I’ll never be a socialist

Since I have been alive on this planet there have been eleven different presidents of the United States of America. Five of them Democrats and six Republicans. Now obviously I didn’t really have thoughts or opinions bout those that served when I was a child. My first real memory of politics was from the early seventies when Nixon was running against McGovern.

I remember having arguments with the other kids on the playground. When I say arguments of course I mean taking sides based on what our dads were saying at home and shouting at each other about things we didn’t understand. My dad’s guy was Nixon and so was mine. It was great fun but in the end we all loved America and wanted the best for everyone. The teachers loved America. The students loved America. The administration loved America. We all had that in common. At least as far as I knew.

There have been people that have looked for reform as long as there has been a country. And that’s a good thing. How else are things going to get better? But does that mean that all reforms are good or necessary? I don’t believe so. The system may seem slow but it gets the job done.

America works best when individuals strive for their own betterment. That’s why I’ll never be a socialist or communist. These ideologies are not interested in individuals but rather in groups or collectives. Leftist revolutions always pit people groups against one another. That’s why socialists and communists hate God. Because God values the individual not the group or identity. When it comes time for me to meet my maker He’s not going to say to me “Well Peter since you’re a white man you get a free pass to glory”. God doesn’t care what your identity is at all except for your identity in Christ.

When you realize this, that each person matters individually, it lays to rest this idea of identifying primarily as a group. Now understand I’m not saying that having an identity group is a bad thing. We all like to hang out with those in which we have things in common and that’s ok. The problem comes when this becomes an us against them winner take all proposition. Just take a look at California today to see how that works out. Even Willie Brown says it’s a problem.

I want to remind you that God says “Love your neighbor “. It’s easy to to love or hate people as a group. It becomes much harder to take those feelings and apply them to individuals.

Is there an identity group that you have a problem with? Do dislike or even hate middle aged cis-gendered white men? That’s what I am. Let’s talk. Do you hate Republicans? That’s what I am. Let’s talk. Do you think church folk are all hypocrites? I’m church folk. Let’s talk.

I am all of those things and so much more. Yet none of those define me. I challenge each of you to lay aside your cookie cutter ideas of what people are based upon some perceived identity and get to know people as individuals. Step away from your prejudice for just a minute and give it a try. You might be surprised.

Father God, please forgive us for lumping people created as individuals uniquely in Your image into broad groups and then judging them based solely on which group we assign them to. Help us to see people the way that you do. In Jesus name. Amen

A letter to Worthless

Dear Worthless,

I’ve noticed you coming around a little bit more often lately and I don’t appreciate it at all. I thought we had finally ended our relationship for good. I see that I was mistaken.

I have to tell you that I’m really tired of how you waltz into my life at the worst possible time. Things seem to be going along just fine and them you show up looking all sweet and innocent. Your sad hungry eyes get me every time. So I give in and feed you a little bit. I say to myself “I deserve a little self pity. I’ve been working hard and no one seems to notice or care”. Next thing you know we’re having a full blown pity party.

And yeah it feels good at first releasing all that pent up stuff inside. The self doubt, the anxiety, little hurts that were easy to set aside suddenly take on a new life. We kind of settle in it together. You pretend that you care about me. That you are the sensitive one that really understands. You tell me that Worthwhile over there is just a bully. He’s always pushing me to achieve some goal or overcome some obstacle. He doesn’t care about you you tell me. He’s just in it for the attaboys.

It sounds good at first all this talk of laying down my burdens to sit amidst the garbage that you draw out of me. But I’ve started to look around and it seems to me that you’re the bully Worthless. I don’t know why I listen to you at all. You’re a liar and a thief. You want to break me down to make yourself feel better and I’ve been letting you. But no more.

Worthless I’m not feeding you anymore.

Peter

Freedom > Security

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

From “Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, 11 November 1755” by Benjamin Franklin

I remember years ago I had a friend. Okay I’ve had many friends over the years but I’m thinking of one in particular right now. Anyway, we were having a conversation one day and I asked him a question and his answer really surprised me.

The question I asked was this: “What is more important to you, freedom or security? His answer was quick and sure, “Security.”

For context I want you to know that this conversation took place in the mid 90’s. So there had not yet been 9/11, no war on terror, no department of Homeland Security. Nothing like that at all. We were walking down the street safe as could be yet he was thinking about security. I was truly shocked to hear this kind of sentiment come from an American. I mean really this is the land of the free and the home of the brave right? How could someone living in the most free most prosperous country ever be ready to trade any of that liberty for some small safety or security? I was not prepared to hear that then.

