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!!!

The Lure of Greed, Power & Ego

Too much of the world operates around greed, power, and ego. Unfortunately, I see this in D.C. all the time and it reverberates out through the media across the world. Sorry to say this and be a downer but it’s true now more than ever. The devil lures with greed, power, and ego and is doing a very good job in the temptation department.

I’m thinking about this because I’m already fast-forwarding to the end of Lent. Only a few days in and I’m having dreams of diving into a big bowl of chocolate anything because I gave chocolate up for Lent. Not that I think giving up something is more important that doing positive things during Lent, but if I can’t stay away from chocolate I won’t be able to resit any temptation.

So, in thinking about the end of Lent I’m picturing the devil tempting Jesus. He first offers Him all the bread he can eat—after not eating for 40 days in the desert. He then shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers it to Him. Finally, the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tells Jesus to throw Himself off because His angels will swoop in to save Jesus. Greed, power, and ego. The devil tests Jesus and fails. Jesus comes out of the desert and starts His ministry.

It’s easy to give into greed, power, and ego. They play out on big and small stages all over the place. There is one thing that stands in the way of greed, power, and ego: humility. Humility that realizes that anything we have comes from God. He gives and our path in life is to use our God-given talents to the best of our abilities. And use them for good, just as Jesus did. And just as His Spirit empowers us to do on a daily basis.

My wife teases me that I think Lent is the best time of the year. In a way it is, if we take the time to reflect. That reflection should include getting grounded in humility as Jesus did in the desert for 40 days and resisting the urges of greed, power, and ego.

Have a humble week ahead! And eat some chocolate for me!

Change, But Don’t Change

Well what the heck does that mean? Change, but don’t change? How does that make any sense, let alone is possible? Simple. It means always strive to be better. Everyone can improve. No one is perfect. Only God can claim perfection. But always realize who you are and the special, unique purpose that God hardwired into you. Change—strive to be better. But don’t change from what God created. Be comfortable in your own skin.

As we get past January, a lot (most?) of us leave the well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions in the rearview mirror. We were going to do this or that—diet, exercise, have more patience, etc, etc, etc. But the change for the better part falls short. That’s natural to a degree. But just because January has come and gone doesn’t mean we can’t renew our striving to change, to be better. Make what you have been given better step by step. It won’t all happen over night.

I always go back to trying to understand what God has given to me. The special, unique purpose He has for my life. That takes listening for/to God. You can’t understand God’s purpose for you if you don’t “hear” from God. And that takes finding quiet time to spend with God.

When you know your purpose in life it’s easier to change by building off of that foundation. Think house. You may repair the house or even tear it down and build a new one but the foundation always stays. That foundation in your life is the special, unique purpose God built into you. Understand it. Build off of it.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Have a FANTASTIC week ahead. Change, but don’t change!

Stop and Let Someone Turn

The turn into our church is a left on a busy two-lane road. It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t slow up and let me turn left. I sit there and count that at least half must be self-proclaimed “Christians” who also know I’m pulling into a church. Worse is the person who makes a right into church before letting me turn left. What’s up with that? But none of this behavior is surprising. It’s just a sign of the times that where I am going, and getting there, is more important than you and your destination.

Let’s understand that I’m no saint. I screw up all the time. And there are occasions when I’m so preoccupied with myself that I don’t slow up to let someone turn left. But I do at least make it a point when coming out of church at the one exit to stop at the other exit and let people turn left and right depending on where they are going. And don’t you know that when I slow up to let people exit that I get someone behind me honking the horn, upset that I slowed up.

You see it all the time. People don’t want to slow up and let anyone turn or get ahead of them in line. It’s as selfish as selfish gets. Contrast that with what Jesus did in giving up His life for us, the ultimate selfless act. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus wasn’t talking about letting someone turn left. He was talking about fulfilling HIs command of love.

I’m not a good Christian driver. I drive too fast, get angry with people hanging in the left-hand lane, and sometime stare down people driving too slow as I pass them. But I’m trying to change that. Why? Because it should not be all about me but all about others. I should be the servant, not the one served. It’s simply everything Jesus taught us. It starts with slowing down to let people turn left. Letting someone ahead of me in line. Just simply looking out, not in—at you, not me. It’s about you. Not me.

Hope you have a SPECTACULAR week!!! Slow down and let some turn left.

It’s NEVER Too Late!

It’s never too late to course correct your life, to do something different, be someone different. Don’t ever say you wasted any portion of your life, regardless of how old you are. Look at Jesus. As best we know, He lived an obscure, quiet life as a carpenter. Then, for three years at the end of His life He had His ministry. He died around 33 years old, which by today’s standards sounds like a babe in the woods. Until you realize that the average age expectancy back then was around 35 years old. By today’s standard, Jesus was an old man!

So, it’s never too late to change. To be a different person, do something different. Sure, I often think I should have done this or that differently, walked down a different path in life. But I’m here now and making the best of where life has led me. Or where I have led life.

If you give up it’s you giving up. I know there are different situations and obstacles that make life changes difficult and at times seemingly impossible. But you’ll never change, or course correct, unless you set your mind on change. You can do it. Jesus showed by example. Easy for Him to do it. Sure. But there’s a reason why Jesus is a living model for us on how to live life.

It’s NEVER too late! Start TODAY!!!

Have an AMAZING week ahead!

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!!!