It Was Written For Me

   The Bible is an interesting book. I pick it up and read a passage and set it down. I go about the day. Then I pick it up and glance quickly at what I read before to center myself on where I was reading to move forward and then notice something about what I had read before. It seemed I missed some of it before. Then I realize that what I missed was the fact that what I had read before was written specifically for me. I notice a picture generated in my mind’s eye that had me in it. It was a lesson about me. I read it over again and find myself face to face with my Lord. And I apologize. I become convicted by my humanity. I missed the part about me.

You see, I am the prodigal son.

I entered the world and became my surroundings. I learned many things and have had thousands of mentors. I have been taught and I have taught but I have also overlooked so much of just who I am. Improvement cannot be a theory, it has to be an action. Jesus calls us out for a new lifestyle. Jesus challenges us to better ourselves every day. Jesus even tells us how. By example, and by His teaching.

What is the most interesting, though, is that I am not discussing a one time event, or even an occasional event. It is every event. There are elements of me, from today or from the past, the stories are written just for me. Either about me, who I have been, or where I should be going.

Asked once about how to quit smoking one day I replied, “The easiest way to quit smoking is not to start”. The book is a constant reminder of what to be, and who not to be. The book shares faith and the book shares challenge. The book shares conviction, and the book shares the results of actions. I never feel fear, what I feel the most is concern. I may worry about my daughter, but what worries me the most is the concern that I have that life can be such a challenge. Peer pressure, life pressure, the state of the union, the stability of the world. It all subjects you to the temptations of the world. Concern does not reflect power. Prayer is often unseen by the one who is prayed for, but it is always appreciated by the spirit. Jesus mentored his disciples and left a huge legacy for life.

The prodigal son was not sentenced to hell and damnation, he was pointed in the right direction. He was where he was at by his own choices, and it was up to him to move forward positively or negatively. The choice he made took him home. The Bible is a book about going home.

It was written for me……

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…..

Where is the Good News

Once in awhile I sit down and read some of the other pundits here in the religious world. I try to get a grip and the religious news of the today. I watch some on TV and listen. There seems to be something that seems to be missing in a lot of these. The Good News.
Jesus did not garner crowds because he gave a message of condemnation and fear.

Jesus didn’t condemn the universe, He did not have to. Jesus didn’t threaten just too many people during his visit on Earth. And just how many are still waiting for the return of Jesus to hear the GOOD NEWS. In all of it I have come to recognize one thing. Today is today and tomorrow is going to be today in the morning. Whatever news is thrown out there on the news, no matter what channel on what nation, many in the world have given up on the BAD NEWS. DO I want my day to be condemned before I even get to it?

As I go through my day I have come to realize one thing. I have a very small circle that perhaps I have been charged to touch, to help, to pray for GOOD NEWS. A small mentorship that believes that GOD is love. I have tried to get a handle around the idea of what “LOVE” is. Is GOD all about “TOUGH LOVE”? Do I really need tough love to look at the man in the mirror and feel like I am a dart board for GOD? I don’t buy into it.

My circumstances are my own doing. The GOOD NEWS is that there is still time. Time to smile, smell the roses, be grateful for all I have been given, and all the mentors that have crossed my path. Tomorrow is all about hope and when tomorrow becomes today hope is in action once again. Why? Because GOD is constant. GOD is love and GOD’s hand is open to me. Only I choose whether to grab it for all it is worth or to walk away from it.

GOOD NEWS is to a large extent, MY responsibility to be thankful for each day. Each one who gets up to see the sunrise has been given an opportunity to grow and learn. When I watch the news I have to keep news in perspective. BAD NEWS sells, GOOD NEWS is to be enjoyed. Enjoy the GOOD NEWS. Jesus did not make this complicated. Love one another as yourself. Start with yourself each day, pray for all those on your list and all the one’s that maybe are not. Every morning is a GOD NEWS moment. 3 days after Jesus’ Crucifixion the stone was rolled away. Because He criticized everyone? What did Jesus have to say about it?

“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” That is the GOOD NEWS. Jesus understands what you go through, what the pressures are, what the dangers are. Jesus knows illness, Jesus knows Evil, racism, corruption, power brokers. And Jesus says, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I believe that is a good direction for my today and tomorrow.

The Way I Am

I have been very fortunate to have met many people in my life over these many years now. There is a whole set of these people that come to my mind as a group. They have come across my path in many different settings but their banner reads similar to this:

“That is just the way I am and if you don’t like it that is just too bad. I can’t help but saying what I say.”

Jesus said “You must move away from your parents to follow me.”

