“Go out and stand on the mountain, before the Lord . . . and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence”

— 1 Kings 19: 11–12

HEARING THE SHEER SILENCE OF GOD

A friend of mine, Bob, was in the process of selling an important asset. The sale would be a crucial part of his future and success. Bob was determined to be a good seller. To not hide anything from the buyer and provide the buyer with a product that exceeded their expectations. Bob responded faithfully to all the buyer’s requests and went further than his lawyer or broker expected him to go. But the requests didn’t end. After each obstacle was resolved, another popped up. A meeting was scheduled between all the parties to find a clear path to resolution.

“He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.”

The day before the meeting Bob’s wife announced that the doctor had found something during her checkup that needed a radiologist’s opinion. The appointment with the radiologist was scheduled at the same time as my friend’s important meeting. His wife told him to go to the meeting and she would be okay. Bob felt besieged. How can I ignore my wife? But how can I secure our future? He prayed throughout the day. He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.  Then he went to the meeting and his wife went to the radiologist.

During the meeting, there were many questions. Tough questions. My friend answered them all honestly. At one point the broker for the buyer became unrelenting. Bob felt a spirit of resolve fall over him and became quietly serious. Normally Bob’s mannerisms were friendly and engaging, but now he became dead serious and firm. Looking firmly into the eyes of the buyer’s broker and without hesitation he stated firmly and in a quiet tone, “If there is a problem, I will pay to have it resolved. It is what I have done to this point and will continue to do.” He left the meeting wondering about his wife and at the same time about the state of this important sale.

“A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers.”

At home he sat in his favorite chair and waited in silence. A short time passed and he got a call. The broker said, “It is done, you have done everything and had no more to do. The sale is going forward.” Shortly after, his wife called and stated that the radiologist had found nothing serious and she would need some minor medical attention. My friend rested. A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers. No great bell was rung, no fireworks,  the quiet winds of life had brought his answer. Life was back in balance.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

“. . . just as the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

— Matthew [20:28]

SERIOUS AND FOCUSED ON BEING A SERVANT

I remember him from early in my career. Don was the CEO’s chief assistant. I also remember that he never used the power of his title to accomplish his tasks. When he came to a meeting to discuss an item, he was focused and serious. Don’s goal was resolution: How could he help? Over time he was sought out by all of us for help. He was calm, insightful, and asked good questions. He knew his role, to help the company. Seldom was the solution about him; his only concern was solving the problem.

Don helped us get many things done. His contacts and relationships could broker many solutions. His reputation transcended the title he owned. His day was spent going from meeting to meeting. Sometimes one-on-one meetings, sometimes large meetings. Don waited to hear everyone’s point of view. His solutions came in the form of questions. He would say things like “What would you think if we did this?’” or “How about trying that?” Don could go anyplace in the company and be well received.

“Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind.”

Notice in today’s verse that Jesus refers to himself as the son of man, not the boss of man. This perspective of servitude opened many doors for Jesus. Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind. All of his activities were serious and focused on this goal. Throughout his short period of service, three years, he touched many. He performed miracles. He healed the sick and comforted the poor. Overtime, his reputation grew and became sought out by others. Jesus developed a great reputation.

His reputation was so good, Jesus could borrow a donkey for entry into Jerusalem. For his final staff meeting called the Last Supper, he was able to secure a room at no charge. In fact, his burial tomb was given to him by a rich merchant. His actions of service got many things done and, as with Don, allowed him to go into many places.

“When we serve, where are our hearts?”

When we serve, where are our hearts? Are they set to help or express our desires? Do we have a clear view of our true role and do we stay focused on that role? When we do, doors open up. Not all will agree with us, but all will welcome us. In the marketplace, producing honorable results should be our primary goal. Each of us has a role to play in this, and when we stay within that role we succeed. The hardest part is remembering we are a servant in our roles.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

When we work, does it have to be our way?

How do each of us serve in our work?

How do we search for the common good?

 

Jesus in silence

“Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’”

— Luke [17:19]

USING FAITH TO GO ON OUR WAY

It is easy to say, “Get up and dust yourself off.” Many of us have heard this encouragement. But it isn’t so easy to do. Perhaps we have had a major financial setback or are struggling with a relationship. In those silent moments by ourselves, we twist and we turn, searching for answers. We head down various mental paths and look in each corner. Perhaps we cry out and silently yell it’s not fair. And it probably isn’t. It is true we should just get up and dust ourselves off and go on. But it isn’t that easy for everyone.

