When You Can’t See the Path

Sitting at O’Hare waiting for replace to plane to arrive.

I was up at 5am to get to the airport. I’m going to see my parents and some of my siblings! It’s a short visit, but I need to see them. The plane was late departing. I fell into a deep sleep. Half way to the Michigan, the intercom woke me up with: we have to return to Chicago for maintenance. I thought maybe it was a dream. Everyone was so quiet and not talking, so I really didn’t know if the 18 minutes to landing was for Saginaw or Chicago! It wasn’t a dream. We landed back at the same airport we left. United has been good keeping us informed. Will we re-board, re-book or get a new plane? We’re getting a new plane but it has to fly here, so I’m sitting in the airport, thinking.

Coming back to Chicago we were above the clouds. They look much more interesting from above with lots of texture and complex formations. Then we began the descent down into the clouds.

Remember I’m not sure where we would land, so I had no idea of NESW or land/water. We were flying in a cloud, with no visual landmarks.

From the ground we just see gray skies, no sun, no blue. On the plane we trust the laws of gravity, but we don’t know our position in the air. We are putting our trust in the pilot, the navigation system and beacons and aviation control. They know where we are, how high, what the problem is, and then decide the best decision for passenger safety.

Sometimes in life we can’t see where we’re going. The path is foggy and we can barely see landmarks along the way. We wonder if we’ve gotten lost, taken the wrong path or even left the path. We can feel lost, without purpose or direction, wondering if we should just sit down and wait for someone to find us.

You likely know where I’m headed. God is our co-pilot. He knows the path and how to get to our destination. And if we’re lost, He is with us to prompt us or lead us back to the path. He has better radar; He is the ultimate “aviation controller” in our lives.

I’ve been in that place where I haven’t a clue where I’m going (emotionally, spiritually) and I just wanted to sit down, retreat from life, and wait for someone to care. This is a problem that God is excels in solving! He looks for the lost sheep and returns them to the fold. He cares for us and helps us get back on the path.

I am so thankful for this! I can trust Him to get me to the right place. Just like I had to trust the pilots knew where they were going, I have to trust that God is more than able to get me where He has planned for me to be.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭ESV‬

Sacred Cow on the Altar of Change

My mind went to the phrase “sacred cow on the altar of change” this morning. So googled it. Some say it derives from the Hindus who view their cows as sacred. But I also found an Orthodox commentary on cows in the Bible. (Very funny, but also informative. I’ll post the link below.) Some of the Biblical references are:

A: the sacrifice of bulls:
“Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”” Judges‬ ‭6:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

B: one of four faces Ezekiel saw
“As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.” Ezekiel‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

C: measuring wealth by cattle used for sacrifice
““Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar.” Exodus‬ ‭29:10-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

D: how cows (livestock) are singled out in creation:
“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis‬ ‭1:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

E: and bulls sacrificed on the altar
“Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.” Psalms‬ ‭51:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I think the phrase came to mind because many in society are angry that their sacred cows are on the altar, specifically abortion and the view of women’s rights that requires abortion to be legal. The latest women’s march is really about the anger some women have that their sacred cows are being threatened. I understand. Because many of my sacred cows have been threatened over the last 8 years.

So if I understand the feeling of a “sacred cow being sacrificed on the altar of change” could it help me to better relate and talk with those who are upset since the election? Could I have more compassion because I’ve experienced things I hold near and dear being threatened?

I guess I’m dealing personally with this issue in my family, but also with friends, classmates, etc. who begin conversations basically upset about their sacred cow and assume I will be in agreement with them. Sometimes I’m amused. Do they not know me? Will they be surprised if I disagree? What if I don’t laugh at their jokes and poking fun at specific persons or institutions? Will they “unfriend” me on social media? These conversations come up regularly these days. I try to focus on not being offended, accepting that my sacred cows are not their sacred cows.

I was in such a conversation recently, where golden hair was mentioned and humorous comments were made about making fun of such things. You only have to watch TV, internet or social media to see such “humor” elevated to political statements. It may be why I’ve searched out alternative sources for news lately, or spend less time on social media. I have to work very hard to not react to comments on Facebook, or to not post opinions on Facebook about the sacred cows in society.

