Maria Yeager

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“Love One Another as I Have Loved You”

Wow, it has been a while since I posted on this blog! I have been working hard on my next book, Estill County, which hopefully will be done some time this year. But I have also been deep in thought about my Christian beliefs. This has been a time of deep introspection as I have struggled with what is going on in the world today. Today, I would like to pretty much “bare my soul” and explain my thoughts over the past few months.

I was raised as a Catholic and attended a Catholic grade school. During my younger years and in my twenties, my Christian beliefs were pretty much black and white – follow all the commandments, all abortion is wrong, etc. etc. No gray area whatsoever. Since that time, I married and divorced (due to an affair on his side) someone who was Baptist, and we were married in a Presbyterian church. During my marriage, we attended Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and even non-denominational churches. I’m glad I had these experiences as I learned how people praise God in different ways. I still loved my Catholic faith, but I found myself becoming more open-minded about other faiths.

During those years, most of my encounters regarding religious differences were fairly positive, but I did run into a few problems. First of all, when I asked a priest to be a part of our wedding ceremony, I was met with a stern “no” because we were not getting married in a Catholic church. He went on to lecture me about my “weak” Catholic faith. Another example involves a guy that I dated long ago. His Catholic mother said that  her son was not going to heaven because he was engaged to a Baptist girl.

On the other hand, I have met many people who have actually said that Catholics are going to hell. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that Catholics worship Mary. I went to a Catholic school, and I was never taught to worship Mary – only to ask her to pray for me. I also am very hurt and irritated when others claim that Catholic teachings are not biblically based.

Right after college, I joined a Right to Life movement. At that point in my life, I would have gladly taken part in a protest outside of an abortion clinic. I remember getting all kinds of newsletters from them explaining how they were fighting against abortion. I specifically remember how this group would get involved in “protecting the life of the baby” when a mother’s life was in danger or if the fetus had a known defect. I didn’t think too much about that at the time.

I went to work in a genetics lab (my degree is in Microbiology). After several years of work, my views on abortion started to gray a bit. I performed prenatal testing, and I saw many really sad cases during those years. One genetic defect was particularly disturbing – a disorder called anencephaly. A fetus with this disorder has malformed brain development. Sometimes the entire skull is opened with very little to no brain development. At one point, my boss asked me if I would like to watch a fetal autopsy on a fetus with this disorder (the woman had miscarried). I said “yes” because I wanted to see what I was testing for in the lab. I was shocked when I saw the fetus. The brain was completely opened up. The baby almost looked like an alien – there was no forehead. The top of the head was just above the eyebrows. Anyone without a strong stomach couldn’t have handled that sight, but I could for some reason. Don’t get me wrong – it affected me in a way that words can’t describe, and I felt so horrible for the parents. But I am a scientist, and I believe that God gave me the ability to do this work to help others – just like some people can handle the sight of blood while others can’t. After witnessing several of these autopsies on fetuses that women had miscarried, it suddenly dawned on me the emotional toll that this sort of thing would take on the family. This was a child that was wanted desperately, but something went terribly wrong – something that was completely out of their control.

As I continued my work in genetics, I learned about several other genetic abnormalities – specifically trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. I learned that most of the time, after these children are born and if they survived, they would probably never leave the hospital and would most likely die within the first year of life. Their lives would most likely be spent in agony while they were hooked up to multiple machines. I hated when I analyzed a case and found it was trisomy 13 or 18. HATED it!! I knew what the parents were about to face. I knew it was going to be awful for them, and I wondered if their marriage would be able to survive such an ordeal. One day, when I analyzed one of these cases, I left at lunch, went to McDonalds, ordered carryout, sat in my car, and cried and prayed. Here is basically what I said to God:

God, I don’t know why this happens. I’m just a human, and you are the all-knowing God. I don’t understand it, but I know there is a reason. God, these parents are about to go through hell. You have said, “Do not judge lest ye be judged.” Therefore, I will not judge these parents if they decide to terminate. This decision is between you, them, and their doctor. I can’t judge something like this. I certainly don’t want to be judged with the same stringency as the Right to Life group uses in situations like this. So, all I will do is pray for them. I pray that they will somehow come out of this stronger, and I ask you to comfort them in this horrible time.

