It is hard for me to see my own blindness…

I have very little experience with blind folks. I don’t have any blind friends. Certainly not by design, I just don’t have any. Physically, non-sighted folks, I have no blind friends. But I have blind people stories.

I have driven for Uber for almost five years I have picked up a dozen or more blind passengers. So my relationships are short and close ended, but they are “informative.” The Uber experience and my blind passenger stories have given me insight into what I do and don’t see in my own life.

Jet was her “Uber customer name.” I think she was my first sight impaired customer. She is the first I remember. I knew she was blind, as I picked her up, as she had the “white cane.” I welcomed her, confirmed her destination and began the trip. No different than any other rider I had ever had. At some point as we were chatting I used the words “sight impaired.” And I was jumped, “I am blind!” was her exclamation. “Why can’t you just say blind?” I apologized, I had no idea, until that moment that I had apparently uses the Black equivalent of the “N-word” I was flummoxed and I apologized. I truly had no idea that I had said something offensive. Jet was a “blind-shamer.” She could have just said that she preferred the word “blind.” I don’t know why it was easier for her to jump on me. In my attempt to make conversation I had apparently showed my lack of awareness. I assured Jet I was indeed unaware, that I had heard the “term” before, and had NO idea it would be unacceptable to use it. I was “blind” to my “blindness” regarding the “blind.” I have never seen Jet since that day.

Charles is an accidental regular. Uber does not provide the tools for a customer to request a driver, But I have had Charles and his white cane, in my vehicle at least 5 times over the years. Charles is truly a character, and a delight to have transported many times. He has some great stories. First time I picked up Charles, at his home in West Tulsa, white cane in hand. It was a Saturday morning and the destination was the Sheridan Lanes. As we traveled down Charles Page Blvd., he was aware when we passed the building that at one time housed his engine repair and machine shop. I transported him to the bowling alley, to compete in his weekly bowling league at Sheridan Lanes. Yes, I was curious, but did not inquire “How?” My favorite story from Charles was when he was when he shared about the Uber trip on which he was picked up by a deaf Uber driver. I hope I share the story well, because Charles would tell you and you would probably laugh out loud. He and I laughed, you could tell he loved the story. Let me lay one piece of ground work. Blind Uber riders must always confirm verbally the details of their trip prior to entering and sitting in the car. Getting in the wrong car could be disastrous. Sighted folks often just jump in because they recognize the picture of the car or the driver that appears on the App. Blind riders can’t see the car color, check the driver against the published photograph, or confirm the car license. This works great with me. But I am not deaf. If I were a deaf driver and did not notice the white cane, a comedy of driver/rider communication might precede the ride. Such was the case with Charles. The deaf driver did not see the cane, and the deaf driver would not answer Charles’ questions prior to entrance. Both became frustrated with the other’s obvious rudeness. The blind rider did not respond to the driver’s signals to get into the car. After a short “dance”, it took a third party to interpret the “hip-hop” moves, and Charles and the Uber driver were on their way. Secure in the roles of driver/rider. I found the story hysterical. I could see this happening, I could see the transaction and miscommunication unfold.

And in 2016, I picked up Patricia Walsh, to take her and her traveling companion Jessica Jones Meyers to the airport. I usually only know the Uber pickup First name. As you will see-both figuratively and literally-I asked her for her last name, so I could “Google” her. At the point of pick-up, I just knew that this was an airport fare, with two suitcases and a really big fiberglass protective shipping case. I picked them up from a house in Tulsa, and I loaded what I would come to find out was a tandem competition bicycle in the traveling case in the back of my minivan. My destination, as I said was the airport. As a chatty Uber driver, and “fairly astute,” I know that when my customers head to Tulsa International Airport, they are actually going somewhere else. It did not take me long as an Uber driver to learn this obvious airport fact. So my questions upon loading customers and luggage are always in a couplet. “Which airline, and where are you headed?” The response was “American Airlines and ultimately Rio.” Well I had just enjoyed the 2016 Summer Olympics that had recently ended in Rio Di Janeiro, so I went for a clever response, something like “going down to check out the aftermath?” I assumed two attractive women were headed for some world class beach time. “No, going down to compete in the Paralympic games.” I was shocked, “What? (My inner thoughts. No one looks handicapped to me.) I thought maybe they we judges or coaches of some sort. Their reply shocked me. “We are Triathletes.” “Are you both competing? Sorry, I don’t know how to ask, but I thought the competitors were handicapped?” I learned that I was transporting Amy Dixon, a blind triathlete, and her sighted tethered partner Jessica Jones, “like the super-hero” she replied.

During the ride, I had no idea that the woman in my passenger seat was blind, I told her so, and she said “Perfect!” I asked, “How in the world do you compete as a blind athlete? Swimming, Biking, Road race? Huh? ” Well the bike is a tandem, and I am loosely tethered to Jessica for directional guidance during the run and the swim. https://www.teamusa.org/usa-triathlon/athletes/Patricia-Walsh It was an “eye-opening” ride.

My blind passengers had almost nothing in common. Except they were all blind. And they all knew they were blind. They lived there lives realizing their blindness and from what I could tell, they chose not to accept the limitations I would have assumed they had. I was in many ways blind to their limitations, but I saw their commitment to excellence in how they lived their lives. They knew they were blind, but they also understood their adaptations.

If I were blind, it would be very important to KNOW what I did not see. To KNOW that I was blind would not limit me, but I would have to adapt. If I were not aware of my blindness I might walk into walls, or off of porches, or tumble down stairwells. If I were not aware of my blindness I could easily walk into oncoming traffic, fall into a swimming pool, or spend my day bumping into other people. If I were blind, it would be critical for me to know I was blind, and what steps I would need to take to navigate my blind day. I could not just be placed at the start of a triathlon course, and hear the command to “Go!” and compete without an assist.

And the reason I recount the stories of my blind Uber passengers is because I have been challenged recently to confront my own blindness. I started this blog by pointing out that I have no “blind friends.” I do have many friends and acquaintances that are Spiritually blind however. Mine is not the story of me losing physical sight. It is my journey into knowing what God has challenged me to see. There is a spiritual blindness spoken of frequently in the Bible. But occasionally I clearly see what God is asking me to see. I believe in spiritual darkness and blindness, and spiritual light and sight.

I need to share some words from my favorite “new” preacher/teacher. Since the Pandemic I have spent time joining several church services online. And recently I returned to the Church of my youth. My home church from ages 10-22. At age 68 I returned “home.” This return is the “best” part of my Covid shut down. I am grateful for my online attendance. My “pandemic preacher,” shared online last week from The Gospel of John. Pastor Jim West, from Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City shared the Story of Jesus healing a blind man., recounted in the Bible passage in John 9. It was not a new story to my ears, I have read, preached and taught from this passage during my ministry days. But as I have shared in this blog before, “the Word of God is living and active,” and even familiar stories become fresh and provide new insight and vision. This is a story of a man born blind. A story of miracles, of the power of Jesus, of faith, of believers, of doubters, of a man without sight from birth, and the same man who receives sight.

Pastor Jim helped to open my Spiritual eyes. There are actually different experiences of blindness. It is a reality that I have never considered. And the difference can be striking. There are those that were born with sight and through disease or accident, these folks have lost their sight. Such were my Uber customers Charles and Patricia, folks who can share stories when they were not blind and contrast them to things they now experience once they lost sight are are now blind. If I say to them the stop light is red, they see in their mind’s eye the “same” color I see in my eyes. They “know” what I see, and can “see” also when I say “dark clouds are forming, it looks like a storm is brewing.” Or if I were to say, the cloud formation is amazing, it looks like an elephant, their minds eye is similar to my sighted eye. For the most part my words have the same meaning for them as they have for me.

But what does a person blind from birth envision. To say the sky is blue conjures a completely different picture. What is blue? What does a yellow sun look like if it has never been seen? What does a blind person feel or see when “something is like something else.” That cloud looks like an elephant. It is a “different” blindness, is it not?

I have never lost my sight, I have however experienced “blindness.” Or what I thought blindness might “feel” like. I use to travel frequently for business. Waking up in a new hotel room was occasionally a temporary blind experience. Have you ever awakened in an unfamiliar location in what I would call pitch black? Such might be the experience of the first night in a darkened hotel room. Rolling over in my sleep to awaken to the “where am I” sensation. It has approached frightening. I am so disoriented. I struggle to recall why I am here. The bed is strange, the room is a different kind of quiet, I am lost. “I am BLIND!” My eyes are open, I can see nothing. I literally put my hand in front of my face—-Nothing. Then from across the room I see it. A small horizontal line of light across the floor. And I suddenly remember. It is the light from the hotel hallway that has made its way under the door and to my eye, and suddenly I am aware of everything. As my eyes now adjust to this sliver of light, I see that I am not it pitch black at all. I am not lost in an unfamiliar location. I can traverse the room to the bathroom without a collision. I see the light. And my mind is at peace.

