Serious Minded

Serious Minded

Paying Off Debts

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Paying off debts is not fun, especially if you feel as though you are drowning in them!

Paying debts puts pressure on you and your family and sometimes requires debt consolidation. And in some cases one feels there is no other way out except by filing bankruptcy. 

I trust that as long as we are here on earth, we will have bills to pay and debts to fulfill, but there is one debt we will never be able to satisfy, and that is the debt of love.

In Romans 13:8, the apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law” (The Voice).

This debt can “never” be fully paid off because there are always additional ways to love more.

SPOILER ALERT: In the movie Schindler’s List (in my opinion, a heart-moving and life-changing story) about the horrific true-life events during the Holocaust, Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, a member of the Nazi Party whose focus at first is on making money in Krakow during WWII until he sees the heinous goings on in the concentration camps. He repents or changes his mind about his priorities and soon shifts his focus from making money to saving Jewish lives. Oskar Schindler becomes so engrossed in his new mission that he does whatever he can including trading diamonds for more Jewish persons. What made an impression on me (besides the entire movie) was a scene close to the end of the movie when Neeson’s character Schindler was speaking to those he had saved and began weeping, saying that if he had just sold the gold in his teeth he could have saved more lives. This depicted how deep that man’s remorse was and how, when one is moved by love and compassion, the only regret one has is why one didn’t love sooner.

I replayed that scene over and over again in my mind, and I wept as I thought about how much more I could have loved. I made a decision that from that point on I would do better and pray to love more. 

I do not claim that I get it right every time, but I do claim that just by putting more love in my heart every day, then one day my heart will be spilling over with love.

In the song, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by songwriters Randy Meyers, Jimmy Holiday, and Sharon Lee Meyers a.k.a. Jackie De Shannon, the idea of putting a little love in your heart will make the world a better place because love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12 and 1 Peter 4:8) But how does love conquer all?

Think of some of the qualities derived from love and how they would neutralize or annul their opposites. Peace would negate enmity. Harmony would negate discord.  Kindness would negate hostility. Charity would negate greed. Gratitude would negate thanklessness. Mercy would negate condemnation. Patience would negate agitation, and forgiveness would negate blame.

Let’s confess, if not openly like Oskar Schindler did then in private, that when love comes first the world definitely becomes a better place. 

I’ve heard the expression that no one can ever be too rich or too thin. I’d like to add my two cents: No one can ever be too loving!

 

"Put a Little Love in Your Heart" by Jackie DeShannon

Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand

Put a little love in your heart

You see, it's getting late, oh, please don't hesitate

Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place

And the world will be a better place for you and me

You just wait and see

Another day goes by, and still the children cry

Put a little love in your heart

If you want the world to know, we won't let hatred grow

Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place

And the world will be a better place for you and me

You just wait and see. Wait and see.1

 

1 “Jackie Deshannon - Put A Little Love In Your Heart Lyrics ...” Accessed October 20, 2016. http://www.metrolyrics.com/put-a-little-love-in-your-heart-lyrics-jackie-deshannon.html

Preparing

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In Luke 10: 41-42, it is written, “41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (KJV).

Martha and Mary were sisters. Martha was the eldest daughter in the household, and for an unmarried woman to receive a teacher, in this case, Jesus, into their household and engage in dialogue was an unusual social situation during those times.

Martha was overly preoccupied, engrossed with all the work she had to do in order to be prepared for the rabbi. 

When Jesus arrived, Martha complained to Him, saying that Mary left her all alone to do all of the work.

Jesus mildly rebuked this attitude of Martha’s, reminding her that what she is disturbed with is not as important as she thinks. Some Bible commentators take the repeated words, “Martha, Martha” that Jesus makes as a call for discipleship (Anchor Bible Dictionary). In other words, this is a call to raise oneself and follow Christ, as Mary demonstrated by practicing a different kind of preparation.

If you will, the “Mary part” is the one that doesn’t allow distractions to dissuade us from more important things.

I like to host social gatherings, and in order for them to be a success, I must be focused and organized. These gatherings most certainly can be a lot of work, but they bring me and my guests great joy, so they are worth it.

However, in this story, what kind of preparation did Mary do before Jesus arrived that Martha was too busy to do? 

To prepare for something that great and something so profound demands a hike in consciousness so as to enable one to climb and reach a mindset, which demonstrates complete consecration of thought.

I can’t imagine that Jesus was intimating to Martha that she should be untidy, insipid, and indifferent about being a gracious hostess, but the scene at Martha and Mary’s home that day was not to prepare for amusement, but rather to prepare to receive the guest of honor who would tell them things that none other could impart.

In that particular case, it was more essential that Martha set aside the temporal things in order to be fit to receive such a gift.

Showing up prepared and ready to receive more love, more wisdom, and more instruction means that we need to let go of a secular sense of self and become more transparent, then, after having gained more astuteness, if we bring that into all we do, then our experiences will be transformed from average to outstanding!

Whether we meditate, pray, ponder, go to mosque or temple, a peaceful resort, a church building, or one of the heart, we must show up, each one of us, ready, fully prepared to receive the gift of grace so our hearts can be set aglow with perfect love. Then, we will be able to set other hearts on fire.

