Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit

19
Aug
19

Uncommonly Common

Alien invasionIf there is one thing we have proved conclusively in this country, it is that, contrary to the old saying, what’s good for the goose is NOT necessarily also good for the gander.

At least that’s what the gander seems to think.

Even a casual glance will tell you that here in 2019 these states of ours are anything but united.

Group A passionately defends their version of a “common-sense solution,” while Group B howls in protest, deeply offended. Group C is convinced that both A and B are “wacko nutjobs” and wants nothing to do with either.

Each of us has become adept at articulating the outcome that will be in MY best interest, but we have become clumsy and tongue-tied when it comes to nailing down a clear picture of what WE, together, might need.

What I am referring to, of course, is that ancient concept called “the common good.” A version of the common good was first articulated by the authors of the Magna Carta in June 1215 in Runnymede, England. This cornerstone document established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guaranteed the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.[1] The foundational principle of the Magna Carta holds that leaders of nations should devote themselves to pursuing a “good” that is held in common by all… regardless of political party or station in life.

What a concept!

One has to wonder though; in this age of runaway individuation is it even possible to speak about pursuing something so all-encompassing as a “common good”?

Last year former Clinton secretary of labor Robert Reich wrote a book called The Common Good in which he said, “What binds us as Americans is not birth or ethnicity but a commitment to fundamental ideals and principles: respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, toleration of our differences and belief in equal political rights and equal opportunity.”

These ideals and principles, Reich says, are not political, at least not in the partisan sense; to affirm them is not to take sides in debates between Democrats and Republicans.

I am sure that people of varying political stripes can easily agree that things like safety, health, shelter, education, and freedom are all social goods worth pursuing. But what happens when two of these goods conflict with each other? Or when there are two or three or 500 different ideas of how to attain one of these highly desirable ends?

It might be that the real obstacle to rallying around a common good is that it will likely require each of us to sacrifice something. And as our current climate shows us, Americans are not terribly good at – or even very willing to – sacrifice.

When Jesus taught his disciples the words of what we now call The Lord’s Prayer, he included the line, “… thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That phrase helps us see that God’s kingdom is that place where the common good is the watchword of every citizen and where people understand that none of us is well until all of us are well.

Sometimes I confess to feeling as if we are moving further and further away from that vision instead of coming closer. When one nation says, “America first!” and another says, “Italy first!” and another says, “India first!” I can’t help but wonder if we are, in fact, pronouncing the death sentence to any consideration of the common good.

The way Hollywood dramatizes one solution to this issue is by having earth invaded by vicious, city-stomping aliens. As our collective future is suddenly thrown into dire jeopardy, everyone lays down his or her partisan flag and bands together to save the planet!

Maybe it won’t come to that.

Maybe there will be an invasion by the Holy Spirit instead.

[1]The Independent, Feb. 2, 2015

08
Aug
19

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

Prayer-and-ActionLet’s be clear right off the bat; science has shown that 86% of the time when people respond to a tragedy by offering their “thoughts and prayers,” it is a hollow sentiment.

It sounds good. It sounds empathetic. It sounds compassionate.

But the sound quality is generally where it stops.

That is, of course, in 86% of the cases.

[Actually, there is no science behind this. I am just making this number up to make myself sound good. Sort of like those who send their “thoughts and prayers.”]

Some tragedies – such as the recent mass shootings in the U.S. – demand concrete, practical action in response. No one should be allowed to think that 15 seconds of silence with head bowed at the dining room table adequately addresses ANY of the issues connected with gun violence in this country.

As true as that is, let’s not throw out the whole prayer “baby” with the bathwater.

Prayer – authentically engaged – is so much more than silent moments or mumbled phrases. It is the practice of the presence of God. As Matt Slick – Christian apologist and writer – reminds us: “Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon an all-seeing, all-knowing power that is greater than any of us.”

When faced with the reality of unspeakable heartbreak and senseless tragedy, it is helpful to begin by admitting our dependence and by stepping into a place of humility.

Prayer is my way of saying, “I don’t know how to respond to this stuff. It is beyond my pay grade. It frustrates me, it angers me, it makes me want to run away and hide.”

But when I begin my post-tragedy journey with the words, “Help me, God,” I am actively opening myself to receiving guidance from a source beyond my own abilities.

In that sense, prayer becomes something like “the action before the action,” as a friend of mine once called it.

For me, prayer is not about abrogating my responsibility. It is about better equipping myself to take responsibility. It is about trying to engage every resource – whether natural or supernatural – in pursuit of God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer settles me… it centers me… it helps me take a deep breath and say, “OK, God… let’s do this.”

When the world goes mad and all hell breaks loose, thoughts and prayers are one leg of the stool; plans and strategies are the second; action is the third.

 

I believe all three have a place.

19
Feb
18

U is for Undaunted

(This post is the second in a series. Recently, my mentor/counselor/friend suggested I create an acrostic from the letters of my name as a way of claiming my God-given identity.)

The entire lifetime of Janis Joplin.