Faith is like that. Sometimes it’s easy to go into the building of faith and hit the elevator for the top floor and just arrive. But other times in our lives we have to investigate every room in the building of faith. To find out what’s there and see if it helps us. We have to walk up each stair and see what’s on the next floor. With the spirit of Christ in us, we know the answer is on the top floor, but we have to press back our doubts by exploring. Others may say, “Just have faith.” But these journeys help us have faith. They allow us to cross off what doesn’t work. They allow us to let our heart catch up with our intellectual knowledge. 

Our faith will make us well. But we have to first move to that place where we can get up and be on our way.

Jesus says, “Move on. Your faith has made you well.” Jesus has to say that, because it is right. Our faith will make us well. But we have to first move to that place where we can get up and be on our way. It is at this point where we have to decide that our progress must be forward. Our investigation has to propel us to a conclusion. It is faith that we can hang on to after we have investigated every floor, but the investigation process itself can be revealing and strengthen our faith. It is when this strengthening has occurred that we can truly get up and be on our way. 

“The journey in the inner building of our self with Jesus will reveal and teach us to have faith.”

With Jesus in our hearts, we can have confidence that our journey will be well. Regardless of our inner investigation, all paths will lead back to faith. All thoughts of ill will will disappear. All thoughts of self-pity will wither away. We will return. The journey in the inner building of our self with Jesus will reveal and teach us to have faith. Jesus will be with us on this journey regardless of our despair. And when we are done, we will be able to get up and be on our way. 

Have faith!

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

What do we do when we fall down?

How do we restore our faith?

How long should it take?

 

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”

– Matthew [19:24]

WHERE ARE OUR HEARTS?

In our modern marketplace we are taught and encouraged that the measure of our success is how much we make. Corporations are rewarded for increasing their earnings per share. We all want our raises and bonuses to be bigger. For many who read this verse in Matthew it appears that Jesus is saying that if you are rich you won’t be able to go to heaven. However, if we use the discipline of historical context, we can see a different message. A message that refers more to where our hearts reside.

“Jesus desires for us to turn our hearts humbly to the purpose of God.”

In ancient Jerusalem there were two gates to enter the city. A large gate where all could pass and a smaller gate used at night to prevent entry by potentially dangerous invaders. The smaller gate was called the “Eye of the Needle.” For camels to get through this gate they had to kneel and be relieved of all their baggage. The camel was the largest beast of burden in ancient Judea, suggesting its purpose in Jesus’s analogy. The act of kneeling is a humbling act. An act of submission or honor, both in the ancient world and today. Jesus desires for us to turn our hearts humbly to the purpose of God.

A writer friend of mine engaged with a well-connected literary figure who signed a contract promising to help my friend get his book published. For a sizeable amount of money from the aspiring writer, the literary figure promised to introduce him to publishing firms. A contract was signed and the literary figure sent off an e-mail to an agent, who replied to the writer with a rejection. From the literary figure’s point of view, an introduction had been made and therefore the money was due. While technically the literary figure had provided the contracted service, he did little more than send a random e-mail to a random agent. The aspiring writer was on the hook to pay the contract fee but had little to show for his money. While everything was done legally according to the contract, the heart of the literary figure was in making money and not in providing substantial help to the writer. His actions were legally correct, but not correct within the context of intention.

“Jesus cautions us to be humble and careful in pursuing wealth…To decide between a short-term gain and being fair with our neighbors. He is saying that when we stand at this crossroads, we should follow a heart that wants to help others.”

In this story lies the point of Jesus’s message. Is our goal to make money regardless of who we affect? The lure of wealth often times puts us in this position, to decide between a short-term gain and being fair with our neighbors. In the marketplace we often stand at this crossroads. Jesus isn’t saying that being rich is bad. He is saying that when we stand at this crossroads, we should follow a heart that wants to help others. Jesus cautions us to be humble and careful in pursuing wealth. He is well aware of the temptation of riches and the delusional effect of wealth. He is advising us that the pursuit of wealth, while intoxicating, can be harmful to our hearts. Are we following the command of Galatians [5:13] to put aside our own worldly desire and instead using what we have to serve others in love?