For the Love of Animals

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For the Love of People: God’s Creatures, too!

I have been reading so many articles on the benefits of going vegan that I have begun to wonder why God created such a variety of animals.

Like most people, I love animals, and I do my very best to be conscious when I purchase products. I always look for cruelty-free, eco-friendly, slave-free, and recycled products. When I first began waking to the facts of how animals have been mistreated and I sincerely wanted to make a conscious effort to change my habits, the search for human products that fit my new standards was laborious. However, I was committed to being steadfast in what I believe is ethical and loving.

Since I began, many new companies have surfaced and are making it clearer and easier to find a range of products that are animal- and eco-friendly. Vegan products are on the rise. A big rise! Plant-based products have multiplied threefold since 2016.1 And the vegan cheese industry is estimated to reach multimillions by the year 2024.2 Just Eat claims that this year veganism is the food trend.3 So it seems that veganism will no longer be a trend but a lifestyle and a natural one.

Veganism, besides the claims of being healthier, is preventing the exploitation of animals, so again I asked myself what will be done with all the billions of livestock?4

Most recently, I read an article about a company who makes delicious vegan mayonnaise and how it has just launched a new plant-based egg substitute (which I am looking forward to trying). The article mentioned how many chickens, in the millions per year, are penned up and stacked on top of one another so that the demand for eggs can be met.

I felt impelled to do research regarding chickens, which led me to discover how many other animals, livestock, are mishandled, penned in, and slaughtered for food. The numbers were staggering!

Per A Well-Fed World, “90 billion” land animals are killed each year for food. And the creatures of the sea fished for human use are in the “trillions.”5 I must admit, those numbers were hard for me to imagine.

Are we consuming that much meat? No! Not really.

The USDA reported that, in the United States, “food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply.”6 That’s close to half! What a waste! It seems like the scale of demand and supply is way off.

If people are making so much demand for food but wasting almost half of it, then it would stand to reason that we need to check and correct our attitude about food with gratitude and become much more conscious about the quantity of food consumption!

But let’s circle back to my question. What would happen to those billions of animals if everyone became a vegan or vegetarian? The number of livestock, if not all of it, would still need to be somehow taken care of or relocated. It would be very difficult for almost all people, to adopt cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, etc., and properly take care of them which includes disposing of their waste. How much land would a person need to care for livestock? It would be impossible especially for those who live in overpopulated cities like Guangzhou and Beijing, China; Mumbai, India; and Manilla, Philippines, or a metropolis like New York City to entertain such an idea. It’s difficult to persuade people to adopt dogs and cats, let alone livestock.

In addition to that, after a while, would plant-based companies rapidly be asking consumers to cut back on eating their products because they could not keep up with the demand? Earlier this year in Kenya, farmers were forced to freeze the exportation of avocados because of shortages.7 And in Mexico, who now exports more avocados than petroleum, to keep up with the demand of avocado exportation, deforestation has been ramped up.8

Is consumers’ food demand driving supply to an unnecessary level which then pushes the farm factories to pack in as many animals as possible, supplying the demand for a greater profit? Or is it just overall greed running this entire gambit?

Is it possible that the idea of plant-based foods and veganism are erupting to create a balanced system? One that will keep the scales in equilibrium?

You may find more information regarding this idea in the article from BBC, “What would happen of the world suddenly went vegetarian?”9

 In addition to the passion of vegans fighting for the human treatment of animals, shouldn’t that humane consideration be prevalent in their behavior towards people?

In an article from the Metro News, vegan “extremists” or known as “Vegan vandals” sprayed a sign at a nature park with graffiti.10 And more recently in France, butchers were “living in fear” from attacks, though “small” from vegan extremists.11

Those are not isolated incidents. In 2017, in Berkley, California, vegans intimidated a local butcher shop owner to change their sign which advertised that their business is “humane” to animals. The vegan activists argued that there is no “ethical” way to kill an animal for consumption.11

There are valid points by both sides of this debate but cruelty, whether to animals or people is not the solution.  

To imagine all people eating plant-based food and leaving the livestock to keep the pastures perfectly grazed without having to exploit them for human consumption and products sounds ideal and harmonious to me, but I don’t know if that is possible. My hope is that maybe one day, it will be.

 

1 Millot, Julia. “Plant-Based Products Are Blossoming Quickly.” 1010data. October 2, 2017. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://1010data.com/company/blog/plant-based-products-are-blossoming-quickly/.

2 “Global Vegan Cheese Market - Industry Size, Share, Analysis, Trend & Forecast 2024.” Mynewsdesk. December 9, 2017. Accessed August 13, 2018. http://www.mynewsdesk.com/in/pressreleases/global-vegan-cheese-market-industry-size-share-analysis-trend-and-forecast-2024-2324642. 

3 Online Editors. “Veganism Trend Set to Grow in Popularity in 2018, According to Just Eat.” Independent.ie. December 29, 2017. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/veganism-trend-set-to-grow-in-popularity-in-2018-according-to-just-eat-36443713.html.

4 “Counting Chickens.” The Economist. July 27, 2011. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2011/07/27/counting-chickens.

