Archive for February, 2017

28
Feb
17

Grapes and the Dude

grapes-and-vineI remember a sketch from Saturday Night Live a few years ago that caused me to laugh out loud… and wince a little bit, too.

This sketch was called, “Short Attention Span Theater.” It featured fictional plays and dramas that were all somewhere in the neighborhood of four or five sentences in total length.

In other words, the perfect duration for those of us gifted (or burdened) with short attention spans.

I laughed at the sketch because it was pretty funny.

But I also winced because it hit uncomfortably close to home.

It is awkward to admit, but I regularly find myself being the poster boy for “short attention span syndrome,” or SASS (in case the full name is a little too long for you).

Sometimes I wonder if SASS might be affecting more folks than just me.

It seems we often live in a world driven by highlights; don’t make me watch the whole football or basketball game… just show me a collection of the most exciting plays from it. Please don’t make me watch you chop up that entire onion… just show me the finished product in a little glass bowl.

We often seem driven to live life in bursts of frenetic motion. We cannot STAND sitting still for too long. We jump feverishly from activity to activity, fearful that something important and exciting might happen over THERE while I am preoccupied over HERE.

The social media app Twitter is the perfect tool for our “life in bursts” culture. With a limit of 140 characters per tweet, it caters to our short attention span perfectly.

And have you tried watching a television commercial lately? Just for fun, try counting the number of different scenes or images that are crammed into a 30 second commercial for anything. It is enough to make your head spin!

And while I acknowledge that my response might be due to my increasing age, I can’t help but wonder if something isn’t lost when we find ourselves living the short attention span life.

Things happen in the world around us and we decide that it is more important to respond QUICKLY rather than THOUGHTFULLY. We fear something might be lost if we take the time to allow an event or an observation to sit and percolate with us for a while.

We seem to believe that if we take the time to allow life to penetrate too deeply into our hearts and souls, we will miss some other opportunity or moment.

As a result, everything we offer from that impatient mindspace tends to be quick… clipped… visceral… abrupt… something we feel we have to offer now and – if necessary – apologize for later.

All of which causes me to wonder: are we losing the ability to practice ABIDING? Do we even see how abiding might be important in our lives? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines abide as to: “… continue, remain, survive, last, persist, stay, live on.” It is a patient waiting and watching… a non-rushing approach to life.

I was rthe-big-lebowski-white-russianeminded of the importance of abiding on a recently completed mission trip. A friend offered a devotion one morning based on one of my favorite movies of all time: The Big Lebowski. (Insert STRONG parental advisory here). The main character in the movie (played by Jeff Bridges) is The Dude. And the dude’s watchword is, “The dude abides.”
Jesus also talked a lot about abiding. In John 15:4 he says, “Abide in me as I abide in you.” And then in verse 5 he elaborates a bit and says, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”

The kind of abiding Jesus is talking about is a steady watchfulness that does not demand instant results or instant responses. It values constancy… purpose… thoughtfulness… patience.

Lent – which begins tomorrow – is the season of abiding. We often think of it as a time to sacrifice or “do without” something.

But I think the real purpose of the Lenten fast is to help force us to downshift a gear or two… to be less frantic and urgent… and to become more serene and thoughtful about who we are and what in the world we are doing, anyway.

And so my prayer for you today is to allow this to be a day of abiding… and bearing fruit.

ABIDE

13
Feb
17

The Love Question

bodiddleyBy all accounts, the first to ask the musical version of the question was Bo Diddley in 1956.

Ronnie Hawkins sang/asked it again in 1963, followed by Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1969, and then George Thorogood in 1984 and probably many others since then.

And so as we approach the annual celebration of the life of the saint who was brutally martyred for his steadfast allegiance to Christ, I have no doubt that armies of romantic hopefuls of all ages will be asking themselves that very same question: WHO DO YOU LOVE?

Or maybe it’s a slightly different, but related question: who should you love?

And because we live in a time that finds us awash in social media outlets to help us answer this type of intimate, personal question, starry-eyed dreamers will discover they have an endless array of helpful tips for answering “the love question”:

  • “Find someone who makes you laugh.”

  • “Find someone with a good job.”
  • “Find someone who shares common passions and interests.”
  • “Find someone who complements your areas of strength and weakness.”
  • “Find someone who would make a good parent to your children.”
  • “Find someone whose zodiac chart is compatible with yours.” (if you’re into that kind of thing.)

