God · My Thoughts

Does God Hate Anyone?

Does God hate anyone? A Jesuit priest, Fr. Tom Weston, often said in recovery retreats I attended, “We create God in our own image, and he loves who we love and hates who we hate.”

Again this week, I veer off the British Isles travelogue to address a current issue. I frequently post pictures on Facebook because I’m a visual learner and I believe a good picture says more than words. The above photo had words, too, and it elicited some reactions this week which caused some deep thoughts for me.

Searched the Scriptures

During my quiet time this morning, the reaction to this photo sent me to my digital Bible, and I searched the Scriptures and found answers like I always do.

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalms 82:2–4 NIV) These words should direct my actions in this world today.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV), so I see an invitation to any weary traveler.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16, 17 NIV) My Jesus has a world view, the whole world, not excluding anyone.

St. Paul wrote, “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,” (Romans 3:29 NIV)

“The term refers to a person who is not a Jew.”

https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-a-Gentile.html

So, my God is for all men and women.

Look at the Text on the Photo

 “Jesus wasn’t neutral. He sided with the poor, sick & immigrant. Be like Jesus” posted on a church board.

My Jesus is not neutral on what many call social issues today. He loves the poor, the sinner, the immigrant. If that is political, then my suggestion is choose the side that “DWJWD” (do what Jesus would do). It shouldn’t be a political issue–it should be a person helping person issue.

“He sided with the poor, sick & immigrant.” The Scriptures above confirm that, and many today active in social action reach out to these three entities.

“Be like Jesus.” Quite a daunting task in this twenty-first century, but I must try!

My Higher Power

As a person in recovery, “my Higher Power” or “the God of my understanding” is a loving God, and to me his name is Jesus. I love the imagery of a shepherd and sheep–probably from my ranching background. The idea that my Jesus cares for me the way my cowboy Dad cared for his calves is precious!

My Jesus hates no one and invites all to His feast. God, the Father, hates no one—He hates sin.

My Jesus was a rebel in his time, ignoring what it meant to be politically correct and got in the face of those in power in the Jewish world. He rebuked the Pharisees. He questioned the establishment and hung out with notorious sinners.

My Jesus has open arms, embracing anyone in need whether they are on the border of the United States, living desperate lives on the streets of many of our cities or monetarily comfortable but living a life in quiet desperate.

Each political party says God is on their side, but really? My God doesn’t hate Republicans or Democrats or Independents or Green Party people. I think he applauds honest involvement focused in his goals: serving the poor, the needy and the immigrant.

My Father God especially doesn’t hate brown people—He sent His Only Son as a brown man.

If My Jesus Were at the Border Today

If my Jesus were at the southern border of the USA today, would He support snakes and alligators as a deterrent? Would He support separating a crying eight-month-old baby girl from her loving scared mother? Or would my Jesus be detained and imprisoned?

My Jesus had brown skin and long cobalt black hair with no possessions. His body smelled of sweat, dirt and grime. His calloused sore feet, caked with mud from his travels, needed the care of Mary Magdalene, her loving touch and her oils.

If the border patrol stopped Him, His searing stare would say, “I’m a man of this world—I claim no country. The world Is my home!”

My Conclusion

Yes, I know this photo has political overtones, but it’s time I face that head on. It is my duty as a God-fearing Christian to stand up for what I believe my God meant in the Scriptures. This controversy became religious when many like those who responded to my Facebook page twist and turn everything to support their political views!

When a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40 NIV)

I must not be neutral. I must love the poor, sick & immigrant. And if I do this, I will be like Jesus. How can you argue with that?

I encourage your thoughts!


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Christianity · Christmas · My Thoughts

Our Names Didn’t Matter; Our Mission Did! An Epiphany Story

“I’m not Jewish, and I’m not going!” I was shocked as the three of us were left seated looking at each other. To me, this has been the biggest event since I joined this auspicious group of seers or astrologers. We love the stars and study them in this group.

The others filed out in silence, sneering at our idea of seeking out this new King of the Jews and his birth. “Why?” they repeated throughout the meeting. Men of wisdom had studied Judaism and its prophecies, and identified this bright star in the East as a cosmic event. The three of us agreed on its significance and wanted to do a road trip!