Please be alert that the information and photos on this website may be disturbing

5 https://awfw.org/factory-farms/

6 https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm

7 Andae, Gerald, Kimanthi, Maureen Kakah, and Patty Magubira. “Avocado Exports Banned as Price Rises.” Business Daily. January 21, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/Avocado-exports-banned-as-price-rises/539546-4272600-9gthm2z/index.html.

8 “Mexican Forests Paying the Price for Avocados.” ABC News. November 01, 2016. Accessed August 13, 2018. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-01/mexico-deforestation-for-avocados-much-higher-than-thought/7983012.

9 Nuwer, Rachel. “Future - What Would Happen If the World Suddenly Went Vegetarian?” BBC News. September 27, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160926-what-would-happen-if-the-world-suddenly-went-vegetarian.

10 Hartley-Parkinson, Richard. “Mean Man’s Sassy Response to ‘extreme’ Vegan Vandals.” Metro. June 16, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2018. https://metro.co.uk/2017/06/16/vegan-vandals-spray-offensive-graffiti-on-nature-reserves-6713745/.

11 Horton, Helena. “Butchers ‘living in Fear’ as Vegan Attacks on the Rise, Says Countryside Alliance.” The Telegraph. May 28, 2018. Accessed August 28, 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/27/butchers-living-fear-vegan-attacks-rise-says-countryside-alliance/.

Worthy of Love

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In many instances, we find ourselves faced with handling the calamity of our past. The web of memories that occupy our consciousness leaves us frozen in times gone by, disabling us, confusing us, and guiding us in directions confounded.

Thoughts echo in our minds that fuel the horrors of our past and give pinions to new fears not yet experienced, even though they wait at the door of thought to be employed.

No one has told you that you are worthy of love. There’s not a whisper nor a hint of love that has begun to fill your heart, your consciousness, so the darkness has found its home. This is the voice you have been accustomed to hearing and obeying, so the highest thought you have entertained is self-hate and self-abuse.

The wheel spins as you are trapped in the confines of what seems to be an endless cycle of mental torment and emotional chaos, but where’s the release button that stops the pattern and sets one free?

There is a way to get off that spinning wheel of torture and begin to embrace the idea that you are a loving being who is worthy of peace and love and who is  beginning to consider, if for a moment at a time, that the world needs you.

At first, it might seem very awkward to even contemplate such a thought; in fact, you might resist it so much that it makes you angry to even think you could be loved and that you are a benefit to the world, but if you can drum up the courage to say to yourself, “I am loved,” and then say it again, and then again, several times a day, a hundred times a day, and then in everything you do, you will arrive at a new destination in consciousness.

Though the work is just beginning for you to discover your loving and lovable self, you have begun rightly!

Feeling Beautiful With or Without Makeup

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Make-up Or Making Up for Something?

I must admit that I became a girly-girl when I started reading fashion magazines in my early teens. I studied how to apply makeup along with fun ways to paint my nails. I wanted to look like the models in the magazines. Their flawless beauty mesmerized me, and their entire look from head to toe was impeccable. I wanted to emulate them.

In my naivety, I was unaware that what made those models look perfect was lighting, airbrushing, and other special effects, so no matter how much I practiced to imitate their appearances, it was an impossible goal to achieve.

This became an obsession for me that challenged my self-perception, causing a beclouded viewpoint of my femininity, and before long I became extremely dissatisfied with my looks. The need to have a flawless look in the flesh became incessant, and makeup became my mask that I refused to be seen without.

I suppose you could say that makeup for me was like the mask for Erik, the phantom of the opera. His looks were so repulsive that his own mother became aghast looking at him, which impelled him to run away and never be seen without his mask (with the exception when Christine took off his mask, twice).

My mask became heavier as I layered my face with primer, foundation, powder, and that was just the beginning!

Family and friends regularly made comments regarding the amount of makeup I wore, but the thought of going bare-faced was oppressive, so I kept up the disguise.

I was so insecure about my looks that I often went to bed wearing makeup or would rise early enough to put it on before anyone saw me.

I continued to follow the most recent trends in the fashion magazines, which became my creed for womanhood.

This would radically change after I met an energy healer who knew a very good friend of mine. He had seen a picture of me at her house and asked her who I was indicating to her that I needed healing. He asked her if we could meet.

After my friend introduced us, he invited me to a spiritual awareness workshop that he was hosting. I made excuses as to why I could not go, but he just kept looking into my eyes as I babbled on. I soon found myself agreeing to attend.

This man was the very first individual who would lead me to a path of enlightenment.

I arrived at the home of my friend where the meeting was being held with my designer luggage, my fashionable outfit, makeup, and jewelry. My costume was complete!

I was led into a room where people, who were dressed in frocks, were sitting on Indian-style pillows on the floor. The delicate smell of incense filled the room.

I was lovingly greeted by each person with a hug, and the man who had invited me said that he was “very glad” that I was there. He then showed me to my room and asked me to join them when I was ready. I was uncertain as to what he meant when he said to join them when I was “ready,” but I was struck by something in his voice.

