“For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:21

THERE ARE NO WALLS BUILT AROUND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

The issue of immigration is complicated and controversial. There are many sides to a discussion about immigration that require deep critical thinking. Some will stop when they find a point of view they agree with and others will press forward. The issue separates families and can be the cause of the end of lifelong relationships.

As a Christian writer my first place to stop on any issue is the Gospel. Where would be Jesus be on this issue? Would Jesus build walls? Would Jesus let anybody cross a defined border? A place to start is with the Samaritans.

Jesus’s social and national group was with the people of Judah as stated in Matthew 1:1-6. But many of his teachings lift up the people of Samaria. People like the Good Samaritan, the Woman at the Well or the Lepers he cured. The Samaritans were foreigners or aliens of the tribe of Judah.

The Samaritans at one point had been united with the people of Judah, but after the death of King Solomon they split from the people of Judah. Many years later at the time of Jesus walking the earth the people of Judah and Samaria no longer knew the exact reasons for the split, just that the Samaritans were despised by the people of Judah. Yet Jesus continued to reach out to them and praise them in his words, Parables and sayings. Essentially, Jesus took each individual from both groups on a case by case basis. Jesus knew no boundaries in his mission to the world, just that he was the Son of man and he came to serve. Nor did Jesus define the Kingdom of Heaven as only for his tribe, but for all humankind.

We can receive no more important evidence than today, there are 2.19 billion Christians spread throughout the world. Some from the North Atlantic countries, others from South America and Africa. There are Christians in Australia and many parts of Asia. Christians come in all forms; by gender, by socioeconomic circumstances, race and geography.

In our current period, immigration has become an important issue of debate. There are those that say, immigrants commit less crime than native born. Well that’s not exactly correct. A study of 6 major cities in America where immigrants represented almost 20% of the population committed 19% of the crime. Equal to that of native born.

Sure we can come up with one off examples of heinous crimes committed by aliens, we can also do the same for native born.

There are some that will say that immigrants take up more resources then they contribute. Similar to crime statistics, both immigrants and native born citizens can over tax the system unfairly. But there are places like Lewiston Maine, where the city is almost destitute because of immigrants and their overburdening the available resources. But there are other places where that is not true.

There are some who will say that immigrants don’t want our culture and want to impose their cultural norms. This is true in some cases. In some cases immigrants believe religious beliefs should be the rule of law, which is directly opposed to the 1st amendment. Certainly, assimilation in the existing cultural and legal norms is a critical issue.

There are some that will say illegal immigrants go against the “Rule of Law” when they enter illegally. That is true they are violating the law. However, becoming a legal immigrant is costly. It requires hiring an attorney to navigate the very complicated process and can cost $5,000 to $15,000 to comply. For many this financial cost is a lifetime of earnings. Many that come want a better and brighter future for their children and are willing to risk breaking the law because they don’t have the resources to navigate a complicated immigration structure.

These are complicated issues and our opinions are developed based on our own life experiences, which vary from person to person.

Certainly we can all agree that criminals should not be allowed to cross our borders. Certainly we can all agree that all, both native born and immigrants need to pay their way. Certainly all that come should comply with the laws of our nation.

But there are many great immigrants who have come to our country and made it a better place. In the world of medicine or science immigrants have made our country greater. There are some who have come to find our country as a place of refuge, to be protected against tyrants that exist in other lands.

The two periods of our greatest economic growth, both in the 1890’s and 1990’s saw the greatest influx of immigrants.

Taking one side or the other will certainly solve some of the problems, but not all. This issue is too complicated for a simple answer.

What I do know is that Jesus would encourage us to treat each individual as unique and not pre-judge based on our individual life experiences. He would implore us to give every citizen of the world a fair chance and not judge others based on race, gender, country of origin or socioeconomic position. He would ask us to value each person as a child of God and not judge. There is a reason Jesus lifted up the Samaritans, despite his own tribal affiliation. And there is a reason Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is among you.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Conor Luddy

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“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17

DO JESUS AND BUSINESS BELONG TOGETHER?

When I am on the radio doing interviews, almost every time I am asked, how can you mix Jesus and business?  Or when I give a presentation and clergy are in the crowd, I am cautioned about mixing Jesus and business. Even in one case I was told that mixing Jesus and business was sinful.

My reply is always, why not?  In this age of political correctness, Jesus is avoided in conversations, despite 75% of all Americans identifying themselves as Christian. The misconception isn’t really about mixing Jesus and business, it’s more about how do we mix Jesus and business.

My friend William Cunningham, states, “We should be the Gospel and not just say the Gospel.”  Will, has lived this life for many years and today is an author of Where I belong  and a Christian Counselor in Asheville, North Carolina. In his previous life he was involved in military intelligence throughout the Middle East, where he lived this life of  Jesus being with him where ever he went. Including praying in dark prisons of Afghanistan.

