Posts Tagged ‘beloved

06
Nov
17

Stunned and speechless

man-crying-facebook“Stunned and speechless” seems to be my default state every time I turn on the news these days.

Just when I think it can’t get worse, somehow it does.

My capacity for outrage is sorely tested every time one person does violence to another… for whatever deranged reason.

I had been struggling to process the avalanche of revelations of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment and news media recently when suddenly, out of the blue, a young man walked into a small-town church and shot 46 people, killing 26 of them.

“Stunned and speechless” yet again.

As I mulled over all of these “gut punch” events, I began to see a tragic connection between them. Whether the perpetrator is sexually exploiting people or killing them with a gun, each heinous act seems to grow from the same seed: the utter devaluation of the lives of others.

I have no idea what it will take to make it happen, but until we come to see every human life as God sees them: as precious, unique, beloved, and infinitely wonderful, we will probably continue to be stunned and speechless on a regular basis.

“As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.”

  • Psalm 103:13-14, NRSV
31
Oct
17

The Real Deal

“To thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, in Hamlet

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,
and that is what we are.”
– 1 John 3:1, NRSV

“Authentic” is a word that has been crossing my radar screen with increased frequency lately.

Naturally, authenticity would be a theme that would come to mind on that annual holiday we spend dressing up as someone – or something – else.

It also popped up this morning on a local radio talk show. The guest was the owner of a restaurant in town that specializes in Ramen noodles. Yes… that is apparently a thing. During the show, many syllables and much air were employed in identifying the difference between authentic Ramen and… I guess the inauthentic variety.

Over the weekend I had the honor of officiating at the memorial service of a friend of my son’s who died of pancreatic cancer. He and many friends in attendance had spent most of their lives outside the institutional church. However, in the last months of his life, this young man experienced something powerful and convicting that led him to ask me to baptize him a month before his death.

I found myself wrestling deeply with the question of what an “authentic” celebration of his life might look like…. And then not being terribly sure I even understood the question.

Often we give very high “authenticity” marks to people in the public eye who don’t really take the time to weigh and carefully consider their words before speaking. We applaud them as “genuine”… “unfiltered” and “authentic.” We say that those folks are a breath of fresh air in comparison with the carefully crafted words of professional “spin doctors.”

And then it makes me scratch my head and ask, “So then what does the word authentic actually mean?” And then I follow up with myself and ask, “And how has authenticity become such a paramount virtue today?”

One answer I hear is that the word authentic must mean something like “core,” or “essential,” or “foundational.” It’s what is left over when you strip away all of the mystical window dressing.

hotfudge_sundaeBut then I have to ask, “Does that mean all of our efforts to enhance or improve something are fraudulent because they take us away from its ESSENCE? Should I just leave my vanilla ice cream alone and not add the chocolate syrup, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry… in the name of authenticity?”

I also hear authenticity being defined more along the lines of “raw” and “unprocessed” or that other phrase currently in fashion, “… like it is.” The implication here is that the more spontaneous and unplanned something is, the more authentic it is.

I am not going to lie… as a guy who writes and re-writes and tries to think carefully about words and what they mean, this definition offends me. I am sure it offends me because it seems to assign a higher virtue to unplannedness and spur-of-the-momentness than to thoughtfulness.

And personally, I think that is one messed up set of virtues.

MYRIAD are the examples I can give of times when my ill-considered, spontaneous words caused hurt and complication in a situation.

MYRIAD+ are the examples of times when slow, deliberate, thoughtful consideration of words brought light and healing.

Think about it: what would it look like if we all really followed Polonius’ advice to be “true” to our own selves?

The next, natural question is: which self are we talking about?

  • Is it the self that feels like punching a hole in the wall when the home team fumbles the opening kick-off?
  • Is it the self that can’t resist taking a second helping of apple pie?
  • Is it the self that has deep doubts about its talent or worth?

And are we really the ones to be trusted to choose which of these “selves” we are supposed to be true to?

I believe personal authenticity is all about being the fullest, most complete version of ME that I can be.

And so for me, that includes being every bit of the goofy, thoughtful, impulsive, tender-hearted, self-centered, creative, emotional, dim-witted, spiritual, energetic, joyful, deep, shallow, inconsiderate Russell Brown God made me to be.

But mostly, it means going back to the Source and reclaiming my identity as a Child of God; infinitely beloved by the One who created the whole Universe.

THAT is really who I am.

And it is really – authentically – who you are, too.

Blessings;

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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