That star in the East had haunted me the last few days, luring me in that direction, but we had to talk to the group and see what the consensus was, so I curbed my rash desire to just flee East with no plan nor explanation.

“Well, I guess it’s just us three going then.” Initially, I thought a sizeable group of us would go, but the dissenting majority walked out, leaving the three of us in shock.

We didn’t let their apathy affect our anticipation. We prepared to travel to Jerusalem to talk to Herod, a Roman appointed King of Judea. For sure, he would know what all this meant.

We gathered our travel gear and lined up our camels for the long trek. We talked to our families, warning them that we had no idea when we would return, because the rumor was that a powerful King was born somewhere in the East, and we needed to represent our country there with gifts and the appropriate protocol.

What kind of gifts should we bring? After much discussion about what was suitable for a King of this calibre, we decided on three priceless gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The plan was to leave in the morning, but the bright star in the East kept urging me on. Nervous and anxious, I didn’t sleep much that night, rose early and stood ready to go by my camel when the other two arrived.

We talked little on the trip and kept our eyes glued on the star. It hovered over a specific place, and we knew our mission was ordained.

Arriving in Jerusalem, my heart beat increased. We were close. Our talk with Herod confused me though. Our observation about the birth of a King shocked him, but why should it? He was a Roman appointed King of Judea and knew nothing of the Jewish prophecy. His counsels scurried around and gathered the information we needed. Our wise counsel did not have the specific prophecy–they did.

They told us that it had been predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in Judea–I knew little about the Jewish religion and wondered why Herod hadn’t noticed the bright star and put two and two together like we did.

We didn’t linger there because the three of us felt an urgency to see this King we had traveled so far to find. The nine kilometer trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem took us two hours, but our pace increased as we neared our destination.

The brilliantly lit star hung over a house of meager means. My camel’s rumbling growl seemed to anticipate something. The other two camels joined in. We dismounted, dusted our cloaks off, and grabbed the gifts we brought.

Joseph met us at the door like he was expecting us. He ushered us into his home. All of a sudden, I felt divine a presence as I saw a young Jewish mother cuddling her new born baby son in her arms. An aura of love surrounded the duo as if the star above had anointed them.

I fell to my knees as I saw His face–I knew deeply that this child held power like I had never experienced. I looked to see where my two friends were and witnessed a miracle. Both had fallen to their knees, too, faces aglow with wonder and mystery.

Solemnly, we presented our three gifts at the feet of Mary. Joseph talked quietly to us, asking where we had come from. He seemed in awed of us, foreigners to his land.

Meekly, I stepped closer and ventured to touch his cheek–sweet and precious. I looked into his open eyes and saw the face of God and knew I’d never be the same. His attraction drew my friends to his side and they, too, wanted to touch him. In her serene manner, Mary nodded her head. They touched his cheek, too, and I saw a visible change in their faces as they witnessed him.

None of us wanted to leave, but I felt we had stayed long enough to be polite–any longer could be considered disrespectful. When we left, we camped near Bethlehem, thinking we’d retrace our steps back to Jerusalem because Herod had requested we report back to him about our find.

We sat around the camp fire, warming ourselves, mulling over our full day. The world had just changed, and we knew we had played a part in it. Finally, the fire burned down, and we snuggled into our bed rolls.

The last thing I remember before falling to sleep is the glow of the embers and the glow in my heart.

During the night, I saw a warning in my dreams–don’t go back to Herod. He’s dangerous and means harm to this new King, so we traveled home by a different route.

We could not get home quick enough. We convened our group and reported our findings. The mild reception concerned me, but I knew that my job on earth was set–God had come to earth through this baby, the King of the Jews, and he had opened the door to the Gentile world through our simple obedience.

You will never hear my name mentioned–it doesn’t matter. What matters is that my two friends and I traveled the distance, witnessed the birth of the Christ child and spread the news to our world!

My religion of choice is the Episcopal church, and we observe the twelve days of Christmas, ending at the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. In our observation, we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to the Christ Child on this day. We believe that the Wise Men’s visit to the Christ Child opened access to the Gentile world and everyone.

What are you thoughts?

