Christian in Three Simple Words

What’s the definition of a “Christian” in three simple words? Love, God, neighbor. What? Listen to what Jesus said:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Simple. The keywords are Love, God, and neighbor. So, if Jesus the Christ said it, the definition of a Christian—a follower of Jesus the Christ—is that simple. Love, God, neighbor.

It you think this is too simple think again. As I write over and over again, God means life to be so very simple. There should be nothing complicated about it. But we complicate life. Life is like a new closet that starts out as empty but we start storing junk in. After a while the clean (simple) closet is filled with junk (complications).

Love, God, neighbor. Wow! I’m watching an election season that has nothing about love, God, or neighbor in it. Just the opposite! But that’s the state of the world right now. There’s simply not a lot of love, little God, and even less care about our neighbors. That can only mean there are not many true—I mean really true—Christians out there. Sad but true.

My priorities for this week are love, God, and neighbor. Yours?

Have a FANTASTIC week walking in love with God and your neighbors!!!

Church or State?

The gospel reading at Mass this weekend was the encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees who tried to trip Him up about whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar/Rome (Matthew 22). I have to admit that when the deacon started giving the homily I shut down because I had no idea what he was saying. He was up in the clouds somewhere and I wanted to know how this applies to everyday, real life. There is so much talk about the separation of church and state, especially during the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearings, that it’s an old story with timely implications. So, here are my thoughts.

The Pharisees knew they had Jesus in a no-win situation. If Jesus said pay taxes, he loses His followers who were oppressed by Rome. If Jesus says no to taxes, Rome comes down on Him. So, Jesus gets them with the answer of give to Rome what is Rome’s and to God what is God’s. Gotcha!

More people today want to completely separate “church” from “state.” “Religion” is something that belongs in a church or in a quiet place in your home. The two should never meet. Period end of statement. In fact, some pundits and TV types have criticized Judge Barrett because of her strong Catholic faith. Some want a Supreme Court judge with no faith in God.

I think what Jesus was saying was pretty simple. We’re in this world so live in it. But God created this world so live for Him. “Religion” is not something for the weekends or a quiet spot. Living your faith, whatever faith that is, is about how to live life. The “state” should never dictate what “religion” you practice, which includes how you live your life. If you really, really live what you believe, “church” and “state” are really inseparable. There are matters of “state” and matters of “God.” Jesus said be mindful of both but he didn’t say to separate them.

I don’t live two separate lives. I live one life. I live in the world with all the things of the world around me. But I try my best to live in the world as God wants me to live in the world.

Have an OUTSTANDING week!!!

Glory

Glory is one of those difficult words to define when talking about God. But like all things in life, which is meant to be so very simple, I think that “glory” is pretty simple. Glory is the awe of God—everything that is right, perfect, splendid, shining, and magnificent. Glory is total light, like the sun rising on a cloudless, perfect day. Everything flowing from God flows in rays of glory. And, as God created us—He is in us and we are in Him—our own form of glory should flow from us.

The world is in desperate need of glory!!! We live in times that seem to get progressively darker. It’s like a string of damp, rainy days when you think you’ll never see the sun again. We blot out God’s glory and with it our own brand of glory.

It’s time for each of us to step up to let God’s glory flow, and along with it our own glory. The glory of God within us. Sound like more religious mumbo-jumbo? Well it’s not. It’s life. A life we need to make less dark and more glorious.

Smile at strangers. Wish everyone a great day. Buy someone in line behind you a coffee. Give of your time and money. Forgive. Love. Simply think glorious thoughts. You get the picture. It’s not hard. Simple.

I wish you a GLORIOUS day and week ahead!!!

Is God Lost?

I have heard more people questioning where is God? Is He hiding? Has He given up on us? All good questions in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed over a million lives, civil unrest that has virtually locked down some big American cities, and a world seemingly one button away from nuclear destruction. It just seems that we all hate each other and God is lost in all of this mess. Well, NEWS FLASH: God is NOT lost. We are!

I don’t know how many times I have written about this—too many to count. But our current story is the story of the Israelites thousands of years ago. They fled Egypt to make what was an 11 day journey across the desert to the Promised Land. It took them 40 years (as in 40 YEARS!!!) to finally cross over to the Promised Land. And only two Israelites who fled Egypt made actually made it to the Promised Land. All others died along the way.

