Manger Snatching

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Shiloh United Methodist Church in Bedford, Virginia has been robbed!  The majority of the figures in their

English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Me...

English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. Español: Portal de Belén en la Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires Français : Crèche de Noël dans la Cathédrale métropolitaine de Buenos-Aires (Argentine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

outdoor nativity scene were taken.  This nativity has been placed in front of the church for forty years.  Maybe it was a practical joke.  Maybe it was a decision made while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Maybe it was more than that.  Maybe someone is trying to get even with this church and congregation.  Maybe it is not even about this church and this congregation.

The church is full of humans.  We seek to do our best, but we all make mistakes.  We hurt other people.  Sometimes the pain is very deep.  Sometimes the pain is so great that individuals feel alienated from church.  They feel that must stay away from church.  Some may even feel the need to retaliate on either a conscious or unconscious level for the pain that a church or individuals in the church caused.  The pain is often very deep.

People do hurt us, sometimes people in church.  People hurt  us for all sorts of reasons.  The question for us is how are we going to respond to the pain of the hurt.  We can choose to let it fester within in us, or we can choose a different course of action.  We can choose to let go of the pain.  We can choose to forgive others.  We can choose to let the hurt go so that we are no longer experiencing pain.  Letting go of pain does not mean we allow someone to continue hurting us.  It also does not mean that we do not seek justice.  Instead it means that we forgive those who have hurt us.  We forgive in order to stop experiencing pain.  Sometimes we are able to do this alone.  Sometimes we need help working through our pain.

The people of Shiloh United Methodist Church were interviewed on the local news.  They would like their manger scene back, including baby Jesus.  If the perpetrators will just leave it in the driveway, they will take care of the rest.  Also, they are willing to pray with the person.  The church members offered forgiveness and assistance to the ones who stole their manger scene.  What do you offer to the world?

 

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Forgiveness

Afghanistan

Afghanistan (Photo credit: Ricymar Fine Art Photography)

We made a mistake.  We, members of the United States military, accidentally burned the Koran in Afghanistan.  President Obama apologized.  The apology was not accepted by some of the people of Afghanistan according to the resulting violence.  There are those who believe it was inappropriate to even apologize, including Newt Gingrich. International incidents are more complex than individual relationships, but it seems that some of the same rules of behavior should apply.  People, even the best of us, make mistakes.  We do things we don’t mean to do.  When we make a mistake, we apologize.

 

Forgiveness is difficult sometimes.  There are hurt feelings.  I do not know what the Afghanistan people feel, but i know that the actions of others have hurt me deeply.  Sometimes my anguish is about broader issues in the relationship rather than the particular incident.  It appears that the anger of those reacting violently in Afghanistan is about more than just one incident.  The same thing happens to us.  We have our feelings about an entire relationship that come to the surface in one incident.  Apologies are made, but it seems that they are too little too late.  We don’t want to forgive.  We cannot forgive the pain that has been caused.  We are deeply hurt.  we are so overwhelmed with the negative emotions that we cannot see a way pat them.

 

May I suggest you take a moment to consider the need for forgiveness.  When someone offends, mistreats, or otherwise hurts you, take a moment to consider the situation.  Is it possible that it really was an accident?  Are you upset about other things besides the situation at hand?  Relationships take time to build and tear down.  It may be a much larger issue than this one moment in time.  We need to consider if things have been building up, and we have failed to address issues in the relationship.  We need to consider if we are overreacting because of past sufferings and memories that have nothing to do with the current situation.  We need to be honest about the source of our emotions.  This takes time.

Once we have considered our reactions and emotions, we should consider the times when we have needed forgiveness. All of us fall short of the glory of God.  All humanity sins.  When we repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, then it is granted.  If those in our lives turn from what they are doing and ask our forgiveness, shouldn’t we attempt to let go of our own pain, anger, and hurt?  What good is it if we stay angry?

 

Forgive those who make mistakes.  Forgive others.  Accept forgiveness from God.

Relationships Matter

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

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As we watch the primaries and President Obama gearing up for the general election, we see their families.  Spouses and children are quoted, making speeches, and seen on the campaign trail.  We have talked about families of political candidates, and we have even debated how much a candidate’s personal relationships matter.

 

Relationships do matter.  All relationships matter.  It is in our relationships that we learn, grow, and exist.  It is in our relationships that we define ourselves, encourage others, and make connections.  In relationships we learn about ourselves, have emotions, and share our lives with others.

 

Relationships with our families matter, but our other relationships matter as well.  It matters how we connect or fail to connect with other people.  It matters how we risk ourselves, or how we choose to protect ourselves.  It matters how we open ourselves to others, or if we keep ourselves closed off.  In our relationships we learn about God.

 

Take the time to connect with others.  Spend time with your family, friends, and strangers.  Today, risk yourself so that others may see the light of Christ shining through you.

Living in the Midst of Life

shelled and unshelled pecans

Image via Wikipedia

We decide that things are going to be different.  We make a plan.  We have a goal.  We are ready.  Then things happen.  For example, I decided I would eat healthy for 2012.  I have meals planned.  I shared my goal with my family.  Everything was fine.  Then, I found some Christmas presents that had not been put away.  Someone gave us pecan brittle.  I’m the only one who likes pecans.  You can probably guess the rest of the story.