I kept telling myself that no way  was I going out there to join anyone, yet the sound of this man’s voice kept resonating.

After a couple of hours passed, my friend came in and gently said to me, “Don’t be afraid to come out.” She went on to say that once I found the courage to take off all that was covering true beauty, then I would begin to understand.

She handed me a wash cloth, a towel, and a robe, which all smelled as delightful as the incense, and she left the room.

I began taking off the makeup, and I did not like what I saw. Something inside me kept saying that I had to continue, so I washed my face, removed the garb, and put on the robe.

By the time I went out to participate with the others, dinner was being served, and that too was aromatic. I was welcomed again, just as warmly as the first time. 

Each one of us had a plate of food and sat on the pillows, and before eating, someone said a lovely prayer of thanksgiving.

I told my friend that her guests were so loving, and then I asked her how she managed to get everything to smell so fragrant and the food to taste so good. She said that she works with pure and natural ideas that manifest in all she does. That concept set in motion for me a new way of thinking. 

Activities during this meeting went on for three days, and with each one that I participated in, I began to feel a sense of freedom that I had not known for a long time. It would be many years later when I would fully implement this approach to life of “pure and natural.”

I had to challenge every spurious thought tempting me to make up for what I seemed to be lacking, especially in comparison to those images rooted in my mind from the fashion magazines.

I researched higher ideas of beauty that would replace the harmful thoughts that had me penned in. I came across one in particular from a book by Kahlil Gibran my mom had given me. He wrote, “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” This was a very refreshing idea and one that would orbit my consciousness to redefine my womanhood.

After much dedication in practicing this advanced way of thinking, I was eventually freed from the belief that I had to wear an ensemble in order to qualify me as beautiful. The new womanhood that I was embracing had been based upon improving character, maintaining a sense of poise, and probity. It would no longer be contingent upon external costumes, body shape, or cosmetics.

There is a lot of outside pressure for women to keep up appearances in order to feel attractive; in fact, there is makeup for all occasions: weddings, “selfie-makeup,” and makeup to sleep in, which companies claim is better for your skin! 

I am not intimating that makeup (cruelty-free makeup!) is a bad thing—it can be fun and complementary, but if we women feel as though our beauty must be imported and applied, then we may find that our true beauty will remain under the veil we call makeup.

Though I still enjoy being girly and use very little makeup, I have come to the understanding that making up for something I once believed I lacked was just an attack on my real femininity.

Presenting oneself properly is a demonstration of self-regard, but hiding under fashion, trends, and make-up reflects a disregard for the beauty within you.

Below are some citations and passages that have helped me along the way to a more beautiful view of myself.

In the book of Psalms 139:14, it is written, “I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.” (The Voice) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalms+139%3A14&version=VOICE

Song of Solomon 4:7: “You are beautiful in every way, my true love. There is no blemish on you.” (GW)

1 Peter 3:3-4: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” (ESV)

1 Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (NASB)

“The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul,…” Mary Baker Eddy

 

ESV-English Standard Version

GW-God’s Word Translation

NASB-New American Standard Bible

A Template for Love

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In 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, the apostle Paul provided mankind with a template for Love when he wrote, “Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete” (The Voice).

If we were to make this the template to pattern our behavior after, we just might discover that we have much to work on to copy this divine concept of love.

When I repeatedly bumped into the consequences of my misconducts, I searched the scriptures, as I often do, for answers and after typing the word “love” in the search window, I came across many citations. The one that stood out to me was the apostle Paul’s eloquent description of Love.

After reading it and comparing it to my previous actions, I was ashamed. I knew that I needed to reconstruct the model of love that I held in thought, and the one of which I had been emulating. It was time for me to stop the excuses and self-justification, roll up my sleeves, and take up the work necessary if I wanted my experiences to be more loving and one day reflect the love that Paul described to the Corinthians.

I decided to go through Paul’s description of love, line-by-line, and treat it as a directive. In the very first verse Paul declares that “love is patient,” and he follows with “love is not self-absorbed” and “love is not easily upset.” Contemplating and implementing those concepts seemed impossible to me! I knew I had to do whatever it took to supplant those old ways of acting because they were not harmonious.

At first I was discouraged. My past behaviors were not all in alignment with Paul’s exegesis, and I was going to need help!

I prayed fervently that the Holy Spirit of God intervene on my behalf and transform my dissonant behavior.

However, there was a step I had to take before any of that would unfold.

I needed to admit my errors and make a genuine confession.

Yikes! That was frightening!

The following two citations from the Bible, regarding the benefits of confession, gave me hope and inspired me to move ahead and divulge my infractions.

In 1 John 1:9, it is written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV).

In the book of Psalms, Psalm 51:10-12: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (ESV).

Confessing to God (not that I could keep a secret from the All-Knowing!) and openly acknowledging and taking accountability for my choices and actions was an imperative step to freeing my conscience, and this acceptance of accountability set a course for a new and more flourishing way to live.

In the book of Proverbs 28:13, it is written, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (ESV). And mercy is what I needed!

