Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WARNING: PC Cleaners are Crooks

Never, never, never download any "cleaner" of any kind.  I fell for them a few years back and it took months to get my computer fixed from what they put on my system.  They say they will fix your problems, after they infect you with adware  and all kinds of problems.  Then you call them and they say they can fix your 400 system for about 900 dollars.  SCAM ARTISTS.  Please friends, don't fall for this.

Unfortunately, my son fell for it today, and I'm reliving the nightmare all over again.

I pray for their souls, but I also pray that justice be done.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A discussion on Grace and Sin and Our Response to it.

We, as Christians live under Grace.  What does this mean for us?  That term is thrown around a lot today.  As a Wesleyan, I often talk about Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace.  It's a way to try to understand Grace.  The truth is there is only one Grace, but we do this to help grow our understanding of it.

It is unfortunate that so many people today do not understand Grace, and they don't feel that they can go to a "normal" church as they feel out of place, unaccepted, judged, or simply feel they cannot measure up or be "good enough."

That's a shame.  As Christians we are called to grow the Kingdom, to Love God and Love Others.  When a visitor feels this way it is a failure of the humans involved, not a failure of God.  These folks are good people, generally with good hearts and good intentions, but it is so easy to fall into the "norm" of worship; to worry more about the place, the time, the music, the sermon, being seen, doing the stuff of church, and not coming to the true heart of worship.  Are we loving God?  Magnifying Him and His glory?  Are we loving others by showing that we really care about them?  Do we listen to them?  Do we seek them out?  Welcome them despite their differences?  Do we offer the hand of friendship to those who are different, look different, dress different, even those who vote differently?

When I think on this, I point the finger directly at myself.  Am I doing what Jesus wants me to be doing?  Am I showing love through my Christian action?  Am I growing the kingdom through my actions.  It's so important to remember that Jesus rarely taught in the synagogues, instead he was with the people.  He went where they were.  This was so revolutionary, that the leaders of the Jewish Church felt threatened.  Jesus wasn't doing it their way. 

In Luke 5:29-32, Jesus went to eat with Levi, a Jewish Tax-Collector for the hated Romans.  According to the Law, no one was worse than that.  The worst kind of sinner because he profited at the cost of all other Jews.  But Jesus went to eat in Levi's home.  "Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes were  complaining  to his disciples, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'  Jesus answered, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."

We are to seek out others, spread the Good News.  We can do this because we live under Grace. 

To understand Grace, you have to understand Sin.  Sin is anything we do that takes us out of our relationship with God.  Sin can be all the big ones; murder, rape, other criminal activities, but it can also be watching football rather than attending worship, or partying rather than being with our families.  We often sin against God and against others.  Why is this important? 

Jesus was asked what was the Greatest Commandment.  In Mark 12:30, Jesus answered "The first is, Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these."  In a nutshell, Jesus is saying Love God and Love Others.  We should seek to do this in all our interactions, and most often in Worship.

So we are all guilty of sinning against God and against others.  We fail all the time, daily.  It is our human nature to fail and fall short of the glory of God.  The Bible tells us, "No one is righteous, no not one."  That was true 2000 years ago, and that is true today.  So if we all fail God and each other, what can we do?

Only one thing.  Accept Christ as your savior.  See he died on a cross as the final sacrifice for all our sins.  Our debt is paid in full.  But wait, Ed, I didn't earn it.  That's right, you didn't, and you can't.  For nothing you can do can measure up to Christ's sacrifice on that cross.  That is what we mean by Grace.  It's a free gift for all humanity.  All you have to do is accept it.  Christ is the savior, he died so all humanity might be saved.

God is perfect and cannot look upon sin.  But now, when you have accepted Christ's gift of Grace, God looks upon you and sees a sinless Christ.  That is Grace! 

I remember my grandparents, loving good people, but they were terrified that they were not going to be "good enough" or "prayed up enough" to be allowed into heaven.  I'm sad today, because I'm sure they are in heaven, but their years of living were filled with doubt and fear of God, when what He really wanted from them was love and awe; a perfect relationship of a good and loving Father and an obedient son/daughter.   They didn't understand Grace. 

But they would argue, if they were here today, "I have sins.  Many may be unrepented.  If I'm not prayed up, I'll be doomed to a fire-filled hell."  My answer to that is found in Romans 8:38:  "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That's Grace.  If you accept Him, you are forgiven, You become a child of the King of Everything.  His sacrifice paid the price for our sins.  How do we respond to Grace.  We seek to worship God, to have a relationship with Him, and to Love Him with all our heart, all our strength.  Then we are to love others, to care for them as we care for ourselves.  That is the proper response to our Christianity.  It doesn't matter where we meet to worship, or who we are with, or how we are dressed, or anything else.  Are we worshipping God with our Love?  Are we seeking Him in our lives?  Are we loving others as Jesus loved them?  Remember Grace, be thankful for it, and share it with others. 

