Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the category “Faith”

The Least of These

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply,Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 10: 35-40

Nowadays they are called behavioral health facilities.  Formerly, they were known as mental hospitals.  I have been leading some “groups” at one.  The groups are on a different topic every day, such as “Asking for Help,” and “Healing from Anger.”

Some of the patients are very depressed.  Some of them have made suicide attempts. Some are bi-polar.  Some are psychotic, hearing voices and seeing things that others do not.  Some have dementia.  Some have post-traumatic stress disorder.  Some are addicts.  All are God’s children.  All, at one time at least, had parents.  Some, at one time, were accomplished people.  Some have dealt with mental illness their entire lives.

Often, one or more thank me for what I said in group.  You, Dear Readers, might be thinking that I am doing something kind for “the least of these.”  But I am going to tell you a secret.

These patients, all of whom have suffered, can display great wisdom.  These patients, all of whom have suffered, display great empathy for one another, almost without exception.  And when they share their wisdom with me and the rest of us in the groups, and when they show empathy for one another, and when they appreciate my contribution, then I am blessed by us being in each other’s lives.

The secret is this:  I am one of the least of these too.  And there is another secret: So are you.  I think, at times at least, we all need help and we all need empathy and we all need to heal.  All are sinners who have fallen short.  We all may be counted among “the least of these.”

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Getting Back on the Horse

I confess that I have been bucked off many horses, many times.  I have been bucked off other things as well.

There is a saying that gives me some comfort.  “Ain’t a horse that can’t be rode; ain’t a cowboy can’t be throwed.”

Unless it is a bronc at a rodeo, who bucks for a living, and you are not allowed to get back on, there are two important reasons to get back on after being bucked off.

One reason is very simple.   If you don’t get back on, the horse won and will think that it can get you off whenever it wants.  So, for training purposes, and for the horse’s own good, you want it to learn that it can’t get away with it.  You want it to learn that you are boss; that you are in control.

The second reason to get back on is for your own good, for your self esteem, I guess, to not quit and to not be afraid.

Besides horses, there are other things in life that buck folks off.  (I am not talking about bulls, which are not really intended to be ridden anyway, at least not by me.)

Getting cut from a team is like getting bucked off.  It is  surprising that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and inspiring that he did not quit basketball.  Some say that he turned out to be a pretty successful player.  Some say the best ever.

Getting fired, getting divorced, declaring bankruptcy, losing a loved one who dies, and health problems of all sorts are examples of life bucking you off.   When you are laying in the dirt, you often do not feel like standing up, mounting up, and taking another ride.  Those are the times to “cowboy up.”

Sometimes, I suppose we are more like the horses doing the bucking.  You might say that people who are recovering from addictions are trying to get a “monkey” off their backs.  From another perspective, you might say that making choices that lead to addiction could be to escape life’s demands, like you are trying to buck off responsibilities.  Either way, addictions involve bucking too.  Overcoming addiction is like getting back on the horse because it requires re-taking control.

God knows when we get bucked off, whether literally or by being cut from a team, fired from a job, divorced from a spouse or any of the ways we fall and land hard.

God also knows when we are bucking.  Like a good horse trainer, He does not give up on us.  He has ways of letting us know that we are not in control.

The Bible tells us that the hairs of our heads are numbered, that God knows when a sparrow falls from its nest, and that, lo, He is with us always.

Our heavenly Father is always ready to help us get back in the saddle.

From personal experience, most of us realize that “there ain’t a cowboy can’t be throwed.”  If you haven’t been throwed yet, you will be.

It is by faith we see that with God’s help “there ain’t a  horse that can’t be rode.”
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Cowboy Up

In the West, there is an admonition that means one ought to be tough.  The phrase is this:  “Cowboy up!”  It is used to encourage.

For example, if a cowboy is complaining about having to do something difficult, another cowboy would likely say, “Cowboy up.”  It means to face what you need to face.  It means to do what you need to do.  It means the same as another catch phrase, one formerly used in Nike ads, “Just do it.”  I am guessing the derivation might be about getting up on a horse that is likely to buck.  (Mount up and be ready for a ride, i.e., Cowboy up).

You do not have to be a cowboy in order to cowboy up.  A non-cowboy can be tough.  A non-cowboy might figuratively have to endure a rough ride of one kind of another.

For two examples, I will tell you about my Uncle Luke and about my Friend Bill.  They each have faced something more difficult than anything that I have faced  — A.L.S., also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.    Talk about tough men!

Recently, I spoke separately to two young men who had threatened suicide.  I did not tell them to cowboy up. That is not always therapeutic.  I listened to the hopelessness they felt about life circumstances.   I also encouraged them, or tried to, by telling them about the courage of Uncle Luke and Friend Bill,  facing A.L.S., and how those tough men have inspired me.   I agreed that life can be difficult, but reminded them that life is precious too.  Too precious to throw away.

That realization, that life is precious, is the reason to cowboy up.

Good Ride, Cowboy

Ray grew up on the ranch adjacent to ours.  He left to have a career as an engineer, then returned when he retired.  A good neighbor, a pleasant man, a devoted husband, father, foster father, sincere friend and a devout Christian, Ray was driving home from a Bible study when a truck pulling a trailer pulled out onto the highway from a side road and killed Ray when they collided with his car.

Ray had the right-of-way, but he is still dead.  His wife is a widow.  It was a wrongful death.  His wife, Robin, called last night to tell my wife, Sugar, about the accident.  That is how we found out.

