May We Never Forget 9/12/2001

On September 12, 2001, America was different, but unlike what we may see in our current society, life was beautiful the day after 9/11. We were united. We didn’t care if someone was a Democrat, or Republican, or super liberal, or super conservative. We didn’t care about anyone’s economic status or ethnicity. On September 12, 2001, we were all just Americans. It took a tragedy to unite us. The tragedy of 9/11 is not that people have forgotten about it. Remembering the tragedy for the tragedy is tragic if we do not remember the difference that the tragedy created in our lives.

Unity. On September 12, 2001, we were united. We wept with those who were weeping. We did not stop and ask if the loved one they lost was a Democrat or Republican or if they had the same religious beliefs or value systems as we did. We just grieved with so many who lost a loved one.  We cared that every individual was a human being, and we needed to start seeing every individual as a human being that God created.

We were united because we all felt the pain. We were united because we all felt the pride of the first responders and the other unsung heroes who risked their lives to save the lives of other people, many of them strangers. Our unity on that day and the days that followed, was one reason we recovered. We knew this country was not perfect, but we also knew that our unity could give us strength to become better humans and work together for a better society.

Unity will reveal the strength or weakness of a group of people. There is power in unity. Division reveals our weaknesses. Division rears its ugly head when we demand that everyone behaves and aligns with all our ideas. Division arises when we choose to mock, belittle, and degrade people because they have a different point of view than us because they have had different life experiences than us. It reveals that neither side is right or righteous, no matter which side claims to be Christian. It also states that neither side is for humanity but for their own cause. For those of us who are Christians, we must remember that Jesus was always for humanity and his selfless act of his sacrifice was for everyone. On 9/12/01, we realized the importance of selflessness.

Selflessness. On September 12, 2001, we were a little more selfless and a little less selfish. The realization that so many first responders risked their own lives for complete strangers made us realize that they didn’t just do their rescuing because of their job, but because they were selfless and cared about humanity. We wondered if each of us were willing to sacrifice our own lives for a stranger. Before we could answer that, we had to realize that the stranger might believe and vote differently than us, and on 9/12/2001, we realized that the sacrifice was greater than the other person’s beliefs.

As Christians, we must remember that Jesus died for all, even for those who did not believe in him and who were against him. Jesus sacrificed his life for all. Maybe we can remember to sacrifice for strangers. Maybe we can sacrifice our rightness and our political agenda for the love others.

Love. On 9/12/2001, we realized we needed to love more. We must show love to other people over all other attributes. Love does not envy. It does not boast. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love is kind. There are three great attributes, faith, love, and hope, but the greatest of these is love. The commandments are summed up to love God and love your neighbors as we love ourselves. Love is what causes us to sacrifice. Love is not just reserved for those for whom it is easy to love, but for those with whom we struggle. If we want our country to be great, we all must do our part. We all must love other people. If we begin with loving others, people will see the change in our attitudes and actions. Our social media posts will be ones that project love for humanity and not malice toward anyone. It will take work. It will take time because love takes work and time, and as it grows, we see the people we love grow and change with strength and love and sacrifice for others. The love that we show and the sacrifices that we make will all bring unity to humanity once again

Is It Selfish to Fix Myself?

I saw a video on YouTube of someone berating Christians who believe that we can only fix ourselves and not fix other people. She claimed that we cannot fix ourselves, and that only God can do that. She then claimed that the people who believe this are not even Christians. While she was berating those Christians, she then went ahead and told everyone what they needed to believe and think to be better humans. (Actually, she wanted them to be better Christians, but I don’t believe that Christianity is a competition, so I’m changing her words.) In other words, she was trying to fix other people. I wish her video was interactive. I wanted to ask her if she could repent from my sins for me because that would make my life much easier. Then, she could fix me, and I would not have to do a thing.

I have been struggling with this topic for a long time, and in the past few weeks, I have encountered situations in which people were more grossly engaged in focusing on what other people were doing, rather than on themselves. From a young celebrity getting pictures removed from social media because fans do not like his new girlfriend, to a student tattling on someone, while she herself was breaking a rule. The young fans cannot separate fantasy from reality, and the student could not understand why if she would fix herself, the world would be a better place.