Earning a living isn’t the issue; where our hearts reside is the issue.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

Do we make decisions that are made with a heart that wants to help?

How do we protect our hearts from the delusions of wealth?

How do we stay humble?

 

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew [4:23]

 

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

Are we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?

 

 

“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

—John [5:19]–20

 

THIS CHRISTMAS “WHAT OUGHT WE TO DO?”

Beyond the ethics of doing the right thing, we must also show faith by having the courage to do the right thing. If we truly believe and have faith in the unseen, then we will not hesitate to do those “right” things, even if doing so might put us at some personal risk. Being bold in our faith leads us to do what God would have us do. A faith that if we choose a path for the right reasons that God will give us “A future with hope.”

The principal question of ethics is “What Ought we to do?” A simple question that when married with difficult situations can lead to complicated answers. Even simple answers to this question will lead people to have different answers.

When we bring Jesus into our thought process, ethics turn into Christian ethics. We then begin to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Again this sounds simple, but it is not. Competing with what Jesus would do is our natural selves. We have our own desires and needs. We need to pay our bills. We need to earn a living in order to do that. We want our worldly needs satisfied. Sometimes these needs will conflict with what Jesus would have us do.

I know a woman named Beth, who was homeless and fighting hard to regain her footing, so she could raise her child in a home like she saw other mothers do. She worked at a local Dunkin’ Donuts in a job that sometimes had her scraping gum off the bottom of the tables. Her boss was abusive and ranted at her throughout her shift. Each day she went back to her shelter with a little more money to get her freedom. On the Christmas Eve of her one-year journey in homelessness she left work and found a woman in the parking lot who was in need. It was a dark, rainy night, and the woman had not recently eaten and was rummaging in the trash bin behind the store. With what she had earned in tips that day, Beth took the woman into Dunkin’ Donuts and bought her a meal. She sat with the woman and listened to her story. On that rainy Christmas Eve, she drove back to her shelter wondering if she had done enough for the woman. Her principal question was had she done what she ought to do?

Beth eventually got an apartment and left her job, to work at a better place. The next fall she was able to put her child on a school bus for her first day of school. She was able to go to a job where she was respected. She continued to wonder if she had done enough on that Christmas Eve.

“We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will heal and free us.”

Deciding what we ought to do seems complicated, but Jesus gives us a simple blueprint when he says, “but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Regardless of our natural circumstances, Jesus tells us to act in a manner that we envision how God would act. He asks us to act without fear of loss, but through our hearts. We should not overly ponder the event, but to let our knowledge of God through our heart tell us what we “ought” to do. We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will heal and free us.

Maybe this is the Christmas that we move our gift giving to doing what would Jesus do? Perhaps this is someone we know who needs a little extra help. Perhaps a piece of what we give, we give to a needy cause. This Christmas we will all have that moment when we have to decide, What ought we to do?

The answer is; What would Jesus do?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by erin walker

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

DID JESUS REALLY EXIST HISTORICALLY?

One of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Did Jesus really exist physically on earth.” Those who doubt need tangible proof that Jesus really walked on earth. Did he really walk among? Did he really say what is in the Bible? As a Doctor of Ministry, I can say with certainty that he did exist. Not because I want him to be real, but because he was real.

Historical information from the 1st century is much murkier than that of the 21st century. The internet didn’t exist. Great writings were not as prolific as they are today. As such, gleaning information about Jesus’s physical existence is much harder. Proof of his existence requires searching ancient records that are far more subtle than they are today.

This is compounded by two other facts, much of what was known was from oral history and that which was written, was only about the elite. Writings in the 1st century tended to be written about kings or emperors, the aristocracy. In fact, in the first century only five percent of the population could write. When they did write it was on material they may last only a few decades. Unless these writings were transcribed, they would disappear. So finding the truth in this quest is much harder than what we can do today with our own history.

If we discount what is written in the New Testament, can we still be sure Jesus really existed? My answer is yes! There does exist wonderful clues and writings that confirm Jesus’s existence.

We do know that Jesus existed from both Tacitus, at the beginning of the second century, a pagan historian, and Josephus at the end of the first century. Josephus referred to Jesus as a “yoke maker.” A reference to Jesus as a carpenter. Tacitus discussed the crucifixion in his writings, not only referring to Jesus, but Pontius Pilate. A non-Christian source of confirmation.

