A Few Tears Shed…

Yesterday I wrote about my own health issues and the uncertainty of life. Today I’m shedding a few tears, and yet rejoicing, for a man who’s bravely faced over twenty-four years of uncertainty.

With one last puff, a flickering candle has blown out in this world. We all knew the end was near for blogger Bill Sweeney; he told us that in his last post. Now this morning, With A Heavy Heart, his wife Mary informs us that he’s passed away.

When he was first diagnosed, the doctors gave him about five years. Now, after over twenty-four years of battle with ALS — aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease — this warrior has been called home from the battlefield.

“O Death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?”
I Corinthians 15:55

When he first entered the battle against this foe, he reached out for the hand of God and grasped it, and found it firm to the end. Though Bill slowly lost his physical abilities and was finally completely paralyzed, still he carried on faithfully doing what he could. Via the internet, using a computer program that tracked his eye movements, he continued to share the good news of God’s love and encourage people around the globe.

He inspired us all to be more serious about our beliefs and more faithful to our Lord. All those who’ve read his posts will miss his sensible and gracious thoughts.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

II Timothy 4:7-8

Morning Musing on Religion

Every morning when I turn on my browser, I’m offered a selection of interesting articles from various sources, “Recommended by Pocket.” Yesterday a headline in one of these boxes caught my eye, and I see it again this morning. (Click here to read it.)

Why Religion Is Not Going Away and Science Will Not Destroy It

A very interesting question indeed! It’s bound to stir up some thoughts in most readers. Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth.

Seeing this headline, my first thought was on the spiritual side. Our Creator, heavenly Father, the One we call God, the Eternal One. Science can’t make him disappear. So my answer is:
“As long as our Creator keeps reaching out to us, his creation, and touching our lives – often in miraculous ways – there will still be believers. Those of us who have heard his voice, felt his touch – yes, some have even seen him – can never deny the reality of his presence.” I’ve heard thousands of examples!

This morning when the question popped up again, I looked at the world RELIGION and thought:
“Religion won’t ever go away because religion divides people, and people like to be divided.”

Specifically, people like to be divided by “I’m on the RIGHT side and you’re on the WRONG side.”

Read history. Any factor that can divide people into two groups has been very popular. And religion is so very versatile. Add doctrines, interpretations, attitudes…”And of course God thinks like I do!” Voilà, you have a whole new group that’s righter than all the others. The Southern Believers versus the Central Believers versus the Eastern Believers versus the Western Believers. This sect versus that sect, etc.

Color, gender, family, money, style, ethnicity, nationality, politics, religion. Just introduce any of these factors and you’re apt to get some division. This is the downside of our human nature: feeling that people who don’t think like we do are wrong. Then throw in the media. Propaganda. “We are RIGHT and they are WRONG. We are the faithful; they are the infidels. We’re the ones who want law & order; they are the rebels.” Give both sides guns and they’ll likely start shooting each other.

People won’t soon give up their Rightness for impersonal science.

Our Creator has not designed us to be at each other’s throats; these attitudes don’t please him. When we come to him, and focus on him, we can lose these divisions with their respective animosities. As the Bible states:

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:27-28

“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

– Colossians 3: 9 – 14

John Lennon wrote in his famous song, “Imagine there are no countries, no religion, no possessions…” (One might add, no drugs — another thing people fight over.)

Sounds so idealistic in a song, but would you really want to live in a world like that? And where would we put our human nature, that “being” within us that wants our own space, our own place, our own roots, our own understanding? If it all were wiped out tomorrow, give us a month and we’d have a whole new set of separations.

Removing the spiritual side of us would take out of this world the only thing that can moderate human nature. The only voice that does speak for compassion and peace. Most religions, not matter how off-course or fanatic their followers may get, do hold up kindness and respect as an ideal in relating to fellow human beings. Religion – focusing together in a sincere worship of our Father-Creator – has the best chance of uniting us.

The original article, published in September 2017 on Aeon, was written by Peter Harrison, an Australian Laureate Fellow and director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland.

