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Saturday, December 7, 2013
What Is the Problem With This Time of the Year?
It is that time of the year, the time when those of us parents are hitting the stores to buy our children the gifts they may have wanted all year long. In this digital age, we parents are buying our children, at ever-younger ages, devices like iPods, iPads, cell phones, even Smartphones, tablets, even laptop computers. We want them to have all that their peers have! After all, our children may wail, "But Mom and Dad! All the other kids have one! Do you want me to be left out?" We don't want our children to be left out! Aside from the safety issues of getting these devices (aside from regular cell phones) in light of them running data that can make minors vulnerable to predators, there's the sheer material this all teachers our children. Yes, my spouse and I can relate to this, as we are dealing with these same pressures to get "the best" for our daughter.
What Can We Do About This?
This past week, at our worship service, the sermon topic was titled, "It Isn't Your Birthday!" In other words, we behave as though this time of the year were our birthday (I'm not talking about those who DO have birthday at this time or on Christmas Day). It's reflected in how, with astounding frenzy, we hit the stores in search of the best deals. There's nothing wrong with wanting to show our love for family or close friends by giving them gifts. But don't we take it too far and get into materialism when we lavish our money on family or friends, giving our children toys or items they may enjoy today but be bored with tomorrow? In last week's sermon, we were challenged, "What is on Jesus' wish list? What kind of gifts would make Him happy?" I do not think any of us who have even a casual knowledge of the Person of Christ or the Bible, would have trouble answering that question. In Scripture and in the life of Jesus, God reveals Himself as a giving God and that He wants us to give, every day of the year. At this time of the year, this means that He wants us to focus on what we can give, give, and give.
How Does Helping Fight World Poverty Figure In?
As many of us parents, guardians and others in in North America and Europe seek to lavish gifts on our children to give them what our culture has convinced us, is "a Christmas they must have," there are countless children throughout Asia, Africa and other parts of the world whose only thought is to survive. Many times, they don't have access to clean drinking water. This leaves people, especially children, vulnerable to deadly diseases of all kinds. So many of these people don't know if they will have anything to eat today, or if they can feed their children. Fathers often can't provide for their children, and can't send them to school. Women often can't read and can't get any pre-natal care during pregnancy. Celebrating on birthdays or holidays with festivities or gift-giving, is often unthinkable. Precious children start out with hopes and dreams, which their harsh circumstances soon cruelly crush to hopelessness. That is, if many even survive. Many children don't even live to see their 5th birthday. As most of us know but feel uncomfortable thinking about, many of these children die of starvation before them.
How Can Child Sponsorship Combat World Poverty?
When we sponsor individual children, this allows relief workers to focus on a sponsored child's physical, social, emotional, and developmental needs. The child gets an education and is motivated and empowered to become a responsible and contributing member of his or her community and giving back far more than has been poured into them. Child sponsorship also helps the child's family and entire community as child sponsorship nonprofits serve their sponsored children's families and communities. When we sponsor a child, he or she is given hope, help and knows that they are cared for. This empowers them to much better development and their families are given hope in knowing that often tremendous struggles to provide for their own child are being assisted by others who also care. The family and community of the sponsored child also get help as an extension of the help being provided to the sponsored child. Reaching out in love to a child in this way is a wonderful way of showing a child and his or her family that someone truly cares.
What Is So Special About Compassion International Child Sponsorship?
We all know that there are many child sponsorship nonprofits, and you no doubt have seen many TV and Internet ads appealing to you to sponsor a child, with displays a pictures of individual children and contact information for the nonprofit. Aside from the sad fact that funds donated to too many of these nonprofits may be mismanaged and that many of them may not even reach those children, many seem to focus mostly on basic physical needs. That is better than no help for these suffering children. Compassion International is unsurpassed not only in their financial ethics and accountability, in my opinion, they focus on the complete development of their sponsored children: physical, social, material, emotional and spiritual. Compassion also serves the child's family and whole community. If you feel moved to share your love with a child in need at this time of year and give a gift that gives all year long, I encourage you to consider Compassion child sponsorship. If you simply are curious about this or want to spread the word, visit here.
The above images are courtesy of Compassion International.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
It ruins countless reputations and may even help put innocent people in jail or prison. It ends even the closest friendships and marriages. It erodes much trust between spouses and between the dearest of friends. It causes untold personal misery and heartbreak, due to losing dear friends and beloved mates. It is a trap and deceptively fun to engage in, but it is no fun to be the object of it. It is called gossip, and on the surface it seems like no big deal when you think of serious societal ills, like crime, hunger, war and world poverty. But as it is behind so much pain and grief, it really is a trap and a big deal. If we value our marriages and our friendships, especially our closet friendships, we ought to be on our guard to end any role we may have in the gossip mill, and keep this deceptive evil from our relationships.
