,” etc. We’re told from our own Bibles, “judge not lest ye be judged.”  Essentially, the answer a sinful world has for a Christ-follower who points to sin and calls it sin or calls it evil, is to shut up.  And the world doesn’t say it that nicely.

I’m afraid they’ve got a good point though.

The world wants to be proud of their sins and they want Christians to stop teaching the Bible and sharing our beliefs about what sin looks like.  The world doesn’t want us to believe  the Bible, and if they want to shut us up they use our own Bible, selected passages, to shut us up about the passages that make them uncomfortable.

Are Christians really any better?  Sure our eternity is secure.  But are we teaching only the truth and committing the sin of a certain modern church that likes to bash certain people and tell them God hates them?  Are we teaching only love and tolerance and committing the sin of Thyatira?

I’m afraid Christians have given in to the sin of pride, on both errors.  Some Christians are proud of their knowledge.  These Christians are proud of their piety.  These Christians are proud that they have found the way to eternal life.  Some are proud of their love and tolerance.  I think both are wrong.

Christians need to lead the way with a new humility.  Because, are we so far removed from the sin we used to live in that we can’t understand its’ appeal any more?  And, are we blind to the sin we currently harbor?

The antidote to pride is humility.  If we confess our sins, not only is God “faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness,” but I think it’ll cause a revolution in the world.  They see us as “holier than thou,” intolerant hateful people because we think we’re better than they are.  We’re not, Christians.  We’re just as human.  We are holding onto our pride like a security blanket, and we need to shed that.  Nobody is going to listen to anything we have to say until we confess our sins to each other and admit to the world that we’re not that different from them, we just know where we’re headed when eternity calls our names.  When we admit that, I think they’ll be more likely to see our examples and be more apt to listen to the rest of what we have to say.

If we’re proud of ourselves, the world has no reason to pay any attention If we’re just saying “God loves me,” and “God loves you,” without any other instruction, like why Jesus was killed as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, ourselves included, there’s no reason for anyone to turn from whatever is their favorite flavor of sin.  And if Jesus is still in the tomb (He’s not) then no one has any hope at all.  But since He’s not, we’ve got His message, His truth AND His love to share. If we’re not saying there’s a better way and it’s God’s design, while admitting we’ve failed ourselves, we’re not that different than Thyatira.  If we’re saying God hates one sin any more than another, then we’re blind to our own pride.  I used to be so proud of myself.  Smug idiot.  I’ve got nothing but my  hope in Jesus, and my realization that He paid the debt for my sin.  A life of imperfection, thinking I had it right, blind to my evil character that I thought was good.  I’m not different than any other sinner in the world. God hates my sin just as much as he hates anyone elses’ sin.  I’m nothing to be proud of myself.

So that’s my humble confession.  I was smug and proud and judgemental.  But I know I have nothing to be those ways about, I’m no different, not really any better than anyone else.  God hates my sin just as much as anyone else’s sin, but He loves me in spite of myself.  And He loves you too and wants you to realize what your sin is, whatever it is, and then turn away from it and ask Him to forgive you.  And in spite of myself, I believe Romans 5:8 is written about me and the world:

 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’m a sinner, but I’m not proud of it.  Just saved by the grace and love of God.  I’ve asked for forgiveness and I realize I’m still not perfect, in spite of the teaching of certain denominations.  If I call myself perfect, I’m lying to everyone.

I’m sorry, to the people of the world, I can’t keep it inside.  I have to speak it:  Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

I John 1:

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

I bet in your heart, if you’re honest, you know the difference between right and wrong and know your life isn’t perfect enough, holy enough, or pure enough to get into a perfect, holy and pure heaven.  At the expense of my pride, I confess that I’ve failed to be good enough to earn a place in heaven.   There are people who think higher of me than that, but it’s just not honest.  I’ve got my eternal ticket, but it’s only because I admitted my failures and because God is rich in mercy and grace, and He extends it to the humble.  If we’re proud of ourselves, or proud of our sin, or blind to it, He won’t show us favor:

I Peter 5:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith…

 

I think if we clothe ourselves in humility, not just to the “one another” of fellow Christ-followers, but to everyone, people in the world might look a little differently at us, instead of just telling us to shut up.

