The Mighty Pen

A few days ago, my hubby and I met with some friends at a restaurant. Most of the conversation circled around firearms, but then it turned toward other subjects such as the riots, and other issues and controversies of the day.

Soon the conversation turned toward social media.

One mentioned how he doesn’t always agree with what I write on Facebook. He considers responding, but ends up leaving no comment. He said my posts are so well written, anything he adds would look stupid by comparison. “I simply don’t know how to write with as good of grammar as you do.”

Aside and disclaimer: this is not meant as a braggadocios post, but something else, which I will explain further.

I quirked by head at him and said, “Huh. I never thought of using good grammar as a weapon before.”

“That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “A weapon.”

Another piped up with, “The pen is mightier than the sword after all.”

The problem with some cliches is they often become so common, they take on a certain abstraction with no real-world value people can use in their daily life. I’ve used the pen versus sword phrase before in previous posts, usually to say that we need to ever be aware of every word we speak or write. They can tear people down as easily as they can uplift.

Yet I still never considered writing well (having good grammar) as a weapon to the point people wouldn’t want to engage—feeling inadequate to the task.

in some ways I was gratified by the comment, but it also made me sad. I never want to intimidate anyone with my skills. I want them to be inviting and informative so people will engage, even if they disagree. Sometimes especially if they disagree. I would rather look like a fool for a moment than a fool forever because I didn’t take the time to listen and learn something new.

I get it though.

I like to sing, and love to belt out tunes while in my car or alone in the house. I may even be fairly good at it. I also don’t know how to read a single note of music. I couldn’t distinguish a B from an A to save my life.

If a professional singer asked me to do a duet, however, I would have to politely decline. I’m simply not skilled enough—feeling inadequate to the task. ‘Tis better to sit in the corner and not engage.

At the same time, by not taking up the invitation, I deny myself the benefit of the singer’s skills to possibly improve my own.

Sure, in some instances I like the idea of wielding my grammar skills as a weapon, but I prefer to wield them to teach and edify, but mostly as an invitation to discuss ideas and learn from others.

A Harsh Rebuke

Mark 8:33: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (ESV)

I often wonder what Jesus felt at that moment. Knowing his life would soon end, was Satan tempting him to stay? Was the rebuke as much for himself as for Peter?

Curiosity aside, when God does something that goes contrary to everything I want or think I need, I argue with him. I beg him to change his mind. Intellectually I know God will always do what’s best, and that I will never, ever win an argument with him. Still, I continue to try. He doesn’t rebuke me as harshly as Jesus did Peter, but I wonder if perhaps he should.

Or, maybe it’s not God who needs to rebuke me, but me who needs to rebuke myself and Satan for muddling my heart and my mind with the things of man to the point I can’t focus on the things of God.

It’s easy to do. We are finite creatures on this earth. We have our daily struggles and distractions that to focus on God’s long, eternal view can be near impossible. We lose sight of our trust and faith—whether it’s due to our worries, our doubts, or our pride. Perhaps a combination of all three. We have to remember that even when we get lost, God never does, and he never loses sight of us or what he wants to accomplish through us.

When we feel lost, we have to remember and speak Jesus’ own words: “Get behind me Satan, for my mind will not be set on the things of man, but on the things of God.”

What Would Jesus Do?

That was a popular question few decades ago, further popularized by the acronym WWJD. It was a simple way to get people to think before they act, and with the hope they’d make the right decisions. It fell away rather quickly for many reasons, one of which is, can we really know what Jesus would do in any given circumstance?

That said, if I created a poll that asked: If Jesus were alive on earth today, would he wear a mask? I’ll bet the results would be an even 50/50.

The fact that our opinions would be split on the question means we’re asking the wrong question, and our motives for asking are improper. It’s placing Jesus in the middle of an argument and asking him to take sides so we can point to the opposition and say, “See? You’re wrong!”

Sure, no one that I know of has asked this particular question, but they’ve asked others (such as would Jesus be a Republican or a Democrat; would he approve of turning people away at the border; etc.). I also wouldn’t be surprised if people have thought of this question and just haven’t asked it outright yet.