Not long after this, I quit the Right to Life group. I am against abortion overall – as a form of birth control, partial birth abortion, or in cases where there is an abnormality but the child can survive and live a productive life (Down syndrome, spina bifida, etc). However, I know from my experience in the lab that there are horrible cases where there is pretty much no chance of survival or limited survival where the child suffers terribly. For me, I choose to stay out of those situations. This also goes for cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Instead, I just pray for them – for comfort, for healing, and for the love of God to surround them.

This is just one example of when gray areas began to interject into my beliefs. But things really got tough – a deep introspection – since Trump took office.

I have always been Republican. I have voted Republican in every presidential race until this last one. I have voted Republican probably 98% of the time in all other elections. The abortion issue was a major reason. But what I have seen over the last few months has really bothered me, and after much thought, I have now become an Independent.

As you all know, there has been a lot of mean and vicious banter regarding this past presidential election from both Republicans and Democrats. However, a large portion of the Republican base are the evangelical Christians. Although I do agree with a lot of the Republican views on major issues, I became disheartened by the enormous number of mean memes and Facebook posts from some Republicans who have portrayed themselves to be good Christians. The posts were not at all Christian, and I honestly viewed them as highly hypocritical. This really bothered me. I also noticed that churches were promoting Trump based solely on his anti-abortion stance even though disturbing news came out about his behavior, especially the remarks about women while on the bus. I expected these evangelical Christians to stand up and denounce his behavior, and some did. But a lot didn’t as apparently they focused solely on the anti-abortion issue. This disturbed me even more, and hypocrisy was becoming increasingly clear to me. I hated this and struggled with it since that time. I believed in a lot of the Republican views but I didn’t want to seem like a hypocrite. I did not like Trump either and didn’t approve of his behavior.

During all of this, I prayed…a lot…and asked God for direction. I felt an uneasiness in my soul. I was confused.

Each time I prayed, I kept going back to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Several times, I opened the Bible to this exact passage. At first, this made me think about the abortion issue. If we stand outside of an abortion clinic and tell someone who they are going to hell if they abort the baby, how do we know the details of that pregnancy? We don’t know if that baby has anencephaly. Maybe those parents are having to make an incredibly difficult decision and really wanted the baby. We are judging a person without knowing the details. Do we want for God to judge us with the same stringency? I sure wouldn’t. I think God is telling us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We need to love those people, not judge them. They need comfort, not judgement. It is not up to us to judge others, and Jesus himself told us that. If we judge someone else, we are playing God. This thinking can also be applied to everyone who says that someone is going to hell if they don’t belong to a certain religion as my example above shows.

On Easter Sunday, I went to mass with my mom. We arrived quite early (because we knew the church would be packed). As we waited, I continued to pray and think about the behavior I had seen this year when I looked up at the front of the church, and once again, I saw “Love One Another as I Have Loved You” on the stained glass window. I thought about how all life is sacred. I thought about how disturbed I was that funding to the NIH was going to be cut which would affect all those who were sick – cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes – the list goes on and on. If funding is cut, those people would suffer. How is it that those that are pro-life only consider the life of a fetus but seem to forget about all the other people in the world that would be hurt by cutting funding to the NIH? and the EPA? Millions of people would be hurt, but that isn’t a consideration for those who are strongly pro-life? Why? Why can’t they see this? Again, I looked at the stained glass window.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You.

I believe God expects us to love everyone, not just the unborn. All life is sacred. All life.

A few days later, I went to a physical therapy session. Several of us watched the television as we saw that the “mother of all bombs” was dropped in Syria. While we were talking, a woman turned to me and said “All life is sacred.” She was right, and it confirmed for me that we have to look at how things affect everyone. Focusing purely on the unborn may ultimately harm those who are already here. Don’t get me wrong – the abortion issue is important…extremely important…but by focusing on that and only that, is not a good thing to do. We have to remember that all life is sacred.