“Prophesy! Who Hit You?” March 17, 2016

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Luke 22 is the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, and also revealed the disciples’ spiritual blindness.  While they argued over who was the greatest disciple, Jesus was being set up. Jesus knew.  But the disciples never saw it coming.

My spiritual blindness has never been questioned: Exactly like the song goes, “I am blind, and I don’t like what I think I see.”

My career path evinces my blindness.  I can’t get on a career path because I don’t know the direction to go to get somewhere productively happy.  Which also means, the people around me are blind too.  They don’t know how to help me.  And I don’t know what to ask for.  I have a job, and I don’t know what direction to go.  People tell me to “just” get another job, which sounds so easy, and makes me depressed because for me it’s not.  I’ve tried to find a job while I have a job, but the people I’ve talked to and interviewed viewed me as at best, second best for their opportunities.  At the same time as I really need “a job,” I really want a job I like.  What I want to do is write.  And use my spiritual gifts, and my education and training.  And be used by God to do good things.  And bear fruit for eternity.  And, like everyone else stuck in this present reality, take care of myself and my family.  And I’m a dismal failure at getting on that path.

Yesterday two things happened.  First, something happened to me maybe a year and a half ago, and it required money I didn’t have to fix.  I don’t want to get into the graphic and gory details, so I won’t describe the event.  At the time, it was something that could be fixed, I was told, pretty easily, but it would require an expensive process and I couldn’t afford it.  But I prayed, I trusted, and I waited in hope.  At the risk of exposing a root of bitterness, this has become, over time, a real sticking point with me spiritually, because I trusted in God, and waited for the money.    And I prayed.  I’m still waiting.  I was still praying.  Yesterday that situation, which I have been waiting in hope that God would provide what I needed to resolve, just got worse.

From the prophet:
Psalm 22: 8 “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”

And from the crucifixion story:
Matthew 27: 43 “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

Why would I expect God to help me if He didn’t even help Jesus? Well, because in the plan of things I think Jesus could have had the help if He had asked for it and could have backed out of the divine transaction, but he submitted because of the huge implications for eternity.  But for me, it’s just something I need.  It’s not a life saving miracle, it’s just a process I need to be done that now requires even more money to be done right.  I’ve already burdened my church and they’ve helped with other things.  I wanted God to answer in a more sustaining way than I’ve seen in the last few years, and there’s the sticking point.  That was what “I wanted.” In the grand scheme of things, it’s not about what I want.  But I also read that God hears and answers prayers, so I was just hoping.

Also, yesterday, adding to my already depressed state, it appears I was passed over again for something else I was hoping might happen that could possibly help me, in a life and spirit sustaining kind of way.

I’ve researched and found a poem/song I wrote for Easter back in 2013.  I wrote it trying to be hopeful, in a season when hope is hard to believe, much less find.  But it came to mind yesterday while I was processing my perceived emotional slap in the face.  It expressed my heart then and now, so I’m re-posting it here:


Maranatha, 10/27/2013, Michael N. Johns

It’s been one day that He’s been dead.
I saw Him on the cross.
The spear went in, His heart then bled,
And all my hope was lost.

He said He would be with me,
Until this age would end.
Promised we’d do greater things.
And broken hearts would mend,
But He’s gone.

It’s been two days that He’s been dead.
We laid him in the grave.
We wrapped His body, and His head.
Who can a dead man save?

He said He would be with me,
Until this age would end.
Promised we’d do greater things.
And broken hearts would mend,
But He’s gone.

It’s been three days that He’s been dead.
It’s almost like a dream.
What were the words that Jesus said?
I’ll be back soon; you’ll see.

We went to say our last goodbyes,
With perfume for the body,
I almost could not believe my eyes,
As angels greeted me

We thought we’d see his body
A cold, dead sadness,
Instead they said, Go in and see,
Fill up your hearts with gladness,
And find hope.

Two thousand years since He’s been gone,
It’s almost like a dream.
What did He say as He went on?
I’ll be back soon; you’ll see.

He sent us out to teach the world
His love, His hope, His story
I believe He will return
He’ll be back soon; you’ll see

He said He would be with me,
Until this age would end.
Promised we’d do greater things.
And broken hearts would mend,

He promised me.
I will see.
I believe.


 

So that’s it.  I won’t get into the details of me being passed over again, but it happened yesterday adding fuel to my raging emotional fires.  I partially processed the events last night.