Was he uncomfortable during these times, sometimes. But Jesus was always with him.

Will’s point is that we first live out our faith wherever we are. Through our actions we become recognized as Christian’s. Merely stating to others that they should believe in our professional or work lives isn’t enough and frankly can be detrimental.

Bringing Jesus to work through proclamation isn’t enough or effective. Bringing Jesus to work through our actions is the most powerful form of mixing Jesus and our careers. It is human nature to become more empowered by what people do versus what people say. This is Will’s point.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  In other words, in all that we do, we should do it as if serving the Lord. The Apostle Paul in this statement includes our work lives.

We don’t have to go to work and declare we are Christians, but our various actions will declare us as Christians. Words are hollow, actions are real. It is in our actions that we proclaim our faith and in our actions we are judged.

The clergy I meet are right that business can create temptation, but business itself is not sinful. It is more about how we act in business than whether business is sinful. But all of life, has inherent temptation to be sinful, not just when we are at work.

Being bold in our faith isn’t what repels people about our belief, it’s when we don’t live the Gospel that repels people. How could any person not agree with the Golden Rule, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” Certainly we want to be and surrounded by people that live their lives with this foremost in their minds. Doing what is right is consistent with our Christian faith.

When we sell to our customers, should we think about ourselves first or the customers needs? The latter should be our focus. Not only is this a Christian value, but it is good for the long term health of any company.

Lets consider the Wells Fargo scandal, where millions of credit cards were issued without the customer knowing they had been opened in their name. This scandal eventually cost the CEO his job. What if the bank had used Jesus’ Golden rule? Would there have been a scandal? Probably not if it had been part of the employee’s code of conduct. Or consider the number of sexual abuse cases against women by men in power, would they have occurred if there was an adherence to the values of Jesus? Again probably not.

Christianity is good for business. The businesses that are run with principles of fair play and equal treatment for all, are strongly aligned with Christian values.

Companies like Chick-Fil-A thrive and are Christian based. While we might not all agree with some of their thoughts about Christianity, we can all agree they live into their principles. They believe in giving Sunday off as a Sabbath or day of rest. This year the Super Bowl was played in Atlanta and in that stadium exists a Chick-Fil-A. They were still closed, despite the monetary losses of not being open on Super Bowl Sunday.

But Chick-Fil-A still is the strongest of all Fast Food outlets in terms of customer loyalty and finances. Go there for lunch someday and you will see long lines of loyal customers and friendly employees. Their Christian based model works.

Some will say Christians are intolerant as a reason for not mixing Jesus with our work lives. Being a Christian based person or business doesn’t mean we are exclusive or rejecting of people who don’t share our faith. It means being open and courteous to all.

Jesus himself used those outside his religious affiliation to portray acts of openness and kindness. The story of the Good Samaritan is about a person who was outside of Jesus’ faith. The Samaritan’s of the first century were consider outcasts by the dominant Jewish faith. Yet Jesus uses them in one of the preeminent examples of kindness to all. Part of being Christian is being tolerant.

Yes, we can bring Jesus to work! It is okay for the one hundred and twenty million Christians who will go to work tomorrow to be and practice the values of Christianity. We should be the Gospel in all that we do. It isn’t politically incorrect and only is if we don’t live the Gospel in all that we do.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Herrmann Stamm

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“Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, utter a song!

Judge 5:12

DEBORAH, A SYMBOL OF GOD’S EQUALITY

After the Israelites had entered the promised land and Moses had died, they were ruled by Joshua. Joshua had been loyal to the mission of the great Exodus out of Israel and when others grumbled, Joshua maintained his faith. He led the Israelites for the balance of his life, fairly and justly.

Upon his death, the Israelites became leaderless and slowly drifted into being a loose confederation that slowly slipped into a complacent life. Their faith lives dimmed and slowly drifted away from the values of God.

To help reverse this trend a new group of leaders emerged, called Judges. These were people assigned to rule and lead Israel. To bring the Israelites back into alignment with God.

The book of Judges contains many great Biblical stories, like Samson and Delilah; and Gideon. The book of Judges contains the stories of the early leaders of Israel before the kings of Israel, like King Davis. Judges contains the story of Deborah, the first female leader of the Israelites.

Deborah, was a woman with a rock solid faith and trust in God. In the turbulent times of her life, she turned to God. Where she gave advice it contained wise solutions that were based on the values of God. It was for this reason she was raised up to be a Judge.

Deborah was the fourth Judge or go between for God and his people of Israel. Deborah’s reign started with the people once again turning away from God and then asking God to save them. This was a repeating pattern that occurred with Joshua and the three previous Judges. Now it was Deborah’s turn.