And so it is with life itself. Most of us have sung about our blindness. Most do it without realization of what they sing or say. Almost everyone has sung along with the song “Amazing Grace.” Perhaps a song as familiar to the ear as “Happy Birthday.” We confess our blindness with more regularity than we are ever aware of. Like most of my friends my age, I first sang about my “blindness” with Judy Collins in the 1960s. You probably sang about your blindness at the recent memorial service for Civil Rights leader and Congressman John Lewis. You will sing about your blindness at a 9/11 day of remembrance. You will affirm your blindness as you remember George Floyd or at the funeral of your Uncle Floyd. It is the most popular song of confession I have ever sung or heard sung. It matters not who you are, or what you think you believe. Everyone has sung these lyrics.

“I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.” ~John Newton

You have sung the song. You likely do not know the John Newton story. You may not actually know what grace is. You just sing the song. But the songwriter, John Newton, was the story of a horrible man, a Slave trader, and an experience of salvation at sea and at the foot of the cross. Amazing Grace is about Jesus. It is about salvation. You have sung about salvation. Yes you have. I will let you read the biography if you want. I would encourage it. https://www.biography.com/news/amazing-grace-story-john-newton But if you read the biography, you will not sing this song the same way at the next memorial event you attend. You may choose not to sing it. It will be a new choice you get to make.

Of course there is one line printed above that I need to expand upon. “was blind, but now I see.” In this world, and more specifically the Kingdom of God on earth world, Everyone is born blind. Everyone is without vision. Most do not realize they are without vision. After all, most can ambulate, moving without trouble from destination to destination. People rely on sight. It is like saying “I believe in science.” For some, Science coexists with Faith and belief. For some science excludes faith from their journey. And like my blind triathlete friend, some navigate tethered to another who is with sight. Some move around with a white cane. These blind folks that I have met move with amazing grace. Spiritual blindness is not as easy to recognize at physical blindness.

There are so many verses in the Bible about blindness or having limited sight. If you are interested you can easily find them. But I return to the story in John of Jesus healing the man blind from birth. After the healing, those who knew this nameless man asked him what happened, they even wondered if he had “faked” his blindness for so many years. How did Jesus heal him. And this was the healed man’s response. John 9:25 He answered, “…I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” This is a wonderful story of healing. It is not a story of medical science. And I believe that this happened. I believe that there are miracles of healing. Both as an act of science and as an act of faith. Because of my relationship with God, I get to believe both can be and are true.

There are however those who choose to think that the healing story is a Fairy Tale. And my response is, “of course you do. It is NOT possible for you to understand this simple story.” There is a simple explanation for your doubt. You have been blind from birth. You don’t know you are blind, but you are. I believe it, God says it.

John Newton was NOT physically blind. He was a sailor and a slave trader. He lived by sight. But he wrote the same phrase. As the Bible speaks of physical healing, Newton speaks of spiritual healing….”blind but now I see.”

Surprising, or perhaps it is no surprise at all, just prior to the blind man being healed in John 9, Jesus addresses the root of spiritual blindness. What a remarkable coincidence. It is like He saw your doubt prior to you having doubt. I can share anything I believe is God’s work in my life, I do NOT expect you to understand it. For you it is just a Fairy Tale… words I frequently hear about what I believe. Frankly, it is not possible for you to see what I see if you do not believe in a Risen Savior. But my family inside the Kingdom of God knows that this is the Truth. Jesus speaks to Spiritual blindness. John 8:47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” And those that know, know that access to God is acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior. That seeing comes by hearing and believing the Word of God. But just like the blind man… words like redemption and salvation are hard to understand if you are spiritually blind.

So what are the words that have a different meaning for those that are spiritually blind that for the spiritually sighted. Here is a list which is not complete and in no particular order. Faith, hope, love, redemption, salvation, resurrection, truth, light, God, Spirit, Jesus, heaven, hell, eternity, kingdom, praise, worship, rejoice, trust, blessings and curse, good and evil. This is a list of words I have used to discuss what I believe with those who do not believe. And I have spoken to many who do not believe. Unlike a dictionary definition, all of these words live in my life beyond the definition provided in Webster’s unabridged. All of these words require a relationship with Jesus, and salvation experience, to mean the same thing to you as they mean to me. And even after I start the relationship, I still “see in a mirror dimly.” I understand that there is meant to be mystery. Science cannot help me know what I KNOW to be true. And unless you receive spiritual sight from Jesus, and start a relationship, you will NOT know what I know and what I don’t know. Because Jesus said you cannot know the Words of Truth unless you know God.

THERE IS NO REASON TO ARGUE ABOUT THIS. If you do not believe…. You CANNOT UNDERSTAND. And I am not the one to argue with. God will listen to your cries however. He is ready to give you sight.

Maybe this is all a hoax. This spiritual stuff. So here is my challenge. Pay attention the next time the bagpipes play Amazing Grace. You should focus on those around you the next time you sing “Amazing Grace” at your next funeral. Maybe the power of this song has deceived millions and millions of people for centuries. If there is a spiritual conspiracy, a Biblical hoax at work perhaps we should rewrite history. Like the removal of all things dealing with things that are slavery related, maybe it is time to rework the song. Maybe it would be a better song if the rewritten words were instead, “I once was lost and still am lost, was blind, and cannot see.” Maybe the slave trader was just pretending to be a good guy before he died. Or maybe he actually received sight. May you find your spiritual awakening before they sing the song at your funeral. I once was lost but know am found, was blind but now I see.

Jesus Doesn’t Care

Jesus Does NOT care! REALLY?!  Yes it is true, it is what I believe.  Jesus does not care.

With this belief, I live my life confidently, as I move in and out of each day.

I go to a restaurant with my buddy Brad.  We sit at the table.  We get a menu.  Brad decides on the chicken fried steak.  I am torn between the Reuben sandwich and the Cobb Salad.  What should I order?  I need some immediate help.  I ask the server for her recommendation.  I ask the waitress, why?  Well she has an idea about the food, and although these are two completely different dishes she sees and serves them daily.  She could be helpful as I try and choose.  I have to make a choice.  I choose the Rueben, “the best in the city!”  And dinner is served.  I did not pray for wisdom, I did not seek God’s help.  Oh, by the way, Jesus does not care which choice I make.

After Lunch, I am running errands around Tulsa.  The fuel light in my car pops on and makes the beep sound.  I know this warning and what it means.  I have enough gas in my car to go around 30-40 more miles.  it is a frequent occurrence in my driving life.  I know what the light means to my driving future.   I know what it represents from experience.  Should I stop and fill up now, or do I drive home 12 miles to fill up at the station by my house?  I can fill up where I am right now or in 12 miles.   What do I choose to do?  Do I fill up now?  Do I wait and fill up in the morning?  In similar circumstances past, I have made all of the choices.  Knowing if I wait for the next morning I might forget to fill up in my haste, and interrupt my day with an empty tank and a call to roadside assistance to bring me a gallon of car nectar.  What do I do?  Frankly, it does not matter.   I do not even pray about it.  I don’t ask for God’s wisdom.  Because Jesus does not care which choice I make.

This “Jesus does not care thing” started for me decades ago.

Forty years ago, my Christian friend Camille graduated from college. She was a College volunteer leader of High School girls.  She had to make a serious life choice.  She did not know what to do next.  She had narrowed it down to 2 choices.  She had a big job offer in Kansas City, or she could go to graduate school.  She had prayed and prayed.  “What is the right decision?” she asked me.  It is good to prayer prior to many decisions.  But you might not hear the voice of God.  My response was, “I don’t think Jesus cares which one you choose.”   “WHAT!?”  She was shocked.  “What kind of advice is that!?”  This was my response as a follow up.  “Neither choice is a sin.  Both are good, solid choices.  I don’t think Jesus cares.”  Many times in life, I have to make a choice between several good options.  That is what I believe.  I do believe He cares how you honor Him, regardless of which you decide to do.  I believe God is Sovereign and the choice is mine…. or yours.  Feel free to choose what you want to do.  By the way, I think Camille just retired from that job after 40 years.

Jesus cares about many things.  But, I believe Christians tend to overthink a task.  I never had to pray for guidance when I go to the dog park.  I do not need Jesus’ guidance to find out whether to play fetch with my boy Tank.  Jesus does NOT care if I toss the ball for my dog.  My dog, on the other paw, truly does care.

And now for the “big one” given today’s environment.  In November you find yourself in the Voting Booth.  Before you is a ballot.  You have to make a choice.  Trump or Biden, Biden or Trump.  Or an Independent choice.  Back and forth in your mind.  You pray, you ask, you make a decision.  You vote.  You place your ballot in the ballot box.  For whom did you vote.  I know you care, you have spent your election season yelling at folks about who THEY should vote for,  but Jesus DOES NOT care.  (You may start screaming at me now.)   I don’t believe He cares who I vote for, or who you vote for.  He writes no endorsements for any candidate ever.  In spite of what the Television ads tell you about their faith and their family.  So folks who line up to think Jesus is on your party’s side, well I believe those folks are just wrong.  It infuriates me when I see folks post about Christianity and Political parties.  Do you think Ramakrishna cares who the candidates are in India?  What about Mohammed’s advice to Egyptian voters?  Or more Importantly, does Jesus care about the choice of candidates in those countries?  Or does Jesus just care about this country’s electoral process?

