Monday’s Here

I realize we nickname Monday with a lot of slang talk…

MondayIt’s a blue, manic, and “on no it’s Monday” Monday…. In the season, it’s known as “Monday Night Football” night and people go crazy staying up later than normal just to indulge. And, tonight is the first Presidential Debate between the two parties candidates.

Why did they plan the debate on the same night as the NFL’s premiere night game? Go figure. I can just hear the Mama’s and the Papa’s singing:

Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way

For many church leaders it’s the day we analyze what worked on Sunday, and what needs to be improved. We question why so-and-so did not make it to church, or why the church wasn’t ready without a last moment refresh or change of routine.

Why Monday? What does it mean? Essentially, and this is found in many cultures over the centuries, this first day of the week was represented by the Moon. It makes sense that it would migrate from Moon Day to Monday over time. However, depending upon the time period, culture, country, or language, any one of our 7 days could be known by any other word.

It’s a rather unique study to determine why we call the days and months by their names we accept as normal. Back in the 1980’s there was an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that had a main focus for standardizing words and meaning between different countries, languages and cultures.

The purpose of this standard is to provide an unambiguous and well-defined method of representing dates and times, so as to avoid misinterpretation of numeric representations of dates and times, particularly when data are transferred between countries with different conventions for writing numeric dates and times.
(Click here for more info)

Their focus was standardization, but here in America we still struggle with old measurement systems and the new standards. Maybe we’ve simply accepted this as normal, but I still struggle with understanding the “liter” size of engines, when, and this is surprising, we never understood the “cubic inch” or “horse power” denotation of engines of yesteryear. Our speedometers are at least giving us tools to convert between one standard and the other… Go ahead. Think about it for a moment. With a switch, many dashboard components can display in “standard” or “metric”, at the very least there are both numbers preprinted and the sweep of the display hand an help you read kilometers or miles per hour.

For those who hesitate to call the days of week, or months of the year, by any given name, it is simply the First Day, or First Month. First day of the work week, or First day after the weekend… Why do this? Some do not want to give reference to some medieval time or god to use for the title of a specified time period. Some believe it is giving credence to a false god.

A side note of interest, many cultures still have their New Year celebration at various times that do not equal the 365th day of a year that begins with January 1. The Jewish, Muslim and Chinese New Year celebration are based on a Lunar cycle, and not a Solar cycle. 

But why do we struggle with this first day so much? It’s often that the weekend is over and work begins. At least according to many folks working schedule. Retail and tech and other fields of labor often work 7 days per week, and some have shifts covering 24 hours per day. For those that count Monday as their first working day of the week, then it’s after the ending of the weekend when their time off may have been more liberally relaxed – and now it’s back to the grind.

In our culture, Sunday is the ending of the week, although many calendars have it as the First Day of the week. When we retell the Creation events, Sunday is the 7th day, and on this day God rested from all his work.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3 NKJV)

For me, I try to make Monday a slow day of recovery. Sunday is my hardest work day. My business is God and that is a 7/24 life, but our corporate gathering is Sunday morning and I strive to make sure we are ready for the Worship and Word celebration.

Back in the day of bi-vocational pastoring, Monday was typically like everyone else. My recovery was slower, and the week felt longer! The closer I get to retiring years, the more I realize that it matters little what day of the week it is… It simply takes longer to recover….

How about you?

Yes, It Is A Sunday

I have found it amazing…if not disturbing…Think about it.

peace-tabernacle-1978
Peace Tabernacle, Baytown, TX circa 1978
What we have turned the Sunday tradition into….?

Sports, Family celebrations, Games, Parties, Activities… Sunday has become just about anything other than church. Rush home to watch the ball game, if it’s in season. Head off to a shopping extravaganza, birthday party, and some other form of entertainment.

Sunday used to be a whole day commitment. Morning. Noon. Afternoon dinner, occasionally at someone’s house, restaurant, but mostly at home. Choir practice. Evening service. Refreshments after service, and often mostly enjoyed at Dunkin’ Donuts. Home to bed by 11pm or so. A full days occupation! Up early Monday for work and school.

