HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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Set Your Mind

set+your+mind+on+things+aboveFor you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. [Mark 8:33]

Life is a busy affair. On any given day your mind is probably sifting through a dozen or more important tasks, working its way through two or three pressing personal issues, and weighing at least a few ethical or societal issues impacting your life.

Do you mind if I add just one more thing to that already long list?

I am talking about setting your mind on the things of God, instead of just the things of man. It’s one that you already know should be there, but most of us just don’t often get around to. And that’s precisely the problem.

As the old saying goes, many of us have “Half a mind” to devote ourselves to that religious stuff. In other words, we are almost determined – we have good intentions – but never quite seem to get around to it. Our minds are too full of other concerns which always seem to take precedence. Prayer is important but the baby is crying now. Devotion is good, but not until after I run the errands. Worship is a priority, as long as something else doesn’t come up first.

But that’s the mistake. By spending all our time and mental focus on the things of man (the stuff of day-to-day living) we so easily lose the things of God. But by focusing first on the things of God you will find that so much of the things of man are already considered, weighed, or outright solved.

That’s what the season of Lent is all about. Pulling ourselves out of the things of man, which always seem so important, and setting our minds on the things of God which truly are important.

And the more you put your mind to the things of God … things like Law and Gospel, Morality and Christian Duty, Forgiveness and Salvation, Mercy and Compassion … The more you set your mind on such things the more the mind boggles.

Because very quickly you will come to see that through all these things lived out in Christ’s Life, Death, and Resurrection one thing becomes crystal clear – stunningly clear – God has only one thing on His mind …

… You.

Jesus obeyed every letter of the Law in the Spirit of the Law, for you. His absolute morality, the fullness of His Christian duty was all for you. The forgiveness He won on the cross – yours. The salvation earned just for you. Every last ounce of mercy and compassion had you in mind. It was all for you! And with that great truth in mind, the things of man don’t seem nearly so pressing or insurmountable anymore. Set your mind on the things of God, for His mind is set on you!


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My (Our) New Reality

Yesterday the province of Ontario (where I live) revealed a new curriculum for health and sex education to be implemented in the fall. Supporters of the material hailed it as long overdue because it hadn’t been updated since 1998. And since then, as we all know, sex has changed drastically. We now have cell phones … and Facebook … and science. It’s not your grandparents world of two single beds in a bedroom and night clothes that were bulkier than your snow-suit. We can’t leave our kids in the dark about sex any longer. Knowledge is power, and we want our children empowered.

And while I still had reservations about teaching the graphic ins and outs of sexual gratification to children young enough that they would be charged with statutory rape if they tried to do with their classmates what they were being taught, what bothered me the most was the underlying concept of gender identification and fluidity. I thought boys were boys and girls were girls no matter what kind of boy or girl they might be … but then I’m just a man and I get confused by such things.

But it’s hard to argue with knowledge being power, because who doesn’t like being empowered. I’ll take some of that any day. And if science says that you can be something you are not just because you feel like you are, who am I to argue? I mean it’s science right. At least that’s what I’m being told.

So I admit defeat. The experts were right and grandma and grandpa were confused and wrong. (And most likely very repressed too, I guess.) But I’m afraid it is too late for me. I have been indoctrinated for far too long to think that my “Y” chromosome, facial hair, and dangly bits make me a male, and I’m comfortable with that, even if I will never be good at sports or enjoy talking about cars. But while my gender identity is a lost cause, I still want some of that science based empowerment.

So now, I’m happy to say,  I believe in stature identity and fluidity. I will thank you all right now to stop thinking of me as morally archaic man of 5′ 7″. I am now a morally archaic man who is 6′ 2″ tall. Don’t look at me strangely when I tell you this … that’s being staturist. Just accept me for the towering specimen of masculinity (told you it was too late for me) that I am! I haven’t tried driving my Hyundai since I self-identified as such a tall person, but I’m sure I will have to adjust the seats and mirrors. Oh, and watch out for doorways! I’ve always wanted to have to duck on my way in or out of some room.

