Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Washed and Waiting

I've been reading "Washed and Waiting" by Wesley Hill. It's a tough read for me because I identify with so many of the things he says in his book about his early life and trying to live as a celibate gay Christian. His attitude was much better than mine when he was younger and he understood early on that you should not isolate yourself; some wisdom that I would have done well to heed. Even so, it is a painful read. I'm sort of having flashbacks. He was never angry; just sad and sometimes without hope. I was pissed off about the whole thing. It was a great wall of separation between God and myself that, thankfully, He is now tearing down. I say "thankfully" even though I spent so much time building it.

At one of his low points, when Wes was still living in the midwest, he went back to Wheaton College where he had earned his degree, to get the counsel of an old friend. His friend told him,

"Origen, the great Christian theologian of the early church, believed that our souls existed with God before we were born. What if he was right? I don't believe he was, but imagine for a moment if he were. Imagine yourself standing in the presence of God, looking down from heaven on the earthly life you are about to be born into, and God says to you, 'Wes, I'm going to send you into the world for sixty or seventy or eighty years. It will be hard. In fact, it will be more painful and confusing and distressing than you can now imagine. You will have a thorn in your flesh, a homosexual orientation that is the result of entering a world that sin and death has broken, and you may wrestle with it all your life. But I will be with you. I will be watching every step you take, guiding you by my Spirit, supplying you with grace sufficient for each day. And at the end of your journey, you will see My face again, and the joy we share then will be born out of the agonies you faithfully endured by the power I gave you. And no one will take that joy away - that solid resurrection joy, which, if you experienced it now, would crush you with it's weight - away from you."

Then his friend asks Wes,

"Wouldn't you say yes to such a journey if you had had such a conversation with God?"

As I read this, I began to weep. There was this deep mournful cry in my soul over how I had treated my heavenly Father as He walked with me all those years ago without my recognition of His presence and power.

And how would I answer the friend's question? 

I joked with a friend recently about being in line in heaven just prior to birth only to learn it was the gay line and saying, "I thought it was the glad line".

All joking aside, would I say yes? I think so.

Lord, I love you. Thanks Lord for even this. It is what it is. An atheist once said, "what does not kill you will make you stronger." I guess he inadvertently stumbled onto the truth. You are a wonderment to me. Your ways confuse me. They always have. Even so, I am looking forward to the joy. It's so close. I can almost feel it now. Thank You!          

  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Aha Moments

We all have them. Sometimes they become turning points in our lives. They usually happen after you think you have everything all figured out, then suddenly you know you don't, and it changes everything. When you have these moments late in life, they can be genuine crisis points, but you can rest knowing that you will not die without grasping and sharing the whole truth.

Those 'aha' moments can bring purpose to the last years of life. Rather than frittering away in front of a TV, letting CNN or Fox dictate your opinions, you can act on what you've learned, and become useful, waking people up to this new knowledge, whatever it is.

The Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoon above illustrates the 'aha' moment concept very well.

The day we become self aware and able to reason and even sense the spiritual movement of things in our environments is a glorious day indeed. It's a bit worrisome too because you know that the time is short. You have a limited time to act on what you know, what you've learned. If you want to change the paradigm for everyone else before you go, you have to act swiftly and maybe even have someone waiting in the wings to finish the job. 'Now' becomes the most important time because there may not be a 'later'. So...to all my friends I would say this..

"Hey, wait a minute! This is grass. We've been eating grass."

That's right. We can do better than that. There's some lovely corn on the other side of the fence and beyond that there is so much more. We just have to reach out and take it. Don't worry about the farmers. We outnumber them and we outweigh them. Let us make their carnivorous behavior a challenge. Contentment is not found in pastures.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sheep or Saints; Herd Animals or a Royal Priesthood?

The references are more than numerous in both testaments. God's people, be they Hebrew or Christian, regularly get compared to a flock of sheep. Their leadership are regularly called shepherds. There are many reasons for this. People and sheep have much in common.

Sheep are stupid.
Sheep have herd instincts that can bring disaster if not managed by the shepherd.
Sheep stink.
Sheep are dependent.
Sheep get sick and die easily.
Sheep are a great source of wealth.
Sheep can get themselves in trouble easily.
And some say that sheep, and particularly lambs, were created by God for sacrifice as needed.

Shepherds were charged with the care and feeding of the sheep. The rod or staff were for gentle correction and leading of the flock. The shepherd's work was peaceful and pastoral, but it also involved protection of the flock from predators and thieves. A good shepherd would know his sheep. They may look all the same to us, but to the shepherd they are as individual as you and me. To be a shepherd, you have to know and love your sheep.

Christ is the Good Shepherd of His people, the church. You may recall, at the close of the gospel of John, Jesus reinstates Peter after his night of denial and fear. He tells Peter three times, "if you love me, feed my sheep." It was a not so veiled reference to the coming Church. Big changes were coming for Peter and the boys and they had to get their acts together. God was about to take for Himself a new flock that would one day encompass the whole earth. Why one would entrust a group of fisherman, tax collectors and nere-do-wells for this task is beyond me, but it worked out.

The analogy of the sheep and shepherd(s) is a good one for the the church, but it falls short if Christ's vision for the Church is ever going to be realized to any degree. You see, in the Church, the shepherds have a much more complex job. Being a shepherd in God's Church is more than watching over a group of dumb animals unless that's what you turn it into. What's more, the shepherds in God's Church were not born shepherds - they used to be sheep. Which begs the question, "How the heck did that happen?"

Paul says this in Ephesians 4:11-16,

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

There is much more than proper animal husbandry going on here. Our jobs as pastors and teachers in the church is much more complex than making sure the herd stays in the pasture and the predators are at bay. We have to teach and train our sheep. We have to teach and train them so they can become us and much more, so they can become like Christ. This is a duty passing sacred and holy and for which, if we do not do it correctly, we will have to answer to the Chief Shepherd. It's a big deal!