… and so on and so on.

All good, sound advice to be sure.

All – however – wildly at odds with the answer you would get if you were to ask Jesus the same question.

As luck would have it, we have an actual, written transcript of Jesus’ answer to the love question right here in Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” (Matt. 5:43-47, NRSV)

Wait… what? Run that one by me again…

You’re telling me I’m supposed to love people who disagree with me?

Come again?

You want me to love people who don’t share the same beliefs or outlooks that I do?

You’re saying I’m supposed to love people that I frankly find annoying as heck?

You mean love those who might even be actively trying to hurt me in some way? Love people who smell bad… who are addicted to a harmful substance… who don’t even make an effort… who totally lack social skills… who look and talk and dress and love and smell different than I do?

You do realize of course that all of this flies in the face of volumes of the compatibility research that urges me to reserve my love for the people I align most closely with, right?

“Yep,” Jesus says. “I sure do.”

And how exactly do you expect this to work… given my innate desire for harmony and homogeneity in all my relationships… and the fact that because of my education and mobility I can be very selective about the people I associate with?

Jesus doesn’t say anything right away in answer to my question. He just goes over to where the scroll of the prophet Isaiah is kept, takes it down, unrolls it and finds the exact passage he is looking for.

“Here’s how,” he says, and points to the words of chapter 41, verse 13: “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”

Then he says, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

 

And winks.

jesus-600x582

07
Feb
17

Be Tom Brady

tom-brady-super-bowl-2017-hWait a minute… that didn’t come out right.

Be you. Of course, be you. Only and exactly you.

But be you in a Tom Brady-like way, if you know what I mean.

OK… by the glazed expression on your face I can see you have no idea what I mean. So a little explanation seems to be in order…

Followers of the game of American football (both serious and casual) know that Tom Brady is the current quarterback of the New England Patriots.

And since winning a record fifth Super Bowl and a record fourth Most Valuable Player award, many are calling Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback to Ever Play the Game.

Yes, he has his detractors, but I would have to say I agree completely with that assessment.

But here is the point and the reason for the somewhat provocative title of today’s post: at one time in his life, very few people believed Tom Brady was any good at all.

In college, Tom Brady played quarterback for the University of Michigan Wolverines. He was pretty good, but not dazzlingly great.

After graduation in the year 2000, Tom decided to throw his hat into the ring for the professional football draft and then waited patiently to be selected by one of the 30 NFL teams.

He waited… and waited… and waited… and waited some more. He waited through the entire first round, the second round, the third round, and then the fourth round. Over 100 college players had been chosen by one of those 30 teams. And still… no one had yet called the name “Tom Brady.”

With the 21st pick that year, the Kansas City Chiefs picked a wide receiver named Sylvester Morris. With the 17th pick, the Raiders chose a KICKER! When we got to the 85th pick of the draft, the Chiefs chose a free safety named Greg Wesley.

And still quarterback Tom Brady sat there at home… waiting for his phone to ring.

Finally… with the 199th pick, deep in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, the New England Patriots said, “We think we’d like to take a chance on that Tom Brady kid.”

The rest – as they say – is history.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder what that experience must have been like.

No doubt Tom Brady continued to believe in himself and in his abilities. He loved the game and wanted to keep playing it as long as possible! But now large rooms full of EXPERTS – people who are paid handsome salaries to evaluate the talents of young football players – had collectively said, “There are AT LEAST 198 players who are better than you, Mr. Brady, including the offensive tackle Stockar McDougle from Oklahoma.”

So when I began the post by saying, “Be Tom Brady,” what I was trying to say is: don’t ever give up on yourself. And more importantly, don’t let the so-called “expert opinions” of other people tell you what your value is.

Because God is the only one who knows your value. And God says your value is INFINITE.

Even if 198 people stand in a line and say, “I would prefer someone besides you,” never, ever let go of the knowledge that you are a unique, beloved child of God, gifted in miraculous and splendid ways.

In those moments when you find yourself being minimized or repeatedly dismissed, just open your Bible to Psalm 139 and hear the psalmist speaking to God and saying, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, that I know full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14, NRSV).

God called Jesus “the Beloved.” But remember: God calls YOU by the same name.

Henri Nouwen said, “We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself.” (Henri Nouwen, from Life of the Beloved).

And so today be the fullest, most joyous, most complete, wackiest version of YOU you can be.

But in honor of the MVP of Super Bowl LI, be Tom Brady, too.




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