Hypocrisy – I have seen so much of it in the last several months and am getting so sick of it. So-called “good Christians” that don’t practice what they preach. I am stunned that after all the things Trump has done, he still has die-hard followers. I have even seen recently how some people still consider him a good Christian even after all the lies (numerous), bad behavior (bus, making fun of disabled reporter), not keeping his word (numerous), pointing his finger at other while doing exactly the same thing (golfing!!), etc. Why, after all that, do people still call him a good Christian? Can’t they see the hypocrisy? Again, maybe they are focusing just on the anti-abortion issue only. I don’t know. I don’t get it. It bothers me so much to see all the hypocrisy yet people still say he’s a good Christian. Jesus speaks of hypocrisy all throughout the gospels. Are these people just turning a blind eye to that?

“The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others…They have the place of honor at banquets…” Matthew 23:4-6

I urge you to read all of Matthew 23 as he directly deals with hypocrisy…“Woe to you Pharisees, hypocrites…

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I thought some more about these issues. And it suddenly came to me…in the dead silence in the middle of the night. Something quite disturbing. I have talked to many people over my lifetime who have left the church because they have witnessed hypocritical behavior. Some of these people have gone on to become atheists. Hypocritical behavior in Christians is extremely damaging to the church. We have to remember that Satan is very devious and sly. Could he be using the hypocritical behavior of these so-called Christians to his advantage? I believe so. Then I remembered what Jesus said:

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes.” Matthew 18:6

Is hypocrisy a stumbling block? Is this hypocritical behavior by some so-called good Christians a stumbling block to those who are wanting to know Jesus? That’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? This morning, in preparation to write this blog, I read a devotional in my Bible. The following excerpt came from St. Catherine of Sienna, a mystic who conversed with God. Again, she talks about her conversation with God regarding loving your neighbor as yourself. This is what God said to her as recorded in her book, The Dialogue:

“It is your duty to love your neighbor as yourself…In love you ought to help them spiritually with prayer and counsel…If you do not love me, you do  not love your neighbors, nor will you help those you do not love. But it is yourself you harm the most, because you deprive yourself of grace. And you harm your neighbors by depriving them of the prayer and loving desires you should be offering to me on their behalf. Every help you give them ought to come from the affection you bear them for love of me…This lack of charity for me and for your neighbors is the source of all evils, for if you are not doing good you are necessarily doing evil…You harm your neighbors by not giving them the pleasure of the love and charity you owe them, the love with which you ought to be helping them by offering me your prayer and holy desire on their behalf.”

In conclusion, I have seen a lack of compassion and a need to judge others from the evangelical Christians during this presidential election and during his first days in office. In addition, I have seen incredible hypocrisy. I would like to suggest that we move away from judgement and condemnation and move more toward a spirit of compassion and empathy for our neighbor. Pray for those around you without judging. After all, we are not the judge. We do not know the details of their situation.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You.

 

 

 

 

The Red Cardinal – Love From Heaven

Since the beginning of the year, it seems like I have been bombarded with quotes and pictures about red cardinals.

The first quote I saw was in January on my Facebook page. This quote, by Victoria McGovern, gave me great comfort:

“May you come to find comfort in and remember cardinals appear when angels are near. So go now, sit outside and drink your tea. Keep a look out for the little red bird – it is there, your loved one will be.”

This quote was accompanied by a picture of a beautiful male red cardinal in the snow. I immediately thought of my dad since he passed away in 2014, but I doubted that I would see any red cardinal since it was the middle of winter. At my home, I usually see finches or sparrows, but only in the spring/summer. It was a nice, fleeting thought, but I didn’t think much more about it.

About a week later, a friend of mine who is also an excellent writer and photographer posted a picture that he had taken that day. It was snowing, and two red cardinals, one male and one female, sat in the branches of a tree outside his window. I was stunned! I knew that this was a sign that angels were near. Again, I thought about my dad, and I told my mom what had happened which gave her great comfort.

