Archive for September, 2013

homer-simpson-quotes-about-love-7417I found this graphic on the Internet and, as a fan of the long-running Simpsons TV show, it got my mental wheels spinning.

First, the fun stuff. Homer Simpson the hard worker?? If you’ve seen the Simpsons, you’ll know Homer works hard looking for ways NOT to work at all. 🙂

“Not a bad guy”. Maybe not. But a good guy? Well, who among us is really good?

Consider these words from one of the earliest and most important followers of Jesus of Nazareth: “There is no one doing what is right, not even one.”

Beyond that challenging statement, I ask: what is “good”? Am I still good if I routinely exceed the speed limit (which I do)? Am I still good if I pay a contractor under the table to avoid taxes (which I don’t)?

And what about ignoring my creator? As a serious follower of Jesus (who many people believe is the Son of God), I know that God is interested in every part of my life. So if I live as if He barely exists, am I still “good”?

One of the reasons I follow Jesus is because in the end, I have to admit I’m NOT good. And no matter how hard I work at it, I can never be good on my own.

I welcome Jesus into my life because He is bringing me closer to “good”. And for the many times I still fall short, his sacrificial death and resurrection wipes all my shortcomings off the books. God sees me as he sees His Son – perfect, without blemish.

The other thing that grabbed me about this graphic is the notion of spending Sundays (in church, I presume) hearing about going to Hell.

I imagine if you’re not a regular church attender, then you’re nodding in agreement with Homer’s assertion. But it’s no more true than his claim about working hard.

I regularly attend church services because through them, I learn more about how to live as a Jesus follower. I’m also surrounded by other Jesus followers who encourage me, support me and pray with & for me.

Does Hell come up? Now and then. However, serious Jesus followers aren’t fixated on it because we know we’re not going there. But we keep in mind all those we know who don’t follow Jesus. We want to spend eternity with them in Heaven, so we pray for them and, at church, we learn how to lovingly show them and tell them about the hope we have in Jesus.

If that sounds appealing to you, then step out on the ledge one Sunday. Go to a church service and talk to the people you meet there. It just might change your life. 🙂

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ChurchBeyond being a proud stepdad to three wonderful young adults, parenthood – the 24/7, down-and-dirty real thing – is not and will not be part of my life. But I know for certain one thing my parents did right for me: they took me to church.

Despite moving several times, my parents continually had me and my two brothers attend Catholic mass with them until I hit age 16. For the most part, I found the experience a stand-up/sit-down/recite-this-standard-prayer exercise in boredom.

What probably didn’t help is that the experience didn’t seem much more interesting to my parents. The meaning and significance of a Catholic mass was never explained to me (I’m not sure Mom and Dad understood it, either), so when they told us we were old enough to decide for ourselves whether we wanted to keep attending, the result was no surprise. All of us brothers said “no thanks” and for me, that was the end of church for many years.

But the seed of something deep and spiritual was planted and, I’m glad to write, has blossomed into such significance that it influenced who I married and where I go to work.

So, I remain grateful for what Mom and Dad did all those decades ago, especially when I read a National Post blog by Barbara Kay on the subject of children and faith. One paragraph, in particular, stood out:

Children are not satisfied with chaos theory or moral relativism. They want order, a system, a precise identity (my friend’s grandchild told a schoolmate he was ‘half Jewish, half Christmas’). They need an infallible ‘GPS’ to navigate their way through ‘mean’ playmates, unfair or insensitive teaching, the troubling deaths of pets and family members, rumours of war and natural disasters.”

So, imagine if I hadn’t had a childhood GPS? And just as important for young parents, imagine if your children don’t have a GPS? That’s why I write that even if you’re not quite sure where you stand with Christianity, even if you still have a ton of unanswered questions, even if some things make you scratch your head in confusion, set them aside and take your children to church.

If they aren’t regularly exposed to Sunday services, they will likely miss the chance to decide for themselves about a life of faith, about who Jesus is, and about the value of following Him. You will have made the decision for them, on a matter I believe is of supreme importance.

As Ms. Kay put it in her blog, “There is nothing to be lost in gifting children with God and religion, but much to be gained – for them as individuals and for society as a whole.”