Peter gives us more evidence about who we are in Christ and what we are to become and it is much more than a herd of woolly, stinky, stupid mammals. I Peter 2:9,10:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Again, this is a big deal. How do you turn herd animals into a royal priesthood - a kingdom of priests? Presumably, our task is to facilitate Christ, taking them from being sheep to being priests - quite a transformation. We serve to turn lambs into a holy nation - God's special possession. 

Did you get that last bit, you pastors and teachers? They are not our lambs! They belong to Yahweh and they are a rare and special possession that He cherishes. A Holy Nation!

Do you understand the gravity of the work we are charged with? What did John say in Revelation 1?

  
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

To this I say, let us not take our work lightly. It is a gravely serious responsibility. Get to know your sheep. Learn who they are and love them. Train them. Teach them. Someday they will have to be priests (and pastors and teachers). 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday

It was a good Lord's Day. Something has happened to me. I think I just came out of another closet. I felt social, emotional, loving and connected. Recent events have turned me out, turned me up and tuned me in. I am loving life and I don't think it has anything to do with bi polar disorder :^)

I took the summer off from teaching at church. My original motivation for this was negative, but the Lord seems to be turning my motivations inside out. Being out of my class room and among the brethren has been good. It started with attending youth choir tour for two weeks and it ended up with me attending the Women's Sunday School class today. Excellent teacher BTW...just saying. The class is perfect for me. It's about being alone. I am an expert in some regards in this area and I have much to learn in others. The women's perspective adds to my understanding of the subject matter.

I thought at first I might put them off, being a man and all, but as we all know, I am no ordinary man. I find myself understanding my sisters in new ways. I hope they will let me stay. No one seemed concerned that there was a boy in the room. I guess a man can share the women's room without a major crisis developing :^)

Later I went to my shepherding group. It was a good time with people in my age group, and wonder of wonders, I had a good time, I was conversational, the food was great and the weather was pleasant. I had a good time with people I love.

I tell you, something is happening to me. I'm not sure what it is, but I like it. The ladies have an expression, "I feel empowered". That would be it.

At this rate, there may actually be people at my funeral! Ha! Who would have thought?

Time for bed....nighty night.

Ghog Out! 

The Male Socio-Sexual Hierarchy


This comes from Vox Day at Alpha Game. He is a skilled observer of human behavior and he has come up with this socio-sexual hierarchy among men that seems to be spot on in regard to how men 'play the game'. You will see what I mean when you read it. I hope he does not get irritable about me reproducing it here. I think it's very interesting. See what you think. Take a trip over to Alpha Game too so you can see what's going on. It's interesting and edgy stuff.

 Alpha: The alpha is the tall, good-looking guy who is the center of both male and female attention. The classic star of the football team who is dating the prettiest cheerleader. The successful business executive with the beautiful, stylish, blonde, size zero wife. All the women are attracted to him, while all the men want to be him, or at least be his friend. At a social gathering like a party, he's usually the loud, charismatic guy telling self-flattering stories to a group of attractive women who are listening with interest. However, alphas are only interested in women to the extent that they exist for the alpha's gratification, physical and psychological, they are actually more concerned with their overall group status.

Lifetime sexual partners = 4x average+.

Beta: Betas are the good-looking guys who aren't as uniformly attractive or socially dominant as the Alpha, but are nevertheless confident, attractive to women, and do well with them. At the party, they are the loud guy's friends who showed up with the alcohol and who are flirting with the tier one women and cheerfully pairing up with the tier two women. Betas tend to genuinely like women and view them in a somewhat optimistic manner, but they don't have a lot of illusions about them either. Betas tend to be happy, secure in themselves, and are up for anything their alpha wants to do. When they marry, it is not infrequently to a woman who was one of the alpha's former girlfriends.

Lifetime sexual partners = 2-3x average.

Delta: The normal guy. Deltas are the great majority of men. They can't attract the most attractive women, so they usually aim for the second-tier women with very limited success, and stubbornly resist paying attention to all of the third-tier women who are comfortably in their league. This is ironic, because deltas would almost always be happier with their closest female equivalents. When a delta does manage to land a second-tier woman, he is constantly afraid that she will lose interest in him and will, not infrequently, drive her into the very loss of interest he fears by his non-stop dancing of attendance upon her. In a social setting, the deltas are the men clustered together in groups, each of them making an occasional foray towards various small gaggles of women before beating a hasty retreat when direct eye contact and engaged responses are not forthcoming. Deltas tend to put the female sex on pedestals and have overly optimistic expectations of them; if a man rhapsodizes about his better half or is an inveterate White Knight, he is almost certainly a delta. Deltas like women, but find them mysterious, confusing, and are sometimes secretly a little afraid of them.

Lifetime sexual partners = 1-1.5x average

Gamma: The introspective, the unusual, the unattractive, and all too often the bitter. Gammas are often intelligent, usually unsuccessful with women, and not uncommonly all but invisible to them, the gamma alternates between placing women on pedestals and hating the entire sex. This mostly depends upon whether an attractive woman happened to notice his existence or not that day. Too introspective for their own good, gammas are the men who obsess over individual women for extended periods of time and supply the ranks of stalkers, psycho-jealous ex-boyfriends, and the authors of excruciatingly romantic rhyming doggerel. In the unlikely event they are at the party, they are probably in the corner muttering darkly about the behavior of everyone else there... sometimes to themselves. Gammas tend to have have a worship/hate relationship with women, the current direction of which is directly tied to their present situation. However, they are sexual rejects, not social rejects.

