What A Friend

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.”

I read a lot of commentary on God. Fear God. God will get you. God punishes. The Bible talks about the punishment of God. Those seeking a power base build on this concept. They may be correct.

I just have a difficult time with it.

I have been around for awhile. I was named Dennis and along with it the world picked up on “The Menace”. The reinforcement for that attitude as a person was more than simple peer pressure, it bordered on expectations.

To be honest, I have been human all my life. I have studied Jesus, the Bible, many of the other religious writings and companion discussions on life is. I have been active in church, I have preached, I have sung in the Choirs and led worship. I am old enough for reflection and have come to a conclusion. GOD need not punish. HUMANS, given enough time, are more than capable of punishing themselves.

I have not been the perfect human. Far from it. I have been Dennis. My parents took me to Sunday school. I even took myself to church. I write Christian music and have for 40 years +. Even though I studied GRACE, Even with the knowledge of the Jesus story, Grace is a noble idea but it does not always bring a warm fuzzy to the past. The man in the mirror sees the past. The past is not always what it should be. AND IT IS WORSE WITH THE BURDEN OF KNOWLEDGE. If I knew nothing about Jesus and the story I could sit back and have excuses. I have discovered that I can punish myself much more thoroughly than God could, and much deeper.

What is a key to grace is the text above from the song of the same name “What a friend we have in Jesus.” A friend.

Love your neighbor as yourself”. I have discussed the weakness in this assignment in the past. To love your neighbor as yourself requires you to love yourself. It requires you to be able to look in the mirror and with all the knowledge of your life that stares back at you from the mirror one needs, more than all things, is the shoulder to cry on to find forgiveness for yourself.

“What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

One needs to reach out to Jesus and GOD for forgiveness and know that GRACE begins at home for you to forgive the you. We, who believe in Jesus and the Jesus story have been given the privilege to do that by the knowledge of the life of Jesus. And more importantly, it is our gift to use it for ourselves.

My conversations with my friend Jesus and subsequent prayers with God is the healing affirmation that God is disappointed in me..”The Menace” but God took the measures to set the story straight and share that privilege with me. The mere fact of the story, the reaction of the disciples, the drive of those who shared the journey with Jesus after even denying knowledge of a relationship with him, it was all done that we may have that friend that we can share with. And share that knowledge with others. And heal.

If you find yourself in that place where punishing yourself becomes too much with all your sins and griefs to bear , God, through Jesus, has provided an avenue of help.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow”.

Today is a new year. A new beginning and a new outlook. Take advantage of it and share that knowledge with those you know who may be helped by it.

God Bless.

Change Happens

Change Happens

Change Happens

The mysterious “they” say that moving is the most stressful thing you encounter in life outside of illness. Having just recently moved back to Iowa from El Paso, at a point in my life that may be considered a bit later in life, I would have to agree. I have relocated a number of times in my life and the moves do not get easier. The only thing that I recognize as common in all of these moves is the friend that always moves with me.

Jesus. Not Jesus the co-driver, but Jesus the driver. Any physical move, when analyzed, has so many elements to cover all the bases and somehow the bases get covered. Whether through relationships, housing, location, meals, help, people. Hotels and gas stations. Somehow, there comes through it all a time when you realize that it has taken much more than you yourself, to make it happen. The planning, the preparation, the opportunity and the support needed a helping hand.

I was not the hand. The preparation and the pre-planning took many years for the pieces to fit. Yet with all of that, everyday is still just day one. The future holds nothing but secrets. In all of that I am fortunate to have a driver that requires but one thing from me, faith. When change happens the opportunity to talk with my driver over a cup of coffee becomes the greatest of gifts. Persistence is the mirror of faith. Jesus promises to be in the thick of things for all who call on him for help. There is no need of bartering or making deals. Jesus comforts me when I am tired and sleeping. Jesus is always doing things to fill in what appears a gap, until you realize that the gap has always been the project in the in the background and you could not conceive of it.

When change happens do not be afraid to discover Jesus. 2,000 plus years ago a substantial amount of sudden change occurred to a somewhat well regarded carpenter in Jerusalem. Many people told of his miracles. Many told of his compassion and his caring. Many journeyed far to simply see this man and maybe even see if he could help them with change. They believed that he could help. They believed that the change he was bringing would change their lives forever. As he drew closer to the ultimate change he explained how he handled change.