So fast forward to today. I’m still not prepared to hear it. I’m not ready to trade any freedom for security and I’m not ready to give up any liberty for safety. The Bill of Rights has served this nation well for 229 years and I don’t see any reason it can’t continue to serve today.

Our Declaration of Independence says this: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. But we have many politicians today that appear to think they are the power themselves. These elected officials seem to have forgotten that all of the authority they have comes from us. I feel like if I could sit down with one of them just as the meeting was starting I’d like to say, “Go fetch me a glass of water you work for me not the other way around.”

I know that would be disrespectful and the thought is unworthy of me but that’s where I am right now. My emotions are a mess. On one hand I’m angry that some bureaucrat is telling me I must wear a muzzle, but on the other I am filled with compassion for those who have impacted by the virus. I want to wear the mask to show my respect for their feelings. I saw my very dear friend in the store today. We always greeted one another warmly with a hug. But not today, no today it was a sad wave of longing for some human connection.

I don’t know how much longer I can take this. How long before a little subversion becomes something more? I know that I’m not alone in this. Please let me know how you are doing and what we can do to help each other.

Father God these are troubling times. I turn to you who alone are worthy of my worship. I know that during this period of sickness and unrest my behaviors and thoughts have not always been pleasing to you. Please forgive me. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for providing me a way to have a relationship with you through your Son, my Savior, Jesus. Please deliver to me the spiritual and emotional strength to be a good and pleasing witness for you and your Kingdom. Amen

The more that things change…

So this coming Sunday (26 April 2020) will be the sixth week in a row since I have been able to meet with the congregation of the church where I am the pastor. Six weeks ago my wife pointed an iPad at me in an empty sanctuary and we went live. It was not the best production but it served to get us started.

Don’t think though that it was just she and I that made this happen. There are many others and I want to thank them all. So thank you Kenny and George. Thank you Carl and Paul as well. I can’t leave out Dr Steve and brother DJ. I know that you all put your heart into the work that you did and I know that I can count on you to continue to make great things for us going forward.

My greatest thanks though must go to my wife Diana and my friend Mary. These two have put in so many hours that I’ve lost count (ok I wasn’t really punting). They have turned our weakness into strength. We have all learned a lot about ourselves and each other as we navigate all of this change. Our next challenge will be to figure out how to continue this higher level of streaming when we are back together as a congregation. But I am confident that we will.

This is important because it seems to be working. We are engaging more people than we have for quite some time. I believe that the message of Jesus is reaching many new people and more people are connecting with that message. Our ability to be able to reach people is being multiplied. We are making real connections with believers around the world.

Here is an email I received a couple of days ago:
Dear most respected pastor Peter Ceccardi
Greetings to you from our Heavenly father and soon coming savior Jesus Christ!
How are you and your family especially your country? We are praying for you and the situations from there.

We heard every news from your country through the news telecast and terrible incidents.

We are also in the strict lockdown down days because of corona virus, our government extended lock down days till next month may 3rd. Our church believers ,orphans and some of our poor tribal pastors in very need of food and groceries. Some of our poor church believers sleeping with empty stomachs with their family and their children because there is no way to go outside to do any labour work.

Our Government passed rules not to conduct any Sunday services so; we did not conducted Sunday services or any gathering from last four weeks.

Please pray for me and my family, church believers and the poor tribal pastors.

In his service
Pastor mary
INDIA.

For those of you that don’t know this India is the 10th most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. I know this because for many years outside of my family and congregation most of my prayer efforts are for persecuted believers around the world. This is the first time someone from one of these places has reached out to me for contact. I get prayer requests often through various organizations or by the church website but these never include a way to reach a person directly.

At first I was going to ignore this request fearing it was a scam of some kind. But as I prayed about it my heart softened. I will be reaching out to Pastor Mary. I’ll keep you posted.

I stand with Hong Kong

Ok it’s been a while since I’ve been here. It’s not like I haven’t been writing. Ive just been neglecting this particular place. I really want to get here more often to write. I have been thinking a lot about the state of the nation though and I have to admit that these are waters that seem a little bit dangerous. I go to Twitter and see the hatred that gets passed around as wisdom or righteousness and I wonder how my thoughts will be viewed. But then I realize that very few people will actually take the time to read these posts and I feel my courage return.  

I saw in the news today there was a “controversy” in the NBA. The General Manager of the Houston Rockets got himself in some hot water because he tweeted his support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

Since when is it wrong in America to support people who want freedom from a brutal communist government? A horrible dictatorship where millions are put to forced labor, have their organs harvested and women are re-educated by being raped and sterilized. I have a problem with that. If you don’t we’re going to have difficulty being friends. 

I’m not naive, I know that there are nuances to geopolitics that are very likely over my head. However I do understand basic human rights and I can see when they are being violated. 

