God’s Kingdom Doesn’t Shutdown…Ever.

I wrote this awhile back after another of this country’s infamous government shutdowns.  It still applies today and brings my thinking back to a place closer to where God would have it.

I sat down to write today and I had nothing to write about. I started typing a few words about nothing and then I realized that there was something after all. The government shutdown is over. Our government, in all of its infinite wisdom, has decided to end the shutdown and get things moving again. It is a good thing and a bad thing. Yes, it is good that all the things that have been closed are open again and it is good that people that weren’t working are going back to work and people that weren’t getting paid are getting paid again. It isn’t so good that the government that is so quick to chastise us about our iniquities can’t set a budget and abide by it. They have agreed that they must go farther and farther into debt. It is probably a good idea not to use the government as an example of how to manage money, solve conflict and live honorably.

In fact, governments have seldom been the shining light in the darkness they believe themselves to be. I have to be careful that I don’t let their ideals become my ideals. I have to be careful not to let patriotism and democracy color my view of God’s Word. I have to let God’s Word color my views on everything from George Washington to my finances. I cannot expect our government, that can just shut down, start up and spend money that isn’t there be my moral compass. I think far too many do, and that kind of faith, faith in  an inept group of men, is devastating to the human soul.

To far too many, the government is the only god they know and they serve it because they want freedom, they serve because the government gives them food and shelter, they serve because they were taught that it is a good thing to do. But it seems that no matter what we do and how much we do it the government wants more and the more they get the less wisdom they exercise.

The government is what it is. We can’t get by without one, I guess. But it is not going to be the answer to all of our problems. It will never get its act together, no government ever has or ever will. It is made up of people and people never get it together. Our forefathers were not a bunch of saints and geniuses. The accounts of them in history books are only shadows of who they were. They were flawed and scarred. They were just men that did what men do, some better than others.

We as American people are groping in the dark for some kind of answer to the ills of society. We used to have a purpose but now we seem to be lost in materialism and selfishness. We want a government that reinforces that.

I have looked to Washington, DC to provide that answer. Well, I can look and look and it isn’t there. It isn’t ever going to be there and it never was there.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

First of all, I have to continually acknowledge that this is the answer, the only answer. This doesn’t imply that we must all participate in some watered-down and musty, moldy religion. Yes, I need to go to church but simply going is meaningless. I have to live these words. I have to do it. Other people have to begin to feel the same way. Those that already feel that way need to feel it on a deeper level. That is the answer.

God is our moral compass, God is our example, God is our provider, God is our answer! He never shuts down, he is never locked up in conflict, he is never selfish, he is never worried about a debt ceiling because his riches are boundless, he is never a lame duck, he is constant and never-ending and he is omnipotent and omniscient. He is the answer!

I am not floundering, lost at sea. I have direction and power to move. I do not have to rely on the president, the state or any man to secure my freedom. I have my freedom in Christ. I have to stop forgetting that and stay focused on God and stop being distracted by the foolishness perpetrated by mere mortals in our country’s capital! God is never a fool and will never fail and my faith needs to rest squarely on him.

Hebrews 11:29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned. 30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

Faith in God brought the people of Israel through great trials. God’s grace abounded for them and that same grace is extended to us, to me, to you. There is an answer. It isn’t where our country is looking. It is much closer than we all think.

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Challenges I’ll Probably Lose

As I read back over this one from a couple years ago at this time, I realized I needed to read it.  I’m not sure anyone else does, but just in case, here it is.

I enjoy the fall. The shortening days and cool air bring color to the leaves and salmon to the northern streams. The little trout rods are put in their cases for a while and the big sticks make their way to hand ready to fight big bruisers that have migrated out of Lake Michigan.

Throughout the course of a year I battle hundreds or even thousands of smaller fish in preparation for the wars that I experience in October. There are not enough words for the speed and strength of the struggle between me and a King Salmon with only a string tying us together.