In the First Century, during the days of Jesus on Earth, the Mediterranean region and the lands to the North, including Israel were a part of the Roman Empire.  A Empire ruled by the Caesar or Emperor.  During Jesus’s time that Title was held by Augustus and then Tiberius.  I know little about Jesus and His interaction with the Roman Government, but I know the Romans had a cause and effect relationship with Jesus.

The Birth of Jesus Christ  Luke 2:2
“2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

He was born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary had to return home to be counted for the Roman Census.

We know that Jesus had fellowship with Zacchaeus Tax Collector working for Rome.

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector  Luke 19:1-6
” Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.”

And we know that Pontius Pilate,  a Roman Governor ordered the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus Before Pilate Mark 15:12-15

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.  13 “Crucify him!” they shouted   14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.  But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

There are not many mentions of the Roman influence on the life of Jesus.  Looking for Biblical direction in the time of Jesus regarding the Roman government is limited indeed.  I believe that if political action were an important part of life His life, there would be a larger record of Jesus addressing what was required of His followers politically to extend the Kingdom of God.

When I go to the Bible to discover the teachings and insights and directives for how to vote, Jesus might have said more.  What he said with just a few words reveals much.   Jesus does have much to say to me about political and government interaction.  So few words, but a complete message.  This directive of Jesus regarding the Ruling Government over the land where Jesus taught and worshiped and lived, leads me to believe Jesus did NOT care about government, nor did he care what the government thought of Him.  But He understood it.  And obeyed it.  And actually taught briefly on it.   Following is the Jesus directive concerning His council on my political involvement and honoring God.   In Mark 12:16-18 Jesus was asked about Paying Taxes to Caesar…”16 So they brought a coin to Jesus, and He asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they answered. 17 Then Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they marveled at Him. 18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and questioned Him:…”

But Jesus did not appear to be involved with affairs of the state.  And in turn He does not care who you vote for.  Perhaps I overstep my boundaries, but it infuriates me when Christians point at one party or the other, as if the government might be a Christian voice.  I makes me mad just to put this thought on “paper.”  I hear the voices.  I see the advertisements that say their candidate is a Christian and a family person.  Jesus cares about the candidate, He cares about you.  He does NOT care about your vote.

But there is much Jesus does care about, I will share about that soon.

My friend Aaron made a comment on my Facebook page yesterday, as I was hammering out my thoughts about Jesus and Politics.  This is what I posted.

care

I got several comment/replies for my post, but one was striking.  Aaron’s statement was a brilliant light and revealing.  “… Bob. If Jesus is the leader of a nation that he claims to be, is not the use of Christian rhetoric to any other party political dissent?”  What a great question.  Jesus was called the “King of the Jews.”  Jesus spoke always of His Father’s Kingdom.   What an incredible insight.  Jesus is not a “political” party guy, Jesus is a “Kingdom of God” Guy.  His ministry was a Kingdom of God ministry.  He did NOT care about the political system that surrounded Him.  He made almost NO comments on the Roman Empire.  He did speak to a different form of government. He did reside under the Roman laws of where He walked and taught, but He also challenged the laws and direction of the Jewish leaders and the Synagogue.  He cared about the work of His Father’s Kingdom.  Somehow in the world in which I live, some Americanized political view, and ever more Westernized Christianity, my many friends believe the battle is for the control of this world by the master race of that person’s chosen political party.  Oh and by the way, that means by default the opposing party is filled with unknowing imbeciles.  I watch both sides accuse the others  It makes NO difference which group is in power for the moment.  Lord have mercy.

Jesus is also a choice kind of guy.  Because His Father is a “choose wisely” kind of God.  But just like the menu at the restaurant, not all choices are connected to Sin.  Sometimes God directs us on Choices.  Sometimes you are warned, that there are good choices and bad choices.

Genesis 2:16-1816 And the LORD God commanded him, “You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” 18 The LORD God also said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make for him a suitable helper.”

YOU MUST look to God for guidance to make a choice between blessings and curse, life and death.  (Deuteronomy 30:19)  And that is when God cares deeply, and advises completely.

And there are times that same God speaks to the same folks about upcoming choices and I think HE just says, “Have a good day. today You should name all of the animals.  Have a good time.”  It is Dealer’s Choice.  It is a clean slate.  From Ant to Rhinoceros, animals were named, there were no bad choices.  “Let’s call that cute little stuffed animal a Koala Bear!”   “Hey Adam, Look, it’s a Sloth.”  Enjoy the menu.  There are no bad choices.  Except for the name of the mosquito, which sounds like it would be something fun.  They did get “head lice” right, because what else could those things be?

I call these “cheeseburger” choices.  Sometimes I am just free to choose.  These are NOT Kingdom of God decisions.   Like who I vote for, or if I want cheese on my hamburger.  These are the same things for me.  You are free to feel differently.  I know some Christian leaders teach a different message on politics.  I know many of my friends actually believe that God is keeping a tally of my cheeseburger choices.  I have friends on both sides of the political spectrum who believe they have some kind of insight as to voting and Christianity.   But seriously, that would mean that there are actually people choosing to Sin if they vote one way or the other.

I am not certain when the church got tricked into believing that God cares about candidates and their “anointing,”   It probably began with Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority or the Pat Robertson for President thing in the 1980s.  Did Pat Robertson get elected President?  Did Jesus forget to care?  Jesus DOES NOT care who you vote for.  Jesus cares about you extending His Kingdom, regardless of who is President of the USA.   If He has a Kingdom, which I believe He does, then ultimately He is saying “Vote for Me.  Choose Me.  Choose the Kingdom of God.”  Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, render unto God, that which is God’s.  Your party affiliation in the United States of America has NOTHING to do with your eternity.  If you don’t believe in the Kingdom of God, then there is nothing to see here, move along.  If the Kingdom of God is a Fairy Tale story for you, I am sorry, you are just wrong.  That is your choice to choose “wrong.”  God has spoken to you.  If you are reading this, He is using me to speak to you.   You can choose to believe, you can begin at any moment, like right now.  There is no specific start line for all, each begins their Faith at their personal moment.  And God responds accordingly.

Thanks for the insight Aaron.

I think the founding fathers understood separation of Church and State.  This is a new thought for me, and it is “new” wisdom.  A coming alive of the Word that I was ready to hear today.  Bible believers seem to forget that Jewish leaders had to conspire with the Roman Government to get Jesus crucified.  Jesus was crucified because the Church needed the power of the State.  Under the Roman Empire, only Rome had the power to put someone to death.  The crucifixion of Jesus is the merging of the church and state.  And under the Kingdom of God, only God can anoint a Blood sacrifice for Atonement, for the Salvation of Man and access to His Kingdom.

And why did all of this happen?  Why did Jesus come to reveal the Kingdom of God?  Why was Jesus a blood sacrifice in the most horrible of death sentences?

Oh yeah, it is because Jesus really does CARE.

For God so loved the World, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him, shall not perish, but have Eternal Life. John 3:16.

Welcome to the Kingdom.    Access is actually very easy, even if it takes a lifetime to understand.  This is your invitation, should you choose to accept it.  There is much to learn.  Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, and founder of Taoism, is the author of a familiar quote many of you have heard, and many have used.  “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

And so it is with the Christian life.  There is a first step.  It is a step of Faith.  Nothing else.  No matter what you think, there is NO other first step.  You have been told.  The message has been shared.  It is, of course, your choice.

And Jesus DOES care.

Romans 10:8-10   The Word Brings Salvation
“…8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.…”

Exposing a Secret Double Agent–Goodness is a deceiver among us

I was a journalism major.  I was trained to ask questions and search for facts in order to write a narrative, informative, investigative, non-slanted article.  I like to do that.  And then there are opinion pieces, the op/ed pages of the newspaper where ideas are expressed and situations fleshed out with facts as a skeleton, but really not critical to the piece being written.  I like to do that more.  Today it is hard to tell one from the other.  The op/ed pieces often appear as news stories, or news stories are littered with opinions.   The following is not a news story, nor in my opinion is it fiction.  This opinion I hope is on the target of Truth.  Some will say it is a fairy tale.  I can live with that.  I know differently.

In the midst of the Pandemic, and the current election season, I have been stuck on the same thought for a number of weeks.  As I observe the country in despair and elevated anger, with little or no fruitful dialogue from almost anyone, I am left with this thought.  The best deception is one that can deceive everyone.  It matters not which side of an issue you take.  Both are wrong.  Like a Secret Double Agent, the deceiver is not just the object of a thrilling movie, the ability to deceive seems so real.  Who doesn’t love a good “conman” movie.  My favorite is an oldie but truly goody, “The Sting.”  I was glued and fooled and twisted and for a moment I thought I knew what was going to happen.. Well I didn’t really.  The deceived targets are rarely ever aware that they are being fooled by the focus of their attention.  Houdini was a great deceiver and illusionist, until he no longer was… then everybody says “I knew that was how he did that trick.”