In my spiritual blindness, not that I’m worthy to be compared to the central character of Luke 22, I felt that I was being slapped.  Except, unlike Jesus, I can’t answer the question of Luke 22:

63 And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and hit him.64 And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy!  Who hit you?

I used to have a much sharper spiritual view.  I knew.  But when you pray, and you pray, and you pray some more, and the only answers are further breakage of things that could have been repaired, that now just need to be discarded and I can’t afford replacement, and being ignored and passed over, again and again, by people I trusted and thought had my best interests at heart, the view becomes much more clouded.  In the past, I’ve been pretty naive.  I really try to be trusting and think people will do what they say they will.  I’ve learned, over time, to get certain things in writing.  But I’m not in a current situation where that makes any difference.  I’m currently where I am, looking for the exit ramp that leads somewhere better.

It’s not that my situation hasn’t improved.  It has.  I’m better off than I was a year ago.  It’s just been very slow.  I still can’t fix what’s broken, I still haven’t stumbled across the answer God surely must have already arranged and provided, and I still can’t take care of my situation for now, so it has to get worse before it’ll get better.  I thought I needed an answer, but I’ve heard a deafening silence, or worse, spiritual platitudes about whatever overly simplistic “just do this” answer, or “encouraging” Bible verses my would-be encouragers have discouraged me by providing.  Or worse, the circumstance has gotten worse because I couldn’t fix it sooner, and I still can’t fix it.  Like yesterday.

So just ignore me, you should have stopped reading already. Maybe it’s temporary.  Maybe it’ll be fixed tomorrow.  But honestly, right now, I feel as ignored by God as this guy is by the girl he loves:

I’m just in a spiritual and emotional dark place.  Again.  I feel very irrelevant.  I feel like nothing I do really matters. I feel that what I do could be replaced and done by someone else, or maybe if it wasn’t done, it wouldn’t make any difference. I feel irrelevant to God, and everyone will want to tell me I matter to God, or to fix it for myself as if I had the wherewithal or the stamina.  (I’m sure I do matter to God, only just not enough to answer my prayers yet, and not the way I thought I needed them to be answered.)  Irrelevance is dark.  I’m spiritually blindfolded.

Who hit me?  Prophesy!  Because my spiritual eyes are darkness, and my smoldering wick feels very much like it’s being snuffed out.

I wrote this not anticipating any answers, because although I wrote it about me, it’s not about me.  It’s about God’s answer to my faith.  It’s just another dark season after another dark season.  Will He answer in some miraculous way, or will He answer with more waiting, more silence, more unanswered crisis points because He knows I should be able to handle whatever evil the day has in store for me?  He’s not obligated, and neither is anyone else.  It’s nothing any different or more special than any other thing anyone else would pray about.  Life struggles are common to everyone, and we just have to endure and walk through I suppose.  But it is growing very dark for me again this year and yesterday’s events just added insults to injuries.

Will He answer in some sustaining, fulfilling way, or will it be the same minimalist response like my ongoing doldrums?  I don’t know.  I know that the minimalist responses are probably, minimally, enough.  I was just hoping for abundance, but I can’t even fix or replace what’s broken because I still can’t afford it.  Something else, that seems about 2 or 3 months ahead of a sustainable schedule, breaks and spends the reserves before they’re built up enough to take care of what I need.  Last thing was the cars.  I don’t want a next thing.

Say it:  I’m naive.  I still believe.  I still hope.  And I’m still waiting and praying.  Don’t you dare write a check. I’m not asking you.  I’m asking God.  And the answer I need is something sustaining, not a one-time thing from some poor charitable schmuck who’s a sucker for a sob story.  I need the thing, the Divine answer, that sustains and provides to fix or replace needed things, for the normal wearing out life does on everything and everybody.  And leaves behind enough for me to help the next person looking for a charitable schmuck.  And I also need the fulfilling thing to do to keep that sustenance going, that goes along with my talents, education, training, and experience.  I just haven’t found it.  “I wish I was special,” but I’m not.  If I wanted a one-time answer, I’d set up on gofundme.  And FYI: “God helps those who help themselves” isn’t in the Bible.  Unless you’re a politician.  I think at least one of the candidates probably believes that.