What I find amusing, in a sense, is that the election was so close that you should assume 50% of the people in your gathering might take offense or disagree with you. But then, we do tend to congregate with those we agree with, don’t we?  If the only people we come in contact with are those who agree with us, how can we expect to be compassionate when we interact with someone who disagrees with us? Is it possible to remain civil and respectful, while arguing about sacred cows?

So let’s list a few of the “sacred cows” in our society today (feel free to add to the list in your comments) using both points of view:

– abortion, the right to women’s health including birth control
– the sanctity of life, valuing the life in the womb and throughout the life cycle
– the entitlement to government support, financially, but also in laws to protect rights
– the work ethic that depends on self for prosperity and success
– the joy of accepting immigrants and refugees into our society
– the desire to keep our society and ways of life insular
– the desire to have the government care for the orphans and widows
– the personal acceptance of responsibility to help those in need through giving and volunteer efforts
– the right to a public education
– the desire to keep the innocence and belief system intact for the next generation in a family or ethnic community
– the belief that there is no truth, no rights or wrongs, and pursuit of what the heart wants to be true or right is a personal choice
– the belief in a truth and righteousness that is not dependent on personal desires but in faith

I could go on, but the question is, do you know what your sacred cows are? How do you respond when they are threatened? Are your sacred cows based on your belief system? Does your belief system allow for others to disagree with you? Do you hate those who threaten your sacred cows? Can you be friends with those who have different sacred cows?

Forty years ago, I was part of a generation that wanted to upset sacred cows and usher in changes that would give more freedom and protection, like the right for women to have a career and family, protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, raising the expectation of women to be capable of rising to ever higher levels in every aspect of society, for each person to choose the career of their choice, without stigma, not based on their sex. I was part of a generation that upset the sacred cows of my parents generation.

In a progressive society, it seems that upsetting and overturning sacred cows is a drive for change. But, have you ever heard of “cow tipping?” If you grew up in a rural area, it was a lot of talk and little action, but a desire nevertheless to tip a cow over and watch it struggle to right itself. It sounds cruel, doesn’t it? When you apply the technique to a living animal, most can agree that it isn’t a practice with compassion and concern for the animal’s well being. (Having grown up in rural America and having attended an “Ag” school this was a topic of conversation. Really.) But isn’t putting “sacred cows on the altar of change” sort of like cow tipping? Just think about it.

While I was involved in activities pushing for change I was quite civil. I didn’t do the drug scene or act in embarrassing ways “under the influence” of drugs. And I kept my behaviors in line with activities that didn’t counter my parents teaching. I didn’t shout, get violent, humiliate the older generation or behave in ways that would embarrass my mom. (A very important driving force in my young adult life.) This was not true of many of my friends. The same is true today. Yes, some are in our face, behaving in ways that offend our sensibilities, humiliating those who disagree, disrespecting the value of everyone, but not all do this. They act in a civil way, listen, respond, and don’t judge others.

For me, my Christian faith is the source of what I believe to be truth, where I get my sense of right and wrong, and my source of strength in an antagonistic, stressful culture. My sacred cows relate to what is sacred in my faith and in the Bible. I listen, read, pray and talk to God about many issues, but lately it has been a lot of emotional needs. I do need help to forgive those who hurt me sometimes. I do need wisdom to know when to speak and when to be quiet. I do need help to find my way in the maze of our society these days. My God, the Lord Most High, my Savior and my Friend is Who I go to when the rhetoric goes beyond what I can handle.

Christian faith and beliefs don’t have the centricity in our society today. I can’t expect to be received well when I express my faith. Well, sometimes expressions of faith aren’t accepted at all, honestly. It seems a new sacred cow has arisen: no evangelism allowed! I think it’s referred to as proselytizing and that word has a very negative connotation. So public discussion of my faith comes with a risk. I might be rejected, ridiculed, humiliated, judged, put on trial…oh wait; that’s what my Savior went through for me! Jesus faced all these reactions and more, yet he remained without sin. Sin is an old fashioned word these days. It’s considered a harsh judgment to say that someone has sinned. But in a sense, it means you have transgressed the law, broken the law, and are guilty. Jesus did none of these things. He went through humiliation without anger, he was riduculed and did not fight back, he was unjustly condemned and yet knew he was following his Father in all he did. He was sacrificed on the altar of defying change.

