Category Archives: Religion

Life’s Journey

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

— Isaiah 40:28-31

Here’s a question to ponder for today: What would it look like if we held ourselves to a higher standard while also having respect, compassion, and understanding for where we are right now? In her book See Before You Die: Costa Rica, author J.E. Leigh writes:

“We—all of us—want to feel special. We want to feel the glory that shines on us when we reach beyond our boundaries to grab at something greater, to live a heroic life, if only for a day or a week or a moment. This simple yearning is in us all, hardly recognizable, often only the merest hint that there is something more to us. This is why we seek out new places…we want to remember a somewhere that gave us the space to expand ourselves, to become a little more of who we truly are.”

Before we can achieve our true potential, we must recognize where we are now. We have to accept ourselves as we are before we can move forward. We might not like who we are or what we are going through, but we must accept ourselves before we can make the changes to improve ourselves and achieve the standard that we hold ourselves to. If we have fallen short of that standard, then we must realize why and what we can do about it. God can help us with that. God will provide the strength to persevere. 

As we wait on God to give us strength, we should remember the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” God strengthens us during times of waiting. Sometimes that strength comes from the trials we face in life. Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle soars above it. The eagle does not escape the storm; it simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life hit us, we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief toward God. The storms do not have to overcome us; God will strengthen us during our time of waiting. His power will lift us up above the dark clouds so we can ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure, and disappointment into our lives. It is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them. Things don’t always go the way we expect them to, but God is there to help us through those times. 

The American author Joseph Campbell wrote, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Campbell is known for the 1988 PBS documentary Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, which was originally broadcast as six one-hour conversations between Campbell and journalist Bill Moyers. Campbell’s The Power of Myth is a book based on the documentary. In that book, Campbell quotes from the 1922 Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt:

Campbell: Have you ever read Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt?
Moyers: Not in a long time.
Campbell: Remember the last line? “I’ve never done a thing I wanted to do in all my life.” That’s the man who never followed his bliss.

We need to learn to follow our bliss. Hopefully, that bliss includes trusting in God, because trusting in God can put our minds at ease. We can’t let fear of the unknown paralyze us. In her famous diary, the Holocaust victim Anne Frank wrote, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” (A friend of mine recently sent me that quote, and I think it is a wonderful piece of inspiration.)

We must rid ourselves of fear and loneliness because God is always with us. If we are unhappy, we need to do something about that unhappiness. Twice in the last few weeks, someone has commented on this blog that all I do is complain. This blog is very therapeutic for me because it helps me get things off my mind that are bothering me. Maybe that is complaining, but I also hope that if someone else is going through the same issues, then they know that they are not alone. I encourage anyone who is facing tough times and need someone to tell about it, to tell a friend or loved one. If you do not have someone to tell, email me (jec1918@gmail.com). If I can help, I will. A sympathetic ear is sometimes all we need. When my mind is racing over a problem, it often helps to write about it or (something I am terrible at) talk about it. Once I get it on “paper” or tell someone, it doesn’t seem as daunting. I think that is why many people write diaries. Instead of keeping a diary, I write a blog. I am grateful for all those who follow me on this journey called life. I am also grateful to God for giving me the perseverance to continue going day after day, especially during those times when the weight on my shoulders seems too heavy, and I just want to withdraw from everything. Therefore, I am working on respecting, having compassion, and understanding for where I am in this life so that I can move forward to achieve standards that I have set for myself.


Behave Like a Christian

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
  If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
  For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

—Romans 12:9-21

The New King James Version titles these verses “Behave Like a Christian.” Can you imagine what kind of world we would be living in if all Christians actually followed these words? Too many Christians are hypocrites, and they all too often follow evil. Think of the number of people who call themselves Christians who have more love for their guns than they do for the safety of our children. Then there are those who love to hate. They fill their heart with hate and claim they are opposing evil by hating what they perceive is evil, even when it’s their own prejudices that cause them to hate.

God tells us to let love radiate from us in all things. We are not to take love, but to genuinely show love for all living things. We are supposed to run away from evil and hold on for dear life to what is good. We should be good friends to others and love them deeply. We also should not be front and center, but do good from the background. We need to be humble in our actions. Romans 6:5-7 says, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

We also need to do things in moderation. If we try to do too much, we will burn ourselves out, but our faith can keep ourselves fueled and renewed. We need to be forever diligent servants of God and spread the love that he represents. There will be hard times. Times when it will feel very difficult for us to love, especially to show love and compassion for those who are doing awful things. However, we can’t quit in hard times; we must pray even harder for God’s guidance. We need to show compassion and help the needy. Maybe we aren’t flush with cash, but there are other ways to help than with money. Maybe you have some clothes that no longer fit. Instead of throwing them out, give them to a charity or to someone you know in need.

