Saturday, November 12, 2016

12 November 2016

Good morning, welcome. My wife and I have a cat-Spencer-and a dog-Tracy. Spencer came first. She is actually named after our favorite Criminal Minds character; Tracy, well-what can I say? Anyway, Spencer came shortly after we moved down here. She was being fostered when we got her, consequently she was well adjusted and very affectionate after the manner of cats, meaning when she feels like it. Spencer is a gentle soul and, being partial to gentile (read quiet) souls, she is my favorite.

Tracy, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. Spencer is probably a year and a half, maybe closer to two now. Tracy is a rescue dog; we found her in a no-kill shelter run by a veterinarian. The vet told us she was maybe nine months when we got her; we now suspect she was closer to six months. At least, that’s how she acts. Being a rescue dog we can’t know for sure what breed she is, but I strongly suspect she is predominantly Whippet. She has all the physical characteristics and exhibits all the behavioral traits-in other words, she looks like a Whippet and acts like a Whippet. That means, in essence, she goes from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat (or movement of the cat) inside or outside with no regard for or awareness of obstacles like furniture or steps people or holes she dug in the yard. It also means she is extremely affectionate and clingy and loves our couch, especially when we are on it. And our bed. Tracy is my wife’s dog-they are pretty much joined at the hip. Which I think is very cool because my wife, also a gentle soul, was made to care for kids and dogs.

The couch is also one of Spenser’s favorite places. We put a blanket on the middle cushion for her and she will curl up on it for hours. Until, that is, Tracy came along. The blanket on the couch is also Tracy’s favorite place. For several months poor Spencer was a displaced person; Tracy hogged up the blanket (and the bed, for that matter) and Spencer was left to fend for herself. Lately, however, a change has taken place. Spenser and Tracy have become BFF’s. They play and roughhouse all across the living room leaving a trail of disruption in their wake, they sleep with us on the bed; Tracy as close to my wife as she can possibly get and Spenser down around my feet. And they share the couch, side by side on the blanket. I have a ton of pictures of them together; I’ve put a bunch on Facebook with appropriately witty captions. Watching those two sleep together on that blanket is one of my favorite things. Which brings me around to the point of this post.

The satisfaction and peace and joy I have watching those two sleeping together must be, in some small way, similar to the satisfaction and joy God feels when He sees His children (that would be us) getting along. And, just like I laugh at the silly things they do, I’m pretty sure God laughs at some of the silly things He sees us do together with each other. Yes, I believe we and the wonderfully diverse humanity He created bring God great joy and even make Him laugh.

The other side of that is we also bring God great sorrow when we do not get along; great pain when we deliberately hurt one another. God loves us and He expects us to love Him back. And as someone wrote-how can we love God whom we cannot see when we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we do see?

In the beginning Spencer and Tracy did not get along. Only after time together, getting to know one another, did the fear and whatever else dogs and cats feel about each other give way to their equivalent of mutual affection. It is the same for us. We are a diverse humanity because God loves variety. We have a big advantage over Spencer and Tracy, however, in that we can communicate with each other. We can spend time listening to each other’s fears and hopes and dreams and we can work together to overcome our fears, share our hopes and accomplish our dreams. Or we can be afraid of anything or anyone who looks or talks or believes differently from us. The problem with that is, we all belong to God (as someone else wrote, we live to God and we die to God, whether we like it or not) which means we are all equal in His sight. We simply have no excuse for tolerating hatred. None. Period.
Spenser and Tracy have a lot to teach me about how we relate to each other and to God. Tracy doesn’t care that Spenser is a cat and Spenser doesn’t care that Tracy is a dog. They are perfectly capable of doing what cats and dogs do and still, somehow, finding a way to be BFF’s. We should all be like Spenser and Tracy. God requires it. Now more than ever, our country needs it. JRG

Saturday, October 1, 2016

My revelation from the Lord the other day: as I was on my hands and knees washing the kitchen floor, I saw a spot near the bottom on a cupboard door and I thought "this is why I do it this way - it's a whole different perspective from down here." The Lord spoke to me at just that moment and said..."it's the same way with prayer. When you're on your knees, it's a whole different perspective from there."