Dr. Gary Habermas wrote a book called the Historical Jesus. In this book, his research concluded that there are over sixty non-Christian references to Jesus. From writings of ancient luminaries such as; Tacitus, Josephus, Thallus, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, the Talmud, Lucian, Mara Bar-Serapion. Many of these I read during my formal education of obtaining a Doctorate degree.

Another clue in our detective work centers around the existence of a document now called “Q”. Q is a document that included a number of sayings by Jesus. We know this document existed as it was included in the three synoptic Gospels; Matthew, Mark and Luke, and other documents unearthed from archaeological finds over the last few centuries.

The three Synoptic Gospels were all written at different times, spanning sixty C.E to eighty C.E. Mark was written first, followed by Matthew and then Luke. We know that because of some similarities the content of Q is included in all three. The writings of Q also exist in other documents that are not in the Bible. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas includes a number of these sayings.

Christian writers who are not in the New Testament, also have writings supporting the existence of Jesus, such as; Clement of Rome, Diognetus, Aristedes, Papias, Barnabas, Polycarp, Ignatius, Melito of Sardis, Quadratus, and Justin Martyr.

While this evidence answers the question of Jesus physical existence, it is only a small part or start of our belief. When talking with those who doubt, this information is a start, but there is more. Jesus is not just seen, but felt. Feeling Jesus in our hearts extends his physical presence to that of a spiritual presence.

Just knowing Jesus existed isn’t enough for those seeking. It is from feeling Jesus. When I hear the question of did Jesus really exist, I know the person is the early stages of acceptance. Accepting that there is a higher force and a set of life values we can hang on to.

Accepting Jesus in our hearts comes from observing. Learning to discern what is coincidence and what is providence. The process starts with engaged dialogue, or prayer. Then watching and seeing the results. For some this will come quickly. For others, perhaps a lifetime. Ultimately developing a firm faith is believing in the unseen.

For some a crisis must first exist. For others, simply a prayer that is answered. But for all that seek Jesus, he will be found. Each journey is different. With different hills and valleys to wander. The eventual encounter with Jesus will be remarkable and deeply personal.

Sure Jesus walked this earth. But this knowledge is the start of our journey. Jesus is more than physical, he is spiritual. He wants not only our eyes to see, but our hearts to feel. Breaking down the barriers of doubt of his physical existence hopefully will lead us to the final answer. Jesus is God, whom we seek.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Grant Whitty

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

HOW THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT CHANGED STEVEN COLBERT’S LIFE

One a cold winter day in Chicago Steven Colbert stood on a street corner, unsure and confused. Riddled with anxiety and despair with few tethers in his life. Left with a mother thousands of miles away and pursuing an uncertain career in comedy and theater. At the age of twenty-two he had rejected his early Catholic upbringing and became an atheist. But this day was different, it was cold, like only those from Chicago could understand. He had rejected God, he hadn’t become at peace.

Nearby stood a man handing out Gideon Bibles, the ones with the New Testament and two other books; Psalms and Proverbs. He gave one to Colbert. Who then opened the frozen Bible and turned to a page that contained the verse;

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Matthew [6:25]

Reading this verse struck a chord with Colbert, it answered his doubts. In that moment he felt as if Jesus was talking to him. What he read became more than letters strung together to form words. He felt Jesus was talking directly to him.

In that cold moment of his life, he continued reading. He read the entire Sermon on the Mount, from chapter 5 to chapter 8, in the book of Matthew. He devoured the words and each sentence propelled him to a different understanding of life and his purpose. He was no longer confused.

He had gone to Chicago to attend Northwestern’s theatrical school. His goal was to be a comedian or an actor. Earlier in his life, his father and two brothers had died in a plane crash. Being away from home and still dealing with the death of his siblings and father had created a crisis in his life. At first he turned to Xanax, which provided no relief. He still woke every morning suffering from depression and anxiety.

Then he had his moment on a cold street in Chicago. We all know the rest of the story. His wit and humor has made him into a celebrity and an important political satirist. But it was the Sermon on the Mount that steadied him.

The Sermon on the Mount is three short chapters, from five to seven, in the book of Matthew. It was Jesus’s first public sermon. Jesus had been through the forty days in the desert, baptized and gained followers. This was Jesus’s coming out speech.