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Christmas · My Thoughts

Do You Know Mary? Do You Know Joseph?

A young Jewish girl humbly accepted a visit from God’s angel, Gabriel, and puzzled over his message that she would be the mother of the Messiah. At first, she couldn’t fathom the idea. The Jewish world had been waiting centuries for His coming. She was a teenager and single. What a shock!

Being single, Mary questioned Gabriel about how she could give birth to a child. Patiently Gabriel explained the mystery. Her humble response echoes through the ages, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Her answer was “Yes!”

Mary’s song in response is recorded in Luke 1:46-55 and is a celebration of her commitment to do God’s will–read it out loud and celebrate her obedience.

Imagine what those nine months after an angel’s visit were like. Some sort of marriage happened. Joseph protected Mary during this time, knowing that this child she carried was special. Pregnancy outside of marriage during this time in history was scandalous!

As her time neared, they had to make a rush trip to Bethlehem from their hometown of Nazareth. Caesar Augustus required a census, and Joesph belonged to the house and line of David, so they went to Bethlehem to register Mary.

Nine months pregnant, Mary faced a 160 kilometer trip. Did she walk part of the way and ride a donkey the rest? How long did it take? In today’s world, it’s a three hour trip, but their’s had to take hours, maybe days.

Each mounting step jarred this pregnant woman. As she neared Bethlehem, the birth pangs hit. Did her water break before or after they found the manger? As they moved from inn to inn, Joseph realized there was no place to stay–the census had overloaded the small Jewish city. What to do?

Thinking outside the box, he found an empty stable and tied his tired donkey up. Gently, he lifted Mary off of its back and nestled her in a soft bed of hay. The time had arrived. He delivered his child, the Son of God, alone there in their makeshift home.

Mary trusted his judgment and knew that they would be OK. Her screams echoed through the hills. Joseph wiped sweat from her brow, praying for God’s guidance. One last scream and a new sound was added to the quiet night–the cry of a newborn baby.

Joseph wrapped his newborn son in clothe they had brought with them and placed him in the manger. God directed him on how to cut the umbilical cord and tend to Mary’s needs. His heart burst with pride–a son to carry on his business, his own son, but wait! This was God’s son! What did that mean for Joseph and Jesus?

Mary’s eyes focused on the baby, Jesus–her baby. Tears welled up in her eyes as her heart burst with joy! Her baby boy was here! She savored the serenity of the moment. Then the quiet stable changed as the twosome noticed an angel appear. The trumpet blast from the angel announcing the birth of Jesus shattered the silence. The cows and donkey in the stable woke up and joined the chorus of angels in celebrating this birth. Shepherds with their sheep drifted in the door and bowed to the newborn King. They shed tears of joy in the fulfillment of the promise! They moved aside but lingered, as three wise men laid gifts at the feet of this amazing baby. This mixture of Jew and Gentile surprised Mary and Joseph.

Mary and Joseph looked at each other in amazement and smiled–it was true! The message from Gabriel nine months ago was true! They were now the parents of the Son of God!

Copyright ©2018 Larada Horner-Miller

These are my thoughts about a familiar story–have you ever thought about what happened that night so long ago in Bethlehem? I challenge you to do so this Christmas.

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Christmas · My Thoughts

Why a Baby?

A newborn baby coos and breathes a heavy sigh, feeling safe and warm. Mary rolls over and lays her arm across the baby to make sure he’s OK. Joseph stirs because of Mary’s movement–the trio connected deeply after a long trip and the eventful night of birth.

Tranquil animals surround these three in this stable in the little town of Bethlehem. A jersey cow moos softly and adjusts a hind leg that’s cramped. A donkey brays and twitches an ear with lazy eyes closing to rest! Sheep move like shadows around this enclosure, chewing the scattered hay and enjoying the warmth generated by the other animals and humans. The peaceful mixture of sounds in that manger so long ago echo through the centuries.

A baby – why did God decide to come to earth as a defenseless, dependent baby 2000+ years ago?

The answer is easy:  the allure of a baby is magical, especially a new born. Just watch children and adults alike swarm to uncover a newborn, look into the face of innocence and joy and wonder at another miracle. Yes, a baby attracts most everyone to its side, and that’s what God wanted.