Deborah, spent most of her days sitting under a palm tree and was visited by many for her advice. For the previous twenty years the Israelites were under the rule of King Jabin of Canaan, who was a harsh and oppressive ruler. The Israelites called out to God to be freed. Deborah became God’s choice to once again lead Israel out of bondage.

As the new leader of the Israelites, God asked Deborah to act to save her people, by saying, “Awake, awake, Deborah.” Hearing this call, Deborah called on the military leader, Barak to move his armies against King Jabin.

Lacking in faith, Barak was not convinced that he could succeed, even with God’s help. He was sure he would be doomed and to test Deborah, he said, “I will go, if you will go with me.”  With absolute certainty that arose from her faith in God, she agreed. But also told Barak, that this victory would not be credited to him, and that a woman would be credited with the victory. Still doubting, Barak accepted the task.

Sure enough the Israelites won the battle, but the leader of the opposing army escaped. Only to be discovered by a woman named Jael. Who dispatched the general of the opposing army and was credited with the victory.

Barak, had been cagey in his dealings with Deborah and tried to avoid a fight to free the Israelites. But Deborah did not take the bait, instead relied on her faith to fight a stronger opposing force. In turn, God prevented Barak from receiving the glory of a victory and gave it to another, a woman.

What is important about this story,  is it is one of the first times in the Bible that women are raised up as being wiser, more faithful and stronger than man. It is a story that has been subdued for many years, not because God didn’t see women as equals, but that those who tell the story of the Bible have ignored the great stories of women that exist in numerous examples in the Bible.

In Genesis, God made all humankind in the image of God. For added emphasis, God states, “ both man and woman” in Genesis 1:27. Deborah was an example of this equality and proved equal to her male predecessors.

Like her male counterparts in earlier stories, she corrected the pattern of disobedience to God in her people. This story, while an exciting war story, is more about the equality of gender. We shouldn’t look past her gender as an important statement by God. That all people, regardless of gender, race or national origin are made in the image of God.

The stories of the Bible have been told many times over the last four thousand years. In these stories are a history of God’s relationship and saving of God’s people. But these stories have many sub-plots and this story’s subplot is about equality of the genders.

For a different view of the Bible, Google great women of the Bible. You will receive a long list of women who have made significant contributions to the ways of God and in the story of the Bible. From Ruth to Esther to Rahab to Tamar to Mary and so forth. A legacy of the value of woman in God’s eyes.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Daniel Buckle

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A BIBLICAL LEADER?

Moses met God at a burning bush in the wilderness. God had picked Moses to lead the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt and wanted to give Moses instructions for accomplishing this task. Moses, the leader God had hand picked was reluctant and tried many times to have God look for someone else. Moses complained that Pharaoh was too powerful. Moses minimized his own ability by stating he was a bad speaker. Moses didn’t want the task, but God wanted Moses.

God persisted and pressed on with Moses. God showed Moses that he wouldn’t be alone, that God would be with him every step. At one point God asked Moses to take his staff and throw it on the ground. When Moses dropped his staff, it turned into a serpent. When Moses was instructed to pick up the serpent it turned back into a staff. This was God’s way to show Moses God would be with him. All Moses had to do was believe that God was with him.

Imagine ourselves in this situation. Imagine strolling through a park and having a tree talk to us. What we have done? Likely, assumed it was a prank and moved on. It is easy to judge Moses, but we all are similar. When God visits us and he does, are we ready?

There was something deeper in Moses, despite his reluctance. God knew Moses wouldn’t walk away. Why else did God choose such a reluctant leader. A leader who didn’t want to lead. God saw something different, he saw a person with a heart for others and a respect for God. God chose Moses, not because of worldly stature, but because of his heart.

Moses didn’t know it at the time, but this future life meant leading a reluctant nation through the wilderness, across rivers and mountains for forty years. There would be times of scarcity with food and water. There would be grumbling by his nation and disobedience.

Through all of this Moses would have to lead by being obedient to his boss, God. While continuing to offer hope for the people of Israel. Many times Moses would be alone in these tough moments, no place to turn other than God.

God chose Moses, not because he was reluctant, but because he had a heart for his nation of Israel and a commitment to God. His reluctance wasn’t out of not believing in God, but believing in himself. He didn’t see in himself what God saw in him.

Moses would have to face the mighty Pharaoh to convince him to release the Israelites. Not once but ten times.

This still wasn’t his greatest feat. Consider the actual crossing over event at the Red Sea. The Israelites approached the Red Sea to become freed, they then noticed the Egyptians were pursuing them with a vast army. In front of them was the Red Sea and an unknown life. Behind them was a menacing army determined to slay them. They cried out to Moses, asking him why he had led them to a certain death. Even the severe bondage they lived in seemed like a better choice than their current state.

