Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love Yourself, Love Others

It has been quite some time since I Blogged, but it is time to start writing again. Not everything can be said in the few words allowed by Facebook.

I have been reading Virginia Satyr lately and she has made some points that hit home to me. The first is about self-esteem. Satyr states that you cannot have relationships with other people unless you first have self esteem. In order to have healthy self-esteem you must be aware of the five freedoms. They are:

"The freedom to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was or will be.
the freedom to say what one feels and thinks iinstead of what one should
The freedom to feel what one feels instead of what one ought.
The freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of what one wants, instead of waiting for persmision.
The Freedom freedom to taks risks on one's behalf instead of always being safe and not rocking the boat."

For me each of these is a freeing statement. I will start with the first for this Blog. The freedom to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was or will be. We negativily effect our self-esteem when we do not allow ourselves to live in the here and now. Really, it is not about living in the hear and now, but about experiencing the here and now. We miss so much in life when we do not see and hear what is here. We miss time with out children, because we are worrying about how we are going to pay bills. We miss time with out spouse, because we have not truly left our job yet. We miss time with a good freind because we are too worried about those things that we should be doing, like cleaning the house, mowing the yard etc. We miss the childhood of our children because we are looking forward to when they can walk, talk, go to school, drive, graduate and then move out. Before we know it, the future is here and we have missed the present of the present.

If we want to have healthy relationships with ourselves and others we must learn to be present in the here and now for others. Some many times we should ourselves to death and get angry because we need to be doing something else and we overlook the possibilities of the now. The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries of its own. This seems to me to be saying the same thing. Don't miss today because you are living in the land of what if.

Perhaps sometimes we do feel like we deserve to enjoy ourselves. It as if we can work our way to salvation or make up for something that was lacking in our childhood or inside of us. We can exist in the here and now only when we can accept ourselves just as we are. I work with children with Autism and thier parents. One of the most important things many of the children a Iwork with need is acceptance as they are. Some parents can do this, they can accept the child as they are. Others act like the child must change or they cannot love them. Of course, they would never voice this outloud, but that is the way they act. For most of the latter type of parents, they never learned to accpet themselves as they are and fell inferior in some way or another. That judgemental person you know, they are really judging themselves when they judge others. If we want good relationships, to be able to accept others as they are, like Christ did, then we need to learn to accept ourselves as we are.

This does not mean we cannot change who we are. On the contrary, when we accept the way we are, it opens us up to changing the things we do not like about ourselves. Otherwise, we live in denial that those faults are there or we reject the good along with the bad. When we can do this for ourselves, we can do this for others as well.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Palestine and Israel

As many of you know, I recently went on an awesome trip to Israel and Palestine. While there I was able to go and visit with a friend of mine, Elias Gahreeb, who is a Palestinian Christian, that lives near Bethlehem. It was an eye opening and life changing expereince. Let me explain.
I have neverr before understood what it meant to be an oppressed people. I still cannot comprehend or imagine living as an opressed person, but I think I have a better understanding.

Imagine if you will owning a home, that has been in your family for thousands of years. Living in a land for many generations, then suddenly having soldiers come in and force you to leave your home. You are not given any restitution or any kind, nor were you given a new home. A foreign entity had to come in and build a home for you, so that you could have a roof over your head. More than tweny years later, you still live in this temporary home and now that same foreign government, is building a 30 foot tall cement wall within sight of your house. This wall is between you and family and freinds. You cannot cross this wall. The occupying government will not allow you to cross this wall at any point. In addition, many of your family and freinds lost thier homes, so that this wall could be built. Again, no restitution was paid.

In addition to these oppressive situations, you are now told that you cannot go to the hospital that your children were born in, nor can you visit family and freinds a few miles away. The occupying government moves new people into your community and expands the area these new people can live. The occupying government creates new roads, but will not allow you to use them, because you are not one of thier people. There is also an even more powerful government and people that constantly back up this occupying government. This other government gives the ocuppiers money and military support.

