September 27, 2012

Say “No” to Politics as Usual


Here we are again at ringside watching as candidates for the highest elective office in the land slug it out, making numerous promises for what they will do if elected. Unfortunately, nothing is so certain in politics as a short memory, and candidates in both parties are guilty of many broken promises once elected.

Perhaps it’s time____ no, I’m certain it’s time to size up our candidates for public office on something other than promises they don’t mean and will never keep. It is time to scrutinize politicians the same way we judge everyone else in our society.

The fact is, we have a double standard. We trust those with whom we do business to be honest and fair and to sell us a product worthy of our investment. When we are disappointed, we simply stop shopping where that trust has been violated. But we excuse our candidates for public office who lie to us, because, well, “it’s just politics as usual.”

I suggest we allow our politicians’ promises to go in one ear and out the other, and instead, when choosing a candidate, let us consider those ethical standards and moral values we learned from our parents and in our churches, synagogues and temples: 
Regard for the truth; Reverence for human life; Forgiveness; A sense of stewardship; Pride in our religious heritage; Courtesy, kindness and consideration for others.

September 19, 2012

Mortality


I am a cancer survivor. It was prostate cancer, and after a great deal of research, I decided on a seed implant and five weeks of radiation. 

I was fortunate. I caught the disease early, and the approach I took was the correct one for me. Today, I consider myself cancer free, and my tests agree.

I have just read Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. His story is different. Hitchens, a brilliant writer and speaker on politics and culture, battled esophageal cancer for eighteen months. In his book, originally published as a series in Vanity Fair, Hitchens poignantly describes the transforming experience that slowly changed his relationship with the world around him.

I don't remember questions from friends and relatives about my cancer, but unlike Hitchens, I never considered the possibility that I was dying. He wasn't so confident,  so a response to questions like, "How are you today?" took on a different kind of challenge.

The questions are well meaning, and are meant to show concern, and that's quite appropriate. The answers, however, are a lot more difficult for the responder, especially, one who has had a bad day. 

As Hitchens writes, "Nobody wants to be told about the countless minor horrors and humiliations that become facts of 'life' when your body turns from being your friend to being a foe." He continues that thought at great length, but it's much too descriptive to repeat here.

Though speaking with those who have cancer may sometimes be awkward, and we may be fearful of saying too much or to little, we are all capable of intercessory prayer. Praying to God in behalf of someone who is ill is one of the oldest forms of therapy and is widely accepted and practiced by Christians of all denominations. 

The Mortality book jacket suggests, it is “the exemplary story of one man's refusal to cower in the face of the unknown, as well as a searching look at the human predicament." For those who live in Penn Yan, it is on the New Book shelf in our local library, and I highly recommend it. Almost everyone’s life has been touched by cancer.


September 12, 2012

A Story about Blessings


Each week, when Nancy and I go to the Penn Yan Public Library, I always check the New Book section, and I am always pleased when I discover a “gem.” It happens often.

My latest discovery is a collection of stories by Dr. Sukhraj S. Dhillon in a book titled A Treasure of Great Spiritual Stories, Spirituality in Everyday Living. 

This is one of my favorites called Leather Bound Bible.

A wealthy man’s son was graduating from college, and he was hoping his wealthy father would give him an expensive sports car as a graduation gift.

On graduation day, the father presented his son with a beautifully wrapped box which held a lovely, leather bound Bible. Angry that his father only gave him a Bible as a gift, the young man left and never came back.

Many years later, the father died and willed all his possessions to the son. When the son came home, he found the gift still lying on his father’s desk where he left it. When he opened the Bible, he saw an inscription from Mathew 7:11.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your   children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
As he read those words, a car key with a tag from the dealer who had the car the son admired, dropped to the floor. On the tag was the date of the son’s graduation, and the words . . . PAID IN FULL.

Dr. Dhillon ended the story with this question:

“How often do we miss God’s blessings because they aren’t packaged as we expect? Do not spoil the blessings you have by desiring what you have not.”








September 5, 2012

Is Church Really Boring?


A 2011 study of reasons people don’t go to church reveals the number one objection is, “It’s boring!"

Certainly, the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection as described in the Scriptures is not boring. It is awe inspiring, dramatic and encouraging.  And for most churchgoers, the music of the church isn’t dull. It’s uplifting and stimulating.

I admit that over the years I have attended worship services where the sermon has put me to sleep.  Reminds me of the man who went to church and slept soundly during the sermon. When he greeted the pastor after church, he said, “Thank you, for your message, Pastor. I woke up refreshed."

Some people think church folks aren’t friendly, and Nancy and I have visited churches where no one spoke to us.  But we also visited a church in St. Croix where we were asked to remain in our pew while everyone in the church came to shake our hands while singing a welcoming song.

If you don't attend church because you think the message will put you to sleep and people aren't friendly, know this:

There are churches where the congregation will greet you enthusiastically.
There are churches where the stories of Jesus will inspire you.  
There are churches where the sermons will challenge and stimulate you. 
There are churches where you will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
There are churches where your doubts will be turned to faith.           
There are churches where your pride will be turned to humility, and . . .
There are churches where you will find forgiveness through Christ Jesus.

Our Bluff Point United Methodist Church is like that. You can find one too.