It’s difficult to pray for your enemies and especially to pray for those who hate us, but the best thing to do is to pray that they will find God and be embraced by His love so that they will change their ways. I know it’s easy to just curse them under your breath, or sometimes to the top of you lungs, but we need to pray for them. We have to live by example, not lower ourselves to their level. Former first lady Michelle Obama has been quoted as saying “When they go low, we go high.” She has urged Democrats to remain civil when facing Republican slights. Still easy to fight back against against the lack of civility on the part of some Republicans. “Fear is not – it’s not a proper motivator. Hope wins out,” Obama said. “And if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful? We want them to grow up with promise and hope. And we can’t model something different if we want them to be better than that.”

When it comes to our friends, we should feel and show great joy and delight when our friends are happy, and shed tears and commiserate with them when they are sad and lonely. That goes beyond just our friends, but even strangers that we come across. You never know when you’ll make a new friend. That can be especially hard for those of us who are shy, but sometimes, all we need to do is offer a smile, hold a door for someone, let someone over when stuck in traffic. There are so many things we can do that can make someone’s day just a little brighter. Try to get along with everybody you meet, and not judge a book by it’s cover.

God tell us that if we see our enemy hungry, go buy that person food, or if he’s thirsty, get them something to drink. Our generosity will surprise them with our goodness. It might even make them see what they can do to be a better person. We can’t let evil get the best of us; instead, we should get the best of evil by doing good. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sums up the core criteria for being a good Christian (or more generally, a good person). In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Known as the Golden Rule, the common English phrasing is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


Fighting for Love

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

—1 John 4:8

When I was a kid, I would go to church with my family every Sunday. I loved singing hymns, but once it got to the sermon I was, quite frankly, bored. We rarely had dynamic preachers, and they never kept my attention . When church was over, I couldn’t have told you what it was about. I was just a kid, though I know now that I absorbed a lot of the information. I tried to perfect looking interested , but not much held my attention back then. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about God or the Bible and honestly it wasn’t even that the preachers were bad at speaking, they just didn’t open up the stories in a way that made any sense to me. They didn’t make it practical. Everything felt distant and cold, when it wasn’t the usual fire and brimstone warnings about Hell. 

That changed in my early teens, but not because I suddenly became interested in the message, but because of a new young preacher we got from Faulkner University, the nearby Church of Christ college. He was there because we were between preachers. He was a very handsome young man in his senior year of college. (I looked him up while I was writing this, and he’s still a nice looking man, though he must be in his early 50s by now. All of the women and me had a crush on him, though of course, I never let on, nor did I probably the at it was a crush.I just new I was mesmerized. Not only was he good looking, he was also a good preacher, but sadly, he did not stay long and we eventually got another preacher.

Eventually, we got a new preacher who was more of a teacher than a preacher. He would teach us about being a better person by emulating Christ. I began to pay closer attention to the meaning of the sermons, and it laid the basis for my current faith. As I came to terms with my sexuality, I turned to the Bible to better understand myself. As I read the Bible and commentaries by more progressive Christian’s, I came to realize that being gay was not the sin I was taught it was. The real sinners were those judging others and playing God by claiming that their piety made them better than others. For many of those pious individuals, there are two major problems with them claiming to be Christians. First, their “faith” is fueled not by the love Christ preached about, but the hatred of those they deem immoral because they base their belief in a Christianity that is not backed by the Bible. Second, they come to their way of thinking by claiming they are following the Bible, when in fact if they do quote scripture, they take it out of context no they ignore passages that condemn their hateful and judgmental and hateful behavior .

If you really want to follow Jesus, then there are some questions you need to ask yourself. How do we love one another well, even when we disagree? What does it mean to follow your calling? How can God be called good when there is so much suffering in the world? (This is one I have particularly struggled with for many years.) What does it look like to fight back against oppression? How is God all powerful and yet people still die? These are the ultimate questions. hen I started to read the Bible in this way, I began to more fully understand Christ teachings of faith, hope, love, and charity. I’m a researcher by training, and I have spent years trying to understand my faith.

