Monday, January 31, 2011

My Father's Altar: A Struggle of Two Religions

      For the most part, I'm torn between two religions. You see I'm a Christian but my father was a simple man of the Southern Man religion. What is the Southern Man religion, you ask?

     Southern Men, or the Good Ol' Boys, aren't known too much by name but is predominant in the American South. The majority of members are white males with a small portion being white females. It's a religion and philosophy incorporating a variety of beliefs, traditions, and practices, largely based on Christianity and the hymns of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., and Charlie Daniels.

     Good Ol' Boys by mass believe in the Christian God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet many beliefs are unlike Christianity as a whole and are more "works" based. One such belief is that one should strive to do everything on their own right and by their own means as one hymn by Charlie Daniels says, "I ain't askin' nobody for nothin', if I can't get it on my own." Whereas Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Again, Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

     Another common belief is that if one encounters a quarrel one must not turn and walk away especially in physical abruptness. Differing again Jesus says in Matthew 5:39, "I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

      Now, don't get me wrong, there's some good beliefs in there, too, most of which come from the Christian background. They're taught to love their families (their mothers the most) and to be diligent in the work they do. They're not bad people, nor am I saying they're good as no man is good and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3). Their view is however slightly skewed.

     I could go on with this but by now I'm sure you know what I mean and it's highly probable that you know someone that is a Good Ol' Boy. Being my father's son, I was born and raised with this mindset. Even worshiping my father and his ways, wanting to be more like him. After his passing, people would comment on how every time they see me I look more and more like him or how I act are ways that he would act. This greatly effected me since my father was the hard-working family man that I wanted to be more like and here people were noticing.  

     I was heartbroken from the loss of my father and needed comfort. Here's where I began to be torn. I went to church and all but I didn't allow myself to turn to God. I knew of my father's past, his wilder days. It was there that I began to seek comfort. It was there that I stayed for years but comfort was not to be found. There were pleasures, surely, but they didn't last. 

     I was in the darkest place I had never known. If life is a forest, I was in caught in the thickets held by the thorns. The pain was so heavy that I forgot of the light around me. There was hope but I did not seek it. Not yet anyway. 

     I awoke in a bathtub. Drenched with no memory of the night before or how I got there. How did I wind up there? Not just in that tub, but at that point of my life. I believe I should have died that night, but I was given a second chance. A chance to be used. A chance to find comfort and to share it with others. 

     "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."

  I realized my own flaws and mistakes. I began to delve into the Good Book to know what it really says. It was there that I saw the image of Christ, the person I long to be more like and the God I long to know more of. 

     I love my father, and in some ways wish to be more like him. I treasure many of his belongings, things that have no monetary value. But I've held on to one "thing" for far too long. His altar is still there, and like Gideon I have to tear it down (Judges 6).

      This is my greatest struggle.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More to Give

Love. Compassion. Forgiveness. Insight. Humor. Hugs. High Fives. Hand Hugs. Love. Encouragement. Loyalty. Devotion. Admiration. Love. Kind Words. Music. Dances. Friendship. Focus. Time. Love.

Even when you think you have nothing to offer, there's already more to give.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Salty Popcorn


     I had a boss who like a lot of bosses loved to talk. Everyday he'd come in with a story or a joke, and I'd listen politely and nod along. One such story was about when he was still a guardsmen. My mind was so fixated on one part of the story that I soon forgot most of the details of the story, but bear with me.

     When my boss was still a guardsmen he was stationed somewhere I can't particularly remember doing something I don't particularly know. On this base at one of the hangouts they would give away free popcorn. It was the same as the beer nuts effect. They would give away free popcorn so they could sell more drinks. What he said concerning the popcorn made me lose focus, "the popcorn was so salty, you'd get thirsty just looking at it."

      "So salty, you'd get thirsty just looking at it."

     In Jesus' sermon on the mount, He says that we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).There's a lot of things that Christ could have meant with this since salt was so versatile in the ancient world. Biblically, it could relate to salt being a purifying agent or as a sign of God's covenant as in Numbers 18:19. It could even relate to Rabbinic literature as a metaphor for wisdom. That's something we'll have to ask the Son Himself when we see Him. Whatever He meant, we are the salt of the earth.

     Have we preserved our saltiness or have we been diluted?

     For Christ gives Living Water. He gives to all that ask for it a well-spring of eternal life (John 4:14). God is the Spring of Living Water (Jeremiah 17:13) and the Water is the Spirit of God and eternal life.

     Do people see us and get thirsty for His water? Are we so salty that they want a drink?

     If not than maybe we should dump a little salt on ourselves. Not literally of course, I don't want you to carry around a salt shaker and thump some out every now and again. We lead others to Christ by being more Christ-like, reading the Word, and praying.

        Everybody is thirsty as it is. But so many times people would rather try to fulfill that thirst with other things be it a job, a man/woman, an addiction. We are all thirsty for God, we're made thirsty. But those other things are like soft drinks and only leave you more parched compared to the Living Water that Christ provides. Only Christ can fulfill us so we may not thirst again.

     "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Rev 22:17).

     The well springs are full, won't you take a drink?



Monday, January 17, 2011

All You Need Is Love

     Until a few months ago, I was heavily into 60’s culture and the hippie subculture. Along with that came a love for a music group you may have heard of called the Beatles. The Beatles were recently voted as “the most influential band of the last half century” in a poll by Zippo. In all of their works, I see that they succeeded in getting one thing right at least; all you need is love.    
     Now, I’m pretty sure John Lennon didn’t have my approach in mind when writing this song but who knows. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8 that all love comes from God and that God is love. All love, true and authentic, stems from God. So it’s true what they say, all you need is love because God is all you need.
     “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
     “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
     God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us, to take our punishment to the cross. He did this so that we may live, to live a life abundantly here, right now, and to live eternal after death.
     There is nothing but our own selves keeping us from that love. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
     All you need is love, love, love is all you need. You just have to let in it.