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The Morning After

20181207_200612As a kid, I remember making construction paper ring chains to count down the days until Christmas. It was such an exciting time of year. My sisters and I would skulk around the Christmas tree and shake the gifts with our names on them. My mom made  amazing sweets, and in great quantity. I remember the decorations and how warm the house felt.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve evening and got our stockings Christmas morning. My grandmother was usually staying with us for most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and on Christmas we usually went to one of my aunts’ houses or a few would come to ours for a day of feasting, games, and more presents. I was by far the youngest in the house, so was not always included in game playing, but I still enjoyed just being there in the chaos. The day after Christmas seemed so quiet and subdued after all the excitement that had lead up to and culminated on Christmas day. I had all my new stuff to play with (and if I was lucky enough to have been gifted a book I could read for hours), but somehow there was a sadness that the experience was over.

As I’ve gotten older, my Christmases have gotten smaller and we don’t generally have many gifts under our tree, but the warmth, the decorations, and the love are still precious to me.  And sometimes the day after Christmas still seems sad. Now that looks a little different to me, because I have realized the warm feeling at Christmastime wasn’t as much of a physical warmth as the feeling of love. People are generally kinder to one another, including strangers, during the holiday season. Somehow it is easier to put aside differences and see each other as fellow human beings. Charitable donations and acts of kindness are on the rise. The idea of “peace on earth” seems almost possible.

And then Christmas is over. Slowly, the kindness and warm feelings fade and we all go back to our normal lives and our routines, and many forget until somewhere around the end of the next November.

The thing is, Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and a gift that is everlasting. Those feelings of love and joy are intended to be kept all year. We are commanded to love one another, and I doubt that was meant to be a part-time job. Love takes work sometimes, and we get frustrated and tired, and life happens, distracting us. But let’s try to show love and kindness, even if only in some small way, each day. Be on the lookout for those opportunities. When we bless others, we in turn are also blessed, and then it is easier to keep it going all year long.

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Love One Another

I was poking back through a few drafts of posts I had saved when I discovered a post I had actually trashed two years ago because I was afraid of the backlash I might receive if I actually posted it, afraid people may only read the parts they wanted to in order to be offended. Lately, being offended is the hip thing to do. And that made me realize that maybe my message is even more important than it was when I originally wrote this. I just ask if you read it to know that I did write this in love and am sharing it in love. I pray anyone reading this sees my heart:

God never asked for our assistance in judging one another; He called us to love Him and to LOVE one another, and this was put above all the other commandments.  If we could all stop looking for each other’s faults and begin to see and repent of our own, wouldn’t it be easier to love others?  After all, not one of us is perfect.

I want to address an issue that has been heavy on my heart for sometime now.  Unfortunately, though I do this in love and with good intentions in hoping to make others see love, I am sure some will find a way to be offended.  This is why I’ve not addressed the issue earlier.  So, please read with an open mind, no matter which side you take on the matter.

As a straight person, I admit I do not understand anything really about being gay.  I do know that I have now and have in the past had several gay people come in and out of my life whom I have thought were amazing people, regardless of their sexual orientation. People are people, whether black or white, gay or straight, and we are called to look at each other’s hearts and to love one another.

Sometimes the discussion of whether being gay is morally right or wrong comes up because I am a Christian.  This is always an awkward matter that I try to avoid.  Why?  Because I have to admit that I do not think this is what God intended; however, I also feel that it is not my place, nor any other Christian’s place to pass judgment on those who are gay. I want to love people, no matter their orientation.

Again, no person is perfect.

Whatever our imperfections, impurities, vices, etc., we all have them in some form.  Let’s try not to focus on these things in one another, but to see the good instead, and to see that deep down we are the same and everyone just wants to be and equally deserves to be loved, because God loves us equally.

As far as I can tell, there are people like me who try to generally stay out of the crossfire when it comes to this matter.  But I also see people thrusting themselves in and hating one another.  I see Christians condemning gays and I see gays condemning Christians.  What will this ever solve?

On the side of gay people, I see them often feeling they are being backed into a corner.  We cannot deny that hate crimes do exist, and hurtful comments are uttered under breath. A basic reaction to this is always to attack back or to stay as small as possible in that corner, hoping not to be noticed.