So what is this deceptive social evil that ruins so many relationships and reputations? Gossip is not just maliciously telling lies about another person. It isn't simply betraying confidences shared with us. It's easy to define it as just those things, and if it were just that, many of us would be innocent of this social evil. Ah, gossip is much broader than this, as so many other forms of it have the same potential to ruin reputations or relationships even with the absence of any intent. First, there is the old practice that so many of us have, of spreading rumors about other persons, even when these rumors are unconfirmed and we can't or won't go the person involved and verify the accuracy of what we heard. This is so easy to do, that if we are not on our guard against this, we will spread rumors without thinking about it. It may give us a false and sick feeling of importance if we can "build ourselves up" by tearing others down. Examples are: "Oh boy, I heard that her teenage daughter may be pregnant. How awful!" If you are a person of faith, you may even repeat this rumor in the form of a prayer request to your group of Christian friends, but without the person's permission. You may hear about a friend's pending divorce, and put the word out: "Say, did you hear? So-and-so is getting a divorce!" If you are a person of faith, you may get that word out in the form of a prayer request, telling your group of Christian friends: "We have to pray about this!" All without the person's permission! Oh, gossip is so deceptive!
A subtle for of gossip is called "triangulation" and is often engaged in as a way to deal with being hurt or upset by others. Here is how this works: Someone hurts or upsets us; we feel unable or unwilling to deal with the person (s) involved, and so we gripe or talk to third parties with no intention to solve anything. Since getting hurt is so much a part of life, this is probably, after spreading rumors, the most common form of gossip there is. We participate in this form of gossip in weakness and often out of fear. This is the form of gossip that I have engaged in all my life more than any other, and still do. Let's face it; it's far easier to gripe or talk with third parties than it is to bravely go directly to the offending person (s) and lovingly talk to them about what upsets us. We may mess up or the person may not even listen to us. But "resolving conflicts" by walking out and talking about the offending person instead of to them, means that the marriage or friendship is in trouble. As long as we attempt to talk to each other in love, there is still a chance. Once we stop that, the relationship may be dead. The exception to going behind a person's back is when we know a person is suicidal or homicidal. In that case, safety is more important than privacy. But this is rare.
The subtlest form of gossip is passive, and we can term it listening to gossip, or being a party to it. It looks like this: We may read and even purchase, celebrity or political magazines that are created mainly to gossip about these politicians or celebrities. We listen to gossip when we tune in, just for entertainment, to talk shows that are set up to gossip about celebrities, criminals, or politicians. Yes, those in the public eye are accountable to us and we have the right to know about them, but only to the a point. We listen to gossip when family or friends rant on about others to us, and we allow their rants to go unchallenged. It is hard to stem the tide, and tell the loved one or friend, "This is really none of my business. Have you tried going to that person?" Yet, as the saying goes, "If a person gossips TO you, that person is gossiping ABOUT you or will gossip ABOUT you." It's so easy to listen to gossip because it is fun to hear about how bad or bad off others are, as compared to us. We let family and friends gossip to us because we may feel included in on secrets or may just don't want to offend them by challenging them. Yet much gossip would stop if we would quit enabling it.
This social evil has gone high-tech, and is behind much cyber-bullying. What does gossip look like online? It comes in the form of lies or rumors spread online, whether through texts, emails, blogs, or social networking status updates. Gossip happens when, instead of dealing with an online contact directly, through private messaging, we post about them in public forums, as on blogs, or via posts or comments. Yes, I know that many users ignore their inbox messages, and many people don't hear us out. But if we value our relationships, we owe it to the other person and to ourselves to at least try. So many users of social networks unfriend or block other users because of they listen to gossip rather than go to the person directly. As an admittedly heavy Facebook user, I know that I have lost many Facebook friendships for that reason. I would have occasional fallings-out with certain users, and they would rant about me to our mutual online friends. Those friends would listen to the gossip rather than confront me and ask me what the problem is. I know this to be so because of the timing of so many lost Facebook friendships and reasons given as to why I "had" to be deleted. We listen to online gossip when we visit sites, blogs, or "like" pages set up mainly to gossip about criminal, politicians, or celebrities. The Internet has power to be used to serve God and people, but when we use it for gossip, we are using it for bad.
These are the holidays, and if we don't have much money, we can still give people the gift of being able to trust us. We can help them uphold their reputations. We can fight for our marriages and friendships. We can stop wasting our time in watching and listening to trash that does nothing to build anyone up. We can build others up instead of tear them down. We can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The above photo is courtesy of MorgueFile.com, is by earl53, and can be found here.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Every day of the year is very hard for the families of missing loved ones, but special occasions like the holidays are especially difficult. I have set up three pages for missing persons, and with three clicks on this post, you can become pairs of eyes for missing children, missing adults, and various kinds of missing or unidentified persons and victims. This will show families hope, and as you get updates in your Facebook Pages Feeds and your Newsfeeds, you will be showing families your support. You will be supporting them and helping them find answers by sharing the posters on these pages. With Facebook's new system, to get these pages' updates in your Newsfeed, the next time you log into Facebook, you need to go to the top right of the pages where all the options are, and hit "Add To My Interests" to get all cases posted in your Newsfeed. What a Christmas gift to give to families, the gift of your support and prayers!
