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Thursday, December 04, 2014

My perspective.

I have not ever been a law enforcement officer, and cannot begin to imagine the stress and the effects the career has on the men and women who serve. I also am not a minority, and cannot perceive of the years of thoughts and feelings that go along with the troubling history in our nation for many who are not Caucasian.

I am a 45 year old, middle class, anglo, christian man. I have not endured any overtly great struggle in my life that was caused by another. I am sheltered, somewhat naive, privileged in ways I do not even realize, and secure.

I do know men and women though whose families endured slavery, persecution, hatred, and disgrace because of the color of his or her skin. I have sat with them and listened to their stories of heartbreak and suffering and the residual affects that have followed. I have witnessed persecution and racism in my life, and have at times participated.

I also know men and women who serve the public as police men and women. I know them to be good and godly men and women who seek to serve every person that he or she come in contact. I know of one in particular that speaks of truth, love and grace to men and women he must arrest.

We all live in a broken and fractured world. Sin and the choice to serve ourselves has left us suspicious and even hateful towards one another. The only way that this can change in my opinion is to turn to a God who has offered salvation and restoration through himself. Jesus spoke often of sheep from other pastures. One follower of Christ declared that there were no longer any "favorites" in God's eyes, that God had looked beyond racial and even gender differences to see a people that He desired and loved and longed to be in relationship with.

Jesus is quoted as answering a question about what the greatest command by saying: "Love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul; the second is like the first, love your neighbor as yourself." I believe that we can solve many of our problems, our disagreements, our mistrust of one another if we were to apply these to our lives.

Therefore, I pledge this day to live a life that aims to first love God with all of my heart, mind and soul. That this love would determine my desires, my thoughts, and my dreams. I also pledge to love my neighbors (those that share the planet with me) as my self. If I see someone hungry I will offer food, If someone is cold I will offer them shelter, and if someone is hurting I will offer them healing.

May we begin to live lives of love and hope and faith, that God will be present when we live in this manner.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Good Night O Captain: Thoughts on Robin Williams

Farewell My Captain

The above link shows a clip from Dead Poets Society, one of many films made by Robin Williams.
I came home today to be surprised by the news of his death, what a weird range of emotions this news has sparked.

I remember in 7th grade Texas History class, mimicking Robin and some of his comedy when the teacher would leave the room. One of my favorites was his portrayal of Mr Rogers.

I remember hanging with my cousins Martha and Raymond every visit watching Robin's comedy on VHS.

I remember seeing Good Morning Vietnam in Lubbock while at Tech and walking away amazed at the talent on such vivid display.

Seeing Robin Williams act wether serious roles, or comedic, performing standup, or reruns of Mork and Mindy, staying up late to watch him crack up Johnny Carson, or hoping to meet him the year I toured with A Tuna Christmas. I was inspired.

I carried a list of questions to ask Mr. Williams in case our paths crossed. It was following Mrs. Doubtfire, a movie that I really resonated with being a divorced father separated from my son, that I came up with the questions. A list of 12 questions about how to deal with creativity, performing, being an actor with children, etc...

I found this list just about a year ago and read through the questions again. I had no other thoughts of them until today.

Today i am a full time minister, not an actor or comedian, yet I still use some of Robin's expressiveness in my sermons and in my teaching style. His wide-open, full speed, rapid fire delivery  and even his calm cool "it's not your fault" delivery from Good Will Hunting finds it's way into myrhythm  and pattern of speech.

So tonight, I simply mourn. Tonight the world has one less voice to exhort us to laughter, to bring us to tears, to make us pause and think, to bring us to our feet in applause.

Tonight My Captain, I long
for one more story or song.

Tonight I wish simply
for your family to feel comfort.

Tonight O Captain,
may you sleep well. Peace.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Tower of Label

Society today seems to be fractured and polarizing. The culture that we live in, the television and movies we watch, politics, sports, all boil down to categories into which we place others. Even in church this is difficult to escape, progressive vs conservative, traditional vs liberal, young vs old...the damage we do to others in this labeling and sectioning has been discussed some this week, so what bout the damage to ourselves when we label others?

To decide to place others in a category, or to apply a label to someone may very well be the actual application of the old children's argument "I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you." Each time I label others, I am placing a label on myself.

