Sunday Thoughts: Be Thankful For Today

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ThankfulThis has been a tough weekend. We said goodbye, we worked through some dark thoughts, and we experienced stress. I am almost certain that you, dear reader, had some similar trying days recently. Oh, I am not psychic, it’s called being human.

Today I have decided not to worry. I have decided to focus on love. I have decided to just be thankful for today. I know that the future holds some tough stuff that I will have to deal with too. It also holds amazing miracles I know is coming.

Again, I am not psychic, I know what I know.

I know that God almighty, the maker of all things, the holder of sparrows, the painter of sunsets, the curator of lilies, the feeder of the thousands, the drier of tears, the keeper of souls, the forgiver of sin…..and my Lord will give me all that I need. Nothing can take me from Him.

So, I will not worry or even think about tomorrow and what it might bring, I will be thankful for today.

~Lori O’Gara

Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Mathew 6:26-34

My Jesus isn’t Like Yours

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It is no secret that I am a different kind of Christian. I am transparent about what I believe. My Jesus is not like the picture of Jesus that is hanging in the Sunday school classroom. My Jesus does not have silky red and white robes with perfectly combed hair, a perfect completion, and smiling looking up heavenly with crystal blue eyes. My Jesus is dirty from his travels on the dusty Jerusalem roads. He is battered, bloody, poor, tired, thirsty…a fugitive criminal.

What would happen if he walked in chose a pew for himself and took a seat next to Mrs. Never Skip Church in her Sunday best dress and hat? She would smile at him and say good morning, I doubt it. My guess is she would scowl and slide over away from Him. When we attend church, we expect to see a certain group of people around us in the pews. Everyone dressed in his or her good clothes nodding at the pastor. Children listening and not crying disturbing the rest of us. Would Jesus be comfortable in your church family?

It is so easy to attend church on Sunday and walking out feeling good about ourselves. What good Christians we are for not hitting the snooze and staying home. Being a Christian is more than a Sunday and maybe a Wednesday occurrence.

Being a Christian is a daily existence. It is a living breathing part of your life. It is Jesus living through you. The real Jesus, not the made up good-looking one, but the Savior who died for our sins.

To be like Jesus we have to get out of the pew and into the world. We have to go and serve those in need. Many of us do lip service to this effect. Are you opening your doors to the homeless man on the corner? Come in, praise God with us, and let us feed your body and soul. Are you paying medical bills for the pregnant teenager in your youth group? More likely, the parishioners are gossiping about her behind her back and are looking down at her parents for raising a promiscuous daughter. It cannot be that your youth director chose not to discuss abstinence with the teenagers because some parents my get upset. No that’s not it.

As a church, Christians have to get out of that comfortable place where Sunday services feel safe and mundane. We need to be confrontational to the issues of our community. We have to get out there and touch people for Jesus. We have to feed the multitude, step in front of the stone throwers, wash dirty feet, and heal the hurting. We have to agree to change what we can and love everyone.

~Lori O’Gara

(Also published on Medium at https://medium.com/@loriogara)

Sunday Thoughts: Death is a Door

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In his famous poem about death, Henry Scott Holland wrote,

“Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.”

Death is just a change in being and a slight change in location. There is no such thing as an after life, it is a continuation of life in a different dimension. Heaven and hell is closer that what you know.  It is presumed that when a person dies that it is the physical condition that is responsible, but it is actually the reverse. The soul of the person leaves the body first and then the body, which cannot continue without it expires. Where does that soul go?

The Bible mentions that there is a veil separating the earthly world from the spiritual one. It was witnessed by the disciples when Jesus went on the mount to have a conversation with Moses and Elijah. Elijah and Moses existed on earth 546 years apart, they met in heaven. Since the two men were already dead, Jesus transformed himself in to his spiritual form to meet with them.  (Luke 9) Various people have been said to have entered heaven while still alive, including Enoch, Elijah and Jesus himself, after his resurrection. Thus death is not a permanent state, but a shifted state of life.

There are countless stories of humans seeing their relatives who have passed on as if they were sitting in front of them alive. Ask one of those people and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that heaven is a real place that is close. It is not some place above our heads and hell is not in the ground.

If death is just a different state of being, why then do we grieve when a loved one passes through that door? We should celebrate their transition. What we grieve is not what the person is gaining, what we grieve is our loss of them. We can’t see past our own sadness and selfish want to keep them with us. We should try to remember, they are close by, just in the other room. If we could move the veil, we would see them.