By now they had seen God’s great miracles and the powerful relationship Moses had with God. Even with God preceding them on their journey, as a pillar of clouds during the day and as fire at night. They still doubted and cried out to be saved. Not out of lack of confidence in God or Moses, but out of fear for their lives. Fear that overcame their faith. A fear we also sometimes let erode our own faith.

At God’s request Moses raised his staff to part the Red Sea. The sea parted, but the Israelites were still reluctant to go. Not trusting that the seas would hold back. Finally, Moses convinced this large nation to proceed. They crossed over saved by a miraculous intervention of God, through Moses.

For forty more years Moses led this reluctant group through the wilderness. A group who despite all they had seen from God through Moses still didn’t believe. But Moses led them and advocated for them.

How many times in our own lives have we witnessed the bounty of God, only to turn away in periods of stress?

After a generation had passed, they finally entered the promised land. Moses was old by then and did not enter the land promised by God. Dying on top of a mountain that overlooked the promised land.

Moses created this story in the book of Exodus through his obedience to God. After a reluctant start, he continued as a leader who was a go-between with God and the Israelites.

Over time when his people wouldn’t believe, Moses believed. Moses was many things, a judge, a counselor and provider. He kept his passion to lead despite seemingly overwhelming odds. His greatest leadership quality was his relationship with God. Instead of turning to human thoughts he maintained a rock steady faith that God would answer.

He climbed mountain tops through dense clouds to see God. He led his people through a vast desert sure of his direction with God, but never sure where the end would be. He created water out of stones and bread in the morning.

Moses led through his faith in God and compassion for his people. Moses led not out of self-interest or personal power. He believed in the higher good of serving God and humankind.

The first five books of the Bible are called the books of Moses. From Genesis to Numbers, they contain the law of God and the great history of Israel. The oral tradition of the first believers. A story that is real in that it is metamorphically connected to the lives of an ancient people with our own faith lives today.

The story of Moses is about leadership with the heart. Leadership that is not self-interested, but committed to a common good. Leadership inspired by a relationship with God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Kalen Emsley

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“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 2:42

YOUNG PEOPLE AREN’T GOING TO CHURCH, ARE THEY THE CANARY IN THE MINE?

While at Theological school, one of the hottest debates was around why young people are leaving the church. Statistically, four times as many young people do not have a church affiliation or attend church today versus a few decades ago. I would listen to hours of debate as to why this has occurred. Never getting the real reasons, just thoughts that while were earnest in their expression, were never associated with facts.

Sometimes the explanation was an accusation about this young demographic group as being too selfish. Sometimes it was an overly involved theory about the way young people’s minds developed.

But the explanation is simpler than extensive theory or carefully thought out theorems. It is more about how we include all people in the fellowship of church. It is more about changing the church to match the natural occurrence of changing demographics.

As society evolves and receives the influence of younger voices, the church should change in a manner that the rest of society  changes. Just wanting young people to attend church isn’t enough. Changing to match changing needs is the answer. Tradition isn’t a strong enough pull for groups that didn’t create the current tradition.

Young people don’t want to sit in lengthy meetings to discuss mission statements, value statements and financial reports. They think “how we treat the least of us” is a better use of their time. In other words, “Do the Gospel, not talk about Gospel.”

Not only does our current group of young people want to help those not as fortunate,  most generations want to help. Most generations don’t like hearing, they like doing.

If we want young people in our churches, they should participate in the actual worship service. Why can’t a teen read the verse or say a  prayer? Why can’t they pick the music? Many churches send them off to separate rooms. If we want them to attend they should be allowed to participate. If we want them to attend, we should ask them “What do you think?” and then actually hear by responding.

Young people don’t want to hear about the “End times” or some other overly analyzed religious theorems. They don’t want to hear about religion that has become politically associated. They want to help out in their community. They want to be involved in something that makes the world better.

Young people don’t want to see church as a place of power wielded by a few. They want their church to allow all people to have a say and not be driven by “That’s the way we always have done things.”

Young people don’t want traditions that came from years gone by and were created by a previous generation that didn’t like the tradition that existed when they were young. Tradition is the great enemy of change.

Young people don’t want their donations to go to overly expensive church buildings and facilities. They want to see their donations helping the world. They would be okay with meeting in a school or some other rented facility, especially if it meant more money went to help the world.

No generation wants to be preached to when they are young. They want to be mentored by people who hear them. They want to know about the pitfalls of life, without being preached to. They want people who authentically invest in a relationship with them. This generation is not that different than past generations, relationships are far more important to them than authority driven commands.

Young people want to be heard! They want to explore their new world. Not much different than when I was young and rallying against the plight of the poor or why are we in Vietnam. They see things differently than we do, like we did.

They don’t want to be abandoned when they move on from high school. They have newer and different issues that the church can help with. Like relationships that can become permanent. Or how to find a job or a school. Or how to survive on their own.