I saw that in Luke 4, Jesus set out a radical vision for his ministry of healing sick folks, cancelling debts, and setting prisoners free. That’s a political mission as much as it as a theological one. One sabbath day the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
—Luke 4:18-19

Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” If our actions, even in the name of God, cause harm then we’re doing something wrong.

We must endeavor, not just to do no harm, but to stop harm from happening, not cause it as so many modern day Christians do.


Overcoming Adversity

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

— Joshua 1:9

There has had no shortage of hard times and struggles the last few years, and as much as we’d like to run away from those struggles, we can’t. However, we can look to God to guide us through difficult times. We’ve had the ups and downs of life during a pandemic. There has been political upheavals, millions of deaths, supply shortages, economic problems, whether that be inflation, the high price of gas, or the loss of a job. A lot of us have experienced a combination of these adversities over the past few years. The writer Arthur Golden said, “Sometimes we get through adversity only by imagining what the world might be like if our dreams should ever come true.” For many of us, we imagine what the post-pandemic world will look like. Some of us worry the world has changed irreparably. Some of those changes have been bad, but some have been good.

If we were going it alone, any of these things might have been enough to break us, but through it all a strong faith that God is working in our lives, that we can trust Him, and that His strength is enough will get us through these adversities and the ones yet to come. One of hardest things to do as a Christian is to have faith that God is working, and to not be afraid of all the things that come our way. Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

God hasn’t promised that we won’t suffer in this life, but He has told us that He’ll walk through our valleys with us. He’ll be right by our side, and His grace will be enough.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will [d]dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

—Psalm 23

When we look to God He will give us the strength we need to carry through the dark times. God has an unwavering love for us, and He will give us strength when we look to Him in prayer. First Peter 5:7 tells us to, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” With God as our strength and our guiding light, we can overcome and rise above our hardships. Psalm 46:1 advises us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.


Mothers

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” 

—Isaiah 49:15

What the Bible is saying in this passage is: that while a mother can forget the love she has for her child, God never will. The design of this passage is apparent. It is to show that the love which God has for his people is stronger than that which is produced by the most tender ties created by any natural relation. The love of a mother for her infant child is one of the strongest attachments in nature. The question here implies that it was unusual for a mother to be unmindful of that tie, and to forsake the child that she should nourish and love. With that being said, in the passage above, Isaiah was asking a theoretical question when he said, “Can a woman forget her nursing child?” This passage praises mothers as symbols of amazing compassion, never forgetting their beloved children.

Mothers are not perfect. Mine sure isn’t. Every mother is flawed, just as we are all flawed. However, no matter how flawed we may be, God’s love for us is unchanging and unchangeable. He gives us generous grace and great compassion for all time and throughout eternity. While my mother and I may have our disagreements, we have a strong bond, though not nearly as strong as it once was. While it is not as strong as it was before I came out, it is still there. She is my comfort, even when she is not comforting. That may sound odd, but when I was young, my mother often sang to us. Sometimes it was silly little songs like “Fishy in a Bowl,” “Do Lord,” or “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” though she had her own versions of each one. However, the one I remember most is “You Are My Sunshine.” Even today, when I am sad and lonely or having anxiety or even a full-on panic attack, I can remember my mother singing ‘You Are My Sunshine,” and I am comforted. Part of it has to do with the rhythm of the song helping to slow my rapidly beating heart, but it’s also because I remember the good times when my mother would sing this to me. For the most part, my mother has always been there when I needed her. 

As she has gotten older, she tends to focus more on herself, but she was a nurse for most of her life and spent her life taking care of others. Deep down, she is a caring woman; she just shows it a little differently these days. I want to leave you with a different verse because while we may see things very differently, my mother does still love me. I firmly believe that she always will. She can’t help but love me. (Who couldn’t? I’m quite loveable. LOL)

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

—1 Corinthians 13:4-7


Our Paths

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

— Psalm 16:11

In Scripture, there is abundant advice for what path in life will provide the most meaning and fulfillment. Our path refers to the way we live and what we decide to do with our limited time on earth. If we want to take a path that will make us happier, we must include a respect for the parts of us that are most wounded, neglected, and painful to look at and take steps toward incorporating the good and the bad in our life to become more self-aware of who we are. By doing so, we can lead ourselves down a path to peace and contentment in our being, because we will no longer be fighting who we are.

