Blessed are the peacemakers

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, specifically the beatitudes found in Matthew chapter 5 vs. 3-12, blessings are poured upon those who are peacemakers and “they shall be called the children of God.”

When we define peacemaking and peacemakers here, we are not talking about peace at the end of a gun, carpet bombing or drone strikes. We are talking about repairing relationships and that can be a long and difficult process. It is, in my opinion, taking the time for dialog, for some sacrifice and definitely with the attitude that we want the very best for everyone involved.

Peacemaking by it’s very definition involves making peace and peace is the absence of conflict. Peacemaking includes making peace with ourselves, with others, and with God. I believe there has to be a degree of compassion and willingness to see others achieve peace.

An opportunity has presented itself for me to try and make peace. I have been writing a lady who was sentenced 10 years ago to do a 40 year prison term. I am always devastated by our handing out exorbitant sentences and we are the only Western country to do that across the board.

Her name is Jennifer. She was a drug abuser and made a dreadful mistake which will cost most of her life if she ever lives through our inhumane prison system. She is so precious to me and encourages me greatly. We have become friends.

Jennifer has a new baby granddaughter, Lilliana. Isn’t that just a lovely name?! Her son and daughter-in-law refuse to have any relationship with her. Jen gets her information through her mom. It hurts my heart because this lady loves her family.

I have hand painted a quilt and found on eBay a baby Gund giraffe that is now a collector’s item. I am going to send it to Jen’s granddaughter with a letter. I want to try and help them and Jen mend a broken relationship for all of their sakes. I have prayed about this and I will see where it might lead.

Lilliana’s giraffe quilt

Every day provides an opportunity

Practically every day, I find, that someone needs a word of cheer while others may need much more. Burdens are real and we live in extremely challenging times. When many are out of work, on the street, can’t provide for themselves and their families, bereft of family and friends due to Covid or other illnesses, or even violence, people just need someone to care.

Yesterday, I discovered just how many people were in desperate need of being validated. It started with an older man who was homeless. I was on my way to deliver food to our local shelter. He was standing on the side of the road off an exit. His head was hung low as was the cardboard sign in his hands. The light turned red and I was able to stop and talk with him. I handed him a ten and he shouted blessings at me as I drove away. I saw him smiling wide in my rear view mirror.

I got to the shelter and dropped off the meal, eggs and milk. It was then, one of the ladies who works there, stopped me as I was leaving to express her gratitude for the eggs. She told me that her clients don’t often have that treat for breakfast. Treat. Can you imagine eggs as a treat? We take so much for granted. I can’t tell you how happy I felt knowing I was contributing to their breakfast of eggs.

Next stop was the bank. I deposit my son’s checks for him as the bank hours aren’t conducive to his work schedule. The tellers address me as Matt’s Mom. I love it! It was one of the teller’s birthday and I wished her happiness and a great day. They like me there because I try to acknowledge what a good group they are. As I was getting ready to leave, I notice a heavyset young woman sitting in her cubicle away from everyone. She wore a really lovely dress and just looked stunning to me. I went over and told her so. She beamed like the North Star. It didn’t cost me anything to make her day.

When I got home, I got a call from a relative who doesn’t drive where could she get some of that iron on interfacing. After I assured her I would see what I could find and let her know, I hung up, ordered the Pelion online and had it shipped to her front door. It will arrive tomorrow. 😉😄

When we start really paying attention to those in our “community”, then we will better avail ourselves to the needs at hand. Sometimes, all it will take is a word of cheer or maybe it will be much more.

I don’t call myself a Christian because it comes with so much negative baggage and unfortunately, the baggage is justified. I do call myself a follower of Jesus. I try to live as He did and I don’t always get it right, but I do put forth the effort and my heart is there even if my mouth, hands and feet fail me at times. He was all about love, mercy and kindness and truth. Those are the treasures I want to build up.❤️❤️❤️

Give them feet

Today, I heard a sermon about the power of prayer. I believe it is a powerful weapon in our arsenal against evil. Many people discount prayer; but, I have seen prayer’s power personally.