I pray for China and Chinese Christians every day. I have been following the story of Pastor Wang Yi since he was arrested in December last year. 

I’ll have more to say about this soon. 

Love you all

Peter

the blessing of mercy

Those of you that know me will know that several of my favorite bible verses are found in the Gospel of Matthew. I want to talk about one of those verses today.

Matthew 5:7 say “blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy”.

I really like those kind of verses. The ones that give an instruction and then offer a promise of some kind. I know for instance that I’d like to have a lot mercy in my life. I mess up pretty regularly and when you do it’s nice when the people affected are merciful to you. I like that a lot. Being merciful feels good (at least it does to me) and it comes with the great benefit of getting it back.

I was thinking about that today and I thought what a beautiful thing this really is. Isn’t being merciful a great witness for a Christian to have? What a great world we would live in if we were all as merciful as our Heavenly Father. In a way mercy is the flap of the butterfly’s wing that caused the storm. Your mercy, your kindness, your forgiveness could be the cause of a storm of the same.

One of the fastest ways to change a difficult situation is to show mercy or kindness or forgiveness. I know that many times our impulse is to lash out when we’ve been hurt or wronged in some way. Sometimes we are just looking for an offense to take. It can feel pretty good to lash out in the moment. That impulse though will usually lead to more difficulty rather than some good resolution.

Your small action, your little kindness though can have a massive positive impact. I mean I know that love is mean, love is judgmental, love always gets it way, insists that it is alway right, love takes revenge, love walks away. That’s why it’s so easy to love your neighbor right? No that’s not right but to often that’s how we “love” each other. Mercy stands our impulses on their heads. Even without the promise of Matthew 5:7 mercy is really it’s own reward.

Mercy is like a muscle, a spiritual muscle. The more you work it out the stronger it becomes. The more you exercise it the stronger all of your spiritual muscles grow. Paul doesn’t list mercy as a Fruit of the Spirit but really can you have any fruit without it?

So spread mercy and see love , joy, and peace flourish all around you. And who doesn’t want that?

I pray that you find mercy abundantly in your life. That you supply it endlessly and receive it ceaselessly. I pray that the roots of mercy anchor your life in the goodness of God and supply abundantly all the spiritual richness He has for you.

love in the balance

As a young person I was often accused of being out of control. I remember whenever the Bible study would get Fruit of the Spirit I would get sideways looks from various people when the reader got to the self-control part of the verse. It was kind of embarrassing for me. I would dwell on it in my mind and say to myself that I need to master this thing if I want people to stop noticing me.

Over the ensuing years I cultivated an almost Vulcan like disdain for my emotions. Don’t get me wrong I still feel deeply but I have learned to seriously repress things in the name of self-control. At least I think I feel deeply, maybe I’m fooling myself.

But there has been a price to pay for this. The other day somebody told me that I was less than human because I didn’t cry during a commercial on TV. There are times I wonder about my emotional state. I ask myself if I’ve repressed things for so long that maybe I’ve broken myself. Is that even possible?

This even has affected how I think about love. I taught my daughters that love is just a decision that you have to make. I taught them not to trust that feeling as it will come and go and during each of those times you’ll make bad decisions because you are out of control. I liked to say that love is an act of will and felt clever at my turn of phrase.

I think now that I was only partially right. I was focusing on the willful part and in so doing missed out on the passion. In all things balance right?

I’ve got a ways to go to fully develop this thought. Being stoically in control comes naturally now. The times when I get emotional are still embarrassing for me. But hey Jesus wept so why shouldn’t I too?

Father God help me to produce all the Fruit of the Spirit in both my head and my heart.

the struggle is real

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything. The past few months have really put me through the ringer. But God uses times like these to show you just what it is you’re made of right? I keep forgetting that however. The past week or so has been particularly difficult. I really felt like maybe it was time to just go ahead and give in to my old pal Worthless.

I was feeling down on myself. I even wrote a poem that was surely the darkest thing I’d written in a very long time. No I won’t share it with you so don’t ask. But then God came through for me in a mighty way on Sunday and turned things around. Worthwhile stirred and poked his head out of the dog house, saw that I was feeling a little better and came over to remind me of something that I’d not thought about for a while.

Jesus is in the boat with me. What do I have to worry about? Whatever storms may be beating against me He can overcome. There’s no way I should feel defeated. That’s just a lie from Worthless. How can I have so little faith and be filled with melancholy when Jesus is along for the trip?

