Posts Tagged ‘blessings

22
Jan
20

What a Wonderful World Wide Web

graphic internetI am not sure anything else even comes close.

The World Wide Web should be considered – hands down – the most important innovation of the last fifty years.

Without it, how could I instantly know the current temperature of Kansas City, Missouri (34 degrees), Fort Myers, Florida (57 degrees), Ketchikan, Alaska (41 degrees) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (83 degrees)?

How could I (or anyone) come up with the correct answer to the question: “Who was the Referee for the first Super Bowl ever played?” (Answer: Norm Schachter).

I’m sure we would have eventually been able to come up with that answer, but not without spending hours in the library.

And of course, how could we possibly entertain ourselves for hours and hours looking at videos of delightful cat antics, hilarious “Bad Lip Reading” videos, or photographs of the food on our friends’ dinner plates?

Huh? I ask you, HOW?

But all kidding aside, can you think of a single invention that has had a greater, more widespread, more profound impact on humanity than the World Wide Web?

And what is it, exactly?

Someone explained it to me once as a kind of electronic “backbone” with jillions of nerves that branch out and connect with each other, all over the world, all at the same time.

I kid, but I honestly believe the overall quality of human life on this planet has been enhanced by the invention of the World Wide Web. Thanks to the Internet, doctors can now “visit” patients hundreds of miles away and provide life-saving diagnoses. Communication and coordination between a crisis location and aid workers is now brisk and efficient. Long lost friends and relatives can be reconnected again.

Yes, Al Gore, we owe you a tremendous debt of thanks for this miraculous invention of yours.

Except for that small, “inconvenient truth” that the World Wide Web has actually existed since the very beginning of time.

Maybe not in the electronic form… But that recent innovation is merely a “tweak” on the fundamental hardware God wired into Human Being 1.0.

You see, interconnectedness was the Big Idea from day one. Genesis 1:27 gives us a peek onto the primeval factory floor when it declares: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”(Genesis 1:27, NRSV).

The book of Acts also reminds us of that essential fact; “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.” (Acts 17:26, NRSV).

It was really God’s idea – sorry, Al Gore – that human beings from across the earth, from different times and different cultures, with varying levels of education and income, with different genders and orientations, human beings with brown skin, black skin, yellow skin, white skin, and red skin, all be able to see themselves as intricately woven together…

… as if they were all part of some kind of amazing, far-flung, world-wide WEB.

I believe God further hoped that once we each grasped that essential fact of life, we would begin to act accordingly. No longer would one of us be able to look with pity on another one and say, “Sorry, mate… it looks as if YOUR end of the boat is sinking.”

Sometimes it can seem as if we each live in a World of One, with no connection to or responsibility for anyone except ourselves. Sometimes we hear messages telling us that “… looking out for Number One…” is all we really need to do.

But that’s not the world God designed.

And besides… who would we share our vacation pix with if it were?

20
Jan
20

Love Out Loud

MLK quoteA year or so ago, I got fed up. Squared.

First I was fed up with the escalating rancor and divisiveness in nearly every segment of American society. Yes, ill will seems to center primarily in the political realm, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.

As a member of the United Methodist Church, I was witnessing a loud, bitter ecclesial food fight in my denomination over a fairly simple question: who will be included and who won’t.

But I was also fed up with myself. As much as I despised the malice of the moment, I seemed powerless to avoid adding fuel to the fire. I heard people spewing all kinds of ignorant, ill-informed opinions and – as chagrined as I am to admit it – leaned heavily toward wanting to yell at them to just shut their damned mouths and crawl back under the rock they came from.

Really helpful.

Really Christ-like, dude.

And then Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rolled around. And this time, I decided to pay attention. I decided Dr. King might have some light to shine on our current situation. After all, he lived and preached in an era at LEAST as fraught and divided as our own.

And as it turns out, he did. And it was a word that hit the nail right on the head and humbled me at the same time.

You remember the quote. It goes like this: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

What does it look like to bring light into darkness?

How do I… or you or ANYONE… bring love into a world of hate?

I am not sure I really know the answer. But I know it is absolutely the right question.

I am not sure I have yet put my life onto the trajectory Dr. King had in mind. But I did do one thing in response to that quote; I wrote a song. It is a simple, probably sophomoric song, but it has chords and a rhythm, three verses and a chorus. Truth be told, it is kind of catchy.

It goes a little something like this:

Every one of us can talk like we mean it.

And make some witty social media posts,

Or we can squash an idea and demean it.