A few weeks later, another post came across my Facebook page. Again, it was a picture of a male red cardinal. The quote read as follows:

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, loves leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Once again, I thought about my dad and how no one can take away the memories I have of him. I remembered how he sat me on his lap and let me act like I was driving the car. I remembered how me held on to the back of my bicycle as I learned to ride while promising to not let go of the bike (even though he eventually did). I remembered how he taught me to calculate complex math problems for my school homework. I remembered how he wrestled with me and my brother and sister on the living room floor and had us laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. I thought about how none of these memories could ever be taken from me. I smiled.

A few days later, as I worked in my office, I looked up at my bookcase as I took a small break. My eyes immediately were drawn to a book that I had read last year – “The Gift of the Red Bird” by Paula D’Arcy. I thought about the red cardinal once again, and joy filled my heart.

Just about three weeks ago, I saw yet another post on my Facebook page. Again, it was a male red cardinal in the snow, and the quote was as follows:

“When a red cardinal appears in your yard, it’s a visitor from heaven.”

Well, I don’t have a “yard” since I live in a townhouse. But, my mom has a nice big yard, and she loves to watch the birds in her backyard. She has a bird feeder that she keeps filled all the time, and the birds come often…that is if the squirrels don’t get to the feeder first. I called her and told her what I had just seen on Facebook and told her to keep an eye out for red cardinals in her yard.

A couple of days later, I again was surprised when I saw that another one of my good friends posted a picture that she had taken of a red cardinal in some tree branches. I didn’t have a yard, but that red cardinal somehow still managed to show up. Again, I smiled and thought of my dad.

That same day, I called my mom, and her first words were “You aren’t going to believe this!” As she sat on her deck that morning, she thought to herself, “I wonder if I will see a red cardinal today.” Not long after that, a female cardinal showed up in some bushes followed by a beautiful male red cardinal. She just couldn’t believe it, but she was so comforted. I was just shocked!

About two weeks ago, I went to visit my mom, and I stayed overnight. While we ate breakfast, we talked and looked outside through the bay window in her kitchen. Suddenly, a male and female red cardinal appeared near her bird feeder. It was probably the same pair that she saw just days earlier. The first thing that I noticed is that the male was such a bright red color and was absolutely gorgeous – probably the brightest red cardinal I had ever seen. We were both quite sure they were visitors from heaven – angels that had come to tell us that we were loved.

My mom’s birthday was March 1. On that morning, as she prepared her breakfast, she looked out the window only to see that gorgeous male red cardinal. But this time, he was sitting in the crape myrtle tree next to the house. This was my dad’s favorite tree. The cardinal looked directly at her and didn’t fly away. He just sat in the branches of my dad’s favorite tree and stared at her. It was a moment that she will never forget and is one of the best birthday gifts she has ever received. This was most certainly my dad sending his love from heaven.

Always be on the lookout for these “angels” from heaven. Love is being sent our way all the time, sometimes through the most simple and innocent of ways – we just have to slow down and look for it!

 

Hate, Hypocrisy, and True Christianity

Well,  I really don’t want to be involved in politics in any way. However, since the ugly behavior after this historic election has dipped into my religious beliefs (will explain in this blog), and I do like to blog on Christianity, I decided after thoughtful prayer that I must address the hate seen in America today. It affects Christianity because a lot of people who call themselves “Christian” are not acting in a Christian manner. This behavior may instill negative views about Christians, so I feel a need to clarify a few things, even going so far as to call out some of my fellow “Christians”. It’s a bit lengthy but worth the read in my opinion 🙂

Hypocrisy. Jesus warns us over and over again about hypocrisy throughout the gospels:

“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to give it water?” Luke 13:15

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.” Matthew 6:2

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25

These are just a few.

So how does this relate to the election? Well, both sides are so quick to throw insults at the other side,but each candidate has their own long list of issues. I recently saw a meme of a woman crying, and it said “I argued with conservatives, they used facts”. Well, I will now present many facts showing that neither side should be throwing insults at anyone.