While I believe in the power of prayer, I also believe that we are obligated to care for each other to the best of our abilities. Unlike the politicians who like to say their prayers go out during tragedies and feel that should suffice, Jesus chastises those who see people in need and wish them well without lifting a finger to change their circumstances.

I am of the opinion that you pray for God’s guidance, you do what you are honestly able to do and leave what is beyond your control to God. If we want to change this world for the better, it begins with one person at a time.

Kindness and compassion are in constant demand. Too many people are beaten down by life. It’s really amazing how one small act of kindness can encourage folks and change their outlook.

So, if I sound like I’m preaching 😉, then I am preaching to myself as well. To that extent, I was chatting with a friend whose 13 year old niece was in a car accident. She requires skin grafting over a period of time. Imagine finally getting to a double digit birthday and this happens. My heart went out to her. If you don’t know it by now, I am an artist, an imperfect quilter and a bleeding heart.

I used to find gently loved teddy bears, buy them and send to those who needed a “bear hug.” I started doing that again. I just finished a quilt and it’s going in the mail with a Gund bear. I want to encourage and help the 13 year old feel special and loved as she has to deal with the whole skin grafting ordeal. I like to put feet to my prayers.

What Jesus DID NOT say

Matthew 5:1-12. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain and when was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them saying:

Blessed are the self centered, the self righteous, and those who point their fingers at others for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who gloat, who rejoice when someone suffers, and take pleasure in being cruel for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the arrogant, the one uppers, the winners at all cost, the ones who boast about their’s and their kids’ accomplishments, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for material things, for wealth (no matter who is exploited in the process), for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the judgmental, those without compassion, those who believe in severe punishment, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are those who manipulate, who devise wicked schemes under the guise of doing justice for they shall see God.

Blessed are the warmongers for they shall be called the sons of God.

Blessed are those who persecute others for telling the truth, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when you revile and persecute and say all kinds of evil things against the innocent. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven…

Defying discouragement

When I look around and I see the cruelty and the inconceivable apathy of those in my small and greater community, I want to shut down and avoid people all together. The Covid pandemic has made it easier to self isolate.

Perhaps the overwhelming negativity reached its peak for me when I received letters from my caged people chastising me for not writing more often than I had been. If that wasn’t discouraging enough, I gave some very personal art to a friend to say “I am with you in this time of struggle” and it was not only dismissed; but, at one point I was lectured for caring. (It was how I took it after an unkind outburst on her part).

I am not seeking pity. I am just frustrated. I find myself hitting the bottom of a very dark hole. We live in extremely selfish and shallow times. Kindness often encourages suspicion and on occasion rudeness. I don’t want to be unkind, I just want to be alone most of the time.

Yet, there is something deep inside that is rebellious in me. Maybe its because of what happened to my son. Maybe, I don’t want to let the bastards have their immoral victories. Maybe, I refuse to believe that all the sweetness has gone out of this world. Maybe, I love too much and I don’t want that to ever be extinguished because I could see myself becoming an empty shell, a dead person walking.

So, I plan days of RAK (random acts of kindness). It’s challenging and yet invigorating. It’s my way of defying discouragement. It’s my way of being part of the sweetness in this world instead of contributing to the darkness.

I got a wonderful message from a woman who is one of my heroines. She has an ugly degenerative disease that racks up the surgeries. We, meaning my guys and I, sent her some funds. She was able to buy an air conditioner. Yep, many of us still live on the edge where buying an window air conditioner is a really big thing. She was so grateful.

I was a part of that. I was encouraged to be able to do something needful for her. I have to learn to practice what I preach daily. BE GRATEFUL Life is a pain in the ass most times; but, there are people out there who need us to be encouragers in this struggle.