The world becomes a better place when we begin to focus on our own sins and flaws and fix them because our own world is better. Life is beautiful when we remove our flaws and gain our strengths. We not only see the beauty in our own world, but in the world around us. Once we see the beauty, we do not have to focus on other people and what they do in their personal lives because we are so busy focusing on what we must do for those other people to have better lives with love and encouragement.

Jesus saw this flaw in all of us, in which we prefer to focus on other people’s sins than on our own sins. “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in someone else’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?” (Mathew 7:1-3) (CSV) Those of us who are Christians, must focus on our own sins and flaws before we ever focus on anyone else. If we focus on our own sins, we do not have time to focus on others’ sins. Believe it or not, if everyone would work on their own sins, the whole world would become better because we would all have a vision of what sin is in our lives and how it needs to be removed.

For years, the church has focused on what those outside of the church have done wrong and have lost control of what is happening inside the church. Paul has warned us to not judge those on the outside, but on the inside. If we as Christians, would focus on the sins of those of us in the church and confess and repent from them, the church would become more appealing to those on the outside of it.

It is easier to focus on other people because we do not have to do anything but sit back and let our fingers fly on our phones or computers. The damage we have caused is that now, those outside of the church are judging everyone around them that does not think, believe, or act like they do. They have the name, “woke,” but they are a reflection of how the church has behaved for years. They too are judging people for what they say, believe, and do and desire for punishment for their misdeeds, but never confess their own misdeeds. It’s just like those of us inside the church. We influenced it. Now, that we see the grossness of it, we need to begin to make the change with ourselves first before we can influence them.

It is not selfish to work on ourselves. It can be the one job that if we all do, would make our society a much better place. We can only fix ourselves because we are the only ones that can repent of our sins. We are the only ones that can go to God and confess our sins. That is the beginning of fixing ourselves. Other people can inspire us. We still must put the words of their inspiration into practice. No one can do the work for us. We are the ones who must do the work. That is why so many of us claim we can only fix ourselves. The church needs to allow people to fix themselves and then, the church will be healthier as everyone is working on bettering themselves.

We need to see a sin in our own lives and begin working on eliminating that sin. Once we begin eliminating a sin in our lives, we begin to grow in our faith. People see our growth. People see the change. Then, we become a witness for Jesus because they see the change in us. We must stop berating other people and keep that to the people who are outside of the church. Once people see the difference from those of us inside the church encouraging and inspiring people and people outside of the church berating people, they will want to be inside the church.

The YouTube Christian woman was partially right. God does fix us. He changes us, but only when we ask him. We invite him into our lives. That is the first part of fixing ourselves. We all need Jesus. If we all focus on Jesus and what he wants from our own lives, then we will have a better life on earth because we have a heavenly vision with Jesus. It is selfish to focus on the flaws and sins of others and never right our wrongs. It is not selfish to focus on ourselves for spiritual health and begin to rid the sin in our own lives.

Searching for Peace in a Troubled World

There is no peace in the Middle East with the Taliban on the loose. We cannot forget the people’s struggles in Cuba. The people in Haiti are suffering from a recent earthquake, and people in New Orleans are battling a hurricane. Closer to home, fires are raging in Northern California, and two people that I know, who are great writers and mentor other writers, have evacuated from their homes hoping their houses are still standing. People are suffering and dying still from Covid. It’s a troubled world, so how do we respond?

Some people think that if they believe in Jesus or people who believe in Jesus will not have these troubles. They are incorrect. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV) Jesus never said that we would not have trouble, but that he would give us peace whether we have trouble or not. We don’t just have Jesus not to have troubles, but we have Jesus for salvation from sin. Along with salvation, Jesus gives us peace in times of trouble.

If life was easy and pristine, we would not need a Savior. If life was easy and pristine, we would not need anyone around us. Life is not easy. Hollywood created stories in the 1950s and the 1960s of how the creators desired life to be. Viewers took these shows as what life is in some families. No family was or is like what we see in film or television. Life is not a fairytale. So, we need someone to be there for us when the trials hit, and they hit. Many times, they hit hard.