Last time we saw Ray, a few days ago, he was walking in his pasture when we drove by on the county road.  Last time we talked was when I called to tell him that one of the cows seemed swollen and was walking awkwardly and might have been bit by a rattlesnake.  He thanked me and checked it out.  Previously, he had called me to say he found our cat.  Good neighbor.  Nice friend.

He is missed already.

Sugar could not sleep last night.

Robin asked her to sing at the funeral.

The song is one they had at their wedding.  It is Borning Cry.  God is with us from the beginning.  And at the end.

Good ride, Cowboy!  Good ride!

Dream Date

He was clutching a handful of cash.  He looked happy as he walked away from the bank teller.  He came over to where I was sitting in the bank lobby and I commented that it looked like he had lots of money.

“I do have a lot of money,” he agreed.

“Do you have plans for how you want to spend all that money?” I asked.

He grinned.  “I am going on a date.”

“That sounds like fun.”  He agreed and volunteered to tell me about the planned date.

The young man appeared to be about high school age.  He has Down’s Syndrome.  I wondered if he was going to prom.

“We are going to Olive Garden restaurant to eat and then we are going to a movie at the brand new movie theater and then we are going to watch the sunset.”

“Wow.  That will be a wonderful date.”

“Yes.  I always wanted a girlfriend who has cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.”

“Do you have boots and a hat?”  I asked because he was not wearing any.

“Yes.  I like horses too.”

“I do too.  I have some horses.”

“Oh.  What are their names?”

I told him our horses names and then asked him the name of his girlfriend.

“I don’t know her name yet because I have not met her but when I do we will go on a date.”

His mother had overheard our conversation and smiled about it.

I got kinda choked up.  That is a nice young man who knows what he wants.  He has goals about getting a girlfriend who meets his criteria and has planned out a wonderful date night.  Lucky girl!

 

Holy Week Adjusted

Today I got a haircut.  My barber, Randy, is very knowledgeable about the Bible.  We talk about politics and religion.  He is a Messianic Jew and celebrates the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.  He celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but counts the days of Holy Week differently than how I was taught.  I will try to explain.

Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem that is celebrated on Palm Sunday, my barber says, coincides with bringing the lambs who would be sacrificed down that same route.  The people who came out would have come for that parade anyway.  It was part of the preparation for Passover.  So far that coincides with the traditional beginning of Holy Week, but with a slightly new perspective.

Randy says that the Day of Preparation for Passover would have been Tuesday and so the Last Supper was Tuesday night, not Thursday.  On Tuesday night, Jesus was arrested and put on trial.  However, they could find no fault in him.

On Wednesday, Randy says, the priests would sacrifice the spotless lambs found to be without flaw.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, was without fault or flaw.  Wednesday was the day that Jesus was crucified, not Friday.  The Jews needed the crucifixion to be completed before sunset, when Passover began.  The lambs were sacrificed on a certain schedule — the same time frame as Jesus being sacrificed. Randy also said that when the High Priest completed the task of sacrificing the lambs, he would say, “It is finished.”  Jesus said the same as his last words on the cross.

This was before the start of Passover on Wednesday sunset, which as Randy explained, is then Thursday.  Really that is not very different than beginning a new day at midnight.  Rather than midnight, the new day began at sunset of the prior day.

Jesus said he would rise after three days.  Per Randy, the three days were Thursday (technically from sundown Wednesday until sundown Thursday), Friday, and Saturday at sunset.  The resurrection probably occurred in the night (i.e., after sundown) which was Sunday.  The women came to the empty tomb on Sunday morning.  Easter!

It makes sense to me.  How about to you?

 

 

 

 

The Night on which He was Betrayed

Today is Maundy Thursday.  We remember the Last Supper in the Upper Room, watching and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest of Jesus, his “trial” and Peter’s three denials.  Oh, what a night!

Many have experienced various types of betrayal.  Few have been crucified as a result.

Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his disciples that night on which he was betrayed.  Tonight we remember that night.

 

One Day at a Time

It can be positive to live each day like the last so as to make the most of life without regrets.

It can be unhealthy to live each day like the last in the sense that one wonders about ending life the next day,  enduring one more day without hope.

It can be courageous to live one day at a time while trying to overcome addiction or the difficulty of an unrelenting medical condition.

Some people are fighting to survive; others are longing to die.

Same choice.  Different perspectives.

 

Chain of Thoughts

“Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us…

“Love one another AS I have loved you…

“Love your neighbor AS yourself…

“Do unto others AS you would have them do unto you…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do….”

 

Lenten Resolutions

Many devout Christians give something up during Lent.  Often it is something they enjoy, such as giving up chocolate or alcohol.  Some people use this period of time sort of like another chance for a New Year’s resolution.  I have a friend who is trying to refrain from using profanity.

I have not researched this in a scholarly manner, but I suppose the tradition of preparing for Easter by fasting, repentance, and  discipline is in recognition of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice.   How small is giving up chocolate or beer or whatever in comparison to Christ’s giving up his human life for us on the cross?

Our small sacrifices are minor, yet symbolic.  Our sacrifices can help us remember what Christ did for us.  Our disciplines can help us focus on the cross.

Another idea consistent with such symbolism is to do something positive, just as Christ’s ministry was positive and his sacrifice was for salvation.  Maybe we can think of the positive effect of giving up things like laziness and selfishness so that during Lent we do something positive for other people.  Maybe for you, volunteering or donating money to the Church, charities, or other good causes also reflects Christ in your lives.

I don’t know what you should do or what you should give up during Lent.  I am just reminding you that it is Lent, so prepare for Easter.

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