Perhaps this seems outrageous to you. You may even think this has the beginning of a wonderful fictional story, but it is exactly what is happening in the Middle East today. The Palestinian people are being abused and oppressed by Israel and we in the United States of America support the oppressors.

Here is one examples. Today in what is called the West Bank, there are many Jewish Settlements that have been built. Granted there has been no new settlements in several years, but these illegal settlements are expanding. Less then a block from my freinds home, a settlement just finished and expansion and are building a wall around the settlement. This particular expansion was done for "security purposes." My friend had freinds and neighbors that lost thier houses due to this expansion. Because of the anti-Palestinian policies of Israel, a good percentage of these people had no job or very little money coming in. Now they are homeless as well. Would we stand for the United States of America's government coming in and taking over someone's house. I think not. Yet we whole heartedly support Israel.

In addition, when Israel was made a country, they uprooted many people who had lived there in peace for thousands of years and made them move. They did not offer them citizenship, or a voice or a choice. The soldier came in and took thier property, that had been in thier families before Jesus walked this earth. Many of these were Christians and all of them were Palestinians.

I imagine Iwill write more on this at another time, but I think we as citizens of the United States of America need to really examine who we want to support in this battle. I believe that Israel has the right to exist and to be secure. I do not believe they have the right to oppress a certain ethnic group. My brothers and sisters in Christ that live in the West Bank are advocates of peaceful resistance. I agree with this. There is no call to violence, but there is a call to stand for justice and peace. This call is from God. I will be praying for the people of the West Bank and my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will pray for peace and justice in the land my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ walked.



Monday, April 6, 2009

Two Parades

This is a story I wrote for Palm Sunday. I hope you enjoy it.

