The solution for a bleak world

Why me?

I ask this question every so often, in a positive tone.

We like to portray God as a cosmic king who sits on his throne and judges the world. Actually, he’s just the opposite.

Why me?

It’s easy to find fault with anyone and everyone, including me. We’re all guilty of something, actually lots of things. God doesn’t need to judge us. We’re very good at doing that ourselves.

No, God’s specialty is not judgment, but mercy. Despite the fact that we’re all guilty of lots of things, God chooses to save some of us, even though not one of us deserves it.

Why me? That’s why I ask this question.

Real life encouragement

Mercy is receiving something we don’t deserve.

It’s a Bible word, but it works in “real life,” too.

One of the youth directors at our church offers a three-times-a-week after-school basketball program for inner-city high school students. Sometimes, two dozen of them show up.

Joe doesn’t have to do that. But he does, because he wants to give these young men something they don’t have.

Hope. Encouragement. A safe place to play ball (this is not as easy as it sounds). A father figure. An introduction to the living God.

Most of these young men have no church background. They might be experiencing this side of “real life” for the first time.

Mercy lets us look up, and look beyond ourselves.

The apostle Paul wishes mercy for Timothy, a young pastor he mentored. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that are included in the New Testament, one detailing the qualifications of church leaders, the other a personal letter of encouragement.

The best gifts

Paul wished two other things for Timothy as well: grace and peace (1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2).

Indeed, Paul wrote more than a dozen letters to New Testament audiences (and to us), and in all of them he wished his readers grace and peace (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Titus and Philemon).

Some of these letters were written to churches, others to specific individuals. He prayed for grace and peace for all of them. Those themes are repeated throughout his letters.

Grace, mercy and peace are gifts to us from God. We cannot give any of them back to God. If we give grace, mercy or peace to each other, we learn how to do that from God.

‘We cannot remain insensitive’

We need those desperately in our world today.  We don’t have to attend church to see that.

In today’s local newspaper, there are several articles – just today – that bear this out.

In one article, Associated Press writer Ted Anthony summed up the world scene this way:

 

There are those mornings when you come into work and everyone seems cranky. That’s how it felt at the United Nations this past week during the annual gathering of world leaders. Speech after gloomy speech by leaders from all corners of the planet pointed toward one bleaker-than-thou condition: Humanity clearly needs a spa day.

 

A spa day. Actually, the world needs more than that. It needs a new direction. Grace, mercy and peace would go a long way toward the world’s people – ie, you and I – learning how to get along with each other. Just saying.

In another article, Pope Francis offered this take on the world:

Vatican Pope Migrants

“We cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to ‘our group.’ We cannot remain insensitive, our hearts deadened, before the misery of so many innocent people. We must not fail to weep. We must not fail to respond.”

 

Is the Pope correct? Why do we reject the Scriptures, when they have the answers to what the world is longing for? We learn to not be indifferent to poverty and other struggles of fellow human beings because God placed a caring heart inside each of us. Are we listening?

The issues of life on Earth are that basic and universal.

A third article offers this assessment:

Afghanistan Elections

The latest election seems unlikely to bring the peace sought by Afghans tired of an increasingly brutal war, or an easy exit for the United States, seeking to end its longest military engagement.

 

Many of these issues don’t have easy solutions. Fighting in Afghanistan has gone on for what seems like forever.

The only game plan that works

Where is peace? When will we understand that the benefits of peace far outweigh the disadvantages?

When we submit to God, that’s when. No human being or government can bring lasting peace.

We’ve tried in our own country, and done pretty well at it over the past two centuries, actually.

But look at us now. Even the U.S. Constitution can’t guarantee peace.

If we can’t get along with our neighbors, how can we possibly get along with the rest of the world? If our own families are in disarray, how can we promote peace elsewhere?

By returning to God, that’s how. The God of the Old and New Testaments has the game plan for grace and peace, not just in the next life, but right here, right now.

The key is not judgment, but mercy. Every one of us is guilty. We need to look beyond ourselves and seek a higher truth, since none of us – no, not one – has the ultimate truth in and of ourselves.

Your truth may not work for me. My truth likely won’t work for you. We argue on this level all the time.

We’re missing the point. Neither of us has a truth worth defending.

God does.

Men and women struggle to implement God’s truths. We screw it up. That doesn’t mean God, or His truths, are wrong. It means we humans are messed up. That’s all.

News flash: We’re all messed up. We’re all messed up.

Grace, mercy and peace are possible. They are available to us, today.

We have to ask the God of the Bible for them, because none of us is capable of offering grace, mercy and peace to anyone.

It’s not about us. We can’t earn grace, mercy and peace. The other world religions – all of them – do not understand this. That’s why Jesus said, in no uncertain terms, that His way is the only way to meet God.

