Wednesday, November 26, 2014

You Did It To Me



In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me."  I have always understood that helping the "least of these" was in reality helping Jesus.  Recently I have come to realize that when I judge or criticize my brethren I do it to Jesus Himself.

When God looks at His children today, he sees billions of people selfishly divided and opinionated. He sees people who were created in His image to be like Him, to love mercy and do justly and walk humbly. He sees people who claim to follow Jesus and yet can't see when He, "the least of these", needs their help.

We as Christians have been given a message to spread around the world, but we have failed. We have passed judgment on many of those around us. We say "they don't deserve the love of God; they don't deserve my time, because they are no good.


Instead of judging others, we need to look into the mirror of God’s law of love and recognize how bad we really are. James 1;23,24 says, "if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

We need to look into the mirror of God’s law and see ourselves as we really are instead of spending our energy judging others.  When we judge or criticize our brethren we do it to Jesus Himself.  The good news it that our God is patient with us.  2 Peter 3:15 says, "Remember that we are saved because our Lord is patient".

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and I am getting excited. Yesterday Gina and I went shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and spend an amazing amount of money. We tried to do our part to jump start the economy. Baby Cecily along with her parents, Gavin and Rachel, arrived last night.  Dave and the girls will be here Tuesday night and Cynda will be getting here Wednesday.  I can hardly wait for us to all be together. It is always blissful bedlam. Thanksgiving is such an amazing holiday. Thanksgiving is the holiday that focuses on family. I know that family is something I am very thankful for.  Our family has instituted a new holiday, ThanksChristmas. Because every other year we are all together for Thanksgiving and not able to be together for Christmas, a new holiday was born. We will all be together to celebrate ThanksChristmas.


I learned in school that the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims in 1621. I have later found out that it wasn’t quite true.

The Pilgrims did set apart a day to celebrate at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest, in 1621. At the time, this was not regarded as a Thanksgiving observance, but a harvest festival. Harvest Festivals were existing parts of English and Indian tradition alike. The Pilgrims did not hold a true Thanksgiving until 1623. The 1623 celebration followed a severe drought. After the entire group spent days praying for rain, they held a solemn Thanksgiving ceremony and followed that with a feast when the drought was over. Irregular Thanksgivings continued after favorable events and days of fasting after unfavorable ones.



The Pilgrims were not the first Europeans to have a Thanksgiving celebration in America. The first recorded Thanksgiving ceremony took place on September 8, 1565, when 600 Spanish settlers, under the leadership of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, and immediately held a Thanksgiving ceremony for their safe delivery to the New World; there followed a feast and celebration. As far as we know this was the first Thanksgiving celebration held in America.

Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving. The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is how a Canadian explained it to me. "We did actually have the FIRST Thanksgiving, a full 43 years before the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, but, in true Canadian fashion, there was something wrong with it. That first North American Thanksgiving would have been "celebrated" in sub-zero temperatures on a barren, windswept moonscape by a muttering, mutinous crowd wondering whether "the chief" had all his marbles".



Sir Martin Frobisher set out to find the Spice Islands through the Northwest Passage. He landed instead on Baffin Island. The complete absence of trees and a pitiless terrain of unrelieved rock and permafrost barely dampened his determination to establish the first English settlement in North America. Ever the optimist, he spent two years mining "gold ore". When it was shipped back to England, it was found to be iron pyrite. Fool's Gold.

Throughout the history of the U.S. and Canada, Thanksgiving has been observed. In the U.S. there has been an annual Thanksgiving observed since 1863. In Canada it has been observed since 1879 although on different dates.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day will be awesome!  I know that our family will have a great ThanksChristmas.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Passion


A few weeks ago my wife and I along with friends attended the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs.  It was a crisp cold evening as we sat there and watched the final scenes of the life of Jesus being played out before us.  As we watched my mind began wondering why it is called a passion play.  When I got back to the motel room I studied the subject.

I found out that in approximately 1175 the word passion was adopted from Old French to Old English to mean the, ‘sufferings of Christ on the Cross’.  By Middle English the word ‘passion’ described a strong barely controllable emotion.  The original meaning of ‘passion’, as the sufferings of Jesus, fell out of common usage in the 1600’s.

I studied the word passion in my Bible concordance.  In King James the word passion, meaning the sufferings of Jesus, is found in only one verse, Acts 1:3   “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”


The most common meanings of the word ‘passion’ today is extreme compelling emotion, great anger or rage, enthusiasm or fondness, strong love or affection, and  lust.