In Scientific American, psychologist James W. Pennebaker wrote, “Any type of open and truthful disclosure reduces stress and helps individuals come to terms with their behavior. It is not coincidental that some of the most powerful people or institutions in many cultures encourage people to confess their transgressions. And there is very strong evidence that writing about upsetting experiences or dark secrets can benefit your mental and physical well-being.”1

Confessing sins may be compared to cleansing, which is very refreshing! And by relinquishing sins to God, there is liberation. A freedom from sin!

In the book of Isiah, in the old testament, he wrote in chapter 1:18, “"Come now, let's settle this," says the LORD. "” “Come now, let us settle the matter, says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” 2

Carrying transgressions around with you can be burdensome and may lead you to feel the need to cover them up for fear of embarrassment or bury them deep within, pretending they did not happen. None of those choices will set you free from the mental prison of veniality.

In Genesis 3, the story of original sin of Adam and Eve, it is written that after the sin was committed Adam and Eve’s next move was to cover up the transgression in hopes of hiding it from God. However, God asked Adam, “Where art thou?” not because God couldn’t find where Adam was physically but rather to prompt Adam to consider where he was in consciousness. Adam needed to respond to God’s question and check his own thinking with his choices of behavior. He realized that it was futile for him and Eve to continue to dodge God because God is omniscient. And like Adam and Eve, I would soon bump into the same realization.

St. Augustine said of confessing sins, “In failing to confess, Lord, I would only hide You from myself, not myself from You.”

It is not an easy undertaking to admit your faults or to go before the throne of grace and plead the Almighty, but it is pertinent if we are to ever reflect, feel, and understand the potency of Love and its attributes.

For each one of us to attempt to mirror the love that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians, we must begin with a clean conscience, then ask God to flood it with His love until it runs over for others to witness and experience.

 

ESV-English Standard Version

1 Pennebaker, James. “Does Confessing Secrets Improve Our Mental Health?” Scientific American, Nature America, Inc., www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-confessing-secrets-improve-our-mental-health/.

2 NIV-New International Version, Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Gun Control or Hate Control?

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On March 24th, 2018, students and fellow supporters across the country protested to bring awareness to the need for gun control in the United States. They called it March for Our Lives. A very accurate title! That event followed the National School Walkout that occurred the week before and was brought on by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, leaving 17 people killed.

Unfortunately, that execrable event was not the first of its kind. Last year alone, in the U.S., 65 shootings occurred at schools and universities. And “since 2013, there have been 291 school shootings.”1 The statistics are alarming! And I don’t think anyone would disagree that a solution is most urgent.

The debates on gun control are not a new issue in this country, but the issue has now been ignited by students from all over demanding that action be taken to pass laws for stricter gun control.

As I have been following these events with deep compassion in my heart for those families who lost loved ones as well as empathy for the students, I felt the need to do more than just sign the petitions in favor of banning assault weapons. I needed to earnestly pray! And as I often do, when seeking answers and comfort to life’s heartbreaking provocations, I turned to the Bible for insight and wisdom.

In one of my favorite books in the Old Testament, I read in Proverbs (a plethora of wisdom!) 10:12, “Hatred fuels dissension, but love calms all rebellions.”

I continued to repeat that in hopes that it would fill the air like the fragrance of honeysuckle, travel to the hearts of all people, dismantle hate, and build up love. At that moment, as my eyes were filled with tears, a question arose: Gun control or hate control?

I have heard the aphorism, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Maybe we need to alter that to “hate kills.” Because we know love does not kill.  

Hate and guns of any kind make for a deadly mix!

As I pondered that and stayed informed about the March for Our Lives event, I came across an article on kids, hunters, and those who compete in skeet, etc., who trust that when guns are handled with respect and discipline, the gun is not the problem.

I know how desperate we are for an expeditious solution to these school shootings, and I cannot help but think that banning the sale of automatic weapons to consumers will make schools and communities over all safer, but those are not the only guns that kill nor are the triggers of those weapons being pulled by loving, mentally healthy persons. In fact, a criminology professor stated that in school shootings, the shooter’s motive is fame.2

That is a very dark and morose concept of fame! Regrettably, it may be a very accurate assessment.

In 1 John 2:11, it is written, “But whoever hates his brother is in darkness. He lives in darkness and does not know where he is going. The darkness has made him blind.”

This blindness that John wrote about refers to a mental blindness or dark thoughts which obscure the messages of divine Love, leaving the person mesmerized by pride, malevolence, and enmity, followed by  deplorable manifestations!

In “Disarming Animal Magnetism” from The Anthology of Classic Articles, Helen Wood Bauman wrote, “If people would recognize the first whisperings of the serpent to be not their own thoughts but the destructive influences of an unreal mind, if they would stop listening to and obeying these whisperings, animal propensities would be quickly stamped out of thought and would not be permitted to grow to intensely hypnotic, dragonlike proportions.”3

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

So how does Love drive out hate?

Love, according to scriptural text, is God. In 1 John 4:7-8, it is written, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Hate then is the antithesis of Love, or God. Hate is the myopia to the existence of the omnipotent and benevolent God who is Love. Even if one does not choose to believe in the power of God, I would hope one believes in the power of love.