One of the things that is frustrating about today's social climate is the lack of true debate. To simply place a label on another person, and therefore assume that I know their argument blocks any chance of honest give and take discussion on actual issues. The norm of modern debate consists of giving someone a name, and then punishing them. Punishing also anyone who chooses to show sympathy or association with those we are in opposition with. Yes, true debate does involve taking a side; however, modern debate simply operates on the premise that I am enlightened and you are an idiot. Language like, "any reasonable person can see..." takes the place of examining natural cause and effect of making choice A or B. To make the decisions of identifying another person based on opinions or thoughts dehumanizes the other person and keeps me from seeing the catalyst that led the other person to his or her stance. Choosing not to see the human seated across from us, and rather the issue breaks the connection I have with them and allows me to see myself as better or more enlightened, a dangerous stance of superiority that robs me of the value of the man or woman I disagree with.

Graham Cooke writes, "Irritation is caused out of our carnal capacity to be angry and annoyed at people and circumstances and to believe the worst about someone or something. This leads to abnormal sensitivity to self, and we become quickly offended. Irritation and the negative emotions that accompany it are a sign where our flesh needs to be touched by the Spirit. It’s a sign pointing to our next transformation! Irritation does not go away. It gets stored, liked body fat. This is why we must exercise ourselves to godliness."  from Prophecy and Responsibility

Placing labels on one another violates what Jesus terms as the second greatest command to "love our neighbors as ourselves." My dad told me all the time growing up when I was sectioning people out "Son, my rights end where your nose begins." I can choose what is necessary and beneficial for me based on the circumstances and realities of my life. If I make that decision for you then I see you as less than myself, creating a dangerous superiority that skews the natural balance that all men are created equal. Inequality damages my ability to maintain relationships and receive love from others. A life lived in  total and increasing isolation is a burden in which I will eventually fail to live up to my own expectations contributing to self loathing.

Interactions with others is a need that God spotted in humans early on, "it is not good for man to be alone." To constantly draw lines of association and involvement is an increasing burden, leading to a role as world police and authority. This is a role we were NEVER created or intended to hold. The burden of being judge and jury of others is a burden that will affect our health and well being. I drove a school bus for 8 years, driving a bus full of students on a daily route as well as many weekend trips. There were very stressful times of heavy traffic, bad weather, and even mechanical problems that added to the responsibility of maintaining the safety of my passengers. The stress that I place on myself when I label others, and then decide if the need to be swayed to my way of thinking or just placed in a different circle of association is a constant burden that we are not qualified to  carry. The stress of always being right leads to isolation and shallow relationships that contribute to the stress. Constant labeling and pigeon holing leads us to carrying grudges and forging a new identity for ourselves that skews who we really are intended to be.

For those of us in Christ, we are not owned by our possessions OR the labels and boxes we place on others or ourselves. How much more effective would our witness to Christ be if we applied the love of Jesus to everyone in place of the labels? How many more places could we step into if we were to lay aside the "Us vs Them" mentality that labeling creates?

The following prayer mentions standing before God with empty hands, I would add a plea to God to help me also not be what I label myself or others. Please allow me to escape the box that I have placed myself in with the divisions I have created. Please help me live out the truth of "no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, and no male or female" for if you have broken those barriers forgive me for the new ones I have tried to construct.

  “Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

There but for the grace of God...

There is an old saying that we utter at times when we see folks struggling.

"There but for the grace of God, go I"

This phrase is credited to John Bradford, a preacher and martyr who lived 1510-1555. The story is that Bradford would see someone being led to the scaffold for hanging and say, "There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." In 1555, John Bradford was burned at the stake and spoke to a fellow victim "we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night." 

This is all legend, and the earliest the saying appears in print is 1822, found in A Treatise on Prayer, by Edward Bickersteth as a telling of the Bradford story. 

I have thought of this phrase and spoken it a few hundred times in my life. My worry is that I use the phrase much like we in the southern US say, "bless their heart." The phrase sounds nice and kind, but really carries the subtext of "they are just not intelligent enough to pour water out a bucket, with the directions on the bottom."

My challenge is to not just lament the plight, or lot in life of a fellow traveler; instead, to show grace to whoever i think or say that of. 