Young people want the perception of the church to be different. They want the church to be involved in issues that make the world better and not embroiled in a controversy that is political and not faith based. They want the local church to help those in need locally, nationally and throughout the world. They don’t want conservativism or liberalism.

If we want them to stay, then we have to include them in all discussions. They want us focused on serving the world, especially the needy. They don’t want us to be overly connected to traditions that no longer make sense. The same with buildings that absorb too many resources.

Come to think about it, I want the same things.

The church is in a very prolonged state of decline, since 1967 membership has dropped 1-3% a year. Many denominations, according to surveys, will be in grave shape over the next decade or so. Perhaps even disappear.

Perhaps this new generation is the “canary in the mine” warning us, that unless change occurs the organized church will no longer exist.

God and love for Jesus will exist, in some new form, but not in the existing church. All surveys show that the belief in God hasn’t declined over the last decades, in fact there is an upswing. Worship will happen, just not in the same form. Perhaps like the first church, which met in homes or street corners. Perhaps like the second century church that had to meet in the underground passages of Rome.

God will not go away and this is the God, this new generation wants. Heck, this is the God all generations want.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Karl Fredrickson

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Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”

John 4:37

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE CREATOR OF MODERN NURSING

Florence Nightingale was born into a wealthy English family in the early part of the 19th century. She lived a life funded by prosperity and in her youth met many of the upper class of English society. Her parents took her and her two sisters on many trips throughout Europe.

Her early life was not the one she wanted as she grew into young adulthood. She wanted to serve and she did. First going to Crimea to help minister to British soldiers during the Crimea war.

When she arrived at the battlefront hospital she noticed a startling lack of sanitation and hygiene for the soldiers. In fact, most soldiers didn’t die from battle wounds, but from the horrid conditions of the medical facilities and lack of medical attention.

She immediately spoke out for better conditions and implored the English officials to provide more staff. During this period she implemented a procedure for nurses of washing their hands before they helped a patient. She developed better sanitation systems in the hospitals. She focused on cleaning wounds and improving wound drainage. The result, after one year the death rate for soldiers was reduced from 42% TO 2 %!

Accomplished through compassion, added attention and Nightingale’s unwillingness to give in to accepting the horrid conditions of the hospitals.

She immediately became a national media sensation, not that this was her goal. Her reputation of kindness, compassion and toughness spread throughout the British empire.

The famous Kings College of London, today has a school named the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery. The very school she herself established and led in the 19th century. Many of today’s standards for nursing came from this school and its practices.

Before there were Power Point slides and Excel, Nightingale developed a process of statistical gathering and presentation called Graphical Statistical Presentation. Instead of presenting raw numbers to make her point, Nightingale used pie charts and other forms of graphics to highlight the results.

Florence Nightingale received many honors throughout her life. Even today she is still receiving honors. The annual National Nursing day is celebrated on her birthday. The medical plans used by our country’s armed forces are named after her. Battleships in both the British and American navies were named after her.

While honors were received, it was not her life goal. Her goal was to make nursing a profession and to make nursing the frontline of care with patients.

Nightingale was also a strong Christian, who believed she was living out her life to serve God. She once told her sister, “God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.”  A commitment she held for the balance of her life.

Her view of God was far different that that which existed in the Victorian age of the 19th century. When many viewed God as a stern judge of behavior, she viewed God as merciful and not condemning. She was strongly opposed to the thought of a God who would banish people to hell. She thought of God as one who believed in and cared for humankind, all humankind!

During her final years she was bedridden, but still worked. On August 13th, 1910 the “Angel of ministering”  died leaving a legacy of caring. A great Christian woman leader, who went where others wouldn’t go. She answered a call that others wouldn’t answer. Her braveness and compassion saved many lives. She was a humble leader.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.”

Proverbs 31:31

FRANCIS WILLARD STANDING UP FOR WOMEN

Francis Willard was one of the first women to stand up for her gender. Trained as a school teacher, her natural leadership skills led her to become the first female dean of women at Northwestern University. She was eventually fired by her former fiancé, the president of Northwestern.

For this point she moved on to a role that she is more well known, as the long serving president and founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU). She served dutifully in this post for nearly a quarter of a century.

Modern critics will sometimes look harshly at her work to end alcohol consumption in America. Complaining that this eventually led to the infamous period of prohibition in America, which directly gave  rise to organized crime. Perhaps, but there is more to this story about her fight against alcoholism and her life’s work.

When we look at alcohol consumption just from the 21st century perspective, we lose the historical perspective of earlier centuries and why this was an extraordinarily important issue in the late 19th century. In the 19th century, alcoholism heavily affected women and children.