We can look around at the world and see the troubles. We can go on social media and grouse about the troubles and the injustices. We can pray. We can trust Jesus with our trials. We can take the love of Jesus over those trials and serve the people who need Jesus who are in those times of trouble. For some of the world’s problems, we have no idea what to do, but we can serve someone in our own community, who then could serve someone else, and then they serve someone, and maybe it would eventually get to the people on the other side of the world.

Serving others in times of need is like throwing a rock in the water and watching the ripple effect. We never know that the small act of kindness can do for someone, and how that person can do a small act of kindness for someone else. If we begin to think of others over ourselves, then our world would be a much better place. If we would all spend less time berating others for what they do not do and focus on what we can do, then the world would have positive changes. The more we sit back and just spew our righteous thoughts and not have any actions, the world continues to spin out of control, along with any type of peace that we desire.

There are so many people hurting. We can choose to just demean and belittle them, or we can serve them. If we choose to serve the people around us, we are sharing the peace of Jesus with others who are experiencing trouble in their lives, and then we begin to experience the same peace. We don’t always know the troubles that people are experiencing, but if we know the one who gives us peace in time of trouble, we can bring peace to those who need it most. It’s our choice. We can bring cynicism, pessimism, or love with Jesus. I choose Jesus.

What a beautiful world it would be if we would be less about trivial issues (politics) and more about people. If humans were a higher priority in our society, more people would have access to the needs in life. Jesus brings peace. His peace may not be without conflict. His love may still bring us trouble, but he will always bring peace. May we all bring peace to those who need it.

In This Time of Need, We Need Each Other

In a Time of Need, We Need Each Other

When a seventeen-year-old girl, Lydia Jacoby, from Alaska was swimming in her first Olympic final race, she had no idea that the support from home was so energetic.  She was not the favored swimmer. She wasn’t even supposed to be a contender for a medal, especially a gold medal, but she did not focus on what she was supposed to or not supposed to do. She just did what she did best, and that led her to a gold medal. It is not her win that is impressive, but how her small town in Alaska that gathered to watch her race, mostly made up of her high school peers, responded to her race and her win. The reaction of this small town made me realize that we all need our own cheerleaders, especially in this time of need.

The world is hurting. From the events in Afghanistan, Cuba, many people vaccinated and unvaccinated falling to Covid, death of loved ones, and people being diagnosed with cancer, we see the tragedies of the world. Along with these tragedies in my social media world, I have friends in Northern California who had to evacuate from their homes because of the fires and are not confident that they will return to a house. With all the tragedies, some people begin to give answers for the reasons for these events. The argument for the reasons of these events is never a point. How we treat people who may be encountering these situations is vital.

When we don’t focus on people in these situations, we then begin to prove that we are right on social media with issues, rather than give empowerment to those who are suffering. I am guilty of this as well as anyone else who uses social media. I’m misunderstood often, even today. So, maybe we should all take a break and begin to see the posts for those who need cheerleaders and become cheerleaders.

We may not be able to jump up and down, but we can cheer for those who need to get healthy. We can encourage those who may have friends and relatives in places that are dangerous. We can empower those who work in a system that could get them sick, or in one in which people struggle because they are not encouraged. It is the church’s job to encourage and empower one another.

In the Bible, Paul had Barnabas. With Barnabas, he also had the various cities in which he preached. The churches that Paul wrote to, became his best cheerleaders. Yes, I wrote that correctly. The church became cheerleaders. Imagine if the church would become cheerleaders for humanity today. I wonder how different our society would look and behave. Imagine, the church cheering for people to succeed rather than discouraging people.

We can cheer for people and not their sin. We can cheer for people to be their best at what they do. We can cheer for people who serve others and are in the trenches every single day. They endure so many social media posts about the trenches in which they work from people who will never jump in those trenches and join them with the work. The trenches are messy, and they do not have glory. It’s why people who work in them spend less time arguing and more time changing the world with their innovations.