It contains such notable Christian values such as; the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule and the Lord’s prayer. No single section of the four Gospels contain more of Jesus’s teachings than the Sermon on the Mount.

A simple place to start, full of Christian richness. A place where we learn that the quality of our heart is more important than our deeds. A place to discover the real meaning of loving our neighbor. A complete explanation of the ten commandments and the will of God. It is all here. A strong reader can complete this reading in fifteen minutes, but it takes perhaps a lifetime to fully grasp.

We have other speeches and sermons we can read, like the Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s, I have a dream speech or John Winthrop’s, City on the Hill. Or those from Winston Churchill or John Kennedy. But included in the Sermon on the Mount are the words of life, complete and sound.

Like Steven Colbert, we need look no further than this mighty discourse, for the answers of how to live as Christians. We won’t need those cold and gloomy days to look for direction. We will have with us a primer on God’s desire for our lives.

Perhaps when we finish we will be fulfilled or perhaps the illusionary nature of the world will disappear. Perhaps we will become like a rock on a shore that no longer worries about the pounding waves of life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Angelina Odemchuk

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

“But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
to tell of all your works.”

Psalm [73:28]

 

GOD IS MAKING A COMEBACK

In A recent Gallup poll, ninety percent of American’s stated they believed in God. In a different poll by Gallup, ninety percent of all Americans support having “In God we trust” as a national motto and its inclusion on our currency. A remarkable finding in an age of political correctness.

Much has been discussed about the first amendment and its statements about freedom of religion. Some have used it to prevent prayer in schools, elimination of faith expressions in the work place and in municipal offices. But we are a country that largely believes in God. These poll results are similar to how Americans felt the spirit of God from decades ago and even centuries past. As a country we have long felt God a guiding force.

Specifically the first amendment states the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

These few simple words make a powerful two fold statement. The first is that the country would not have a state religion, such as Catholicism, Methodism, Baptist or any other form of organized religion. The second; that the citizens of our country would not be prevented from having the right to practice their religious beliefs. In short, all Americans can practice their beliefs without interference of the government.

This inclusion made by our founding fathers arose from their knowledge of the past persecutions and wars that occurred in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Our founding fathers sought to prevent this activity in America.

They knew about the Thirty years, which was fought in the century before the creation of our constitution, saw twenty percent of Germany killed. The Puritan revolution in England during the 17th century saw the only beheading of an English king and two hundred thousand Britons killed. These debacles of human loss were simply a fight over belief in Protestantism or Catholicism. Seemingly simple differences in belief that escalated into full scale wars.

Our forefathers knew this and sought not to define how to believe in God, but that it was okay to believe in God. Washington, Jefferson and Adams, the principal architects of the constitution understood that belief in God was good, but specifically by individual very unique. As such, offered our country the opportunity to experience God uniquely, citizen by citizen.

Over the last few decades, there have been misinterpretations of this part of the constitution. Which has led to pupils being suspended for praying. The sanitizing of religious statements. No longer is it okay to say Merry Christmas or Happy Easter. In our zeal to be politically correct we have limited the practice and freedom of religion.

This doesn’t mean that we should or must say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Merry Christmas. It says we should be respectful of their beliefs. It also doesn’t mean, Christians can not say Merry Christmas to each other. It means we should be thoughtful and respectful. It says we should recognize that each individual feels God differently and responds to God with different practices.

Recently, in Florida, state representative Kimberly Daniels sponsored a bill to put “In God we trust” in all public schools. When the bill passed she stated, “I believe with all the negativity going on, our children need to know the foundation of what this country is all about and what it was founded on.” Her view of history and the creation of our republic is correct.

She further stated, “God is positive; I put that forth like that because people want to make God a negative thing; God is good. And God is the Creator; He’s the Initiator; He’s the Alpha; He’s the Omega, and our children need to see that because the eyes are the gateway to the soul.” And so they need to see that symbol, and it needs to be imprinted in their minds and in their hearts what it meant to the people who came to this country for religious liberty,” 

Florida isn’t the only state pushing back on the false interpretation proposed by some; other states like Arizona, Alabama and Arkansas have passed similar bills. God is making a come-back and our national voice is being heard. Spurred on by grass roots efforts.

We are a country that believes, “In God we Trust.” It is how our country was created many centuries ago. The vast majority of Americans believe in God and want our society to feel that this belief is acceptable. Not that it is politically wrong, because it isn’t.

