Bolton’s Bombshell

We’ve all seen the memes, “If you don’t like the weather in (fill in your location), just wait an hour …” That can be applied  to Washington  as well. It’s hard to keep up with the news these days.

But first, a couple of disclaimers. I am an independent who voted for Donald Trump for two basic reasons in 2016, and will likely do the same in 2020. First, while I may not always agree with his style or flamboyant, Type A personality, he was the best of the worst almost four years ago. Second, as someone who spent three years in Washington myself and couldn’t wait to leave, he was not a politician but a businessman who promised {and despite continuous contempt} generally did what he said he would do … at business speed, not political speed.

However, my political views are not the subject of this post. They are interjected only as they relate to the leaked — yes, leaked — manuscript of the forthcoming book by John Bolton. I’ll leave the spin to the politicians from both sides of the aisle. That is what politicians do. I personally find it rich both parties spend their time spinning for their own persuasive benefit rather than working together for the nation’s good by addressing real problems.

As an author, I also found the timing of Bolton’s bombshell interesting. I have no idea how the manuscript was leaked and by whom. I do think it was illegal. From what I’ve seen {and I am just a nobody} the “leak” was a few pages or parts of pages from Bolton’s book. It included a series of Bolton claims.

It was a tease. We do not know — as far as I can tell and depending on who you listen to — the total context of the excerpts. We’ll have to wait until mid-March to draw our own conclusions.

It was a marketing masterpiece for Bolton. As of this writing, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir is being pitched on Amazon as #1 in Political Science and in the top 10 overall. The scheduled release date is March 17.

I’m jealous. I get excited when I get a review, sell a book, or even get a Kindle Unlimited or Lending Library read.

I don’t have the name recognition of a John Bolton, but I do have three books under my belt. They are non-political … one is a novella {Heaven Shining Through}, a follow-up novel {My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through}, and a non-fiction Wisdom From a Father … one dad’s thoughts on life.

And they are cheaper … And available now!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. — John Lennon

 

 

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Survivors

Today’s Words for the Week from Faith Thought of the Day by Ray Lammie.

Deep down, true survivors know they’ll win. As a U.S. Special Forces trainer said: “If you have a guy with all the survival training in the world who has a negative attitude, and a guy who doesn’t have a clue but has a positive attitude, I guarantee you the guy with a positive attitude is coming out of the woods alive!”

A survivor never, never gives up because nothing is impossible with God. A survival experience is an incomparable gift. “It will tell you who you really are.”

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27).

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. — Helen Keller

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Zombie Jesus: God Is Not Undead

I’m going to make a case the problem with church is a pandemic, not a localized infection. To do this I have to focus in and separate by discussing the role of Jesus as it has been forgotten, the undeath of church, and the real death of the broken. While I do this, I’m using Fig Tree to give the dead voice. I am going to let the ghosts of former congregants speak to you.

I’m writing these things not because I enjoy watching it burn. Conversely, I’ve made multiple efforts to seek restoration and healing. Those efforts were never met with hostility, but ambivalence. If that ambivalence was intentional I would be calling to burn it down. Burn it to the ground, leave nothing but char marks. I, however, believe the church’s ambivalence is a symptom of the pandemic.

Back in 1999 an episode of Futurama aired titled, “When Aliens Attack.” In the said episode the aliens of Omicron Persei 8 were watching episodes of a show mocking Ally McBeal: Single Female Lawyer. If all of this is going over your head, it’s okay. I’ve linked the synopsis to the post, and the synopsis isn’t terribly important to this story.

Near the beginning of the episode the Omicrons discover their favorite show was cancelled during a cliffhanger episode. Enraged, they go to Earth and threaten destruction if they don’t produce more programming. In a throwaway line, they learned all cassettes were destroyed during the second coming of Jesus. One of the title characters, Farnsworth says, “Sweet Zombie Jesus.”