So watch out old enemy you may have pushed me to the edge of the cliff but I didn’t jump and now I’ve got a new victory to celebrate. There’s plenty of fight left in me and I’ve got the best cornerman around.

volunteers make the church work

At the beginning of the year I put out the call for volunteers at the church where I pastor. I made a list of needed help and called the church to pray for the right people to come to us and fill the roles that had been identified. I don’t know if anyone is still praying over our list but we did see some results and I’d like to publically thank those that stepped up to help out.

Brian thank you so much for taking on the task of maintaining our grounds. It is a very important task and I know that it takes up a lot of time. How the property looks is the very first impression that people have of our church and we want that impression to be a good one. Without your efforts that wouldn’t be possible. Paul and Junia I know that you have also pitched in and your help is very much appreciated. You two were also instrumental in the ongoing remodel of the new classroom. It was your efforts that really got that project moving again after it had gotten stalled.

Good first impressions continue because Sandy came forward and volunteered to take on the task of keeping the sanctuary, bathrooms, and other spaces clean and tidy. Your personal touches in those areas have really made a huge difference in the way members and visitors alike see our facility. I don’t know if anyone has thanked you personally but several people have asked me who has been cleaning because the place looks great. It feels like somebody actually loves it and wants it to look it’s very best. Your servant’s heart really shines through the work that you do.  I pray that God bless you abundantly.

Stan and Kathy have continued to keep the kitchen and coffee room clean and tidy. I always know that you’ve been there even if I didn’t see you because of the smell of Pine-Sol in the air after you leave. You two have been performing this task for several years and it’s about time you got a public thank you for it.

Papa G, Stan, and Dan have done a lot of work in our new classroom and I am really happy to let you all know that we will be opening up one side of it this Sunday for use. These men have worked very hard to present to you all a building that you can be proud of. They’ve done demolition, put up Sheetrock, textured and painted. They’ve dug trenches, run wires, installed a bunch of stuff. Been up and down ladders countless times and made numerous trips to a variety of home improvement stores. Their work has been done with excellence and love. There is still a lot more to be done but I know that these men will be there to do the job and do it right. Thank you thank you thank you.

In one sense a church is just a bunch of people that get together once in a while and do church. If that’s all you get from it God bless you and expand your thoughts. Because really a church ought to be like a family with all that implies. A family does things together with a common goal and so should a church. I am certain that if you are attending a church somewhere that there are plenty of opportunities for you to serve. It is my prayer that you find that spot and fill it because you are necessary and important no matter what you think. God will use you if you make yourself available for use.

I know that I have not mentioned every person that volunteers in our church. Fear not I see all and so does God. There are many more blogs to write.

 

 

Ban violence I say

So I have an idea. I’ve been taking in some of the news from this weekend and seeing a lot of video of various marches that took place. I’ve seen plenty of passionate speeches, songs of protest and the like as well. The topic is gun violence and what ought to be done about it. Most of the ideas that I’ve heard are honestly to me pretty stale. You know ban this gun, expanded background checks blah blah.

As I thought about the things I was seeing and hearing I started to consider the problem. I like to look at words and phrases and break them down and pick at them to see just what is really being talked or written about. The phrase here is gun violence.

Why are we focused on the gun part of the phrase? If it weren’t for the second word, the violence part there would be no need at all for there to be a gun. Okay I know that is not completely true. The gun is a weapon for self defense but it is also a tool of providence. It can also be used recreationally. But for the purposes of this discussion let’s agree to consider the self defense aspect.

My thought is whatever we do with the gun won’t eliminate the need for self defense because we still must deal the more important word. Even if every gun was gone tomorrow there would still be violence and the need for people to be able to defend themselves. There would still be all of the problems that afflict our society. Nothing would change except how we go about hurting each other. Human history is proof that guns aren’t necessary for the killing or oppressing people. We don’t need more gun control or a gun ban. What we need is a ban on violence.

If you really want to change the world then this is how you do it. Ridiculous I can hear you say out there. There will always be violence. It woven into our very nature. Almost everything we do is saturated with it. The news we watch, the stories we read, it’s everywhere. I believe that without the violence most of you out there would be pretty bored. I just went and saw a super hero movie over the weekend and liked it very much but it was an extremely violent affair. I really believe that as long as we are willing to be entertained by this we will continue to see violence carried out in real life. As they say art imitates life.

We don’t have a gun problem or really a violence problem. We have a heart problem. Our hearts are selfish and filled with conflict. Our society is divided in a thousand different ways and the powers that be seem to like it that way. Conflict sells and we’re buying. Our appetite for it is insatiable and it’s only getting worse.

This is what we need to be talking about.

Today I pray for wisdom in our leadership. I pray for some speck of unity. I pray that we stop being double minded, sending confusing mixed messages to vulnerable young people. I pray that we stop exploiting terrible events and the people involved in them to push forward political agendas. I pray for peacemakers.