It’s not easy to look at all the parts of us that make us who we are. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. When I pray, one of the things I always pray for is that God will show me my true path. We all know that life is not going to be easy, even for those who seem to have everything, there is always something that is not perfect. Much of life is hard. We sometimes have to do things that are against the grain, that are unacceptable to some people. For many of us, that is accepting our sexuality. Accepting who we are is the narrow path that “leads to life.”

God is actually all-powerful and ever-present – constantly guiding with His love and assurance. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Have you ever thought about what it means to be open to God’s guidance? When faced with a decision that needs to be made, a problem to be resolved, or accepting who we are, it’s not always easy to know what to do. That’s why we need to trust in God and ask Him to guide us on the correct path.

If we follow the path that God has shown us, we will feel a deep sense of God’s love for all of His creatures. By being still and listening, and acknowledging God as an ever-present source of help, we can be freed from the entrapments of doubt and fear.


Go and Do Likewise

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

—Matthew 7:12

In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Past Tense,” a transporter anomaly accidentally sends Commander Sisko, Dr. Bashir, and Jadzia Dax back in time to a pivotal moment in Earth’s history, August 30, 2024. The date was significant in the storyline because it was the day before the Bell Riots. “Past Tense” was a two-part episode that has recently garnered more scrutiny by many Star Trek fans because the current season of Star Trek: Picard is also taking place in 2024, this time in mid-April. The DS9 episode received critical acclaim for analyzing U.S. social issues in a science-fiction context and addressing various societal problems such as homelessness, poverty, and technology. Sisko and Bashir find themselves in the Sanctuary District of San Francisco, a section of a city designated for the homeless and financially destitute members of society in the 21st century United States. The U.S. government created the Sanctuary Districts in response to serious social and economic problems that had resulted in an increased rate of poverty and social destitution during the early 21st century. By the early 2020s, every major city in the United States had a sanctuary district. In the wake of the Bell Riots and the senseless deaths of so many people, American public opinion turned against the Sanctuary policy, and the districts were eventually abolished. By the 24th century, the Sanctuary Districts, and with them, the lack of empathy and public apathy toward the plight of the masses was seen as one of the darkest chapters of Earth’s history. The episode’s final lines have Dr. Bashir asking Commander Sisko, “You know, Commander, having seen a little of the 21st century, there is one thing I don’t understand: how could they have let things get so bad?” Sisko responded, “That’s a good question. I wish I had an answer.”

While it is improbable that Sanctuary Districts will ever materialize in our history, a large part of the U.S. population lacks empathy and has a public apathy toward the plight of the masses, especially the poor and those who are seen as different. The current Republican party seems to hate everything considered different: LGBTQ+, those who are not white, the poor and destitute, and individuals with health problems. As long as Republicans can feel like they can look down on others, they believe they elevate themselves, even if the policies of the leaders of the Republican Party harm the majority of Republican voters. They would rather be harmed themselves than have any of their tax dollars going to those who need help or allow laws guaranteeing equality. Most Republicans claim to be Christian, but the people they vote for and the policies they advocate are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

One of Jesus’s most famous (and often misunderstood) parables is that of the Good Samaritan. The parable is told in Luke 10:25-37:

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”

And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

As I said, this parable is one of the most well-known and most misunderstood of Jesus’s parables because most people are unaware of its context, i.e., the oppression of the Samaritans and the bitter hatred that Jesus’s listeners and the Samaritans had for each other. Most people saw “Samaritan” as merely a convenient name for that individual when in fact, it stood for “hated outsider who worships falsely and desecrates our religion.” Today, to remedy this missing context, the story is often recast in a more modern setting where the people are ones in equivalent social groups known not to interact comfortably. Thus, cast appropriately, the parable regains its message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can exhibit superior moral behavior to individuals of the groups they approve of. One example is Democrats, who advocate for the poor, those who face discrimination, and support universal (or at least more affordable) healthcare, are vilified and hated by Republicans who oppose any such reforms.

Christians have used the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of Christianity’s opposition to racial, ethnic, and sectarian prejudice. For example, anti-slavery campaigner William Jay described clergy who ignored slavery as “following the example of the priest and Levite.” Martin Luther King Jr., in his April 1968 “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, described the Samaritan as “a man of another race.” Sundee Tucker Frazier saw the Samaritan more specifically as an example of a “mixed-race” person. Klyne Snodgrass wrote: “On the basis of this parable, we must deal with our own racism but must also seek justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong.” I am using it in the context of the LGBTQ+  community.