The throwaway joke sorta died it’s own forgettable death. Probably getting a general chuckle as viewers watched Futurama in syndication, until around 2005 when it picked up a new life as a jab. It became a way for atheists to make fun of Christians. I would call this one low hanging fruit, but typically low hanging fruit is the staple of making fun of groups on the internet. Quick jabs for upvotes.

It’s easy to call Jesus a zombie because He rose from the dead, and asked His followers to partake of the Body and Blood. Predating Zombie Jesus by about, oh 2,000 years take away about 40 of those years, Romans made fun of Christians and Communion calling them cannibals. Today, the term “Zombie Jesus” seems to have died out, as it’s height was a decade ago back in 2010.

What we need to know this week is our understanding of Jesus Christ necessarily means Jesus is not a zombie.

The definition of “zombie” has evolved over the years. We’ve had slow moving zombies that attack anyone and anything that has a pulse. We’ve had brain eaters, and flesh gnawers. Our culture has explored the infection being everything from a virus, a drug, and our lack of relationship. That last one is from Warm Bodies. It’s a fun read, and if you are a minister like me, a great story. There’s almost universally one truth to zombies. They die and become undead.

Undead means they are not truly alive, but they are definitely not dead. For the most part there is no way to communicate and reason with a zombie. (I’m looking at you iZombie. You were fun to watch, but not exactly zombie canon.) Zombies are to be feared. They’re infectious. They’re deadly. Almost universally, it’s better to die than be turned. ​

We do not explore death as a church anymore, and that’s because we’ve turned the cross into a footnote. That’s fine for me. I live in the footnotes now. In fact, what I dislike about Walter Brueggemann’s Prophetic Imagination are his endnotes. That’s where the coolest info lies, and he moved it to the back of the book instead of putting them at the foot of each page. Most are not like me. They ignore the tiny text at the bottom of the page. Going to the celebration at Easter without exploring the death on the cross turns Easter into a meaningless act.

I blame the Greatest Generation for this exclusion of death in our Christian voice. What? Are you shocked I’m not blaming Boomers? That seems to be the hip thing to do right now. What? I’m not allowed to say “hip” anymore. Fine, I’ll say it for myself, “Okay, Boomer.” Good? No? I don’t care.

Here’s the deal. Before World War II, Americans lived a life very similar to the life we’re living now, in that people didn’t know one another. They were disconnected. We drew in instead of creating community. It was during World War II Americans learned about the worst parts of death. They were forced to explore its nature, and it terrified them. When they came home they did two things. First, they connected with their neighbor. The 1950s was a boom for church because every communal group boomed. The Greatest Generation didn’t want what they left, they wanted something better. So, they created it, and nurtured it. Second, they protected their children. This is why so many Boomers were Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Those were the kid versions of the adult communal activity. Also, the Greatest Generation began cutting out death from the lexicon. They were going to protect their kids from the horror of war, and it led to a generation afraid of death.

Naturally, that fear entered into the communal areas, and the cross was taken down, and open tomb was put up. When Boomers had kids many didn’t have a language to talk to their kids about death. Many Gen X have tried to figure it out on their own. It has been Millennials and Gen Z that have pushed into death. They’re speaking to ends and conclusions in ways America hasn’t since before the War.

Yes, fault can lie in trying to do the best you think you can do for your kids. The Greatest Generation cut out those two words, “Jesus died,” as an ill-conceived act of love. We need to put it back.

God did not take away death, and for good reason. Creative force does not live in an undying world. It took me 38 years to realize this. Jesus died. We die. Pieces of the world die every moment. We should bitterly weep over that death. We’re allowed. To mourn is Christian. Now I know where some will go. “Well, in the Easter scripture Mary is asked why she is crying.” Basically, in some interpretations we are told not to weep.

Wrong! We are to mourn death. We are to sit in it and realize what can never be again. Even in Jesus’ death, something permanently died. There was a relationship between Jesus and the Disciples, and Jesus wasn’t coming back to relive the glory days. Jesus died. The way those relationships existed died. The disciple’s mourned. We mourn. For Jesus to come back to be the same would have been an undeath, not a new life.