Valentine’s Foolishness With Words: Ovation February 18, 2016

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Hello and welcome to “Foolishness With Words,” the blog where I take a concept and tickle it to laughter and utter senselessness.  Today’s word is “ovation.”  Ovation, you all know, is a spontaneous outpouring of applause.  What you may not know are the limits of my folly as I dissect such a word.  Fair warning.

Here is the definition from Dictionary.Reference.com.  I took the word, thinking it would work like gestation (the process of gestating, to gestate) or like oration (the process of orating, to orate), and thought, until I looked it up, that ovate might be the root English verb.  If it followed the pattern, ovate should mean, “to applaud.”  But no.

Ovate means “egg shaped.”

But the roots of ovation, says the website above, are:

Origin-   from Latin ovātiō rejoicing, from ovāre to exult.

Anyone else looking at ovāre and seeing something a little too similar to “ovary?” Hmmm. ‘haps I wasn’t far off in drawing a parallel.

I love eggs.  Are we supposed to celebrate the egg, or the hatching, or the hatchling?  Or, the chicken.  Or, the female in general, whatever the species?

I didn’t write anything for Valentine’s day, but if I did, it would be something celebrating my favorite female, my wife.  She’s the best, the pinnacle of God’s creation, and if anyone is worthy of a standing ovation, it is she.  When we’re all treating each other nicely, I celebrate her, and her “hatchlings.”

(Also, I celebrate that she’s not egg shaped, but rather, more complicated.)

Keeping Up With the Jones’ January 8, 2016

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Keeping up with the Jones’

The Daily Post prompt for today inspired me to think about the one luxury thing I would love to have but can’t afford.  I’d like a full-ride college scholarship for my kids, including tuition, books, housing and meals, at the college of their choice.

There are a lot of other very practical things I’d like, but if I had to pick just one that would be it.  If I didn’t have to pick one, I have a whole list: First, I need some dental work.  The new dentist gave me an outrageous price tag to fix my teeth after disparaging my former dentist for their outrageous price tags.  And that was before the teeth cracked after the 40 year-old crappy fillings fell out.  Best practice would be implants, but that’s a lot of cash.  Maybe I’ll just have them extracted.

I could afford to help a lot of people struggling more than me if I won the lottery.  I’m not extravagant, and I can’t picture that really changing.  I find the whole famous spending money because one can far too incredibly boring.  I’d just help out at the local food pantry and homeless shelters I think.  My friend Deon wrote about his wish list here, and frankly, if I don’t win, I hope he does.  I think he’d probably foot the bill for my teeth, it’s part of why we’ve hit it off, aside from being ideologically very close. Almost like we’re brothers, although I only have brothers-in-law.  He contrasted practical spending and investing vs. having stupid money and being stupid with it.

The PowerBall Lottery is currently sitting at $700 Million, which is a lot more than the meager $42 Million I frequently daydream about.  I’ve read about people who won fabulous jackpots and were stupid with what they won.  On the news today I was not really paying attention because I had to get out the door and get to work, but I thought they said some guy won a big prize and then got arrested for dealing drugs.  I hope I heard that wrong, but there are a lot of idiots in the world.  Sadly, I’m afraid I heard it right.

It’s been suggested that a lot of money and liberty only increases how bad a person is, and if the drug dealer and that Gentleman’s Club Church Guy are case in point it may be true.  But maybe it could increase how good a person is, by increasing their sphere of influence.   Maybe there’s one noble person out there who can win, instead of another Jack Whittaker of West Virginia.  I for one would love to see that.

Or even better, be that.  That is, if I were more noble.

I have no concept, not to mention any plan for how to spend $700M.  I only figured out the first $42M.  But I’d love to dream, from the warmth and nitrous oxide filled micro-atmosphere of the implant surgeon’s chair, and start to figure it out. Here’s my favorite song full of daydreams about the lottery, by the awesome Lin Manuel Miranda from his brilliant musical, “In the Heights.”

January 4, 2016

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I sat in church for the first Sunday of the year, yesterday, and feel this so bad it hurts.

THIS!  This is what I want for the new year.  Dear God, please,
“Wake me up inside.”

“…Call my name and save me from the dark
Bid my blood to run
Before I come undone
Save me from the nothing I’ve become

Bring me to life

Frozen inside without Your touch
Without Your love, Darling
Only You are the Life among the dead.”

