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Translation

How do you translate the Bible? When Emily McGowin taught high school English, she assigned her 9th-graders to translate the Beatitudes in their own words. They rendered the verses in which Jesus blesses the “unblessable.” What some of them wrote speaks to how they see the world. Blessed are drug addicts and felons, people who try everything but still buckle under the pressure of their past lives and can never get back on their feet, for even they belong in the Kingdom of God. Blessed are the orphans and foster children of the world because they are exactly who God wants in his Kingdom. Blessed are the homeless because the Kingdom of God belongs to them too. One came from a child who was removed from a home due abuse by a parent. He wrote: Blessed are the abusers who take out their anger on the weak, for even they can repent and receive the Kingdom of God. While they are not the Beatitudes, they speak of how you translate the Bible into something alive in your own life. It’s not about words but the friction that scripture creates in your own soul. While some see church as “respectable,” that translation may twist into something different. Listen to what Jesus did. “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:5–7) The translation of the crowd did not exactly match the gospel of which Jesus spoke. To bring people to Jesus, our translation of the mission must match what Jesus’ intentions are. How well do you translate Jesus in your life and thinking? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-01-25T12:04:42-06:00January 25th, 2021|Blog|

Happy?

America has all the conditions to improve the happiness of its inhabitants. In 2019, the average household income was higher than ever. Homes are larger than ever, with an average house almost 1000 square feet over the previous average. More people have easy access to the internet than ever. Then, what’s the problem? We are not happier. A survey started in 1988 to measure people’s mood shows dissatisfaction with life has continued its 32-year rise. It is no wonder. We pursue things that we can measure, but that doesn’t matter. We want to be technologically savvy, wealthier, and more mobile. But it only covers a gnawing sense of emptiness. Jesus met a man who demanded a referee in a family estate squabble. He demanded Jesus tell his brother to split the family fortune with him. Jesus refused. Instead, he gave the man a first-grade lesson in life. “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) When we attempt to use earthly goods to plug spiritual holes, the void remains.  It is not about the money, but the purpose of life. When it is anything other than pleasing the God who created us, we find ourselves thirsty. What are you chasing? And…are you happy? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-01-18T13:24:33-06:00January 18th, 2021|Blog|

Ashamed of Weakness

Years ago, I knew a man who was healthy and vibrant at age 50. He had a sailboat and loved hunting. As a builder, he was a craftsman. Then, he had a stroke. It left one side of his body, unable to function. As I spoke, tears came to his eyes. He was a strong man reduced to a wheelchair. Ian Corbin of the Harvard Medical School has interviewed people like my friend. He observed: Post-stroke isolation is one more symptom, badly compounding the damage done by stroke itself ... Studies show that stroke patients’ networks tend to contract in the wake of a stroke. Why? The causes are not perfectly clear, but we can say this: Too often in America, we are ashamed of being weak, vulnerable, dependent. We tend to hide our shame. We stay away. We isolate ourselves, rather than show our weakness. It is the human condition to show strength. Yet, in a paradox, Christianity turns it upside down. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about a thorn. No one knows to what it referred, but it was a source of suffering. Paul, as any of us would, wanted it removed. Prayer after prayer failed. Instead, he heard God’s message loud and clear. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Boasting in weakness is not normal. It takes greater faith and reliance on the Lord to elevate what we cannot do. Instead, it points to a Lord that makes weakness strength. Strokes can be devastating. What is worse is the hubris we are powerful on our own. Learn to say, in all things, “when I am weak, He is strong." -Robert G. Taylor-        

By |2021-01-11T10:46:50-06:00January 11th, 2021|Blog|

A Child’s Art

Sally Lloyd-Jones overheard a comment at New York’s famed Museum of Modern Art that spoke volumes. While viewing a painting by Rothko (an abstract painter from the 20th century) the voice said, “My child could do that!” There’s a central truth to that. Picasso observed, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Lloyd-Jones goes on to say: The power of a child’s art is defined by what they can’t do--by their lack. They know they can’t do it. And as a result, their art is not about showing off skill or expertise. It’s coming from somewhere else. It’s all heart ... A child is physically not able to master [pencil or paints]. They struggle to depict things--and every line has heart ... The power of the art of a child comes not from their ability or their strength. It comes from their weakness, their not being able, their vulnerability. Jesus knew that grownup self-reliance clashes with his kingdom. It is not the one who knows and has it all together. Instead, Jesus said mature faith is childlike faith. “He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2–3) Can we trust like a child and love like a child? Can we turn loose of worries and let the Father care for them? All the childlike traits reflect the deepest faith. A parent loves a child’s art. God loves a childlike faith. -Robert G. Taylor-          