I’m amazed that I prepare so well for a conflict between myself and a fish that wins much more often than I do and wilt so easily when life throws me a curve.

Before I go fishing, sleep is restless and I anxiously wish I was in the middle of a challenge I will probably lose. In life, I tend to avoid the challenge and play it safe. But I have to remember that in everything, I mean every single thing, God is teaching me.

God isn’t about protecting me from walking through tough situations. He wants me to plunge into them and trust him to bring me out the other side. When I feel the fear of failure, he urges me to let the adrenaline flow and attack, not hide under the bed.

Psalm 23:4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me…

When the dark valley lies before me, I bring the light in with me. He is close beside me, always. He wants to show me what he can do if I just take the challenge. I have to be honest, I have avoided a lot of challenges due to fear. I could spend a lot of time lamenting a lot of missed opportunities.

But opportunities keep coming. I need to turn my eyes ahead and look for them. Darkness shouldn’t scare me. Ominous clouds threatening on the horizon should wake up my soul and stir my sense of adventure. Life may look like a big mess from time to time but He is beside me, always. He is the light that I carry into the storm.

Psalm 23:4 …Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

God’s goodness and mercy follow me into the fray. If I don’t go, if I play it safe and hide, who will take God’s goodness and mercy into the turmoil?

Here’s to today and here’s to opportunities for adventure.

The Best Part of Waking Up

Well, I kind of have the best part of waking up, there is sort of Folger’s in my cup. Actually, it is some Hawaiian coffee that I had that was about to run out. So I dumped that in the filter and there wasn’t enough and then I found one of those hotel packets for the mini-coffee makers and tossed it in there too. So I guess the best part of waking up is Franken-coffee in my cup.

I really do love my coffee in the morning, even this weird tasting stuff that thankfully turned out strong enough. But no offense to the commercial’s efforts to make me think that coffee is the best part of waking up, and they don’t even take into consideration just how great waking up at all is, waking up isn’t the best part.

The best part is my private time, the time I spend in God’s Word and making it a part of the day to come. Maybe you have read some of the things that I write and think, “Wow, he is getting it all together.” Then, you are around me for a while and think, “What a hypocrite!” I believe neither statement is true. I have days when I am able to do a good job living what God speaks to me about and I have days that I get worn down and beaten and don’t do so well.

I am grateful that I am forgiven for yesterday, even though yesterday was an awesome day, I expressed some road rage, some impatience and some general “Mike-ness” that I know I need to work on. I got myself realigned with God during the day and evening and today I woke up to start again. I am one of those “One day at a time” kind of guys these days. I used to be more of a one month at a time people with a twist. I worried about everything and pretended nothing bothered me.

Today, I will push aside anything that I cannot do anything about. I will try to tackle all of today’s stuff today. It is a must simpler and much more peaceful lifestyle.

The first thing I will tackle almost everyday, is getting something out of God’s Word. I used to think I should read God’s Word but that just isn’t good enough. Read less, apply more. If I grab the toothpaste and squeeze it all out of the tube and wash it down the sink, I guess the sink would be a little cleaner and smell better but what I really needed was just a little on my toothbrush. It affects the aroma that comes from my mouth just like God’s Word affects the fragrance of the words I speak.

James 1:22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

If I listen and don’t apply, I see what God in me should look like but I quickly forget and I am the same old me doing the same old things wrong and hitting the sack at night wondering when the train came off the rails.

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

I know what my weaknesses are. So I really target those things. David knew his too and the words that God spoke to him were the most precious. He new the power, life-changing power, in obeying God’s word and not merely knowing what it was. He sang it, he shouted it, he celebrated it.

Psalm 119:12 I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. 14 I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. 15 I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. 16 I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.

David had a very personal relationship with God even though he lived in a time that serving God was mired in legalism, rules and regulations in order display faith in God. If someone wasn’t obedient to those laws, there were consequences to pay. David committed himself to obedience and was blessed with knowing God like most never did. We can have the same thing in our lives, I can experience that closeness to God by immersing myself in his word and letting it guide my day.