From one of my Geneva classmates, who gave me permission to share.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

            A couple months ago my wife and I adopted a rescue dog from a veterinary clinic. The dog-still a pup-has become attached to my wife. My wife, always an early riser, is usually the one to let the dog-whose name is Tracy-out in the morning. Truth is, Tracy won’t go out for me. The other morning, however, was one of those rare occasions when I was up very early, before my wife. I was able to lure Tracy out of the bedroom with a biscuit and get the door closed before she could get back in, giving my wife some extra sleep.
            We have two coffee makers; a Keurig, for the times when only one of us is up, and a Bunn, for when we are up together. That morning I made my coffee in the Keurig. While I was enjoying my first cup, it occurred to me that the coffee I was drinking was for me only; it was mine and no one else’s. I know, no-brainer, right? But here’s the thing-at that moment I also realized coffee from the Bunn had a sacramental aspect to it. Here’s why.
            When my wife and I (and anyone else who happens to be visiting) drink coffee from the Bunn, we are sharing the one common pot; the one for the many (or at least, the two). Same thing with a meal, which is why meals had such significance in the Bible. That’s what the Passover meal was-one lamb for the many. That’s what Jesus’ sacrifice was too-one sacrifice for all humankind to share.
            And that’s why I said the common pot is sacramental. It is a visible sign of a spiritual reality; the one feeds the many. So the sacrament of the common pot (communion) isn’t necessarily limited to the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist or however your faith tradition defines and practices it. It is available anytime two believers share a meal. Or a pot of coffee. God’s presence is all around us; all we need do is recognize it, and celebrate.
            I believe God is really looking forward to the time when we will all share the wedding banquet together; much more than we can possibly realize. In the meantime, while we are asking God to bless our meals (or our coffee), why not invite Him to the table to share? He has, after all, invited us to His.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

17 September 2016
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:11-12 (NRSV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
            This is a repost from my other blog, I’m thinking some of you might not read that one and this is appropriate here as well, so here it is.

            Good morning, welcome. Yesterday I inadvertently included today’s Gospel lectionary reading in the blog. That’s ok because now I have the opportunity to talk about a story in today’s local paper, and discuss our response.
            According to the story a Bible was removed from the waiting room of a clinic on a local military base in response to a complaint lodged by a retired vet. The clinic in question provides medical care for active duty and retired vets, and any other vet that may be eligible for benefits. According to the story, our vet emailed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to express concern that everyone in the waiting room had to stare at the Bible. The end result was the Bible was given to the Hospital Chaplain who will ‘place’ it in the chapel.
            My first thought was why a Bible in a waiting room would make anyone uncomfortable. There are as many answers as there are people in the room, but this particular retiree felt compelled to take action. The whole incident has high conflict potential which we will get to in a minute. For now, let me ask you this-regarding the complainant, what was your first response?
            While you’re thinking that one over, let’s move on to the removal itself. Again, the question-what was your first response? Let’s consider our options. Some will interpret this a blatant denial of their religious freedom. They are the ones who operate in the realm of imposition; the realm where the Kingdom would suffer the violence of those who would impose their views by force. For others, like our retiree, this is an affirmation of their right to be free from any religion. Do you see how the violence of the one incites violence from the other (I am using violence metaphorically here)? In this battle of rights, who is right?  So let’s reframe the question-what response do you think would best demonstrate the Kingdom presence?
            Considering the complainant first, I believe our first response should be prayer for his conversion. We don’t know his circumstance; we do know God desires all men to be saved so we can start here. Not some half-hearted prayer but persistent petitioning for his eternal destiny. Ask God to lead you in this and be open to His response. Maybe He will show this is not to be your concern; that’s ok too.
            Now concerning removing the Bible itself. My first response was the Bible really can’t be removed from anywhere. If you have a smartphone you have access to the Bible. If you want to read it in the waiting room no one would even know, much less attempt to stop you. Which led to this thought-why would you want to isolate yourself from a room full of people in the first place? This is a big part of our problem as a society-we are constantly connected but never related.
             A room full of people-especially in a hospital or doctor’s office-literally begs for the presence of Jesus. I am not talking about preaching here, I’m talking about conversation. Listening. Comforting. Sharing experiences. If you can focus on Facebook for ten minutes (Facebook-social media-how ironic is that) you can listen for five. I mean really listen. If you’re not the outgoing type, that’s ok-you can pray. No one will ever know (although you might be surprised). Except God.
            So I’ll ask again-how do you respond to all this? There’s an opportunity here. Something to think about, next time you find yourself in a waiting room. Any waiting room. Don’t forget to worship tomorrow. Monday Lord willing we get back with the regularly scheduled program.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this weekend. JRG