Love to all,



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Love, Not Hate: Last Scene

Last one.  This one is based on a true story that happened in Egypt.  You can find pictures of it online.  People ARE basically good. We share the same loves, desires, and hope for the future.
Love, Not Hate

Hello.  I’m Peter Commons.  I was raised in the 90s, but I grew up on September 11, 2001.  I lived in Brooklyn and worked in New York at the World Trade Center.  Luckily I was on the 7th floor when the first plane hit.  At first we didn’t even evacuate.  We thought it was just some sort of freak accident, but it was still a work day.  Still things had to get done.  But when the second plane hit, well, we knew we had to go.  My boss, John, he stayed behind, working in the stairwell, moving up and down the floors, helping people evacuate.  I wanted to.  I really did, but I was scared.  I didn’t want to stay and help.

I mean, I was a young man, and life was good, and I just wasn’t ready to take a chance.  I did help John for about 2o minutes, but I could feel the building shaking, and I saw those brave firemen and policemen running up the stairs towards the inferno.  It just wasn’t in me.  I felt that vibration in the stairwell, and I ran.  I was scared.  I ran.

I survived.  I got out of there.  John didn’t.  The last we ever heard of him was that he helped a lady with a broken leg down fifteen flights of stairs.  She survived.  He ran back inside.  I don’t know how many people he saved that day.  He gave his life for them.  Left a wife, Mary, and two teenaged boys.  They never identified his body.

The next few years, I kept reliving it in my mind, in my nightmares.  I grew to hate all Muslims.  I saw them as the enemy.  Then, my cousin, Karen, who married an Egyptian Christian wrote me this note.

I want to share it with you: [takes out letter]

“Dear Peter, I know you have been worried about us as Egypt has really erupted in violence.  I know you have heard of the 21 Christians who were killed in that terrorist attack by the radical Islamists.  Well, Christmas Eve was the scariest night of my life.  We had been warned not to attend Mass, to stay away from the church, but we couldn't.  We couldn’t deny our savior.  We left our homes, afraid that we would never return.  That the promised attacks on us on this holy night would be the end.  That the Muslims would never let us worship or follow our beliefs.

As we approached the church, we parked several blocks away, and walked, they were there, waiting for us.  Hundreds of Muslims, in front of our church.  At first we thought they were a mob waiting to prevent us from celebrating Christmas Eve Mass.  But they weren’t.  They met us, hugged us, and told us that “if the terrorists want to kill you, they’ll have to kill us to.  They stayed there, the entire mass, waiting outside the church, acting as human shields, willing to give their lives for us.”

I read this, and it broke me.  John’s sacrifice, then these Muslims, the ones I thought were all evil, did this and possibly saved my cousin Karen and her family.  And I realized, life should never be about hate and fear, but about Love.  Love of God, and Love of Others.  I’m Peter, and my message is love.


Jimmy: Scene Six

This one is made up, but loosely based on some folks I know.  If you have ever been blessed to know someone as good as Jimmy, then you know people like this really do exist.

Hi.  I’m a nurse.  Yeah, I know, male nurse.  Go on, get the giggles outa your system.  I’m used to it.  I like being a nurse.  I like helping people.  But I was missing something.  I just wasn’t satisfied with my life.  I needed…something else.  I work at the local hospital and I usually work 60 or more hours a week.  I’ve cleaned bed pans, changed out IVs, given sponge baths, witnessed birth, and death.  I’ve seen people whose bodies were torn beyond recognition in horrible accidents, and I’ve seen people die peaceably in their sleep.  I’ve witnessed the horrors of cancer, alzheimers, you name it.

About a year ago, I was getting really jaded, you know.  The job I had loved, had become just another job.  I had hardened my heart against the pain and suffering.  I tried to be nice, you know, to joke around, smile, but I just couldn’t afford to let myself care too much. 

Then I met Jimmy. 

Jimmy was an older fella, mid to late 70s, with pure cotton top gray hair and a cherubic body with a big smile, though he was missing most of his teeth.  I met him several times in the past few months.  He was coming to the hospital for cancer treatment.  It was late stage stuff, and he gasped for every breath, but he was always smiling.  Always humming songs of worship, and he would always find people to pray with. 

What I found really amazing is that he wouldn’t ever mention his own prayers, for himself, he always prayed for others.  Even the nurses and doctors on the floor. 