If we have a sacred cow that needs to be changed, we should be open to having it tipped over. What comes to mind is many years ago, the realty profession and city administrations just didn’t show homes in some neighborhoods to “people of color” (term used in the 1960-70s) so that neighborhoods could stay white. This was a sacred cow that needed to be tipped.

No one, no matter what, should ever be bullied. Yet we have allowed our children to be bullied because they are “different” and need to be reminded of that, often in humiliating ways. This is a sacred cow that needed to be tipped.

So, are there sacred cows that should not be tipped over? Are there constants that our society needs to be stable, to flourish and be caring? Are there issues that need to be updated but not eliminated? How do we balance safety and security with terrorism and hate crimes?

I’d rather we be talking about these issues. But our personal sacred cows get in the way. We can’t get past them. Incivility and disrespect permeate our society. No where do we see this more evident than in the “notmypresident” movement. We had an election. We followed the rules in our constitution. Someone lost and someone won. For the next four years, we have a President and that office needs to be respected. That’s one of my sacred cows. I don’t have to agree with the elected officials. I can write my opinions on issues to my President, Representative and Senators, but with civility and respect. And as the Bible commands, I do pray for all elected officials, that they would have wisdom in guiding and leading our country. And I did that for the previous President as well.

I’ve just about exhausted my thoughts on sacred cows. I’m still chewing I the idea of the altar of change and what it all means. And cow tipping analogies just won’t leave my mind right now. Hopefully I’ve given you things to think about in your own life. Meanwhile, I’ll keep chewing on these thoughts!

Here is the blog about cows:
http://frjohnpeck.com/the-sacred-cow/

Peace on Earth

We’ve heard it, sung it, confessed our desire for it, but we have yet to experience “Peace on Earth.”

I saw a huge sign on a bridge yesterday, “Peace on Earth” and my first thought it was a Christmas decoration not yet removed. My tree is still up, so why would a city have all decorations taken down?

Then I thought about its meaning. To have peace on earth, every single person and country would be acting out of love to their neighbor. There would be no crime and no crime expected. There would be no violence, especially domestic violence. There would be no enslavement, especially human trafficking. There would be no fear of nuclear missiles, or bombs, or terrorism, or countries taking over other countries. To truly have peace on earth, there could be no racism, no sexism, no bias or denigration, no other “-isms.”

It would be every, single person on earth at peace, safe, with all needs met. There would be no need for a refugee program or refugee camps. There would be no sanctuary cities, no dirty politics, no meanness, no slander, no uncivil behavior.

Think about it. Every. Single. Person. At. Peace. Every minute. Every day. Forever. Let your mind’s eye search around the globe and absorb what it would mean for true peace on earth, not as a thought or a dream, but in reality.

I grew up at a time of nuclear threat, war and racism. During the fight for Civil Rights, I was an impressionable young teen. I lived in an idealistic world. I thought by saying, “Let there be peace on earth,” it could happen. I expected people to desire peace and to work for it to happen. The song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” (and let it begin with me) was possible. If we all wanted peace, surely it would happen.

I am no longer that idealistic teen. I have seen bullying, meaness, violence toward others, and anything but peace. I live in a time when Homeland Security is necessary. I’ve experienced the fears of a mother with a son in a war zone.

The image of peace in earth reminds me of heaven. Yes indeed, “no more sorrows, no more pain.” (See Revelation 21:4.) Can there truly be peace on earth before our lives end? I go back to: imagine looking around the world and seeing everyone acting in loving ways. Just one person being hateful would upset the peace. And if even one group or country got mad or envious of another, peace would be lost. Why is this? Why can’t we all live in peace? My neighborhood is peaceful and filled with respectful, kind people, but not everyone can say that. And if a group gathers to voice their free speech rights, violence breaks out around them. There just isn’t peace in this world.