I didn’t read the article in great detail, but he starts with intellectuals once believing that science would eventually displace religion. However, this hasn’t proved true; religion is alive and well today. (I might throw in the fact here that in recent years a lot of scientists have admitted to some sort of “intelligent design” behind our world.)

He ends his article with an interesting conclusion: If science opposes religion, science will be the loser. So, advocates of science should quit making an “it’s him or me” enemy of religion.

Agreed! The One who created the world with all its marvelous synchronized workings should never be pitted against his creation as “one or the other.” They are in harmony.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12: 6-7

A Sheep, A Vine, A Candle

If you look in the top left corner of your blog, you’ll see the word Reader. You’ve likely explored this a time or two yourself. Well, I was MANAGING the BLOGS I FOLLOW in my Reader this morning and came across the word METAPHOR. At some point in the distant past, this is one of the TAGS I’ve typed in “To follow.” So I clicked on it now and discovered an interesting article I’d like to point you to.

In this post, titled Christian Metaphors, the writer points out that the Bible has a number of metaphors referring to a Christian, or to Christian life, and gives several illustrations.

For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:7

Linda in her Bible Study blog writes about another metaphor Jesus used: I AM the True Vine. I think she explains this quite nicely. And here’s one example I found after a quick search:

And he (Jesus) said unto them, “Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed: and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret but that it should come (be told) abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

Mark 4:21-22

Jesus chose to speak in parables and metaphors, knowing that only those who were serious about his message would take the time to ponder and get the idea. Thus he says, “If any man have ears to hear…” In other words, if some person is really listening, really wants to hear the truth, he’ll hear it.

Image: Briam-Cute — Pixabay

An Interesting Tidbit

Ragtag Daily Prompt: TIDBIT
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: OCTOTHORPE

Thanks to M-W, we have this tidbit of information today: the proper name for this critter #, aka a hashtag/ pound/ number sign, is OCTOTHORPE.

Another tidbit, while we’re at it: this / is a VIRGULE. Commonly known as a slash.
According to Lexico, virgule comes from the French word ‘comma’, and originally from the Latin virgula.

Today was a day of small things for me; I listened in on two church services and both pastors talked about small or simple things. In fact both of them stressed that Christian life doesn’t have to be complicated.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that one of the newer translations paraphrases as: “God made man simple. All of his complex problems are of his own devising.” The KJV text reads: “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.”

Earlier I read — more skimmed, but still — an online article on exercise. Christine Carter writes about how she did simple steps toward getting into shape. Read it here if you like. Her thought: don’t start with an ambition program, like a half-hour jog every morning, but then get weary after a couple of weeks and give up. She rather committed herself to jog for one minute every morning. After a week or so she felt like doing a few minutes more rather than giving up.

This is very much like the FlyLady telling you to start by shining your sink and taking other baby steps. “Don’t try to tackle so much that you crash.” Ms Carter takes the same approach. She repeats a wise thought from the Dalai Lama: “Our goal is not to be better than other people; it’s just to be better than our previous selves.”

And now, in honour of winter’s arrival this weekend, especially the raging blizzard that has descended on us today, I’m going to redo my Header with a wintry scene. One of the sermons we listened to this morning was a wedding here at our church — attendance restricted due to Covid. I hope the bride and groom haven’t spent their first hours together slithering on a snow-drifted highway, just trying to stay on the road!

Friday’s CTV News for Saskatoon has come to pass:
The City of Saskatoon is gearing up for what could be a record-breaking snowstorm over the weekend, which may force residents to ‘stay home for a few days’ and could cause power outages.

Imagine this scene whited out by snow blowing almost vertically and you’ll have an idea what our outdoors looks like today. 🙂

A Y2K Sort of Day

Good morning everyone. I was up at 6:00 am — in time to see the clear night sky with the almost-full moon glowing down on us. I saw Mars glowing huge and brilliant last night, now Venus is taking its turn, rising in the eastern sky as bright as a headlight in the darkness.