One of our pastors spoke in his own simple eloquence, about us determining whatever it is God wants us to do and who He wants us to be.  I know the answers to those questions, what I lack is the inner life to do it, to be it, to live it.

I feel dead inside.

I feel frozen inside (no Disney jokes, or songs, PLEASE).  I’ve become less than worthless, I am nothing, I am negative.  I look backward and see chaos, madness, sadness, destruction, sin, loss, debt.  I look forward and see the labor required to dig out, and it’s hopeless.

I admit it.  I did it to myself.  Partly.  I starved myself spiritually, only having the meagerest of snacks maybe every other day, but I knew I was missing out on the banquet.  I did it to myself because I feel kind of abandoned by God.

Say it all you want, if you’re one of those conservatives you’ll believe that if I feel the abandonment, it’s because I abandoned Him.  That may be true.  That the spiritual “snack” was there at all says maybe God was there sustaining me through the spiritual “drought.”  Or maybe like Cain from Genesis, I offered what I thought was the best I had to give, from a heart that was as good as mine could be, and still felt rejected.

I’m going to try something different today.  And maybe, this year will be different.  I’ll let you know, if I live to tell about it.  If He is “the Life,” maybe He’ll share.

On the positive side, I feel “only mostly dead,” which, if you’ve ever seen The Princess Bride, means there’s hope, but “it’ll take a miracle.”

Oil On Jesus’ Feet (Sort-of-Humor) December 9, 2015

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From Wikipedia:
_________________

Spikenard, also called nard, nardin, and muskroot, is a class of aromatic amber-colored essential oil derived from Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the Valerian family which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. The oil has, since ancient times, been used as a perfume, as a medicine and in religious contexts, across a wide territory from India to Europe.

The Bible contains several references to the spikenard, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
_________________

In John 12, we have a beautiful picture of the sacrifice made by a woman who loved Jesus.  The custom of the day was to wash and oil one’s feet, as the environment could be dusty and dry.

In this instance, the scented oil was very expensive, but there were more common oils available in the day, especially olive oil.

When you drop any oil onto water, it floats.

This could explain how Jesus performed the miracle recorded in Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6.  We’re not told if Jesus was wearing sandals.  If you were going into the water, most of you wouldn’t wear foot gear.  But He would have to have perfect balance to not break the surface tension of the water.  And he would have had to know Peter oiled up his feet too.  With Jesus as the focal point of Peter’s experience while walking out there, Peter had the necessary concentration and balance, but when he took his eyes off of Jesus, he immediately sank and Jesus had to rescue him.

I’m joking but there’s a practical application.  I’m not going to try that in any literal way any time soon.  I’m not well able to balance on flat earth, much less on the water.  And my eyes aren’t well enough focused on Jesus for me to match Peter’s experience.  But I am going to try to be better focused and more spiritually balanced in the new year.  It’s coming quick.

How well balanced are you?  How well focused is your spirit?

Sachem’s Head November 25, 2015

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Yesterday I watched the Thanksgiving story as told by the animated cast of Peanuts. It was a harrowing tale of miraculous survival against all odds, a story of friendly Native Americans who shared their land in an effort at peaceful coexistence.  A lovely, sanitized story appropriate for children.

Today I learned about Sachem’s Head in a fascinating reading while surfing about the history of our own Thanksgiving feast.  Sachem’s Head is the name of streets, a yacht club, a region in Connecticut and a region of Massachusetts, etc. Connecticut, there’s an ironic state name in view of the history.  I used to re-read and mispronounce it re-read it as “Connect, I Cut.”  Sachem’s Head is not just a location, but a proud admission, a proclamation, a warning.  Sachem’s Head tells a cautionary tale about trusting others.

We are more progressive than we used to be, but not as progressive as we think we are.  In the history books Sachem’s Head was never taught to me.  But Sachem’s Head, depending on which state you find it in, either belonged to Pometacom, or to Canonchet, Native American chiefs.  And the tale confesses that English settlers, or at least their leaders, couldn’t be trusted.

Sachem was the title given to the Native American leaders.  And as for these two, Sachem’s Head wasn’t a territory but a body part.  Their heads were removed and set on pikes by the English settlers.  One of them, on public display, according to the story, stayed out for 20 years.  I’m certain this was a display of power, and a warning to any who might potentially have vengeful souls.  Such as the children, who were sold as slaves, or their children.  So who were the “savages” of the story here?