Psalm 23:5 …My cup overflows with blessings.

The best part of waking up is God’s Word filling my cup.

The Price is Right

In these days, entitlement is a disease running rampant throughout our culture.  I’m afraid that at some point, we are going to get so concerned about what we are entitled to receive that there will be no one left to provide.

That, at least to my feeble logic, is not a good thing.  People, as a whole, have so much more to give if they just stop making the choice to base life on what they can take.

But entitlement, as bad as that is, doesn’t stop there.  It doesn’t stop with me saying, “I deserve better.  I deserve more.  Someone give it to me…NOW!”

It pervades my relationship with God.  It creeps in like a slow-moving cancer that eats away at my duties as a Christian until I am pumping my fist into the sky crying out to God, “I go to church.  I read my bible.  I pay tithes and care for others.  I do all the things a great and wonderful Christian ought to do.  TREAT ME BETTER!”

Luke 17:10 “In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

I really don’t like this verse.  I want to be promised all sorts of wonderful stuff.  I want to feel like I won ‘The Price is Right’ after obediently serving God.  I want the pain to vanish and the world to be at peace.

I want God to grovel at my feet and say, “Thanks, buddy!  Thanks for being the person you should have been all along.”

Yep.  I show God a lot of arrogance, still, even though I work hard on my relationship with him daily.  I am still kind of a jerk when it comes to how I treat God and what I expect.

If I took a balance scale and took a lifetime of good that I could do in service to God on one side, along with all the good of mankind in the history of the world, one drop of God’s grace on the other side would be more than enough to send it all into orbit.

God gave more than I could ever deserve while I deserved it less than I ever have and I want God to stop the world and pronounce me “Awesome” because I managed to be faithful for a day or two.  I somehow think I deserve more although I have more than I deserve.

I can’t let today’s mindset change the way I see God.  I have to relentlessly seek the mind of God and see the world and myself as he sees us.  I need to obey out of a servant’s heart because it is the least I can do, not as a way to manipulate and coerce God into giving me good stuff.

I have all I need.  I don’t always see that.  I am not always satisfied with that.  I am not always grateful.  Yet he provides anyway and he always will.

All

I can remember a Christmas when my son was very small. He started opening his gifts and from the very first one, when he ripped away the paper, he shouted, “It’s just what I always wanted!” I believe this would be the Jurassic Park Christmas.

As a father, to see the excitement on the little blond-headed boy’s face was pretty awesome. He got a T-Rex and a triceratops and a building to hide Dr. Grant and Ellie in. There was a fence to hold the dinosaurs in or keep the dinosaurs out. Just like in the movie, the fence always seem to fail when the toy dinosaurs were manipulated by Joe’s little hands.

But Joe got a few other things for Christmas. He opened some packages and saw that they contained shirts and pants and other things a little boy cares nothing about and when we picked up the discarded wrappings we had to make sure none of these things were hidden among them to be thrown away. My son was very grateful for the toys but he barely acknowledged receiving the clothing. But if push came to shove, he would have given up some of those toys to avoid wandering the streets naked. He needed those clothes more than he needed the dinosaurs but he was far more thankful about receiving the toys.

As a parent, I have always tried to get the kids to thank the person that bought them that sweatshirt or six pairs of socks. They never really seemed to do it to my satisfaction. A thank-you at the stern prompting of a parent doesn’t convey gratitude the same way a squeal of excitement does. A thank-you attached to a couple of little arms around the neck squeezing the blood flow to my brain to a trickle fills me with something that can’t really be described in words. Maybe it can only be described by the little tears that try to sneak out of the corners of my eyes when my child expresses gratitude earnestly from the heart. I wish I could have experienced that more. Now the kids are grown up and things are very different.

