Wednesday, August 27, 2014

True Happiness Can Be Ours ... Really!


What do you know of happiness? It's written into the Declaration of Independence as something the individual is free to pursue ... but what is it, really?

In the nuts and bolts definition department, happiness is subjective; it is a determination that a person's current situation and concept of the good life are getting along nicely. True happiness comes from positive relationships, not stuff and not special places to go. In fact, to be truly happy, you need to make other people happy (Bible verses abound). Happiness is a byproduct of a life well lived with others, reaching out that helping hand, lifting up the folks around you, and being willing to accept others attempts to make you happy (accept the compliment graciously, don't be too proud to humbly accept help offered out of the goodness of another's heart)! Above all, true happiness can never come at the expense of others. Real happiness has a very moral component.

Happiness as so defined will elude those who seek it in consumerism (sorry advertisers), in fleeting and ephemeral pleasure/thrill seeking, and ruthless competition for limited resources against others in a pitched battle for dominance. No long-term happiness there. See how countercultural happiness has become?

Viewing happiness through this lens, unhappiness can become a very useful gauge of what is going on in the world around you. If a person is persistently, chronically unhappy, it's time for the individual to look around and assess his or her relationships with others. Has too much time been spent at the office? Have social relations with friends and family deteriorated? Has too much emphasis been placed on the next shiny thing or the accumulation of wealth for its own sake? Be objective here with your subjective state ... you'll learn something useful.

On a larger scale, if unhappiness exists and persists in a group you are a part of or a group near you, it is likely that group is suffering from some sort of injustice or abuse ... and could use a helping hand.

Returning to that nuts and bolts definition, it seems to me that if your concept of the good life is skewed to either the bright and shiny thing end or to the I must martyr myself for others end, happiness will always elude you. Happiness as defined and explored here requires resetting that concept of the good life to include positive relationships with others. This leads me to a fascinating link with the Old and New Testaments. In both, righteousness is defined as being in right relations with God and each other. It's about loving others as self, being willing to serve others (and humble enough to be served), and having faith enough to trust others. So, I guess, the righteous person in the Bible is a happy person, not a hectoring, forbidding person.

For more, see the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, p. 494.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Cannot Delay Helping Others While Awaiting "Facts"

In regards to the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, we have heard recently that we should not respond, we should not act, we should not seek justice right now because we "do not have all the facts." Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dealt with this issue raised by his fellow clergy in his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Here are several passages from the letter that are equally relevant to the turmoil in the world today in so many places, not just Ferguson.


I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. 
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. 
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." 

The bold, italics, and underlining are mine. The statement is Rev. Dr. King's. The truth is timeless. Justice too long delayed is justice denied. When militarized police take to the streets and point their weapons at unarmed citizens, including children, it is time to act. When peaceful protesters are interlaced with those who would loot stores and throw Molotov cocktails, it is time to act. When a pastor praying in the streets is shot with a rubber bullet for promoting peace, it is time to act. When one protester shoots another as a night descends into chaos, it is time to act. Justice must not be delayed ... and denied. 



As Rev. Dr. James McJunkin, Jr. quoted, the Apostle Paul writes, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. (1st Corinthians 12:26)

Read the entire letter from Rev. Dr. King, Jr. for yourself at: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html


For related posts, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/philadelphia-baptist-association.htmlhttp://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/actively-working-to-end-violence.html, and http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/08/changing-our-names.html


Changing Our Names





This is a little experiment we are conducting here at Lansdowne Baptist Church. While personally I hate to see and hear myself recorded like this, I'm putting those preferences aside if video sermons can be of help to others, including members who are away and who cannot leave their homes. This sermon was given prior to recent events but has relevance to all that is going on in that it reminds us of how God sees us and changes our names from the less-than-helpful names the world is so inclined to give us.



I hope you find this helpful. Have a blessed day.

Philadelphia Baptist Association President Reflects on Ferguson, Missouri, Turmoil

The lack of relationships, or people distancing themselves from one another speaks clearly as I listen and watch the events unfold in Ferguson. The lack of representation of one sector of a community in the necessary functions of governance leaps to the foreground. I ask myself, where are the leaders? How did things stay so bad for so long? Where are the healthy relationships that lend to a well-functioning community?

The humanity of Michael Brown, the 18 year old shot dead in the street, seems not to be acknowledged. His body lay in the street for hours. Why? The pain of such indifference resonates with the experiences of so many people(s) who join in protest in Ferguson and across our nation. It is as if we think we can be a healthy society and ignore the plight of any member.

Today, I am saddened by the events in Missouri and I stand convicted. I need to tend to my relationships. Each human encounter is meaningful and I should be mindful of it. It is my perception that we have physically and emotionally abandoned one another and are largely a narcissistic society.

Today, I will tend to my relationships, my own humanity. I will not be dismissive!

The Apostle Paul writes, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. (1st Corinthians 12:26)

Rev. Dr. James E. McJunkin, Jr., Executive Minister
PHILADELPHIA BAPTIST ASSOCIATION

Friday, August 15, 2014

Actively Working to End Violence

With all the horrific examples in the news today of violence in our society and around our globe, we are all called to work for the end of violence. We are called to take responsibility for the violence we enable and perpetrate in what we say and do, often without much thought, and change our ways. In 2013, American Baptist Churches USA held a Mission Summit and came up with a plan of action for churches and individuals to follow. Working together we can accomplish much. See: http://www.abc-usa.org/violence/ for the details.

May the peace of Christ be with you ... and may you pass that peace on to everyone you meet.