Maybe, just maybe, the church needs to do more work for those on the outside to influence those on the inside and bring those on the outside into the church. People are not looking for the most correct group to join. People are looking for love and support. Jesus brought people inside when he showed them love and support. It’s time we learn from Jesus. May we all begin to become cheerleaders as we take note of the small town in Alaska that cheered their community member all the way to gold. Our goal is not gold, but hearts of gold that create love.

Back to School With a Different Mindset

On August 16th, schools in Los Angeles will be open for in-person school for the first time since March 2020. Both students and teachers are anxious and excited. It will be different. It’s not just that masks will be worn or that everyone on campus will be tested for Covid and temperature checks every day. Those are just protocols that appear different. That is on the surface that everyone screams about on social media and never dive deep into the real issues. There are underlying issues that make this school year very different from any other school year. It will not just be about learning reading, writing, and arithmetic.

As we enter the classroom, we all wonder how everyone will accept us. As a teacher, I’m feeling like it is my first year in teaching all over again. Do I remember all the details in routines? What new routines do I need to add or take away? Can I smile on the first day? Wait. That one does not matter as I’ll have a mask on my face. Whew. The students are also full of questions.

The students wonder if their friends will still like them. They worry that others will belittle or bully them for gaining weight during the pandemic. They worry if they will get Covid. They wonder if they can stay in a classroom all day without walking around the room or doing whatever they were doing with online school. They wonder if the teachers are kind or mean.

Do we even need to wonder why everyone is concerned? People on social media have been extremely rude and mean during the pandemic. During the time that most of us needed to connect with people with positive attributes, we were condemned, bullied, or ignored. We, as a society, need to do better. A whole generation depends on it.

First, we need to learn how to inspire and encourage other people instead of guilt shaming them. I have learned that in the classroom if I can empower students, they will shine, but the moment I begin to lessen my leadership skills to guilt-shaming, they not only fail but our relationship is severed. We all need empowerment. Guilt-shaming not only produces bitterness, but it also backfires. The church has guilt-shamed people for years, just like the Pharisees and the other religious leaders did in the days that Jesus walked on earth. Jesus empowered people, so more people followed him and his ways, rather than the religious leaders and their ways. Guilt-shaming pushes people away. Empowerment brings people closer.

Next, we need to accept people where they are in their present, so they can be successful in their future. Where they are on their journey in life is not for us to judge or condemn, but to meet them there and walk with them in their journey. It’s what we as teachers must do. I already know that my students are behind in their reading and writing skills thanks to last year. (They were behind before last year, so I must figure out how to bring them up from that too.) The same is with us accepting people in our own communities, whether in person or on social media.

We need to let go of the past. we need to understand that all of us had different experiences during the pandemic. Some of us never said anything about our experiences on social media; we just lived life with whatever was thrown our way. We need to realize that everyone has their mountains in life. Instead of condemning, judging, and guilt-shaming them, we need to come aside and walk along with them. They may or may not come to the point where WE think they need to be, but if we are understanding of who they are as people, we will not need them to be where WE want them to be, but where THEY NEED to be.

With our students, we need to be empathetic with their emotions and mental health. Their stress level is higher for so many more reasons than it ever has been. Not only are they concerned about Covid and their health issues, but some of them have been locked up with people that cause stress in their lives for various reasons. At a season in life that they should have been more social with their friends, they couldn’t meet with them. Some students struggle with being around people who are different from them. Some wonder if anyone will be their friend. Mental health is not a joke. We need to be more aware of the mental health of people around us instead of being right or authoritative. As a teacher, I need to recognize this daily.

Finally, this school year will be different, but we are all entering with gratefulness that we are not online, and we get to be in person with other students and teachers. We get to do learning activities that move us around the room. We get to talk with others around us. The students get teacher help immediately. As a teacher, I get to know the students as students and as young people. I can’t wait for the beauty that this year will produce. My restart of a first year just might be my best year ever.