Regardless, Jesus won’t take sides, because this is a human question, not a godly one.

Some might at this point say, “Aren’t you assuming to know the mind of God here? How do you know he won’t take sides? This is an important question!”

Sure, for us. Not for Jesus. Whether or not people wear a mask does not determine the health of their soul. Jesus won’t assume that someone wearing a mask knows and follows him anymore than someone not wearing a mask doesn’t know or follow him. Eternally speaking, the question is irrelevant. He will, in the end, ask, “Is your mind, body, and soul right with me?”

So what’s the point of this entry? Is it about masks, what Jesus would do or not do, or something else?

We’ve been in a frenzy about a virus to the point of obsession for the last four months. No matter where we go or what we do, it’s literally in our face. We can’t escape it from the news, from social media, and at every gathering (online or in person), it’s too often the main subject of discussion.

I think we need to stop and return (or keep) our focus to Jesus, because no matter what—whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, virus, or disease that’s about to destroy our body, he’s still in control and—both figuratively and literally—has our soul well in hand.

Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:2-3 (ESV)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Heavenly Treasures

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

I’m a technophile. I am always looking for the newest gadget. A while back at lunch I drooled (figuratively speaking) over a fellow restaurant patron showing off a gadget that turned his phone into a projector. He caught me staring, but I didn’t care. It was cool!

When Christmas season gears up (no pun intended), we are flooded with advertisements of the newest gadgets and toys that no one can live without.

And I am tempted. I don’t need any of it, but I excel at convincing myself otherwise. The purchase might satisfy me for a while, but then what? If I die, all those gadgets will end up at a second-hand store, given away, or tossed in the trash.

We like to think we’ve evolved, but we’re no wiser than those who came before. We simply have better tools (and toys). Like those Jesus preached to in Matthew, I’m so busy collecting worldly treasures, I’m not collecting heavenly ones.

What do heavenly treasures look like, anyway?

It could be giving money we would otherwise spend on toys to more useful causes, or using our talents to glorify God more—to name a few. It boils down to what we choose focus on: the shiny stuff of this world, or God and his will.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

No Bad News

I think we can all agree social media and much of the Internet can be a toxic place. It’s where we vent, argue and too often call each other nasty names—all without having to accept any consequences thereof.

We also have the choice to either not participate, or offer something better.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to offer something better.

Over the last few years, I’ve written short devotions for my church (about 300 words or one page each). Some are pretty good—if I say so myself—and there’s nothing stopping me from sharing them with the rest of you.

The surest cure for emotional and mental toxicity is emotional and mental positivity. While some of you may not share my faith, I promise nothing of what I share from now on is an attempt to preach at or convert you. My only desire is that you find a little joy and hope in my words.

Consider my page from now on a no bad news area.

Shout It Out

I doubt anyone in this country has never heard the phrase, “Separation of Church and State.” It’s often attributed to the First Amendment of the US Constitution in that no church can interfere with state policy or law. It’s been used to eliminate any religious activities or symbols on public property, including prayers during public events (such as school football games). Some have even gone so far as to tell anyone appointed or elected to public office they must leave their religious convictions at the door. Others use the phrase and the First Amendment to mean that we have a freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. Amazing how one little word can change the entire meaning of something, isn’t it?

Yet anyone who’s ever read the Constitution knows that phrase is not there.

So where did it come from?

When our country was in its infancy, many had questions about what the new government had the power to do or not do. One of those concerns was religious freedom. In England, only one church was recognized by the state, and those who wanted to run for any public office were required to be a member of said church. Some churches, in this case the Danbury Baptists, were understandably concerned how they and their members would be recognized by the US Government—if at all, and if they would continue to enjoy their freedom to worship as well as take part in public/state policy-making.

In 1802, they wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson looking for those answers.

Jefferson responded in part: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ʺmake no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,ʺ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” (Emphasis mine).