Who were the Samaritans? The Samaritans claim descent from northern Israelite tribes who the Neo-Assyrian Empire did not deport after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel. They believe that Samaritanism is the true religion of the ancient Israelites, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel during the Babylonian captivity; this belief is held in opposition to Judaism, the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, which Samaritans see as a closely related but altered and amended religion brought back by Judeans returning from captivity in Babylon. Samaritans consider Mount Gerizim near Nablus (biblical Shechem) and not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to be the holiest place on Earth. If you look at biblical teachings and Jewish religious beliefs before the Babylonian Captivity, they are different. Judaism did not have a sense of Hell before the religion came into contact with the Zoroastrians, who believed in two different afterlife possibilities: one for the good and one for the evil.

Jewish hatred of Samaritans was all-encompassing, much like Republicans for Democrats. Jesus’ target audience, the Jews, hated Samaritans to such a degree that they destroyed the Samaritans’ temple on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans, reciprocally, hated the Jews. Tensions between them were exceptionally high in the early decades of the 1st century because Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones. Due to this hatred, some think that the lawyer’s phrase “He who showed mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37) may indicate a reluctance to name the Samaritan. Or, on another, more positive note, it may mean that the lawyer has recognized that both his questions have been answered and now concludes by generally expressing that anyone behaving thus is a “neighbor” eligible to inherit eternal life as described in Leviticus 19:18 which says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

The state of the world around us, whether in the domestic issues at the heart of so many political disputes in the U.S. or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, brings us back to Dr. Bashir’s question, “How could they have let things get so bad?” Democrats and Republicans oppose each other’s policies just because the other thought advocates for them. It doesn’t matter the policy, or if the other side agrees that it would benefit their constituents, they will still refuse to support the policy. For example, Republican Congressmembers went into their home districts and touted how wonderful and helpful the infrastructure bill was that they had voted against. To oppose something just because those who support it are from a different party is bad enough, but it’s even worse when you know that the policy would do a tremendous amount of good, and you oppose it is even worse. 

Jesus used a Samaritan when telling the parable because he knew that the Jewish people he was talking to would hate anything a Samaritan did just because they were Samaritan. He told a story of a man who was hurt, and his people passed him by, but his most hated enemy was the one who came to his rescue. Shame is a great motivator, as Jesus was making the point that it should be shameful not to help your fellow human, no matter how you might feel about them, which is why the news is so depressing to me lately. For years, especially recently, it has been happening in Republican-dominated states who are passing harmful laws against LGBTQ+ individuals. The various “Don’t Say Gay Bills” or the transgender discrimination bills are done out of pure hate without thinking about Christian beliefs. They will claim they are doing the Christian thing and protecting the family, but Jesus gave the Greatest Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus did not say that this only applied to those who believe the same as you. Instead, Jesus asked, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The lawyer answered, “He who showed mercy on him.” Notice again that the lawyer refused even to say “the Samaritan.” But Jesus replied to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus commands us to “Go and do likewise.” We aren’t told to love, support, and help others only if they have the same belief or look the same as we do, but He commands us to “Go and do likewise.” Simply and plainly, no caveat, no exceptions or exemptions, just simply “Go and do likewise.” When we look at the world around us and ask, “How could they have let things get so bad?” The answer is that we did not “Go and do likewise.”


Happy Easter! ✝️

As the war in Ukraine continues into the Easter season—with the Catholic and Protestant churches celebrating Easter on April 17, and Orthodox Easter, as celebrated by many Ukrainians, falling on April 24—a spotlight is shining on the Ukrainian Easter tradition of decorating Easter eggs known as pysanky. Decorating them has become a gesture of peace, as the war has brought new meaning to an old tradition that dates back to pre-Christian times.
In Christianity, eggs are a common symbol of the resurrection of Christ. Traditional designs on the eggs are also imbued with meaning. Per Christian tradition, triangles on eggs represents the Holy Trinity. Different regions of Ukraine decorate eggs in different ways. For example, the pysanky in Western Ukraine boast drawings of chicks to represent fertility and deer to represent strength and prosperity.