This picture is from a childhood time! Great memories …

I still find it difficult to miss church for anything other than being too sick to go…Though I do remember a few Sunday’s in travel between grandparents and home which we enjoyed more than going to church! Just saying! But I do remember going to church while visiting family in the country. Little country churches, small town tabernacles, and even a few larger experiences. Regardless of where we went, Sunday was always a dress up day. Our Sunday Best was often the nicest clothes we owned, and we went to church where there was no A/C! Often hot in the summer. Muggy. But we went because it was the normal thing to do. Every church had unique qualities and experiences, but there was a thread of commonality.

I wonder if there are many congregations that have a similar commitment by everyone in the congregation as it was when I was young. The day has come when we even struggle with commitment to more than a single event on Sunday. Our church culture has changed to match the commitment of today’s fickle world.

Still, church had become such an engine of activity. Our culture was overridden by the culture of the local assembly. But we did choose to participate! And I still participate today.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

The writer is teaching us that we NEED social gatherings when we come together to worship and exhort. Stir up. A phrase common to Paul. Just like he spoke to Timothy.

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV)

Stir up the gift of God. Stir up Love. Stir up GOOD Works.

This should be the purpose of our church service today. Stir up the gift that you received from God! Stir up love for your others. Stir up good works (Matthew 5:16), or deeds as it is sometimes referred to.

You do not get this without gathering with others of similar background and beliefs.

Simple thought… Find a church… Attend regularly… Make it your own and be in regular attendance!

 

Never A Victim Be

Again, we have someone doing something despicable…

victim-001Wandering into a store at a mall and killing 5 people and wandering out and making a get away. Innocent people killed. Victims of a despicable person.

All night long I thought about the victims. This morning I’m learning it’s 4 females, 1 male. And countless others terrified by the action of a mentally disturbed person. I asked myself this morning, “How do we allow ourselves to become victims?”

The sad thing is that we have to learn, again, to be aware of our surroundings. Constantly on the lookout for someone who would victimize any one of us. Walk into a store looking for exit signs, just like we do when we are instructed by flight attendants on planes. The nearest exit may be behind you. Watch out for the shady personality. Stay away from indefensible positions. Flee or fight. Either is a valid option.

Through the years I know I have been a victim of a pranks and lies, threats and actions, ridicule, and even scorn. From some I once thought as friends, to a complete stranger. I have been chased down the interstate by kids who had a gun and a club while driving home from work one Saturday (I led them to the police station), and have taken a gun away from someone who broke into my house and scared my family. I have been challenged over the phone by a phony bill collector looking for a family member and threatening me with daily calls – I called the sheriff, got a reading of the law, and called him back and threatened him!

My personality has been aggressive toward those who would make victims of me and my family, but I now see we need to extend our range. Start watching out for the innocents around us. Do not allow a stranger to become a victim.

We are taught to be aware of our surroundings and to drive defensively. When learning to fly I was taught to keep my head on a swivel, looking out for other fliers, and I do this when driving my truck all the time. We should do this every time we step out into the public arena.

We need to practice how we will act when the day of threat comes.

Here’s my thought for today.

Refuse to be a victim. Look up the definition of a victim. It can be someone who is harmed or injured as a result of a crime, accident, or other action. Or it can be someone who has no idea of the danger they are in. It can even be someone who is tricked or duped, or made to be the fall guy.

Regardless, take your blinders off and start being hyper aware of what’s around you. Be ready to challenge those who threaten. Be ready to fight back when needed.

To the Christian, remember, sin is crouching at the door, and like a lion is ready to pounce (Genesis 4:7). Peter says our adversary is like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), looking for the opportunity to devour. (Probably taken from Isaiah 31:4 or Ezekiel 22:25.) And when you are at your weakest, like Jesus on the cross, they are there like ravening lions (Psalms 22:13).

When you are at your weakest, or most distracted time, you need someone to come to your rescue!