That’s why Jesus Christ is not a zombie. You cannot avoid death, but to ignore or numb yourself to it’s inevitably is to neither live nor die. Jesus gave us the example by embracing death, and letting us mourn. Christ returned as something new. If we cannot mourn what can no longer be, we will never see that new life.

This reflection is part of a three-part series by Rev. Melissa Fain, senior minister of the all online congregation of Fig Tree Christian Church. The series began Jan. 23 and subsequent articles will be on Fig Tree’s website. Fain was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with duel partnership between First Christian Church of Atlanta (GA) and First Christian Church of Marietta (GA). She has a BA in Music from Kennesaw State University and a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Melissa is the mother of two wonderful children, and wife to a great and supportive husband. In her spare time she loves arts and crafts which includes making costumes from scratch, and knotted bracelets. She has used her continuing education to study new church plants and church redevelopment. Fig Tree Christian is online at Facebook, visit its Subreddit account, or send a tweet!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. — Leonardo daVinci

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Jesus, We Trust in You …

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Let’s remember to approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

Robin is seeking prayers after two surgeries. four hospital stays totaling 23 days, and countless scans, procedures, and medication. There’s home healthcare and rehabilitation/physical therapy happening as well.

Joe seeks prayers of discernment.

Please pray for Victoria, who has had a rough last two years, losing her my grandma, marriage, and home. She just recently had to leave her job because it was making her sick. Currently, she is unemployed and a single mom with three girls. Prayers for a job that will be good for her. She has had rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for the last 20 years so it’s hard to do a heavy job and that’s all she seems to find.

David has been hospitalized since Dec. 26 fighting sepsis from ruptured bowel. He was moved out of ICU last week, and was on his feet for a few minutes. He and his family need prayer.

Kerrie was in a hit and run car accident on her way home from work. The impact pushed her into the car in front of her. Please pray for her physical pain to heal and the insurance issues to be resolved.

Janie has kidney and bladder infection issues. Doctors need the Lord’s guidance in treating her; prayers to be restored to health.

Andrew continues to struggle. He is having a tough time breathing.  Tough times for a tough guy. Prayers are keeping him afloat.

Gary was just diagnosed with Stage IV laryngeal cancer. He and Peggie are born again; but she is struggling with her faith. Let’s pray for Peggie and Gary.

Mary asks urgent prayers for students MR, ZJ, RK-B. and especially DP who is developing an attitude like she’s straight outta Compton — language included. By the way, she teaches three year olds.It would be a great time for prayer for all our youth who are being swayed by film, music, peer pressure, and social media … not in a Godly way.

Greg was informed there was nothing else the doctors can do. Prayers for comfort and peace. He is diagnosed with lung cancer and metastasis.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week, including Rocco, a 14 month old grandson of one of my group’s members. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Robin, Joe, Victoria, David, Kerrie, Janie, Andrew, Gary, Peggie, Mary, our youth, Greg, and all those needing Your healing and guiding touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home, including Rocco. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: My prayer is whether things are familiar or strange, I would be authentic and real.

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Five Minute Friday — Relief

What time is it, boys and girls?

It’s Five Minute Friday time, of course.

For those unfamiliar with Five Minute Friday, it is a discipline where independent writers join together to transform thoughts on a specific prompt word from their minds through their fingers onto the screen in just five minutes {or so}. Then we get together and share our pearls of wisdom {okay, some times they’re swine, but the intention is always good} at our Facebook spot

This week’s prompt is RELIEF, but before I set the timer, let me introduce you to Leighann to entice you to check us out. These words were penned in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat reflecting what the exercise has meant to the contributors. I hope her words inspire you to join our writing club.

“What I can tell you about Five Minute Friday and what it has meant to me is that it has been a catalyst to get me writing again. As a teacher in a public school my job has given me less and less time to do any kind of personal writing. My job is very stressful now. Five Minute Friday is perfect for me especially around the school year because I am disciplined now to setting aside just five minutes to write every week. It provides a venue for me to share my creativity and be able to encourage others while simultaneously being encouraged myself. I am so grateful to know that some of my posts have really ministered and blessed other women as I have been blessed by their postings as well. I look forward to the new prompt every week. Thank you to everyone who is part of this wonderful online community!”