Do you know anyone who has a passion for something?  We have just had an election in this country and I found that many people were very passionate about their candidate or political party.

I have met many Christians who are passionate about their beliefs; but do we as Christians have a passion for Jesus?  What is at the top of the list of our life’s priorities?  In Matthew 22:36-39 we read, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


We as Christians should keep the Ten Commandments, but if we are not passionate about Jesus and our neighbors it does us no good to keep them.  Our relationship with Jesus is all about priorities.

Matthew 23:23,24 record Jesus as saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Jesus didn't say not to follow the fine points of the law; But He wants us to focus on the weightier matters.  In John 15:12 He said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. And to make sure that we understand he repeats in verse 17, “These things I command you, that you love one another”.


How do you think Jesus feels when we lose our passion for him and our love for each other, and replace it with a mechanical form of religion where instead of loving each other we fight with each other?  In Revelation 2:4 He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love”.  Does Jesus have something against you, have you lost your first love?  Are you passionate about Jesus?

When you have a passion, others know.  Passion is more than mere formality and habit.  It’s enthusiasm, its strong love and affection.  To have a passionate church full of love for one another we must each one personally become passionate about Jesus.


Do you have passion today; A passion for Jesus who died for you?  1 John 4:10-12 states, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us”.

Jesus endured passion: He suffered for you.  He is still passionate in his love for you.  Are you passionate about Jesus or are your passions in other areas?  Let’s decide today to be passionate about Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slugger


S is for Slugger.  Occasionally I like to do a book review on my blog. Today's review is of the book “A Dog Named Slugger” by Leigh Brill. It is a first person account of Leigh’s partnership with the big yellow Labrador Retriever that was her service dog. As Slugger provided balance for her on walks, he also brought balance to her emotionally and mentally. He was her calming and comforting companion as she graduated from college and obtained her master’s degree. Because of Slugger she was able to have a career and lead a more normal life.

The book offers a lot of insights into what it is like for a handicapped person to grow up with their disability. In the book, Leigh opens up her heart to the reader and gives you an idea of what a person with cerebral palsy goes through. She does it in a way that doesn't elicit pity but pleads for understanding. Her service dog Slugger gave her the confidence to come out of the shell she had been hiding in. He not only improved her day to day life, but he also instilled her with the confidence she needed to stand up for herself.


If you are an animal lover you will learn to love Slugger just by reading this book. I was amazed to learn what a service dog could do for someone like Leigh. Besides steadying her when she walked and helping her up and down stairs, he could also turn light switches on and off, drag laundry baskets, retrieve items and perform so many helping tasks.

I really enjoyed the book and found that it was like three books in one. First, it is almost an autobiography of Leigh. She does a great job of letting you into her life. Second, it is simply a great dog story. In a way it reminded me of the book "Marley and Me", but in a more serious vein. Third, it is a great introduction into the world of service dogs.

I really enjoyed reading A Dog Named Slugger and recommend it highly. You can find it at Amazon.com by clicking on this link.


ABC Wednesday is a fun way to see blogs from around the world

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It Happened to Me - by Abby Carney



My cousin, Abby Carney, is a freelance writer. She does editorial work, copywriting, copyediting, consulting, ghostwriting, transcribing, and social media projects for clients. She casually dabbles in poetry, essays, creative writing, and friendship bracelets as well.

A couple of days ago she had an essay published on the website xoJane.  The essay made me stop and think about my own thoughts and actions.  I asked her if I could re-post the essay on An Arkie's Musings and she graciously gave me permission to do so.  You can check out more of her writing at  www.abbycarney.com


IT HAPPENED TO ME: Becoming An Airport Janitor Got Me Free Flights And A Lesson In Privilege

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta, but it really feels worlds apart from the city center. With 207 domestic and international terminals, and flying more than 260,000 passengers daily, it’s the world’s busiest airport; and spread over 4,700 acres, it makes every other airport look and feel like a quaint port.

It is also home to Delta’s corporate headquarters and technical operations center, which employs over 25,000 Atlantans. Through a subsidiary staffing agency, I became one of those employees for a summer.