I struggled with that concept for years. Why would Jesus say such a thing about parents? My dad believed that dogs were the best way to handle civil rights marches in the day when they started.

“Love one another.” Not the same trip as my dad. The prejudices of those I held as peers were somewhat opposed to the simplicity of  “Love One Another”. Many “believers” are so far away from “Love One Another” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” I am constantly reminded of “Be aware of those who come in my name…..”.

“Just the way that I am” may be a poor excuse for behavior. Respect is often never easy.
“Walk in another man’s moccasins for his miles before making your opinion”. The cultures and their tidbits such as this are the place to discover. “Love one another” is so simple and so hard at the same time. What way are you going to be? Really.

NOT NOW

NOT NOW

There are times when one sits back and reviews their life so far. Things they have done and things they have not. Every day we are invited to change someone’s life, or enhance it, or ruin it. The opportunities are presented to all of us, every day in the simplest of things.

A driver in a car that needs access to your lane to make a turn that others refused to allow them to access.
A door to be opened out of politeness.
A welcome, or have a nice day in passing.

One of the most difficult things to hear is what follows a simple question,“ How’s your day going? or hear in El Paso, ¿cómo estás?

“Not well. I was at the doctor today, or My dog or cat passed away, my parent, son or daughter is in surgery… or as the other day “Pray for us…” from an acquaintance.

When this answer occurs there seems to be a pause in our momentum and a sign flashes in your head and says “NOT NOW…I have this, this, and that to do just now..I did not expect your request as the answer to a simple question.”

“Pray for us.” It happens often enough. And the “Pray for us” opened that door again. I thought about all the times I had been asked to Pray for me, or for us, or for someone or something”

I like to think that I said “Certainly, you will be in my prayers”. Sometimes the response may be “All I can offer is prayer, is it ok If I say a prayer for you?”

And I got to thinking of all those things I have searched for in my life. Love, honor, respect, recognition, reward…and then “Pray for us”.

Of all of them the most rewarding and meaningful has been “Pray for us.” And I had to think about why? I believe the greatest compliment I have ever been given is “Pray for Us”. I had a friend who often said during many a retreat, “You may be the only Jesus that many people will ever see..”

Outside of this forum, the Unorthodox Christianity site and blogs are known to me, but I carry no advertising about me for it. I’m just a guy, and yet there are those who believe by my demeanor that I may just be someone who had that unique connection to offer up a prayer of value. It has probably happened to many of you who read this. What a gift to be recognized for a way of living. Now don’t get me wrong. I am human, I can get upset and I can be angry. But within that humanity that I was born with GOD has cultivated a spirit via the example of others that is not afraid to offer help. Even as simple a thing as a prayer, can be recognized by those to whom you have been sent or whose path has crossed yours for but a moment. Often times to remind me that impact need not be grandiose, it can be as simple as a prayer.

NOW doesn’t require a lot of time, just a focus for a moment to help someone who has enough faith in you to ask you for a moment of your time. A greater compliment can not be offered to “just a guy.”

Relationships

HeartOn this Valentines a note that I carry over from my signatures.

“Who you know is not as important as how you treat the people that you meet.”

This carries over from “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Valentine’s Day is about “love”. It is about how we build and maintain relationships. Whether these relationships are deeply personal, workplace, casual or a simple hello, how we interact with people we have known for years or moments defines us as a human being. From the stand point of Jesus, “Love One Another”” was never followed by exceptions. If there are those who are not inclined to the golden rule, or simply do not grasp that humans are basically chameleons who reflect their environment, one must simply move along, do not force a reaction and do not look back. (“Wipe the dust from your feet”.)
Ours is a role of reflecting our Teacher’s message. When we accept the banner of “Christian” we accept a powerful message that people should recognize by how we interact with them.  If we do not reflect Jesus’ message in our own actions, the message we are teaching send the wrong message of what it is a “Christian” is. It is because of what I have seen in others who proudly raise the “Christian” banner that “Unorthodox Christianity” was born.
What makes “Unorthodox Christianity” unorthodox are its roots in the red print of a concordance Bible. No caveats, no exceptions, no exclusions, no racism, no sexism, nothing other than “Love One Another”.  It is much more difficult to be an “Unorthodox Christian”, than it ever will be to wear the banner “Christian”.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadows of lost souls, I shall not fear them for thou art with me. Thy word and thy example comfort me. Even now, this very day, you are preparing the future before me. In the presence of my enemies, even in the midst of my own personal struggle. You anoint my head with oil and once again my cup overflows with your bountiful blessings. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…” (the 23rd Psalm applied to me.)

“Who you know is not as important as how you treat the people that you meet.”
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