So, as these debates continue and passion on both sides of gun control increase, as we contemplate our position on this issue, there are additional fights we can take up and more work we can do to be efficacious in this battle.

  1. Let us look into our own minds and examine where we may be hiding any quality of hate, and quickly replace it with love.
  2. Pray and pray and pray more! It is the silent force of good! (James 5:16) The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is simple but so profound. It includes all people as one and both petitions and reassures that God does deliver us from evil.
  3. Bless others. Bless our schools. Bless our communities. Bless our cities. Bless and bless on! A very helpful book in blessing others is The Gentle Art of Blessing by Pierre Pradervand. In fact, there are testimonies in that book of how people healed hatred.
  4. Take a leap and read scriptural text on handling evil. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of how the omnipresence of God usurped evil as well as positive affirmations and prayers you can practice, such as the 91st.
  5. Take another unbiased leap and consider reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by theologian, Christian healer, and author Mary Baker Eddy who thoroughly explained the power of Christ, the healing work of Christ Jesus, and how we can follow in his footsteps.
  6. Call on a prayer warrior and healers to pray for you, your school, etc.

There is much work to be done, and it may seem as though the work is overwhelming, and maybe even impossible, but with God all things are possible.

In the gospel of Luke 10:1-3, Jesus said, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two-by-two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.’”

I trust that what Jesus was telling us is not solely for missionaries and proselytizers, but for those who dare to stand up for what is right, fair and good; to spread peace and as much as the kingdom of Love as possible. And with so many people on board arguing on the side of righteousness and change for the betterment of all, it appears it will be a harder task for those who oppose the workers of good than those arguing for it to win!

I commend the students who have demonstrated shalom and peace and rallied in protest of evil. And I think the Lord must be pleased with them as they, like many other stouthearted brothers and sisters before them, fight the good fight and demand that the manmade laws for human rights align with something greater; our divine rights to live in harmony. So, as the campaign for gun control advances, let us also advance the campaign for hate control.

 

L.O.V.E. Love Omits Violence Everywhere®

ICB-International Children’s Bible

ESV-English Standard Version

 

1 Cuddy, Alice. “America's History of School Shootings.” Euronews. March 26, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2018. http://www.euronews.com/2018/02/15/america-s-history-of-school-shootings.

2 “The Gun Owners of the Parkland Generation | The New Yorker.” Flipboard on Flipboard. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/-the-gun-owners-of-the-parkland-generati/f-f323f33f24/newyorker.com.

3 Cuddy. Ibid.

White Lies

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Sin is sin

Growing up, when my mom caught me in a lie and asked me to explain myself, I told her that I lied to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.  She told me not to make a habit of lying, that it is “okay” to tell a “white lie,” from time to time just not a “black lie.”  She explained that a “white lie” signified a small sin that was more of a falsehood (Okay! That’s what a lie is!) but that a “black lie,” is an evil that would stain my soul.

It was terrifying!

I went to my room and began calculating how many “white vs black lies” I had told and I was deeply troubled (there’s a confession!)

It seemed confounding that one who claimed to be a Christ-follower (bless you, mom!) would justify any kind of lying as though a white lie was authorized by God.

Over the years of gaining more spiritual insight, I came to realize that a lie is a lie is a lie, or a sin is sin, great or small, but let’s identify what a sin is.  To sin means; “missing the mark.” http://biblehub.com/greek/266.htm

I understand that to suggest, we miss the point about God, that we often fail in the human condition, falling well below the standard Godliness.  St. Augustine defines it as, "Sin is nothing else than to neglect eternal things, and seek after temporal things.”  St. Augustine

The lie derived from none other than the liar.  To quote Jesus in John 8:44, he said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  NIV

Siding with the liar even just a little, suggests that we have turned away from incorruptibility and that one slight turn could lead us so far off the path of righteousness that we become susceptible to all kinds of danger.  One small sin, one white lie is no small thing!

I think of a small sin or a white lie in this way;

The poison dart frog, which is no bigger than a thumb nail, is bright and fauve, and has enough poison to kill 10 humans!

And then there is the mosquito.  Yes, a tiny mosquito.  Mosquitos are responsible for 2 million deaths a year, causing Malaria, yellow and dengue fever.

There is the blue-ringed octopus found in the waters of Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines.  It is “half the size of a golf ball,” but its sting can cause cardiac arrest. http://all-that-is-interesting.com/the-worlds-six-smallest-and-deadliest-animals

Those are just some of the smallest but deadliest creatures, which symbolize that small doesn’t mean harmless.

There are many more examples of how one small sin can cause havoc, accidents and even death.

I received a call from a woman who was deeply disturbed abut her daughter’s pattern of lying and needed a resolve.  She repeatedly told to her daughter to close their front door, so their dog would not get out.  This was a constant ordeal, especially because they lived on a busy street.  One morning before school as the daughter was getting her rain boots from the porch, she left the front door open, but when her mom asked her if she had remembered to close it, she said she had.   The daughter then snuck over to actually close the door, but it was too late. Their dog had gotten out and was hit by a car.

Small lies, white lies, little sins all add up to an offhanded mentality,” and this attitude left rationalized and unchanged leads to a life of telling more lies resulting in missing the mark in greater ways.

