Take Him Down!

That’s one of my mantras for 2021. Take Him (Jesus) down from the cross. What??? Jesus was taken down over 2,000 years ago. Is this more “religious” mumbo-jumbo? No, it’s about life and changing mine for the better. Here’s my thinking.

Jesus died on the cross for our sins—yours, mine, and every living being past present, and future. My sins were up there on the cross. In fact, effectively my sins hammered in those nails at the hands of the Romans. I had a hand in putting Jesus up there. It’s my responsibility to take Him down.

OK. Let’s get practical. How do I take Jesus down from the cross? Simply by doing what He showed all of us to do—love. Every day, every step, should be a walk in love. Sure, I veer off the love path all the time. I get inpatient with people. I get mad. I look down. But I try to look back on every day and be honest when and where I messed up. I then repent. And try not to mess up the next day. I envision Jesus hanging on the cross and me taking Him down. It’s really that simple. Try, review, and repent. Constantly try to do better, be better.

Yes, this all sounds simple. But then again for the 1,000th-plus time, God means life to be simple. We are the ones who complicate it so very much.

Take Him down! Easy enough to think about, harder to execute. I know. Trust me. But we all get points for doing our best. That’s what God expects. Try.

Have a TERRIFIC weekend ahead!!!

Sow & Reap

There are more “sow” and “reap” messages in the Bible than you may think. But my favorite is what Paul wrote to the Christian community in Corinth, Greece: “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6) The message is pretty simple—you get back according to what you put in. And the message pertains to everything in life—relationships, work, and God.

We live in a time when people want but don’t want to put in the effort. People want quick fixes. But what you put into something is sooner or later tied to what you put into it. Invest more in a relationship and you will “reap” more. Work harder (and smarter) and you will “reap” the rewards. There are rarely quick fixes that will get you through life. They may work one once in a while, and even a few times, but they won’t get you through life. What you “sow” in life is truly what you will “reap.”

And sowing and reaping is no truer than with your relationship with God. In fact, you can’t have a relationship with God until you put something into the relationship. God is always there. But you have to be there. You won’t hear God until you take the time—real time—to hear God. You won’t “feel” God in your life until you stop to feel the “touch” of God in your life. What you “sow” with God is what you will “reap” with God. Not because God wants you to start but simply because God is here—there and everywhere. He’s already taken the first step. It’s your turn.

“Sow” a little and your “harvest” in life will “reap” a little. “Sow” a lot and you will “reap” a lot. In everything. God and everything. It’s that simple. But, then again, God means life to be so very simple. We are the ones who clutter and complicate life.

Have a SPECTACULAR week sowing and reaping!!!

When Will We Look at Each Other as God Looks at Us?

Yesterday was a very dark day in this country. I spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill, in the six House and Senate office buildings and in the Capitol. I respect everything on “The Hill” because it deserves respect, regardless of politics and differences of opinions. But yesterday The Hill was disrespected like I have never seen in my lifetime and, hopefully, will never see again. It was disrespected by a gang of vandals and by the President of the United States himself. And that’s not a political statement. It’s simply the sad fact. Unfortunately, underlying that disrespect, and the way that Washington, D.C. was disrespected earlier this year by another group of vandals, is a fundamental disrespect of each other. When will we start looking at each other as God looks at us?

How does God look at us? First, God doesn’t look outward at skin color, gender, and anything else on the outside. God looks inside. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). God doesn’t care what political party you belong to, what cause you follow, or any other differences. He looks at each one of us equally and loves us unconditionally, regardless of what we do. God looks at us in terms of similarities—all different but all the same.

As I have written more times than I can possibly count, God commands us to love. To do one simple thing. Love. He went to the length of sending His only Son to deliver that message body and soul to us. To give up Jesus’ life in the ultimate sacrifice of love.

It’s time to heal as a country, as a world, as a people. It’s so very clear how God looks at us and how he wants us to look at and treat each other—with love. But we don’t do that. We do anything to divide and not unite. We are an angry country—an angry world—that not even a pandemic has been able to unite. Maybe, just maybe, the terrible scenes from yesterday will help some of us start looking for answers. And start looking at each other as God looks at us!

Please help today! Go out of your way to smile at someone, pay something forward, lend someone a hand—just be nice, when nice is not what you want to be. Try to look through God’s eyes.

Thank you!

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!!!

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.

 

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!!! 

Jesus Needed Help Carrying His Cross? Really???

Of course Jesus didn’t need help carrying His Cross! He could have thrown it up the hill. Or a legion of angels could have flown it up. But His Cross is not His Cross—it’s our Cross. So, it’s only fitting that we should be helping Jesus carry our Cross. I know. Sounds like more religious mumbo-jumbo from me. But listen and I’ll explain. It’s not about “religion.” It’s about life.

Jesus came to save us. To nail to the Cross every sin we have committed or will commit. That’s the whole point of His time on earth. To banish our sins. But hold on. It takes two to tango. We need to do our part in carrying that Cross. We need to accept responsibility for our sins. We need to repent. Jesus is with us every step of the way. We just need to be with Him. We need to take part of the burden.

We live in times where everyone wants to point the finger at the other person’s faults but ignore their own. From news pundits to politicians to lawyers our “role models” are paragons of virtues—or so they think. So, we emulate this behavior. I’m always right and perfect. You’re the one wrong and flawed. Or so I think.