Both letters can be found here:

Many Christians (especially conservative Christians) hate the “separation of church and state” phrase, because—for one—it’s wrongly attributed to the First Amendment. The second reason I mentioned above in that it’s used to stifle religious freedom and expression instead of protecting it—especially in the public square to the point some politicians are using it as a religious test for governmental appointments (which is also unconstitutional and goes against what Jefferson said in his letter).

So why do I bring all this up now? Simple. Have you notice that no one is using it anymore?

I believe it’s because government has—for the most part—finally succeeded in shutting them up and shutting them down. They’ve no more reason to bludgeon us with it.

As such, if we want to keep our churches open and free, we need to quit balking at using that phrase and shout it from the figurative rooftops.

Because that “wall of separation” not only means—as the phrase has been used for at least as long as I’ve been alive—that no church can interfere in government/public activity, it also means the government can’t interfere in any church activities. That includes forcing them to shut down down completely or holding services for only a certain number of people.

It’s not enough to say closing churches is unconstitutional anymore (whether temporarily or permanently). It’s become so cliche that it’s background noise that won’t even invoke an eye roll. Now, if we say it’s a violation of separation of church and state, that might make their ears perk up a bit.

In short, it’s time to play by their rules and use the same words they’ve used against us for so long.

Christ’s Mandate. What Is It?

I recently commented on a thread in Facebook about how we as Christians are responding to current societal and political issues of late. They are as varied as one can imagine: from accepting any and all governmental orders, to fighting tooth and nail for our constitutionally protected freedoms. Almost every single one uses different scriptural references to back up their point of view.

No, this isn’t about whether or not the Bible is rife with contradictions.

Nor is this post about politics (so you can relax).

It’s about our mandate as Christians, and to answer the question: does God expect us to create heaven on Earth?

My answer:

Many Christians keep making the same mistake some of Jesus’ followers made: that he came to overthrow human kingdoms and begin a new, literal and political kingdom as well as a heavenly one.

Some think our mandate is to make society look how we think Jesus would want it, when in truth the “Kingdom of God” is within all of us once we become one of Jesus’ followers. We are the kingdom, not government, not countries, not society as a whole. Our mandate isn’t to change the world, but to bring Jesus to those who need him, so that they themselves may be changed.

A Good Day

This blog is supposed to be about my life, my journey, specifically my writing journey. As most of you figured out quite early, my writing journey adds up to less than 25%. The other 75% focuses on religious philosophy and raving rants when life doesn’t go my way.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I’d like to do a pregnancy photo shoot with her and her husband. My response was probably more excited than it should have been. Any opportunity to see anyone other than my husband and son and my coworkers, though, that was something to be excited about, however “over-the-top.”

It didn’t matter to me that we saw no sun, endured a few scattered rain droplets and 48-degree temperatures. The only upside weather-wise was little wind. The point was being outside and doing something different with different people.

Admittedly I was a bit nervous. When it comes to photo shoots I have little experience. I only got paid once to take some family photos for a friend a few years ago. I once helped with a wedding and family reunion, but so many others also took pictures, mine didn’t shine when compared to everyone else’s (nor did I get paid; in both cases, I was helping out a family member).

All-in-all, the photos turned out pretty good this time around, although I still have some editing to do. I should have kept my eye on the settings, because a few turned out a bit blurry. But, that’s how we learn, right?

That wasn’t the end of my good day! That morning before I left for the photo shoot, I received a text from another friend asking if me and my son would like to do a one-shot D & D. Like I was going to say no?

I decided on a human monk as my character. As a monk, I not only had lethal punches, but I could punch as many as four times per turn. The last bad guy I punched in the face at least a dozen times total before I finally knocked him out. Even though I didn’t physically punch anyone, mentally I felt like I had. There was something cathartic about it.

Hey, women can have aggressive issues, too, ya know.

When my son and I returned home, I couldn’t park in the driveway, because two other cars had parked there. I didn’t care, because tell-tale smoke billowed out of our grill and engulfed my husband and two of his guests. That meant steak. Delicious, char-broiled steak. That I had already eaten supper at the D & D get together didn’t matter. There will always be room in my belly for steak. My son agreed, so we shared one.