And we are teaching our children this too. Knowledge is power remember. We have begun with our kitchen doorway in which we mark all the children’s heights every six months. We now let them put the mark anywhere they want … anywhere they feel represents their true height. My oldest two looked at me a little strange, but with enough teaching I think they will come around. The youngest one caught on right away, and I’m glad to say that she is so tall now that I had to lift her up to make her mark on the wall. You should see how proud she is about being 8′ 6″ tall at only just two years old! The middle one can’t wait to go on all the rollercoaster rides this summer. And I just dare anyone to tell her she isn’t really taller than the line that cartoon character is holding! She will cry discrimination faster than you can unlock that little gate!

And that’s just the beginning. Can’t you see it now? If you don’t have to be constrained by the reality of DNA or anatomy, or reality, then not only do you get to choose your own gender and height, but also your weight and your ethnicity, and your age.  No longer do you have to be shackled by any stereotype whether sexist, staturist, ageist, massist, or racist. Oh the empowerment just staggers the mind! I can’t wait to pay the child-priced fare to go see an R-rated movie and then claim my senior’s discount on top of that. Or of  finally realizing my now life-long dream of being nominated for a black business award at the same time as I proudly share my secret to losing 30 pounds just by identifying it away. (For only one low payment of $19.95 I will share that secret with you too my friends!)

Do you think this is all a joke? You shouldn’t.

If, as proponents of this new curriculum insist, misinformation and ignorance are the best way precipitate sexual misconduct and irresponsible behaviour, then I agree. But the danger is not in what you might be tricked into doing with your cell phone or Facebook account. (Why aren’t parents monitoring these anyway?) The danger is in what you might be tricked into believing about your very soul and identity … and whether or not it has any basis in reality. Not all knowledge is power, some of it is just plain nonsense. And it has no place being taught to children or anyone else.

 


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Listen …

ListenI will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. [Deuteronomy 18:18-19]

Who do you listen to? Is it the politician in the nice suit and fancy tie? The person in the official looking white lab coat? The trusted friend? The identified “expert” on the evening news?

Who do you listen to? And more to the point … why? Do you listen to the politician because he says what you want to hear? Do you listen to the doctor or scientist because they are obviously smart? Do you listen to your friend because they like you? What makes anyone an expert worth listening to?

We all listen to someone. Many someones. But the question remains, why?

Why are we quick to listen to some, but not to others? We all know that what a politician says before the election and what he says after the election are not usually the same. You don’t even have to go so far as to say they lie, to know that you can’t always count on good intentions. Smart people still make some pretty foolish mistakes. Doctors make poor life decisions. Scientists can be just as prone to superstition as anyone else. And no matter how smart a person is in certain things, no one is smart about everything. Just because someone likes you doesn’t mean you can trust them or that they will agree with you on important matters.

So who should you trust enough to listen to? Who has the power, the authority, the knowledge, the first-hand experience and the desire to do right by us? Who is worthy enough to be listened to in all things?

Jesus.

God and man together in one flesh. All the knowledge of heaven and all the experience of life in this world. Having been through it all, He didn’t change His tune when the polls turned against Him. Knowing the cross that lay before Him He went there for us anyway. Jesus, the only one truly smart about everything, for He is a first-hand witness of all history, and the holder of the future itself. But Jesus is also the friend of each and every sinner, trapped in good intentions and hollow words, puffed up in knowledge and disdaining those lesser, lover of self to the exclusion of others. Jesus is a true friend to all these and more, even to the point of being willing to lay down His life for them.

When He speaks, He speaks with all compassion, authority, and truth. He speaks only what He is willing to back up with His own life, death, and resurrection.

Give all the other voices their proper place and due, but give this voice your trust and your ears. Why wouldn’t you listen to Him? What He speaks is worth listening to!