Let me start by saying that I did not support either Clinton or Trump during this election. I saw serious problems with both candidates. What bothers me most and the reason I decided to write this blog is that the amount of the hypocrisy and hate that is out there. And it is coming from both sides!

Let’s start with a little background on Hillary. Here is a list of issues that have concerned voters:

  • Clinton Foundation issues – the pay-to-play scheme between Hillary and the Clinton Foundation has led to serious issues and concerns. There is a strong possibility of an indictment. Although Mrs. Clinton signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that she would not accept money from foreign governments during her years as Secretary of State, the Foundation did accept several million from seven different foreign governments. According to CNN, some e-mails between top Clinton aides were suspicious and added that these e-mails “raise questions about the Clinton Foundation’s influence on the State Department and its relations during her tenure…” In October, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI was collecting information about the Clinton Foundation to determine if there was any evidence of financial crimes.¹
  • Whitewater scandal – tax evasion and fraud were found. Vince Foster, the primary legal council for the case, committed suicide which cast a very dark cloud over the Clintons and their involvement.
  • E-mail scandal – Hillary’s use of a private e-mail server during her years as Secretary of State has led to a very prolonged investigation. Although she has been cleared as of now, questions still remain.
  • Leaked e-mails show that there may have been some behind-the-scenes attempts to get Bernie Sanders out of the picture during the election process.
  • Hillary told the story of how she was under sniper fire when she landed in Bosnia; however, the video of her exiting the plane clearly shows this not to be true.
  • The Benghazi scandal – this was a very clear a and definite failure on the part of the State Department. She lied about the cause saying it was a result of an anti-Islam video. She was also able to skirt around taking responsibility for the loss of four lives during the attack.
  • Bill Clinton’s sexual history – Juanita Broaddick accused Mr. Clinton of raping her in the late 1970s. She denied the rape for many years but recently accused him again. Paula Jones filed a lawsuit against him in 1994 in which she claims he exposed himself to her. During the deposition, Clinton denied having an affair with Monica Lewinsky which we all know now was a lie. The lawsuit ended with an out-of-court settlement. Kathleen Wiley claimed that Clinton had groped her, but her testimony was thrown out because it was determined that she had lied repeatedly.²

Now, here are the issues surrounding Trump:

  • Trump Foundation issues – The Foundation gave $25,000 to the Florida Attorney General’s office (Pam Bondi) while she was reviewing fraud allegations against Trump University. Her office didn’t bring any charges against the Trump Foundation, and there is some concern that this may have been bribery. The Foundation used some of its money to settle legal disputes with Trump’s for-profit businesses, and some of the money may have also been used for political purposes during his presidential campaign. In October, they were ordered to cease fundraising for the Foundation because they were violating state law by soliciting donations without prior authorization.³
  • Trump has used bankruptcy laws to get out of paying debt, leaving his workers to foot the bill. He also refuses to release his tax returns.
  • Trump University – now defunct, the state of New York has filed a $40 million lawsuit stating that false claims were made and that the University defrauded people. Trump was found personally liable for failing to obtain a business license.
  • Trump has been married three times and has had multiple affairs.
  • Trump’s sexual issues – First of all, Trump himself admitted on a 2005 Howard Stern show that he entered the dressing rooms of beauty pageant contestants while they were undressing. Second – the October 2016 release of the audio clip from Access Hollywood caused a huge uproar when he made multiple inappropriate comments, particularly “grab them by the p***y”. Third, multiple women have accused him of sexual harrassment. Jill Harth filed a lawsuit in 1997 saying that Trump attempted to put his hands between her legs in 1992. She also states that he pushed her against the wall and tried to kiss her. The case was settled out of court. Jessica Leeds claimed that while on a flight (1980s), Trump attempted to put his hand up her skirt and grabbed her breast. In the 1990s, Kristen Anderson claimed he groped her at a Manhattan night club. And there are quite a few more.(4)

OK, so now that we have the background, let’s look at some of the mean, hateful things that are being posted around the internet. First we’ll do the anti-Hillary stuff:

  • I’ve seen quite a few people refer to Hillary as narcissistic.
    •  REALLY?? Trump is the definition of narcissism. Clear hypocrisy.
  • Someone was happy that a person was shot at the Azusa polling station in California, saying “At least they are killing CA liberals”.
    • This one speaks for itself, but I will say it anyway – look in the mirror. Look at your own candidate!
  • I can’t even count the number of times Hillary has been called “crooked”.
    • I can agree as we all know she is corrupt, but look above at what Trump has done.
    • “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
    • “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged…” Matthew 7:1. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be judged by those measures. If you decide to judge either candidate, be my guest. I would be careful, though, especially when both candidates have such a long history of issues….
  • There’s a meme which says “Hi, I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC. Why don’t you take a seat?” There is a picture with Hillary walking in the room.
    • We could EASILY put Trump’s picture in place of Hillary’s picture. Clear hypocrisy.
  • Another meme – Picture of Hillary and it says “This loser will never be president. Get over it losers.”
    • Let’s remember this Bible verse: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
  • Picture of Hillary with the caption, “Satan, why have you forsaken me?”
    • Again, look at the list of issues above regarding Donald Trump.
    • Again,“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
  • Another meme – “Pro-God, Pro-Country, Pro-Life, Proud to be Pro-Trump, 2016”.
    • Pro-God? Jesus preaches kindness and compassion. Where is Trump’s compassion when he makes fun of a disabled person? Where is his kindness when he calls people “weak” or “a disaster” when they don’t agree with him (which, BTW, is also extremely narcissistic)?

Now for the anti-Trump comments:

  • I saw a sweatshirt with the following statement: “Trump sucks. If you like Trump, you suck too.”
    • REALLY?? Look at Hillary’s list of issues above.
  • Many make fun of his hair and the orange-colored makeup on his face.
    • All I can say is let’s remain focused on the issues. This is nit-picking and not necessary.
  • There is a Wizard of Oz meme saying that Trump “doesn’t have a brain”.
    • Again, not necessary. We need to stick to the issues.
  • I saw a news report where a Chicago man was beaten and his car was stolen, all because he voted for Trump.
    • Awful!!! We as Americans have the right to vote as we wish without the threat of violence.
  • There are some people who are carrying around “Kill Trump” signs during the protests.
    • Any threat of violence is unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
  • I know of someone who was called “racist” for voting for Trump.
    • Putting everyone in one big category is just wrong. Yes, there are racists out there, but just because someone voted for Trump doesn’t mean he/she is automatically a racist. Some that voted for him did so because of the Supreme Court as they want more conservative judges to occupy those positions. They are not hateful, racist bigots.
  • I read that the CEO of GrubHub told his employees that if they supported Trump, they need to resign.
    • This again is unacceptable and just plain wrong. We live in a democracy, and we all have the right to vote as we wish.

Now, to finish out this blog, I want to address how religion ties into all of this.

Neither Clinton nor Trump supporters really have any right to throw insults at the other candidate. Each candidate has baggage, and to finger-point is completely and totally hypocritical on both sides.

I know that some people were told to vote for Trump in order to get conservative judges in the Supreme Court. I do understand this reasoning as I struggled with it as well. It was a very real concern, and that is one reason why I am happy that Trump is now president. But that’s the only reason.

Franklin Graham recently made this statement: “I believe God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic, progressive agenda from taking control.” This statement does not make sense nor does it support Christianity. Donald Trump is an adulterer, a self-proclaimed greedy man, and someone who has left the small businessman out in the cold by filing bankruptcy even though he has billions. Take a look again at the list above. Does this man really sound like the type of person Jesus calls us to be?? Of course not. Franklin, I would re-think that comment. Wayne Grudem called Trump a “flawed candidate”, but thankfully he stated that he regretted that comment and he changed his opinion, asking for Trump to drop out of the race prior to the election. Sin is sin, and immorality is immorality. You cannot call someone a sinner and then turn around and call someone else “flawed”. Again, that is hypocrisy.