But in my adversity they rejoiced And gathered together; Attackers gathered against me, And I did not know it; They tore at me and did not cease; With ungodly mockers at feasts They gnashed at me with their teeth. Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious life from the lions. (Psalms 35:15-17 NKJV)

When there is no one else, there is always God.

So, I have come to believe in being Spiritually Aware of my surroundings. Just like there are physical places I refuse to allow myself to be found in, there are places that a spiritually aware person can note there is danger afoot.

Take responsibility of the life you are living. Do not become an innocent victim. Be ready to be in charge of your reaction to the situation.

I’m NOT Ready to Say Anything

We are challenged on many fronts…

think-001“To speak out, it’s true,
On many different issues.
With some we have a clue,
And others we remain, well, clueless.
Except for the myriad of voices speaking in the ether,
How can we tell the truth from the fable?
Should we speak if it is not Helpful?
Inspiring or even Necessary?
Keep it Kind or Keep Silent.” ~Me

I want you to notice something by a very wise Solomon. “A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;”. (Ecclesiastes 3:7) Quick. What did you notice? The order, I say is very appropriate. Silence first, speak later.

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?[1]

loose-lips-sinks-shipsThis little piece of poetry is over 100 years old, and who knows where it originated, but there is wisdom of the Owl! Used in WWII to teach folks it is better to be silent and to learn what’s going on. Silence was equaled to Security. This was also equal to the other famous term from similar times. “Loose Lips Sinks Ships!” Unguarded speech often creates more problems than their words will ever solve.

James, the brother of Jesus, carries the wisdom of Solomon into an epistle (letter) to the church.

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 NKJV)

Why is it we react to a single spoken word instead of searching for deeper understanding before we talk? Before we act. Get more facts. Dig deeper. Consider other viewpoints. There are all kinds of actions we should take before we react!

“Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.” ~William Arthur Ward

The one right we have had in our arsenal that I wish more people would use more frequently in daily life, is something called the Miranda Rights. (Click Here to learn more) You know it. It’s grown popular since the mid-1970’s when it was required before being questioned by the police, or any other legal authority. (Remember the 5th?)

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

You have the right to remain silent. Before you speak about something you know nothing about…Please remain silent. 
Anything you say can and will be used against you… This is the terrible thing we see in social media rants all the time. What you post can be used against you, and will probably be your downfall. 

One last thought. Having a discussion about something helps each of us define what we believe to be our foundation. Just remember, a discussion is a two way exchange, and not a one way rant! Just saying!

Sweet Time of Fall

Yes. Today is the start of Fall.

Fallen, Yet Favored
Fallen, Yet Favored

In the astronomical view, it is that time from the Autumnal Equinox until Winter Solstice. Only in the Northern Hemisphere. Drop below the equator and you move into Vernal Equinox (Spring). And the word Equinox essentially means that the daylight and night time hours are essentially equal. You know, 12 hours with the sun, and 12 hours without the sun.

To me, the equinox is midpoint between the solstice. Summer. Winter. The longest day of the year, and the shortest day of the year. I love the shortest more than the longest… Thank you for asking. That’s not to say I dislike long summer days! No! As long as the heat and humidity is tolerable… Just saying! 30 years in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska and Washington), I’ve grown used to very little heat and humidity.

In the traditional sense, the Fall is related to gathering in the crops. Harvest time. Storing up for winter, spring and summer. Until Harvest time next year. Then it starts all over!

Neighboring HorsesThink about a traditional Harvest for a moment. This is when we we normally enjoy the freshest food. Crops newly picked. Crisp. Firm. Sweet. This is the season of apples, and our 3 threes has produced a thousand apples. Some too small to do anything with, but some large enough to enjoy eating and cooking! The problem is getting them off the tree before my dogs eat all the low hanging fruit! And they love apples! So do the horses next door.  They neigh at me as the dogs and I are walking. A knife. A few apples. And I feed the 3 horses, 2 dogs, and me…Slices of Apples…

The fall is a sweet time as we reminisce about the summer, and buckle down for the winter storms. In my neck of the woods, the winter storms can be fierce, heavy with wind, rain, flooding, and mudslides. Spend as much time as possible in the great out of doors…Before the winter crowds you into the warm flames in the hearth.