In the book of Revelation in chapter 12, a woman is faced with the “great red dragon” who is trying to “devour” her child and kill her.  I envision that this dragon was once the serpent in Gen. II, who beguiled Eve and I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if she had just heeled in its head as it was tempting her thereby obliterating the enticer and preventing it from ever having had the chance of growing into that predominant threat.

Let us learn from this allegory that it is wise to stomp out the temptation to lie and instead, take up the practice of telling the truth and even though telling a lie seems to be the best option to save face, in the long run, it will prove to be a most detrimental decision.  “Anything is better than lies and deceit!” ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.  

I came across this verse in Prov. 27:6, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy,” that inspired me to work on being very courageous to break the habit of lying in order to protect someone else’s feelings, because in reality, by being dishonest, I was damaging my own integrity. I was not considering the aftereffects nor did I realize that I was allowing diffidence to control me. I had become enslaved to the habit and justified it by absurd self-righteous reasoning.

Honesty is salutary and it does require prudence when vocalizing it for the results to be most efficacious.  So the sooner you practice it the better you will become at it. 

We’d love to hear form you about how a small lie you told turned into a dragon.  We will keep all stories anonymous.  If you would like to share your story, write us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lent

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Fasting from Chocolate!

Lent season reminds me of when I was a child being raised in both Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

My mom would take me and my sisters to church to receive our ashes on Ash Wednesday and that meant we had better have decided what we were going to give up for forty days in celebration of Lent.

One year, I chose to give up chocolate of any kind (I loved milk chocolate!). This decision was not easy, but my mom was convinced that fasting from something we loved was a way of making a sacrifice. She explained that if God could sacrifice His only son for the forgiveness of our sins, then surely I could give up chocolate for forty days. So, for those forty days, chocolate was forbidden to pass my lips. Easter Sunday took forever to arrive so I could receive my reward, a very big solid chocolate bunny! When I got my hands on that bunny, I enjoyed every single bite. It was delicious!

As I grew up, I realized the greater meaning and value of sacrifice and Lent. It was not just about giving up food but rather letting go of what did not promote my spiritual progress and stunted my mind from elevating.

Those spiritual hindrances ranged from a variety of things such as victimization, anger, resentment, and unrighteous judgment on my fellow man. 

I knew that somewhere along my way, I allowed the influence of erroneous beliefs and ideals to creep into my mind and usurp the natural thoughts of God. I never considered not only how He saw me, but also how He thinks, overall, about His creation.

I ended up on a confused and confounded path that led me away from what once mattered to me the most: love, compassion, charity, forgiveness and such like. However, when I decided to turn my life completely over to the care of God and God alone, I had a strong desire and a need to let go of inferior and imperfect thoughts.

As I prayed that the Holy Spirit divest me of anything unlike the character of God, I wished it had just been chocolate that I was once again faced with giving up. Relinquishing unpleasant traits was no easy task. I found myself returning to the same old habits that I needed to forgo. I knew that I could not achieve such a prize without God’s intervention. I needed to cling to God even more for endurance, patience, and comfort. And God showed up! He fully armed and equipped me with everything I needed to forge ahead through Christ and destroy those unloving attributes.

Some of those unlovely thoughts fell away more easily than others. For the ones that try to claim my identity, I still fight the battle within to give up whatever is not of God.

In the book of Ephesians 4:22-24, the apostle Paul wrote, “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (ESV).

This kind of Lent, the Lent I trust my mom was truly teaching us, lasts much longer than forty days. It is lifelong work and in the end has a greater reward waiting for us than a chocolate Easter bunny!

The reward is salvation won!

 

ESV-English Standard Version

Celebrity Gossip

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As I was placing my items on the conveyor belt at the grocery store, I saw to my left magazines lined up in rows on a rack. One of them had a photo of an actress on the front page with the headliner that expressed that she was “wild” about her new boyfriend.

Another magazine had a photo of a judge who apparently had divorced her husband and asking the question whether the reader would like to know why she got a divorce. Silently, I said, “I don’t want to know. But I hope all persons involved are happy.”

There were many more magazines like that, and similarly, they were all advertising the same concept: celebrity gossip.

As the cashier was ringing up my items, I thought about how gossip is unkind, intrusive, and mostly, if not always, invalid. So, then I got to thinking about why people want to read about celebrity business or any personal business for that matter? Is it curiosity? Entertainment? Infatuation with a certain celebrity? Is it the need to fantasize and live vicariously through another? Or maybe it’s schadenfreude, pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Whatever the reason, this huge money-making industry on celebrity gossip does not seem to be fading out. In fact, gossip seems to be attractive and a fruitful habit!

A gossip is one who discloses personal or sensitive information about others in a chatty, careless way. The magazines certainly have that chatty, careless tone.

I recalled a time when I was in a waiting room in a medical building. The coffee table and the end tables were covered with gossip magazines. In addition to that, the TV tuned to a daytime talk show, and the hostesses were talking celebrity gossip. I felt there was no escaping the buzz! I then decided to meditate on something good and useful. That got me through the next ten minutes with ease!