It was the summer an African oil baron tipped me 40 bucks that I lost an escalator as I was leaving work; the summer a D-list hip hop group sexually harassed me and all I did was blush and laugh it off; the summer I was the only white girl working in the Delta Sky Lounge, the summer I read Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of The Presence of God,” and learned to check my middle-class white privilege that I’d never realized needed checking until then.

It was the summer before my senior year of undergrad, and, having been rejected from all the internships I applied for, I learned that sky lounge room attendants (fancy jargon for janitors) at the airport received full flight benefits in exchange for working just two to three shifts per week. I would do many, many (legal) things for cheap or free flights, so of course I went for it.

The requirements were having a pulse and passing a drug test, so with relative ease, I landed the gig and got right to work sweeping floors, washing dishes, and pilfering cheese and crackers from the lounge to munch on during my 15-minute breaks.


I drank straight espresso to stay awake all day, because the hours passed slowly, and I smiled at all the ritzy travelers, always eager to engage in any and all conversations. I was genuinely interested in hearing about people and where they were traveling to.

My favorite terminal was Terminal E -- it was the largest lounge, and the only one that serviced international flights. Nothing made me happier than sweeping up invisible crumbs and eavesdropping on conversations I couldn't understand in Arabic, Portuguese or German. Technically, I could understand sparse amounts of German, thanks to my brief encounter with the language in college, and I once made a group of German businessmen hold back their laughter while I stumbled through some pleasantries in Deutsch.

I also loved the international lounge best because it had showers for the guests, and one of my duties was to clean and re-service the shower rooms after they were used. Those were my five minutes of solitude, locked into a private bathroom. I would sing and pretend I was Cinderella cleaning up after her evil step-sisters, sopping up all the moisture in the room with the dirty towels and squeegeeing the shower so it looked fresh and clean. (But really, it wasn't clean -- just dry).

My greatest takeaway from that summer however, wasn't the free trips I took to Seattle, D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Boston again, but the lessons I learned about myself via my coworkers. I attended one of the most diverse universities in the nation, and always felt happily challenged in my classes that typically boasted a roster of students of all backgrounds, and nationalities. I was a sociology minor. But working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in College Park, Georgia, the world’s busiest airport, and one of its largest, I became truly aware of my privilege for the first time, in an uncomfortable and jarring way.

Brought up with a “no task is too small” attitude and accustomed to positions of service, I didn't think I had anything to “check” myself for. I was a smart and aware young woman with a good head on her shoulders. Oh, but pride cometh before a fall, as some of my more religious coworkers would have said. (That was another way we often passed the time, discussing the Bible and having religious debates as we made circles around each other, looking busy with our brooms and dust pans; or simply encouraging one another with uplifting Bible verses we’d bookmarked. Bet you've never seen airport janitors sparring about Jesus and feminism, or waxing poetic about the love of God before.)

I found myself exhibiting an odd mixture of pity and self-righteousness when travelers would ask what I was doing working a job like that? Like it was somehow beneath the awesome, well-mannered me. I hastily reassured everyone who asked, and often those who didn't ask, that I didn't need this job. No, I was just doing it for the flight benefits, and yes, I was a serious student pursuing a serious degree, and I would be quitting this whatever job in the fall to go back to school.

But it took me a while to realize that this stuck up mentality was incredibly off-putting and insensitive to my coworkers, many of whom were born and raised in underprivileged neighborhoods of South Atlanta, historically plagued by crime, inequality, and simply fewer opportunities than a middle-class, suburban white girl like myself.

I was the definition of sociology-textbook class privilege when I incredulously balked at the suggestion that 20-year-old me could possibly be a mother, because it’s something I was often asked: “How many kids you got?” I thought it was a joke, but most of the other girls my age had growing families, and I actually asked people, “Why don’t you just take classes at community college? And then you can pursue what you really want!” I wondered why they didn't make use of their flight benefits and travel around, when it’s the only reason I took the job. Doing it for just the minimum-wage pay seemed ludicrous to me.

I confessed my peaheadedness to a friend, and he recommended I read the book “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, so on the long journey via public transportation, through security, and aboard the airport people mover (yes, that’s its official name) between terminals, I committed those passages to heart, in a genuinely pious attempt to lose my pride and ego. Through my days of endless sweeping and trash emptying, these words gave me comfort: “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

And when a fellow room attendant shared with me her tribulations as a single mother, about her depression, and her attempts to take her own life, I fought back tears, and listened intently, letting her pour her heart out. I didn't do anything for her but listen and hug her tightly, but it moved me deeply, and made me feel purposeful in being there in a way I hadn't recognized before.