I also want to know why the name “Sachem’s Head” is still being used by the people of the northeast United States.  It’s a term of barbarism describing those who overpowered the barbarism of the locals who used to live there.  This story is a pretty well written, if one-sided, description of the events of those days.  It depicts men and women fighting for religious freedom, land, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  And I’m not talking about the English.  And the name “Sachem’s Head,” especially when applied to some rich people’s land or club, smacks of an elitism I’m not sure should be so proudly hailed.

THAT BEING SAID…

I’m not sorry that I live in America.  I’m a patriot who loves this country, and our freedom to be and to do and to say and to believe. I believe our cultural progress is a thing to be proudly hailed, the ignominious “Sachem’s Head,” and other historical errors notwithstanding.  Could that conflict have been resolved peacefully?  I have no idea; I wasn’t there.

Could any of our conflicts be resolved more peacefully?  I have no idea.  It’s just possible that the history books, written by the winners, will skillfully omit those grim and gory details and leave us with names like Sachem’s Head, without the memory or the meaning behind them.  When I first looked for Sachem’s Head, I didn’t find the history.  I had to dig to find the meaning, because the name itself has been sanitized and now just refers to the locations, and the clubs.

I’m embarrassed that socially accepted slavery existed so long in this country.  I’m embarrassed that in American history, peaceful natives were forced to convert by the sword to a foreign religion, to foreign customs, to a foreign language.  I’m embarrassed that  other, some even highly promoted or encouraged, socially accepted aberrances continue to this day.  Cat-calling of women, for instance.  Bullying.  Child abuse.  Spouse abuse.  Greed.  Selfishness.  Simple theft, and a more complicated form of theft, also called “business acumen.”  And by the way, “business acumen” might very well have been used to describe our treatment of the native Americans back in the late 1600s, other slaves, minorities of all stripes, and anyone who is by wealth standards considered “poor,” or powerless.

I’m considered “poor.”  It’s because I don’t want to fight.  Like the peaceful Tisquantum I’ve worked for beans and tried my best to help others.  And here in America, there are people who have come along beside me to help me in my times of need.  I’m very grateful that help is available here because in other areas of the world, that help would not be given for the asking.

I keep seeing on the news, the petty squabbles and unnecessary death and the subsequent social unrest and grief.  I keep seeing the trouble caused by people with over-inflated concepts of their own self-entitlement.  None are as big as my newly discovered Sachem’s Head scandal, but I hope the contexts serve as cautionary tales to people.  I’m not going to mourn things that happened far in the distant past, but I’m going to learn from them.

I don’t want to take home these lessons:
1) you can’t trust anyone (alas, I already believe this in bitterness of heart)
2) lock your doors and consider purchasing a gun while you still can according to our rights under the Second Amendment.  I had a chance to shoot a .22 at a recent Boy Scout camp.  8 of 10 shots were in the bull’s eye, the other two, close enough to kill if I were shooting a live target.

Please, people, let’s be civilized.  We Americans are supposed to be “one nation, under God, indivisible,” but instead all I see is every man for himself.  Be like Tisquantum and bring something helpful to the table this Thanksgiving, to share with society.  And if you’re one of those people with “business acumen,” please realize we only win if we all win.  I realize it depends on your definition of “all,” so let me help you understand if you don’t:  I’m part of your “all.”  And your neighbors are.  And every other American citizen is.  So let’s help each other win.

I suppose I could be rich if I were a fighter, or if I were self-entitled.  I could have a respected position, or title, if I pushed for that as part of my own agenda.  Or, I could be a martyr to my cause and find my own “Sachem’s Head” on a proverbial pike.  But we’re too progressive to actually hang someone’s head on a pole to display our power.  At least I hope we are.

Love and Terror, Heroes and Villains November 18, 2015

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Puff Pastry- is this my first actual recipe posted here? November 6, 2015

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OK maybe its not the first recipe, but it’s the first one I wouldn’t tinker with if I do it again.

