Archive for September, 2009

Loving to be Happy

September 22, 2009

If you want to be happy, indeed if you really want to live life to the fullest, you have to love, love, love.  Dr. Smiley Blanton once said “Love or perish”.  We have to love God, love our neighbors, and love ourselves.  Everyone is familiar with the saying of Jesus that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.  What people aren’t familiar with are the last words of this quote.  The last words are “do this and you will live.”   If we love God, we will grow closer to Him.  As we do that, we begin to realize how much He loves us.  That gives us the confidence and esteem to be able to love ourselves.  As we provide for our legitimate needs, we fill our internal well to be able to give love to others.  All this love coming around through God, us and others and around again is the source of life.  This love is like water to a thirsty plant, like rain to the desert, like sunshine in a dark and dreary place.  Just as we would say our well watered plants are “growing happily”, our well watered souls are growing happily too.  And we are living, really living.

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What Socialism Does to Hospitals

September 22, 2009

In all the healthcare debates, my prayer is that whatever we end up with, we will have something that glorifies God in our treatment of His children.  All humans need to be treated with respect as God’s much loved children.  They need kindness, dignity, compassion, and to be served with excellence.  In America I have volunteered and worked in several nonprofit hospitals.  Most of them were faith based organizations.  I saw a lot of people get first rate, compassionate care, and I know they never paid a cent for their care.  Thats how non-profit hospitals work.  They charge for the care they provide, but at the end of the day those who have no insurance or inadequate insurance end up paying according to what they can afford.  Many times that is nothing.  The hospitals write off the difference as part of their non-profit status.  What keeps them in business is the full pay patients who either have “good” insurance or pay a portion of their bills themselves because they can afford to do so.  What is likely to happen if we have a single payer system like England had for years, is these hospitals will be driven out of business and taken over by the government.  If they are government run, everything will be done with cost savings in mind.  And thats what is wrong with socialized healthcare, such as I lived with for years.  The care given is the minimum mandated by the national government.  The care is not based on values of love, compassion, kindness, dignity and respect, but on budgets and mandates. 

In this country some non-profit healthcare institutions rely on large donations for some of their revenue.   In a socialized system, the high, high taxes leave much less left over for donation.  After having more than half one’s income paid out in taxes, people tend to be in a less generous mood, even if they can still afford some additional generosity.  And lastly, since things are run by a government bureaucracy, its all about the good of the masses, not the good of the individual.  Read about the debates in England right now.  Doctors are being encouraged to consider first the good of society over the good of their patients.

Whereas some insurance companies treat people like statistics, at least the hospitals have maintained the ability to be more personal.  A good bit of that is lost if the hospital is a government hospital.  There is always a lot more mandate than money, and the stresses on the hospital show in the treatment of patients.  So, whatever the United States decides it wants to do, my prayer is the outcome will be something pleasing to our Heavenly Father, who is so concerned for persons, He knows the number of hairs on our heads and every tear we shed.  May we as a society be compassionate and kind, not a further coarsened culture.

Mercy Ships

September 22, 2009

She was a young nurse just back from serving on board the Africa Mercy in Benin, West Africa.  She had left her job and home in the UK to travel to Africa earlier this year, and spent several weeks as a pediatric nurse on the ship.  She paid her own way to Africa, and paid crew fees (room and board) while serving.  What was her reward?  She saw young children with cleft lips and palates, children who are ostracized in their community, receive a new start in life.  She saw people with huge facial tumors receive the plastic surgery that would not only save them from a death by suffocation or starvation, but give them a new face and a new lease on life.  She saw those blinded by cataracts, either acquired or present from birth, receive sight.  Although she worked harder than ever before, and lived in crowded accommodations offering little privacy, she was so moved by what had happened during her tour of service, she is going back.  When I met her, she was taking further training and planning on serving an additional two years beginning with an outreach to Togo next year.  To see some remarkable pictures and read further stories, visit www.mercyships.org

What Do I Want

September 21, 2009

When it comes to the world of work, I think our default setting is “What do I want?”  We ask children from a young age what they want to be when they grow up.  However, while what we like and what we are good at are similar most times, questionnaires and tests to find out what we like may be asking the wrong question when we are trying to find out our vocation or calling.  It is indeed useful to know our talents and gifts, but the next question ought to be, what kinds of things are God and his people doing around me.  When I see a field of work or organization or ministry that grabs my passion, then I need to ask what is my fit in that place.  What can I do to advance the work of this entity with the gifts and skill sets I possess.  We ought to be asking, “where can I be the best I can possibly be for God?”.  We love God and the more we love Him, the less we want to give him mediocrity.  Asking how to give Him the very best development of everything He has given me, is a different question than “What do I Want?”  Its a God-centered and God’s work centered question rather than a “me” centered question.

Casting Our Pearls

September 21, 2009

Jesus told us not to cast our pearls before swine or they would only turn and trample us.  I have often wondered what that could possibly mean.  In younger days, I would spend a great deal of time involved in trying to answer the questions of unbelievers.  A few people were helped by my answers, but most were hostile to my answers, and I found that puzzling.  Now I think I understand the statement about pearls. 

When I throw something precious to people who don’t want what I offer, I get a hostile response.  Just as a pig isn’t interested in pearls when its looking for food, a person hostile to Jesus doesn’t really want a reasonable answer to a question, they want me to be unable to answer, which in their mind justifies their unbelief.  If I spend time on such a person, I’m wasting time better spent on a sincere questioner.  If I spend energy on such a person, their hostility is an energy sapper, doubly leaching me of energy better spend on someone who is a sincere seeker.