The moral code, the Ten Commandments, lays out the rules God’s people should live by. But even if we try very hard, we will fail. Something will make us angry. A temptation will happen at a moment of weakness, or our own selfish desires will cause us to sin. I feel like Peace on Earth is an impossible goal. And apart from God and the Blood of Jesus, that is true. There is an answer, and most don’t want to hear the message, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So I have hope! There is an answer to the problem of sin. It’s found in the Blood of Jesus, in recognizing you have fallen short, sinned and transgressed the Law of God, of repenting for your sins, of believing in the work Jesus did on the cross, and then, living your life for Christ. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So, I can be at peace in my inner being, because my mind and heart is guarded by the peace of God. I can be a peace maker, a peace carrier, but I can not make peace on earth a reality. I can’t force people to live in peace with one another. And God gives us each free choice, so he’s not going to force anyone to live in peace either that refuses to listen. But I have hope! And I know heaven is real. And then there will be everlasting peace. (Sigh!) “I Can Only Imagine!”

“I can only imagine when that day comes, When I find myself standing in the Son, I can only imagine when all I would do is forever, Forever worship You” -MercyMe

Here is a sample of Bible verses that talk about “peace in earth” I found today:

“…and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  ‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬ – This is probably the source of the Christmas season greeting and the “Peace on Earth” sign I saw. Notice the caveat: among those with whom he (God) is pleased. Not everyone. Not the whole world.

“…making peace by the blood of his cross.”  ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬ – Here we see the blood of Jesus as the source of peace.

“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬ – The peace of the Lord will never end.

“I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.” ‭‭Hosea‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬ – This speaks of the mercy for Israel from the Lord.

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”   ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭ESV.‬‬ This is a prophecy of a Day of the Lord, when He rules from on top of the mountain.

There are many more Bible verses that speak of peace. I challenge you to find a few more. Think about what peace in earth looks like to you? Is it possible? What would it take? Beyond platitudes and admonishment, how can we be instruments of peace?

Peace Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

The Love of God

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”  Ephesians‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I want to be like this, every day. To be so filled with the love of God, that I would love everyone, not judge, no conditions, not to some but all. To love everyone I meet on the streets, all walks of life, anywhere in the world! I want to love others so they know of God’s love for them. So I need to love like God loves.

And so the church grew

Acts 11:18

Acts 11:18

And the church grew…

When we expand our thoughts, and see everyone around us, and know that they are made in God’s image, and we shower them with God’s love, the church grows. Because God’s love is transforming, reaching deep into hearts and blessing to the very core of our being. Let God’s love bless you today to the very core of your being. Let that love pour out of you to those you encounter today. Bless those you meet with God’s love, and let Him transform those you meet!

A Shield About Me

Psalms 3:3

Psalms 3:3

I’ve been singing a song a song based on this verse the last few weeks.

Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me
You’re my glory
You’re the lifter of my head
Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me
You’re my glory
You’re the lifter of my head

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You’re the lifter of my head

There is so much to think about in these few, powerful words.

A shield about me: It’s like the song, Christ in me: before and behind, above and below, with me and in me, like a shield, a big shield!

You’re my Glory: the source of honor, blessing and sustenance.

The lifter of my head: lift your head, raise your eyes, lift your hands and face our Lord courageously and with thanksgiving!

Hallelujah: Praise the Lord!

There are several people and families I’m praying for that are facing medical problems, some very serious. I’ve been singing this song over them, that would feel the shield of the Lord, His Glory and lift their eyes to heaven and keep their eyes on Him, the Healer of our souls.

Is Anyone Righteous?

Psalm 73:26

When faced with the news and revelations of secrets of those you have admired, or held as a model of righteous living, it leads you to believe that no one is righteous! I admired Dennis Hastert when he represented me in Congress. Now his past sins have been exposed (by money transfers, no less) and he has been judged and sentenced.