And treat other folks just like they were ghosts.

 

We want to know that we’ve got the right answer…

And those who can’t see it are wrong.

That kind of thinking starts to spread like a cancer,

Which is why you should all sing along….

 

CHORUS

            Let’s start to LOVE OUT LOUD,

            Let our actions do the work of our words.

            Yes, we can LOVE OUT LOUD           

            Live a life that’s bound to be heard

 

I hope my brother finds a place at the table

I hope my sister finds a future of peace

But while I sit here and hope – they’re at the end of their rope

Waiting for injustice to cease.

 

CHORUS

            And so let’s LOVE OUT LOUD,

            Let our actions do the work of our words.

            Yes, we can LOVE OUT LOUD           

            Live a life that’s bound to be heard

 

Well, you’ve got every right to be angry

You’ve got a right to shake your fist at the sky

You’ve been put in your place – left out of the race

And no one ever told you why.

 

But instead of lashing out in your anger

Why not start to build a brand new world?

Come on let’s each lend a hand – help LOVE take a stand

And let your freedom flag be bravely unfurled.

 

CHORUS

            So yes, let’s LOVE OUT LOUD,

            Let our actions do the work of our words.

            Yes, we can LOVE OUT LOUD           

            Live a life that’s bound to be heard

 

 

All of us need to do more light-shining and love-bringing… now more than ever. I am not sure what that looks like immediately, but maybe we can start by singing!

25
Dec
19

Christmas Blessings to YOU!

Christmas blessings

11
Dec
19

Great Expectations

Most interesting man in the worldA friend and I were recently talking about our kids… as parents are wont to do.

On this occasion, my friend was telling me about an experience his middle son had with a guidance counselor at the local high school he attended.

My friend said, “Josh is incredibly passionate about history. He has talked to Susan and me regularly about wanting to get a Ph.D. and teach at the collegiate level.”

But then, as my friend told me, Josh met with the high school guidance counselor. The counselor knew of Josh’s academic record and heard him talk about his dream of teaching history to college students.

The counselor’s guidance to Josh, however, was to aim lower, go for a Master’s degree, and teach history at a deserving high school somewhere.

“There is a lot less competition for those jobs,” the counselor told Josh. “And besides, there is a real need for high school teachers who are passionate about the subject they are teaching.”

Needless to say, when Josh went home and told his parents about his meeting with the guidance counselor, they were furious. Their anger did not stem from any unspoken bias against high school teachers. It came – as my friend told me – from the idea that a person in a position of trust and authority would use that position to dampen rather than fan the flames of ambition in their son.

“In essence, this guy was telling Josh to lower his sights and check his expectations before he is even out of high school!” Adding, “I am really not OK with that.”

His story kind of riled me up, too. But then it led me to some pondering about the whole topic of expectations and how they affect our lives.

To be human is to have expectations. We begin each new day with some kind of expectation about what will happen, who we might meet, what sort of weather we will encounter, and what type of experiences await us.

As our endeavors enlarge, so do our expectations. Then, as we move forward into the world, reality sets in and we adjust our expectations accordingly.

And if you are a person of a certain age, you have no doubt discovered something about the fluid and tricky nature of expectations. Crank them up too high and you just might smash your boat on the rocky shore of disappointment. Set them too low and you risk losing the joy that comes from looking forward to a new experience or undertaking.

My personal proclivity is to err on the side of high expectations. Every trip Joan and I take is going to be fantastically epic. Every new place where we choose to go out and eat is a Michelin four-diamond restaurant waiting to be discovered. Every new acquaintance I make is going to be “the most interesting man (or woman) in the world,” (with apologies to the Dos Equis beer folks).

Yes, my actual experiences sometimes do fall short of my grand expectations. But those occasional disappointments don’t seem to alter my expectation-making mechanism one little bit.

The Christian calendar tells us we are smack dab in the middle of the Advent season, here on December 11, 2019. Advent is traditionally thought of as a time of expectation. The first-century Israelites had been hanging on the words of the prophet Isaiah – for at least 800 years – which assured them that, “… the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2, NRSV).

They knew these words were about them. THEY were the darkness-walkers the prophet was talking about. They lived in a continual state of expectation that one day soon the promised light would indeed shine on their lives. And yet year after year, the darkness persisted.

What are your expectations this season?

… for the world… for your community… for your family… for yourself?

How do you hold fast to hope-filled expectations in the face of disappointing realities?

Where does your hope come from?

