Monday, March 28, 2011

Blind Spots

God has blessed me with two wonderful children which I love unconditionally and bring so much pride but I am convinced they are going blind. They have developed blind spots, where they can not see. In my panic, I have done researched and discovered I am not alone. It is a common occurrence in young people. Have you every noticed how teenagers can walk past an overflowing garbage can and never notice it? Have you witnessed how a teenager can look into a refrigerator full of food, and say, “We have nothing to eat?” Or how can a teens say, “Mom, I don’t have any clean socks!” minutes after Kellie has placed a stack of them on their dresser. Blind spots, I call them, not being able to see what is right in front of them.

One day Jesus was passing a man whom had been blind since birth. Completely blind the man sat in the exact same place begging. No one really noticed him. They knew he was there but he had been such a fixture that he drifted slowly into everyone’s blind spot. When Jesus stopped and acknowledged the man, the church leaders, questioned the reason behind his blindness. They wanted to know, who sinned to cause the man to be blind. Jesus just healed the man. The church leaders questioned both the blind man’s true identity. They called in his parents to verify he actually was blind. They questioned the man on Jesus’ true identity. The man whom Jesus restored his sight said the proof was in his eyes. He was blind but now he can see. The Pharisees and church leaders questioned Jesus’ authority because if Jesus was who he said he was, he wouldn’t have healed on the Sabbath. Yes blind spots even affect church leaders.

It is easy to place blame, feel guilt, or get frustrated with those who experience blind spots. But when people don’t know what to do, they do what they know. This is a universal truth. It happens to the Pharisees and to us. When people grow up in a house with an alcoholic, when stress, pain, intimacy, or a crisis hit that they can not deal with, they do what they know, turn to substance abuse. When people grow up in an environment of violence, when conflict arises, they react out of violence because they do what they know. The church leaders reverted to the strict church rules (what they knew) because they did not know what to do with Jesus’ healings and teachings.

When Jesus restored the blind man’s sight he gave us insight as well. We can check our blind spots and learn something knew. We can expand our knowledge which will transform our actions. When stress, pain, and situations we feel are overwhelming, we can turn to something else like prayer, counseling, or reaching out to someone who has learned new ways of coping. When conflict arises, we know more than just violence. Jesus can open up our eyes to all the blind spots that exist in our lives. We can notice things we have never seen before; things that can both enrich our own lives as well as the lives of others around us. When we are open to learn new things about ourselves and others, the blind spots begin to vanish. In the process we learn what to do because when people do not know what to do, they do what they know. As the previously blind man said, “All I know is I was blind and now I can see.” One day may we all declare the same.

See ya in church, but until then, take care of yourself and one another.
Peace & Grace,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jimmy Valiant music video

So everyone will know where I came from.. One of my childhood heroes.. God Bless you Handsome Jimmy were ever you are...

Monday, March 21, 2011

“Three Wars, Charlie Sheen and Lent”

Lent is a time of self reflection and self evaluation. It is quiet time, when we stop the hectic pace of our lives, we take notice of life regenerating in the beginning of spring time, and we discern the next paths our lives will take. We dust off the coldness and gray of winter and look forward to new life. Lent is a joyous time of renewal but it can also be a time to face reality.

During this time of self reflection it is not always fun. Some discoveries are freeing, others are a reminder God is still adjusting and creating the person He wants me to be. I believe we all crave some token of God’s presence in what often seems a very messed up world. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya it is easy to loss focus on God. With economic struggles, earthquakes in Japan, and Charlie Sheen, we all may question our sanity when we try to look only on God’s will for our life. The world in which we live, navigate, and trek through can steal the joy and peace we so desperately desire. If you are like me, when I lay down at night, my deepest desire is peace. A sense that I know I had done my best, that my life has meaning, and that I am loved by many. My reality reminds me that I have made many mistakes, hurt the ones I love, and not have always chosen Gods’ will over mine. It is in those dark times, the seed of darkness, guilt, and doubt creep in. I begin to feel I am not loveable, not good enough, not worthy of all the blessings God has placed in my life. It is here I realize a hunger.

There is a hunger deep within every heart, a deep craving for forgiveness and hope, a sense that our best days are not all behind us, and that God has not given up on us even if we have in some way given up on ourselves. Christ passion displayed in his life and ministry as a teacher, his horrendous horrifying death on the cross, and then the promise found in his resurrection, reminds me it is not over. If we can focus more on satisfying our hunger for forgiveness and hope than on the world around us, we begin to find clarity. How Jesus loves us, not how much he loves us, helps us feed our hunger. I am not suggesting we forget about the world around us. No just the opposite. We look at our reality with forgiveness and hope. In war, we search and locate those stories of sacrifice, heroism, and peace. In times of uncertainty, we listen not to gossip but to words of comfort, hope, and forgiveness. In times of doubt, we speak words of love, peace, and self worth. And together, we can change our life and the lives of those around us. ( Maybe even Tiger Blood Sheen) It allows us all to sleep well at night with our hunger satisfied.

Continue your journey through Lent, see ya in church, but until then take care of yourself and one another.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why so much talk about Lent? Isn’t that just for the Catholics?