I wasn’t thanked for everything I did. It isn’t because my kids were bad, that’s just how kids are. To be honest I should be thankful they don’t hate me for some of the things I did. Looking back I can see that I didn’t always give them what they wanted and even what they needed. I wasn’t always a good dad. I tried my best but sometimes that isn’t good enough. I am leery of self-proclaimed great dads. I think that maybe there is a lot of stuff that goes on that they are oblivious of, either that or they are outright liars.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

I don’t have to wait for Christmas for my heavenly Father to give me what I need. My own kids didn’t either. They weren’t all that thankful for those things and I tend to not be all that thankful either. I tend to go through each day without acknowledging God’s hand in nearly all of it.

Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

The verse above is the reason I wrote all of this. Well, actually just one word of it. All. That one word all got me thinking about another word. Thank. Thank him for all he has done. I have been a person for most of my life that hasn’t prayed enough. Then when I did actually pray, I asked for things but mostly wasn’t too thankful because I felt like God was holding out on me. That’s why I had to ask for things. If I did thank him, I thanked him for the stuff I liked. I thanked him for the toys and tossed the things he had generously given me that I actually needed in with the trash and never even acknowledged that they existed.

Paul says to thank him for ALL that he has done. I never did that, ever. I thanked him for some stuff and complained about the rest. So, tonight before I go to sleep does he want me to simply say, “Thank you for all you have done!” Does that put my prayer back into balance and now I can move on to the good stuff in the next verse?

Philippians 4:7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

If Joe had thanked me enthusiastically for those socks and then slipped them into the trash, I would not be convinced that there was true gratitude being exhibited there. If he wore those socks until they were full of holes I would know he appreciated them even if they weren’t his favorite possession of all time. Ralphie, in The Christmas Story, said thanks for the ridiculous presents he got but he wasn’t grateful for any of it except the BB gun and then he tried to put his eye out with it. There is more to giving thanks than simply saying a few words.

Psalm 110:1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. 3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Wearing the Millstone

As far as being a writer goes, I’m not very noteworthy.  As a blogger, I am read by a tiny fraction of people out there.

I think part of the reason (aside from the fact that I am no great writer) is that I don’t have the answers.  I don’t tell people that A+B=SUCCESS.  My writing is more about working out problems, walking faithfully and standing firm in the face of adversity.

Honestly, most people don’t want a way through the trials of life, they want to avoid them and I have no idea how to go about that.

My work here at the keyboard isn’t for everybody, at least in the minds of everybody.  By my logic, there is occasionally something here in the tapping away I do that would help most anybody.

I used to write a great deal of horror.  My goal was to induce fear, grab the imagination and pull someone into my writing.  I wanted them to read and pronounce me awesome, tell their friends about me and to go to sleep at night thanking me for the nightmares they were about to have.

Honestly, I used to be happy to make someone feel horrible with my writing.

Once I embarked on a road to recovery, I knew right away that the trips into darkness seeking words of terror and the unthinkable were really bad for me.  In fact, they were also bad for others.  I was purposely pushing others in a direction other than the direction I knew God had for anyone.

Luke 17:1 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. 3 So watch yourselves!

I feel an inner compulsion to put words into some form of writing.  I have a lot of choices which words I commit to this blog.  But Jesus wants me to be in his image and not tempt a person into sorrow or horror or overwhelming evil.  He doesn’t even want me to tempt them to utter a single insult or slur.  I am not to push anyone, not one single person, to give up and fall into despair.

So I have given up on what I once thought I was great at and sit here and struggle with the things I am not good at all.  I search for a way, embark on a journey and find God one day at a time and hope that someone reading this sees themselves in my words and walks beside me on this walk into a better life.

I’ve tried to hang that millstone around my neck and be thrown into the sea of mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Yet, at times, I manage to surface and my own voice cries out some pretty bad things.  But I know I am anchored to where I should be and that good words will once again flow from my mouth as I am inundated by God’s love.

I hope today you find courage and strength.  I pray that today my words become God’s words and that someone in encouraged to great things by me in some little way.  Even if no one knows my name or recognizes my face, I want them to know that there is a way through the most horrific times.

Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Seek and find help and hope.  Give up on those that try to force their opinions to do what you know deep in your heart is wrong.  Fall into God’s grace and drift deeper than ever before.  There is so much more to life than what we see here in front of us today.  Beyond tomorrow there is eternity.

Gone Fishin’

Normally, at this time of year, the “Gone Fishin'” sign is hanging up at my house.  It is when the salmon leave the Great Lakes and head up the rivers to spawn.  So, I load up my big fly rods and gear and head to Michigan or New York or wherever the fish are on the move.  This is a piece I wrote after a not so successful fishing trip a year or two ago.

Salmon fishing is a kind of weird thing. It isn’t like the fishing most people are accustomed to. These fish migrate upstream at a certain time. That’s the time we try to be there to catch them. Last year we were just a little late and although there were still a lot of fish to catch they were getting close to the zombie stage of life. See, when the spawning is all over, they die.

When salmon first come into the stream they are bright and strong and full of life. They slowly transform into darker colors and then they actually look like they are rotting away just before they die. They are a LOT more fun to catch when they first come into the stream than in the later stages as they grow weaker and more lethargic.

For weeks I had been monitoring the fishing reports and trying to make sure that our timing was just right. Last week it was all good news and the fish were starting to come into the river. Rain and colder temps were on the way which is not good news for lots of fishermen but for salmon fishermen this means the fish will be moving and the run is on!

We hit the water Saturday morning expecting to have a morning full of excitement and the rush of adrenaline. As we walked to the familiar holes that we know hold fish, we were disappointed to see no fish. I put on a fly that I had tied in preparation for this trip, a purple egg-sucking leech (you probably don’t care about the name of the fly but I just love to say, “purple egg-sucking leech”), and began to work the deeper water in hopes that fish were hiding there.

We fished all morning with only a few responses to our efforts.

We trudged back to the truck confused by what had just happened.

We were just too early. All the planning, all the work getting prepared was for nothing. Well, we could have looked at it that way. But the truth is that there were fish there. There weren’t very many there and they really were not interested in doing much eating.  So even though things didn’t look so good, we went back to fishing.

I finally hooked some fish. They jumped liked silver bullets and ran downstream like locomotives. They were powerful and fast and knew how to get into the logs and break my line. I never got a single one into the net.

Today I am a better fisherman. Sometimes working hard and not actually getting my hands on the prize makes me more skilled than if I just go to a stream and catch dumb and hungry fish. I’m really anxious to go and try it again. Next month I will. There will be a river somewhere full of salmon and I will use the new things I have learned on this next trip to catch them.

I’m a guy that really hates failure. God somehow gave me the ability to accept failure when I am fishing. It has taken a long time to realize that I need to apply those principle to the rest of my life. Now, I find it really difficult to call anything a failure. If I learn something through it I could not have learned any other way, it is a success. The only failure is when I choose to not use what I learned in the past to make decisions about my future.

When I put these words together in the mornings, I often get up from this chair feeling like no one will like this or I didn’t make my point and sometimes I suppose that is true. There are definitely times I cast my line here and come up empty. But it is never an empty time for me because I am learning from God. He teaches me through abundant rewards and also through and empty stringer. It does not matter if I am more rich or poor at the end of a day because God personally works in me. I am finding that to be a better man today with the hope of being a better man tomorrow encourages me to keep on doing what I know to be right.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

I have learned to apply this concept to my fishing. When the timing is right I reap the harvest of blessing. It is the same when I do good in all the rest of my life. I have to be more committed to that. If I can work so hard and toss aside disappointment fishing, I have to learn to be able to do it in my relationships and service to God.

God doesn’t allow me to go on fishing trips just so that I can feed my desires. He has to teach me there just like he does sitting at this desk in the morning.

I’ve had a couple pity parties lately when things didn’t go the way I hoped they would. That’s not what God wants me to take from those things. He wants me to take wisdom from them. I am a work in progress. There is still a lot to learn.