Lifetime voluntary sexual partners = .5x average

Omega: The truly unfortunate. Omegas are the social losers who were never in the game. Sometimes creepy, sometimes damaged, often clueless, and always undesirable. They're not at the party. It would never have crossed anyone's mind to invite them in the first place. Omegas are either totally indifferent to women or hate them with a borderline homicidal fury.

Lifetime sexual partners < 2

Sigma: The outsider who doesn't play the social game and manage to win at it anyhow. The sigma is hated by alphas because sigmas are the only men who don't accept or at least acknowledge, however grudgingly, their social dominance. (NB: Alphas absolutely hate to be laughed at and a sigma can often enrage an alpha by doing nothing more than smiling at him.) Everyone else is vaguely confused by them. In a social situation, the sigma is the man who stops in briefly to say hello to a few friends accompanied by a Tier 1 girl that no one has ever seen before. Sigmas like women, but tend to be contemptuous of them. They are usually considered to be strange. Gammas often like to think they are sigmas, failing to understand that sigmas are not social rejects, they are at the top of the social hierarchy despite their refusal to play by its rules.

Lifetime sexual partners = 4x average+.

Lambda: Those men who have quite literally no interest in conventional male-female sexual relations. They clearly have their own hierarchy of sorts, but I can't say that I know much about it other than it appears to somehow involve youth, free weights, and mustaches.

Lifetime sexual partners = 10x average+

Vox does not seem to know much about the last category and he should not. I do, however, and I have to say, I think the numbers here are a gross exaggeration. But then again, I'm celibate, so there you go. 

Congratulations and Sorry I'm Late

I am a bit days late in saying so, but congratulations to the following:

To the now free peoples of Great Britain, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland I congratulate you. June 23rd will go down in history along with the Magna Carta when King John was forced to bend the knee to the nobles. It was well overdue. The European Union was proving to be a massive failure of unelected techno-bureaucrats. It should have been called the Fourth Reich since  Germany seemed to derive the most benefit. France and Italy, it's your turn. Time to get out.

To the Brits I say, if you really want to do yourselves a favor, elect Nigel Farage as your next PM. UKIP should now be your party of choice. Thanks Nigel for your persistence.

To Sweepee Rambo, congratulations on being voted the world's ugliest dog. I know you have tried before, but I think it was your oozing sore that put you over the top. Fine work by all.

Finally, congrats to political novice and history professor, Gudni Johannesson on winning the Icelandic presidential elections. His win was a slap in the face to the corrupt establishment types that were exposed in the recent release of the "Panama Papers". I am so please the one worlders are losing. Good luck Gudni.

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
If you have congrats coming and I missed you, I am sorry. Shoot me an email with your achievement and croppable photo. 

Hope you went to church today. I did. It was great!
 

Friday, June 24, 2016

St. Aelred of Rievaulx

I mentioned yesterday that I have been reading "Spiritual Friendship" by Wesley Hill. In his book he researches the history of friendship and spiritual friendship in the Church. One historical example he offers is  St. Aelred of Rievaulx. Aelred developed a theology of friendship based on what he saw in scripture, what Jesus said and how the disciples behaved with each other and toward one another.
I did some internet searches on Aelred. He is an interesting man. According to The Dominican Friars of England and Scotland,

St. Aelred was born in Hexham in the North East of England in 1110. He came from a family whose members were noted for their learning, and had noble ties. Aelred was educated at the court of King David I of Scotland, and served as steward of the king’s table. During this time, he read Cicero’s On Friendship, which had a lasting influence. At the age of twenty four, he entered the Cistercian Abbey at Rievaulx, and was elected as its Abbot in 1147.

 Monastic life has at its heart a tension, between the eremitical dimension and community life. Each monk is in some sense a loner, a solitary. But nevertheless, he lives in community, in relation to others. This reality has important lessons for all of us. We are all unique individuals, but we must also relate to others. So often, modern 'spirituality' emphasises the individual and his or her lone quest for God. But the search for God is one which requires relations with others. Aelred's Spiritual Friendship is about this very thing - the role of friendship in the search for God.

 Aelred presents a dialogue between himself and other monks, whom he considers his friends. It starts as a dialogue between Aelred and Ivo, with a third, Christ, present with them. They aim to learn about friendship from a friend, and in the presence of Christ, who calls us friends. The dialogue shows a process of mutual discovery. The two friends identify that there are different levels of friendship. There are friendships based solely on sense pleasure, which is the lowest kind. There are also friendships based on temporal advantage and possessions. The highest level of friendship is based on Christ's New Commandment of love, a 'spiritual friendship' attained through conforming to Christ by wholesome interaction, without thought of gain. This kind of friendship is important because it is humanising, and raises the two friends to love of God through their love for each other.

The five vices Aelred thinks are most destructive are slander, reproach, pride, betrayal of confidence and detraction. Unless both parties are perfect, these vices will inevitably show themselves. However, they can be overcome if there is repentance and a purpose of amendment. Those who are quick to anger, the fickle, and those who are overly suspicious of others will struggle to find true friendship unless they are able to amend their ways. True friends treat each other with a Christ-like gentleness and sympathy. They are constant in their love, frank, and congenial. When the friendship has these characteristics, it can be said to be a true friendship, a 'spiritual friendship', one which builds up both parties and helps them journey towards God. 

