Giving up God for Lent

We are now 6 days into the Christian season of Lent. Coming down to us through the Greek “Tessarakoste,” meaning “fortieth,” it signifies the time of Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. For Christians, it is supposed to be a time preparation through prayer, repentance, increased giving, and self-denial for the coming of Resurrection Sunday. Following the debauchery of what Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) has become, a time of fasting and sacrifice seems quite appropriate to prepare for the remembrance of Christ’s Passion. In the late Middle Ages the word Lent (meaning Spring) replaced the longer “fortieth” recollection, melding it with the heralding of approaching Spring.

Today, nominal Christians make token gestures at giving up something, usually trivial, to signify their sacrifice for Lent. Chocolate comes to mind. We certainly would not seriously sacrifice anything that would draw us closer to Christ; let alone further from this world’s pleasures.

Here’s a suggestion— Why not give up God for Lent?!?

If you are a casual Christian, one who maybe attends church at Christmas and/or Easter, the occasional wedding or mandatory funeral, this suggestion is easily grasped. For you, the Christian life is an addendum to the one you live out on this earth. Your faith has little to do with your life. You practice a convenient-faith, one that fits your needs and your priorities. What the God of the Universe offers you seems to come at too high a cost. When He says to you, “Give me everything you have; and I will give you everything I have.” you wonder if it is a fair trade.

Now, if you are a genuine Christian, with a deep faith, rooted in Christian community and the Holy Scriptures, this will prove most difficult. It will be veritably impossible. For you could no more think of turning your back on your Savior than serving another god. This suggestion should be most repugnant to you, if not near blasphemous. For true followers of Christ, the idea of sacrifice is already imbedded as a core value. Lent should be no different than any other time of the year.

So, if you are not a genuine follower of Christ, why not give up God for Lent?!? Frankly, why not give up on God altogether? It will affect your life neither one way nor another. OR…, you could use this Lenten Season to begin a new faith in God and humbly seek His favor. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? That we should seek the forgiveness and favor of One beyond ourselves.

What do you do to celebrate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection?

For what it’s worth,

Gary

The Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg Address

   It is likely that a majority of Americans recognize Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg AddressIt is just as likely that less than 10% of those know of it have even read it. Even less probable is, of those who have read it, few understand it. For it requires a knowledge of the Bible, European history, American history, and the political arena of the era.

But it also demands a firsthand knowledge of courage, sacrifice, and commitment. So, please, read what follows with an appreciation of the tasks to which Lincoln summoned us.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

November 19, 1863

            In these days of self- asserting significance and the pursuit of happiness (read $$$) above all else, we have become a people who, by in large, neglect our God given responsibility to the principles of democracy, diversity within plurality, and the protection of those with whom we differ. We each have a voice; let us speak out. We each have hands; let us work for the betterment of others. We each have a mind; never cease to use it.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Lives Cut Short


Wars take a terrible toll on countries, peoples, families, and individuals. Too many young men & women sacrifice their lives for what they believe to be the right way, the way of their country and/or their God. No matter the winner of the conflict, the cost to both sides is immeasurable.

Presently, our planet finds itself in the midst of another world war; not of nation pitted abainst nation, but of beliefs pitted against beliefs, with small cells of extremists attacking established systems of governence. Lives will be lost, thousands of them, on both sides, as this war rages on. It is the kind of war that will go on for decades, leaving the victors in exhausted glory.

However, there is another kind of war that cuts short the lives of men. It is the war of identity-theft. Far too frequently we tie our identity to some acceptance matrix; to a job, to a discretionary activity (sports, parenting, music), to a particular relationship, in ownership of property (wealth, houses, cars). We define ourselves in terms of other things—a position, athleticism, intelligence, motherhood, performance, wealth, even other people.

Then something happens to rob us of the identity we tied to our job, family, friends, athletic ability, etc. It may be as minor as a broken ankle, as devastating as a divorce, or as simple as aging. And our world collapses. Whatever it was that gave us our identity is no longer there. We are at float in a sea lacking any clearly identifiable directions. Your life, as you knew it, has been cut short.

For some of us, that is it: that’s all she wrote. It’s over. Whatever comes next looms as insignificant compared to what we have just lost. How can there be any kind of future for me?!?