The Israelites had no vision of where they were going. They doubted God, complained to Him, and turned their back on Him worshiping false idols. Wow!!! We have no vision of where we are going, what this country or even the world should be. We turn our backs on God, even during the scourge we call COVID-19. We have thrown Him out of our schools, and want His name off our dollar bills. And those idol bills we worship with a passion! The story of the Israelites has become our story. We are the ones aimlessly wandering in the desert of this world.

Whether you like it or not, God made you and me and everyone else. He is hardwired into each one of us. As such, God is less than a heartbeat away. Always there, always present. We’re the ones who deny that presence. We doubt, complain, and deny. We turn to all the idols we have built.

What can you do? Keep God front and center in your life. LISTEN for/to Him. Understand the unique, special purpose He wants you to fulfill with your life. Smile, laugh, love. Get away from the crowd. Craft your own path. Find your own Promised Land. It’s not hard. It just takes centering your life on God.

Take a read of the Old Testament dealing with Moses and the trials in the desert. Think about that and reflect on today. Then, set out on your own path and enjoy every step of the journey.

Have a TREMENDOUS day walking your walk with God in your life!

Conform or Transform Your Mind?

So, what’s it going to be? Conform your mind (thinking) to the traditional and/or social media influences pulling you either left or right (or any other way) or transform your mind by being your own person? Letting others—with a clear agenda in mind—do your thinking for you? Or do your own thinking? Be someone else’s person/pawn? Or be your own person? It’s time to answer that question!

Paul said it best a long time ago…

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Don’t conform to what everyone is saying, wanting you to say. Transform your mind by renewing it. That means constantly challenging your thinking by focusing on God’s will. Not the will of the media, pundits, politicians, advocates or anyone else. God’s will. What is good, pleasing, perfect to God, not any person.

I know I am hopelessly lost without God. Without figuring out why I was created by a Father who has a very specific purpose in my life. Without trying my best to follow the path set down by Jesus Christ. Without seeking the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The more I listen to this world the more lost I feel. Especially in the middle of a pandemic that has spawned more hatred than I have ever experienced before in my lifetime.

Challenge yourself and what you hear around you. Take your eyes off of the TV, computer screen, and smart phone. Focus on God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not hard. It simply takes a determination to “transform” rather than “conform.” Conforming is easy. Transforming is tougher. Don’t let “big brother” rule your life. Let God. And let go so you can let God (do HIs thing in your life).

Have an AMAZING, transformative day!!!

A Virus Far Worse Than Any Novel Coronavirus

Hate. It’s a “virus” that is spreading all around the globe. I certainly see it spreading in this country (the United States; which are far from united!). And hate is spreading faster than any novel coronavirus. It’s being spread by a lot of so-called “christians” (the lower case “c” isn’t a typo). “So-called” because you’re certainly not a true Christian (meaning, follower of Jesus Christ) if you hate; in fact, you’re not a true Christian if you don’t actively love. ACTIVELY!!!

This is all too simple and clear. In facing His death—a gruesome death suffered for all of us in the supreme act of love—Jesus gave us one little, simple, clear command: love.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12

What part of that command don’t we understand? Yet, with about a third of the world made up of Christians, hate is spreading faster than any coronavirus. In this country, the name calling, destruction, and violence is unspeakable. Why? Because we have lost the ability to love and have found the ability to hate. We like hating.

Worried about the coronavirus and getting COVID-19? Sure. But I’m even more worried about giving in to hate. That’s why I’m determined to do just the opposite. To find love. To love. To find the face of Jesus in every face I look at, regardless of who the person is. To love.

I hope you help to fight hate by finding time to smile today, give something to someone in need, to help, to heal, to love.

 

Today (Not Tomorrow or Yesterday)

I have lived a good part of my life living in tomorrow and yesterday. Thinking about what will be and what could have been. I’m not sure I have spent a lot of time living in today. That’s what I’m working on today. Living in today. Relishing today. Not living in tomorrow or yesterday.

The problem with living for tomorrow or in yesterday is that you don’t enjoy today. God wants each one of us to enjoy today. And the best way to deal with what we should have done yesterday and want to do tomorrow is by living in today.

Like everyone else, I want the todays of COVID-19 to go away. I long for the world to get back to normal—whatever that is. But the funny thing is that with all the bad news swirling around me I am trying to stay in today. To cherish what today brings, to stay in communion with God, and to make the best of today, whatever today brings.

Sure, I look back at yesterday to enjoy memories and think of what I would have done differently. But I don’t want to live in yesterday. And I look for tomorrow to leave COVID-19 behind, to travel again, and just be normal. But I’m not living in tomorrow. I’m living in today—COVID-19 and everything.