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I read a story on Facebook this morning from The Guardian about a Muslim woman being set on fire in New York. In a follow-up story The Guardian reported this was not considered a hate crime because several other women had been set on fire by the same man and ethnicity did not appear to be a factor. Excuse me, but how is setting someone on fire not an act of hatred? Christians should be outraged at this. By allowing ourselves to be defined by what we are against, we have lost our sense of community, our sense of responsibility to one another, our God-given mandate to care for one another. I said Christians should be outraged, but not surprised. Until we recover some sense of what it means to be in relationship-and we are in relationship, whether we want to be or not-this will only escalate. Our Gospel is not spread by imposition of will or imposition of law or imposition of anything. It is spread person to person and witnessed to by personal conduct. Paul did not assert his rights when he was beaten and jailed in Philippi. There were two supernatural events in that jail that night-the earthquake and the conversion of the Jailer and his family. The one facilitated the other and Paul's imprisonment facilitated both. When Paul did assert his rights as a Roman citizen, he did so to protect the church he had founded, to give it legitimacy. Forcing our morality on those who do not want it while ignoring blatant crimes of hatred does not glorify God, it does not advance His Kingdom and it does not demonstrate His presence. To do these things, we need to learn the importance of relationships, from the Gospel point of view.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)

Monday, August 22, 2016

I read online-in Facebook, actually-the other day that Dr. Jim Dobson has endorsed Donald Trump, in large part, evidently, because Mr. Trump is promising to return Christianity to the public square, to give us back our voice. I didn't know we lost our voice.

In my view, posting the Ten Commandments in your yard or business or office is not nearly as important as writing them in your heart and doing what they say. God has not been removed from our schools. He is present in our schools when Godly, believing teachers demonstrate Him by their behavior, not their rhetoric. Prayer cannot be removed from anything anywhere at any time. Prayer is taught in the home, reinforced in the church and practiced wherever hearts cry out to God. God is acknowledged in society-our homes and schools and businesses-when He is first acknowledged in our hearts.

 Our salvation does not come from living in a 'Christian' country. Our salvation comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ. I do not believe God's agenda is to make America great, but to make His presence in America and the world known through the Church-His presence on earth. Anywhere people of faith are, His presence is. We may very well be the only Jesus someone sees. What kind of Jesus will that be? The choice is ours, not Jim Dobson's or Tony Evans' or Donald Trumps.

"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps." Psalms 85:10-13 (NRSV)

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The church I belong to hosts a soup kitchen every Friday, from 11:00 to 12:00 or 12:30, however long it takes everyone to eat. The meals are free and everyone who comes in gets fed, no questions asked. Volunteering there is one of my favorite things. I get to hang out in the kitchen with people I really like, and serve people whom I also really like. I see God at work here every Friday-in the hands and hearts of those who cook, of those who serve, and in the faces of those who receive. Especially the kids.There is a unity of purpose there, a divine flow, a giving and receiving that flows both ways, as God intends. God is present here, maybe even smiling.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Hello all. This blog is posting, sharing, and celebrating signs of God's presence in our day to day lives. The idea was born from a conversation with my mother, while she was telling me about the little things people were doing for her-random acts of kindness. I believe these things go on unnoticed all over the place, all the time. There are other signs we miss simply because we are not paying attention-the beauty of nature, the look in someones eye, children playing, pets playing, laughter, even tears and sorrow. The theological basis-as if we needed one-comes from my firm  belief that God is already present everywhere always and desires to make Himself known. so if you think you have seen God somewhere lately, let us know. There is no right way here, or wrong way. This is not a debate and political correctness-or political anything-is not necessary or even welcome. This is a place for sharing and celebration. As far as I know, anyone can comment. If you have problems, let me know. By the way, if you think you might be interested in how you can be God's presence to others, check out my other blog an Many blessings!!!!!