He said, when you pray, pray this way,

“My Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy WILL be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses (I like to think humaness)
As we forgive those who have trespassed against us.
Lead us not into temptation (For God understands your humanity, its pressures and enticements
But (when we are tempted and human) deliver us from evil.
For thou art the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.

AMEN

Jesus had discovered already in his life that he had to have had a mentor through it all. And he told his group of followers to take time and have that conversation with their spiritual connection. Because CHANGE HAPPENS. And when the time had run it’s course and he was offering a tremendous sacrifice to so many he did not meet, who were left yet to be born and live their lives and are challenged with Change often, his conversation with his people was about his relationship with his ultimate mentor:

“Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me…” 

My greatest gift I have ever received was my friend and Mentor, and navigator and my guide, Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth. Change Happens. Too often the tendency is to go it alone.  Take every opportunity to share it with Jesus. He never tires of hearing from you…..

THE SERVANT SYNDROME

THE SERVANT SYNDROME

What I have learned the most from my ‘relationship’ with Jesus, the Christ to the original followers, has been the idea of coming to the table as a servant. Not a King, or a Boss or a buddy or even so much a friend, as it rings more often ‘A Servant’.

It has built an issue of servant-hood that that has been more focused on it’s relationship to others vs it’s relationship to yourself. Servant-hood that ignores yourself as one worthy of attention, pours energy out in buckets, but energy in gets barely a drop-or two.

Being in a mindset to do unto others at the expense of your own needs for yourself is as harmful as any particular evil you may corrupt yourself with. The accomplishments you may make in your servant-ness to others is not always a source of a full cup for yourself.

The strong focus of servant-hood needs to be balanced by a determined effort to include your own wants, needs, and desires. A father absorbs the joy of a child’s excitement when you do things together, but watching a child struggle without your help does not fill your own soul. In the same way I have to recognize that the same GOD which Jesus calls Father, does not want the journey in this place Earth to be lonely and one sided.

In the BBC series “Downton Abbey” the lives of the servants were as much a focus of the writer as the relationship of the servants to the masters. An ‘empty’ servant needs to keep their own needs as a personal focus to enjoy the journey rather than emptying the cup before it gets around to the one in the mirror.

I do not believe that this life journey was ever designed to ignore your own needs or your own journey and the many, many gifts placed at your own feet by your “Father” in Heaven. I think, too many times, we set aside the direction that GOD has planned for us, to create a journey for ourselves that we feel is proper and acceptable to GOD, i.e. A Servant.

If you see this in yourself, be the servant for yourself once in awhile and begin enjoying the life that GOD has prepared just for you. Enjoy the hobby, the meditation, the sport, the people and the journey. A Father does not help prepare his children to have the best life that he feels they will enjoy, to watch them change the plans out of an interpretation that means only be a servant to others. LOVE believes that loving yourself and serving yourself is equally as important as loving your neighbor. After all, one of the lessons we often learn is written “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Too often I think our focus on Serving only others leaves us in a position where we do “Love our neighbors as ourselves” which lacks the knowledge of what Love is all about. Loving ourselves by servanting ourselves gives us that comparison to know what true Servant-hood means. Servant-hood should not be a task that we are charged to do, but one that has knowledge of what being a servant means to others, by what it has meant to you.

For me, the guitar in the corner is not meant for the value of the guitar, it is a tool by which I can serve myself as much as others. Loving yourself by teaching yourself that measurement, will help you truly “Love One Another as Yourself.”

Lyle Says..

GOD’s Mentors create actions. Such was a conversation I had the other day with a couple of workers in a testing center. We were discussing the rush rush of everyday life and how it seems that much is missed during it. I related a story of one of my mentors, Lyle.

Lyle was a neighbor and a great friend I had about (many) years ago. Lyle worked as a guidance counselor at a state hospital dealing with recovering alcoholics and had done so for 20+ years. In addition his faith was Methodism and I would refer to Lyle as a Christian. We had stopped for coffee one day and Lyle was somewhat distant, immersed in thoughts. I asked him what was going on.