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” [Notebook, Oct. 10, 1842]”  Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

The Hebrew New Year begins in the Fall. It’s not exactly lined up to the Autumnal Equinox, but within a week or so. Why might that be? I think that Fall represents the beginning of a new year. Crops loose their position in the field as they are stored away. The ground grows dormant. Cold. Short days. The root system of many trees continues to grow and expand deeper, looking for nourishment. And then the solstice, shortest day, and then the hope of spring, planting, summer, growth…winding up at the harvest to begin life over again.

The Bible teaches bringing your firstfruits to God. When does this happen agriculturally? In the Harvest season.

“Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. (Exodus 23:14-16 NKJV)

Some think they owe nothing to God, and yet there is nothing in scripture that forgives such a debt. He gave us his world, his life, his blood, his spirit, and his name. There is nothing I can do to repay, but I will give what I can…and scripture teaches me to give as I have been blessed. My tithes. My offerings. They are not suggestions. They are God’s law.

So…How about you? Are you giving God your first fruits? This is the season for it.

Who Affirms You?

It’s something we all need in life.

which-step-are-you-onMaybe, it’s even something we seek for and our behavior is simple proof that we are looking for affirmation. In the absence of getting those high-fives, slaps on the back and atta-boys from those close to us that we respect, we extend our reach to others. Maybe, just maybe, we even have to “act out” in order to get the approval.

And acting out often leads to strange paths. We see this all the time. And it leads others to acting out even more.

Could it be this is the issue we see with so many around us? They were never affirmed from someone they needed in their life, so they become extremist in action. Their burgeoning actions kept spreading till eventually they are so far removed from their past one might never recognize them. Somewhere along the way they find the affirmation they are missing.

“Affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily.” ~Tia Walker

Yes. We are bombarded with negatives. Images from those we put on a pedestal because they can sing or act. Perhaps from some magic fingers business person who has the propensity for making good choices and a lot of money in the process. Sport figures who are so pumped and primed for their activity that nothing and no one else matters.

We sometimes put ourselves in these positions when we compare ourselves to someone else, and then seek for the affirmation that you can become just like them.

Now, without saying it too loudly, I do believe in “self affirmation” statements. Affirming yourself to yourself. We have probably done this without even thinking it… “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.” Over and over we affirm the positive instead of saying things like, “There’s no way I can do this. No way at all. No. Nope. Nada. Zip. No way at all…”

Affirmations can be positive. And they can be negative. The way you speak to a child often affirms to them whether they are capable, or not.

Consider this thought about affirmation. Sometimes we never hear, nor perceive, when someone is affirming us in their own unique way. Just maybe that special someone did not know you needed verbal affirmation. Maybe all they thought was necessary was a hug, or high-five, a thumbs up, or even a head nod. Maybe that’s all they ever received themselves, hence, it may be all they can ever give.

We need to find the signals of affirmation that are more than just words!

Some years back I quit looking for affirmation from just any ol’ person. No, there are special people in my life that I need affirmation from to know that I’m doing a good job with what my vocation and calling. In this life, several of them know who they are, but in my spiritual walk I always seek God’s approval more than any other person.

From many sources of scriptures I find that when God calls out to a person, the best answer to give is: “Here I am”…

  • Abraham (Genesis 22:1, 11)
  • Jacob, who will someday be renamed Israel (Genesis 31:11, 46:2)
  • Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:4)
  • Samuel the Prophet when God called him as a child (1 Samuel 3:4-16)
  • Isaiah the Prophet when God was looking for someone to send (Isaiah 6:8)
  • Ananias, a disciple called to minister to Saul (Acts 9:10)

One of the best affirmations you can receive is answering God’s call to you. He thought enough of you to call. Think enough of him to answer. God affirms you with a call… Affirm him with a reply. This then shows the obverse. Affirm God with a blessing and he will affirm you with his Grace.

