Unwrapping Lazarus

Agape love’s God’s love for us,
sanctified addiction’s how we respond;
and with His love we more than thrive,
our life and purpose knows no bounds,

God’s holiness the linchpin
but His love draws us in,
there’s not one without th’other
once revealed, change begins;

by walking with Him,
His will embrace,
His love overwhelming,
it’s stupendous grace.

Forgiveness drives the engine
though love provides the fuel,
outward focus the new lifestyle
as self-denial starts to rule.

After a while it’s second nature,
we sense His presence all about,
more and more reacting biblically
to circumstances, no room for doubt.

Looking back it seems a short time
since we started walking with the King,
but when you’re walking with The Savior
He’s all that matters, all we need.

And when you’re focusing on Jesus
self just naturally gets out the way,
and all life’s tyrants less controlling,
a thousand years with Him’s but a day!

We’re all hobbling through history,
our obedience, a bone out a joint
thankfully God uses imperfect vessels
but perhaps that’s just the point.

The God who never changes
is the only God who changes us.
The God who made something out of nothing,
can make something out of us.

It’s the same with each disciple,
He stiches us together in Mother’s womb,
then uses His Word to draw us to Him,
out of our Satan-powered, lifeless tombs.

We each hear, “Lazarus come forth”
out of death and into life;
He removes prides grave clothes, and
wraps His righteousness ‘round our lives.

Let’s forever offer praises
to the God we love and trust,
He’s the God whose always constant
He’s the God who first loved us,

Mason Swinney

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Flowering Mankind

Does the bulb so gently planted
feel alone beneath the earth;
or the flower sweetly peeking
at the sunlight at its birth?

How about the stately oak tree
standing at attention, guarding the front yard,
been on duty seems forever,
its bark bears the battle scars.

Is there a sense of community
hidden within the plant world,
or is it every plant for it self?
Are they content where they are planted
or are they always circumspect?

Why can’t humans emulate the plant world
content to be alone or in a group
satisfied to look up and praise the Father,
on display in a garden or on a stoop.

Is that because there’s no competition,
they don’t have feelings, egos, goals?
Perhaps it’s contentment in their calling,
they don’t wander much you know.

Man’s fall messed up their world also,
all the weeds and bugs and Blight,
yet they never seem t’be bothered,
standing tall, their colors bright.

Perhaps we should be more like ’em,
satisfied to do our part;
and let the Master Gardener plant us,
so we can bloom and praise the Lord!

Mason Swinney

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Laughter Isn’t Always Funny

Getting laughed at don’t get easier
just because you’ve gotten old,
there’s just more things to laugh at
like invisible disabilities and their toll.

Sometimes the laughter’s amusing,
even if at your expense,
though is it really funny or humiliating 
regardless the pretense?

Political correctness says laugh with ’em,
but wouldn’t laughter be a lie,
don’t feelings require our honesty,
should you laugh when you want to cry?

If you wear your feelings like a jacket
little things elevate your ire,
so should you back off just a little
and let your silence speak, inspire?

Am I wrong to take it personal?
Is it not that big a deal?
Should I merely grin and bare it
or respond, voice my appeal?

But grining’s not so easy
when the laughter comes at you,
should you learn to just grow through it
even while you boil and stew?

Or, perhaps the right response
is determined by each deed;
sometimes laughter may be appropriate, others 
silence can expose the perceived misdeed.

So why do we do it?
Do we really mean to harm?
Would we be better off ignoring
and by that silence the storm?

Pilate tried to save King Jesus
by the humiliating “Behold the Man”,
is that the same thought pattern 
used by us who laugh, grandstand?

But the hater’s response was kill Him
for they hated God and Man,
there was no good found within ’em
they were frozen, heartless contraband.

The correct response isn’t based on feelings,
no matter how hard that seems to be,
but if all things work together
we’ll grow through it that we’ll see.

So the answer’s change our focus,
off of us and onto Him,
’cause the whole world laughed at Jesus
but still He loved us to the end.

Jesus forgave our heartless laughter
by absorbing it and more,
and spread His arms, the nails impaled,
so our hope could be restored!

Mason Swinney

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Loneliness Is A State of Mind, Not a Lifestyle 

Is loneliness a universal problem or one closer to home? How big a part does “fear” play in our feelings of loneliness? Is “shame” the primary driving force behind our loneliness or is it self-absorption or one of the many other self hyphenated words? How much of our loneliness is caused by our own laziness, self-induced?