Moving Adventures to the Magical Land of Anaheim

If you’ve ever read any of my blogs on travelling or have travelled with me, then you know that I do not travel in a straight line. So, if I’m going to move to a new place, there is no straight line. In fact, there is no line. When this adventure started, there was hope and anticipation. I bought a house. It’s a manufactured home in Anaheim, California. I bought it for my mom and sister. I will live there for a while, and then move forward. The new house is in walking distance of the Angel Stadium and two miles to Disneyland. It sounds magical. The magic that will happen is when I can make the entire disaster of the movers, boxes and boxes of stuff disappear.

Having lived in an apartment for twenty-one years, I found that material possessions accumulate, and many of them I haven’t seen in years. As I was packing, I found items from times long ago that brought good memories, and from times that do not need my focus nor my attention. I found items that I have no idea why I bought them in the first place. Many of those items were books. As the move progressed, I realized that I want to eliminate objects around me and become less intrigued with physical objects. That, or I’ve become less intrigued to ever move those physical objects ever again.

Getting boxes from the grocery store, which looked like I was about to build one of those cardboard beds that they have in the Olympic village in Japan, using a plethora of packing tape, getting the tape all messed up around the tape dispenser, checking Facebook, putting objects in the boxes, putting some objects in bags that will be donated, watching the Olympics, and packing the apartment, filled my entire month of July, as we prepared for the movers to arrive. My sister and I have no idea how to pack a house. It looks like the Container Store had an issue with trash bags, which were a last resort when we ran out of boxes and bins.

The maze we created was fun. We kept painting ourselves in a corner with boxes. If we were standing on the outside of the boxes, we needed something inside the maze of boxes, like chargers to electronics, and I climbed, jumped, twisted, and turned over boxes better than any gymnast in the Olympics.

As time was running down, my sister and I had about three hours of sleep the night before the movers were supposed to come. Hence the phrase, “supposed to.” Every person who was supposed to set-up our house all came on the same day the movers were “supposed to” come. The movers were “supposed to” come between 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM. At 12:15 PM, the movers called and said, “I think we were ‘supposed to’ come to your place and move you today, but when I called earlier, no one was there.” That was wrong because I was available all morning. My phone was always with me. The company claimed they had the wrong number. That’s interesting. I might want to remind them that they called me at 12:15PM on the correct number telling me that they thought they were “supposed to” move me that day.

The moving company also told me that because they had other appointments, we would have to wait until next week. I’m glad they prioritized other people that they didn’t forget. To be clear, the day the movers were “supposed to” come, my sister and I safely moved my mom into the new house. I had to be creative to get her bed into the new house. I rented a SUV. I named it “Big Mama.” Do you know that everyone on Southern California freeways respects big SUVs? Big Mama got some stuff to the house! I bought an air mattress. I felt like I was camping.

The moving company decided that they could fit us in their schedule four days later, which meant that I was trying to eliminate stuff from the apartment. When they finally moved us, one of the movers realized how cool our new community is and I think he got a beer from one of our new neighbors. Yes, we live in a friendly community that looks out for every neighbor.

We are finally in our new place. Boxes surround us and I must try and find what I need, but it is peaceful and is working just fine. I’m back at work, so unpacking will move slower than I want, but at least everyone and everything that I decided to keep is safe and sound. I learned so much from this adventure.

One of the most important lessons I discovered that I must own less things and spend more time with people. People are not replaceable. Time moves and if we are not careful, it passes, and we may realize that we wasted it. Besides, the movers let me help them. I don’t know how they do it for a living. I was exhausted after one day of moving just one house.

Another lesson I discovered is that memories are good to keep. Moving always brings memories of what has happened in the past, which brings us to a present that is here because of our past and leans into the dreams of the future. We cannot live in the past. We can admire the past with love as we remember the great times we had with family and friends. Any time we have had adventures, it was never because we had the most things but because we had the most experiences with other people. Most of my adventures were shared with many students from youth ministry days, and I wouldn’t trade them for any possession or any other adventure.