Love is an action. Words are only as good as the action that define them.❤️❤️❤️

Social democracy and the real follower of Jesus

Eugene Debs on the Real Religion of Jesus

BYEUGENE DEBS

In December 1914, socialist leader Eugene V. Debs sent a Christmas letter to a man in a Michigan prison. We reprint the message here in full.

Eugene V. Debs. (1855–1926)

Eugene V. Debs was a skeptic of organized religion. He’d seen too many pastors and preachers, ostensible promulgators of the word of Jesus Christ, fulminate from the pulpit about the “ungodliness” of unions and radical politics.

But Debs was also a devoted Christian. The aim of socialism, as he saw it, was to create a human brotherhood that stretched across the Earth, freeing prisoners and oppressed workers from despotism. Genuine democracy would replace the rule of Mammon in the cooperative commonwealth to come.

In December 1914, Debs opened his hometown newspaper, the Terre Haute Tribune, to find a reprinted letter from a Michigan prisoner who had sent two dollars to a “Good Fellow Club” to purchase toys for disadvantaged kids. Debs was touched. On the sixteenth, Debs wrote a short message to Inmate No. 9756 in Jackson, Michigan, praising the imprisoned man as a better representative of the spirit of Jesus than the supposedly Christian society that had locked him up.

We reprint it here, in honor of Christmas.

My Dear Brother:

I do not know who you are but I have read your Christmas letter and I send you my greeting with my heart in it. You may be a convict, but you are my brother and when your message came to me I was touched to tears.

There is more to the real religion of Jesus Christ in the spirit you breathe out to the world from behind your cruel prison bars than in all of the orthodox sermons ever preached. You love the little children even as He loved them and you are in prison, while He was crucified. It is well that you are patient and forgiving. The world moves slowly. It may still be said: “They know not what they do.”

You had the misfortune to be born in a world not yet civilized. Jesus loved the erring into righteousness. His professed followers shut them out from God’s sunlight and torture them into degeneracy and crime. The erring did not make themselves. God made them. Let Him judge them.

The society that sent you to prison devours its own offspring. Thousands of little children are starved, stunted, and ground into dividends in the mills of mammon. It is the Christian society’s homeless, neglected babes to whom you, one of its condemned convicts, feel moved to send the pennies coined from your own blood and agony. What a sermon and what a rebuke!

If you ought to be in a penitentiary I know of not one who ought to be out.

Believe me with heart and hand, your brother and fellow-man,

Eugene V. Debs

A man after my own heart. It’s about love.

Who rushes to murder?

I asked myself this question when Brandon Bernard was murdered by the State on December 10th. Why murder? “Premeditation and aforethought with malice” is one of the definitions. And you might say, “Well, he is only getting what he deserves because he murdered two people.” The fact of the matter is he was a party to the murder. He didn’t pull the trigger that killed two young youth ministers.

A little bit of history: there are currently 60 people on federal death row in the Terre Haute, Indiana. Well, that’s an achievement for the state, eh? Three people were executed back in 2003 meaning it is not routinely carried out. It’s been 130 years since a sitting president enacted execution during a lame duck period.

Brandon went to prison when he was 18 and he was 40 when he was murdered. He was crocheting blankets and sweaters for fellow inmates. Everyone who knew him, knew he regretted his involvement in a terrible crime and his remorse. The question isn’t who deserves to die for their crime; but who has the right to take the life of another human being?

So, who benefitted from his death? Brandon wasn’t going anywhere and he was doing good for others. His life was an act of serving others. Why the rush to extinguish his life? Are we not about about encouraging the growth, the change, the rehabilitation and taking of responsibility for one’s actions or is that just a word salad we spew to make ourselves feel good as we murder people sadly defined “an act of justice?”

