You are not part of the control group

You work from your house. Money is coming in. So far nobody you know has fallen ill from the pandemic, or even a common cold. Your wife still loves you, despite being in the same house with you for the last four months. Your life is under control.

How much of that control is actually created by you?

You have worked diligently for years. You’ve built trust with your peers at work and your bosses. Whenever you’re out of the house, you wear a mask and use hand sanitizer. You care deeply for your wife, and you realize she’s just as stressed out as you are, so you give her as much space and let it go when she’s rightfully annoyed with you.

Your company hasn’t shut down. Your peers and bosses have computers connections to the Internet that let them continue to have work for you, and the willingness to allow business to continue. While you’re out of the house, nobody sneezes on you and gets stuff in your eyes. Your wife is holding onto her sanity.

How much of that is actually under your control? None of it.

Notice how there were two separate parts to each of the things in your life “going right.” The part where you do what you know is moral and appropriate, and also the part where anything that goes wrong with it is completely out of your control.

A lot of people call that other part “luck.” Do you really think that the hundreds, nay, thousands of things that had to line up just right for you to be born and manage to survive to your current age are based on a game of chance?

Being “right” isn’t enough. Try doing your income taxes. You answer every question with the true information as you’re capable of giving. It doesn’t stop the government from sending you letters that your taxes were done wrong. You finally discover that the tax software made the mistake – but you’re still on the hook for it. So you fix it and send it in again. Only to read the mail six months later that they are going to take some of your paycheck to cover the taxes and fees they are charging you, ignoring the fixed taxes you sent in.

Only one has control, and that’s God. Only God can make everything line up in just the right way so that when you do the right thing, good Godly things can happen. Even in our mundane daily lives are those touches of God, smoothing out and making your paths straight.

God doesn’t have to do this. God is not made smaller when we stumble or fail. Some may even argue that He is magnified when we suffer, for that shows the willingness we have to follow Him even in times of struggle. We are not here simply to accept God’s blessing. He asked us to worship Him. Not required it, but asked us. But He made it very clear that whether we worship Him or not, life will be difficult. But He does say it will be possible: that each of us will make it through life.

So why does He smooth out so many paths before us? The same reason that we bring worth to Him in our thoughts and our actions: Love. We praise Him out of love for Him; He smooths out the rough edges of life out of love for us. It is not because of one love that the other happens; they are independent. But it doesn’t change the need to recognize all that He does for us.

More than a Bandwagon

I’m going to say this because nobody else has. Our country is broken. God told us to put the least of us first. Instead, this country is run by the majority, at the cost of every other minority: Black, Mexican, Women, all. As a church, we are failing to do our job: God told the church to be the moral leader.

We pray for this country, yes. The church has preached. But it has done little to improve the thinking and lives of the people at large. We turned in on ourselves, closing ourselves off from new ideas and ways of communicating with ourselves and the rest of the world.

Even here at the church I attend, I have ideas to make us able to communicate better. We need ways to let our congregation talk to each other even when we cant all be together. For example, I propose we use email groups for each of our planned items so we can add interested people to anything we, as a church, choose to do. We had a Community Outreach Task Force! This was a good start. But we lost the thread because we are unwilling to communicate and organize properly.

God says all lives matter. Right now the world is looking at Black lives. We could be out there protesting in solidarity. It doesn’t have to be big, but it would be standing up for what is right in the eyes of God.

An example of big thinking we could do: Systemic racism started with lines drawn on government maps decades ago. Where was the church to say that was wrong to do? Where is the church now to help good people have a chance at better lives? All those lines drawn can be blurred by churches stepping in and lending money to good people who are trying to break through those lines. Where will the money come from? The other church members who can see the value of planting good people everywhere.

This is not radical by any means. Churches of old used to do it. Is it dangerous? Absolutely. It is worth the risk to make this world better? Absolutely.

Respect Yourself

– sung to the tune of Express Yourself.

Look around you. Are you alone? You have two things that nobody else in the entire world, past or future, will ever have. No matter how good or bad things have been, you still have these things.

Your body and your life.

Do you care about your life? Why? Why not? Do you really feel like a waste of space? Do you believe you can change the world?