As I write this my family is keeping vigil over my grandmother. She was one of the major influences in my life who taught me about love, God and Jesus. She said to me, “Don’t be sad when someone dies. Be happy. Even the angels rejoice when someone dies.” She taught me that heaven is my true home. Not this earthly realm of pain and sorrow. She and my other grandparents, made it a priority to teach me about spiritual things. They also encouraged me to keep studying truth. A legacy I am passing on to my children and grandchildren.

I am sad that I can’t be with her as she takes the journey home, however, I know where she is headed I will be there too one day. I will hold on to the memories of her, not the sick and old her, but the vibrant, Jesus loving her. I will continue to honor her memory by loving God and seeking truth. When she passes on to heaven, I will try to be happy and rejoice with the angels that she is with Jesus who she loves more than life and more than all of us, and she loves us a lot.

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Ms. Mildred Pearl Seales, Granny to me.

Sunday Thoughts: Trust

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All my life I had this image of where I would be when I became an adult. I am nothing like that image. I have not landed in the city that I thought I would live; however, I have a peaceful home. I am not be affluent as I imagined I would be; however, I do have a fabulous career that I worked hard for. I am not alone as I thought I would be. I do have an unbelievably great family, a loving man, brilliant children and awesome grand kids.

While that is true in a sense we are also bound by our station in life. Where we are in society, how much money we have and how much determination we have, and our level of discipline play a part of where we go in life. There is also the factor of our trust.

Our trust in ourselves and in our choices is vital to success. If we lack trust in just one of these areas we can fail, but if we lose our trust in God we are certain to fail. Will we trust God enough to provide for what we need? Will we allow him to lead us to our future? We have to trust that God is in control even when we feel He is not. We have to believe that He is there at work even if we can’t see any results yet. This is difficult and we often give up.

We can break those bounds and be more than what we think, more than society says we can be. We must not give up. We must keep trusting God. We can not allow the alternative to be an option. We can’t trust feelings or emotions or even what we see around us. We must trust ourselves, trust our gut. We must trust God is keeping His promise.

~Lori O’Gara

Redemption Hurts

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Someone asked me what is the main theme for my second novel, Almost There, and I answered redemption. Briana has to look her ugly past in the face, forgive herself and accept the forgiveness of God before she can move past it to a life of peace.

It’s like this, no one told me that when God forgives sin, he often makes you face your sin to learn from it and that, my friend, is forgiveness that hurts. It is painful to look your sin in the face and say, “I did that and I am truly sorry.” It is even more excruciating to look sin in the face and say, “Wow, that was me? I really did that?” Yes, you did.

God doesn’t offer a caveat on His grace. There is nothing you can do to repay the gift of redemption. You must take it with a remorseful heart. Part of that remorse is facing your sin for the dirty, ugly, pathetic, nasty thing that it is and learn from it. If you don’t see what it is for the truth of it, you risk a repeat performance and more of the same. You don’t have to be scared, God is with you. He forgave you. He will be there to wipe tears and heal the hurt.

Do you remember telling your mom that your leg hurt and she said it was growing pains? Pain isn’t always a bad thing. With facing your sin comes pain, but you must face it to grow in faith. You must realize where it was that God saved you from, what life you had that His grace redeemed you out of, and what mortal sin you were forgiven. When you face your self, your sin, you can grow into that person that God can use for His glory. If you don’t face your sin, deal with it and move on, then this life, this hard, painful, struggling, forgiven life is for nothing but your self-serving purpose, not God’s will.

Think about that thing you are avoiding looking at, that tucked away sin that needs light shined on it, yeah that one, deal with it, today. The sooner it is dealt with the sooner you can praise God for the redemption that follows. Briana learned that lesson the hard way.

~Lori O’Gara

Sunday Thoughts: Where is God?

I have to wonder why people don’t believe in God. I can’t imagine not believing in God. How can a person look at this world and think nope, no God? It all just appeared from some big bang. (Not to be confused with the Big Bang Theory TV show that I love. Bazinga)

To me each possibility is sort of the same. Believing that a being that we never see created this place we call home and really cares about what happens with us is just as hard to wrap your head around as some of the scientific theory that  a cosmic accident created us.

The big question is where is God? In this world of war, devastating weather and evil people, where is God? Why is God, if He exists, not stopping some of this bad stuff that is happening all around us? I have one answer, free will.

We all have free will. We have the free will to call on God or not. We have the free will to talk to God or not. Are you praying? Are you asking God to come help intervene? No? Oh that’s right! You don’t’ believe He exists. So, why would you expect Him to come in to this life of yours and fix things for you if you do not believe in Him? He is not going to act in your life until you get on your knees and ask Him to be present.