The second time he came in, it was to the emergency room, his heart was beating irregularly, but even then, he never lost his composure, smiling in the pain, saying “God Bless You” to everyone who came in, and offering to pray for anyone there.  I couldn’t get that image of him praying for others, while he was being eaten up with cancer, while he was dying, he was praying for life for others.  I was blown away.

I met his granddaughter, Tyler.  She’s a lovely girl, and I fell for her quickly.  After work one night, I took her to Dairy Queen for ice cream.  I asked her about her grandfather.  Had he always been that way? 

She shook her head, “No, but he is now.”  With tears in her eyes she told me that he had been a successful businessman and real estate tycoon and had been a real sock it to them kinda guy.  But after retirement, he began to mellow.  Joined a church, etcetera.  She said that she thought he was just going through the motions, you know, to be seen being a good guy, or to pay whatever price he needed to , to have peace of mind that when he does die, that he will go to heaven and not to hell.

I nodded, and told her I got it, but she shook her head, “No, you don’t.  He really did give his life to Christ.  He changed, utterly and totally.  The past few years he worked even harder to help others, than he did when he was a businessman and real estate mogul.  The day he found out about the cancer, he went home and pulled out his old book of contacts.  He spent the next three days contacting everyone who he thought he had wronged all those years in business, anyone that he thought might have anything against him.  He didn’t tell them about the cancer.  He simply said, “I want to let you know that I’m sorry for whatever happened between us, and I’m asking for your forgiveness.”  Some hung up on him, some laughed, some accepted his apology. 

Jimmy died a month ago.  His funeral was the largest I’ve ever attended In my life.  So many people wanting to pay respects to this man.  Most said, they hadn’t even known he had cancer.  And I was struck by what the preacher said that day.  “The love we show for others, the life we lead here, reflects the love of God for us.  That we as the body of Christ, have a duty to love God, and to love others.”

I grew up a lot the day we buried Jimmy.  Now I pray everyday.  I pray for all those in my care.  I pray for the doctors and staff of the hospital, and I try to live a life that reflects the love of God.  I’m blessed for it, as Tyler has agreed to marry me and become my wife.  So whenever things look bad for you, or you find yourself in a dark place, think of Jimmy, think of his love and know that it was a mere reflection, a ripple on a pond, of the love of Christ.  Love all.

School Buddy: Scene Five

Snopes says this never happened, as it is an internet story that has been going around for a long time.  This is a reworking of the idea.
School Buddy

I’ll never forget the day Mark and I became friends.  I had seen him around school, and I knew he was different.  He always seemed sad and he was kind of a nerd.  He wore big old black plastic framed glasses, the lens like coke bottles, a shock of rarely combed hair, and he was shorter than most of the boys in our class.

I hate to admit it, but I never even tried to get to know him or even talk to him until one day in early September of our Freshman year.  Stanley, the local bully and a Senior loved giving freshmen a hard time.  Especially those who would never fight back.  Freshmen like Mark. 

Well, I had just walked into the bathroom and I saw Stanley and two other seniors had Mark backed into one of the toilet stalls.   They were picking him up and trying to put his head in the toilet.  Mark cried and begged and fought best he could.  Something broke in me, I wanted to turn and walk away, not get involved, but this wasn’t right.  I never could do that.  No body deserved to  be treated like that. 

“Stop it!”  I yelled.

“Another one!” they shouted.  One of the seniors left the pack and started towards me.  Well, he was a whole lot bigger than me, and I ain’t stupid.  I ran.  I busted outta that bathroom and screamed for help.  (Laughs), yeah, I admit it, my voice hadn’t really changed yet and I was a pretty soprano!  Well, Mr. Lamb our Principal, just happened to be near by and within minutes the Seniors were expelled and Mark and I were safe.  At least till they returned to school.

Mark couldn’t believe that I had stood up for him.  He invited me to his house that night to play video games.  I’m glad he did.  We became the very best of friends.  And we survived our Freshman year.  Mark was in band, I played football, he was on the chess club, I…wasn’t.  It didn’t matter.  People figured out real quick that when you messed with one of us, you messed with both of us.  Eventually we graduated high school.  And of course, Mark was Valedictorian.  I was…well, I wasn’t, but I graduated to.

I’ll never forget his speech that night.  He said, “When I was a freshman, my parents were getting a divorce.  I didn’t have a single friend, and I believed no one cared about me.  One day I stole my father’s .45 pistol, brought it to school.  I planned on getting through the day, then going to the band hall and killing myself.  I didn’t think I had anything to live for.  That day, some Seniors came around and started bullying me.  I even thought about pulling the gun and shooting them, but I was saved.  A boy I didn’t even know, stood up to them, and got help for me.  He became my best friend, and I am here today, because he chose to care.”  He thanked me.  Called me out in front of everyone.  I don’t remember much of that.  Too many tears in my eyes.  I didn’t deserve it, I hadn’t really done anything too special, but for Mark, it was enough.  It was enough.