So, now we can set the timer and focus on the word for the week — RELIEF. GO…

Pop. Pop.

Fizz. Fizz.

Oh, what a relief it is.

Some may remember that commercial from bygone days when Speedy spewed it in black and white to hawk the speedy relief of Alka Seltzer. It worked. It is still my choice in antacid relief.

 

Pray. Pray.

Get on your knees and pray.

Oh, what a RELIEF that is.

It took me a little longer to get that message — a soul saving message. But it has the same effect. It’s a little ditty to remind me within minutes of hitting the knees, my problems become manageable, not because of me, but precisely because there is Someone else in control, with an overarching plan.

That’s not to say the problem disappears. Before full disclosure, even Speedy promised only temporary relief. Root causes still had to b addressed.

And so it is with our soul flare-ups. Often caused by fear or despair or by feeling overwhelmed by the world and its antics, our bloated souls are calmed when we speak to our God. The underlining problem may still be there — they have to be addressed separately — but you get the relief of knowing our problems are relatively  small and our God is bigger than our storms.

Relief. It comes physically with an … STOP

effervescent tablet … and it come spiritually with a little knee bending.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. — Bob Dylan

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The Journey — Epilogue?

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I had officially ended my late year journey. I’ve been keeping you posted with the blessings the Lord has given me in the three months of travel visiting with each of my children, their children and their children’s children.

I did have an annual, routine doctor’s appointment in Maine Wednesday (Jan. 22), so I decided the next leg of the journey will be reversing my trip in smaller chunks. Thus I stayed in South Carolina for a few extra days, then headed to Kentucky, Ohio — with a detour to Indiana for a night visit with a friend — New York, and Massachusetts. That  set me up for an overnight trip to Maine where I connected with some old friends, some new friends. Currently I’m back in Massachusetts for at least few days. I was asked — and accepted — two pulpit supply assignments in Howland, ME, Feb. 16 and 23 so I at least know I will be nesting probably in Massachusetts towards the mid to end of February.

But, I’m not going to get ahead of myself. This post is a share of the adventures from Jan. 1. Quite frankly, they have been “bonus” stays with the family. I had an opportunity for one-on-one lunches/dinners with each of them. So many blessings. Little ones. The unexpected call. The encouraging word. A little rain and a little sunshine.

A safe, uneventful journey from South Carolina to Kentucky to Indiana to Ohio to New York to Massachusetts to Maine to Massachusetts is always a blessing. As the mile markers whizzed by, my neurons were in full speed free range leading to interesting thoughts to consider.

New Year Day I took a walk soaking in the sun and sights of a new year … southern moss hanging from the trees, palm trees starting to reach up to the skies. Angelina served as an able wingman. Two gracious Southern belles slowed to talk about how precious she was.

A couple of hours at the beach is always a blessing. I visited with locals who were complaining how chilly it was (mid 60s). Angelina again was a conversation starter, attracting five doggies and their owners. Four we’re bigger-than-her boys whom she had under her wily spell — especially Danny. The fifth was a girl poodle. They didn’t fight or growl but you could tell they were not going to be besties.

I always talk about the centering at the ocean front. But another blessing was finding a treasure park in Myrtle Beach — Warbird Park. The park, adjacent to the Myrtle Beach Airfield, is a well laid out trail highlighting those served and died. It contains offshoot pods containing monuments and is dominated by three jets in formation. A great way to remember the past.

 

 

I had a nice Kentucky dinner with Athena, Deshawn, and son Joe. We talked about books — especially reaction to My Name Is Sam — work, and life in general … three of my favorite topics. Also had a nice dinner with Joe and Sarah sharing family memories. You can’t take them away from me.

Angelina and I did some more Kentucky exploring — without getting lost. I also enjoyed watching Angelina and Puck playing together. They tuckered each other out, so the three of us took a blessed nap — Puck curled next to me and Angelina between my legs.