In 1990, I went to Las Vegas to watch Siegfried and Roy and their family of white tigers at the opening of the Mirage Hotel.  The tigers would appear and disappear at the will of the illusionist.  I payed big money to be deceived.  After all when you work with tigers it is NOT a slight of hand illusion.  I was honestly amazed and flabbergasted. Perhaps one of the best live events I ever witnessed.  The illusionist made me believe what I saw with my own eyes.  I was stunned.  Truly stunned.  Then when I left the auditorium I said to myself,  “I knew it wasn’t real.”  But not because I knew or saw something, but because I know it could not be real.  Because I DID see it with my own eyes.  But what I saw, I did not see.  The best Deception.  But it is a deception I paid for, I asked for, I hoped for.  It was illusion beyond my wildest expectations.

I believe we now are living today in a world of illusion.  World class deception.  Everybody I speak with is certain they have an answer, a solution, a cause, or a source code.  Deception is beyond science, but it uses science.  Deception is beyond feelings, but it uses feelings.  Deception is in opposition to Truth, but it uses truth.  And You and I must make a choice about what we think we are seeing.  This deception is not entertainment.  I did not ask for it, but I am paying for it.  As are most of the world’s residents.

I have made a choice.  There is only one way to combat the deception. And it is to choose.  It is a “Black or White” or an “In or Out” decision.  I did not make this rule.  I just believe it.  I am “in.”  You don’t have to believe it.  You then by default, choose “out.”  I think my choice is a good one, you think your choice is a good one.  You may think you have not made a choice, by not getting in.  But you have chosen.

It is like the swimming pool.  You can choose to get in and you are wet and in, or you can say I am not going to choose.  But you have.  By default, you are out.  Or you can choose to be out.  There is no difference in the result, you are dry.

What I write going forward will be very difficult for those who are “out” to understand, and most will not agree at all.  It may well sound like jibber-jabber.   And I understand, it is a clanging gong.  But for me it is Truth.  For those who are “in” I believe it could be fairly “new” thinking.   But unless you have chosen to be “in”, there will certainly be confusions.  What is the key to get in was written to the Romans by Paul.

Romans 10:9-10
New International Version

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

I have willingly made my decision.   And I profess with my mouth “Jesus is Lord”  And that confession alone triggers a new journey with new understanding.  The confession does NOT complete the journey, but it is no longer as confusing to travel.  Information and clarity will be found on the path.  It may not, in fact it cannot be known in completeness in this day.

There will be those who make a choice I don’t agree with, it is likely the “other choosers” will not agree with me. But I will still care about the person who chooses differently than I.  I will not, I cannot force someone to make a choice of this nature… any more than someone can force me to choose against my will.  God has provided access to all to choose Him.  But I do hear the detractors, the dissenters.  You think I am whack, you think I run a circus.  But you are wrong.  If you expect a complete explanation in a single post, you WILL NOT get it.  This is the first step of a long walk.

Just as you may say you would never choose my life, I need to let you know, that once I believed what you believe.   We will all live with our own consequences, intended or otherwise.  And we are truly living in the age of untended consequences.   Only one of us is being fooled by the illusionist.  One of us believes the tigers really did disappear.  It is a “Free country.”  Free to Choose, AND receive the consequences.  I neither judge, not do I exact the judgement or  consequences.

Although it is a rare occurrence,  someone I know will look me in the eyes and say “You are a good man, Bob Fulton.”  I blush, I mildly resist the compliment, I self deprecate, but ultimately I “humbly” accept the words of the presenter.   I walk away, because I am a “good man.”  It is so cool to be a good man.  It causes me to help more dogs, like my former foster dog Herald.  And help more people.  Like the broken down car on the side of the road I stopped to assist yesterday.  I do good stuff,  so someone on either Facebook, or Face-to-face will recognize that I am a good man.  After all, I believe we all love being good people.  It earns me participation points and an prize.

I had a brief discussion with a very sweet and kind spirited friend on Facebook a couple of days ago.  She might be among the kindest people I know.  She does so many good things, and shares so many positive thought with all in her wake.  And while we were speaking about honest people, she said this to me, “Bob, …I choose to see good in people and want to believe that most people would be honest and would not cheat, but I am also a realist…a hopeful but realistic optimist.”  In light of my prior comments, I do understand her, and it feels really good to see good and acknowledge good in people.  But I do not agree with her premise of what most people are.  I believe in the total depravity of man, OUCH!  People are NOT basically good, not in this age.

So how do I agree with my friend.  With what do I not agree?  Indeed, I agree that people do good things.  The world is filled with good deeds.  Again I say, there is NO denying people do good things.  There are even laws “anointing” good deed doers.  A person does not need to read or believe in the Bible to know the phrase “That’s a Good Samaritan.”  It is a common phrase, and there are even “Good Samaritan” laws in affect.  I have to believe that for many, there is little knowledge of the basis for the term Good Samaritan.  It is just a phrase that “some” use without any thought of why it is a title or anointing.  It is just like, “she’s a good egg.”  It is just a saying,  Or is it?

He’s a Good Samaritan is like many phrases or cliches that are often used but rarely include knowledge of the origin.   Like selling everything but “lock, stock and barrel,” which referred to a settlers selling everything to stay alive, in the wild West.  They sold everything but lock, stock, and barrel.  What does THAT mean?  These were the last things to sell, the components of their rifle, the lock, the stock, and the barrel  Because if the settler were without a rifle, the source for protection and procuring meat would also be gone.  If you sell “lock stock and barrel” it was time to quit and go home, or die.  How about has “the cat got your tongue” which has nothing to do with your sweet kitten.  Origin: The English Navy used to use a whip called “Cat-o’-nine-tails” for flogging. The pain was so severe that it caused the victim to stay quiet for a long time. Another possible source could be from ancient Egypt, where liars’ and blasphemers’ tongues were cut out and fed to the cats.  So also, there is a special story behind the “Good Samaritan.”  And this is the Story that Jesus told, 2000 years ago.. as it is written.

Luke 10:25-37
New International Version
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

What made the Samaritan Good?  Well it looks to me like it was his works.  So I say to you Good Samaritan, “you are a good man.”  But was he a good man?  Or was just a man who performed a good deed? Potentially there is a difference, and in my mind it is a part of the illusion.

And what of the other two examples in the same story of two people who failed to serve?  In fact, two men moved to the other side of the street to avoid getting involved.   Two men did pass by the man who was beaten and robbed, without a word but with the action of avoidance.    So  do I make the statement, “you are a bad man?” Do I say to the Priest in the story are you a bad man?  Does it make the Levite in the same story a bad man?  Or were they just a couple of men who really made a bad decision?  Thinking perhaps of their personal safety.  Potentially there is a difference.  Are these men Deceived?

Let me compare this to the broken down vehicle I saw today.  Dozens of cars drove by the guys in the broken down truck on the side of the road yesterday.  But I stopped, inquired if they needed help, and I went and got water for the radiator.  Was I, Am I better than all who passed?  I think not, but I do think I stopped to do a good thing others chose not to do.  In that moment, I was different than anyone else in that stranded soul’s world.  Coincidentally, I was on the speaker phone chatting with a friend just chatting, when I chose to stop, when I asked my friend to hold, there was a warning to be careful.  “Helping people on the side of the road is what I do,” I said to my friend.  And then I left, returning with gallons of water, to cool an overheated radiator in search of a quenching.  The stranded motorist tried to pay me, and I refused saying,  “NO, this is what I do, you might want to help someone some day.”  I drove away, I did not say you need to know God, what they needed was water.  I know that everybody sees God all the time, they just might not know it.  And I left, after I knew their truck would start and drive.  And as a result, in strange collision of factors that some label coincidence, I regard the “coincidence” the presence that is God.  Not God speaking to me in that moment, but in my quiet times with God letting Him know that I was committed to helping stranded motorists.   I would be my way of spreading the Kingdom of God. 

And God would give me a story yesterday that I could share in the midst of writing this blog.  Because I see God everywhere, I see him in “coincidence.”  And I share this story, not so I can be called a good man, but so I could add clarity for those who are in or out.  It added clarity for me.  Yesterday I was a God Samaritan.  Hundreds passed by without stopping.  Are they all bad people?  Of course not, but I WAS a Good Samaritan. I was NOT God, I was a conduit.  I was NOT a different person from the moment before the water rescue, to the moments after.  God who is Good, gave me a blessed moment of Goodness to share.  A chance to extend His Kingdom.  No Fanfare, and if I were not writing this, only the person on the other end of the phone would know I did anything.  God does this for both the in and out.  The choice to do good.  The rain falls on the Good and the Evil, “the just and the unjust.”  Matt. 5:45.

I do believe that this is a conundrum, a confusing and difficult problem or question.  And in the Jesus world, it is, as I perceive it, an illusion.  It is critical to know what I see in the world of goodness.  Why?  Because I am not hanging out in this life to get a participation ribbon for goodness and works.  I am not here just for this moment only.  I am here to find purpose, to find something meaningful.  I am here to glorify God, to enjoy Him forever.  I want to be a part of something great.  It is the illusion of good man vs. good work.  And it is at the heart of much deception.

Goodness is at the core of how to crack the identity of life’s double secret agent.  What side is Goodness on?  What is the this goodness conundrum?  Let me be as clear as is possible.  People can do good deeds.  Doing something good does not make a person good.  Because I write something occasionally in a blog, does NOT make me a writer.  Because I can change the air filter on my car, I am NOT a mechanic.  But Goodness is confusing.  Why?  Because nearly everyone wants to be thought of as a good person.