There is much to be said for Aelred's approach to friendship. While he seems to be turning the process of creating a spiritual friendship into a Christian work to achieve salvation, he also sees the mutual benefits of such a friendship for all parties involved. I love the idea that Christ is always the third friend in the mix between two friends that are learning to love each other and growing spiritually through their journey together. It is very much in line with Jesus' words in the gospel of John,  
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
This is only a small portion of John 13. In the chapter, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. It is a bit heart wrenching to read that the Creator of the Universe is serving His creations in this way, but He does it none the less, and He tells these men that this is how they must serve each other. There is also contrast in this chapter in that Jesus makes direct reference to His betrayer. Friends and a not so friendly betrayer all enjoying the Passover meal together. Do you think Jesus washed the feet of His betrayer? I do. One has to wonder what was going through the mind of Judas as this happened and how it was that he could do what he did after that fantastic act of love. Judas' heart was never right. 

Whatever else you see here, please know this. Jesus changed the very nature of friendship, love, empathy and what it means to serve with this act. His was a new command. We are no longer to lord it over those differently blessed. We are to love them. Share our privilege with them. Become Jesus to them. We are to be spiritual friends of like mind, not as a Christian work to achieve salvation, but because we love as our Lord loves. 

This is our highest calling.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Friendship, Spiritual Friendship and Ministry

I do not have many friends. I am not ashamed of that. I think that it has to do with my definition of what a friend is. I prefer quality to quantity

A friend is someone that I can be totally honest with and not lose them because of my personality flaws. I have many. They are willing to be brutally honest with me when it's required, telling me what I need to hear, even if it pisses me off. Their personality characteristics should complement mine and not necessarily be like mine. They need to be intelligent enough to argue with me and gracious enough to forgive me. I need to be able to depend on them when I need support; a favor I am always compelled to return. Most importantly, they have to love me.

I get all this and much more from a handful of people in my life and these people have one thing in common. Consistency. They are always available to me and they love me. It is a spiritual thing.

Love is different for me because I am celibate. No sex. No marriage. Only friendships. Since the first two are missing in my life the last one has to fill a major void. There are many that do not want to get that deep with me. Usually it's because they are married or very private or not accustomed to this depth of friendship with someone other than maybe a spouse.

For me there is nothing better than a spiritual friendship. It's kind of like marriage without sex and the added bonus that you can go home at the end of the day. To know and be known. There is no greater bond. For me it is the closet thing to falling in love. It's emotional, it's intellectual and it can even be physical to a certain point without sexuality. These kinds of relationships can be difficult to navigate early on, you can get you heart stomped on if you choose poorly or you can create a bond that will last a lifetime.

Many people will say that this kind of friendship is unnatural for older adults, that this kind of friendship should be reserved for marriage and maybe that it's even homoerotic in some cases.

Well maybe. I don't care what people think. If you are my friend, you will experience the love and loyalty of a marriage partner without as much luggage. I'm kind of high maintenance. Don't worry about it. Please just be there. I will be fine. I'm self repairing in most instances.

I have been reading a book called, "Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love In The Church as a Celibate Gay Christian" by Wesley Hill. He is a very wise and well read man (he's a teacher) and he seems to understand what I talk about above in the same unique way. He is of the opinion that all Christians should become the type of friends that I describe above and he writes about it very eloquently in his book. His research centers around how the nature of friendship in Christian circles has changed through the centuries. He thinks we need to recapture many things that have been lost or replaced with shallow acquaintances that seem almost unspiritual. I have to agree with him. I would recommend his book to you. It would certainly help you to understand me better if you are trying to be a friend to me or if you think I have too much interest as my friend in your personal life. To that last I would say 'fear not'; you can trust me.

I guess what I am getting to is that if you really want to minister to people and be effective, you have to be willing to get involved with people intimately on a personal level. We have got to get to know them. We have to be willing to risk hurt and pain and being pissed off to move forward in a Christlike manner in relationship and spiritual friendship with others.

You can find such friendships in the Bible. They are natural and normal and sometimes hurtful, but they seem to be worth the trouble. David and Jonathan or Jesus and John come to mind. Oh to be John. Think of the things you would have been privy to.

To my brethren in the church, I would say this. We need to be closer. We need to be more honest with each other. We need to share our struggles and victories and how Christ helps us work through these. We need to be more than just shallow acquaintances that discuss fishing, lawn mowing and Aunt Mabel's nephrectomy as we gather at the church coffee shop.

I have been fortunate enough to experience spiritual friendship. I would like everyone to know the joy. There is nothing like it.    

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Empathy and Privilege

On June 4th I wrote about sympathy and empathy. As I recall, I believe I said that sympathy was not something that has the Biblical  seal of approval, but empathy is deeply embedded in scripture and should be practiced by all believers. This is because it requires something of you besides a feeling. It is more than saying, as James put it, "be warmed and filled". It is actually making that happen. It's more than "raising awareness", as the kids say today. Empathy is about becoming actively involved in someone's life and ministering to their needs.

Jesus and the apostles actively taught the practice of empathy. They were especially sensitive to management of wealth as a tool that should be used to assist and minister to others. Those that did not use their material blessings to help others were received warnings. Those that loved their wealth more than God had a problem. When you boil it down, God is the source of everything we have, be it life, liberty or property or talent. He did not distribute it all equitably. Rather, He arranged it so that we could all share with each other the privileges we enjoy as gifts. I think the plan was to force us to need each other. So why don't we?

The social justice warriors (SJW) in our culture wield the word "privilege" like a weapon to beat down those that enjoy certain abilities, occupations, social positions or even political power in an effort to force the "privileged" to share. It should not be this way in the world or even in places like the Church; even so, the privileged continue to deny their privilege in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

Think about it for a minute (or an hour). If you are a white heterosexual male, you are at the top of the privilege pyramid. You don't even need money or power or social position to exercise your privilege. You are welcome and welcomed wherever you go by others of your kind. What's worse is that you don't even realize it. You do not think you have privilege simply because you are white, straight and a man. You might even argue the contrary. Think again boy!