It’s a funny thing when you start living in today. Colors seem brighter, the air is clearer, and there’s more bounce in my step. And in every today, I spend time listening for/to God for the messages of today. I certainly try to make time for God. Today.

I hope you enjoy today to the fullest. There’s a lot wrong with the world we live in but there’s everything right with God. Live for today and what God has in store for you today!

Enjoy!!!

Listening to COVID-19

I’m not one of those people professing that the novel coronavirus is a plague sent from God to signal the end of times. Yes, they are out there. I don’t think COVID-19 is anything “sent” from God, to punish us or otherwise. We’re facing a pandemic because viruses are a part of nature and we simply don’t do enough to respond to new ones. (Why is a different story for a different post.) My point in this post is that you should be listening, and learning, from COVID-19. What is it saying to you about you?

I know it sounds strange but I am trying to “listen” to this once-in-a-lifetime (let’s hope it is!!!) experience to hear what it tells me about me. What’s really important in my life? What do I miss in this pandemic? What does it tell me about my family and friends? What does it tell me about people I don’t know? I could go on and on.

COVID-19 has told me that life can hang on a thread. Yes, you can walk across the street, get hit by a car, and die that suddenly. But with COVID-19 raging all around us, death is all around us more than we have ever experienced. Cancer, the flu, heart disease are all killers, but COVID-19 deaths have come in a wave—OK, a tsunami.

I miss a lot of things that I thought I would never miss—like traveling for business most weeks. But I have a new appreciation for my family (my sister-in-law had a really bad bout of COVID-19; it was scary), my friends, my work, my health, and a lot of other things I take for granted. And listening to COVID-19 has helped tune my faith. After all, everything I am, everything I have, every breath I take, and everything else is in the hands of God. I may plan the way but God sets the course (Proverbs 16:9).

I hope this finds you well and safe!

And have an OUTSTANDING day!!!

Not Alone in the Fire

There are a lot of fires burning in this world today. Pandemic, regional wars, social unrest, etc, etc. The list goes on. And in our own personal lives fires may be raging as well. Furloughed, COVID-19, uncertain school year, no daycare, etc, etc. What you need to know is that no matter how many fires are blazing around you, and no matter how intense the heat, you’re not alone. Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What???

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in an intense fire by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, when they refused to bow down to the king’s image (chapter 3 of the book of Daniel). The fire was so intense—heated seven times normal—that all around were burned. Except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There were unhurt by the fire, walking with a fourth person, someone “like a son of God” in the midst of the fire.

I know this is a Bible story that you may think is a little out there. Well, whether you believe it or not the bottom line is that you are never alone in any fire in your life. There is always an angel, and there is always the Son of God, Jesus.

I know this sounds fanciful and more religious mumbo-jumbo. But it’s life. If you want to be alone in the fire, fine. Be alone and burn. But if you reach out (pray) for protection you will be saved from the fire. One way or another. It’s simply a matter of faith. Of believing.  Of opening up your mind and heart to God.

Simple, yes. Then again, God means life to be so, so very simple. We are the ones who complicate it. And light the fires.

Think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You are never alone if you don’t want to be alone. Just reach out for help.

Have an AMAZING day!!! 

Real or Fake Christian?

It’s pretty easy to spot a real Christian. He or she simply follows what Jesus Christ taught us. Love (John 15:12), give the shirt off your back (Luke 7:29), and don’t judge (Luke 7:37) are several of the notable commands Jesus gave us. You can’t follow Jesus—translation, be a Christian—if you don’t do what He says. It’s that simple.

Listen, I call myself a Christian but make no mistake I screw up all the time. And I mean all the time. I do anything but love on occasion, I judge, and I turn my back on others. I’m far, far from perfect. But being Christian is not about being perfect. It’s about doing your best to do what Jesus asks of us. We fall off the horse at times. We simple need to get back up.

Jesus lived and died to rid us of our sins—our un-Christian behaviors. He doesn’t expect perfection but a realization of when we screw up. A “real” Christian not only knows what to do—what Jesus expects—but knows when he or she doesn’t do it. And tries harder the next time. Again and again.

I don’t want to judge but it seems there are a lot of “fake” christians out there. Then again, I don’t want to judge. I just want to focus on me and what is expected of me. In that way, rather than judging I can let my christianity flow to others. And let their christianity flow to me.

Being Christian is simply following Jesus (the Christ).

I hope you have an AMAZING day and rest of this beautiful week!!!