The whole of the time encompassing the birth, infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, kindergarten years, elementary school, awkward puberty, high school, initial dabblings in music, endless practice, mastery, brilliance, slogging along, touring, recording, stardom, struggle… the whole ride, all the way up to the tragic and untimely deaths of Janis… or Jimi Hendrix… or Jim Morrison… or Kurt Kobain…

27 years.

Nelson_Mandela-2008Which, as it turns out, is the same amount of time Nelson Mandela spent in jail on Robben Island, and in Pollsmoor and Victor Vester Prisons in South Africa.

Do you remember the moment? Do you remember seeing the live video, via satellite, on the day of his release in 1990?

I do.

I remember the joy exploding from his face… the throngs of adoring South Africans lining the streets, ten deep, calling his name, singing, dancing.

I remember the stoic scowls of the prison officials and guards.

Mandela emerged that day – from Hell – undaunted.

Whole. Unbroken. Unbowed.

27 years??? How is that even possible?

Was Mandela secretly a Marvel superhero… bitten by a radioactive spider… or born on a planet with a red sun in a far-off parallel universe… or charmed by a magic potion?

Or did he just figure out a way to tap into a hidden spring of Something… Something that might live inside every single one of us?

Can I too live undaunted?

Can I tap into the same Source he found?

Or must I first be martyred… unjustly imprisoned… stripped of freedom, dignity, and humanity in order to gain access to the deep wellspring from which Mandela drank?

Or is it mine for the asking?

Can it be found by those seeking release from different prisons; from the prisons of addiction, resentment, fear, or despair?

Is it available to those wounded only by rejection, hostility, loneliness, prejudice, or greed and not by clubs, bullets, and whips?

How deep do my wounds have to be?

How close to death’s doorstep must I crawl in order to taste this True Freedom?

Jesus says, “Yes. You can have it, too… whoever you are.”

Jesus says, “Come to me… for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28).

Yes. We too can live undaunted.

23
Jan
18

Inspirare

Blowing windPause a moment sometime today and think: who inspires me?

I heard an inspiring story yesterday.

It was the story of a young man named Ryan. Ryan heard about another young man named Luke who had been severely injured in a golf cart accident.

In addition to serious head and chest trauma from the accident, Luke went into cardiac arrest at the hospital in Lubbock, Texas where he was taken for treatment.

Once his heart issues were stabilized, Luke began a grueling daily physical therapy regimen. He and his father worked with therapists every day just to regain even minimal use of his arms and legs. As his father told the story, for the next 18 months, Luke sweated and strained and “worked his tail off” every day without complaining. Luke-and-drew-brees

You can find out more about Luke’s remarkable story by clicking here.

This is where Ryan’s story comes in.

Ryan heard about Luke’s struggle and determination (and mounting hospital bills), he decided to do something. Ryan is an avid baseball player who LOVES to take practice swings. So Ryan decided that every day for the next 100 days, he was going to hit 100 balls in practice. And with each one, he was going to work to raise money to help Luke.

Incidentally, it’s not like Ryan is Luke’s teammate or something. Ryan has never met Luke. Ryan is a total stranger living in another part of the country.

When I heard this story on the evening news, it struck me that this was not just an inspiring story. It is a story ABOUT inspiration.

Luke inspired Ryan. And then Ryan took his inspiration and put it into action.

After seeing this and reflecting on it a bit I realized that I too am regularly inspired.

  • I am inspired by my 94-year-old stepmother. She is happy, alert, fit, and even a little sassy. She lost her husband – my dad – a year ago, but manages to stay upbeat and positive and actively engaged in the world around her.
  • I am inspired by my friend who is dying of lung cancer. He continues to read and write and chronicle the history of his adopted homeland here in Kansas City. Yes, he regularly wonders what lies ahead on his body’s journey, but never in a mopey, morose way. His mindset is one of continuous curiosity and engagement.
  • I am inspired by my single mom Facebook friend. Her marriage recently ended sadly and abruptly. And yet, she continues to make her home a place of security and love for her two small children.
  • I am inspired by people who take personal and professional risks on behalf of principles they believe in strongly… daring to speak their truth even if it might cost them a job.
  • I am inspired by the people who stand up every day in the full flower of their uniqueness and say, “Hey, world; this is me, like it or not.”

And so I ask again: Who inspires you?

You see, I could go on and on and on with my list of people who inspire me. They move in and out of my orbit every day. But the story of Luke and Ryan prompted me to ask two new, different questions about the whole topic of inspiration:

  1. What am I actually doing with my inspiration? …and
  2. Have I bothered to tell any of the folks in my life that they inspire me?

Luke inspired Ryan. And so Ryan did something. He launched his “100 hits in 100 days” campaign.

The language students among you will recall that the word “inspire” comes from the Latin inspirare meaning, “blow into, breathe upon…” This stems from the biblical idea of being breathed upon by the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22, NRSV).

We take the general sense of the word to mean, “to influence or animate with an idea or purpose.” But still, the question remains: can we truly call ourselves inspired if we don’t actually ACT on that inspiration?