This season, what would it be like for each of us to expect love, justice, mercy, and peace to prevail in the world… and then work to make it happen?

Blessings,

05
Dec
19

Mine/Not Mine

Sunflower paintingAfter enduring the rigors of this move, I no longer feel quite so smugly superior to those squalling seagulls from the Finding Nemo movie.

Do you remember them? These were the seagulls that swarmed around any discarded morsel of food screaming, “MINE! MINE! MINE!” as they ferociously contended to take possession.

I clucked my tongue judgmentally and muttered, “Greedy little gophers.”

But as Joan and I began preparing to relocate our lives 651 miles to the west of Overland Park, Kansas, I found myself struggling mightily to loosen my grip on a whole lot of stuff that I thought of as MINE.

In polite company, this exercise is called downsizing. A Buddhist might call it “practicing detachment.” A cruder individual would probably just call it, “throwing a whole bunch of shit away.”

Whatever names it goes by, I found the whole undertaking to be surprisingly difficult.

  • All of those folders with notes on all the weddings I have officiated? Out with them!
  • Those boxes of cards you received and saved over the years? To the bin!
  • At least half of those shirts and hats and jeans hanging in the closet? That’s why God made Goodwill Industries!
  • That cozy fire pit that sat out there on the deck? Facebook Marketplace!
  • That whole box of toys each grandkid played with until they hit the age of five? DONATE!

It all made sense. Every single one of them – and then some – needed to go.

“But they’re MINE!” cried out the pathetic little voice inside, apparently immune to the forces of logic and economy. “I don’t want to get rid of them!”

So now, two weeks to the day after dropping anchor in this new place, I still wonder: how did that happen? I mean, how did those inanimate lumps of carbon sink their little hooks so deeply into my soul?

How did I come to attach such a mind-boggling level of significance to this… STUFF?

I suppose the easy answer is to point to the nostalgic significance attached to each possession and say that my attachment is really to the MEMORY, not necessarily to the THING that provokes the memory. And to a certain extent that is true.

But as good ol’ Job reminded us, immediately after seeing his entire world wiped out in the twinkling of an eye, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, NRSV).

The fact of the matter is, none of this stuff is mine. Not even the beautiful sunflower picture my friend Michael painted as a going-away gift to remind me of my enduring Kansas connections.

All of this is fleeting. It is all temporary. And as valuable, as important, and as comforting as it might all be, none of the STUFF I cling to actually belongs to me in the first place.

It all belongs to the one I belong to.

Which is a kind of cool thing to think about, isn’t it? I mean, the next time I forget where I decided to store something here in our new home, I can just drop to my knees, lace my fingers together and say, “So God… where did we decide to put your serving dishes again?”

11
Nov
19

No magic wand

The-Roman-Destruction-and-Rebuilding-of-Jerusalem-A14Have you ever played the “magic wand” game?

That’s the game where someone says to you, “If you could wave a magic wand and change ONE THING about your life, what would it be?”

If you are anything like me, you have a really tough time answering that question.

The list of things I would like to change about myself is at least as long as my arm. Would it be the bags under my eyes? Or my gimpy left knee? Maybe I should go with my dismal level of self-discipline at the dinner table, or the erratic nature of my prayer life.

I find the idea of choosing just one thing to be an exercise in utter futility.

If I were a citizen of Israel in the time of Jesus, my answer to the magic wand question would have sprung from my lips even before the person finished asking the question. I would probably have said something like, “I would wave that magic wand and ask that the Messiah would arrive and liberate us from these loathsome Roman oppressors.”

In just a few short weeks, the Christian part of the world will formally (and in some places EXTRAVAGANTLY) celebrate the granting of the first part of that magic wand wish. God’s Anointed Messiah did indeed arrive in Bethlehem of Judea. He came disguised as a tiny, helpless baby born in a barn to a frightened teenage mother and an older, forgiving, earthly father.

Poor people (in the guise of shepherds), rich people (in the guise of Magi from the East), and heavenly hosts stopped everything and celebrated this breaking news, headline event.

The problem was, Jesus’ birth did not accomplish the SECOND part of the magic wand wish. Meaning this Messiah’s arrival did NOT succeed in liberating Israel from Rome’s harsh political yoke.

Quite the contrary, in fact.

The historical record shows us that things actually got much worse for Israel in the years following Jesus’ death and resurrection. The ultimate defeat for Israel came in Rome’s annihilation of hundreds of Jews and the total destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the year 70 AD, as depicted above.