Thinking about the situation in the US as voters go to the poll today, I feel as apprehensive as I did on Dec 31, 1999. Remember how we all held our breath, wondering if all our systems would still work on Jan 1, 2000 — or if those dire predictions about a technological crash would come to pass? Remember all the warnings? Computer systems and banking systems all over the world would crash; we’d lose all our data, all our money.

Today we’re wondering what changes this day will bring to our American friends and families? We’re all watching with anticipation — perhaps apprehension. It looks like our daily prompters are of the same mind.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is TENTERHOOKS. According to Lexico, refers to a state of suspense or agitation because of uncertainty about a future event. A great description of how millions of people are feeling today. And Fandango’s One-Word Challenge is ANTICIPATE. Just as we all anticipated life would go on normally on 01/01/2000, so we anticipate the furor will fizzle and the US will carry on tomorrow.

Through the marvels of technology I was able to listen by phone to an hour of singing yesterday evening. A group from one of our Kansas congregations inspired us listeners with their hymns, well chosen for the hour. Songs to remind us that, come what may, we can put our trust in our Heavenly Father. One of the brethren there closed the evening with a prayer, especially asking God to guide their nation today. He prayed that all believers would be good and compliant citizens regardless of the political situation.

Here’s a Bible verse to encourage believers in troubled times:

Original image: Engin Akyurt — Pixabay

“Let’s You And Him Fight”

This post condenses the magnitude of my mulling this week. I hope my thoughts sound somewhat reasonable to you.

I’ll start with a comment I read by one US political campaign manager: “Far too many campaigns aren’t talking about governing but just telling you who to be mad at.”

Yes, election fervor is in the air. Voters in our province go to the polls Monday to elect our government for the next four years. We as a church body across North America received an encouragement recently to be prayerful and to speak respectfully about all candidates and the present or future government.

Earlier this week I read an article about one US political candidate. In her ads she blasted away with a military assault rifle to make her point that “socialism does not belong in America” and “we need to blow it away.” According to the article, the threats she was uttering against the opposition party caused her opponent to fear for his life and leave the state. Not exactly democratic.

But politics have always been volatile and speeches are always anti-the other guy. Also, the media presents its own version. However, I did take note of, and have been pondering a statement she apparently made on Facebook:
“We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart.”

Since the Bible says, “the servant of the Lord shall not strive, but be gentle, apt to teach, in meekness instructing those who oppose them…” I do hope some believer will step up and explain to this woman that Bible-believing Christians are NOT all about blowing away their political opponents. Mention that there are strong conservative Christians on the other side, too.

Socialism isn’t the Enemy; it’s simply one of the systems we may happen to live under as we pass through this world. Historically, blind hatred is what really rip countries apart. Resentment of the existing government, selfishly wanting power or assets, unjustly targeting certain groups as STRANGE, as the ENEMY — these things lead to “Let’s you and him fight” hate speeches and violent actions. Then haters of those hate speeches make retaliatory hate speeches, calling for defensive action to combat all this hatred. The merry-go-round starts to spin furiously, throwing bodies off right and left, leaving the land in a shambles.

Mahatma Gandhi was right: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”
The Apostle James was right: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” – Chapter 1:20.

James goes on to say, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” Chapter 3: 17-18

Later I spotted another article saying that these vociferous politicians and agitators are actually the minority, that most citizens are standing aside and watching all the hoopla, quietly making up their own minds. Now that’s a comfort!

Followers of Christ all over the world are praying for their governments and their fellow Christians. We especially remember Christians in the US at this time and pray that the peace of God will rule in their hearts and minds, come what may.

Christians have lived under Jewish rule, the Roman Empire, Constantine, the Holy Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Reformation. They’ve been governed by monarchies, democracies, fascism, socialism, communism. Some systems made life pretty hard for them because leaders and systems chose to persecute Christianity. With God’s help the Christians carried on living for the Lord and so will we, whatever the ruling government may be.

Ragtag Daily Prompt for today: STRANGE
Fandango’s FOWC: MAGNITUDE