Agree? Disagree? Put your thoughts in a comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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vonnegut“Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.” – Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

I guess you won’t be shocked when I write that Vonnegut, the great American writer of such renowned novels as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, was not a fan of “religion”.

At various times in his life, he described himself as an agnostic and an atheist and, according to Wikipedia, believed people were motivated to join religions out of loneliness.

Who knows, maybe that’s true for some people. But that’s a debate for another essay. What intrigued me about this quote (posted on Twitter by the Huffington Post online newspaper) is Vonnegut’s notion of behaving “decently”.

We all have ideas about what that means and I’m sure some of those ideas are the same – don’t kill anyone or set their house on fire, patiently wait while seniors cross the intersection, help someone get their car out of the snow, etc.

But — and this is a pretty big ‘but’ — do you really want to place all your hopes on these commonalities? Consider just these few examples:

  • It was only 200 years ago when behaving “decently” meant not whipping your slaves.
  • Only 50 years ago, behaving “decently” included putting aboriginal children into residential schools, where they were stripped of their culture and often abused, sexually and physically.
  • And right now, there are cultures where it’s considered decent behaviour to persecute Christians, throw homosexual people in jail and stone women who are accused of adultery.

My point? I can’t trust “humanists”, people of faith or even ME to figure out what is truly decent behaviour.

That’s just one reason why I became a Christian. Those of us who follow Jesus Christ — who serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — know we can trust His ideas about decent behaviour, because we know those ideas came straight from His father.

And those ideas, however difficult some may be (I’m still working on loving my enemies, for example) are as meaningful and truthful today as they were 2,000 years ago.

What about Vonnegut’s assertion about “expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead”? Well, I’m not about to deny that this is part of my motivation for following Jesus. I want eternal life in Heaven, with Him. And I’m not the least bit shy about saying so.

But that’s definitely NOT my prime motivation for following Jesus and his ideas about decent behaviour. I do it because He knows better than I do about what’s wrong and right. And I can trust Him because like other serious Christians, I believe He died to make up for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do. Then he came back to life to defeat the power of death for all time.

What He’s done is a glorious gift that I’m glad to accept. That same gift is offered to you, too. Are you interested in thinking about it? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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weedingAs a husband, one of the things I’m committed to doing each summer is help my wife weed the back yard garden. Oh, can’t you just sense the joy in those words? 🙂

The thing that strikes me about weeding is it’s like laundry: the job never, never, ever, ever, ever ends. Pull out a weed today and, within a week, watch something just as ugly and useless take its place. Never mind the weeds, ‘cause after awhile, you’re ready to pull out your hair.

In my more lucid moments, I see a connection between weeding and my life: remove something bad I’ve done today — or something good I neglected to do — and in a few days, it’s right back in my life.

Like laundry, it seems to be a never-ending cycle. And it usually leads to frustration and, even worse, simply giving up and giving in to our less charitable, more self-centred tendencies.

But there is a solution. Brace yourself, because it’s not a quick-fix from Doctor Phil or Oprah or the latest self-help bestseller. It’s….Jesus.

Yes, that’s what I wrote. Jesus. As in, the son of God, the Christmas child and the reason for Easter. Still with me? Then here’s the explanation: if you check out Jesus’s claims and then decide to get serious — and I truly mean SERIOUS — about a life of faith, then what you’ll do is invite Jesus into your life.

And when Jesus comes into your life, He starts to change you. He loves you so much – He died to make up for all the wrong you’ve done and the right you’ve failed to do – that He’s not content to leave you as you are, haplessly pulling up weeds that are all too ready to grow back.

As your relationship with Jesus grows, as you start attending church, reading His words and words about Him and having faith conversations with longtime Jesus followers, you’ll start to see the changes. One of His earliest followers puts it this way: “The fruit that the Spirit [of God] produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

In other words, you start to see less weeds to pull up. Of course, there will never come a time when there isn’t weeding to be done. For proof, just look at the news and the scandals that overwhelm some high-profile Jesus followers.

But if you’re serious and if you truly commit yourself to following Jesus and letting Him make you more like who God knows you can be, you’ll have more:

  •  resilience to withstand the hard times;
  •  strength to help others;
  •  contentment when the world screams that you need to buy more stuff and earn more money and;
  •  peace when you come to truly know where you will spend eternity.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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