Some interesting facts about alcohol consumption in America from periods gone by. The ships that carried over the first settlers carried far more beer than water. Clean drinkable water in Europe and for the first settlers was scarce. Alcohol, because it was brewed was sanitary and as such was used as a substitute for water. While boiling water for coffee and tea where also alternatives, alcohol was far more available.

It wasn’t uncommon for a farmer to drink the equivalent of a six pack while he worked in the fields of the farm. Drinking on the job was common and acceptable.  In fact, during the late 19th century the average daily consumption was three times that of modern times. Leading to a rate of alcoholism that is far greater than in our contemporary times.

The high rate of alcoholism led to a disruption of home life. Rates of spousal abuse were significantly higher in the 19th century. Farms and businesses were lost. Families became disrupted. The majority of the victims were women and children.

The family and more specifically women and children were Willard’s interest. Her fight to eliminate alcohol was to protect families. Many historian’s miss this point when evaluating Willard’s role. Willard’s main rallying cry was for home protection.

Willard traveled thousands of miles and gave over 400 speeches every year fighting for families to have safe and secure home lives. She met with members of congress and powerful business moguls to pursue her cause. During her time the WCTU grew to be a nationwide organization.

The offshoots of the WTCU had a profound impact on American society. It was the forerunner to suffrage. It helped legislate the eight hour workday. The WCTU was against racism, ageism and gender bias.

Willard insisted that women must forgo the notion that they were the “weaker” sex. She encouraged women to join the movement to improve society. She was an early women’s right proponent that resonated with the average American woman in the late 19th century.

But she also fought for other’s rights as well. She was outspoken about the practice of lynching African American’s. Any cause that affected the powerless she became a proponent.

In the book of Proverbs is a little known reference that connects wisdom with women. The book of Proverbs is considered one of the “books of wisdom.” Biblical scholars will tell us that when we read proverbs and see female references, they are metaphorical references to wisdom. Particularly in chapter 31 of Proverbs.

Throughout the Bible, references to wisdom are commonly associated with women.

Willard demonstrated throughout her life, uncommon wisdom. While many will associate her life to the long fight to ban alcohol, her fight was more accurately for the home and women’s rights.

She died young at the age of fifty-eight from influenza in New York. Leaving a legacy that had many offshoots to modern society. She was a great leader because she saw a wrong and bravely answered the call, when others couldn’t.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”

Ruth 2:13

RUTH: AN UNUSUAL JOURNEY

There are only two books of the Bible named after women, Ruth and Esther. Both in the Old Testament, the book of Ruth is one of the shortest books in the Bible. Ruth, the character is one of undying loyalty and portrays leadership through with humble braveness.

Her story starts with her marriage to Chilion. The son of Naomi and Elimelech. Naomi and Elimelech had left Bethlehem with their two sons, Chilion and Mahlon, because of a severe famine and journeyed to Moab. Both sons married Moab women, Chilion marrying Ruth.

After a few years Naomi’s husband died, leaving her two sons and daughters-in-law to support her. Then a final tragedy, a few years later both of the sons died. Leaving Naomi and her daughter-in-laws destitute and alone.

Naomi then decided to go back to Bethlehem, where she would have relatives and knowing the famine had abated. One daughter-in-law Orpah decided to stay in Moab. Naomi told Ruth she was also free to stay.

Ruth suffering from the grief of her own loss, pondered her choices. Should she stay in her home country or follow Naomi to a foreign land. Through her marriage and Naomi, she had also become connected with God and felt the love of a family.

Ruth decided that staying in her homeland was not the course she wanted to choose, she told Naomi, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

A remarkable statement of loyalty.

They both returned to Bethlehem and Naomi’s land. The fields of Naomi’s farm had not been tilled for ten years and there was no food or a visible way to support both of them. Until the farm was restored they had to find food.

In ancient Israel, it was the custom that the far edges of planted fields could be harvested by the poor. Essentially, landowners of that time left ten percent of the fields for the poor. Around the edges of the fields, the poor would take grain or vegetables to help fend off hunger.

A nearby wealthy man, Boaz, had fields of grain. Ruth, to support herself and Naomi, took grain from the edges of Boaz’s field. Each day Ruth would visit and harvest from Boaz’s field. Eventually, Boaz noticed Ruth and began to show interest in her.

From this point the story takes the turn of a familiar path of girl meets boy, she and Boaz get married. A happy ending from a tale of tragic deaths and the loyalty shown by Ruth through a pilgrimage to a foreign land to help Naomi had given her a bounty.

But there is more to this tale of a happy ending. Boaz and Ruth have a child named, Obed. Who became the father of Jesse and who in turn was the father of King David. In Matthew, Ruth is one of five women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Ruth became part of the royal lineage of Jesus.