All these causes can be traced back to the Garden of Eden and our first parents. When Adam and Eve sinned and took their respective bites of the apple they immediately noted their now alarming nakedness and set out trying to cover it by making coverings out of fig leaves (what a chafing experience). The “shame” associated with their nudity mirrored the “shame” they felt for disappointing and betraying God by sinning and having their inner thoughts and wishes exposed. Shame has been mankind’s problem ever since and one of the primary drivers in our need for recognition and importance and drives many to abuse drugs, power, food, sex, etc. in an effort to anesthetize the pain resulting from it.

Next, they tried to hide from God, something many of us continue to do because now all of a sudden they were afraid (“fear”) of God. So in a moment in time they go from walking with God to fearing and hiding from Him and, ironies of ironies, all because they wanted to be like Him. Wanting to be the god of our own lives continues to be one of Man’s greatest problem!

And, when confronted by God about their sin, they immediately tried to “blame” someone other than themselves for it and Adam was even so bold as to blame God himself saying in effect the woman “You” gave me made me take the bite.

The serpent was partially correct when he stated that Adam and Eve would be like God knowing good and evil but once they bit the apple they were all alone, outside the will of God, and looking for someone other than themselves to blame for their sin. The blame game and battle of the sexes started that day along with man’s propensity for choosing women over God.

Just about all of our relationship problems have their start with Adam and Eve’s sin. And Adam and Eve’s problems have been passed on to generation after generation of us humans and their sin got almost immediately, exponentially worse with Cain killing his brother Abel only a short time later. Eventually God sent the flood because sin had gotten so far out of hand.

But it’s important to note that it was God who went looking for Adam and Eve and not the other way around much like the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son went out to talk with His 2 boys. God has been pursuing us ever since the Garden and it’s to love ❤️ us and not hammer 🔨 us like so many of us unconsciously believe.

But God’s mercy and grace are evident even when God locked Adam and Eve out of the garden since God did not want them to have access to the tree of life while carrying the guilt, shame and remorse of their sin and knowing they would not be mentally, psychologically, relationally, or spiritually able to live forever with that level of pain. In addition, God provided them with much more suitable and comfortable clothing.

Adam and Eve go from walking with God to being separated from Him. Imagine the overwhelming sense of grief, loneliness, self-hatred and anger they must have experienced. The feelings experienced by those in hell as described by Jonathan Edwards in his sermon “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God” * would have no doubt been felt and experienced by Adam and Eve as well.

Being “alone” is innately one of our biggest fears and Satan’s good at using our own self-imposed aloneness against us. If you watch a lion or tiger hunt on Animal Kingdom you will note how they separate the weakest or most vulnerable animal from the herd/pack and then attack and destroy it. That’s exactly how Satan hunts us. He separates us from the pack often by using our own pity parties, low self-esteem, pride, anger, etc. and, once separated, he devours us. We’re kind of like the moth and the flame and seem almost irresistibly attracted to Satan’s flame. Satan dangles our shame in front of us since he is the “accuser of the brethren” and uses our own fears to separate us from the very people who could help, protect, and relate to us.

But we are not without hope. None of this took God by surprise. Just as Adam and Eve were on top of the world when they were walking with God so can we by walking with God also. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you”. Great advice and the secret to defeating fear, shame, blame, loneliness, and all the self hypenated words that Satan tries to use against us. Drawing near to God is as simple as admitting you are broken and knowing only God can fix you. Just as a doctor can’t help you until you go to his/her office for treatment, so God can’t help you until you admit you are sick and broken. The only difference, God still makes house calls.

Mason Swinney

*”4. Tis everlasting Wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this Fierceness and Wrath of Almighty God one Moment; but you must suffer it to all Eternity: there will be no End to this exquisite horrible Misery: When you look forward, you shall see a long Forever, a boundless Duration before you, which will swallow up your Thoughts, and amaze your Soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any Deliverance, any End, any Mitigation, any Rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long Ages, Millions of Millions of Ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless Vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many Ages have actually been spent by you in this Manner, you will know that all is but a Point to what remains. So that our Punishment will indeed be in nite. Oh who can express what the State of a Soul in such Circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble faint Representation of it; ’tis inexpressible and inconceivable: for who knows the Power of God’s Anger?”

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Monumental Mistakes 

While I think I understand why many African-American citizens may be offended at hearing the song Dixie and/or seeing Colonel Reb prancing around a football field, I think European-American Civil War statues may actually serve a more useful  purpose.

God in the Bible often instructed the Children of Israel to construct memorials so that they would remember what He did for them and would not forget Him. Perhaps we should consider that wisdom before removing all the Civil War statues?

I have no idea what the motivation was behind the construction of most of these controversial statues but perhaps, like the memorials God instructed the Children of Israel to construct, we should focus on the time period represented by these statues and the evil things done during those times and not the statues themselves. The escalating racial tension of our day shows us that we haven’t progressed nearly as far as we should have and perhaps we need a concrete, no pun intended, example of what happens when one group of people thinks they are superior to another to remind us.