Before leaving, I felt compelled to ask the person at the front desk why there were no periodicals about health and well-being in the waiting room. She responded, “People like to read that stuff, so we just keep putting out.”

I said goodbye, but I pondered how many more important issues there are in life to fill our minds with and contemplate, and how many more viable subjects to speak about that would be like healing agents to the world.

In the book of James 1:2-9, it is written, “If a person never speaks hurtful words or shouts in anger or profanity, then he has achieved perfection. The one who can control his tongue can also control the rest of his body. 3 It’s like when we place a metal bit into a horse’s mouth to ride it; we can control its entire body with the slightest movement of our hands. 4 Have you ever seen a massive ship sailing effortlessly across the water? Despite its immense size and the fact that it is propelled by mighty winds, a small rudder directs the ship in any direction the pilot chooses. 5 It’s just the same with our tongues! It’s a small muscle, capable of marvelous undertakings.

And do you know how many forest fires begin with a single ember from a small campfire? 6 The tongue is a blazing fire seeking to ignite an entire world of vices. The tongue is unique among all parts of the body because it is capable of corrupting the whole body. If that were not enough, it ignites and consumes the course of creation with a fuel that originates in hell itself. 7 Humanity is capable of taming every bird and beast in existence, even reptiles and sea creatures great and small. 8 But no man has ever demonstrated the ability to tame his own tongue! It is a spring of restless evil, brimming with toxic poisons. 9 Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+3%3A1-12&version=VOICE )

Filling our minds with unproductive thoughts may not only hinder our spiritual progress but it may also thwart overall mental development.

In “What You Read Matters More Than You Think” in Psychology Today, writer Susan Reynolds explains, based upon a study published in the International Journal of Business Administration in May 2016, that there is “deep reading” and a “light reading.”1

Essentially, deep reading involves a more concentrated reading and comprehension and “occurs when the language is rich in detail…taps into the same brain regions that would activate if the reader were experiencing the event…a great exercise for the brain and has been shown to increase empathy, as the reader dives deeper and adds reflection, analysis, and personal subtext to what is being read.”2 As opposed to light reading that does not require much focus, attentiveness or a reason to retain. Reynolds further comments that light reading, such as “entertainment news…,” “lacks a genuine voice.”3 

According to one article, after a study, Microsoft Corp. declared that “since the year 2000, the average attention span has dropped 12 seconds to eight seconds.”4 However, this fact, and the source of this fact, has been challenged. According to Simon Maybin, author of the BBC News article “Busting the Attention Span Myth,” the source is not Microsoft, but a company called Statistic Brain, which could not be reached. Maybin, having interviewed “various people who dedicate their working lives to studying human attention” found that even the experts are not certain “where those numbers come from either.”5 Sounds like more myth-information that turned into gossip!

“Deep thinking” or intelligent thinking does not have to be lengthy, but it does need to consist of something useful, uplifting, and propitious. It needs to educate, inform, and inspire. Surely, there are more subjects that could use our attention, such as love, benevolence, kindness, awareness, confidence, healing, and overall mental fitness.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

“To think intensely” is no light concept! And maybe that’s why gossip of any kind, celebrity or otherwise, is more appealing!

I understand the concept, “To each their own,” and I understand gossip may be lucrative for journalists. However, there are many wonderful topics to write about, topics filled with new ideas and new thoughts. In fact, there are unlimited possibilities waiting to be discovered. To entertain those new opportunities, one must be willing to search for the deeper things and put the mind to work! To break down barriers that confine thought to mediocracy.

Marie Curie said, “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” That’s a refreshing idea!

Psalm 119:37 reads “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” (KJV)

God’s way of thinking is significantly different than gossip! And the prophet Isaiah spells that out clearly when he said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (KJV).

So, is it possible for man to think like God?

Yes! However, that requires man to focus on God and get to know God along with how the Almighty thinks.

In Colossians 3:2, the apostle Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (ESV). He wanted us to know that it is very easy to get pulled down by earthly ideas, desires, and aspirations rather than looking up, mentally up, to God for all things. After all, it’s not like man became tempted and earthly driven only in the 20th century. The world has been tempting mankind to yearn for the worldly things as far back as Adam and Eve.

Fame, fortune, self-glorification, and self-satisfaction are the ongoing tempters that draw us away from God and leave us smack in the middle of personal desire.

However, with this enticing and mesmeric pull of celebrity and material appeal, how can one stay his or her mind on God?

In the book of Philippians 4:8, it is written, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV).

Ask yourself whether gossip fits any of those qualities mentioned above.

Is gossip true?

Is gossip honorable?

Is gossip just?

Is gossip pure?

Is gossip lovely?

Is gossip commendable?

Is gossip excellent?

Is gossip worthy of praise?

Henry Thomas Buckle said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

 

1 Reynold, Susan. “What You Read Matters More Than You Might Think.” Psychology Today. June 07, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201606/what-you-read-matters-more-you-might-think.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 McSpadden, Kevin . “Science: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.” Time. May 14, 2015. Accessed October 20, 2017. http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/.

5 Maybin, Simon. “Busting the attention span myth.” BBC News. March 10, 2017. Accessed October 20, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38896790.

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