I made an enormous batch of Pastelitos de Guayaba for my son last night.  He’s doing a presentation on Cuba for school and wanted to offer some kind of food from Cuba and my wife suggested guava puff pastry.  I’ve never made that before so I made a trial batch and then after learning some things from experience and from asking my mom, I did the final product.  I made two batches the second time around.  It turned out beautifully and filled two full sized cookie sheets.

The trial batch wasn’t neat.  The oven was not hot enough and the pastry not cold enough, I learned from my mom.  There were a wide range of recipes available, with temperatures ranging from 350 to 400 F.  So in making the first tray at 350 F, it didn’t puff right, the butter was melted everywhere, not properly trapped and distributed inside the pastry.  I handled that, and then turned up the oven to 400 F to finish the baking process and it puffed OK.  In the end it wasn’t terrible, but the second two trays made me very happy.

The recipe for one tray is:

5C Bread Flour
2T Salt
2C Water
1 Lb Unsalted Butter

1 package of guava paste – the other recipes said guava jelly could be used, but it’s not firm enough to hold up under baking.  14 oz was enough.

Simple syrup:  3/4C water, 1/2C Sugar, boiled for about a minute while stirring until the sugar dissolved and cooled

Egg Wash: one egg, 1T or less of water, stirred thoroughly with a fork.  I beat mine like I would a scrambled egg.

For the pastry:

Mix bread flour and salt.  Add water and stir.  The recipes I read called for a mixer with a dough hook but I only have meat hooks (my hands) and a well-used wooden spoon.  The dough is done when it forms a nice ball.  I kneaded it just enough to get all the flour mixed in.

Flatten the butter as best you can, to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness, and make an envelope of dough around the butter.  Roll this out to 1/2″ and fold into thirds.  Chill 10 minutes.  Recipes I read said to repeat two times.  I ended up folding mine four times, chilling in between each folding.  I used extra bread flour to allow the dough to continue to be workable.  I also used a marble rolling pin because it’s colder, to keep the butter from softening too much.  Each time you fold, you should get a better rectangle.  I improved with practice

On the last roll-out, after I chilled the dough I rolled it thinner, maybe 1/4″, to make two sheets of pastry, each the size of my cookie sheet.  I divided the now-enormous sheet of rolled out dough and sliced it with a pizza cutter to make my two sheets.

I sliced the guava paste pretty thinly and covered the first sheet evenly with the pieces.  I cut the 14 oz block into quarters and then each quarter into 12 slices.  I used a paintbrush with water on the exposed pastry, and placed the other sheet of pastry on top.  And chilled the whole thing about 20 minutes.  Some recipes add cream cheese, I did not but that would be awesome.  You could also put a pinhole over each piece of guava paste.  I didn’t and it was fine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while the pastries are chilling.  When the oven is hot and the pastry is very cold, brush with the egg wash enough to coat, and bake 25 minutes.  At 25 minutes, pull the pastry carefully out of the oven and brush with the sugar syrup, enough to coat.  Don’t worry about the puff, it’s supposed to do that.  I have a lot of syrup left over, and I had some egg left over after making both trays.  Bake an additional 5 minutes to evaporate the water and leave behind the sugar coating, which makes a glaze and adds an additional sweet crispness.  I waited overnight, some recommend waiting at least 15 minutes for cooling, to slice the pastry.  My son needed 100 servings, and I got 96, slicing the two trays into rows of six by eight seemed practical.  The last four servings came from the first batch, which turned out OK, just not as pretty and probably not as buttery and flaky.  I used a meat cleaver so to not scratch my cookie trays.  Just trust me on that, a knife scratches, a cleaver (probably) won’t, or won’t scratch as badly.  The recipes I read that had cream cheese showed making individual pockets, with a pinhole on top of each one to vent, but I didn’t do that.  I just cut it where it needed cutting after baking the whole thing, and it was fine.  If I had discrete bundled cream cheese topped with guava, I might have done the pocket technique to keep the pockets from separating too much.

MMMMM, sweet success.  I normally don’t exactly follow instructions on a lot of recipes, throwing whatever I need into them until it looks right, but this, I’d do exactly the same every time.  Mom says a recipe is a “good place to start.”  And then she tinkers with whatever.  But the cold pastry dough, the hot oven, all worked perfectly, and the pastry puffed and glazed beautifully.  I might not use a whole recipe just for family of 4, but for 48 people this amount was just right. Next time, maybe just a half-batch…