Even though I was very young, I can still remember that day clearly. At the time it was confusing and I did not understand, but the memory is crystal clear. I suppose I really should introduce myself, though, I am Benjamin Ben Yaacob. Benjamin son of Jacob. You have probably never heard of me. I have not written any books. I lived my life in the time of Jesus. I was one of the faceless ones in the crowads that hung around Jesus. Well, I did not hange around Jesus and follow him every where. I was too young to do that, but I did see him twice within a few days of each other.
The first time I saw him was at one of the gates into Jerusalem. My father had brought me with him to celebrate Passover at the temple, where the lamb had been brought to be sacrificed. We were poor people, but every year my father would make the walk from our home near Jericho to the temple. This year, my little brother was sick, so my mother had to stay home with him, so it was just my father and me. We arrived a few days early and stayed with a cousin that lived in Jerusalem. The cousins name was David.
When we arrived at my father’s cousin’s house he was very excited. He said that some of his friends had been talking about this Rabbi named Jesus from Nazareth. The rumor had it that he was coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. He was supposed to arrive tomorrow. David said that some of his friends believed Jesus as the Messiah. Others said that he was Elijah come back to herald the Messiah. David was not sure, but he knew that Jesus was something special and he wanted to see him. My father said that he too would like to see this Jesus for himself. The next morning we got up and went down to the gate that Jesus was going to enter Jerusalem through. I was expecting only a few people there, but the crowd was huge. There were men, women and children there. Some were talking about how Jesus had raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Others were talking of how he had healed so many people. There was even two people there, that I heard claim to have been touched by Jesus and healed. Many of the people had cut down Palm Branches and were waving them in the air.
I have to admit, that I was a little scared, but very excited as well. There were so many people there and I was very little. I was afraid that I would get lost, so I held tightly to my father’s hand. I tugged on his arm once and asked him, “Father why are there so many people here and what are they excited about?” He said, “Many people believe that this Jesus is the Messiah, that when he comes into Jerusalem he will overthrow the Roman government and set us free.” I was young and was not real sure what being the Messiah meant, but I knew the Romans were bad and if Jesus was going to fight the Romans, then I liked Jesus.
You see ever since I can remember, the Romans have ruled over my people. They were pagans and did not worship the Lord as we did. Also, they were always coming around and collecting taxes. These men with big roman soldiers would come to our house and demand money. Most of the time it was more than we actually owed, but father had to pay it or they would put him in prison. My friend Yosef, his father could not pay his taxes once and the soldiers took him and his family away. I never saw Yosef or his family again, so I really don’t know what happened to them. I bet it wasn’t good whatever it was.
Anyway, we waited there for a little while, I listened to the crowd talk about Jesus. There were several people there, my father called Zealots. These were people who believed we needed to fight the Romans and win our freedom back. They were some of the loudest calling Jesus the Messiah and telling stories about him. Then a murmur went through the crowd, Jesus was coming. Some people ran in from outside the gate and announced that he was coming. A Chant went up from the crowd: “ ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”
The people were shouting and praising Jesus. Many of the people were waving the palm branches they had cut earlier, some were laying them down on the ground forming a sort of carpet for Jesus to walk on. I was having trouble seeing, so my father put me up on his shoulders. Other children ran out into the street. Then Jesus came through the gate, but he was not walking. He was riding on a young donkey. At the time I just thought it was incredible that he was important enough to ride and not walk, but later I was told that this was a part of a prophesy that the King would come riding on a donkey. Most of the crowd must have recognized this, because the shouts got louder and crowd roared. I was so excited, I started shouting to : ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
Then I saw a few men on the edge of the crowd that were not shouting. In fact, they looked rather angry. As soon as Jesus got through the gate, they approached him. “Father,” I said,” who are those men?” He shook his head and said, “ those are some big shots from the temple. They fear Jesus and do not believe that he is the long awaited for Messiah.” I wasn’t sure how anyone could fear this loving and gentle man, but I understood that they did not like Jesus, so I did not like them. One of them asked Jesus to make the crowd stop. They understood very clearly that the crowd was proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus refused to tell the crowd to be quiet. In fact he told them that if he did, then the stones would cry out.
What a great day. Jesus went straight up to the temple and entered the temple. Some of the crowd followed him, but my father and David decided to go home. They talked excitedly about what had happened. Even at such a young age, I knew that something wonderful and awesome had happened here today. This parade was a celebration of the king coming to Jerusalem.
There was a lot of talking about Jesus that Passover time. I heard that Jesus had kicked the money changers and sheep sellers out of the temple. My father said good, because they were all thieves, robbing good people who were trying to do the right thing. He and David talked a long time about this. Father said that even though the thieves were back the next day, the act was symbol of how Jesus the king was going to purify Israel.
It seemed to make sense then, but we kept waiting for Jesus to act again, but nothing happened. He and his disciples were at the temple everyday. Jesus taught about the kingdom of God and loving all people, but it seemed many were waiting for something more. My father kept saying it was time for action, but Jesus would never take any action.
I don’t remember how many days later it was, but several days later David came and my father just came home from the market and they were talking about Jesus again. They said that last night Jesus had been arrested. They wanted to go see the trial, so the they grabbed me and went down to the temple. The crowd had already left the temple and someone told us that Jesus was being judged by Pilot. When we over to the Praetoriam, we stood outside with the rest of the crowd. None of us wanted to go inside, because it was very close to Passover and we did not want to be unclean. Pilot came out several times and it almost sounded like he was trying to talk the crowd out of punishing Jesus. He had Jesus whipped in front of all of us, but led by the chief priest the crowd started yelling that they wanted Jesus crucified.
Finally Pilate gave in and sent Jesus to be crucified. The brought a big cross out and put it on Jesus’ shoulders. He was very weak from lack of sleep and the beatings. He struggled a lot with that big cross. I looked around at the people. They were yelling and cursing, some were even spitting on Jesus. A Few people broke through the crowd and punched or hit Jesus. Then I noticed something peculiar. These were the same people who had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. Over there I saw a man who had put his coat on Jesus’ donkey. There was another man who had begun the shout of Hosanna. There was one who had laid palm branches in front of the king. Now he is shouting vile names. I don’t understand, please Daddy hold my hand. I am scared.”. Jesus was so weak he could not walk with the cross anymore. It didn’t matter how many times the soldiers hit him or whipped him, he simply could not do it. After quite some time the soldier pulled a man out of the crowd and told him to carry Jesus’ cross.
Oh what a horrible parade this was. They were taking Jesus outside of the city to kill him. I couldn’t figure out why these people were being so mean to Jesus. What had he ever done. He preached about love and forgiveness, but I saw nothing but hate in the other people. Jesus never said anything. No matter how they taunted him or hurt him, he said not a single word.
I was crying, I was so scared. At last, my father picked me up and held me close. He was crying too. He understood as well. They were killing the Messiah, the king of kings and Lord of Lords. I kept thinking something was going to happen, something or someone would save Jesus, there had to be hope, there had to be.
Nothing happened, though. He was led to The Skull and he was nailed to the cross and crucified. Jesus was put to death like a common criminal. What were we to do now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mexico, the Truth.