What the World Needs Now

I am not pointing a finger at anyone. I’ve found that I’ve got so much work to do in order to be the kind of Christian qualified to finger point. In fact, I will know that I have become qualified to do so when I have lost all desire to participate in such a vile and useless activity.

This applies to me. I’m imperfect and sometimes I really think I have to do things in direct opposition to what God’s word says in order to help God out.

But these days, there is a lot of anger, hate and fear being thrown around in every day language and I cannot let myself participate.

Not a single rant on the horrors of abortion, not a single diatribe on the faults of Hillary, Obama or Trump, not a single meme on the greed of big business or even the most eloquent essay on the flaws of a race changes anything, ever.

All I see when I spew forth my opinion of what is wrong with everyone else, I simply add to the list of what is wrong with me. I don’t know what you feel when you say those things. I only know that my fear unleashes anger and my anger unleashes hate and they begin to take over my life and effect my decisions negatively.

I guess it is a lot easier to be a fountain of venom than it is to actually love people and promote true change from within.

In spite of the bible’s hundreds of warnings and commands to not fear, I see fear all over the place. What is going to happen if…? People act as if there is not hope. I act, at times, as if there is no hope even though eternal hope has been shown to me and poured liberally all over my life. It will continue to be so no matter who wins the next election or how divided this nation becomes because of our own selfishness.

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.
15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

There have been times in my life that I have made a conscious decision to ignore these words and live by my own desire to say and do what I wanted to. This created chaos and fear inside me. I chose that over God’s promise. I can’t do this any more! I need the peace that comes from embracing all of God’s word and applying it to myself whether anyone else does or not. I can’t dismantle my peace by choosing to add to the hopelessness around me.

If I claim that God’s sovereignty somehow hangs in the balance by the actions of a few people on this planet, I lie.

To feel that I need to modify what God expects of me to save the world from itself, is a belittling arrogance toward the Almighty Creator of the Universe.  Today, I need to let it go and do things in love and trust God to call and empower others to do the same and bring the world what it truly needs, not government or programs or societal modification but plain old God-given love.

Gimme’ a Brake!

After my post about brakes last week, I found this older piece about putting the brakes on my mouth.  Thought I’d share yet another brake job.  Happy overhauling!

I worked on my car last night. My car is kind of out of character for me. It is a Chevy Cobalt. I am more of a truck guy but I don’t have a truck right now. When the Cobalt came along it was a real blessing and it continues to be. So I happily drive the little car all over the place. It has a little over one-sixth of a million miles on it and it still sounds great. It goes whenever I tell it to go. That little car goes just fine. I had to work on it last night because it had some issues stopping.

It wasn’t stopping like it should. Turns out it needed some work on the front brakes. Brakes are still kind of low-tech compared to the way a lot of things are cars have changed over the years. Although, ABS (anti-lock braking system) controls how the brakes are applied and shortens stopping distance, old-fashioned friction is what stops the car.

When I push down on the brake pedal, I apply pressure to the pads that squeeze the spinning rotors on the wheel. The harder I push, the harder it squeezes and the faster it stops. I use brakes a lot out here in the land of deer running in front of me almost daily. My favorite stops are the ones where everything I sat in the front seat goes flying into the passenger side floor. I’m afraid that driving without brakes would not very often end well. It is good for a car to go but it is better to have control of when and where it stops. Stopping by hitting a tree or slamming into the back of a dump truck is not my preferred method of deceleration.

There are a lot of times in my life that I have simply needed to stop. Stopping was neither complicated or hard to do, I simply refused to do it. That doesn’t work well when driving a car. Someone is going to get hurt. It doesn’t work well when running my mouth either. Why am I so against slowing down and avoiding collisions or stopping completely?