This world has done a great job of breaking us down. Making it feel like we will never get anywhere in life. Making it seem like nothing matters. There are certainly many acting like nothing matters. Can you really believe that nothing matters? That you could just disappear and nobody would notice?

So you do care!

Then act like it! Why disrespect yourself?

Have fun. Its good to have fun! Party! But you dont have to destroy your body or your future to do it. You can have more parties and more fun that way!

A little alcohol is fine – our bodies can handle it. But only once in a while. Not every day. And not so much you get sick.

Heres a novel idea. You have hope for a future. What about the person next to you? The one down the street? The one on the other side of the world? Do you know their story? Do you know what they have been through? Do you know the story of every person in the world?

Didnt think so.

Then why would you talk about someone else as though you do know everything about them?

Once you respect yourself, you start to realize that every other person around you deserves the same respect. Isnt it because of other people directly or indirectly putting you down the reason that you were unsure you were worth anything? So why do that to someone else?

How do we teach this? How do we spread the idea? Hard to say. Some public schools try, but the kids often think its a joke. Other public schools simply dont have time or money to try.

What about parents? Were all so busy, trying to make enough money just to get through another day. Being ground into the dust it seems like, the very picture of the hopeless.

But you parents do have one hope: your children. Your kids know you are stressed out and hurting. What they dont know is why. They dont know the hope you have that life will be better for them because of the work you do. They may not know that they are literally your hope.

And all it takes is for you to tell them. They dont have to know every detail of how your life ended up here. And you dont have to burden them with everything you want for them. But you can tell them that your life is already better because they exist. Because you give them worth, they are more likely to believe that they are worth something to themselves too.

All it takes is for you to tell them once in a while.

Watch This Space

Watch this space.

Every year my church organizes a “men’s retreat,” one weekend a year where they rent out a place that you can have teaching sessions and a place to sleep. It’s a bit of a misnomer as you don’t really “relax” much, but you do get to have time with several other people from the church that are frequently too busy for thoughtful conversation.

Over the course of the last few years I’ve become increasingly opinionated, and willing to share those opinions in any situtaion that feels related. These opinions are based on my understanding of God’s will and my reading of the Bible.

It occurred to me at this retreat that I cannot pinpoint locations in the Bible that would support or disprove my opinions. This is something I wish to rectify.

First I plan to research each subject, looking for what other opinions and commentaries have to offer and write about what I find. The goal is to make notes about things to be watching for during phase two: re-reading the Bible, looking for and noting all the things I seek.

I have quite the laundry list of ideas to be confirmed or denied. Perhaps you’ll find these interesting too? No idea what order I will work on them.

  • When Godly people talk about themselves, they always say they fall far short of the mark of God’s Law. Why is this? Is it truly so difficult to follow Ten Commandments, and the rest of the Law of the Torah? I expect we will have to dive into the question of “What is sin?”
  • I am a God follower and a “furry,” and I feel no shame nor conflict with it. I like to think that I’m enjoying God’s creatures in a totally unusual way. But the meaning of furry is also wide and varied, and I do think there are ways to be furry that would go against God’s law.
  • As humans, we learn and grow as we go. Therefore we need to leave space in our marriages for the individuals to continue to grow, rather than call it quits because one or both people have grown in their understanding of God, the world, or themselves.
  • Marriage is a sacred vow, one that appears all too often to be broken by people who didn’t understand what it was meant to be in the first place. I believe all couples intending to be married should be trained in “how to argue appropriately,” as well as a requirement that they trust each other. With that, almost all mountains can be climbed.
  • God gave us these bodies, to care for and enjoy. So why does it seem like everyone considers sex and kinks in a healthy husband and wife relationship as a sin? What does God’s Law have to say?
  • Pornography is easily addicting. But I argue that a form of it, used in an appropriate way, is not sinful. Instead I hear God followers putting themselves down about any use of it. I argue this is simply another way God followers are led to believe themselves unworthy.
  • You should not have to change who you are to be able to keep a job. But I will agree that you can improve how you interact with others to make a job better for yourself and those around you.
  • We ask for knowledge in our times of trouble. But isn’t that what got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden? Is it appropriate to ask for knowledge and wisdom?

In the coming months I hope to research and pray about these topics and more in the hopes of finding some conclusions in God’s Law. This is more for my benefit, but I hope you come along for the ride.

Watch this space.