The book of Ruth is also placed in the history chapters of the Bible between Judges and Samuel 1, suggesting that its inclusion means something to the history of the Israelites and Christianity.

Ruth’s inclusion in both the genealogy and her book placement in the Bible, is a statement about inclusiveness. Ruth’s story and its placement means the Bible isn’t just a collection of stories about wealthy men, but also includes great women. Ruth was also a woman from an alien world, which speaks to the importance of all people in God’s eyes, regardless of gender or national origin. Ruth’s story directly relates back to Genesis 1:27, where it states. God created all humankind in God’s image, man and woman.

While society from the ancient periods was heavily tilted towards men, the Bible itself did not ignore women. Besides Ruth, we have the book of Esther. We also have Rahab, the protector of the Israelites. Tamar is another forgotten heroine, her story is just as riveting. Mother Mary certainly can’t be overlooked. The Bible has many of these stories involving faithful women, hidden by patriarchal societies, but not hidden in the Bible.

Over the next few weeks we will explore more of these great Biblical women.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Martin Norén

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4

GRANDMA GATEWOOD’S WALK

In 1955, Emma Gatewood told her children she was going for a walk and left her small community in rural Ohio. She would return six months later a national hero whom was followed by most major newspapers, the Today show and many radio stations. Why? She was the first woman to solo hike the Appalachian trail.

Far more remarkable, was this 67 year old grandmother of thirty grandchildren, walked the trail in a pair of Ked’s high tops and a minor amount of equipment. Poor and living on $54 a month of social security, she made her own back pack stuffed with a few clothes, a shower curtain to protect her from the rain and her favorite food, Vienna sausages.

For much of her journey she relied on the generous gifts of housing and food from “trail angels” she met along the way. Though she still spent many nights in the woods, sleeping under trees and picnic benches. Frequently she would make a fire to protect herself from bears and wild dogs.

Along the way, she forded swollen streams, hand over hand climbed rock faces and spent some nights sleeping in below freezing weather. Nothing could stop her, even the great hurricane Diane. She was a real life Forrest Gump.

During her hike on the Appalachian trail in 1955, the trail was rough and had little maintenance. Very few people hiked the trail as thru-hikers in her day. In fact for many years there were no attempts.

The trail is over 2000 miles in length. Thanks to pioneers like Gatewood, today 31 different organization maintain the trail. Each year, thousands attempt the thru-hike with thousands of dollars spent on gear. Over several years, less than 25% finish the trail. The trail starts on a remote mountain top in Georgia and ends with a extraordinarily steep climb to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Along the way, hikers suffer blisters, sprained ankles and have to climb peaks 5000 feet or more above sea level. Many hikers can only walk 10 or so miles a day. Grandma Gatewood would frequently walk over twenty! She finished the trail in 146 six days, when the average is just short of 180 days.

Today over a million people visit the trail, with most being single day hikers. Some just hike sections of the trail for a week or so. The much smaller group of hikers, called thru hikers, are mostly in their twenties looking for a lifetime adventure before they start their lives.

You can ask any thru-hiker about Grandma Gatewood and they will know her legacy. For many she is the inspiration to continue. “If Grandma Gatewood could do it, so can I!” is a consistent refrain by these hikers.

Where did she get her energy and strength? She was a hardworking farmer most her life, working many days for 12 or more hours. She had eleven children to raise and a farm to attend to.

But she also had an abusive husband. She endured many beatings. Some so severe that they almost ended her life. She had false teeth, because her husband had knocked most out. She was constantly bruised and had the scars.

One day she punched back and ended up getting arrested for battery. After spending a night in jail, the local mayor found out and demanded she be released. He took her in for a while and not long after the courts finally granted her a divorce.

She hung on to the farm after her husband left and made a meager living during the Great Depression. Her children grew into adults and left the house. Leaving her the opportunity to walk the great trail she had read about in the National geographic.

She was a kind woman, who never turned away any that came to her house looking for food during the depression and the war years. She didn’t have much, but she shared.

There are few clues about her faith. But in her letters she would refer to God as the great “I Am.” A reference to God’s describing himself to Moses. An interesting reference that showed her Biblical knowledge and respect for God.

Her fame grew as she walked. At first a local newspaper ran a small story. Then more as she passed through the trail towns. Then the national press picked her up and daily the nation watched her walk. As she neared the end of her hike, at each trail head she would be met by reporters, including Sports Illustrated.

She never could understand why the nation took an interest in her. She was just out for a walk. A walk to cleanse a difficult life.

Later, she would hike the trail two more times, the last time when she was 75. She hiked the Oregon trail from St. Louis to Oregon, all 2500 miles. She became the first female extreme sport hiker in America, well past the age of 65. Many that walked with her, where many decades younger and couldn’t keep her pace.