This doesn’t mean we should be disrespectful of those who don’t. It strongly states we should be respectful. It doesn’t mean we should use religion as a tool of power to control. It means our belief in God is our right and we should be accepting of all expressions of faith.

But God is making a comeback, as always happens!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Madison Kaminski

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

SEVEN WAYS TO HAVE A JOY FILLED CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CONSUMERISM

Christmas is almost here! It is a time of family and remembering our past year. A time when we gather for get togethers and celebrating friendship and our families. An annual celebration for Christians to hand out gifts, prepare meals and shop.

But it can also be a time of stress when we wear ourselves out and drift into a Christmas of labor and not joy. For some it is a time of loneliness and isolation, a reminder of a life that is set apart.

Our televisions, radios and computers will blare with “buy this or hurry now and buy.” All serving to dull the real purpose of Christmas. A Christmas taken away by consumerism that exhaust us and create a false sense of Christmas.

What can we do? How do we slow down and enjoy Christmas? How do we create memories of joy that will be remembered and create a tapestry of happiness for all to remember? How do we learn that giving is far better than receiving?

Here are seven ways to push back on those things that distract our Christmas and create a joy filled Christmas.

Help one family member or friend

We all know that one person who needs a little extra care this holiday. Reach out to them this Christmas and show them that they are loved. Maybe take them out to a meal and listen to their story. Or perhaps give them a very personal gift that shows you care. Mostly let them know they aren’t alone.

Visit your local Salvation Army Bell Ringer

Find the place where a Salvation Army ringer is standing, ringing their bell. Put in a few more dollars into their basket than you normally would. And thank them for what they do for the world. Honor their presence as someone who is giving their time to make life better for those of need. Let them know you care.

Watch a Christmas Movie

There are many wonderful Christmas movies to share with family and friends that capture the true spirit of Christmas. During Christmas time put aside time to sit together and enjoy a wonderful movie. Perhaps watch It’s a Wonderful Life or maybe A Miracle on 34th street. Or a classic story of giving and not receiving; like A Christmas Carol and don’t forget the popcorn. There are many movies from decades past that capture the true spirit of Christmas and are fun to watch. Let this time together be a time of reflection and a gathering that will be remembered. Maybe even set aside a time for yourself to watch these movies to rest and experience expressions from the past of Christmas time.

Ask for that Your Present is a Donation

Perhaps this is the Christmas that you don’t receive presents. This Christmas when we are asked what do we want, reply, “Donate the value of the present you were going to buy to your favorite charity. I have enough, I have been blessed.” With so many in need throughout our communities it is a way of helping out those who need more this Christmas.

Visit an Assisted Living or Hospice Center

Many of those who live in assisted living or in hospice will have a tougher Christmas this year. Many will spend their Christmas alone and without visitors. They need to know they are cared for. Help them know that Christmas does exist for them. Many churches organize visits during this time of year. Perhaps your church does as well. Bring books or crafts. If you don’t know someone in a center, call ahead and ask is there someone who needs a visit.

Call long Ago Friends and Wish them Merry Christmas

We all have those friends we wish we could talk to, but seem to run out of time. This Christmas try calling friends from the past and wish them a Merry Christmas. Not just send a card, but say “I care.” Perhaps this will reignite a desired friendship that has been dimmed by time and distance. Maybe It’s one special person or a number of people.

Go to a Candlelight Service at Your Local Church

Is this the Christmas that you attend church on Christmas Eve and start a new tradition or perhaps continue an old tradition? In all communities there is a church that will have a Candlelight service we can attend. Music is sung with gusto and it is a joy filled time. The highlight is a church filled with candles lit one by one. The lights are dimmed and the congregation will sing Silent Night, a soul filled song with remembrance of the true meaning of Christmas. Words when listened to express the real meaning of Christmas.

This is our Christmas this year. Our Christmas, not to just receive but to give. A Christmas to avoid buying presents out of consumerism, and one to bring in the real spirit of Christmas. It is our Christmas to push past the ads and the exhausting process of making sure we bought enough. It is our Christmas not to worry about what we got, but what we give. And to remember that what we give with our time, many times is more important that what we spend.

This is the year we change how we celebrate Christmas.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Element5 Digital

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.