As many of you know my wife is the International Coordinator for Volunteers in Mission. Thus, she helps organize, supports, makes travel arrangements and finds places to stay for literally thousands of short term missionaries a year. One of the major places that she sends people to is Mexico. This year there has been much talk in the media about how dangerous Mexico is and how there is a warning put out by the state department for spring break 09. Thus, my awesome wife has had several teams that were going to Mexico cancel. EAch of these teams she has put many hours of work into by budgeting, finding them places to stay, helping with travel arrangements and a variety of other things. These cancelations are to say the least frustrating to her.

Here is why these cancellations are frustrating. First of all, every year the state department puts out a warning about going to Mexico. The main reason for these warnings are because many Spring Breakers go down to Mexico, to drink and drug. Thus, they hang around with a bad crowd and put themselves in compromising situations. I would hope that none of those going on mission trip would be in these areas.

Secondly, the areas that are dangerous in Mexico are really isolated areas. Juarez, Neuvo Laredo and a few others are problem areas. Oklahoma VIM does not send teams to these areas. Hence, to not go to Mexico because of these areas, is like saying I will not come to Oklahoma City, because there was a series of murders in New York City. It does not make sense.

Generally for me the bottom line is this. Are you going to trust Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck more than the people who live in Mexico. You see VIM is in constant contact with the people of Mexico in the areas that we work. These people have to live there and know whether or not it is safe. In addition, VIM Oklahoma would never send a team into a dangerous area. Perhaps we should also be more trusting in our VIM staff to know what is going on. The afore mentioned radio hosts do not have a corner on information and in this case, there information is incomplete. I will assume it is incomplete, other wise they are simply lying and fear mongering.

Every night on the news, I see a murder in Oklahoma City, yet my wife still goes there every day and I travel there when needed. Because our media cannot delineate between parts of Mexico does not mean we need to fear all of Mexico. It certainly should not keep us from fullfilling God's call to help others.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rascism: A Solution

This last Sunday at one of my churches, I received a lesson on rascism from one of my parishioners. It is important to understand, I hear many rascist terms used around the community. It is not that many people are KKK or skinheads, it is what I call a rascism out of ignorance or fear of anything different. The people I hear these rascist terms from simply do not know anyone of a different race and so put them all as "Those People." I am not defending rascism out of ignorance, I am merely stating that this is they type of rascism in my community.

In one of my churches, we have an older gentleman, he is in his eighties, I believe. He has been a high school teacher and also taught on a college level. If you looked at him, you would not think that he had much of education. He does not fit the mold of college professor. He looks like the typical Oklahoma Redneck that one sees on television interviews, except I believe he has a full set of teeth. Anyway, during our special music time, he decided to tell a story. It went something like this:

When I was about five years old, we were having a celebration in Perry and I had to go to the bathroom. I could not read, so I just went in the first bathroom I saw. After I did my business, this other young fellow came in, he had curly black hair and was real dark in complexion. He looked at me and said, "You can't be in here, this is the colored bathroom." At that age I did not know the difference, but that was the first time the difference had been pointed out to me.