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Peace …

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.     [Luke 2:21]

Sated by fine holiday feasting, and full of good will the heart often turns at this time of year to feelings of peace on earth. This year will be the year we finally solidify that elusive peace process in the middle east. This year the global community will finally make meaningful strides against violent extremism. This year I will finally get past my history with that particular person and heal that long broken relationship.

But it never seems to happen … That much sought after peace seems to flee ever farther away with each passing year. There is little or no peace to be seen, but bloodshed is everywhere.

The calendar year begins with bloodshed for us Christians too. Perhaps only a little blood, but a significant shedding of it none-the-less.

January 1st – eight days after His birth – Jesus is named and circumcised. He bears the name Jesus, as the angel insisted, because He will save His people from their sins. And how will He do that? Through the shedding of His own blood.

And while the circumcision itself may seem like such an inconsequential (never to the baby boy – you can be sure!) spilling of Jesus’ blood it is the first blood He will spill of so much more to come. This little bit of blood marks His resolution to stand fully in our place and be counted among us … no matter what the cost!

It is His first infant steps toward fulfilling all of the law on our behalf. A journey from blood to blood. A journey that will lead us through the seasons of this coming year all the way to the cross and beyond.

For where there will be peace first there must be blood. His holy, innocent blood. Blood that is willingly shed for those of us who cannot find peace on our own. For only His resolve for peace is strong enough to see it finally fulfilled.

May God grant you Christ’s peace in this coming year!

This is too cute not to share!

This is too cute not to share!


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Gaze Up in Throes of Death

Here is a Hymn (still in the rough) that I have been working on. Let me know what you think.

Feel free to use it if you deem it worthy.

Gaze Up in Throes of Death

Text by Ken Maher ©2014 Based on Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-18
To Tune of # 702 (LSB) “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” [Olivet]

1

Gaze up in throes of death, poison seeps, stealing breath,

in dust they lie.

Bitter the words complain, casting on God their shame.

Slaves to their wants remain and for this die.

2

But God looks down in love and sets in bronze above

a shining light.

Gentle is sin reproved thus in faith hearts are moved

so bitter works removed with sin’s dark blight.

3

See also in our sin the devil seeks to win

our grov’ling soul.

Poison inflames the heart distrusting from the start

to play our given part, that servant role.

4

Gaze up with eyes of Faith see there God’s holy face,

thorns crown His head.

In the Lord’s sacrifice all dying may find life

the serpent has his bite and is crushed dead.

5

For God so loved us all He lifted death’s dark pall

cast on this world.

The one who died, now raised, is rightly to be praised

Oh, sinner lift thy gaze to life unfurled!

jesus-snake-cross-coin


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The Pregnant Pause

pregnant mary“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  [Matthew 1:23]

Welcome to the great season of NOT CHRISTMAS!

Advent is that pregnant pause in the Christian’s road to holiday cheer. That makes it so very frustrating for many people … the world is already celebrating Christmas, why can’t we?

We can! We do! But not until the time has come. Don’t deliver the baby prematurely.

Advent is much like pregnancy. Pregnant parents really and truly are parents, but their parenting consists in mainly getting ready.  Remembering the family’s past, looking forward to the family’s future and making plans for the arrival. It is a reality that doesn’t always seem so real. In that way it too is a little frustrating. Why won’t the baby just come so they can all celebrate together? But before that little one (who is already there) comes in that new and exciting way, there are many questions to be asked and answered. How will this baby change their lives? Their home? Their hearts? These are not little questions. There is a reason why God gives new parents nine months to get used to the idea!

Advent is a reality that doesn’t always feel so real. In Advent we remember the Christ who came into our flesh, the Christ who comes even now in Word and Sacraments and the Christ who will come again in glory on the last day. It is a season full of preparation and planning. It is a time of “Yes” and “Not Yet.” and “Why won’t the baby hurry up and arrive so we can all celebrate together?” And that makes it a season that is all the more necessary for everyone.