Then on the side of Christians, I often see and hear comments about how all Christians are hypocritical and hateful, yet most of the people I know who claim to be Christians really do not hold any animosity towards gay people.  This is an unfair stereotype based on a small percentage of loudmouths making us all look bad.  Coming down on all Christians as being hypocritical and judgmental then becomes just as hypocritical and judgmental on the other side. Christians have been persecuted around the world for over 2,000 years now, something that doesn’t seem like it will end any time soon.

This post isn’t about taking sides.  There should not be sides.  This post is to encourage love.  We will all be judged eventually…by God.  Let’s let Him take care of it and just do as we have been commanded by Him to do, and love one other.

My Words as Weapons: Giving Back

I read, or heard, or somehow picked up an idea recently.  Apparently there is something in the Talmund that says that each person must think from a position that the world was an elaborate gift/creation given only for him or her.  At first that seems oddly selfish, but the idea is really anything but selfish.  This perspective is meant to create a sense of responsibility for making the world, this special gift, a better place so that each resident here on Earth will always strive to make a difference.

I think that’s a marvelous idea!

Helping-Hands

People can take this to mean we need to take better care of our natural resources in this world, and so trees are being planted and better sources of energy are being researched and implemented.  All of that is great, because I do believe God wants us to take care of what he has given us.

He also gave us another, invaluable resource: each other, and we must learn to take care of one another better. We must stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. People are resources and we all have our place in this world. Some have strayed far from their purpose, and still others have had their purpose stolen away from them through the cruelty of those who strayed.

We need to break that cycle and begin a new one. The “pay it forward” idea is not new.  If somebody does something for you, receive it as a blessing and find a way to bless the next person.  If you see someone oppressed, reach out to give him or her freedom, and in turn that person will help free others.

I hate to see injustice and I feel human trafficking is just about the worst atrocity out there. Although I am not always in a position to take physical action against it, I do my best to spread the word and create awareness so that people who are in a position to take physical action can do so.  You don’t have to swoop into brothels and pull out children or work in a safe house where survivors are rehabilitated to be “fighting.”  Use your words as weapons and help spread the word on the injustice of human trafficking, and any other injustice out there you know about.  When you do that, you are helping.  You are giving back. Learn to do what you can, but don’t do nothing.

How to Like Everybody, Even if You Don’t Know Them Yet

friendship

It’s possible some readers may be offended by what will seem like my oversimplification of a complicated idea, but I don’t care.  Sometimes we are what screws everything up and creates complication; furthermore, wisdom can come in simple ideas, so give it a chance.

I very recently met an older, retired man, let’s call him George, who revealed to me something that revolutionized my thinking.  He was volunteering at a race I was working at and said he loved doing volunteer work because he got to meet so many interesting people.  Ok, so here comes the fortune cookie wisdom.  George said he liked everybody, even people he hadn’t met yet, until they gave him a reason not to.  Pause for a bit here, reread the simple statement, and let it rest on the tip of your mind for a bit.  Then, let it invade your more intimate thoughts.

What does it mean to like everybody, even the people you don’t know yet?

If you are truly honest with yourself you will admit that you probably do not like everybody, especially not strangers, because, well, they are strangers to you.  We fear the unknown.  It’s human nature, so don’t try to lie about it.   The only times I know of when people are automatically accepting of other human beings is when it’s a baby, a celebrity people think they know because they’ve read the check-stand tabloids, or people with common friends who may have come into the picture with a high recommendation from someone whose opinion is respected.

Strangers, true strangers, generally have to work much harder for acceptance.  Why?  Again, the fear of the unknown, personal experiences, or maybe just seeing, or thinking we see, what we don’t like in ourselves in someone else.  We may live in a country with an “innocent until proven guilty” law in the cases of possible crimes committed, but we tend to assume everyone is guilty when it comes to taking a chance and building a relationship.  If only we could get over our past hurts and consider each person a new opportunity for friendship instead of waiting for the moment they will stab us in the back, what a difference it could make. But we’re human, so we are wary; and we are human, so we hurt people.  Maybe we just need to take more chances.  Everyone you let in will hurt you in some way at some point- we cannot help ourselves, whether on purpose or accident- but think of how many more relationships could be formed and all the good that could come from it.

Remember these two things: we are meant to love one another, and to someone else, you are the stranger.