I remember when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We had men and women of all races and skin colors signing up for the military. White served beside black and red served beside brown and all races put their life on the line, so that we can live in freedom today. I think that seeing those men serving side by side no matter what thier skin color helped me and our society begin to understand that there can be no seperate but equal, but all must come together in order for the ideas of the United States of America to really stand.

I want to be clear, these are not quotes, but I think I captured the gist of what Virgil was saying. He pointed out that February is Black History month, as well. I reflected much on what he said. Whether or not you agree with or voted for President Obama, it is pretty amazing for people to see "seperate but equal" restaraunts, drinking fountains, bathrooms, etc. and now to see an African-American President. I think our nation has come a long way.

However, we still have a ways to go. Rascism is not dead. As I said earlier, I still here deregatory names for certain races bandied about as I am in my community. I am also very quick to ask people not to use those in my presence. I can put up with cussing, I can put up with dirty jokes, but hate speech I cannot tolerate. Hate speech is exactly what any racial slur is.

Something I find interesting is that when "those people" become us, then the racial slurs are no longer used. In other words, when a relationship is formed with another person of another race, then they become one of us, instead of those that are different and therefore suspect. I believe the key to overcoming rascism is relationships. Relationships that are accomplished by acknowledging our differences, but focusing on what we hold in common. We are all God's children, not matter what color our skin is or what language we speak. That alone should be enough to overcome our differences.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dr.Phil and the Family

The first thing I need to say on this post, is that I am not a Dr. Phil fan. If you think he is the best thing to come around since sliced bread, well I will pray for you. My primary reason for not liking Dr. Phil is that in his books, he essentially says we need to get rid of all moral authority because it has bound us and keeps us under its heavy weight. However, he then proceeds to become the moral authority. He sets himself up to be the readers only friend or at least the only one on his or her side. I have difficulty with this, because there are a lot of people on my side. God is one of those on my side and God is the only moral authority I need.

Anyway, I happened to be home one day when my wife was at home as well and she was watching Dr. Phil. I admit it, I watched it with her. Understand this Dr. Phil is not a therapist, he is a consultant, he has no liscense in any state and it is unclear he was ever a liscensed therapist. This particular episode of Dr. Phil featured a family who was having a great deal of difficulty with thier oldest daughter. If I remember correctly there were two children the oldest being a daughter and the youngest a boy. The youngest in the family was barely mentioned. The mother and the father were both on the show and the mother was the first to talk. She talked about how her husband was too hard on thier daughter and that some of his discipline was extreme. For example he would make her stand in the corner with her arms outstretched for up to four hours, he would send het to bed without eating and various other such things. The father explained that he believed discipline should be strict and did not think that this was over the top.

This conversation took about five minutes and then they did this little film footage thing about the daughter. It showed how she had run away from home, would disapear for a few days, how she cussed out her mother, yelled at her father and other such things. This took about ten minutes, then they went to commercial. They came back and Dr. Phil started asking the father questions about his relationship with his daughter. The questioning lasted quite a while and then Dr. Phil met with the daughter and talked to her about her actions and such. Lastly he came back to the couple and talked more about the daughter, with a brief thirty second line to the mother about her need to realize that she is too passive. All in all 99% of the show was focused on the daughter, the identified patient.

Here is my problem, the daughter is the identified patient, but it seems to me that she is acting out the problems in the marriage and the family system. Therefore it is the family system that needs to be focused on, not just the daughter. In my opinion, Dr. Phil actually exasperates the problem, because he keeps the focus on the daughter. It was briefly mentioned that the mother felt that the father was too controlling and emotionally distant. It seems to me that the first issue to take care of in the family system is the stress between the mother and father. In other words, they have an issue (or more likely issues) between themselves, but rather than handle that issue, they have chosen to focus on the daughter. Hence, unconsciously, the daughter has been taught that if she acts out, then her parents get along better. The reality is though, it just gives them and excuse not to handle thier problems. The more they focus on the daughter, the less they fight. They can have a common enemy to fight in the daughter. Thus, they have a false intimacy, not a true sharing of each other. You see if one coaches or counsels the daughter into being healthy, the parents are going to put unconscious pressure on her to return to the "normal" roll of the trouble maker, because this keeps them from fighting. However, if the whole family is looked upon as a system and whole family coached, then a truly healthy family can begin.