Today, she is an icon for the small group who hike long distances. If she could do it, so can’t they. She is in the museum for the Appalachian trail, listed as one of the ten most influential hikers. After a lifetime of turmoil, she lived her final years fully. She died at the age of 85 in 1973. Leaving a legacy for us and a brood of offspring that still discuss her today. In fact a great grand-nephew wrote a book about her called Grandma Gatewood’s walk.

Grandma Gatewood showed the world, that you are never too old and disabled to live life. Living life fully to her meant one step at a time, with a riveted focus on not being defeated.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Andy Mai

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“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John 8:31-32

WHAT DOES A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN REALLY COST?

I recently went through a security checkpoint at an airport in Dallas Texas, where the TSA agents were working processing us through the various security procedures to allow us to fly. Each TSA agent I encountered, I thanked them for working without pay. They all appreciated the simple gesture.

It made me wonder what is the government shutdown really costing us? The shutdown has been caused by a president who wants to build a very large wall and the ruling Democrats are opposed to putting in the budget, close to six billion dollars to build this wall.

Eight hundred thousand government employees have been denied pay and over four million government contractors are out of work. The average government employee, with benefits makes one hundred and nineteen thousand dollars. If that is the case; then not paying the employees would pay for the wall in five weeks.

The math here is simple, but the issues are far more complicated. The real reason for the shutdown isn’t about saving money, but about a power struggle that is unaware of the impact on the humans involved.

The president has made a campaign promise to build a wall to prevent illegal aliens, drugs and criminals from entering our country. His constituency is pressing him very hard to fulfill his campaign commitment. He has been firm and unbending in his position.

The democrats know this is a big political issue and have been equally unbending in allowing the wall to be built. Firm that the president won’t get his way and be able to declare victory.

The issue has become like watching two petulant children fighting in a school playground over a slight. As time wears on the issue becomes less what the fight is about and more about getting their way. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people do not have a paycheck to pay their bills. Lines are growing long at airport checkpoints, as more TSA agents call in sick to do a job without pay. Garbage is piling up in our national parks. Lost in all this squabbling are the real facts.

First, very little of the drugs come from illegals crossing outside the official “Points of Entry” into the United States. The vast majority comes through the “Points of Entry.” The logistics of dispersing tons of drugs among those entering the US through the desert are overwhelming for the drug dealers. As such, drugs come hidden in large  containers in our ports. They come through the official land POE’s hidden in forty foot trailers. They come through our airports hidden in cargo bays.

Building the wall will not prevent this, better technology at our POE’s will. But this wall is a campaign promise made to appease those who rightly want the flow of heroin and cocaine to end, but are misguided by how the scourge called drugs really flow into our country.

Nor are the Democrats being truthful with Americans, they are not proposing an alternative, they fight so the president will be embarrassed. Leaving hundreds of thousands without paychecks.

Which raises another question, why do government workers on average make one hundred and nineteen thousand dollars a year, or almost 78% higher than the average American and double that of the people who teach our children. Consider that the average American who works in retail makes a third of this amount or the average family of four brings in just under seventy thousand a year. Sure, some of the cost is from our government employees cost of living in the greater Washington D.C. area, but not this much!

The issue here isn’t that government employees shouldn’t be paid properly for a day’s work, but the disparity between the voters and government pay is out of sync.

Our legislative leaders and our president and his staff still get paid during the shutdown. While trash builds up in our national parks and travelers wait in long lines at airports. The same people who created the shutdown are being paid, while not doing their job. Engaged in a stare down not designed to work on facts, but one of personal power control.

Missing is a real discussion and a path forward to resolution. How do we slow the flow of drugs into our country that ends lives and disrupts families? How do we stop criminals from other lands without impeding the inclusion of immigrants who can help our country continue to be the worlds great melting pot? These are the real issues with the wall, ones that all Americans would like resolved.

Trust in our government since 1960 has dropped from a near 80% to 18%. While the Democrats will blame the Republicans, the same is true with Republicans. Lost in this debate is what Americans desire, the truth.

Some of us identify with traditional views of smaller government and less taxes. While others of us want the protection of the poor and the average working person. We all want to end the epidemic of drugs. We all want those who desire to be American’s not to be criminals from far-away places. These are honest debates and productive when done with searching for the truth. This debate seems lost amongst the acrimony that exists today.

The shutdown isn’t about the issues, but about power. Lost in this power struggle are the TSA workers who work without pay. Lost is the average American who makes significantly less than the government employee. Lost are the individuals who will become snared in the desperate cycle of drug addiction. Lost are the individuals who desire to come to our great country, to enjoy freedom and be productive citizens.

Lost, while our politicians grandstand for personal glory. Lost by people whose behavior doesn’t represent the values of most American’s.

Jesus would have one simple request; search for the truth through him and we will all be set free.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ramon Kagie

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.