Politifact states that Trump’s statements are verifiably false 76% of the time (DallasNews.com), so we can safely say that Trump lies. Whatever happened to “Thou shalt not lie?” For all those who praised God for the election of Donald Trump, did you conveniently forget all the sins this man has committed? Yes, I do believe in forgiveness, but this man hasn’t repented as far as I can tell. He needs to truly apologize, especially to women (not saying it’s just locker room talk) and to the disabled. According to what is written in the Bible (and that’s all I can go on), I would venture to say that God isn’t happy with either of the candidates. I would bet He isn’t happy with America. Why?? Because none of us can get out of our own way to actually see the truth, and the truth is that we are all hypocrites.

Jesus taught us to be kind. He gave us the Ten Commandments which He expects us to follow. He expects us to love one another. To love our neighbors as ourselves. Christianity is centered around kindness, mercy, forgiveness, empathy, love, and faith. So-called “Christians” who can do nothing more than send out a constant stream of hateful posts, messages, videos, etc. are not practicing true Christianity. I don’t want those who are not Christian to look at us and think “what hypocrites!” Many do, and it’s the result of this kind of behavior. I want these non-Christians to know that true Christianity does not condone this kind of behavior. Jesus NEVER taught us that violence, distasteful comments, hateful memes, gloating over an election win, lying, adultery, etc. was alright. It is NEVER alright. We are to love each other just as God loves us and we are to follow His commands. I am ashamed at the behavior of some of the American citizens right now, especially those who say they are Christian but don’t act it. I think it’s time for people to stand back, look at all the facts, think about what they have done and then re-evaluate their behavior. We need to act like true Christians, not hateful hypocrites.

 

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright ©1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton_Foundation%E2%80%93State_Department_controversy

²https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton_sexual_misconduct_allegations

³https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_J._Trump_Foundation

(4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump_sexual_misconduct_allegations

 

 

 

 

Walking the Labyrinth

Several months ago, my aunt recommended that I read three books by the author Paula D’Arcy that had really impacted her. The Gift of the Red Bird: Story of a Divine Encounter really spoke to me as I recently had what I believed was a divine encounter with some finches (see my previous blog). She described how she was able to feel closer to God by being alone in nature, and this made me think. How could I feel closer to God while living in the city? Where could I go?

I remembered a special place that my friend Sharon had taken me several years ago…a Benedictine monastery. It was so peaceful there, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for meditation and prayer in this busy area. At this particular monastery, there was a labyrinth. Sharon told me a little bit about the background of a labyrinth as I knew nothing about it. Basically, it is a place to go to spend some quiet time with God away from all the hustle and bustle of the day and to get clarity for any problems through prayer and meditation.

A labyrinth is a type of maze that only has a single track, so you can’t get lost in it. It has been around for thousands of years and is present in many churches around the world. The belief is that if you walk the labyrinth, you will go through three stages:

1. Purgation – you are released from all the worries of the world while walking through the winding paths

2. Illumination – a divine revelation as a result of meditation and prayer. This occurs at the center

3. Union – reflection on what you have learned as you make your way out of the labyrinth.

Well, I thought about the labyrinth while reading Paula’s book, but I didn’t go immediately as life got in the way. I was so busy writing and working on my house that I just couldn’t find the time. Then, one night, I started to read the next book by Paula D’Arcy – Seeking With All My Heart: Encountering God’s Presence Today. Amazingly, early in the book she had an entire chapter on the labyrinth! I knew at that moment that I had to make the time to visit the Benedictine Monastery.

Several days ago, I finally went and spent quite a bit of time by myself in that quiet place. No one else was around. There were many things on my mind at the time, but mostly I thought about how my life had changed since my divorce. Five years ago, I had this life of lab work, dance, and a twenty-year marriage. Now, all of that had been taken from me. Why did that happen? I had been plagued by that thought over the years.