One person at a time.

 

Speech after gloomy speech … We cannot be indifferent … seems unlikely to bring the peace …

 

The need is obvious, is it not?

So is the solution.

A day in the life of …

Driving in the middle of three lanes on the Ohio Turnpike the other day, I was coming up on the exit before the one I wanted. Semi-trucks filled the right and middle lanes as we approached the exit. The trucks in the right-hand lane left the turnpike, then one of the semis in the middle lane slowed down, crossed two lanes and also exited. I braked to 35 mph on a 70 mph highway.

I’ve seen cars do that a number of times, always because they were driving too fast before cutting in front of me to exit. I hadn’t seen a semi do that before. He probably just couldn’t move to the right lane because of the traffic already there.

Last night I avoided the highway because it snowed during the day and the roads were bad. I heard reports of numerous wrecks. Some roads I traversed were clear; others were snow-covered. Keeping alert, I reached my destinations without a hitch.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I need to make my picks for this weekend’s NFL wild-card playoff games. I’m in a family football pool; during the season, I finished in the middle of the pack. I got some picks right, and missed badly on many others. If I was a fanatic, maybe I would have done better. No biggie. It was fun.

A Monday vacation

I had Monday off this week for the New Year’s holiday. My wife did not, so I got a day to myself. I went for a jog in the morning. I don’t have an exercise plan; I just go when I feel like it. I like the fresh air, and it energizes me when the blood starts pumping.

On Wednesday morning, I was tired and had a headache. I get time off midday, so I went for another jog. It felt good. I still was tired afterward, so I downed some aspirin and an extra cup of coffee. Something worked, because I felt better that afternoon and evening.

Oh yeah, back to Monday. After the jog and a shower, I headed to Crocker Park in nearby Westlake to spend a gift card I got for Christmas. Bad move. It was a holiday. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, even in a four-floor garage – with dozens of other drivers looking for a spot in there too. I never did spend the gift card. I’ll go back another day.

In the (not) bleak mid-winter

I saw a Facebook post that nothing good happens in January. It’s cold and snowy in the upper Midwest. I like the cold and snow, although 10 degrees is a little much to be outside for long.

But January is not all bad. I started my last two jobs, including my current one, in January. We moved to Elyria three years ago – in January. During a polar vortex, by the way.

A couple of days ago, I took a package to the post office. There were seven or eight of us in line, and only one clerk. She buzzed the back for help, but none came. The line kept growing. The clerk worked quickly, but professionally and efficiently. When it was my turn, I told her she was doing a great job. I worked in a call center for 2.5 years; compliments are one in 1,000, literally. A little encouragement goes a very long way.

I hope the clerk was encouraged.

A typical day

I start my mornings in a La-Z-Boy with a cup of coffee and my Bible, often with one cat on my lap and the other cat on the headrest. What a great way to begin the day. It’s quiet and warm. Definitely worth setting the alarm a few minutes early for.

At work, I drive a wheelchair-accessible van to pick up several individuals with special needs and bring them to our “socialization center” for the day, then drive them home late afternoon. I have a wide-ranging route that takes me into the next county. Most of my folks are non-verbal, so I talk to them and they don’t talk back.

The first guy I pick up likes to empty the storage bin above where he sits. There’s an umbrella, ice scraper, two rolled-up blankets and couple of other things up there. He likes to play with them while I’m driving. Whatever. Except that sometimes he’s slow getting out of the van when we arrive because he won’t let go of what he’s playing with at that moment.

The next guy I pick up most days is verbal, so we’ll talk about his family, the Browns or Cavaliers, or whatever is on his mind that day.

I also regularly pick up two non-verbal ladies, one of whom likes to unzip her coat and take off her shoes in the van even though there’s snow outside.

These folks are my second family, and I enjoy being with them. My co-workers at the center are wonderful to work with, too.

Picking (a very few) battles

Why am I rambling on like this? To prove a point, actually. My life does not revolve around Donald Trump or Barack Obama. I suspect this is true for most Americans.

We can argue politics all day long and may not ever agree on the major issues. Or the minor ones. Or which issues are major and which ones are minor.

I value your friendship, and I’d rather not ruin it by getting dogmatic about things I can’t control. I can vote and write letters if I’m passionate enough; if that’s your thing, go for it. We each do have our issues.

I have a life to live. I pick my battles. My battles may or may not coincide with yours. If they do, I may or may not agree with you.

Ultimately, each of us will have to stand before our Maker and defend who we are, what we’ve done and what we’ve stood for. I’m not your judge. You are not my judge. Let’s not play that game.

Speaking of games, time to make those NFL playoff picks, then get some lunch. Then relax for an hour or two before returning to work.

Have a nice day. Let’s keep in touch.