It is not my fault or God’s fault that a believer may not accept the role of God Samaritan to pull over and help a stranger.  That is why AAA and insurance companies now sell roadside assistance plans.  I have one.  I understand caution in unknown situations.  People progress on their journeys at different rates.  But, It is my fault if I CHOOSE not to stop, for I am called to do so.

It is not “goodness” that is the deceiver.  The deceiver is the interpretation of what is good,  what that goodness represents.

Unless you find an answer or understanding,  you will label people doing good things as good people.  Good deeds do not make Good people.  Lots of unsavory people still do good things. Al Capone Opened Free Soup Kitchens in Chicago.  Did Al become a good man as a result?  I have many friends that do not believe that, and spend their lives doing good things.  So they can be Good People.  So they can “earn their way to heaven,” or wherever they intend to go.  That is the Deception, the double secret-agent.

What is the answer to the goodness riddle?

The answer for me is found in the words of Jesus.  It is the story of the rich young ruler which has brought this to light for me only recently.  Perhaps as recently as the words I am typing now.  I have known the story since the 1960s.  In fact, this story appears in the Bible 3 times, told by 3 men.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all share this story in similar fashion in their Gospel accounts.  Following is Mark’s account, the earliest authored Gospel of Jesus.

Mark 10:17-22

 17As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19“You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’” 20And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

I learned this story of the rich young ruler, early in my journey, in high school.  In college and beyond, I have preached the story of the rich young ruler.  I have interpreted the heart of the rich young ruler.  I have spoken about this story in light of explaining eternal life, and how to be a part of life everlasting.

And what I have shared in the past was true.  It is all those things. Today I believe it is so much more.  What I never saw properly before was the answer to what I am calling the “Goodness conundrum.”

“Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 

This verse has been my teaching focus in the past.  In other words, this is essentially what I thought the young man was asking.  “Jesus you are a good man. I have heard your good words.  I have seen your good deeds.  I saw you feed 5000 hungry people the other day.  And I want eternal life… I want to be a good man too.  I want to be like you and do good stuff.”

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

And I have overlooked this.  In my first deep dive into this simple statement, is what I believe at this moment is a new revelation for my life.  I sniffed this stuff in my early relationship with Jesus.  But that was 5 decades ago.

“Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

An exclamation.. of “OH MY GOODNESS!”  This verse is the code, and the key. It is what the Creator wants me to see, when I get caught up in the illusion of good works.  God is good.  The illusion is good men get eternal life, it is “saved men and women” who get eternal life.  Good does not provide access to the Kingdom of God, Faith does.  Goodness is a double secret agent.  Without understanding the world will be in turmoil as Good People fight among each other to be “GOODER” than the other guy.  Look around your world, and the people you care for.  Faith unlocks mysteries and allows me to live in peace within that which I do not comprehend.

I never thought I would see Goodness as an illusion.  I mean it is just good.  And good people are good.  And what can be bad about good people?

St. Augustine wrote in the 5th century.. “For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good?”

ON a closing and worldly note.  This is a warning to those who believe. The absence of good is why we as a nation may well be at the war within.  There really is nothing good about politics.   Politics is often the absence of Goodness.  And there are no “good” candidates. Take care as you watch both candidates from both parties spend millions of dollars to talk dirty politics about their opponent.

Be careful, these are seeds of evil, the absence of good.  They will find a home in the fertile soul of you and your family if you don’t demand otherwise.   Watch the seeds grow into bitterness.  Watch the seeds germinate and become anxiety, and hopelessness.  I hope you will resist the temptation to join in the illusion that something special is had by sharing negative reports.  Take care with what you post on your Facebook or Twitter pages.  Post positive stuff.  The best deception will deceive all involved.  I guarantee you will be miserable as you watch this election process.  And no matter who wins, there will be the other half which will be miserable again for four years.   Resist, you need to resist.  I understand that all of you who vote, including me, will vote for one set of candidates.  But I pray that they might speak of the positive things they want for America, not to the crap that they don’t want from the other party.  I doubt that will happen.  But YOU can resist, and speak positively on what you want.  Don’t plant seeds of bitterness.  I see these seeds making my friends uglier and uglier every day.  Pull those up by the roots… plant real seed of Goodness.

Bless not curse,  or You will miss out on the joy of life itself.

Shalom.

James 4:7  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

 

The virus, closing schools, and the possible consequences, unintended or otherwise…

As the Virus continues to “control” our future… I think about what might be if the schools remain closed.  I understand there are major health risks being talked about if school open.  These are topics I think about when I think the schools will stay closed.  I am NOT a big Public Education guy… but I am a huge proponent for the “health of a young Nation”  Schools are critical to the health of a nation.  Covid-19 infection fear may not be a reason to close schools.  There could be worse results..

Life includes risks.  And I have taken many risks during my 7 decades.  This year I attended my 50 year high school reunion.  I was NOT a great student, but I was incredibly faithful to going to school.  If memory serves me… I missed almost no days of class over my 13 year history of Public education.  I am not sure what I learned, I am certain that whatever it was, living in the community of students and teachers was critical for who and what I am today.

People much smarter than me are tackling the issue of whether to open the schools in the fall of 2020.  I hope these following topics are discussed and debated at the same time the Virus discussion is being discussed and debated.  OPENING the schools is a risk, but the nation’s health must be weighted… at least for me it seems as though it should be.

20200716_081357

What are the risks we take if we open the schools vs. closing.  I have no data at this moment… only “questions” and the desire to know that folks who make the open or closed decisions have weighed the issue against what will certainly create other short and long term problems.  If I were on the investigative committee I would make certain these topics were a part of the dialogue.  Regardless of the economic impact.. there could be greater health issues.  Make certain your decision makers investigate similar topics.  If I were on the committee, I would have the data available before I voted to close.

Teen Suicide…     United Health Foundation writes “Youth suicidal ideation, attempt and completion are on the rise. Far more adolescents have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide and survive than those who die by suicide. Results from the 2017 Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that in the past year 17.2 percent of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide and 7.4 percent attempted suicide.”

Childhood Malnutrition…      From “Focus on Health”, November, 2019.  “Today, approximately 40 million Americans and 12 million children are food insecure, meaning they are often forced to skip meals and buy cheap non-nutritious food. Many families suffering from hunger and poverty live in areas where fresh, unprocessed healthy food is not available or is expensive.”

Child abuse and sexual abuse….  From a story on NPR,  “Child Sexual Abuse Reports Are On The Rise Amid Lockdown Orders, Of those young people who contacted the Abuse hotline in March, 67% identified their perpetrator as a family member and 79% said they were currently living with that perpetrator. In 1 out of 5 cases where the minor was living with their abuser,”

Overall Mental Health… from the CDC website…  “Take care of your mental health
You may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions….depression.”

The Socialization of student…..   From APA Psycnet  “how to define competence within the context of school settings…. the processes of socialization is reviewed, including those associated with structural characteristics of schools, as well as more proximal social and interpersonal processes that might support competence development. Children’s experiences in preschool and in K-12 schools are essential….”

Access to internet and online classrooms in poorer communities….     Pew Research Reported in May, 2019,  “Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29%) don’t own a smartphone. More than four-in-ten don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%). And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.”  The completion of studies online has its own set of issues..

From USA Today,  “After coronavirus, expect high school dropout wave…Educational disruptions especially threaten African American and Latino students, as their families suffer disproportionate unemployment and COVID-19 complications and death. Nearly half of Latinos report job loss or a pay cut compared with about a third of all U.S. adults, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.”

I would guess you have your own questions to ask…

And within hours of publishing a new question was posed in relationship to school closings.

Special Needs Children and the pandemic… From the Lansing State Journal.  “The pandemic disrupted the lives of all children, but it has caused additional stress for those with disabilities. And parents and child experts alike are not only worried about their emotional state, but also how the lack of in-person instruction will affect children with special needs in the long run….If  our special needs son doesn’t go back to school until August, he’ll have lost six months. It’s going to be really tough.”

 

Three “Bobs” — Brothers by Adoption— parts of the same Body.

“Body shaming”, a label for the current time.   We have all heard it, many of us have fallen victim to the self shaming of “how I look in the mirror.”  And certainly if you raise kids during this age, you have likely had to comfort a child who does not look pretty enough, or feel thin enough, or stretch tall enough.  And bullies have body shamed their classmates with name calling and labels long before I was in school.  Body shaming, It was NOT a term used in the 60s, when I was growing up.  But let me say if your last name is Fulton, and you weigh too much… your name might be “Full-ton.”  I was body shamed.  But this is not about that, it is a journey of “body talk” however.  And because I have an over sized Belly, what God has taught me is truly remarkable.  The Body is really important to me, and to God.

It is Father’s Day, June 21, 2020.  And Today my Heavenly Father gave me a story.  It is a true story, as I remember it.  Parts of the Body, Children of the same Father, and the Same Grandmother as it turns out.  It is about Bob, and Bob, and Bob.  Brothers in Christ.  But without a doubt they are different parts and functions in the Body of Christ…

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
One Body but Many Parts
12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

This is the story of some Body Parts… they all lived and were birthed in the same “hood.”