“The great diet that I have been on and I have lost a lot of weight, has been liver cancer. It appears as I have just a few weeks before it wins. As a 12 steps counselor I find I have been going through all the steps. Today denial gives way to acceptance.”

I chose to spend my time with Lyle on  morning walks with Lyle during the ensuing days. I will never forget one of the last days. We met outside and were walking around the neighborhood. I asked how he was doing. “It is interesting, Dennis. The greens have never been greener, the roses never more fragrant….”

Not too much later Lyle passed away at 53. We had shared a number of great moments together. Leading a summer parks ministry program, and retreats. He got me to begin thinking and that ended up with my launching Unorthodox Christianity.com some years later when the internet took over the universe.

So I was sharing this story with the two workers during a lull in their testing and no one else about. THE RUSH RUSH OF EVERY DAY. I mentioned that it got me to thinking.

“What do you think is the worst possible thing that you could ever hear from GOD?”

I went on, “I hear and read lots about GOD’s judgement. I hear how judgmental GOD can be and how strict and difficult GOD can be to those who do not ‘toe the line.’ So I have developed this scene that better describes what Lyle says and I believe that developed from this incident. I image that I have passed away and am in whatever place one passes away to. I have lived most of my life as a human being. I am fortunate to be one of the few who knows what GOD looks like. GOD has a big dent in GOD’S forehead from the many times GOD has struck GOD’s forehead and has said, “Dennis, you have done it again. I had made all the plans necessary to answer your prayer and you have changed your direction and now I have to start all over again.” The truth is that GOD started over again, next to me the whole way. Providing new mentors, new friends, new jobs, and more education. On this day, I am now at GOD’s spiritual home. I have been invited to have coffee with GOD and I go in. I reiterate:

“What do you think is the worst possible thing that you could ever hear from GOD?” 

GOD sits back in the chair and asks me a question. “You know Dennis, I have not been to Earth for some time now. Tell me, what does a rose smell like on the first bloom of spring?”

I look back on my life and think. “I am sorry, I can’t say I know.”
God  shakes GOD’s head and says, “That is so unfortunate, for this was your only opportunity to find out.”
There was no hell or damnation. There was no screaming or hollering. There was a simple truth. I am ready for GOD, because Lyle says..’The greens have never been greener and the roses have never been more fragrant…… Stop and smell the roses…Lyle says.”

Today those ladies know what the roses smell like on the first bloom of spring. Feel free to share this story with your friends, Facebook and any other encounter. These are the messages all of us are given to share. We are the spokespeople for GOD. We are the mentors.rose-3756985_960_720

 

Happy Mother’s Day

It’s been over 20 years now since I have been able to say Happy Mother’s Day to my MOM. Since I have been fortunate to have other MOMS in my circle of friends and relatives there has been no lack of people to say it to. Yet, your MOM is a special commodity.

Mom was not perfect. Unfortunately (or very fortunately) she was born human. GOD (LOVE) knows she tried. I remember MOM teaching me to iron because she got exhausted with all my changes of clothes. She taught me how to make sandwiches, because she knew (and probably hoped) that the days would come when self sufficient would be important. She was passionate about politics and she taught me about people and the structure of the true politics in her view of the world. She could not offer wealth, but she offered something much more important, encouragement. There is a saying I always attribute to my mother, “Dennis, no matter whether you like it or not, always eat the free food.” Truly she meant more than food placed before me at the homes of friends, relatives, even guests.

She meant the foods of relationship, caring, friendship and love. She meant “Never be discouraged by the gifts of life that are not always perfect. Enjoy each gift and be grateful for the opportunity to share of your own. Do not let unrealistic expectations tarnish your gifts. Appreciate the opportunity to treat others as mentors and learn from them, the rights, the wrongs, the passions, the fun, and be grateful for the opportunities when your perspective has confronted loss.

I am grateful every day knowing that the spirit of my MOM is available and around whenever I need it, whether requested or simply appearing in a remembrance. Be sure to acknowledge those about you today that give, share, and partake of a Mother’s Love on this special day of the calendar year.

Enjoy the day….. dennis

Free Will – NEVER FREE

I read this the other day from a posting person that I admire . “Christ says we are made to serve Him and allow Him to make the choices in our lives.”