Thank you for "liking" each of these Facebook pages and giving to Families with missing or unidentified loved ones the gift of your support, love and prayers!
Friday, November 29, 2013
I created the below Facebook page to help promote my blog posts and for general purposes. My holiday wish is to see your support of me by visiting here and "liking" this page if you have never "liked" it. If you have joined this page, thank you. You can share this post and you will be sharing the page. Warm holiday wishes to each of you. Together we all can make a difference.
Thanks to each of you for your support,
The above photo is courtesy of John Sundermann.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
It's that time of the year where we are "supposed to" focus on being thankful and giving, on peace and reconciliation. I see countless posts and hear countless lectures of the subject of gratitude that seem to scold hearers about "not being thankful." Yes, God has been good to each one of us. He loves us and, in Christ His Son, has sacrificed all things to rescue us from the power and penalty of sin. He has good plans for our lives. I can fully understand why we are so often shamed and scolded into "being grateful." It's forever trite but true that no matter what we may face in life, others are facing what they, at least, consider to be worse and more traumatic events and struggles. I agree that we all need to be reminded that life does not revolve around any of us and that everyone faces suffering and struggles in life. These are undisputed facts. When I was growing up, in St. Louis, Missouri, I was always being told that I was a "chronic complainer" and I'm sure that there was a lot of truth in this. Complaining is defined as "expressing dissatisfaction with something." There is nothing wrong with expressing such dissatisfaction; it's where our focus lies, on what we have or what we don't have. No matter who we are or what we face, we all lack many things we wish we could have. All of us also have many good things in our lives. As my late stepdad would say, "Whatever the good Lord gives you to face, He always balances it with something good."
I'm the first to admit that thankfulness does come hard when I deal with depression spells that I believe to be induced, at least in part, by the long-term use of anti-convulsants. Thankfulness does come hard when I see how many people, who seem to not give God a passing thought and who don't help others, seem to skate through life and enjoy health and wealth. And "preachers" give off the false impression, in their "teachings," that if we serve God and love him, that we will be "blessed in life and enjoy health and wealth." The Bible says that those who obey God are "blessed in all they do," but this does not reference good, easy, fun circumstances. The Son of God, when He lived a perfect life as the God-Man, suffered more than all of us put together, especially in right before and as He was dying a horrific death on a cross. Thankfulness comes hard when I think of the people whom I have helped and shown support to, who have often "repaid" me by removing me from their lives because I had shown them my fallibility. But I am learning that it is by focusing on Jesus, NOT on people, that makes it easier to give thanks 27/7 and 365 days a year. For as long as we look at people and compare our life's journeys, whether they are better or worse, we fall into the old comparison trap that is a waste of time.
Thanksgiving is that time of the year when we look forward to "taking a break" from watching our weight and our typical diets, and "splurging." I'm not saying that's wrong! I'm looking forward to eating a bit more this upcoming Thursday than I usually do. Not much. I would not okay using the holidays as a license to drink, because that contributes to drunken behavior and drunk driving, which kills people. It is also the day before what we call "Black Friday," which can be another topic altogether. We all are aware of the hype about that day, with all the commercials. This is a "tribute" to the greed and the materialism of so many of us who insist on shopping as early as possible to save a few bucks. We give lip service to the need to focus on our blessings and to spend time with family, but Thanksgiving, like any holiday, is a time of unrealistic expectations. We confuse "the holiday spirit" with "being happy," whether we mean "the Thanksgiving spirit" or "the Christmas spirit," with "being happy." We forget that "giving thanks" is not an emotion but is an action, and can be done even when we don't "feel happy" or our dreams don't come true.
During these holidays, I'm thinking especially of all of those who are estranged from family members or other once-important people in their lives, often because of greed or disputes. I'm thinking of all those who have lost loved ones in the past 12 months. I'm thinking of all those who will spend their holidays behind bars, because of wrongful or overly-harsh convictions. I'm thinking of the victims of recent weather disasters like the people in the Philippines. I'm thinking of those who are fighting terminal illnesses. I'm thinking of those who are spending more holidays missing a loved one or who have not found justice for them. I'm thinking of those who are being put down as "extremist" because they choose not to participate in the holiday traditions or in "black Friday." I'm thinking of all those who dread, rather than look forward to, these holidays because their disabilities keep them from liking the rich holiday foods or social gatherings. For many these holidays are a hard time.
What do the holidays, including Thanksgiving, mean to me? Frankly, because of my life circumstances, I have often not looked forward to them. Yes, I'm thankful for God, for His love, for my family and my life. For starters. I'm also thankful for you who visit this blog and who read it. I'm thankful for those of you who have signed my autism petition. I'm thankful for each of you who have signed up to follow this blog. And I'm thankful to those of you who have "liked" any of my Facebook pages, found on the main page and on a static page, of this blog.
Warm Thanksgiving wishes to each and every one of you who read this, and to all the important people in your lives!
The first photo is courtesy of MorgueFile, is by Seemann, and is found here.
The second photo is courtesy of MorgueFile, is by JessaIrene, and can be found here.