Tuesday, 30 October 2012


My friend was checking out at the grocery store the other day and the young cashier suggested that he should bring his own grocery bags next time. She charged 5 cents for a plastic bag because her generation is working hard on saving the environment. "I'm sorry", he apologized, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my day." The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

Our generation didn't have the 'green thing' in its day. 60 years ago, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But our generation didn't do the "green thing" back then.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags. We reused them for numerous things besides household garbage bags. We used of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that the books provided for our use by the school was not scribbled on. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But our generation didn't do the "green thing" back then.

We walked to the grocery store. We didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.  We washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But our generation didn't do the "green thing".

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. thing". We didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But our generation didn't do the "green thing" back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But our generation didn't do the "green thing".

Back then we sang a song, "Before you accuse, criticize or abuse, walk a mile in my shoes." You see when we were the younger generation we also contemptuously judged our parents about their unprogressive ways. It was wrong back then too. It took us a couple of decades before we realized that life was not in things, ideals or progressive social programs. We began to realize that people made all the difference. 
When I began to mature my wife actually enjoyed me more day after day and then week after week. Then I started to focus on my children. They were harder to convince that I was a nice guy. They were mean at times. But, I was determined  to make a difference in their lives. I also started to realize that some of my emotional baggage was getting in my way. A decade later I could do some loving things I could not do before and it felt good.

One thing I stopped was correcting people all the time. I was good at that but people rarely appreciated my efforts. At this point I began to realize how hard it had been to change my bad habits and how unsuccessful I was at changing.  I called on God for mercy and it began to flow. And it felt good. A little more kindness and a little less of me. I am a little wiser now.

Many people who knew me 50 years ago probably would be shocked at how different I am now. That's Okay. I deserved most of what they dished out to me. It did not help me because what they gave me was criticism without mercy.  Many good deed "fads" and products have come and gone. Now it is the green thing. Yesterday it was saving the world from communism. Little did we realize that communism was its own cure. People hated it. That poor clerk thinks she is doing good in this world. Without Christ's love and mercy you can do nothing.

Now I am not so quick to condemn. Now I have grace. Now I have something that is not a fad but leads to everything eternal. Now I have Jesus.

Saturday, 20 October 2012


As I attended the funeral of my father-in-law I noticed his family all accepted death as part of life. There was no questioning that death ought not to be. Why if life evolved should there be death? There is no survival advantage to dying.

My in-laws are Christian. They look on death as a separation from their loved ones but they also know that death is union with God. Though they are saddened at the separation from loved ones they know that it is temporary. Death is thus a doorway into the eternal where there is no further death - no separation is ever permanent.

God promises that in eternity there will be  joy with no more tears, no more sorrow. That is what everybody wants. Well you would think that is what everybody wants. When you see how simple God makes it to enter the kingdom of God it is a wonder that everyone does not find their way into paradise. Jesus said that whosoever believes in me, even though his body dies, shall have eternal life. Now believe in this context is not mere intellectual consent. It means committing yourself to His ways rather than your ways or the ways of the world systems. It means following His lead every day of your life. Simple but not so easy. It does not take great effort, wealth, social prowess or intellectual acumen. It only requires that you be a "whosoever" that believes.

So how can we humans foul this simple command so badly? There are many people who imagine themselves to be above the "whosoevers" of life. I know I used to be one of them. Then one day my God said to me, why do you look down of those "whosoevers" for whom I died. Ooops! When God dies for you, you become important - you cannot be more important than God dying for you! God treats all the "whosoevers" as though we were royalty, sons of the King. We get respect because we reflect the image of God who created us. Looking down on anyone is not allowed.

There is nothing greater in life for humans than reflecting God's image. That is our glory! In the beginning there was no death. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had no fear of death because there was no death. So where did it come from? It came from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - the one tree in the Garden of Eden that God commanded that we not eat of. When we know good and evil we pass laws to make people behave right. In doing so we divide humans into the law-abiding and the evil-doing. This requires that we, the law-abiding become the judges of the evil-doers. The relationships in this world become centered on performance of duty and avoidance of crime. But does that really work?

Islamic societies have one of the most rigorous law codes. It is used to control the behaviour of millions of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Yet some of the most heinous unloving acts of cruelty are carried out by the very law-abiding clerics who supposedly love justice and God. The whole system fails. Love is expressed within relationships. It is not just a set of behaviours. Just because you conform to the dictates of the law does not make you one who loves.

Turning love from a relationship into a set of restrictions on behaviour is the beginning of the death of love and whose end is the love of death. This is the meaning behind the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Note the portrayal of this tree as a apple tree is an artistic rendition not in the text.)  It changes the whole human experience from one of a loving relationship with God and each other that is central to our life and living in a system of law and punishment - death.

And what do we call this legalistic system. God calls it death. He said that the day that you, Adam and Eve, eat of it, you will surely die. It is beyond what God planned and intended. Fair warning, yet Adam and Eve were fooled into eating it with the promise that they would become like God. But the serpent know they were already like God. What they got was a breach in their relationship with God and shame and guilt for betraying their friend. With that came a new nature. This nature is one that loves to disbelieve God. To overcome this evil nature requires faith. Faith undoes the work in humans that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did.

Life then becomes a journey of daily making faith choices to follow the voice of God. This is only possible when God changes your unbelieving nature back to a believing nature in what Jesus described as being "born again". How do you become "born again"? Any step of faith from the darkness towards the truth that Jesus is the Christ is a "born again" moment that will change your nature. You may still have unbelieving paradigms resident in your head that cause you to sin but your nature is changed forever. As one with a believing nature your destiny is Heaven - always was and always will be. Overcome unbelief and you overcome death.