We and our two guests sat in the garage to eat our steak and solved all the world’s problems in the next three hours.

Spending real, face-to-face time with so many others for such varied reasons is what made my day, and made it worth sharing with the rest of you.

Small Crises

I experienced a bit of a crisis earlier today that nearly drove me to literal tears. My pastor sent a church update that said in part:

Q: When will we meet face-to-face again?

A: No one knows. Montana just announced a three-phase opening. In phase one, churches can gather with no more than 10 people present. Phase two allows churches to gather with 50 or less people. Phase three has no restrictions. My sense is that it will be months before we can gather for worship face-to-face again, with a strong possibility of more seasons of isolation to come (emphasis mine).

I honestly wanted to scream after reading that. Not weeks to go back to fellowship, but months and more isolation to come?

It was then I realized not only how much I miss going to church, but how much I appreciate and need the fellowship that goes along with it.

Yes, my church posts online sermons on Sundays, and will start offering online classes. But it’s not the same. I “attended” a live online Easter service with my son, but while a good service overall, it made me sad. I doubt I can watch more. The online courses are the same way for me, so why do something that only makes me angry or sad? A part of me wonders if I should quit entirely. After all, what’s the point of attending or supporting a church that’s no longer a church except via computer screen? It’s cold and disconnected, and that’s not real worship or fellowship to me.

I was thinking on my way home today that once my church finally returns to normal, and I decide to continue to go, I will still be angry for a long time afterward. None of you need to guess as to why; I’ve made my position clear on all of this.

One could sat that God is aware of the limits we’ve been put under, so in no way do those limits limit him.

All true, and I can’t argue against it.

One could also say I’m being petulant, and I can’t argue against that, either. Yet I must also acknowledge my feelings—whether or not they’re rational or justified—before I can move past them.

Now that I’ve splattered my emotional brain vomit all over your screen, I will admit to something that happened a few minutes ago. While writing this entry, I researched the online classes available so I could mention them here. Turns out none have started yet. Instead, the link led me to a signup page with a poll asking what type of class I’d be interested in—along with a request to facilitate one.

Guess what God whispered in my ear when I saw the request to facilitate?

During trying times like this, God often asks us to be part of the solution, and I am not exempt from appointment no matter how much I mope (or maybe it’s because I mope?).

Dang it.

Motivational Asides

Some like to create controversy. It boosts their readership–clickbait if you will. While I like to see as many readers and comments as anyone else, since I don’t receive any funds from the number of clicks/reads I get, I can’t really claim clickbait status.

When people click on my Twitter profile, this is the first tweet they see:

“I use Twitter to comment on politics, culture, and religion. I’m opinionated, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I like hearing differing points of view on varied subjects because I want to learn.

“I always appreciate civil discourse even if we disagree in the end.”

I also like to give my point of view on subjects with the hope it’s different enough that people will stop and think about it, maybe even do their own research to discover whether I’m right or full of [censored] (believe it or not, it’s been known to happen. Occasionally).

Do I hope to change minds? Absolutely! Do I expect it? Nope–as frustrating as that can be at times.

In talking to a friend recently, I mentioned how I may have lost a few friends online due to all my bloviating of late. I don’t know for sure, because I don’t keep track, and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

That was a lesson hard learned, honestly. We all want to be loved, respected and heard. When I was a wee youngin’, friends were difficult to come by. While I have some guesses as to why, only when I reached my twenties did I figure out that love, respect and a listening ear can’t (or should) be forced. I have to freedom to choose whom I will love, respect and listen to, so how could I ever believe everyone else didn’t have that same freedom?

So while I like to share my opinions–however controversial–and be heard, I also want to give as many people as possible the same opportunity–even if I disagree.

Part of being heard is to listen, so if you’ve waded through all my rants of late relatively unscathed (or scathed, but waded through anyway), you have my undying love and respect. And, if you walk away from this entry with anything, I want you to know that you have also been heard.