Despite leveling of so many cultural institutions, white men still own 99% of everything. We still grow up learning to assert ourselves in ways that women do not learn until much later. Have you ever been in a business meeting with female coworkers? They have trouble being heard many times because the alpha male in the room is dominating the conversation and minimizing anything the females say. I have seen this a lot. It's not pretty.

Now imagine that you are a female person of color that is a lesbian in that situation. You become a token and an outsider in a group of white straight men that might find your peculiarities entertaining.

What I am saying is that if you are born with more privilege in a caste society, you have more responsibility to help others with less privilege or different privileges. Those of us that are differently blessed owe it to those who are higher to let them know what we have to contribute and how it can be useful.

As a white male, I did not understand this for years...decades. As a gay man now out of the closet, I am becoming very familiar with it.

God did not create us to oppress each other and hold each other down. He made us to use our individualities together to His Glory. He loves variety. To Him, vanilla is just another flavor and not the most popular. There is a rainbow of possibilities...pun intended.     

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Two of Seven Reasons to Get a Goat



Here goes....


4. Security

Everybody knows the efficacy and safety provided by a good, loyal watchdog. But what about a watchgoat? Goats will bleat at everything and everyone that passes by your house, so you will always be kept aware of when somebody is near your property.
The surprise of hearing a goat bleating can startle off any potential intruder or solicitor.

5. Companionship

Though one might not immediately think of goats as a logical choice as a pet, these animals surprisingly exhibit many character traits that make them wonderful animal companions.
The fact that they are not as traditional as dogs, cats, birds, or fish, goats can actually provide wonderful companionship, entertainment, and joviality to your home.
Because most people associate goats as being only petting zoo or farm animals, they do not realize that they are actually very affectionate, loyal, intelligent, curious, and loving creatures.
This is why more people are keeping goats as pets with great success!
If you own a property with ample fenced-in outdoor space and an outdoor shelter, large goat breeds such as Nubians or Swiss Alpines are a great option.
However, even those with more limited space – but still with a decent amount of land – can look into a smaller breed like pygmy goats.
There are a few key things to be aware of if you are interested in keeping pet goats. First, keep in mind that goats are instinctively herd animals. This means that they naturally crave the presence of another of their own species.
Because of this, it is ideal for you to keep at least two goats as pets. This way, you will not have to leave your one singular goat by itself if you are not at home and tending to it.
Because they are intelligent and curious animals, boredom and loneliness may lead to destructive behaviors or attempts at escape. Do not let this warning deter you!
The same holds true for the more intelligent dog breeds as well. A goat’s intelligence and natural curiosity should be nurtured by you through a variety of rich stimuli and varied diets.
Also, make sure that you have enough space on your property to prevent your goats from feeling restricted.
Lastly, be sure to check with your city ordinances and find out the policy on animals and pets. Some municipalities do not consider goats as pets and, instead, only livestock.
If this is the case, it may not be legal for you to keep goats in a residential area. It is worth check up on, however, as having goats as pets can be a truly enriching and wonderful endeavor.




I think I'm a goat.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lost

There is a line in the last stanza of a song called "Hard to Get" by Rich Mullins that I can relate to in ways that most people do not understand. Here is the line.

I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led

The entire song makes for a good description of my spiritual life and I would encourage you to look up all the lyrics or maybe a video of Rich singing it. It is pregnant with profound meaning.

Back to the actual line though...sometimes we have to get completely lost on our journey before we get to the point where we are willing to let God drive. It begins with brutal honesty, first with yourself and finally with others. You then have to get out of the car, get into the passenger side and hand God the keys. Relinquishing control is the hard part because even if you are riding, you still want to tell Him how to drive.

I don't want to drive anymore. I want to go where He is taking me. I am now willing to shut up about His driving skills. I am now to the point where I just want to know if we are there yet.

It seems like everyone else around me knows exactly where they are going, but I also get the impression that they have not surrendered control to Him. They have their own destination in mind. I wonder if they are going to a destination that He would approve of. I wonder if they are hearing His Voice or if their own voices are drowning out the One.

We need, sometimes, to be reduced to our simplest form before God can use us. Some painful deconstruction needs to take place before rebuilding can begin. I think I have been through that and God is trying to build something in me and with me that can be useful to others. I feel like I am ahead of the the flock and even the shepherds in these things in some respects. Does that sound prideful and self righteous or is it possible that this is correct? If it is correct, then why will no one listen?

It's is because they are not lost enough yet to let themselves be led. I think they all may be there real soon though. Lord, please send them your Messenger for the time when they are ready to admit it. Take them gently and guide them. I will try to help if I can. I long for the day. I hope I am still here when you make life spring from death. Lord, you can do anything. I know you can do this. Make the rocks cry out so they will hear You. Shine Yourself directly in their eyes so they will see You. Blind them with Your glory and deafen them with Your holy noise. Please make them understand Who You are and what You want. In Your name Lord. Amen

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Forever

That song is still going thru my head. "Who Wants to Live Forever?" If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's the music video I posted last night. Adam Lambert is no Freddie Mercury, but he has an incredible voice and I think Freddie would have approved.

The song itself is kind of tongue in cheek in that the answer to the question is a kind of sarcastic "not really". And there is something to that. Who wants to live forever when they're old or sick or debilitated? That's how Freddie Mercury's life ended. He died of AIDS. He wanted to live forever, but as a healthy younger man I think. Certainly not in the decay of his final days.

Someone said that youth is wasted on the young, and I would say that's true for some. When we are in our 20's, we tend to burn the candle at both ends for a brief time prior to becoming responsible. Others of us never make that transition. We do not become responsible in the classic sense. We continue to live as we did when we were young and foolish and it can kill us if we aren't careful.

This is why I always say, moderation in everything - except moderation. We have to be extreme in our moderation. It's one of the keys to a long life I think, but I digress....