So this Christmas, make sure you take the time to really connect with the baby Jesus in that stable. Look into His eyes, touch His small round hands and marvel that you are staring at the face of God!

Several years ago, I wrote the following short story and it certainly connects at this time of the year–Enjoy!

I Found My Answer

            She looks so familiar; I’ve seen her before.  She has the answer I know to the question that has been haunting me for months.  All I have to do is get her alone and ask my question, my one big important question.  Any time I get close enough to her to ask, my parents throw their arms up to guard the baby and scream, “Don’t hurt the baby!  Be careful!  She’s fragile.  You could hurt her.”

            You see, she’s new.  They just brought her home from the hospital.  Her name is Ann.  I’m Laurie, her three-year-old sister.  I wasn’t that excited about her when she was in my mom’s tummy, but since I’ve seen her, I know she’s got the answer, if they will ever let me near her, alone!

            I try to outfox them–one time after another I almost get to her–to whisper my question in her ear.  She’s one of those who knows, and I know it.  I recognize her and her spirit.  But their stopping me frustrates me. What am I to do?

            I must get to her before she forgets, like I have.  Or have I?  I have a vague recollection.  Cloudy images float through my mind at times that are a part of the answer, but I know she knows for sure!

            My deep desire for the answer only increases; my tactics change, but nothing seems to work.  They’re set on protecting her from me, and I’m equally set on getting to her for the answer.

            I stand by my mom as she holds her–that beautiful cherub face ready to tell me, but I know I can’t ask this question in front of Mom. She would only get upset because I would need to get real close to Ann.  I have to whisper right in her ear then put my ear up to her mouth to hear her response, because it will be spoken very softly and gently in words no adult can recognize.  I think I still can understand.  I used to be able to hear that.  I’ve seen that face before I know.  I’ve heard some of her sounds and they sound vaguely familiar–other worldly.  I don’t need much time, only minutes, but we need to be alone and quiet!

            I don’t give up, but my plans have changed.  I stop the outright method; I wait and watch for the opportune time, and my patience finally pays off.

            Ann is baptized at one month old, and my parents give a big party, inviting family and friends to show off their new child. This proves to be the distraction I need.

            The guests all “ooh” and “ah” over her and bring me gifts too, so I won’t feel left out.  I’m not worried about gifts or sibling rivalry or stuff like that–I’m on a mission.  My folks think I’m jealous of Ann, that I want to hurt her, but that’s not true at all.  If only I could it explain it to them.

            Mom has lots of delicious food and drink.  They enjoy good light-hearted conversation with family and friends.  For the first time since Ann arrived, my parents relax about me bothering my baby sister. The party atmosphere distracts them, so I’m on the move.

            Startled back to reality, Mom asks my grandma, “Where’s Laurie?”    Everyone starts the search for me, but my time had come a few moments ago when quietly I slipped out of the living room, up the stairs into my baby sister’s room.  She was sleeping, but that’s OK.  I can still talk to her anyway, and she’ll answer.

            I pull a chair over to her crib and crawl up into it, careful not to hurt her.  I lay down next to her and began whispering my question into her ear —

            “Tell me — what does God looks like?  I have been here for three years, and I have almost forgotten.”

            A knowing smile crosses Ann’s lips, and her answer came through her spirit as I heard her response, “He looks like me.”  Yahoo! I knew it!  That’s why she looked so familiar!  Something inside me knew it all along!!  Every time I have seen a baby in the last three years, I’ve gotten the urge to ask that question.  I felt drawn to the newborn, but having a baby in my own home really made the asking easy–after I got passed Mom and Dad.

            That answer quieted my spirit, and I was peaceful at last.  She did reconnect me with my God.  Now I could hold on to this truth for a few more years.

            Little did I know my Aunt Janey was sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room and had heard the whole conversation (my side only because she can’t hear babies.)  My question touched her heart deeply.

            She didn’t move or try to stop me.  I fell asleep next to my sister at peace with the answer, and my parents found me resting there after their mad search–my quest had ended moments earlier.  I had found my answer.

Copyright © 2018 Larada Horner-Miller


What does the face of God look like to you? Let me know!

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