Bob graduated from Kansas City Center High School in 1967, and Bob graduated from Center High School in 1968, and Bob graduated from Center High School in 1969.  They all met on the same school wrestling mat in the Fall of 1966.  They all became children of God through the ministry of Ted Nissen and Colonial Presbyterian Church.  Ted was a student under the legendary Henrietta Mears.

henrietta

If you are unfamiliar with Henrietta, and most of you will be, take a moment to search this remarkable woman of God.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrietta_Mears   This woman is perhaps the most unknown, unassuming person and yet an influential teacher to young men and women of the Word of God.  Her family tree of pastors and teachers is unrivaled, Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Jim Rayburn, Don Moomaw, Ted Nissen, and on and on.

The “three Bobs” are Henrietta Mears’ “grandchildren.”   They have traveled differently, and yet from my perspective they definitely are headed in the same direction, as one Body.  Those who know them will confirm that the “the Bobs” truly share the same body of Christ, but function are so differently  There are millions of stories in the Body of Christ, here are three, I am familiar with two, and intimate with one.  I hope that this shared narrative will help you find your place and enjoy your place in the Body of Christ.   Because it was a difficult yet glorious journey for me to find my “place and part and purpose.”  My journey took longer it seemed than it does for most.  So I share the three Bobs story in hope that you will have further joy in your walk with God.

Bob Lehleitner and I met in the early 60’s..  He did not believe in Jesus when I met him, though our first interaction was in the youth group at Colonial Presbyterian Church.  But it was on a wrestling mat that we became conversant.  I am not here to speak his testimony.  Suffice it to say that Bob gave his life to Jesus decades ago.  In 1974, Bob and I shared a house, a semester in seminary, numerous stories and ice cream cones.  Bob is now a pastor at Colonial Presbyterian Church and has been for over 40 years.  He is among the most generous, caring, and loving men I know.  He officiated at the memorial service for my mother upon her passing.  The Body of Christ is better because of Bob Lehleitner.   Few who meet Bob would deny that in the Body of Christ, he is the heart.  Truly I want to be like Bob.  And I want to be the “heart” of and for Christ.  What a great body part.

Bob Beltz and I met somewhere on a football field, then on the same wrestling mat.  In High School, he was one of those guys.  Tough, handsome, brilliant, and loved by men and women.  He was never a close friend, and frankly he was an intimidating figure.  We never socialized, until St. Patrick’s day, 1970, At Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on Metcalf Road in Overland Park.  Green beer at age 18 and 19.  All legal drinking on the Kansas side of Kansas City.   Bob came up to my table.  He came to complain about losing his girlfriend to the new youth pastor at Colonial Presbyterian Church.  We engaged in some conversation.  “Can you believe that this guy believes in Jesus?” was Bob’s question to meet that night.  I let him know I also believed in Jesus.  I am not here to speak his testimony.  Suffice it to say that Bob gave his life to Jesus Decades ago.  Bob and I shared some fellowship, a trip in his little MGB sports car, on a trip from KC to Denver, and a belief in Jesus as Savior.  Bob is Seminary grad, a Doctor of Theology, and an Author, a brilliant teacher and minister in Denver.  The Body of Christ is better because of Bob Beltz.  Few who meet Bob would deny that in the Body of Christ, he is the brain.  Truly I want to be like Bob.  And I want to be the “brain” of and for Christ.  What a great body part.

Bob Fulton is the third Bob… that is me.  I am the “other” Bob.  I actually have been on a journey with Jesus for over 60 years.  I have no doubt of His presence in my life.  I know all of the intimate details of my travels in the Kingdom of God.  I am an emotional one.  I am the one who “finds myself doing those things I don’t want to do, and not doing those things I should.” Romans 7:15.  It is a constant battle.   God what is my purpose?  This is a question I asked frequently.  I would wander around within the Faith, looking to do my “thing.”  I wanted to be one of the important parts… like Bob or Bob.

While searching for my place, I learned a few things about what I liked to do with God.  Worship, and sing, and teach, and share hospitality.  But that which I wanted to do most is to extend the Kingdom of God.  I am not afraid to pursue the chief end of man… which according to the shorter catechism of the Westminster Confession.. is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.  I am committed to my heavenly Father…  I feel it in my Belly…  That is my place in the Body of Christ.  But what is the Belly in the Body of Christ?

I did NOT want to be THAT part.  Seriously.  I instead said to God, “I was here first! Why Bob and Bob?  Why not me?  Make me the heart, or make me the brain.  I want to be one of those cool parts.”  But I am the Belly.  And as God often does in my life, he lets me circle back to familiar territory to discover my answers.  He knows I love the familiar.  He knows I know His word is living and active.  He knows I know that I see in a mirror dimly.  He knows I know that “seeming coincidence” is actually a sign of His sovereignty and existence in my life.

So in the midst of the Covid Pandemic, God brought me back to Colonial Presbyterian Church.  Not physically.  But digitally, with daily sermon and devotional feeds on Facebook live.  It started on a Friday, watching my dear friend, Bob L. share a daily devotional.. then to the other dailies at 10 in the morning, Greg, Tami, Mark, and Todd, and finally to the Sunday service and the teaching of Senior Pastor Jim West.  Let me say, returning to my old home church online, ColonialKC has been the best part of the Pandemic.  And on May 24, 2020, God said to Jim.. Preach a sermon about the belly for Bob Fulton.  And so it came to pass.  And this was glorious..  “5/24 – For Those Who Thirst – John 7:37-39”

Here is the link if you choose to hear the entire service..  https://www.facebook.com/1040129265998163/videos/573465743553481 I will share what I heard.

And so from the figurative pulpit of my hero and mentor Ted Nissen, former Sr. Pastor of Colonial Presbyterian Church came these words from Jim West, current Colonial Senior Pastor,  “I would simply point out that THIRST is not a matter of the heart…it is a matter of the belly, right? Thirst is a dimension of our appetite. In the Greek speaking-world the heart was thought to be the center of our convictions, but the belly was the center of our appetites. So, consider the promise that Jesus just made: Out of the belly of the one who believes in me shall flow rivers of living water. Out of the place of one’s deepest appetite and thirst will flow forth rivers…not one river…but many rivers of living water that nourish who? Certainly, the rivers of living water would nourish the believer; but rivers that flow through the believer also flow out to nourish others as well, right? ”

And so it was on that day in May, I took my place in the Body of Christ.  A believer for over 6 decades, I settled in to a place God had made for me.  I was in my place, My Kingdom place, and I had always been there.  That is the reality of a body part.  It is why the hand is already the hand and not the foot.  It was just my responsibility to recognize it.  My encouragement to you… run the good race.  For some the race is a sprint to the purpose, for me it has been a marathon and beyond.

Just know your Heavenly Father has a purpose for you in the Kingdom. ….. And a place in His Body while on this earth.  You will find purpose and peace in the Body of Christ…  Seek and you will find it.

Shedding Light, On a quest to save something..

I first wrote about this topic in 2013.  It was never “published” in this blog.  A shorter version was published in a Facebook private group post.   Now, In light of the George Floyd murder, et. al. discussions, I am more certain than ever that people just don’t know where to look for real answers.  People are more rabid than ever about things they want to save… More than ever, the private fiefdoms of world savers appear more divisive and increasingly derisive.  Protests are one method to make a point.  Louder, and far more ineffective,  violence and rioting appear to be another.  At least that is my observation in my view from afar.  Let there be light.

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And Facebook asks at the start of every post “What’s on your mind?”Usually it is my feeble attempt at humor. I hope that things I post will cause you to smile for a moment. I am not always successful, but I will continue to try.

Sometimes what I post is serious.  Hopefully it is thought provoking, and I am equally hopeful that it is not divisive.  I am not always successful, but I will continue to try. And occasionally, at the rarest of moments what is on my mind is life changing. Easter’s passing always gives me cause to remember 2 words. I think of them almost daily, certainly weekly, but now for this moment I think about them differently.

Salvation and Redemption.

I believe in the God who provided a Salvation experience. I believe that “we”—yes all of us– were created in the Image of God.  Everyone in that image is drawn to saving something.  Saving stuff is in the image of God.  Salvation is such a profound experience and is absolutely a prerequisite to experiencing a life with purpose.  Everyone participates in salvation in some way. Progressives want to save the world. Conservatives want to save the world. People of all shapes and sizes want to save whales, babies, forests, dogs, old buildings, oceans, the white race, the black culture, guns, freedom, Afghanistan, and on and on and on…. Most recently the chant is BLACK LIVES MATTER, or ALL LIVES MATTER.  The salvation experience surrounds us. I am not sure I have ever met anyone who does not want to save something. It is in our genetic code which is God’s image, so I think.  Many of us look for a savior for our cause(s).  And I hear the cries of the masses…. “Who will rescue us….how shall be saved”.

Many will say that great numbers of good people do not believe in God, and those folks are committed to saving people and things.  What about those people.  And I say to you thank you for fortifying my point.  Folks don’t have to believe in God to demonstrate the image of God.  People save things because they are predisposed to do so.