It was also the job that taught me to overcome my fear of discord. When a grumpy room attendant scowled and slammed doors in my face throughout a shift, I didn't simply retreat in fear and mope about it. I tracked her down and asked, “Are you upset with me? If I've done something to upset or offend you, please let me know so I can fix things.” She scowled again, but eventually shared what was going on and was in a brighter mood by the end of our shift. I’d learned that being purposeful and direct is often necessary in order to deliver the olive branch that was always desired.

I was surrounded by travelers almost daily. With so much of my identity belonging literally up in the air, and in transit, I felt at peace there, with boarding calls and flight delays as my background noise. It was my haven, like the cloud where angels and spirits rest between worlds, because they don’t claim any particular one as home. It was like a constant real-life montage of the opening scene of "Love Actually" when everyone is greeting their loved ones at the airport.

Decently traveled, but not yet desensitized, the magic of the entire process of journey-making had not yet worn off on me, and even with my clear plastic purse, in my black slacks, black button down, and slicked back ponytail, scurrying along to my assigned terminal, I couldn't help smiling at every briefcase-toting stranger, wondering where they were off to, wondering where they had been, and who was waiting for them at home.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Overflowing Grace


No one likes to be stopped by a patrolman and I am no exception.  A while back I was stopped in the town of Point Barre, Louisiana.  As I neared the town the speed limit dropped from 65 mph to 45 mph. I tapped the cruise control and traveled along with several other cars as we slowed down. The next thing I knew, there were blue lights in my rear view mirror. The patrolman must have been shooting his radar right at the 45 mph sign, and he had to pick me out of 4 or 5 cars to stop, as we were all traveling the same speed. The ticket cost me 160 dollars. To say the least, I was not happy. I felt that the ticket was unfair. I had been trying to obey the law and yet I got a ticket.

My situation reminded me of an illustration that I have heard explaining God's grace. Imagine yourself driving down the road, doing 100 mph in a 55 mph zone. A police officer stops you. If he gives you a ticket--that is justice--for you got what you deserve. If he lets you off with just a warning--that is grace--for though you deserved a ticket, he did not give you one.  But what about my situation where I received a ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit?


There are many Christians who like me in Point Barre feel that they aren't really doing anything all that bad. They are trying to obey the speed limit, which should count for something. They don't see grace being all that great. They are trying to live right. God should realize that.

But many Christians realize that the law has been broken whether they were going 5 miles over the limit or 50. They realize that they deserve a ticket, and are overwhelmed by the unexpected grace. They know that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23).

Romans 5:17 tells us that "if, through one man, death ruled because of that man’s offense, how much more will those who receive such overflowing grace and the gift of righteousness rule in life because of one man, Jesus Christ!

I wish for you overflowing grace!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Grace Happens All Around Us


This is my article as published in the November 6, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.


Grace seems to often pop up in places that I never expect it. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that simply stated "Grace Happens". It is true. Grace happens. It happens all around us. Often we are too busy to notice.

A few years ago grace happened to me on Halloween. My wife had bought lots of candy in preparation for the kids she was expecting to come to our door. She was prepared to give candy, and lots of it, to anyone who rang her doorbell. She waited with anticipation, because she loves to see the kids in their costumes. The doorbell rang for the first time. She went to the door and opened it with a bowl of candy in her hand. There stood two kids, but they didn't have anything to put candy in. They didn't say trick or treat. They stood there with a long stemmed rose in their hand. "We are not asking for candy", they said. "We want to give you a rose".

Popcorn and Candy
GRACE DISPENSERS

Unexpected grace. Out of the blue. I never thought that on Halloween someone would come to my door and give me something. I think that is a key to understanding grace. We Christians often focus on the fact that grace is undeserved. That is true, it is undeserved. If you deserved it, it wouldn't be grace. But not only is it undeserved, it is unexpected.

I think that is what Paul is trying to get us to see when he wrote in Ephesians 3:8, "to me, who am less than the least deserving of all the saints, this grace was given". He seems to be almost unable to believe that grace was offered to him. It was unexpected. Maybe that is why he talks about grace more than any other Bible writer.

Look for the unexpected today. Look for grace in unexpected places. I know that you will find it. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:14, "the grace of our Lord is exceedingly abundant".