In showing my age, I can recall when I was in college before the internet, realizing I sound really old; the popular thing was “cliff note.” Cliff Notes were small yellow books that could be purchased that would summarize a classic piece of literature in about a hundred pages or so. In one night, a student, like me could read a classic, get the synopsis of the book, the main plot, brief character details, and the conclusion of the story. This was very convenient for the student. The night before read the cliff notes, take the test, and pass it. Now the cliff notes did not give all the information, which usually resulted in a low B or high C on the test, but for an unmotivated student with so many college social events and responsibilities, it worked out well. Cliff Notes were not necessarily cheating. It was just a short cut, which resulted in an average grade. I even shameless took a classic American literature class in which I received an A and did not read one of the books assigned; only the Cliff Notes. While I confess my sins now, it seemed to help me at the time.

Years later in my life, out of guilt, maturity, or curiosity, I went back and began to read the exact readings that were assigned in that class. I was amazed at what I missed. Rereading Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I missed Tom Sawyer is a saucy boy, a natural show-off, who likes to show his authority over the other boys. I missed the complexity of the relationships of his best friends include Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn. I was robbed the connection of my boyhood and his with Tom's infatuation with classmate Rebecca "Becky" Thatcher is apparent. As I reread it opened up the door for the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Tom is only a minor character, and is used as a foil for Huck, particularly in the later chapters of the novel after Huck makes his way to the Phelps plantation. Tom's immaturity, imagination, and obsession with stories put Huck's planned rescue of the runaway slave Jim in great jeopardy - and ultimately make it totally unnecessary, since he knows that Jim's owner has died and freed him in her will. Throughout that novel, Huck's intellectual and emotional development is a central theme, and by re-introducing a character from the beginning (Tom Sawyer), Twain is able to highlight this evolution in Huck's character. My life and soul was touched by Mark Twain words as I too grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River; no adventures, just concerts, walks, and hundreds of sunsets down on the bluff. All this was NOT reflected in the Cliff Notes.

The season of Lent can be like that for us too. Because of time, schedules, routine, commitments, and experiences we experience the Cliff Notes of lent. We know Christ’s passion story. The ashes of Ash Wednesday Service have along been washed off. We await the children walking down the isle with waving branches on Palm Sunday, regroup for Maundy Thursday service, then hope the church is full of Easter Sunday, and then off, hunt some eggs with the little ones, and finish it off with the family ham and potato salad. We’ve done this before, remember the Cliff Notes.

When we do the Cliff Notes of Lent, we miss more than we gain. Yet there is something significant missing if we only concentrate on celebration for these two Sundays. It is too easy and promotes much too cheap a grace to focus only on the high points of Palm Sunday and Easter without walking with Jesus through the gathering shadows of Maundy Thursday and the darkness of Good Friday. Lent is a way to recall a larger story than just celebration. It is a way to face the reality of the consequences of sin and the terrible toll it takes on the world. Lent calls us to examine our own lives with the prayer. The journey through Lent is a way to places ourselves before God humbled, bringing in our hands no price whereby we can ourselves purchase our salvation. It is a way to confess our total inadequacy before God, to strip ourselves bare of all pretenses to righteousness, to come before God in dust and ashes. It is a way to empty ourselves of our false pride, of our rationalizations that prevent us from seeing ourselves as needy creatures, of our external piety that blinds us to the beam in our own eyes. Lent’s soul purpose is to strengthen the relationship with our self, God, and one another or we can just read the Cliff Notes.
Hope to see you soon, but until then take care of yourself and one another..
Peace & Grace,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where is YOUR passion?

As Christians we are beginning the season of Lent. Lent is the time in our liturgical calendar when we focus on the stories of Jesus that illustrated his passion for us. Lent is supposed to be time of reflection, discernment, and a renewal of our commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. We begin the forty days with Ash Wednesday and everything builds until we mourn the brutal death of our Savior and then rejoices that the tomb is empty. It is filled with passion. Lent is designed to be a rollercoaster of emotions from pain, sorrow, and defeat to elation, joy, hope and promise. The danger or trap we fall into is that over time Christ’s passion is dulled down because we have been through this season before.

What is passion really? Passion (from the Ancient Greek verb πάσχω (paskho) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something. The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love - to a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject, idea, person, or object Jesus Christ holds a very strong feeling about you. The four gospels are full of examples of Christ’s intense emotion compelling feeling to have a relationship with you. The stories of Christ’s life here on earth are overflowing with His enthusiasm to love you, and desire to do something for your everlasting benefit. Christ displayed his passion for you on the scars on his hands, the blood that hits the ground as it flows down his back, in his tears and public display of humiliation, public ridicule, and shame.

When I reflect on Christ’s passion for us, I quickly realize that passion is NOT a synonym for joy. With passion can come pain: when the one you love dies; struggle: when you strive to balance your passion with your daily life, and disappointment: when you miss that easy putt, if your passion is golf.

I witnessed an old man playing his guitar on Beale Street. I was mesmerized by his talent and skill and musicianship. He was oblivious to the actions of those gathered around him. As he played and sang, tears rolled down his cheeks. He didn’t just play his music but he felt his music. Every single note hit something deep within him. He played not for the audience but for himself. His music was a part of him and he was apart of the music. He had a deep intense passion for his music. His raw emotions was not entertaining but revealing who he really was.

So what is your passion? During this season of Lent, my prayer is that you discover what in life you are truly passionate about. Join us in this Lent season as we discover how we can connect our passion into ways to honor and serve Christ, who taught us the true meaning of the word “passion”. Together let us discern, define, and exhibit our passion so we may find that inner peace we have been struggling to find.
Join in on Lent, hope to see you soon, but until then take care of your self and one another,
Peace & Grace,