Our Creator made us to live forever and to live forever with Him. We were never intended to experience old age, sickness or death. Our ancestors thought they could live on their own without Him and do as they pleased and this was successful for awhile. Eventually though, separation from God brings about separation from life. We die. The process is wholly unnatural, but it happens because we choose our own will over His and so separate ourselves from Him who is the source of all life. 

The Lord God created us to live forever with Him. He is our eternal parent. We were never intended to be separated from Him. Sure, we grow up and are able to function in the world, but we are designed to always need Him in our lives. God has no grandchildren. We are it. We will always be His children whether we leave or stay by His side, but only He can ensure that we live forever.

Though we will all die as our ancestors did, our most important part will live on. The day will come when our spirits will be united with a new and uncorrupted body and we will live forever in this form. It will be glorious. The future is bright! 

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

You see? Now do you want to live forever? I do. See ya there.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Queen + Adam Lambert - Who Wants To Live Forever - Live at The Isle of W...

E.L.O-Roll Over Beethoven Live 2001 HQ

5250 Pale Ale - Shivers Brewery

A growler of beer is just enough to know that 5280 Pale Ale from South Dakota Shivers Brewery in Lead, SD is just enough to get you all smiley faced, but not enough to make you drunk or give you a headache. It is a very smooth beer that actually tastes like beer. Not too hoppy, but with real flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed what our neighbors brought back. I think he should buy the brewery and bring it to Iowa.

I have to say that I feel really good about it (;^))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))



     

You've Gotta Love Millennials - Micah Tyler

The Armor of Light


11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

For whatever the reason, no one ever messes with me. I think it's because I have it. It's better than a hand gun, it always fits and it will protect me forever. What more could I want? It's the Armor of Light!  

Pro Gay, Pro Gun?

This is an interesting development. Since the Orlando massacre, there has been a move in West Hollywood, CA for the gay community there to arm themselves. According to The Daily Wire


"On Wednesday morning, posters suddenly appeared in West Hollywood, California featuring a gay version of the Gadsden Flag featuring a rattlesnake on top of the gay rainbow. The flags also had the hashtag #ShootBack indicating a more proactive approach to gay self-defense.
The posters were attracting attention in front of the Pacific Design Center, The Abbey, West Hollywood City Hall and in front of artist Chad Michael Morrisette's house.  Morrisette had covered the roof of his house with 50 mannequins to make a statement about the Orlando shootings.

 If one picture is worth a thousand words, the series of posters surely represented an eloquent plea to the LGBT community and other Americans to stand as one (thus the "Don't Tread On Me symbol of the American Revolution), as well as a marked attempt to encourage the LGBT community to eschew their traditional pacifist role and take up arms to defend themselves, in the manner of Americans from the Minutemen of the Revolutionary War to the armed service members who defend American values to this very day."

This will create a rift in the left if this movement takes hold. I have to say I like the idea. I was thinking on Monday that if just one man had been armed at Pulse, he could have dropped Omar Mateen in his tracks and sent him straight to paradise.  

Then there's this from FOX 31 in Denver,

Gun sales are surging in the wake of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. The tragedy is generating new debate over gun control reform and the right to bear arms.
Gun shops typically see a spike in customers after mass shootings. But this time, many are seeing shoppers they’ve never really seen before: More gays and lesbians.
George Horne, the owner of The Gun Room, Denver’s oldest firearms dealer, said Tuesday business is booming at his store.
"For this time of year I’d say its three to four times what we normally have," he said.
Background checks that once took minutes can now take hours. It's a sales surge similar to what happened after Sandy Hook and the Aurora theater shootings.
“We’re not surprised by it,” Horne said.
However, what’s different this time around is the clientele. Mike Smith, a firearms instructor in Colorado Springs, is one of many closely tracking the sudden surge in gays and lesbians buying weapons.
“I think right now because of what happened, people are looking for answers,” he said. “You walk into a gun shop and you expect to see people, frankly, who look like me. I think we forget we’re a country of all people, not just people who fit that predetermined mold.”
The Pink Pistols is a national gun club for gays and lesbians. It saw its membership soar from about 1,500 members on Saturday to 3,500 on Monday.

The whole "Pink Pistols" thing is cute, but really, it's only logical that more gay people would know how to use firearms. We have been in the military and on your police forces for decades. Maybe it's just a case of gay self defense finally coming out of the closet. If so, the nation should welcome it.

The whole country needs to think about shooting back when things like this happen. We cannot be ruled by fear. Shootings like the Orlando incident would disappear or be minimized if perpetrators knew they would meet resistance. I like it.    

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin? Really?

I have always despised that expression because it conceals so much self righteousness. I like Mark Lowery's take on it. Please see below. There is both truth and humor in his words.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Church and State

It's been an interesting year from a political standpoint. Our choices in the presidential race betray where we are as a nation. We are divided and divided in ways that we have never been divided before. Donald Trump stands out because, even though he runs as a Republican, he is not really one of them. He has become the standard bearer of what is coming and what people really want from government; pragmatism and the ability to choose something other than one size fits all government policy. I could go on, but just let me say, he almost convinces me that voting might matter.

That's right. I don't vote. I don't need to because my vote will not make a difference. Neither will yours. Voting and democracy are an illusion. Don't be tricked.

From a Christian standpoint, there is nothing in scripture that prompts me to take part in the political process. It is inherently corrupt and corrupting. It is something I would ask all Christians to avoid like the plague. It's true that what government does, effects us all, but in the big picture of things, it does not matter for us. We are Christians. We may live in the United States, but as Christians, we are foreigners and aliens. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. Our King is Jesus Christ. Nowhere in scripture are we told to try to influence the path government or politics. We already have an everlasting kingdom. If the world chooses a different path, that is their choice. Let them go. Our responsibility to them is to preach the gospel. Plant that seed. If it grows, then we teach them what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom. Otherwise God will be their judge. They are free to choose.