I believe that this focus on the individual is a problem in American culture. Do not get me wrong, I do not blame the parents, nor do I take away individual responsibility. Each individual in a system needs to change, because they have all added to the problem. However, individuals exists within emotional systems and each one of these puts pressure on the individual to act a certain way and play a certain roll. We have to be aware of our connection to other people and how our actions affect them. We tend to think of individual rights, what I do is my own business and nobody else will get hurt. This is wrong. Whatever we do affects other people, we are all connected. We need to remember this and think about our own actions and how they affect others.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to be a Hero

It has been about two months since I posted. It is not that I have not had plenty to say in those two months. I have just been incredibly busy. The older my children get, the mor they want to do with sports and other school activities. Then there is church activities, planning church activities, preparing sermons, visiting in the hospital and nursing home, and the hundreds of other things I choose to do. In the midst of all of this we had 29 people at our house on thanksgivng, 16 of those stayed for two nights. Now don't get me wrong this was awesome, but it took a lot of preparation as well. However, I chose to do these things. Notice I said choose, I do not have to do anything. I do have to accept the consequences of what I do not do, but I do not have to do anything. I choose to do all of the things I do. For me this is a freeing thought.

Anyway, the other day I was listening to a Cowboy Storteller. His name is Micheal Johnson. I was give a set of his CDs by one of my parishioners. It has veen fascinating and insightful. In this particular story, he was talking about a school he had visited. They were doing some sort of meeting with all of the teachers and the leader of the meeting had them divide up into groups according to when they graduated from high school. Then he asked them for the groups to come to a consensus about thier generations heroes. Johnson's group graduated in the fifties and they all talked about many heros they had, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and many others. Men who could fight when needed, but did not always turn to violence. Men who were tough and caring. When it came time to share with the rest of the group, it was difficult for his group to share because they had so many. Then it came time for the group that graduated in the nineties to share. The speaker for this group said that they had come to the consensus that they had no heros for their generation.

What a sad comment. I thought about it for a momenet. I graduated in 1988, so I am a little older than this group, but who are the heroes of today? My first thought was of my dad, for me he is a hero. He worked hard and did a great job of raising us three boys. My mother was there to raise us as well and she is a heroine to me. They provided for me a "Leave it to Beaver" type of home life. That makes them heroes to me. I hope I am doing just as well for my own children. There are others that are heroes as well, but they are not always well known.

Although, there are some sports stars that do not mess up, it seems that the ones who the media like to talk about are always doing stupid things outside of the game. The media does not cover the good Christians that do not cause controversey, this does not make good news. Then there are the movies stars. Again there are a few like Christen Chenoweth, who have kept their Christian faith and do good things, but again the media does not cover them much. Instead we get too much information about those that are into drugs or alternate lifestyles. We hear about the mess ups, but not the true heroes.

So I thought who are my heroes. Certainly I would include Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Diedrich Boenhoefer, Nelson Mandela, and many others who helped to change the world for the better. You see I do not think that it is a lack of heroes that we suffer from, we just have to look harder to find the heroes around us.

There are everyday ordinary hereos, like the single mom struggling to raise her children, the father who never misses a ballgame, the teenager who walks over to the lonely student and invites them to join the crowd, the teacher who takes extra time with his or her students in order to help them, the man or woman who set an example in word and deed for others. These are everyday heroes.

Then there are heroes who do extraordinary things and seem to change the world. They are there, but they are not usually recognized in thier life time. I guess my challenge to all of us is instead of looking for heroes, be a hero. Stand for Christ and his love, reach out to the lost and show them the way. Dare to touch the untouchable and love the unloveable, then we become true hereos. Maybe we will gain world recognition, or maybe we willl just be one person's hero. iether way we change the world,when we are heroes.