As I started to walk the labyrinth, the first thing that I noticed was that my mind quieted. I felt God telling me to be quiet and just listen. Just listen to the birds and crickets. Just feel the slight breeze blowing on my face. Just be still and listen.

As I walked, I began to think about how the labyrinth mirrors life. We walk straight ahead in one direction, and then suddenly we are forced to turn in the opposite direction, just like what happened to me five years ago. Do the curves in the labyrinth represent our difficult/challenging times? Was this God telling me that sometimes the path we walked previously is no longer to our benefit? Is there something on that path that could hurt us, so He is taking us in a different direction?

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

As I continued to walk, I noticed that some of the bends in the labyrinth were hard to maneuver without falling a little off the path. I noticed that my momentum brought me one direction while the path directed me another way. This made me think about easy it is to lose our way in difficult times. It is easy to get discouraged, depressed, or fall into a sinful life when challenges arise. I was intrigued.

The next thing I noticed is that the stones around the curves are very small in relation to the stones in the straight areas. This made me think about how, in difficult times, we have to take “baby steps” to get through it. For example, during the divorce, my strength was sapped and I just couldn’t do as much as I did when I was married. We talked at length about this exact thing in my divorce support group. We were told that some days, we would find it hard to even get out of bed. For me, these small stones so accurately depicted what happens to us, physically and mentally, during difficult times. We have to be patient with ourselves and take “baby steps” until we eventually get back to our normal lives (the larger stones).

Other ideas came to me as I continued on the journey. Some areas of the labyrinth have longer areas without bends while other areas are shorter. This also mirrors life as some times we will have longer periods of peace and stability while at other times, it comes in short spurts. Also, some of the bends are a complete 180 degrees (lots of change) while other bends are 90 degrees (some small change). Finally, I realized that some of the bends could actually represent good times that are also stressful (marriage, a move, etc).

But the biggest lesson I learned that day is when I walked into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that no matter what we go through, if we stay on the path to God, it will lead us to salvation. The little bends in that labyrinth cannot even be compared to the beauty of walking into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that if I stay on that path, even through the difficult times, it will ultimately lead me to God. Straying off the path into a sinful life is not an option. I just have to trust in Him, keep my eyes on Him, and walk through that narrow door.

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

 

 

 

False Prophets

Have you ever met someone who appears like a very Christian person, but as you get to know them, things aren’t quite as they seem?

I’ve come across quite a few people like this.  They love to preach to everyone else about Christianity, but then they talk behind other people’s backs, insulting everything they do.  They expect everyone else to follow the commandments, but then turn around and break those very commandments themselves.  The put others down for immoral behavior, yet they turn around and act in an immoral fashion.

These are the type of people who, through their actions, turn many people away from Christianity.  People can see the hypocrisy in their actions, and many are disgusted with their behavior.  They are referred quite commonly to the “holier than thou” group, and rightfully so.  I refer to these people as false prophets, and Jesus speaks to this many times in the Bible.

“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you than unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19-20

“Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15

“Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.  Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evil doers!'” Matthew 7:20-23

“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Matthew 23:27-28

Remember that old saying, “actions speak louder than words?”  Nowhere is it more important to remember this than in Christianity.  True Christians will not only speak of Jesus and the Bible, but they will actually live the Word and follow the commandments.  They will not make up excuses for their own immoral behavior or try to justify their non-Christian attitudes toward other people.  They will serve others willingly and be accepting of all people, showing love to everyone around them while being truthful, addressing non-Christian behavior in a compassionate way.

If you come across a “false prophet”, remember that Jesus himself said “Do not be deceived”.  The Bible also says to “guard your heart”, so be aware and protect yourself, asking God for a hedge of protection around you.  And most importantly, know that this kind of behavior is not true Christianity.  Also, know that there are many, many wonderful Christians that do live by the Word of God and truly believe it in their heart and soul.  They show great love, mercy and compassion for others, and you can recognize them by their actions.

“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them: they are blind guides.  If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Matthew 15: 13-14.

“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” Matthew 19:17

 

 

 

 

 

Quote of the Day

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart, It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

-Andrew Murray

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