By |2021-01-04T08:14:22-06:00January 4th, 2021|Blog|

The Weed

In 1876, Japan brought a lush vine to America as part of Philadelphia’s ornamental plant exhibit. It looked like the perfect solution to the soil erosion sweeping the nation during the Great Depression. It was planted in the south and never stopped growing. It was kudzu. It has roots that run up to 20 feet and grow 16 inches every day. Each plant will grow 100 feet per year. People have actually seen it grow. The only way to rid yourself of the plant is to kill the very root of it. Hollywood once wanted to make a horror movie about the vine. They called Dr. Jack Tinga, a leading authority on the kudzu, at the University of Georgia to serve as a technical advisor. He wanted no part of it. He told them, before hanging up, “It’s no joking matter. If you come across kudzu, simply drop it and run.” Some things create that much trouble in life. Jesus knew what they were. He used a similar illustration to describe one such weed affecting the lives of far too many people. “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14) What kills many spiritual lives is the pressure to keep up with their friends and present a false front of affluence. The treadmill plows worry into hearts and weaken the capacity to respond to God’s word. What have you planted in your heart? Is it a weed that saps your spiritual vitality? Take a hard look at what you allow to grow in your life. It may be choking you to death. -Robert G. Taylor-    

By |2020-12-07T20:27:14-06:00December 7th, 2020|Blog|

Listen

One day, Rhea Zakich found she could not speak due to polyps. Life became challenging. To communicate with her family, she wrote her thoughts on cards. When she saw some of her words put down in print, it horrified her, and she threw it away before anyone could see it. The cards turned into a best-selling game called The Ungame. One card instructed, “share something you fear.” Her husband drew this card. His response, spoken to his boys, was poignant. “With your mother ill, I worry what will become of us. I don’t know if I could bring up you boys alone.” The day came when doctors removed the polyps, and speech returned. But the voiceless time left an imprint. She had learned to listen. One day her son came home shouting, “I hate my teacher! I’m never going back to school again!” Here is her response. Before my vocal-cord problems, I would have responded with my own outburst: “Of course you are, if I have to drag you there myself.” That afternoon I had to wait to see what would happen next. In a few moments, my angry son put his head in my lap and poured out his heart. He said, “Oh, Mom, I had to give a report, and I mispronounced a word. The teacher corrected me, and all the kids laughed. I was so embarrassed.” I wrapped my arms around him. He was quiet for a few minutes. Then suddenly, he sprang out of my arms. “I’m supposed to meet Jimmy at his house. Thanks, Mom.” Her mouth did not make a difference, but her ears did. Listening is challenging because it demands so much from us. We have to give complete attention and, if done well, we experience what others feel. It can be unpleasant. James knew that most of life’s problems come from one source—open mouths and closed ears. That’s why he reminds us: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19) Zakich found joy in the silence because her heart could hear the hurts. We are all better off to stop talking so much. Just listen and discover the difference it makes. -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2020-11-30T11:11:27-06:00November 30th, 2020|Blog|

Write a Letter

At the dawn of the Great Depression, William Stidger sat with a group of friends in a restaurant. All anyone could talk about was the depression. People suffered. Joblessness ran rampant, and the wealthy jumped from rooftops in despair. In the group was a minister. “I don’t know what I’m going to do because, in two or three weeks, I have to preach a sermon on Thanksgiving Day. I want to say something affirmative. What can I say that’s affirmative in a period of world depression like this?” Stidger had an insight. “Why don’t you thank the people who have blessed your life and affirm them during this terrible time?” The preacher thought of a schoolteacher very dear to him. She had been his teacher of poetry and English literature. Years before, she instilled a great love of literature and verse in him. It bled through his writings and his preaching. So he sat down and wrote a letter to this woman, now up elderly. He received a return letter in the feeble scrawl of the aged. “My Dear Willy” began the letter. (Stidger says at that time, he was about 50 years of age and was bald, and no one had called him Willy for a long time.) “My Dear Willy: I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. You’ll be interested to know that I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.” Stidger admitted to weeping over the note. He thought of a mentor, now retired, an old man who had recently faced his wife’s death and was all alone. So he sat down and wrote to the man. In two days, a reply came back. “My Dear Will: Your letter was so beautiful, so real, that as I sat reading it in my study, tears fell from my eyes, tears of gratitude. Before I realized what I was doing, I rose from my chair, and I called her name to share it with her, forgetting she was gone. You’ll never know how much your letter has warmed my spirit. I have been walking around in the glow of your letter all day long.” In the toughest of times, the antidote for depression and anxiety is thankfulness. That was what Paul counsels: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Think about the times we live in. It’s hard and has strained all. Perhaps, in this Thanksgiving season, a pen and paper might help. Take time and give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving. -Robert G. Taylor-    