None of us are perfect and we each have a cross to bear in life. Some larger than others but we all have our crosses. Jesus is there to help carry the Cross but we need to be side-by-side with Him. Forget that carrying the Cross happened over 2,000 years ago. It happens every day in living this life.

What does this all mean in a very practical sense? Take responsibility for your actions. Fix your flaws before you’re so quick to jump on others’ flaws. Reflect on what you did right and wrong each day. Correct your mistakes. Fix the wrongs. Accentuate the rights. Live the life to the fullest that Jesus gave you by his death on the Cross. Be thankful. Be joyful!

And have an AMAZING day!

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

We simply can’t. We spend more time tearing each down and apart than helping build each other up. We need to take a page out of Paul’s letter to the new Christian community in the Macedonian city of Thessalonica, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) We need to stop listening to the media—both left and right—and the pundits who make their million dollar livings tearing down, rather than building up. We need to listen to God!!!

God gave us one basic command that involves us loving Him through loving our neighbors. He put a punctuation on that command by sending His One Son to live and die that love. Jesus reiterated that command of love when He said, “This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Anyone who professes to be a Christian does so because they follow Jesus Christ. Anyone who says they are a Christian because the follow Jesus Christ, simply can’t be a Christian if they don’t love. You can’t ignore Jesus’ one command to love. It’s that simple.

I don’t mean this to be a negative message. To the contrary. This is about being positive, not negative. About loving, not hating. About smiling, not scowling. About encouraging, not discouraging. About building up, not tearing down.

It’s time to change the world. That starts with one person at a time. Let’s not let the novel coronavirus be the only thing spreading across the globe. Let’s starting spreading love and encouragement!

Have an AMAZING day and week ahead! 

What Has the Coronavirus Taught Us?

Nothing in modern history, not even 9/11, has come anywhere close to providing the opportunity to soul search like this novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 health crisis. Especially in the hot spots, we have been shut in and in many cases shut out of work and school. BC (before coronavirus), families were running all over the place, sometimes barely talking and less frequently sitting down for a meal together. Now, families are shut in together and forced to converse and eat together. But what has this taught us, if anything?

The things I use to complain about I now finding myself missing. Traveling almost every week, Laguardia airport in New York, traffic in Connecticut, walking the halls of Congress in D.C. are among those things that use to get to me, more than on occasion. Now, I find myself missing them. Except for a run to the grocery store, or a morning run on the local rail trail, I’m a shut in with my wife. I have a lot (a LOT!) of phone and Zoom contact with work people and friends but it’s not the same as live interactions.

I think the most important thing I have learned is to be thankful. Thankful for the things that use to bother me and I would complain about. Thankful for all the basics—yes, I would include toilet paper on that list—that I simply took for granted BC. Thankful for the company of friends, even if BC I was more than happy with a good book than at a party having to converse with people. Thankful for my health as I watched my healthy sister-in-law struggle for 5 weeks with COVID-19. But, most importantly, thankful for God and my faith. If there is ever a time to fall back on faith and put your trust in God it’s DC (during coronavirus).

If there is ever a time to truly soul search it is now, DC. What do we want to do differently, how do we want to live differently PC (post coronavirus)? This is what I have been asking myself and hope you have done some reflection on as well. Do we keep aimlessly wandering the desert of life, like the Israelites, or do we follow the path and purpose that God has laid out for our lives? We may not know it, but God most certainly has laid out a purpose for each one of us. A unique, special, individual purpose for each one of us. For you, For me.

Life purpose. That’s a good thing to reflect on DC as we prepare for life PC.

Be well; be safe!!!

Would You Recognize Jesus?

If you took a seven mile walk with Jesus and listened to Him talk with you, would you know Him? Imagine spending three years roaming the countryside with Jesus and then not recognizing Him! Imagine thinking that Jesus was some gardener? All this and more happened after Jesus died and rose again on the walk with the disciples to Emmaus, multiple times with the apostles, and with Mary at the tomb. What was it about Jesus that they did recognize Him?

There are lots of theories that our “spiritual bodies” are somehow transformed from our “earthly” bodies. They’re not exactly the same. Let’s put that all aside for a minute.

Jesus was raised body and soul from the dead, with the nail holes in his hands, side, and feet intact. So was He a “different” Jesus or were the eyes “closed” of everyone around Him, including His closest followers. Bingo!

God (including Father, Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is in everyone. That means, you, me, and every other person past, present, and future. God made us, so He is very much in us. Whoever you look at, you are looking straight in the eyes of Jesus. But do you recognize Him? I can tell you that in all my failings that there are a lot of people I know who I do not see Jesus.

That’s the problem with life and our walk through it. We don’t see Jesus. Yet, we should see Jesus in the mirror as well as in every person we walk by on the street—well, use to walk by on the street BC (before coronavirus).

Here’s a challenge for the week. Whoever you see on TV or behind that mask at the supermarket you are seeing Jesus. Look real hard. It’s Jesus in the face of anyone you are looking at. And how would you treat Jesus if you were looking at Him? Something to think about this week.

These are tough times that truly test our faith. Look for Jesus in the faces of others and your faith will get a boost. And we will get through this. With Jesus!

Have an AMAZING week!!!