A Christian writer once said we should concentrate our efforts at those nearest the “narrow gate” Jesus talked about.  These people have followed God’s guiding all the way to the way into the entrance, and they just want someone to help them with the gate.  Ministry among such willing seekers would be very successful and satisfying, and probably a source of further energy for more ministry.  However, I think its not necessary to stay only with those nearest the gate.  Someone could be still very far off, yet sincerely seeking help to find their way to Jesus.  I think its important to discern which way they are facing.  Are they facing Jesus and the gate into the kingdom, or are they turned away?  Those facing the right direction, even if still afar, are moving toward Jesus and can benefit from our help.  Those facing away from Jesus have turned away because of heart issues that have nothing to do with being shown or taught anything.  Its prayer they need, for only God can soften a hardened heart toward him.  That is beyond our capability.

Is Happiness a Choice?

September 13, 2009

I will admit I haven’t read the book titled Happiness is a Choice.  If I read it, I might find I agree with everything in it.  However, generally speaking, I don’t believe we can just choose to be happy and have it happen.  I don’t even think we can succeed in our constitutionally protected “Pursuit of happiness”.  I think directly pursuing happiness has an illusory quality like trying to find the end of the rainbow.  I think happiness is, instead, a byproduct of some other choices we make in life.  And what are they?

First, I think we have to settle an issue with our creator.  We are at odds with Him.  We may be in a struggle as to whether we even believe in our creator.  Secondly, we may be in that struggle because we don’t want to believe in our creator.  It may force us to give up the illusion that we are our own god in charge of our own affairs.  Think of the poem “I am the captain of my ship” and the song “I did it my way”.  Those thoughts are illusions.  We have no more control over tomorrow than we have over the wind, but our illusion of control is cherished like nicotine to a smoker.  If we wrestle the creator issue to the ground and have to admit He wins, then we have yet another struggle.  We owe our creator big time.  We wouldn’t be here enjoying this gift of life without the goodness of the giver.  We owe Him a big apology for the arrogant way we have treated Him.  Once we get that over with, we need to get to know Him.  What we invariably find in our growing relationship with Him is a sense of His love for us.  That will grow, and out of that sense of being loved will come a first taste of the byproduct of our choice: happiness.  The happiness will grow further as a result of a second choice.  The more we get to know this love and this Lover, the more the love builds up in us.  Love must be answered.  The only gift we can give God is worship, but we humans like something more physical and earthly in our gift giving.  Since there is no way we can touch God, and nothing He needs or wants, how can we show that tangible love?  He told us.  He said “Whatever you do for one of these children of mine, I consider it as done to me.”  So our second choice is to love those around us.  As Jesus friend John said in his epistle:  “If you can’t love your neighbor whom you can see, how can you love God whom you can’t see?”  Pretty down to earth man, that John.   I would challenge anyone to spend just a week trying to give love to those around you and see if happiness doesn’t just overtake you without your having to pursue it at all.   Have fun thanking God and loving others.  You are going to have a wonderful life.

What Love is Really About

September 13, 2009

Our pastor once told a story in a sermon I’ve now forgotten.  Although I forgot his point, I never forgot the story, and now it brings out some points to me.

It seems there was once a mother taking two very deformed children through the waiting room of a doctor’s office.  When she got them outside and closed the door, one of the waiting patients remarked to the receptionist “What kind of a god would do such a horrible thing twice to the same family.”  The receptionist replied, “You know, those children are adopted.”

What the story says to me is: This mother saw the children’s souls rather than their damaged bodies.  This mother saw the children’s potential.  This mothers love says more about her character than it says about the children.

This mother also reminds me of God.  His children are all deformed and damaged.  We aren’t anything like the people He originally envisioned.  But He loves us and has wonderful plans for our lives.  And His love says more about His character than it says about us.

Idolatry and Religion

September 13, 2009

Every form of idolatry is alike in that we the religious decide what our religion is going to require of us.  We like to be in control.  We like to make rules that we don’t mind keeping.  We want to be king of ourselves with no guilt.  I believe this thinking better explains why there are so many religions than any other theory I’ve heard.

Hidden Taxes

September 13, 2009

I looked at my phone bill last week and wondered why it gets higher and higher as the months go by.  I scrutinized it further and found the actual service charge hadn’t increased, but the taxes on it had increased.  I added up all the different tax assessments added on top of the service charge.  I was amazed at the total.  Then I figured the percent of these taxes to the original charge and I am paying a whopping 17.85% tax on my phone bill!  Now I’m just a little granny, living in a condo, driving a 10 year old car.  I thought my taxes weren’t supposed to be going up.  Truth is, every time a business tax goes up, I the consumer pay the tax through the increased prices.  What would really be fun is to see what the taxes are for various bills I pay.  How much of my gasoline bill is taxes paid by the oil company.  How much of my electric bill is taxes the utilities have to pay.  How much of my grocery bill is taxes paid by the farmer, the trucking company, and the grocery chain.  And now that I know I’m paying more taxes than I ever realized, where is that money going?  Businesses are subject to audits by the IRS.  Charities are subject to audits by the IRS.  We the people are subject to audits by the IRS.  Why isn’t the government subject to an audit by some agency outside the government?  Thats one of the reforms I would like to see.