January 29, 2014

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

When tragedy strikes, people often ask “Why did God let this happen?”  Here are a few responses we have heard to that profound question: 
  1.  God must have a reason.
  2.  God gives us trials to make us stronger.
  3.  Everything happens for a purpose.
  4.  God never asks more of us than we can handle.
Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, suggests such responses to pain and suffering are “hollow and offensive.”

Evil people have free choice to inflict pain, cause chaos and commit appalling crimes like the Holocaust and 9/11.  And good, moral people are diagnosed with frightening diseases like cancer. In either case, there is no satisfactory answer to the question why an omnipotent, all powerful God permits his people to suffer. 

To attempt to answer that question leads the inquirer down a twisted path of philosophical and theological assumptions and paradoxes which ultimately suggest the essence of God is beyond our comprehension. Simply said, when bad things happen to good people, it is often beyond our sense of justice, fairness and understanding.

Rabbi Aaron Moss of Sydney, Australia says when experiencing tragedy, “Stop looking for answers ...Take your righteous anger and turn it into a force for doing good ... Let your outrage propel you into action.”

Pastor Judy White of the Bluff Point United Methodist Church in Bluff Point, New York suggests that when tragedy occurs, the question is not WHY it happened but HOW to cope.Judy answers that question with this statement of faith: "We are given things to bear, but only through the strength God gives us can we get through it." 

January 22, 2014

What a Wonderful World

I just celebrated my 83rd birthday, and a friend gave me a card which plays What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. I believe the sentiment of that song. God has surrounded me with a loving family, and my life has been an accumulation of a thousand Golden Memories. My heart is full.

Next month, it will be sixty-six years since I fell in love with Nancy Ogden. It happened on the dance floor in the Teen Canteen on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on February 21, 1948. Most of my Golden Memories are built upon that singular event . . . marriage, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, vacations, travel, adventures and family celebrations.  

There is an old Sunday School song that begins, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” and that suggests other Treasured Memories that have made my world wonderful.  It is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our continuous association with people of faith wherever we lived.

Our church associations have been diverse, and over the years, we have been Reformed, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and Methodist. In each case, our regular worship with a congregation of believers has inspired us, refreshed us and renewed our faith. 

Currently, we attend the Bluff Point United Methodist Church in Bluff Point, New York, and our spirited, spirit filled and perky Pastor, Judy White, leads a worship service each Sunday that reaffirms our faith and fills our hearts with joy, joy, joy, joy. 

What a Wonderful World, indeed!

January 14, 2014

Listening to God

In the Old Testament book of Genesis, God tells his faithful servant, Noah, that he is angry because his people have become violent, evil and corrupt. 

God plans to destroy the people of the earth with an apocalyptic flood, but he
gives Noah instructions for building an ark which will provide a safe haven for him and his family.

God has never spoken to me as he did to Noah, but I am absolutely certain he has often nudged me to visit a shut in or send a card to a friend who is living alone. And I know God has inspired me when I have been discouraged and guided me when I have been tempted to stray from his path.

Most people of faith take time to thank God for blessings or ask him for favors, but how many of us ever listen to God when he prompts us to bring hope to the despairing, strength to the weak and love to the neglected. 

In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time when Peter acknowledges his love, Jesus says,  “Feed my sheep.” 

When God prompts us to “feed his sheep,” may we always respond in a spirit of love with kindness, consideration and compassion.

January 7, 2014

Snowflakes, People and the New Year

Nancy and I live in Upstate New York where the average annual snowfall can exceed 90 inches. Nearby Syracuse ranks number one in the country with an average annual snowfall of 115 inches.

We have had snow often for several weeks, and that fact prompted me to research the question, “Is it true that no two snow flakes are alike?” Turns out that in the entire history of the planet it’s unlikely that any two snow flakes have ever been the same.

And despite the fact that there are over seven billion people in the world, no two persons are alike. Even Identical twins don’t have the same fingerprints!  Each one of us has unique physical features, unique personalities, unique attitude and unique souls. 

Like snowflakes and people, no two days are the same. In all of history, there never has been nor will there ever be another day quite like the one you are living at this very moment. 

As we begin 2014, let us give thanks to a good and gracious God who has given us this day and this New Year filled with fresh and abundant possibilities for learning, service and love.

January 2, 2014

We'll Drink a Cup of Kindness

 At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2014 throughout the English speaking world, people raised their voices and sang, Auld Lang Syne.  

The title of the song may be translated to say “long, long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times.” As a result, “for auld lang syne,” might be read as “for the sake of old times.”

The line in the song I find particularly thought provoking is “We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.” I suggest that means whatever happened to us in the past, good or bad, let us be kind to the memories. That also suggests we forgive those who may have offended us in the past. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who offended us, “As many as seven?” And Jesus answers, “I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven.”

These are the words of the Great Physician, a Mighty Counselor, who understood that forgiving someone’s offense against us relieves the emotional pain we experience when we are bitter and resentful. 

What a wonderful way to make 2014 a truly Happy New Year___ by “drinking a cup of kindness.”