It’s often the little things in life that make the biggest impact. I purchased a toaster for my son. Hard to believe, my middle son didn’t have one so I gave him mine. Oldest son also was without a toaster so I bought him one today. Guess what I had for breakfast!

Food and fellowship filled my last day in Kentucky beginning with toast! It continued with butter, peanut butter and jelly on toast for lunch and was wrapped up by attempting Food Network’s Delicious & Easy Steakhouse Dinner for Two. Not too bad … tasty but I wouldn’t categorize it as easy. Still a blessing to share it with my oldest son.

My one night stay in Indiana was with friends. We had a good conversation and caught up after a two year absence. Always a blessing. Before leaving, Dave called my cousin Joann in Virginia. We had a great connection, catching up after about 50 years. One of her comments was she always felt wanted and special when she visited with my mom and dad. Way to go mom and dad. You done good. I was blessed.

I woke up in Ohio to a brilliant sunrise … which set the tone for the entire day. The day was capped with another nail-biting Packer Divisional win — watched with my two grandsons.

All along the trip, I  was able to join in family events I’ve missed in the past. On the return trip I went to one of Gavin’ s sixth-grade basketball games. Lake won.

It’s all about family. I say it all the time. I saw it in person, up front and personal. The Kohlhofers — my daughter — try to plan a family dinner at least once a month. The three boys and their families congregate to break bread, tease each other, and just enjoy each other’s company with loads of laughter. Plans were made for February and March. All my kids have the family bond and traditions. But tonight was a special blessing because I WAS HERE TO WITNESS IT!

Thanks to Jay, I was “requisitioned” to cook my specialty, Chicken Kiev for Dee (“first time in … forever”) and Gavin (“first time … ever”) on the last night of the Ohio leg and for the crew in New York. First time the New York kids had it. Another success if I say so myself. Blessed to be able to share it with them. My morsel even had a smiley face!

It wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for, but watching the NFC Championship between Packers-49ers with my daughter was a blessing. She was happy. San Fran moves on to the Super Bowl. As a Packer fan I was blessed with an exciting season where Green Bay played well beyond expectations and returned to the playoffs since 2016.

I read a Kindle book to Hayleigh on my first night in Massachusetts. Ben was hiding because he wanted a dinosaur book rather than the one chosen, That Bird Needs Glasses.

I  enjoyed the trip up to Maine. Clean, cold air. Snow draping on the trees, glistening in the bright sun. Ice floes in the rivers and lakes. A good dinner at Ground Round. Decompress time … blessing.

Yesterday GI received a good preliminary report from the doctor. First appointment of 2021 is on the calendar.

There you have it. I titled the post … Epilogue? because this road warrior’s adventures still aren’t over. I’m sure there are more adventures and discoveries awaiting me before I finally find a more permanent pillow for my head.

At the outset, I had determined the trip would be serendipitous. I turned it over to the Lord. Thus far, He hasn’t answered, although I do know He has a plan. He always has a plan. So we’ll see where the Spirit leads me. Who knows? Maybe the Lord just wants me to do a little traveling and visiting and observing His presence in everyday life. And I’m good with that.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. — Albert Einstein

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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

Time for Midweek Mirth so let’s smile a little!

Shopping With Grandma

Little Johnny was shopping with Grandma. One of the things she tossed in the cart was a package of pantyhose. He sounded out the words “Queen Size” and exclaimed, “Grandma, you wear the same size as our bed!”

And now for the bonus …

The Accident

Husband’s Message (by cellphone): “Honey, I was involved in a car accident. Paula brought me to the hospital. They have been making tests and taking X-rays. The blow to my head was very severe. Fortunately, it seems it didn’t cause any serious injury. But I do have three broken ribs, a compound fracture in the left leg and they may have to amputate the right foot.”

Wife’s Response: “Who is Paula?”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Even if you cannot change all the people around you, you can change the people you choose to be around. Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. Spend your life with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel loved.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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