Come and join us at Lansdowne Baptist Church and let's strive to end violence together!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stance on Mental Health


In the twenty-first century, there remains far too much disinformation about and fear of mental illness. Please take some time to prayerfully consider the resolution of the American Baptist Churches USA concerning mental illness and our role in helping others be healthy and ensuring we all have a healthy understanding of the issues involved.

See: http://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/mentill.pdf

Suicide Prevention

Following the awful news of comedian and actor Robin Williams's suicide, there were some truly wonderful remembrances. There was some horrid disinformation and a profound ignorance on the nature of suicide and its victims on display. Awful judgments were passed that were painful to not only Mr. Williams’ family and friends, but to everyone who has ever lost a loved one or friend to suicide. Here is some information you can use instead.

If you are contemplating suicide yourself, please stop. You are a much loved child of God and this is not the solution you are looking for. Seek help. Reach out to others and allow them to help you. Here is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). As they state on the Lifeline website: “You aren’t alone. No matter who you are or what problems you are struggling with, hurting yourself isn’t the answer. We want to help you find hope.”

All of us Christians are called to follow Jesus. Jesus came for everyone, had compassion for all, and healed the sick, including those suffering from mental illness. Here are signs someone is considering suicide.

  1. Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself.
  2. Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a weapon.
  3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  4. Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  5. Talking about being a burden to others.
  6. Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  7. Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  8. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  9. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  10. Displaying extreme mood swings.
Not everyone caught up in these crises of the mind are able to seek help for themselves. We, as members of the priesthood of all believers, need to be willing to step up and get someone help if the signs are strong. We need to risk looking foolish with stakes this high.

Wishing you all God's peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Flyer to Introduce LBC

We have taken our 4th of July flyer and used it as a template for a new flyer for the Lansdowne Baptist Church.  This we have adjusted and updated to put our best foot forward. Now we are putting on our thinking caps to see just how many ways we can make use of it. So far, we have copies for visitors to the church and it has appeared at the National Night Out. Now, it is here for you to review. Who knows what will happen next???

Page 1

Page 2
Of course, if you really want to get to know us, drop by any Sunday and meet us personally. I believe you will be glad you did!

Annual Picnic a Success with Congregation ... AND Neighbors

There were lots of stories, lots of laughter ... and lots of food!
Some of the most valuable property Lansdowne Baptist Church owns is right out in front of our education wing. It is a corner with grass, trees, and slate pathways fronting on a busy street corner. Right there at the intersection, we held our annual BBQ picnic for the congregation on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. It is a much anticipated summer celebration, a chance for fellowship, and (if you know anything about Baptists) a chance to share really good food!

Food, two chefs in action, and our sanctuary in
the background.
Our talented chefs kept the burgers and hot dogs coming ...


It was a special event this year. As one of our members pointed out, the community was so open and friendly we encouraged some of our neighbors to ask us if they could join in on the fun and the food. We had wonderful conversations and broke bread with folks we had not yet met. We were able to share a little of the good news with others as well. It was one of those opportunities when Jesus called us to do more than just share with each other and we did.

This was a wonderfully affirming moment that reminds us much of the work we are called to do will happen out in our community, not within the walls of our church. It is wonderful work for churches that choose to undertake it. It is also a chance to be fed ... spiritually as well as (in this case) physically.

There were plenty of children as well (not represented in my pictures ... they were moving too fast for that). There were bubble wands and sidewalk chalk to keep them entertained ... and us as well. It was a grand evening.

There's that busy intersection behind us! 
I am looking forward to doing this again next year ... perhaps with a few minor alterations that will better feed others. We shall see.

There's that sign using sidewalk chalk to provide
messages regularly, including Scripture.

LBC Participates in National Night Out


On Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 PM on August 5, 2014, Lansdowne Baptist Church participated in Lansdowne, PA's, version of the National Night Out. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet both fellow church congregations, businesses, artists, various crisis groups, local police officers and firemen, and the friends of the local library. This evening proved to be quite the networking tool. It was also a great place to be to meet the public.

We had an array of materials available including flyers about the church, an invitation to a Bible study starting in the fall, and an array of coloring and craft pages for children. Those coloring and craft pages proved to be our most popular items.



Together we were able to invite many people to our service, spread some good news, enjoy some great music, and break bread with others. It was a fine night. We are looking forward to doing this again next year. We hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Free Cookbook of Economical Meals for Limited Budgets

For 47 million plus American, food stamps are required to make ends meet. Our local food pantries work hard to try to meet the growing needs of increasingly hungry populations who are "food insecure." That means they do not get enough to eat on a daily basis. There is a free cookbook online available to help those on tight budgets eat better meals with healthier foods. This will help many to live better within tight means, which is never easy. This cookbook can be a real blessing to many. Who will you help today?

To obtain a free digital copy, see: https://8e81c55f4ebf03323905b57bf395473796067508.googledrive.com/host/0B2A2SnkA9YgxaHdzbEhGSmJOZDg/good-and-cheap.pdf

Friday, August 1, 2014

Joy Is Happiness in God


In his wonderful book, which I recommend to you, author James Martin has the following to say about joy, referencing the work of Donald Saliers. I hope you find it inspirational:

Joy is a fundamental disposition toward God. What characterizes Christian joy in contrast to happiness ... lies in its ability to exist even in the midst of suffering, because joy has less to do with emotion and more to do with belief. It does not ignore pain in the world, in another's life, or in one's own life. Rather, it goes deeper, seeing confidence in God--and for Christians, in Jesus Christ--as the reason for joy and a constant source of joy.

 Unlike ephemeral happiness, you can cling to joy even in the rough times. Joy is happiness in God and you can carry that with you always.

I hope you find joy today.

For another post on joy, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/06/sharing-joy-found-in-our-faith.html