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

—John 20:1-2

Growing up, I was always taught that Easter was the most important celebration in all of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events and a foundation of the Christian faith. Whether Jesus rose from the dead is the most critical question regarding the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus was part of the plan of salvation and redemption by atonement for man’s sin.

When I think of the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus, I always think of how terrified his disciples must have been. Rome was the greatest authority in the known world for them, and Jesus had been arrested by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin, the representatives of Imperial Rome’s authority in Judaea. They had to be asking themselves: Would they be next? Would they be tried and crucified? What would become of them? How could they go on without their leader and Savior?

They had seen their Lord and Savior die in the most brutal form of execution in the Roman Empire. The crucifixion had been a frightening experience according to Luke 23:44-45, which says, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Following the world around them literally turning to darkness as their Savior died, Luke 23:46 tells us that, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.” Their Savior had died. I would have felt like my life was over.

Even though Jesus had told them he would be resurrected, the disciples did not understand. In John 2:19, Jesus “said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’” The disciples thought he was speaking literally of the Temple, just John 2:21 tells us, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” Even if they believed that Jesus would rise from the dead, they thought he was speaking of living in eternity in Heaven with his Father or of a literal rebuilding of the Temple. It was not until they saw him in the flesh that they believed in a literal resurrection. So, the fear of his death was real. They were in a heightened state of fear during this time.

Their fear is evident in the discovery that Jesus’s body was missing from the tomb. Matthew 28:1-7 describes the scene:

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

Even after Mary Magdalene told the others that she had seen the risen Lord and that he had spoken to her, they were still afraid: John 20:19-20 tells us about this continued fear:

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

The sight of the risen Jesus must have been a wondrous sight for the disciples. Not all would believe it was Him. Matthew 28:17 says, “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” The Apostle Thomas (Doubting Thomas) refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles. When Jesus appeared to him as related in John 20:24–29, he still did not believe until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.

The joy that the disciples must have felt when they realized that Jesus had risen from the dead must have been ecstatic. Jesus then gave them the Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 says:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This Easter and every day, we should remember what Jesus commands of us. We should not forget the love and sacrifice that Jesus brought to this world as our Savior. Jesus is with us always, and as corny as it may be these days, all our actions should be influenced by asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Jesus showed partiality to the downtrodden, the oppressed, and those who society cast aside. We can’t hide in fear but live proudly in a Christ-like manner. Jesus taught that all are accepted and loved by God, not just those who follow the narrow-minded beliefs of fundamentalist Christians, who have lost what it means to be followers of Christ. Jesus died and suffered for us to love and accept our fellow humans and to live by His example. If we hate, show prejudice, or reject those who do not believe as we think they should believe, we are not following the example given to us by Jesus.

HAPPY EASTER, EVERYONE!
MAY THE LOVE OF CHRIST BE IN YOU.

On a happier note, below you will find the cutest Easter card that I received from my friend Susan. As the card says on the inside:

Happy, Happy Easter!


Fresh Starts

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.

—Philippians 3:13

Spring is a season of new beginnings. The trees are budding, the snow is melting, and the birds are returning from their winter migration. It’s a beautiful time of year. It’s a fresh start for the world around us, and it can be a fresh start for us as well.

My recent move to a new apartment feels like a fresh start. I am in a new town and a bit further from work. There are new opportunities and new people to meet. I think anyone who has moved has purged their belongings of things they no longer need or want. I am getting rid of many old clothes that I can no longer wear after my weight loss. You may also get a few new things you need for your new place. I got a new mattress and a few new pieces of furniture. This move feels like a fresh start, a new beginning. I still have my same job, that’s not changing, but there is a fresh start in my new place.

New beginnings can be from a range of contexts; entering a new year, starting a new job, moving to a new city, or beginning a new relationship. A new beginning could also be entering a new phase of life with an updated outlook or belief, like moving to a new place. The Bible offers advice and encouragement for beginning a new chapter by providing the strength and support of God. Embrace a fresh start. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Every moment is an opportunity for a fresh start. You can argue that everything that preceded this moment has created who you are and how you think. To quote Avery Brooks’ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character Commander Benjamin Sisko, “We use past experience to help guide us….all the experiences in our lives prepared us for [this moment].” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Emissary”) We still have the capacity to notice the momentum of our lives pushing us in a certain direction, be still, and choose a new response. We don’t need a life-changing event for a fresh start. As you wind down the day, see if you can view tomorrow as the beginning of the rest of your life. Embrace what is to come.


Inner Peace