A Mother's Worries: Scene Four

This one is close to me as a parent of a special needs child.  You may remember a very similar story on national news recently.
A Mother’s Worries

So I was flying on a six hour trip from Houston to Washington D.C. with my daughter, Nellie.  Nellie is only seven years old and has down syndrome.  She can be very precocious, outspoken, and has a high pitched laugh that can drive you crazy.

Anyway, we were not able to sit next to each other and my seat was in the row behind her’s.  I was on the aisle, there was a middle seat, and Nellie was sitting next to the window.  I was worried that whoever might sit next her might not be very understanding, because whoever did would have Nellie talking to them the entire flight. 

As late passengers arrived and boarded, a tall young man came on and proceeded to sit next to Nellie.  I think he was probably in his early 20s, maybe a recent college graduate or something.  He was wearing blue jeans, a New England Patriots sweater, and had white ear buds from his IPod hanging from his ears. 

Well good, I thought.  He’ll just tune her out.  As the plane began to taxi to prepare to take off, Nellie got nervous.  She looked over her shoulder at me and I could see fear in her eyes.  “It’s okay baby,” I smiled and tried to comfort her.

The man next to her pulled his right ear bud out and looked at Nellie.  “You okay?” he asked.  She shook her head, “No, I’m scared.”  He smiled, offered his hand to her.  She took it and held on to him as we thundered down the runway.

The man laughed as the plane took off, and said, “Wheee!”  causing Nellie to laugh and several of us around to join in. 

Once in the sky he could have let go of her hand.  He didn’t, he continued to hold her hand in his and listened to her talk about her Barbie collection and Sponge Bob Square Pants.  The young man apparently watched that show as well as they started singing  “I’m a goofy goober!”  Again the whole plane to laugh and enjoy their antics.

I listened as he told her he had been in Houston visiting his old college roommate, and that he was returning home to Washington.  He was a school teacher there.

They continued like this until the flight was over.  When it came time to disembark, Nellie stood up and hugged him.  He had made the trip worthwhile, just by showing that he cared.  He cared enough to talk to and laugh with a special needs child.  How many of us would ignore her, or worse?  That young man is my hero, and he will forever have my love for what he did for my daughter.


Forgiveness of the Amish: Scene Three

This one is based on a true event, that brings tears to my eyes.  Am I this good of a Christian?  Probably not.  I'd like to be.
Forgiveness of the Amish

Forgiveness.  Everyone says we must forgive.  But that’s hard for me.  I can say I forgive someone, but in my heart I don’t.  I hold grudges, I know I do.  Does this mean I’m a bad person? 

And even if I forgive, there’s no way I’ll ever forget when someone hurts me or my family.  I hear these Christians saying we are to love others.  We are to forgive them, but are they just speaking the words?  I mean is it really in anyone’s heart to forgive?

I’d say no.  I’d like to think everyone else is just as bad as I am.  That true forgiveness is not possible, unless your Jesus Christ, I mean.  For the rest of us, it just is not reality.  It’s not the world we live in.

But then I hear stories of amazing forgiveness and it blows me away.  Have you ever heard of those Amish people up north.  You know they live plainly, wear clothes from the 19th century, live without electricity, tv, radio, etc.  They drive wagons with horses to town.  Man they would drive me crazy if they lived down here.  Can you imagine driving down 21 and nearly stopping because an Amish Buggy was in the road cruising at fifteen miles per hour?  I’d be laying on the horn.  Crazy right?

Well, a few years back I saw this news story on tv.  A crazy guy with a gun entered a small Amish school house and shot and killed several children, a teacher, and then turned the gun on himself.

These Amish folks, devote people, a fundamental people, and they had every right to be angry at our world that had intruded on theirs.  One of our people had murdered their children.  I can’t even imagine what that would be like.  A parent’s worst nightmare.

But it’s what they did next that brings me back.  The parents of the murdered children, these Amish parents, they gathered food and took it to the home of the parents of the murderer.  They said, “We are not the only ones who have lost loved one’s today.  It is not their fault that their son did this, and we must forgive and move forward.” 

What?  They took food to the killer’s family!  They wanted to show forgiveness.  To show charity.  To show love.

Now, I know it is not in me to be that good of a person.  But isn’t that what true Christians are called to do.  To love and to forgive others. 

It really gets to me, you know.