I learned that I may have to be in a place that I didn’t think I would live. Moving can be scary because we do not like going to the unknown. I’m a person who claims to thrive on change, but I was hesitant to move to a city two miles from Disneyland and in walking distance of the Angel Stadium. If we do not move, we stay stuck in a place that is not healthy, whether that is a job, a relationship, a house, a city, a service project, or even a community of faith. I should know because I tend to stay too long in those places. I’m learning to move forward. There comes a day when we must move to have a full life. Besides, adventures are built no matter the location but the people with whom we build them.

In my new place I have discovered the beautiful sunsets and sunrises on my walks. I have discovered the diversity of people, just like we had in Culver City. I discovered the simple part of life, even when we are surrounded by an amusement park and a sports stadium. Time will tell where I will land next in life, but one thing I know for sure, that when I have a notion to move, I need to move. Now, if I could just find everything I need for the present, life would be great.

Fear Keeps Us Stuck, Faith Moves Us Forward

I have used the cliché that fear is the opposite of faith. I believe that it is true, but I also know that a cliché can be insulative and demoralizing. People who hear the words, “You have cancer,” have a genuine fear creep into their lives. Saying a cliché to them that “Fear is the opposite of faith, so have faith,” is not helpful and it tells the person that we do not care about them but that our words are correct.

Everyone faces fear. It’s how we move when we are afraid that creates a life of faith and a life of creativity. Too many times in life we get stuck when we are afraid. We stay too long in a job. We stay too long in a relationship. We even stay too long living in a community because we fear moving to a new place. Most of us fear the unknown. What we do not realize is that our fear keeps us from moving forward. We get angry as we watch other people move ahead in life and wonder why we are not getting ahead in life. We have to look introspectively and be honest with ourselves if we are not getting ahead because we are not good at what we do, or if we are not doing what it takes, or if we are afraid. If we are honest, it is the last one that affects the other two.

Jesus never promised us that life would be comfortable and safe. He told us not to fear as he would be with us. This last week I realized that when I was a younger, I jumped and took many risks. As I became older, I became calculated with risk as I believed I was being responsible, but I was not. I became more responsible when I finally took a risk that would benefit others and not just myself. So, how do we jump and take a risk, even if we still have fears? We trust, we pray, we communicate.

We have to trust. First, we have to trust that God has given us the gifts, talents, and provisions for us to take this direction in our lives. As a person who creates writings, I have realized that I had to trust that God has given me this talent and the more I use it, the better it serves people. If I just keep it to myself because I am afraid of what others may think, then I am not trusting the gifts and talents that God has given me, which reveals that I do not trust God because I am revealing that I believe that God did not gift me well. So, I must create and trust. I will mess up and do wrong, but I must always trust the process.

Prayer is an anecdote to fear. The more we pray with specific requests, the more we become fearless and decide that we must move forward. It does not mean that there will not be struggles. It does not mean that there will not be setbacks. It means that we have a God who listens to us and one we can rely on when we are afraid to take the next step. Prayer gives us the strength to keep moving, even when we are afraid.

We must communicate with others. For a long time in my life, I kept my writing to myself that I wanted to write because when I would tell people they would laugh or scoff at my ideas. I didn’t realize that every artisan will encounter that criticism because people who do nothing are jealous of those who do something, so they criticize those who do something. So, I just had to decide to do something. We need to communicate with others our ideas as we may begin to collaborate with other people who can help facilitate our ideas.

We cannot allow fear to rule us. We must follow the dreams that we have. We must trust, pray, and communicate. We must use our gifts and talents for others. We cannot live in fear. So many people are still living in fear and anxiety. In order to thrive as full human beings, fear will hold us back and trap us. We must continue to press forward even with the fear. Then, in the end, we will realize how fear became acts of faith along the way. It is when we reflect on our journey that we will see whether we are driven by faith or by fear. Let us move with faith.

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

During quarantine, people took the time to reflect on their lives and discover what they could change about themselves and began to work on those areas. Some people lost weight. Other people wrote books. Some people found a new job or a new hobby. Other people quit a job that had a toxic environment and others quit their bad habits. Whatever we do, we have to come to the realization of facing the truth in our lives; however, many of us have been programmed to avoid the truth, so we carry that mantra into our adulthood and our entire lives.