All I can tell you is, I have seen God act in the lives of believers, me included. The catch is you have to ask. You have to make the move to accept God. That’s how it works. Simple act of faith. If you can believe that this world came from nothing how much more of a reach is it to think a God created it? Maybe He caused the big bang in the first place?  It isn’t that far a stretch. It’s all simple really.

Matt 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Sunday Thoughts: Struggling

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I find myself questioning why things are not going the way I think they should or the way that seems like the best way. I need God to move in my life in a way that is specific, so I pray. I have been here before with God and I know that He always comes through. He keeps His promises and I am always blessed.

This time I am full of doubt that what I need to happen will happen. I keep hearing myself say to God, “Ok, I can do this or that, just let me help move things along, and see what happens.” I instantly know it is the wrong answer. I know that I am to wait, trust and pray. I hate that answer. I want to act…I want  to do something, to react..anything!

Hence the struggle. Sit, wait….listen. remain faithful. Trust that God is in control. When all I want to do is move and fidget with my own ideas that are no where near as good as what God has for me. God’s will for my life is perfect for me. All I have to do is be patient and hold on to faith.

Yeah, easier said than done.

~Lori O’Gara

James 1:2-4 (NRSV)
2 My brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

Sunday Thoughts: Live to be Significant not Successful

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There should be more, much more, to life than our traditional definition of success. There is a lot to be said about being successful, not all of it is bad. Having a comfortable life style is nice, sure. How we treat other people is a better way to show our success. We all want to have the things in our lives that make us look to the outside world as having made it, such as a well paying job, shiny car, and big bank roll. Our society defines success by our bottom line. The more zeros in your account the more useful you are.

I challenge you to be significant instead. I warn you, it is not easy to be significant. As difficult as getting those zeros can be, making a difference in this world can be more of a challenge. More than success, creating a significant difference in the lives of others in all you do is more difficult than just simply being successful. It will probably cost you some of those zeros to do it correctly. To be significant you have to take on an attitude of servitude. In all you do seek to serve your fellow man. No you don’t have to join the Peace Corp, work from what you have and from where you are.

Measure your significance by the important little things you can do to improve the life of someone else. This should be your mission in life. Our significance is to serve others in love and respect. Live your life to be significant instead of successful and success you shall have.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

~Lori O’Gara

Sunday Thoughts: Who is God?

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George Washington Carver once said, “Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there.”

I have never understood why people argue about who God is. It does not matter what religion you subscribe to or what name you pin on God. The creator and the universal greater power is the same, God is still God.

When Christians try to put God in a nice neat box and say this God, our God is the only God, they are limiting the very God they claim to be all powerful, all knowing, and omnipresent.

How can an omnipresent God who speaks to each soul in a unique way for that soul go by one name or a name at all? He has no need for a name. God just is.

We Christians say, “God has a plan for your life in His perfect will.” He loves us as individuals. It only stands to reason that each of us will have a personal connection to that power of God and communicate with God in the only way our imperfect minds know how. Naming God is a human construct.

God just is. He exists. Even God himself  said to Moses, “I am” when Moses asked what His name is. The power of creation, spirit and love that is in the universe, in nature, in us is the One True God. What you call this God is insignificant to the fact that you believe in God and embrace love. The fact God exists and that we find a connection through love and we share that love with our fellow living creatures, that is what is important.

I choose Christianity to serve God. It is arrogant of me to assume that my God will not reveal Himself to a person who chooses a different way to connect with Him through their spirit. All connections to God are sacred. I will go as far to say that all other religions that worship one God are worshiping the same true God. The great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, the Goddess, and others are different connections to God, however, there is still only one God.

I have reconciled this truth with to the part of my faith that says “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know  my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14: 6-7)  Want proof? The Quran mentions Jesus more often that Mohammad. It doesn’t stop there, I see in other religions that there are other stories of the Messiah. These facts and others appear to make the connections between one God and all religions as a simple truth, there is one God.

I believe that we Christians are making a big mistake by undermining the scope of who God is by saying God isn’t in the other religions and by the way, here is God’s name. We shall call him this. We are molding Him to our image of God, when we should be encouraging others to connect to God in whatever way the spirit is calling them as individuals.

I will continue to search for a closer relationship with God and I encourage you to do the same. Search for God with love and a sincere thirst for truth. The power of God’s Love will find you right where you are, no matter what you call Him.

~Lori O’Gara