 

In our lives there are often surprises, unexpected events, and bags of Red Rocker Pecan Brittle that can derail us from our goals.  We may be tempted to give up the goal entirely.  We may be tempted to say that the goal was just too difficult for us.  We may go looking for more hidden candy.  The truth is that none of us is perfect.  We all make mistakes, give in to the temptation, and have a hard time changing our way of being.  We do things that we know are not good for us.  We are sometimes thoughtless.  We are selfish.  We all do the wrong thing occasionally.  The question is not, are we going to mess up?  The question is what are we going to do when our life interferes with our goals?  How are we going to handle the bag of pecan brittle, the errant behavior, and all of  our mistakes?

 

After we accept the error or mistake, then we need to keep going.  Don’t allow one momentary lapse to cause you to abort your goal.  Each day we re given a new opportunity to be transformed.  We are able to keep moving forward.  There will be things, surprises, and Red Rocker Pecan Brittle that diverts us from our goal.  Our living interrupts the best intentions, plans, and goals.  We have to decide how we are going to handle life in the midst of this living.  What are you going to do after you make the mistake?  Forgive the mistake.  Seek forgiveness if your behavior has hurt others.  Continue to seek your goal.  God does not expect perfection from you.  You will make mistakes.  You will be diverted.  We all must learn to live in the midst of life.

First Day

my first school day

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The other morning, I announced to my daughter that I wanted to take her picture.  I wanted to take the picture because it was her second first day of fourth grade.  No, she was not held back, but it seemed like a second first day.  She, and the rest of the students in our county had a unexpected vacation.  They had started school, and they had been in class for a week and two days.  Then the earthquake came.  Due to the damage, schools were closed.  Some schools were not able to re-open this year.  Some schools may never re-open.

 

However, they are all getting a chance at a second first day.  While we may not have a chance at a second first day of a particular job or grade in school, we do serve a God who gives us the opportunity to have a new first days.  Every day is a new day.  Every day we are becoming new creations in Christ.    We are not limited by who we were yesterday.  We are not limited by our situation in life, by our family of origin, our mistakes, or anything else.  We have a new first day.

 

  • To enjoy this new first day,  put the other days behind you.  Confess your sin, let go of the shame and guilt, and claim your forgiveness.  God forgives us when we seek forgiveness.  It is up to us to allow ourselves to be forgiven.  Let go of the shame of yesterday for today is a new first day.

 

  • Start the day with God, learning God’s lessons, hearing God’s voice, and asking for God’s guidance.  As you and God begin the day together, together you can decide who you will be on this first day.

 

  • Continue the day with God.  Be the person God wants you to be rather than the person it is easiest to be.  Know that you are loved.  Know that you are created in God’s image.  Honor God.

 

May God bless and keep you on your next first day.

Happiness

"Running with the seagulls", Galvest...

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This is my vacation week, so I have thought a lot about what makes a person happy.  I’ve concluded that happiness is more complicated that it seems.  There is short-term happiness that is derived from a variety of sources.  There is a situational happiness where we experience more than instant pleasure, but it is based on external conditions.  Then there is lasting happiness.  This happiness is our usual state of being, which means that while there are times and situations that may evoke other emotions our standard state is happy.

Here are some of my observations about being happy.  Lasting happiness has less to do with outside situations, objects, relationships, and conditions than the other levels of happiness.  This state of being happy is primarily internally created, and it has more to do with how a person feels about themselves and their lives rather than external factors.  This state has to do with how a person feels about themselves, their lives, and the way they are living.  This has something to do with genetics as well.  To increase the state of lasting happiness, change the things in your life that are disappointments or failures to you.  Take better care of yourself.  Accept who you are.  Confess sins and short coming to God and those you have hurt.  Accept forgiveness.  Unbind yourself from y our fears by asking for God’s power to release you.  Express your true self.   Be you and love you.

All of the things that hinder our happiness are things we learn as adults.  We put limits on ourselves, we tell ourselves that we are not good enough.  We compare ourselves to others.  We beat ourselves up for the things we have done, the things we should have done, and the things we wish we had done.  We say that we should be different.

God loves us just as we are, without reservation.  God also is ready to offer forgiveness to all.  Take some time to consider those things that are keeping you from a state of happiness.  Ask for God’s forgiveness and help.  Then, start working on those things that you do not like about yourself.  As you work on them, you will find a greater happiness.

While short-term happiness is a good experience, it is fleeting and based on many external factors.  A state of happiness is based on ourselves.  Instead of seeking fleeting moments, go for the long-lasting.

mistakes

Rainbowphoto © 2010 Moyan Brenn | more info (via: Wylio)
I made a mistake last week. Actually, I made several mistakes last week. One mistake that I am aware of hurt someone else’s feelings. I did not intentional hurt the person’s feelings, but I did hurt them by my mistake.

Sometimes are mistakes hurt other people. Sometimes they just hurt us. We realize the mistake, the lapse, the error, the forgotten task, and we beat ourselves up. We sometimes expect too much of ourselves. Then, in the midst of guilt, shame, regret, and condemnation, we may feel that we have let God down. We wonder how God can ever love and accept us.

The truth is that we all make mistakes. We make a lot of mistakes. We are not perfect. No matter how large or small the mistakes, God loves us. God loves us without conditions, which means that we do not have to have a certain percentage of goodness to be loved.

When we confess our sins and our mistakes to God, God forgives us. We are not only loved, but we are offered forgiveness. It is our job to receive that forgiveness and to accept ourselves as we are. This does not mean that we will not work on making less mistakes, but it does mean that we will accept our imperfection.

Today, accept God’s love and forgiveness. Confess your mistakes and try to let them go. Accept that none of us are perfect. We don’t have to be perfect to be loved by God. Let go of the negative feelings and allow God’s peace and love to flow in and through you.