Since most of the country is now open, violence is up in most major cities. It is not that people choose to be violent, but that they struggle to face the truth about themselves that become revealed when they are around other humans. Self-reflection is a mental health activity, but if we just reflect and not have any action to it, we are avoiding the truth that we need to face.

Like so many other people, I have struggled to face the truth that I am not just a victim of the church hurt, but that I have also hurt other people. The truth is that I had focused so much on myself, that I lost the vision of focusing on Christ to guide others to him. Along with realizing that I have hurt people, I also have had to face the truth that my response to hurt was not always healthy for me and for others, and yet I continued to respond with the same response in the situations, and I would continue to get hurt. This occurred in relationships outside of the church too.

The church, like many other institutions, needs to face the truth that for decades, we have not represented Jesus. We have been a good representation of rules, regulations, and rituals, along with righteous behavior, but we have not represented Christ because as we were following the rules, we did not leave room for love. If we want to truly represent Christ, the church needs to love other people with the love that Jesus has for them. There is no room for excuses.

The church cannot shout and scream about the behavior of other people who do not follow Christ and yet condone the actions of Christians who do the exact same behavior. We need to face the truth that sinners attend church, no matter what faced they wear when they enter the doors on Sunday. This misrepresentation of Jesus has tarnished the church, not Jesus. Those of us in the church need to realize that we must change in order to represent Christ.

Change is difficult for everyone. I realized a few months ago, that as much as I claim that I love change, there are areas in life in which I do not love change. If we want to grow, or dare I use the phrase, “Go deeper,” then we must change. We not only need to change our behavior toward other people, but we also need to change our hearts show that we can reveal genuine love to people.

So, as we come together as a country and the church to battle sin, we must be truthful with ourselves and change. anything worth doing, will take time, hard work, and being honest with ourselves and others. Without truth, we cannot stand. We must be and speak the truth.

The Cost of Freedom

Anything that is free cost someone something. We live in a society in which we want to thrive on that which is free, but it costs someone, and freedom itself is expensive. If freedom were not expensive, it would be worthless. The more a product costs, the more precious it is to the owner. The cost is not always money, and on July 4th, we celebrate and remember the cost of freedom for this country. As Christians, we can appreciate the cost of freedom that Jesus gave us. We just need to remember and realize that freedom isn’t free, and its cost is precious as it cost many their lives.

Men and women have lost their lives fighting for our freedom in America. We have the freedom to vote for whom we want, to think how we want, and believe how we want, even if our beliefs are not substantiated in facts, we have the freedom to believe. I would have it no other way. I don’t want to be forced to believe or think how others want me to think and believe.  I don’t want everyone to think and believe the same, and that includes spiritual beliefs. I’m a Duke basketball fan. There is no way I’ll ever believe and think like everyone else, but that’s not the only freedom we can celebrate.

Jesus sacrificed his life for us to live free from sin. He gave everything, so that we could be saved by grace through faith. There is no act of service or good work that we can do to repay him for his sacrifice. People try to repay him with acts of service and good behavior. As humans, I think we struggle with this because we cannot comprehend such an act of sacrifice. We can show gratitude, but we need to know that it will not repay Jesus, but to show gratitude to Jesus.

With all of the sacrifice for our freedom, how do we respond? We show gratitude. Gratitude can come in the form of actions with service. We can show gratitude with our love toward other human beings, even if, and especially if, we disagree with them in the realm of spiritual or political issues. We can begin to love those that are different from us.

Loving others is the complete strategy of showing gratitude for those who sacrificed for our freedom. The ten commandments are summed up in two commands, love God and love others as you love yourself. Love is the answer. If we love others, we communicate without belittling and mocking. If we love others, we understand that they will believe and think differently from us, and we appreciate that, even if we disagree. If we love others, we listen with empathy and compassion. If we love others, we perform acts that benefit all.

This July 4th, may we celebrate the freedom that we have. May we also express gratitude for that freedom with love, so that others may enjoy the freedom. If we fight for freedom with love, then love will prevail. The sacrifice of life for our freedom was done for love. Jesus loved us and wanted to save us from our sins, and our soldiers loved the country for which they died. Let us show our gratitude with an act of love.