And so God sent His Son to pay the price.  Jesus was sent whether you believe it or not.  Jesus is the Redeemer.

Redemption is also a part of the Salvation process.  Redemption is a price paid.  Redemption is often overlooked in the salvation process.  The cost of saving things is so often ignored when people chant and protest to save their planet.  Like taking a ring to a pawn shop to get a loan, it will cost something to get the pawned item back.  The ring can only be redeemed when the price is paid to get it back.  After the price is paid, then and only then is the ring actually “saved and redeemed.”  Often a pawned ring will go unclaimed, it is never redeemed.  People scream to save their ______________!  You fill in the blank.  SAVING stuff has a price.  Can I pay the Redemption price?

It is here that I think humankind looks for an easy answer.  The search for cheap redemption is ongoing.   So few want to pay the price.   And the cost is often out of reach.  At least if we are going to save “everything.”

Some of you will remember the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”  Tom Hanks led a squad of soldiers given the task to save the only surviving brother of four, the others  brothers had perished on the battlefields in WWII.  The process of saving Private Ryan came with a high price.. many lives were lost to redeem the private.  This is the redemption story.

What price will you pay to save your target?  Have you considered the redemption price?

I believe in a God who provided a Redemption experience. I believe in Jesus Christ, The REDEEMER.  I am saddened if you don’t.  And I am sorry because I have done a really crappy job of expressing or displaying or relaying or portraying or inspiring or displaying His love.  I have done a really poor job of demonstrating God’s Salvation story.  “By this will all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  God’s love and redemption. His message of salvation. Jesus really does do a very good job of sharing His message. I on the other hand, and many of my fellow believers…..not always so much…

Most of you are practicing saviors at something. So knowing a Savior is not a new concept. I hope that you might get to know my Savior, and that I do a better “job” of representing the truly redemptive nature of God.

What the Virus could teach the Church

COVID-19 AND WHAT THE I THINK THE CHURCH MIGHT LEARN OR SHOULD LEARN…. AN ISOLATION PRIMER

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During my days of Isolation I think about stuff.  This is MY stuff.. write your own blog if you want to.

The Virus has lessons to teach the Christian Church.

The virus is INVISIBLE…  No one can See the Virus (not with the naked eye)  If you could see it there would be no need for Social Distancing .. People see symptoms.  And so it is with the Power of God.  You can’t see God.. but the evidence is there for those who see the power.  John 13:35 New International Version (NIV) “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It is INFECTIOUS… When you get it… The Virus can be spread by you to others.  Sometimes it is just like that in the world of a Christian.  Sometimes Christ is spread to those around you.  Make sure that the Gospel is Good News..  2 Timothy 2 Common English Bible,  “So, my child, draw your strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Take the things you heard me say in front of many other witnesses and pass them on to faithful people who are also capable of teaching others.”

It is INVASIVE… The Virus could get you… If you stand in it’s path.  It is like playing Dodge Ball… I desperately want to avoid contact.  So it is with Invasive Christians.  I hate to stand in the path of Christians who think they KNOW what I need.  Even though I am a believer, I find myself avoiding many of those who claim to call on His Name.  Christ is NOT Invasive or Intrusive.  Matthew 7:21-23 English Standard Version “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

It is INCONSISTENT.. The results appear to be anyway.  If you get it, you might die, or you might not know you had it at all.  If you get the virus it might consume you… or you might just keep doing life the way you always have.  A life with Christ is often Inconsistent.  Or there are differences in the same Body.  There a many different iterations of Christians and how they live.  Unlike the Scientist who can test for the virus… before, during, or after.  The test for Christ in me is far less able to determine whether I have been saved and impossible for me do determine if someone else is, has, was experiencing a Relationship and Salvation.   Philippians 2:12 New International Version  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”

It is ETERNAL… As I understand it. here are NO cures for a virus.. There are only controls.  A virus requires an Antibody.  It needs a Vaccine.  It needs to go dormant.   I think it will reside in the host forever.  And so it is when I found Christ… or he found me..  Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV  “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”.  Matthew 28:20 ESV  “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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Lessons from the Toilet Tissue aisle…

We live in dangerous times… We have fallen into the “great TP abyss.”

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What historic name will ultimately be given to the the COVID19 Pandemic of 2020?  I have witnessed and lived through some “dark” times, Vietnam, the hostage crisis, The Challenger, Katrina, 9/11.  Frankly nothing is like this.  It is cliche.  Nothing is like this.

I do not think these are the end of times.  Let me say again, this is most likely NOT the end of days.  However, I am a Christian, and I care about those who surround me.  You are going to hear preachers preach on the end times…Some just can’t help themselves from doing it.  Some will spread fear instead of love and wisdom.  Many have preached the same fear language every few years, with each Pandemic.   They always do, when the world is introduced to Aids, Swine Flu, SARS, and the like. I am certain that The Spanish Flu of 1918 stimulated similar discussions and sermons 100 years ago.  Or the Black Death in the 14th Century.   But the Bible does speak of End Times.  There are signs, there is a warning, there is a cautionary tale written in the Scriptures.  And because of that, I had an expectation of this new COVID19 paradigm.

Please note… I did not prepare for it…

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I am not a scientist, I am not a prophet, I am not a futurist.  I AM NOT surprised by what I see around me.  When I was in college in the early 70’s, I read two things that planted seeds for what I see today.  One was a study called “Limits to Growth.”  Published in 1972, there was an inevitable collision which would occur around the year 2020.  This discussed a collision of  5 variables  “population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources” which could cause the world as we know it to collapse.  The other book I read, and continue to read, which prepared me for this day, is the Bible.  The Bible is both narrative and prophetic.

COVID19, I have been expecting you.   In less than 90 days, there is a genuine glimpse of  “one world order,” a “cashless/check less society,”  In the Book of Revelation chapter 6, the four horseman of the apocalypse are prophetically spoken of…Some will also know these words shared by Jesus… In Jesus’ parallel prophecy in Matthew 24, He explained that in the wake of religious deception, war and famine would come “pestilences” or disease epidemics (Matthew 24:7).  But even after these events, the world will go on, people will adapt.

Maybe I should get a PURPLE hat… MOWGA.  “Make our world great again.”  Maybe I will do a Kickstarter event to start my new hat business.  But I digress..

There are many who have so little understanding of Christianity.  I am responsible in part, the Church is certainly responsible in part.   I apologize for not being clear enough.  For those of you who want to squeeze God into the Scientific Method of discovery…. I am sorry…This is a Faith, Hope, and Love event… there is NO laboratory test for God.

A relationship with God is an exercise in Faith… not Proof…  I CAN’T  prove the existence of God…. if I could, there would be no faith, only sight… only science…  And therefore NO spiritual journey.

Laugh all you want at my folly… I will continue to pursue a relationship with God, I will continue to walk in Faith…this relationship is nearly 60 years in the making, I am certain that God is real.

Following are observations in the shadow of the Corona virus.  My Toilet Paper Chronicles if you will.  A compendium of signs the I have recently seen.  And with the signs, Bible wisdom which causes me to remain sane and calm.  They are in NO particular order of importance.  And I am not making this a doctrinal statement.  I am just sharing stuff I have seen and continue to see.

  1.  This virus is the great equalizer.  COVID19 does not care who you are.  The virus will not discriminate. Actor Tom Hanks, Senator Rand Paul, NBA stars, homeless John Doe…. “Tag, you’re it.”  Matt 5:45, “That you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”  People experience life.  And life is what you will receive.
  2.  It is hard to understand what is happening in the world, because no one has all of the answers.  Until we get an answer, all we will have is information.  The virus has its own language… it takes time to learn a new language.  1 Cor 12:8 (NIV) “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit.”  People hear different things from and about the same event.  Different folks have different messages and differing interpretations for the same thing.
  3.   Someone wants to blame someone.  Who would you like to blame?  Trump?  The Chinese?  The Liberals?  Often people want to blame God.  “In the beginning….”  the first to blame God started in the beginning… Most have heard of the Adam and Eve story.  Keep in mind “After the fall of man,” Adam blamed God for his problem.. God was “responsible.”  It is written that Adam said, “It was the woman YOU (God) gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”  Who would you like to hold responsible?
  4.   Invisible is hard to see.  And Invisible is hard to defeat.  And invisible is what this virus is….. until it isn’t.  Testing for the virus is encouraged if you have symptoms, BUT you might not show any symptoms in the early viral stages.  Invisible is hard to live with.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Eph. 6:12  The forces of evil can be difficult to see, and they can be powerfully deceptive.  Invisible is hard to see.
  5.   This is not forever.  The only thing that is forever… is forever.  The Virus is NOT forever.  There will be a point of control or victory.  2 Cor 4:8-9 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”  So I will mask up, on most occasions, and just move along.
  6. Distance, it is said, is good, but Covid19  knows no borders or boundaries.  There is NO wall tall enough or long enough to fight THIS battle.  Isaiah 30:13, “calamity will come upon you suddenly— like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down.”  So I live in a world of social distance.
  7.  Flatten the Curve, Success means nothing happens.. I am surrounded by people who measure results, and show off their children’s participation awards.  We are a people who require to see the fruit of the labor.  Trophies and grades, paychecks and Toys.  All require action and results I can see.  To beat COVID19, I have to see nothing happen.  But we live a life of competition.  Even Christians!!!!   2 Timothy 4:6-8 …”For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.”  The reward for victory against this virus is to see and receive nothing, NOTHING.
  8.  “the virus is unforgiving” Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious diseases expert at University of Chicago.  Unforgiving is a brutal way to live.  Movies have been made about this.   I grew up learning that forgiveness is critical for sanity.  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Eph. 4:32  You will not learn forgiveness from the virus.
  9.  We won’t ALL die, but some of us will.  Lives will certainly be lost during this viral infestation.  If you don’t know the Byrds and their song “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  you should YouTube it.  It is actually a 1962, Pete Seeger song… I was entering high school when a Bible verse broke into the Top 40 music charts.. I loved this song… but I love the Bible verses more.  Ecclesiastes 3…”1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,  …”
  10. Everything can feel like a symptom..  It is hard to recognize if I am sick when I experience a different “symptom” every day.  It is hard to live alone and not let my mind wander.  But the fact is, neither do I let it wander, nor do I let it wonder.  I just live like I live.  Because in the real Bob Fulton spiritual picture, I believe in the sovereignty of God in my life.  I believe God is the author and the finisher.  I believe in His glory.   Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