As a follower of Christ, I need to put boots to my words, flesh to my thoughts, and actions to my intentions. To simply see someone in need of grace and notice is like looking in the mirror and noticing that i am overweight. If no action follow, I stay fat. If i see that someone needs grace and do nothing...then he or she still needs grace. 

I pray that I realize that God has determined to use me as an extension of His grace and love to others. I pray that the church, the bride of Christ, realizes that we are here to advance the circle of grace, love and invitation to each person that we meet. 

I am thankful for the people who saw me in need of grace, and stepped in and offered. 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The guy on the fence.

If you have ever been to a High School football game, then you have seen them. The guys who are in their late 20's to 40's standing by the fence near one end zone or another. These guys gather around and gauge how this years team stacks up to the year that they played. This video I think describes what it is that these men are seeking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tim Tebow, the bandwagon, and 3:16

Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards this past Sunday in a football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also averaged 31.6 yards per completed pass (an NFL record). 

The stats coupled with Mr Tebow's open profession of faith in Jesus Christ has prompted many different writers to make the connection to John 3:16. I can understand the allure of such a connection. 

John 3:16 is one of the most well known verses of the Bible in America. It is probably quoted as often as "judge not lest ye be judged." 
However, I would like to point out that the majority of the books in the Bible have chapter and verse 3:16. 

Start with Genesis, the first book in the Bible: 
To the woman he said,
"I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16 NIV)

Maybe that is the message God would want us to take away from the alignment of stat to scripture connection? 

Or it could be this passage: 

The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the Lord's. (Leviticus 3:16 NIV). This verse is a part of a description of offerings that were a staple of the Israelite worship in the Old Testament. Maybe God is using Tebow to spur us to a better physical fitness level so we can all glorify God in athletic ways? Ok, maybe not. 

But what about: 

Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. (Judges 3:16 NIV)


And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there. (Ecclesiastes 3:16 NIV). 


The Lord says,
"The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
strutting along with swaying hips,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles. (Isaiah 3:16 NIV)

Could be that the message intended was for us to read from a book with the same first name as Tebow...

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

Maybe the point is to handle ourselves day in and day out so that when others ridicule us we have comfort...

keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:16 NIV)

You know it could be to draw our hearts to the other John 3:16:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16 NIV)

It could even be to let us know about the judgment of those who are half-hearted found in the last book of the Bible Revelation 3:16

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

I am not insightful enough to tell you exactly what the message should or should not be. I know that God would not be offended were you to explore the other verses numbered 3:16. I know that God is probably pleased with Tim Tebow not because he is a winner at football, but because he loves God and loves others. 

Hope you find this helpful,

simply HIS,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not a thumping gizzard.

First I would like for you to go and read this post by a woman I know as Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.

Now then. Here is my response to her post.

Distant. Angry. Frustrated. Driven. Workaholic. Crude. Bastard. Jerk. Jock. Checked out. 
Layers upon layers of names have been given to men over the course of their lives. Crybaby. Queer. Punk. Sissy. Useless. Quitter. Failure. 

Over and over again, the lies wash over our identity hammering at who we really are. Denying what is the truest about us. That we were created to bear an image, to reign over all created things, to stand up to the adversary that seeks to ensnare and destroy the truth about you and me. 

And it has damn near worked. 

There is a voice that speaks other words, gives other descriptions...

Son. Warrior. Lover. King. Mighty one. Kinsman, Redeemer. Brother. Husband. Father. Friend. 

A voice that cries out from the dirt and the rocks. A voice that whispers through the breeze of a summer evening. A voice that sings with the birds and the thunder. A voice that stirs a place deep within my heart. A voice that knows the truth laying beneath the rubble. 

Strong. Honorable. Worthy. Enduring. Protector. Defender. Rescuer. 

The reason our hearts need guarding is that they are the most valuable thing we have been given. The heart is the place of true reason and faith. The heart bears eternity and is the stronghold of our true name. The name that was spoken to us before the sands of time began. The name that we were crafted to carry with honor and courage. 

Jamie, thank you for the reminder Dear One. 

I would like for you to join this thread and comment. To hear your story as well, either on this blog or on Jamie's.
God Bless you and speak to you your true name.

simply HIS,