I write a woman who murdered her father for drug money. She received 40 years. She is one of my most humble, kind and gentle people who is also my friend. She, too, speaks candidly about her crime and how she regrets the horrible decisions she has made in the past. Her heart is full of kindness and concern for others. She demonstrates it by sending me her small checks that she works so long and so hard for to help other prisoners. She believes she will die in prison and accepts it. Me, I just feel heart broken.

Here are the 5 countries that kill people regularly: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and the US. Wow, how dare we point fingers when we are in league with the same nations that are brutal to their own citizens.

RIP Brandon Bernard.

And for those who dole out the judgment of death: James 2:13 “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

We have a chance to make a difference in the chaos

Okay, let’s face it. This year is quickly coming to a close and yet not quite fast enough it seems. Yes, we have cowards, fleecers and cruel people running the government. We have seen so much unnecessary suffering and destruction of dignity not to mention lives. We have seen a nasty tenacious virus wound and kill people all over this world.

It is overwhelming, it is grievous and it is often times very scary. But, we are not alone. There are those out there who try and do what they can to feed, clothe, speak out for and share some compassion and kindness. We all have a chance to make some difference large or small in someone else’s life.

I say this because I want to thank the person who started #OpSafeWinter many years ago. He lives in the UK and has a heart for the homeless and those struggling just to survive. His rallying the troops on social media caused a worldwide event. I began making my “gift” bags to hand out to those on the streets because of him.

So, it’s another winter here in the states and I have begun to fill my bags again. There are many more desperate folks this year. If you are one of these people, I pray that good and generous souls will rise up and come to your rescue. If those of us who can help, give of ourselves to those around us, we can surely save a life.

To my friend, t0p, you inspired me to do more and I have taken up the challenge. Thank you and may the richest of blessings fall on you. Hugs.

Alone

Perhaps you have had a tragedy in your life that has been so deeply traumatizing you can’t put it to words. Oh, maybe you could; but, unless that someone has experienced what you have, how could that person ever understand?

Tonight, I watched a movie based on a true story about a family who faced fear, persecution, and being pushed to do something that could cost all of their lives. In a way, it was strangely therapeutic to know there are people out there in this world who have had similar trauma.

Some days, I wish I had a counselor who I could confide in. Someone, who could and would understand the damage done. Sadly, I trust no one here to provide that kind of support. So, we carry our baggage in silence. We deal with the nightmares and the physical ailments of stress resigning ourselves that this is our burden to bear.

Maybe this burden is what makes my little family care so much about others suffering, about justice, about mercy, about honesty and truth. If this makes us better people, then I am all in. One day, we hope to meet others who have faced evil like we have, talk about it out loud and realize we are not alone with just our scars.

“It’s better to be a lion for a day then a sheep all your life.” Elizabeth Kenny

Flesh and blood and stuff

I spoke to a friend the other day. We hadn’t talked in over a year and it was so good to reconnect again. We chit chatted about a number of things and specifically about the value of people.

My friend, Karen, has an enormous heart for troubled kids. She becomes their mom, grandmother, aunt, teacher; whatever it takes to reach them and encourage them. She told me about a young bi racial lad she has spent time encouraging because he was pretty much left on his own. He stole from her and she knew it.

He took her husband’s favorite handmade necklace; but, returned it when confronted. Karen said that it was disappointing; but, she realized that those who have nothing will be tempted to steal. She explained that it was an opportunity to teach him about integrity and respect. She believed he was more valuable than any of the stuff he took.

Martin Luther King, jr. once said that white people value their property over human life. Hard as it is to swallow, he was and is certainly accurate. When more attention is given to a piece of stone or bronze memorializing someone long dead instead of providing for real flesh and blood, I would say we live a very screwed up world.

I thank God for my friends like Karen who seem to be rare. I asked her what she thought of the “desecration” or “tearing down” of monuments as of late. She laughed and said, “What good are they? They don’t feed the hungry and they certainly don’t provide love to the “least of these.”

Way to go, Karen. There are a lot of young people out there who will remember you as a lady who loved them for them.

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’