Some things to ponder—

  1. Consider that the original foundation for your identity may have been established on an inappropriate underpinning, be that people, place, property, wealth, or ability. Placing your self-definers in stuff, or people, is never a good idea. It all burns up in the end anyway. [FYI- I’ve grounded my identity in the God of the universe. So far, this has proven a very safe connection.]
  2. Your present “tragedy” could be just the incentive you need to re-examine your identity baseline. Don’t forgo the opportunity.
  3. Don’t stop living. Force yourself to dream about what could be next. On a personal note, there was a period in my life when I believed I had developed failure to an art-form. But I learned a lot how NOT to mess-up again.
  4. Be on the lookout for God’s little surprises. He has a way of dropping new friends into your life, of healing broken bodies, and of healing hurting hearts with new love.
  5. Try to rest. Take walks. Think out loud. Don’t give up! If you’re still breathing your life is NOT cut short yet.

Have a nice week,

Gary

BESA

How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger? This is the question addressed by film makers Norman Gershman & Stu Huck in a documentary released the last weekend of July at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival— BESA: the Promise. The film tells the story of Albanian Muslims who saved the lives of more than 2,000 Jews during World War II. They did not hide them in basements or attics; they took the Jews into their families, gave them Albanian names, and sacrificed their lives for them in some cases.

The question arising from their actions is a clear WHY? Why would Albanians, Muslims, shelter Jews, at the risk of their own lives, during the Nazi occupation of their country? The answer is “besa.”

Besa is a part of the Albanian Code of Honor, embedded throughout their generations. It is usually translated faith, with a reflection on personal honor to keep a promise, at any cost. In their Moral Code (the Kanuni of Lekë Dukagjini), they have a saying “Shqiptaret vdesin dhe besen nuk e shkelin” (Albanians would die rather than break honor). One Albanian interviewed said he would rather sacrifice his only son than break an honor— besa.

The Albanian idea of besa should be acclaimed and lauded among all nations. A documentary of how the Albanian Muslims sheltered German Jews and made them part of their families is long overdue. BESA: the Promise is a must see film for all— Jews, Muslims, Christians, even atheists.

It would be a disservice if I did not leave you with at least two points to ponder—

  1. Would you lay down your life for a stranger?
  2. To what extent does a code of honor influence your decisions and actions?

We have a saying at the company where I work—

Honor God: honor people. Make a difference.

‘Nough said,

Gary

Courage

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, courage, sacrifice, foundationSocrates, Chin, Hammurabi, Abram, Moses, David, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Eric the Great, Charlemagne, Odo the Great, Elizabeth I, Peter the Great, Susan B Anthony, Clara Barton, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Annie Sullivan, Mother Teresa, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Sgt. Dakota Meyer. Every one of these individuals possesses a quality every person on earth must acquire— courage. In our present era we talk more about our rights than about our responsibilities; we are more concerned about bottom-lines than life-lines for others. We have become more a people of self-preservation than of self-sacrifice.

Self-protection and self-gratification are not, mind you, the definers of all of us; certainly not of those in the opening inventory. There are still some who put others before themselves. Why do they do this? They possess qualities that others deem weaknesses, or foolish. Qualities like, graciousness, forgiveness, humility, and courage. These qualities are not often rewarded in the civic arena. In fact, they go mostly unnoticed. Acts of kindness & courage are most often done in secret; actions which come to light only at a later date (if at all).

Amidst the stresses swirling about in our postModern/postChristian society it takes courage for many of us just to get out of bed to face another day. Things are not as simple as they once were. The smorgasbord of choices and decisions we must make every day— what to do with our time & priorities, our commitments, our financial restrictions, our emotional highs & lows, our energies & exhaustion, notwithstanding the ethical & moral dilemmas we encounter, are overwhelming.

Unless we each hold some guiding principles, some basic beliefs about life, faith, and trust in something (Someone) beyond ourselves, we will be quite confounded as to how to grapple with it all. You see, courage rests on a foundation of belief, which rests on a certain realties beyond individual mere self-preservation. Call it faith in God, belief in a “higher-power,” or even a “…if it is God’s will.” Courage rarely issues forth from a basis of superiority; rather, it arises from a sense of one’s own humility in the grand scheme of things, in believing that there are powerful forces at work in our world, that there is a greater plan in place, than my own puny little existence.

In the ancient Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi, inscribed above the forecourt was the Socratic maxim— γνθισεαυτόν. “Know thyself.” We would all do well to take a measure of ourselves within, before our fellow man (and women), and before the God who made us. For it is only from a true knowledge of who we truly are that true courage can take root and be called upon when the time is at hand.

Have a nice week,

Gary