James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

My ears don’t need brakes very often, sometimes I need to step on the gas in this regard. My mouth needs brakes, good ones just like my angry button. To be honest, if I listen, really listen, I am speaking less and if I speak less, I argue less and if I argue less, I get angry less. This verse is one of those bible verses that is basically just a lot of really solid common sense. Unfortunately, this kind of common sense isn’t so common, especially for someone like me that once enticed to accelerate into talking mode, loves to ignore the brakes.

Proverbs 10:19 Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Sometimes when I read Proverbs I think it was written by someone that was sick of guys like me. Someday I am going to be able to read that book and say, “Wow! I remember when that verse applied to me but now I am much better.” For now, I read it and shake my head that I am that guy that is so often referred to as “Fool”.

Proverbs 29:20 There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.

OK, so in this instance, “Fool” would be an upgrade. Can Proverbs give me a break this morning? I think Proverbs is more interested in giving me brakes. I think it is great that there are so many verses in the Bible that give is principles and guidelines. But sometimes Proverbs can say so much in just a few words, that if I will listen (James 1:19), it will change my entire life. Sure, Proverbs isn’t all flowery and sugar-coated but it gets right to the point and tells me in plain language what is good and what is not so good and what is disastrous.

Proverbs 14:23 Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!

Here is my own translation of this verse: Shut up and get to work. I guess that is too harsh even for Proverbs but it works for me.

Psalm 141:3 Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.

David says it much prettier but he knows how important it is to have a good braking system on the mouth. The truth is that what I say can bring a lot of great things to my life and the lives of others but I need brakes to stop me from saying things I shouldn’t. Saying the wrong things can be worse than putting someone else in physical harm. So today and pretty much every day I need to make Psalm 141:3 a part of my daily prayer.

Hanging Around Church

Yesterday I sat a watched a movie about the Salem witch trials.  It was supposed to be somewhat nearly historically accurate.  However, I realize that historically accurate in movies is a term that has not historically been accurate.

What I do know about the Salem witch trials is that regardless of the cause for them, the reason they went as far and horribly wrong was due to religion.

If the people in Salem and the surrounding areas had believed in the God that Jesus taught, none of it would have happened.

But people just couldn’t believe that sin in inevitable, even among the godly and that no amount of torture, humiliation, pain or loathing could make it go away.  So they re-invented the God of Jesus into the God of the Old Testament with an added bit of a sadistic, abusive nature toward his children.

Their zeal for serving this perverted caricature of God turned into a feeding frenzy of hate and murder.  Religion done wrong.

Looking back, it is easy to point the finger and pronounce myself much better than they were.  I’d never hang someone based on the squealing of children or crush someone under the weight of stones just for asking to look closer for the truth.

I can look at them and easily recognize that they were doing it wrong.

Jesus came into this world and sat among sinners and dined with the wicked.  He did not focus on there sins, their impure thoughts or their lack of faith.  He focused on their need.

I’m still doing it wrong way too often.  There are times that I look at someone and calculate how much punishment they have coming from an angry God rather than look at their need.  I think God must not be nearly so angry as I am.

I need to drop the anger thing and look at people the same way God does because if God looked at us the same way I do, there wouldn’t be very much salvation being given out, grace would be a lot less amazing and heaven would be doing very little expansion due to population growth.

Jesus, hanging upon some lumber, pierced and bleeding, feeling human life fading away in the midst of the pain did it right.

Matthew 27:46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Feeling isolated and alone, left for dead, he still did it right.

Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Jesus forgave more in that one moment in time that I am asked to forgive in a lifetime.  Yet, I hesitate to do it.  My times of abandonment and isolation cause me to desire to pull away from my very source of life.  My insides feel more like the church in Salem, looking up at a terrible, vengeful God and I lose sight of the perfect lamb that takes away my sin.

I lose sight of a world that needs him above all else.

I need to surrender daily to the cross where Christ reached past hate, anger, fear and all the other things that people put between themselves and God.  I need to allow him to reach me and cover all I want him to be with what he really is.

Then I need to take it to those that need it most.