The Sense of Touch

Have you ever touched fire?

burning-logIntentionally? Accidentally? Yes… I have. Accidentally, of course. I’m sure we all have. Whether during cooking, or enjoying a camp fire. I remember in the early 60’s and we had frozen pipes. Granddad was with us, although I’m not sure I remember why. He promptly built up a fire next to the barn where the frozen pipe came out of the ground. Then he did the strangest thing I remember these 55 years later…

He grabbed a burning log and moved it from one place to another…

Literally! He picked up a burning log. And moved it. I later learned he had little sensation from years of hard work and was not really worried about pain. I don’t even remember scorched skin!

Through the years I have burned a finger while cooking, or working on a hot engine. I’ve learned that if I can immediately run cold water, or cover it with ice, then I can draw the heat out of the burned portion of skin and it will heal faster. It will hurt while the cold is applied, but the lasting effects will be minimized. And it will be sensitive to heat for a few days as healing progresses. Don’t believe me? Try it!

There is a wonderfully simple (maybe) article that describes what happens when we touch something, regardless of which portion of the body that is touching. (Read here) It also gives you some exercises to test how sense of touch and the brain communicates from various portions of the body. How does the brain know in a split second where the touch is coming from and what the sensation of the touch consists of? Is all touch essentially the same? Test it with heat, cold, something hard, something soft. Try something salty, on an open wound and you feel it like a burning fire! But put it on the same part without a wound and you feel nothing. Did the salt loose it’s power?

Imagine having lost a limb, and still have ghost feelings of touch that are impossible to feel. It’s like having your leg go to sleep and then you cannot walk. You remember how. You know how. But the leg, though there, cannot function. Now. Imagine the leg is really gone. I’ve heard amputees talk about feeling like the limb is still with them. It itches. They need to scratch…

I was thinking about the sensation of touch. At a visitor center in Alaska we were invited to reach into a darkened cupboard and feel something in hiding and describe it. It was scary, and very unfamiliar! Maybe it was a wolverine pelt, or was it a beaver? Bear? Can you tell the difference between a moose or a caribou? A garnet or a ruby? Which animal did this antler come from? 

Strange how our brains interpret something we can not see and process it into an answer of possibilities!

A woman came to Jesus with a great physical need and thought, “If I could but touch his clothes…I shall be made whole.” One gospel describes it as the hem of his garment, his robe, that portion that would drag the ground. It was not clean. It was filthy from the daily walk. In a crowd, would Jesus even know?

“Who Touched My Clothes?” (Mark 5:30) Not his hand. Or shoulder. But a brushed touch on his clothes. And from him went virtue, a force, a power…normally connected to a miracle. Caused by a simple touch, albeit by a desperate need! Just a touch. 

It was his touch that healed leprosy (Matthew 8:3),healed eyes (Matthew 9:29), unstopped ears (Luke 22:51), and even brought some back to life (Luke 8:54). There is something about the Master’s Touch. The power and ability of Jesus to touch and accomplish miracles!

There is an old story, a poem, that is nearly 100 years old. You may have heard it from others…

The Touch of the Master’s Hand, also sometimes called The Old Violin, is a Christian poem written in 1921 by Myra Brooks Welch. The poem tells of a battered old violin that is about to be sold as the last item at an auction for a pittance, until a violinist steps out of the audience and plays the instrument, demonstrating its beauty and true value. The auctioneer then significantly increases the bidding (from the nominal $1-$2 to $1,000-$2,000) only to have the audience ask why the bidding suddenly increased. The poem ends by comparing this instrument touched by the hand of a master musician to the life of a sinner that is touched by the hand of God. (Reference here)

Would you not want your tattered presence to be touched by someone who could tune your life up and make it better? You may have been through tumultuous times, but Jesus can pull you through.This is what I’m interested in…