Every time in history when the church involves itself in the power mechanisms of the state, it becomes corrupted. It is one of the reasons that there was a reformation movement. We need to steer clear of the political arena and share only the gospel in the public arena. In the privacy of our fellowship, we can educate each other about the tenets of the faith. We cannot expect the world to live as we do if they do not accept Christ's lordship. The notion is ridiculous. We need to tolerate them so that they will tolerate us.

I offer again here I Peter 2:9-17

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Pretty simple eh? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Loving Sin

In the Christian world, we are taught to hate sin because God hates sin. Our faith demands that we turn away from it and toward Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. But how does all that work from a spiritual standpoint?

I know that there are sins that I hate. I do not practice them and I abhor them in others, but what about those other sins; the ones I commit fairly often? Do I really hate them as I am supposed to? Do I really regret the things in my life that I have done that were contrary to God's will? Am I truly sorry?

My thought is that, far from hating sin, we all love it, even those of us that try to live by faith. There are things I have done in my life that were sinful, but they were also enjoyable. Nothing negative happened to me because I did them. I never received consequences. In the end they were harmless to me and in some respects, even good experience for life in the real world.

So how do we counterbalance our love of sin with what we believers see in the Bible? What has to happen to overpower our love of things that are contrary to God's will?

Some will say that we just have to 'man up' and stop doing whatever it is. God will give us the power to overcome our desires. We simply have to resist our desires and the will of the evil one; be strong. Stand firm.

Let me suggest that this will not work. You will not be able to overcome your own sin habits with will power, spirit power or intense prayer and self deprivation. Let me further suggest that these things may actually make everything worse because eventually you will fail at whatever it is you are trying so hard to prevent, you will fall into despair and depression and you may even lose your faith for a time.

Instead, let me ask you this. How much do you love Jesus?

What I find is that I am able to avoid sin because I love Him. If we can get to the point where we love Him more than we love our own desires, it becomes easier to say no. Sometimes it does not even come to mind because His love is so satisfying.

Even so, sin is like that old boyfriend that comes around once in awhile. There is still some love there. You remember the fun, but not what a jerk he could be and it goes on from there.

In those times, remember how much better loving Jesus is. If you still fail, then go to Him. He is faithful to forgive. He knows you better than you know yourself.

It all just becomes easier when you finally love Jesus more than yourself.

Orlando

I have been silent about this, waiting for more facts to emerge in regard to the shooter and I find myself puzzled by many things.

Initially we heard and read that Omar Mateen was an Islamic extremist and terrorist for ISIS that he had been investigated by the FBI in the past. As more facts came out, we learned that he had been going to this particular bar (Pulse) for quite awhile. An ex-wife has said he was gay. His current wife said he had homosexual tendencies. Some of the regular bar patrons said Omar had been patronizing Pulse for a long time, maybe as much as 3 years, that he would drink to excess and that he could be found on gay dating and hook up apps. And this is what confuses at first, but really explains it all in the end.

What kind of Muslim does these things? A bad Muslim. This guy was gay and he liked to drink. He kept a wife and family as a "beard" and trolled for boyfriends by night. His entire life was a contradiction to what he was supposed to be by faith.

It is a testimony to what an extreme religion can do to a man living in the closet that is unable to process who he is with what his faith demands.

I find myself wondering if this man was ever introduced to Christ, if he would have done any of these things. Christianity has been described by some as extreme. Christ followers have been called haters. I ask you, has a Christian of any stripe ever done anything like this in our society?

There has been much vitriol in the gay community and the Church over the morality of alternative sexualities, but there has not been any bloodshed like this. I hope and pray that it never happens. We need dialogue and we need to understand that if people reject Jesus, it is their choice. Ultimately God will judge us all. It is not for anyone to take justice into their own hands and punish. As God says, "vengeance is Mine. I shall repay". I know some of us just want to be about our Father's business. We need to remember, it's His business and not ours.

What Omar did was the result of a very confused mind. The contradictions between his faith and his desire were more than he could handle and apparently the ISIS leadership took advantage of this and offered him a one way ticket to paradise if he would do this thing.

Jesus could have given Omar that and a way to balance the apparent contradictions between who he was and what faith in the One True God demands. The way of love, grace and peace could have made Omar a true child of God. No suicide mission with death and mayhem of the many would have been required.

The whole thing is an unfortunate mess and I do not try to diminish the enormity of his crimes by saying he was confused, but all he really needed was Jesus. It would have fixed everything.

Gun control would not have stopped this.
Banning homosexual behavior would not have stopped this.
Banning Islam would not have stopped this.

Submitting to Jesus would have changed everything for Omar and saved all the lives lost at Pulse.

Islamic immigrants and LGBT people need the opportunity to hear about Jesus free of judgement, in the way of love and grace.

Is anyone really doing this? Please tell me. I want to know.  
  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Final Exhortations

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

1 Peter 2:9-17

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Then and Now

I was thinking about the events in my life in the last three weeks and the last six months as I was trying to wake up this morning, standing in the cold water spray of the shower. Yes, cold water. Even at 58, there are things that just will not subside without a dose of cold water. But I digress :^)))

Anyway, as I was standing there on the edge of hypothermia, it all came together in my mind.

I am sooooo saved. I feel like I have aged 100 years in the last three weeks, but the events have not thrown me into panic or depression as it would have a year ago. I am good with whatever happens because He, the Lord, is with me. I have done what He wanted me to do. I did it six months ago and I have been steadfast to do what He wanted in the last three weeks of the current difficulty.