For Israel – and for the world – the birth of the Messiah was indeed Good News. But it was certainly no magic wand. Jesus’ birth and ministry did absolutely nothing to change the circumstances of his world. What it DID do, however, was to absolutely transform the way his followers were able to relate to those circumstances.

I know, I know… this is really an inappropriately early time to start thinking Christmas and Advent thoughts, and so I will beg your forgiveness on that score. I suppose I have been prompted in this direction by looking around and observing a world that seems to be increasingly enamored of “magic wand solutions.” We buy fistfuls of lottery tickets, hoping that the magic wand of MONEY will help… we change jobs, spouses, hairstyles, homes, and sometimes even bodies hoping one of these magic wands will save us.

I think the Christmas story is meant to be a reminder that the “glad tidings of great joy” was not a magic wand when it first arrived on the scene.

Maybe a better idea for all of us this season would be to quiet ourselves at the side of the manger and remember that the real work of salvation was always intended to work from the inside out instead of the other way around.

Abundant blessings;

“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”(Matthew 1:21, NRSV)

17
Oct
19

Dragon Slayer

Dragon-SlayerLast night Joan and I took a brisk, 40-minute drive over to Lawrence, Kansas. Lawrence, as I am sure you all know, is the home of the University of Kansas.

The purpose of our trip, however, had nothing to do with KU. We were there to attend a concert by the group, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Neither of us knew their music at all. We bought the tickets based solely on the recommendation of friends whose musical taste we trust implicitly.

Thankfully the group was a delightful surprise to us and we had a toe-tapping good time. Think Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a bit of a country twang. Here is a YouTube video of their song, “I Like to Be With Me When I’m With You.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ2mFxc-Fl4) for a little taste.

But what really caused me to pause and enter “rumination mode” was the name of the tour. There it was – as you can see in this photo – in big bold letters at the back of the stage: GO OUT AND SLAY ALL THE DRAGONS THAT STAND IN YOUR WAY. I believe this is Drew Holcombalso the name of their latest album.

“YES!” I said, thumping my chest bravely. “I will! I will face those dragons down one by one and thrash them with the sword of truth and honor! I will take on the Dragon of Doubt and run him through! I will show no mercy to the Dragon of Critical Commentary! I will whup up on the Nasty Nay-Saying Dragon and make him cry ‘Uncle’!”

“Put me in, coach!” I cried. “I’m ready to SLAY!”

“Hold on there a second, hotshot,” came The Voice in my left ear. “I see you there with that whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) all cinched up and that breastplate of righteousness and that sword of the Spirit ready to roll… and trust me, it’s an impressive sight.”

“But what if…” the Voice continued, “… what if you charge out there ready for battle and discover that those dragons aren’t all OUT THERE?”

“Wh… what do you mean?” I stammer, suddenly a little unsure how my cavalry charge got re-routed so suddenly.

“I mean, how are you going to respond when you discover that the fiercest ‘dragons’ you are so ready to slay are the ones that live INSIDE of you?”

“Wait… WHAT??” I spluttered.

The Voice explained, “What if I told you that your biggest battles from here forward are going to be the battles you fight with those, let’s call them, ‘less than exemplary’ parts of your own makeup?”

“I know you want to look out at the world and imagine these massive walls of resistance in front of you, flanked by moats filled with fire-breathing crocodiles. But I am here to assure you; that’s all a figment of your over-active imagination.”

“No, son,” the Voice continues… oh, so lovingly, “Your biggest ‘dragon’ is your stubborn insistence on trusting your own resources and abilities much more than you are willing to trust MINE.”

“I know you really like sports analogies, so try this one on for size: the way you are approaching your life right now is like trying to go out there and quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs all by yourself instead of turning the job over to Patrick Mahomes. Only in your case, it’s a thousand times worse.”

“Really?” I said, stupefied. “That bad?”

“Clearly you have never read the part of my book where it says, ‘Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act.” For easy reference, you can find those timeless words of advice in verse 5 of the thirty-seventh Psalm.”

“Well,” I said, rubbing my chin thoughtfully. “When you put it that way, it makes a whole lot more sense.”

“Yes,” replied The Voice. “I thought that language would speak to you. But just in case you were ever curious about what my Son might have had to say on the subject, you can also check out what he said in Matthew 19:26 – ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’

“OK,” I said, putting my sword back into its sheath. “Thanks for setting me straight.”

“But tell me this,” I said, after a moment of reflection… “What kind of weapons do I need to fight THOSE dragons?”




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