Unfortunately, liberals often make headlines out of those who have fallen from the righteous Conservative podiums. Are only fallen conservatives lacking righteousness? Going to the definition of righteous: “morally good, following religious or moral laws” you’d have to ask how you would measure the “righteousness” of someone that doesn’t follow religious laws. You’d have to know what the moral laws are in order to judge the righteousness of someone not following God, I guess. Is there a list someplace of dos and don’ts that we can refer to when establishing the righteousness or unrighteousness of a person?

The Bible has a lot to say about the righteous and righteousness. There are at least 600 uses of the words in the Bible. The one that sticks out is:

“None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans‬ ‭3:10‬b ‭ESV‬‬

Which is referencing the verse:

“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalms‬ ‭14:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If that’s not enough, read Proverbs 10 and see all the examples of righteous behaviors contrasted with foolish behaviors.

None of us are perfect and we all sin and make mistakes. But if we hide those sins and mistakes, and pretend we never did anything wrong, we are hypocrites. But if we publicly sin and say it is OK, aren’t we still hypocrites?

Back to the question “Is anyone righteous?” We need to look at the hearts and minds of those we hold dear, those we model ourselves after, and those who are in the public eye. The truth is, we can’t really see into their hearts or know what they are thinking. Instead we look at their behavior and what they say. And then a secret is revealed. How do they behave then? What do they say? Do they deny any wrong doing? I can think of a couple of Presidents who got caught and denied wrong doing. They even tried to convince us they did no wrong, that their “rules” of behavior were right. I can’t remember either of them admitted guilt and asked for pardon. And one was a Democrat and one was a Republican.

So if you don’t look to the Bible or God for a sense of what is right and what is wrong, how do you gauge righteousness? Are there clear moral laws we can all agree on? That way, we could clearly judge those who are unrighteous. There is the code of law. Is the behavior legal? That is where the courts get involved. If it can be proved you broke the law, then you are judged and punished accordingly.

What if my idea of right and wrong disagrees with your idea of right and wrong? Who has to compromise? Do we all agree that Hastert broke the moral law of society? Do we all agree that the terrorist bomber broke a moral law of society? Where do we draw the line on unrighteous behavior? This is where the controversies and contentious behavior have taken hold in our society. We don’t agree on what is “right” and what is “wrong.” We turn a bit gray on some issues and don’t draw a firm line.

Perhaps the most misunderstood concept of Christianity is righteousness by faith. This is in the Old Testament, the Torah, about Abram:

“And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭15:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Because of faith, Abram was counted as righteous. We know from Abraham’s story that he didn’t always follow God. Yet he is counted as righteous.

Righteousness by faith is described by John this way:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We are cleansed and made righteous by faith when we confess our sins, repent, and ask for forgiveness. A few of my favorite bumper stickers are “I’m not perfect, but I’m forgiven.” Or “Christ isn’t done with me yet.” Both describe the Christian faith as one of redemption of sins. At issue though, is that I need to acknowledge I sinned. I need to repent, turn away from, my sin. I need to ask for forgiveness, which means I humble myself before God and seek his ways.

Paul says it this way:

The Righteousness of God Through Faith:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭3:21-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The righteous walk by faith. The unrighteous follow only their own ways. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The righteous know this and ask for forgiveness and the strength to walk in God’s ways. The unrighteous do not know they have sinned. They ignore, justify, or flaunt their sins, without repentance, without remorse.

I guess it’s pretty black and white to me. Break God’s laws: you’ve sinned. Admit you have sinned: you’re forgiven. Please note however, that while forgiven you will still need to face the consequences of your sin in this world. You may be punished by the courts, you may grieve a choice, you may have broken trust with someone you love. But if you stay right with God, He has promised to redeem our mistakes.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Even our sins can be redeemed and good brought from them if we allow God to work in us and through us.

So is anyone righteous? Only God is truly righteous in all things, at all times. And He will give us His Righteousness when we lift our hands to Him and seek Him and follow Him. So I am made righteous by my faith in Jesus Christ, not by what I do, but by what He did for me.

When I was reading and writing this, I kept hearing an old song in my mind:

“You are the strength of my heart! You are the strength of my heart! You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever!”  Hence the verse at the top of this post.