The first thing that came to my mind is a story I tell about my relationship with “GOD”. I know what “GOD” looks like. There is a large bruise on “GOD’s” forehead where GOD’s palm has struck the forehead as “GOD” utters…..”Dennis, you’ve done it again. I had it all planned out and coordinated and now you change the direction of your life…”
The choices of GOD are not always so apparent that my choices coincide with “GOD’s” plan for me. My favorite poem talks about ‘The Road less traveled.” Why do I so often settle on the road less traveled?
Because “GOD” has never failed me in my choices. “GOD” mentions after saying how I have “Done it Again, Now I have to rewrite the plan I set up for you the last time.” Right, or wrong, the journey takes many twists and turns. This is not news to “GOD”. Perhaps “GOD” is pre-aware of the directions I will take and the design of my personal tapestry has already been prepared for the seemingly new direction I am moving in, which “GOD” has been aware of since the beginning. I have been allowed a second chance.


Each one of us is the architect of our own individual journeys. Often times the choices are less than wise, but always based on events within our own lives or compared to that of others. Where we do not always do well at predicting our own future, GOD can. The tapestry that surrounds us is too complex for us to sort. Consequently ‘free will’ often gets the best of us. How many times does GOD come across this over the history of the universe and the entities that reside there?
Have you made a mistake? Many? GOD understands what you even cannot see.

“Forgive them…..they know not what they do.” This is a quote from the GOOD NEWS.
Jesus brought a new perspective on GOD that we today call “GOOD NEWS”. It has never been FAKE NEWS. ‘FREE WILL’ comes with challenges, and is never “free”. Whether others judge you or not, you judge yourself. If you never judge yourself, your actions have their own judgements. Free is never free. A poor concept to extend.
This is where “Forgive them, Father…” comes from. The harsh Father who theoretically casts out the lost from the path to eternal life has given us an advocate. Jesus. A Jewish carpenter from a town called Nazareth.

“For they know not what they do….”

Those calling for Jesus’ Crucifixion did not know much more than they were told what to say in the middle of the night by armed advocates.
(At the risk of censure, our politicians perform about as well as the disciples did, and they theoretically know ‘the rest of the story’. )
Knowing “What A Friend I have in Jesus” and His stance on forgiveness does not make the mistakes free, it makes them forgiven because whom amongst us has not done things that “we know not what we do” or the repercussions as a result of our choices. For those mistakes will never be “free.” Not to me… And at some point in time our stewards will discover how not “FREE” their decisions have been. But they are understood and forgiven by one who lived the reality of life on Earth. One who has seen the powerful place self before others. Somewhere in a book I read years ago it is said the “The meek shall inherit the Earth.” Perhaps because only the “meek” shall survive the”Powerful.”

“FREE WILL” is a lie. Our actions cause reactions whether we like the results or not. It is to me, in those moments, reassuring to know that 2,000 years ago a mentor of mine pleaded for my forgiveness even in the place where I judge myself. And He will do that for me forever. “What a friend I have in Jesus….”

By Example

“You lead me along the right paths, those of your own choosing, that I might serve you there. Even now, this very day, you are preparing the future before me, even in the presence of my enemies. Your word and your example strengthen me.”

In my world of Unorthodox Christianity,  Jesus becomes my Example, not by his divinity, but by his perseverance. I remember a sermon given on a retreat that was based on a very simple concept. “Isn’t the blood of Jesus enough?”  I don’t need divinity to sway my opinions, I need example. Mentorship has always been about example. Jesus’ example was to follow the teachings that he had been given over the years via the mentorship of those that GOD (LOVE) had placed before him for that very purpose.

“Even now you are preparing the future before me…”  He had a unique vision of his place in the journey of the world and that future was based on an all abiding faith in LOVE. If only all of us could learn from his example. Not fixated on the Cross but abiding in our own resurrection. His example of persevering on through the challenges of life in spite of setback (in his case quite extreme, as was the result for many others) becomes my example when the hardship that I perceive in mine pales by comparison.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled for thou are with me…….”

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord (LOVE) forever.” 

Who has GOD led you to be a mentor for? There is no coincidence, just a curve or right turn along the way. Why else do you think your here? Your spirit has been given eternal life, use it wisely and, yes,  it will be challenging. Appreciate it and you will be blessed beyond your own belief. Not by “divinity” but by being led by example.