By |2020-11-18T09:44:28-06:00November 17th, 2020|Blog|

The Scale

We live in anxious and fearful times. The virus which seemed under control seems not to rage out of control. There are times when life seems to cave in. Many feel stabbing grief, while others tremble. Some have suggested that the heart is a cup to be emptied of emotions. Yet, we cannot pour out the feelings and emotions are like stale coffee. Scott Swain suggests another image. The heart is a balance-beam scale, resembling the statue of Lady Justice. It weighs different ideas and positions to create equilibrium. Encouragement is a counterweight on the other end of the scale heavy with pain, grief, and anxiety. Swain says: I know your heart is (rightly) heavy with sorrow due to the loss of some good thing(s), that it is overwhelmed by present circumstances, that it is uncertain of what tomorrow may bring. However, let me offer you a counterweight, not to remove these emotions (the cup metaphor) but to place them in relation to a larger reality: the reality of God's sovereign goodness, attention, and purpose, which offer solid reasons for encouragement and hope in the midst of trial. The heart's weight remains, but something balances it out...the care of God and others. In tough times remember Joshua's dilemma. He had taken over from the revered Moses. New and challenging territory lay ahead. He had people unsuited for waging the coming battle. And yet, God told him: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) In tough times, balance your fear with faith. And while you are doing that, lay a heavier weight of encouragement on others who hurt. -Robert G. Taylor-    

By |2020-11-09T11:48:40-06:00November 9th, 2020|Blog|

Live Longer

One of the cutting-edge topics of medicine is how people can live longer. The chances of reaching the century milestone have never been greater. So what’s the best way to live longer? Eat “Mediterranean?” Run three marathons a year? Sleep longer? It appears that standard answers don’t come close. The one that works best is the cheapest and simplest. Your mother knew it. When you contorted your face into a frown, she might say, “you don’t want your face to freeze like that, do you?” If you want to live longer, smile. In a 2010 study, researchers examined Major League baseball card photos from 1952. They found that the span of a player’s smile actually predicted his lifespan--unsmiling players lived 72.9 years on average. Those with wide grins outlasted their peers by 7 years. The sad truth (no pun intended) is many people don’t smile. Once grown, less than half the adult population smiles more than 20 times a day. It is children who experience joy who smile over 400 times per day. No wonder Solomon knew what it has taken us centuries to rediscover. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) For Christians, reasons multiply to smile. We love others, and God loves us. We have a destiny that eclipses this earth, and our lives have a grander purpose than grinding out the days. So, let me ask you. Are you smiling? Why not? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2020-11-02T08:03:56-06:00November 2nd, 2020|Blog|

Mirrors

Reflections inundate life. Some come in the form of mirrors. We look into them, and we only see what shows on the outside. As author Katy Kelleher observes: We act as though what we see in the mirror is complete — a self fully formed and rendered truly. But the mirror is only capable of showing what others see. Mirrors reinforce the idea that a person’s value lies on the outside of their body, that it’s possible to learn our value by examining (and altering) our appearance. Mirrors can convey the false idea that our appearance is more important than personality and character. The part that got my attention was, “the mirror only shows us what others see.” How tragic and how limiting is that view of life. Isn’t your life more than the extra pounds or the time-carved wrinkles? Are your bags under the eyes, or even the broad, bright smile? It is hard to avoid what mirrors show us. It’s even hard for God’s prophets. Samuel went king-shopping. In his eyes' picture-window, it showed kings galore. Strong. Energetic. Handsome. Yet God kept shaking his head. Finally, he has to turn Samuel’s head away from the images in the mirror. Instead, break the mirror, he says, and see what I see. “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)  And with that, be thankful. God overlooks physical imperfections and sees into the heart, searching for compassion, faith, and love. No mirror shows you that. As much as we care for our appearance, we should care even more about our spirits. For, what does not show up in a mirror shows up in eternity. -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2020-10-26T13:57:53-05:00October 26th, 2020|Blog|
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