And so that in my Corona-virus manifesto.

Let me know if I can help you to live life as you were appointed to live it.

I pray for you, peace.  I pray for you comfort.  I have found mine.  May you discover yours.

It does seem like yesterday.

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“It” came today.  The reunion picture arrived by mail.  A wonderful reminder from a very unique and special event.  “It” will only happen once.  There are many who I wish would have shown up for this event, but alas, I can’t fret about the missing, I can rejoice about the many who were present.  Two nights of group activities, and then it was over.  I am armed with incredible memories and some great pictures, and frankly, even greater stories relived and reminded.

And of course, the reprise of a moment in time I have never forgotten… I think of it as a seminal Senior Class moment.. I am not alone, based on those who joined in song.  This song, performed by a group of our classmates was ultimately sung in chorus at the Senior Assembly, June 1969, sung by many, perhaps sung by all became an anthem.

“Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better”

And so I have a word of encouragement for those of you who wonder and waffle when you time comes.  If you have the chance to go to your 50th High School reunion… I have only one word for you……”GO!”

I suppose there are many reasons to miss gathering with a group of friends from your younger days. After all is said in done, this gathering is a celebration with people I only see on the rarest of occasions.  So many who have come to celebrate something that was 50 years ago probably can find more reasons to avoid the event then to take the time to be a part of it. “I did not like high school,” could be one.  “I won’t remember anyone,” might be another.  And of course the time and cost involved.  Pick your reason, choose your poison, I will tell you, from my experience, your reason to miss the gathering will fade from your consciousness when the party begins.  At least that it what I have observed.

I continue to marvel at the caring and respect shared with friends who have so little in common in the present, but who’s younger days left an indelible mark on my heart.  Blessings to you all.

Two days of glory.  And though the party and meeting rooms were filled with people who outside of this group have active and fruitful and opinionated lives, The reunion value was obvious.  No Politics, no anger, no arguments.  It was So NOT Facebook.  It was a group of individuals with a multitude of opinions and experiences across varying social and economic strata.   And yet the fellowship of the moment with this unique group of people seemed to shine with more light and gravitas.  They were nights to remember, for oh, so many reasons.

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I am called by some… or at least by one..  “an unabashed sentimentalist!”  and I cry out…Guilty as charged.  But more than sentimental, I would just like to think I am observant.  I would like to think I just have a different take on some things that I see.  I like to think that occasionally I see something that no one else might notice.  And then I try to give it some form or substance.   Many will remember this exclamation!…  “I See Dead People” is a memorable quote from the 1999 supernatural film The Sixth Sense.  Well I don’t see dead people, but I do see living ones.

The French call it “joie de vivre,” the joy of living.  I am not always the best at “it” but I am really  great at observing “it.”  I love to watch “it”, perhaps I am an unabashed voyeur.  I am not a visitor to the mall or Walmart or airport look at strangers kind of guy however.  I love to watch folks with whom I have a history.  And so it was with Bob and Curtis and Tim and Carol and Doris and Ric and Sydna and Mary and Don and Ron and Mark and so very many others.  My enjoyment of watching reunion joy is always so much fun. The attendees, myself included, check out name tags which include the youthful Center High School Senior pictures, and smiles begin to emerge.  The exclamation of “I remember you” spoken or not, always seems to bring a smile to both parties.  But in the midst of the remembrance, there are also those with whom I have NO recollection or recognition… Who are you?  Actually, it really did not matter to me if you forgot me, or I forgot you… I believe you were there, I remember we were there, together for numerous years, until we all left 50 years ago.

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Is it just me?

What triggers the joy and excitement?  Why is this such a special time?  After all, most of these folks in attendance are just story lines from my long ago younger days.   Granted, sprinkled in among this mass of relative strangers are a few very close friends I keep within arms length, and still see with some regularity.  But in this mass, in this crowd, there is a unique energy created that surrounds me and envelopes me.  It is unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  I can’t believe it is just me, because I see this spirit of joy surround the crowd.  It is intoxicating.  It is attractive.  It is desirable.  It is real.  And although it has taken 50 years to generate this very special energy, for me it is like yesterday.

Did you notice it?

I have had this premonition twice before in a large group of familiar strangers.  Both have also been reunion formats, joining friends from decades past.

I really don’t know what others believe, but I know what I believe.  I know why these reunion events are so very special to me.  I don’t think it is a coincidence or an accident that as the group returns to their reminders of younger days that there is this genuine sense that the 50 gap seems as though it was just a part of yesterday.  Allen’s drive in, Friday night lights, notes passed, the classroom stories and the gym class uniforms, drama, choir, and the hallways,  all seem like they were only yesterday.

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“Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her”

Why are these times so unique, so special, so cherished?  I believe this is a glimpse of heaven.  This is an energy and spirit unlike anything else I have ever felt or experienced.  It has not been captured in any other venue.  I believe in heaven.  I believe occasionally, that we get to have a glimpse of what it might be like to exalt for a moment in the life on the other side of the veil.  It is a very special glimpse of something eternal.

I don’t know what you believe will happen to you once your picture appears on  the “In Remembrance” board.  No one really knows.  I have my hopes.

I believe that it will get better.  Welcome to my glimpse of heaven..   It seems like only yesterday.

“Remember to let her into your heart (hey Jude)
Then you can start to make it better”

 

People watching–Strangers in a familiar land.

It’s something I see and it’s something I hear you talk about. Facebook and other social media platforms are loaded with people watching sites.. I can’t remember the first time I saw the first version online of the “people of Walmart.” Social media has so enhanced the people watching experience, that I often take for granted how important it is to actually watch real people… not just digital input.

But the fact is people watching it’s now a lost art because of social media. What I watch on social media is usually a low life or highlight reel. We are surrounded with sound bites and site bites. Cute puppies, funny kittens, and people we laugh at and want to make fun of. We are inundated with loud politicians and even louder critics of those politician\ns. The non-connected social media news feed where nothing is safe and certainly nothing is sacred. People watching used to be so much fun the truth be told it involved watching living people in live situations. Now we watch on handheld devices peering at digital images. And the poster cries out… “look at me.” “Make this go viral” is the new battle cry. I often forget that those images are actually analog and involve people who feel and have the ability to touch one another.

Then something happens to remind me that people watching is so special. Oh, that is when it is so special. And the opening event of the Center High School 50 year reunion was something very special. A conclave of strangers in a familiar land. Nothing I randomly watch provides more enjoyment than watching my friends from a half century past stirs my heart more.

I found myself in the midst of a large group of familiar strangers… I don’t see many of these folks often… I argue with a few of the on Facebook frequently, for what seems to serve absolutely no purpose. I don’t live in the “why don’t you come over and have a beer with me” proximity with any if these folks. And yet, there I was, looking once again at my history. I absolutely fell in love with just watching people. I see these folks less often than I see people at my local Walmart.

And so the night went. Nothing spectacular, everything memorable. And then in the midst of what is my people watching extravaganza, I get a moment. Nothing is sweeter that being surprised by joy. Nothing surpasses people watching for me, except when it becomes a people involved moment. Sometimes they are moments I hope will actually be. And they indeed did came to fruition.

And then, from out of nowhere, someone appears out of nowhere. It can’t be anticipated, To be Surprised by Joy, it must come out of nowhere. Like a salvation experience. It is something I will never forget. Well maybe at the 100th reunion, I might forget. But this can’t happen at the Walmart. I will never meet a “stranger” at the Walmart when I practice my people watching who will come up to me and say… “I wasn’t going to shop today, but I knew I would see you…. so I came to buy a bag of potatoes.” I will forever be grateful that my “stranger friends” have the courage and boldness to change my life.

So here’s to what is left… Here is to what still lies ahead. Here’s to your moment of boldness. Surprise someone with joy.

May you smile with a Stranger before you just are a memory on a board.