There is peace of mind in obedience.

I know that many of you think I am an unsubmitted, unregenerate sinner at this point. To this I say, I am a sinner, but the Lord's Spirit within me is now, and has been, changing me. I see things I have never seen before with a clarity I wished I had at 23. The path is clear to me and there is no turning back. I will, I must continue to help others like me find the way to freedom. There are many places that this can be done. I do not really want to move on. I want to stay and work where I am, but I do not want to be the house homo that proves how loving and accepting everyone else is. I want to be me and I want others like me to join us. Some are already in the house, but they are now afraid to speak and be themselves because of recent events. There is a chill in the air that was not there before. It's as though someone said, "this far and no further".

I think what I need to do is dial up the hot water and try to melt the hearts of those that bring the chill. There are some whose hearts are so hard, they will just crumble to dust. So be it. The Lord always loves a remodeling project. I just cannot, at this point, bring myself to pull up stakes and move on. Now is not the time.

------------

Lord, you never gave up on me. I praise your name for that. Who am I to give up on my reluctant friends and even those that oppose me. I cannot. I must love them and do the right thing even if the whole process frustrates me and those I am loving cannot see the forest for all all the trees in their way. They are yours too. Even so, please soften their hearts, open their minds and invigorate their souls. Help them to see the contradiction in their behaviors then and now. Help me to be patient and not angry, to be merciful and not self righteous, to be loving and not vindictive.

Lord, I love you. In Your name I Pray These Things

Amen

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Behold His Mighty Hand


Sometimes, despite protests to the contrary, we really have no desire to be free. We sacrifice freedom for safety and security and a life of comfort and calm. We depend on government and law to protect us from those that harm us and we depend on our employers to see to our material needs. We love our grocery stores and discount stores and paved roads and air conditioned homes with two car garages with room for a boat. Why would anyone want to get free of all that?

What we fail to realize is that we have these things because we are slaves. We have been laboring so long in the land of Egypt that we have forgotten what it means to be free.

For most of a year, Moses and his brother Aaron labored alongside the Lord to bring His people, Israel, out of slavery in the land of Egypt and into a new life where their only leader was the Lord God and their only life was one of uncertainty and trusting in His guidance. The proposition was a scary one. I can imagine that many of these people thought, "we can trust a God we cannot see and go with Him to who knows where or we can stay here in the peace and safety and plenty of this land of prosperity building monuments to dying kings."

The choice was one of trusting in uncertain circumstances versus no trust required. It would have been a no brainer for many. Why give up all of this to wander in a desert toward a place we have never heard of, lead by a God that we cannot see? Is all that suffering and uncertainty really necessary?

In the end, they decided to go, but all the way along the road people had second thoughts. Those regretful moments began on day one at the shore of the Red Sea and they continued throughout their 40 year journey.

Day One -   They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

Most of you probably know that this attitude of fear and doubt among the people and their never ending desire to appeal to the power of the state to protect them, feed them and save them, did not end well. Of all those that came out of Egypt on that day, only two families of that generation ever saw the promised land. The others of that generation died in the desert in their rebellion against a God that had set them free. Only Caleb and Joshua with their families were spared and this for their obedience and lack of fear. It was them that lead the second generation to the promised land.

You might ask, "So what's your point Jeff?"

Last year I stood at the shore of my "Red Sea" deciding whether I would obey the Lord and cross over into an age of uncertainty and adventure with Him as my only guide. I decided to cross. I trusted the Lord and His people with my last secret and I went to the desert with Him and everyone else. 

Now there are many that want to go back. They want to appeal to Pharaoh to save them rather than trust in the Lord our God for our journey. To this I say, Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.

The time is now to obey the Lord. Please come with me. Enjoy the security that comes with trusting in the Lord. It will not be what you were used to in Egypt, but one day you will have a land of your own flowing with milk and honey. Turn away from the kings of this world and put your eyes on Jesus. He is our King and Our Savior. Do not stand there crying out to Him. Rather, move forward in faith to an uncertain future in the desert with only Him as your guide. 

Are you ready to go? Or do you still want to seek Pharaoh's permission one more time?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Thanks Lord

Thanks Lord for a day filled with hope; for the emails from those who pray with me for peace. I lift up again their prayers to you and also mine.

Please guide the leadership of our church tonight as they move through the decision making process on things that will effect so many. Help them Lord to walk for a minute in the shoes of others. Help them to put on your sandals and know the empathy you feel toward those lost and without faith and to those with faith that need the encouragement and help of their brethren.
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Put upon their hearts your love and grace and compassion. Help them to turn away from the path of wrath and defiance and fear. Cause in them a desire to embrace those that need you in a consistent manner and not with olive leaves in one hand and a sword in another. Help them...help us all to fear only you and nothing else.

In Your Name We Pray,

Amen! and Amen!

Glorified

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

I am feeling glorified this morning. There is a lot of crap going on right now in my life and in the lives of others in my world, but I think it is going to resolve itself in a way I do not expect and it will ultimately work out for everyone involved.  

I am up for that adventure. I started one last Sunday. I need some more.

I've been feeling betrayed or maybe 'used' is a better word. I am so over that today.

I am beginning to move on. I suppose we are all traitors to something. I am not perfect either. I know I should strive to be perfect, but I am not, and it does not bother me all that much. I find that the less perfect I am, the better I understand and relate to people.

I know self righteousness because I have been self righteous.

I know judgmentalism because I have been judgmental.   

I understand the angry because I have been angry.

And I understand stupidity, because I have been stupid. (I know. I can't believe it either.)

I have become all things to all men so that I might commiserate with some of them.

Somewhere in heaven Paul is laughing...or maybe not. 

Whatever. I am moving forward with the Lord to a glorious future

Wanna go?