Who is this child whose arrival we will celebrate? How does He change our lives? How will He? How can we share our home with Him? What adjustments do we need to make? What does it really mean that God is with us in Jesus Christ, this babe of Bethlehem? These are not little questions. But they are vital to understanding and celebrating this Christmas Child who is coming again.

It is not Christmas. Not yet. But the One to come is already here. Are you making the most of the time you have with Him now? As He is here for us now? But He is still coming. When He arrives will you be ready? Let the expectant joy of that saviour’s return grow and swell in your heart until His time is ready. There is so much wonder and miracle to see in the waiting and the preparing … don’t miss out on this pregnant pause in your rush to hold the baby. There will be plenty of time for that … just not yet.


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The Shirt off Your Back

ShirtStormFull disclosure: I’m a man and I wear shirts.

I know this will automatically disqualify me, in the minds of some, from having an opinion or the right to share it. So be it.

By now you may have heard that there is yet another round of internet outrage this time over feminist reaction to a shirt. It seems some poor scientist made history this past week by wearing the wrong kind of clothing in a TV interview. Why he was being interviewed still remains a mystery to the outraged masses. But then, that hardly matters, as it is not about what you do, but what you wear for which one should be judged.

That is the feminist mantra isn’t it? Judge a person for what they wear. Shame them for their choice of wardrobe. Of course not. Blogger Bhagwad Jal Park summarized it rather nicely when he wrote “Every time a woman asserts her right to dress the way she wants without being blamed for getting attacked, someone will say – “Feminism isn’t about going half naked”. But you know what? It is. The very fact that people are trying to tell women what is “decent” and what isn’t, what is “acceptable” and what isn’t, means that this matters. Because how a woman dresses should be up to her, and up to her alone.

Kind of ironic isn’t it? Substitute the word man for woman and him for her and you will see what I mean.

“O you fool!” I hear some of you shouting at your monitors “Can’t you see that this is different precisely BECAUSE what he chose to wear objectifies women with its comic-book inspired cleavage!” You make a good point and so I must apologize. I am sorry … but I don’t see why this is any different from so much of what feminists do themselves.

And I’m not just talking about crazy fringe feminists like Femen here. (Where is the internet outrage for what they did with crucifixes in St. Peter’s Square in front of men women and children?) There is the whole Slut Walk movement, and the Free the Nipple campaign which are seeking equality through nudity and the right to objectify oneself without giving anyone else the right to do so in return. There is the feminist praise of Kim Kardashian for being empowered enough to break the internet with her nudity. And there is the likes of Kiera Knightly who protests the evils of Photoshop by posing naked … because feminism. The whole spectrum of crazy inconsistencies is nicely summed up in this feminist cartoon (caution, it contains non-objectifying cartoon cleavage!)

It seems to me this is a case of losing your shirt, but wanting to keep it too. You will have to forgive me for not being able to follow the logic of the selectively schizophrenic syphon through which certain things are empowering and certain other things derogatory. Is it only OK for women to objectify themselves because they don’t really mean it? Perhaps I’m missing the irony. Is it bad that a female friend made this monstrosity of men’s wear for him? Is it wrong because a man actually appreciates the female form? Would it be acceptable if he was a gay man wearing the shirt to make a point? Do feminists themselves even know how to answer such questions, or would they just be outraged that I asked them?

Before things shame-spiral out of control let me say that I think men and women should all dress with much more modesty and respect for not only themselves, but all those around them. Your God-given assets are nothing to be embarrassed about, but they are not to be flaunted around just anyone, and certainly not for public viewing. They are for you and your spouse. Period. Clothes and behaviours shouldn’t objectify any group (including the one doing the displaying).

That being said, there is a time and a place for gaudy shirts, and a press conference is not it. But it hardly seems justifiable that a movement so intensely connected with flashing its bits in public should be so outraged when someone publicly appreciates that same female form … in a shirt that is more restrained in its depiction of that female form than many of the lauded protestors themselves. Nor is the irony lost on me, that they are publicly shaming someone for his choice of clothing and completely disregarding his worth and accomplishments as a human being.

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