A Firm Faith Requires a Firm Foundation

This last week, the nation watched in horror the video of a residential building collapse in Miami. The reason for why it fell is debatable, but one thing is for sure. Its foundation crumbled. Having grown up in Florida where we had sinkholes, and now living in Southern California with earthquakes, I know that having a firm foundation is vital for our homes.

Our bodies also need a firm foundation. In our physical bodies, our core is the foundation. If our core is strong, our whole body is strong. I need to work on my core in my physical body, and I also need to work on my core in my spiritual body because when the core of my spiritual body is strong, the whole spiritual life is strong. Jesus taught about having a firm foundation for our spiritual lives. He warned us that when it is built on a rock, it is firm, but when it is built on sand, it comes crashing down. The problem is that most of us believe that we have a firm foundation built on rock, and yet, when trials hit, our faith crashes, which reveals it was built on sand.

We can have a spiritual firm foundation, but like our physical bodies, it takes time to become solid and firm. When life’s troubles crash down on us, many of us do not want to take the time to repair the breakage, as we waste time complaining, but we must because we do not want our entire spiritual life to fall.

To have a firm foundation, we must throw away the ideology of other people’s beliefs. This was and still is difficult for me. Throughout my life, I have been taught to trust the “experts.” When the experts began to become human and they failed in their own faith and expertise, I struggled to believe what was factual of their teachings and what was not. These experts had been trained in the Bible, and yet, they only spoke words and did not put their words into practice. Once I began to search for answers for faith throughout the Bible and studied the context, I realized that it was one thing to know the facts and very different to put those facts into practice.

Putting our faith into action requires having faith when we feel as if we are stumbling around in the dark. We must trust God when we cannot see what will happen in our lives. We must trust God when the answers are not apparent. We must trust that the answers we want may not be the answers we need, and God will only give us what we need.

Many times, when our faith collapses, we blame God. Jesus taught us where to build our foundation. If we choose to build our foundation on people or on good works that are disguised as service, then our faith foundation is built on sand, and it will crumble. We have no one to blame but ourselves. For far too long, I played the blame game. For far too long my faith, although I had extensive Biblical knowledge, was built on sand. Once I repaired my foundation and built on rock, my faith grew. I stopped blaming God for my own flaws and my acts of service that were done with disdain. We must serve with a love for God and people. if we do not love people when we serve, then how we can love God as we serve?

Once our faith is built on a firm foundation, we do not automatically receive an easy life without troubles. James warns us in James 1:3 that we will have trials and troubles. It is how we respond to those trials and troubles. He does not write that we need to be happy about them, but to have joy, which is to be content where we are in life. We all have strife. Many of us do not share worldwide our strife, which is why we need to be kind on social media of how we treat people, as we do not know the strife of which others endure. How we treat others reveals if our faith is built on sand or on rock.

If we have a faith built on a firm foundation with Christ being at the core, then we treat other people with the love of Jesus and as we love ourselves. We eliminate criticizing and belittling because our faith is so strong, that we do not need to tear down other buildings but bring support that the others can rebuild on rock instead of sand. Empowering others creates a strong foundation that is built on Christ because we know that we have a faith in Christ that empowers us, so we want others to have that same power.

We need to have a firm foundation in our spiritual lives. We need to discover where our foundation is. If we have built our foundation on ideologies, we need to return to God’s Word and align our faith with God. If we built our foundation on people, we need to realign our faith with Christ. If we have built our faith on overpowering and controlling other people’s faith, we need to shift our power to empowering others to have a love for Jesus and to encourage them that Jesus loves them.

Our world is struggling as it reopens. We all have struggles and troubles in our life. We need to have our spiritual lives built on a firm foundation. It will result with the rest of our body, with our physical, mental, and emotional health also having firm foundations. Our strong faith will affect people around us. As we pray for those who are affected with the loss of loved ones in Miami, may we also pray for our own spiritual foundations to be solid so we can create a stronger world around us.