I fear the old saying attributed to Philosopher, Poet George Santayana and paraphrased by Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, is true. And, perhaps we should stop and consider the wisdom of Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom who said, “memories are the key not to the past, but to the future”.

Perhaps it would be a monumental mistake to remove these reminders of our history of racial disparity.

Mason Swinney

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Where were you that fateful day
when evil flew and innocence betrayed,
we watched in shock as the towers fell
knowing sadly life had forever changed.

Evil does its master’s bidding,
Satan lives to kill, steal, and destroy
and lying is his native language 
though in the end his rebellion’s foiled.

Evil comes in many shapes and sizes,
religion perhaps the worst of all;
but Jesus modeled love, forgiveness,
and defeated death caused by the fall.

Jesus was transfigured on the mountain,
Evil by the burning towers;
God the Father praised Son Jesus,
Satan, his hand picked religious cowards.

Let’s not forget our fallen heroes
their lives cut short by insanity
and murdered by these heartless lackeys
who lacked a conscience, no humanity.

Most of the heroes gone but not forgotten,
some flown headlong in to history,
while others ran towards the evil,
the survivors, living testaments to this travesty.

Such a contrast between good and evil
but the good will have the final say,
it’s the evil who’ll burn forever,
the good, we remember, honor, praise.

Mason Swinney

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Bye Bye Miss American Pie Dreams

We have gone from being the land of opportunity to being the land of anger, angst and addictions. What has caused this seismic shift in attitudes and behavior? Could it possibly be the result of what we have placed our hope and faith in?

As a nation we’ve gone from winning World War I and World War II and kind of winning the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts to losing wars in countries many of us knew very little about or even knew existed even  25 years ago.

Our students are no longer the smartest in the world and our athletes and teams the best.

The country governed through the greatest human document ever written and expecting our elected officials to be the best of the best now finds itself governed by a plutocracy where the wealthy hand pick and finance eventual career politicians who in so many cases primarily think of protecting their financiers, being reelected, and making a buck and clueless political parties that are solely focused on the parties continuation and seem to care less about the nation. Consequently, in this most recent election with all the talk of hope, change, draining the swamp, returning our country to greatness, transparency………,we’ve gotten very little of what was promised and now either savagely discount the presidential election results or vehemently support them.

21.5 million of our citizenry were addicted to drugs in 2014 so the number now is well beyond that and our nation finds itself in the throws of a deadly epidemic that’s only getting worse. That’s not to mention the other addictions out there like pornography, sex, greed, power, youth/beauty, success……

Romance is no longer what it used to be with now over 50% of the marriages in America ending in divorce and young people no longer seeing marriage as the logical end result of dating nor see the relevancy of marriage. 34% of children now live with an unmarried parent and 1,601,527 live births to unwed mothers were reported in 2015.

We’ve placed our hope in sports figures only to see them disappoint us through their own self-absorption, cheating, performance enhancing drugs, the almighty buck, spousal abuse and a host of other things.

And, 63% of people in the USA seldom or never attend church and/or attend once or twice monthly according to Pew Researce.

Things like someone being a statesman, the middle class, pulling yourself up by the boot straps, honest news reporting, ethical business practices, home of the free, and many others now appear to be things of the past and/or at least not appreciably improving. American exceptionalism has been badly tarnished.

It seems everything that we at one time looked to for security and a sense of purpose and wellbeing have either thoroughly disappointed us or seemingly vanished into thin air. Or, perhaps, these very things that were once the basis for our confidence and hope became instead the idols that we clinged to and, consequently, were set up to inevitably fail and disappoint us? They have done just that. And, now that they have failed and disappointed us, we are left devastated and without hope. Idols demand that we love, obey and trust them but when we do they inevitably turn on us and they always fail us. That’s the problem with idols, we allow them to control us and make us their slaves but they are incapable of delivering what we naively think they can provide. Things like unconditional love, joy and a sense of purpose and accomplishments. We humans have the very bad habit of looking to humans and human organizations (idols) for the very things that only God can give (perhaps that’s why superhero movies are so popular) and when they disappoint and let us down, which inevitably they will do, we are left with only anguish and despair.

When the levee, the circumstances of life, breaks, all you can do is hold onto something solid and firm and hope you don’t get washed away. But if you’re holding onto false, powerless idol, anger and/or despair are all you are left with and neither one of them offers much hope and possibility. Which is why during the great depression so many wealthy people jumped out of their office buildings to their deaths because their idols, money, had done what idols always do when needed most, left them high and dry.

What’s your hope grounded in?

Mason Swinney

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