Maybe it starts by simply telling someone they inspired us.

A sad fact of existence is that most of us go through our day-to-day lives with little to no awareness of the positive influence you have on the lives of those around you. But trust me… you do.

Thanks to social media, of course, we find out pretty quickly when we affect folks negatively. But not so much on the positive side.

How much would it lift a person’s spirits for you to walk up to them – or better yet, write them a good, old-fashioned LETTER! – telling them that they inspired you. And then follow that up by ACTING on that inspiration!

So… to Joan, Bette, Henry, Ciara, Laura, Luke, Ryan, Mitch, Michael, Jeff, Rob, Connie, Adam, Graham, Eric, Alan, Melinda, Doug and others too numerous to mention, I say THANK YOU. You inspire me daily.

And, Ryan, special thanks to you. You inspired me to write this blog post about inspiration!

Abundant blessings…

20
Nov
17

Manna?

MannaIt can be an adventure.

It can be intimidating.

It can be nothing at all.

It can be a deep dive into a Disney-esque landscape of color, shape, sound, texture, and emotion.

It can be a tedious plod through unrelenting bleakness.

It can fill you with fear.

It can excite you.

It can evoke an aching tenderness you’ve never felt before.

It can pry open secret, sealed chambers you didn’t even know were there… and then explore every nook and cranny of them.

It can be a tonic.

It can be a torment.

It can be as dull as chalk… or as rich as chocolate.

It can save your life.

It can imprison you forever.

It is tightly confined.

It is expansive and unlimited.

It welcomes all who approach and treats every suitor equally.

Once you have ventured inside, it is yours… FOREVER.

Of course, I am referring to…

.

.

.

 

THE BLANK PAGE.

26
Sep
17

Blessing? Curse? You pick…

Work in the labI heard a story on the radio last week that scared the beejeebers out of me.

(Sorry for the strong language.)

The report said that for the first time ever, scientists in a lab have edited a piece of human DNA. (All Things Considered program on National Public Radio… September 20, 2017).

Apparently, we always knew that DNA could be edited, but last week was the first time it was actually done in a lab.

The story talked about the fact that this breakthrough could give us the ability to correct certain genetic anomalies in the womb and drastically reduce the incidence of birth defects.

It also talked about the possible dark and sinister uses of gene editing… such as people being able to order “designer babies” that are a little taller, a little more athletic, a little blonder than other children.

In a very real way, the idea of gene editing revives memories of eugenics… The pseudo-science of selective breeding that helped give birth to the Master Race dream of Hitler and the Nazis.

Shivers literally went down my spine as I thought about the prospects of the “haves” (those who might afford designer babies) becoming stronger more beautiful and more intelligent, while the rest of us have to do it the old-fashioned way: taking whatever nature gives us.

I mean… if you think there is “class warfare” and divisiveness in our country now, it is probably a PICNIC compared to what it might be in a gene-edited future.

Can you say DYSTOPIA?

But then – as I sometimes do – I turned off the radio and kept thinking about the story. You can do that when you’re on a long drive.

And here is where that extra thinking led me: it led me to the question, “Has there ever been an example of one of humanity’s “great strides of discovery” that has NOT carried seeds of both blessing and curse with it?”

Grog the Caveman was no doubt excited when he discovered that fire could warm the inside of the cave and impart a lovely flavor to the mastodon steak he prepared. But he soon discovered his new invention could also burn down the entire forest.

Glo the Cavewoman was thrilled to find that a stone, cut into a round, wheel-like shape, could help her move heavy objects with ease. But she also discovered that it could be used to power a gigantic, gas-guzzling SUV.

The splitting of the atom gave us a source of energy that did not require us to rape the earth through strip mining or fossil fuel development. But it also gave birth to the atomic bomb.

We award Nobel Prizes every year for all kinds of scientific breakthroughs designed to benefit humankind, but then we remember that the man who started the prize – Sir Alfred Nobel – was also the inventor of dynamite.

Surely there must be some, but can you think of any discovery or breakthrough that can be accurately classified as “pure good”?

I mean, besides Jolly Ranchers.

The reality is, the “goodness” or “badness” of most things – including discoveries in science – is not inherent. They become good or bad as you and I pick them up and use them.

The way we use it gives money the power to be a blessing or a curse.

The hands at the controls are what make an airliner either a device for expedited travel or a tool for terror.

And yes, I’ll go there: it is our hands and our intentions that cause guns to be either good or evil. Their moral character is not stamped in at the factory. (Although let me quickly add: it is INSANE that we can’t/won’t pass more laws to limit their availability).

As Mark 7:21 tells us: “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come…” And it is also from within, from the human heart, seeded and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, that loving intentions come. (My paraphrase).

My hope and prayer today would be not, “O Lord, help us refrain from discovering things that might be put to dangerous uses,” but rather, “Lord, continue to guide us in your way so that as we continue to use our amazing minds to discover new things we will always choose to put them to use to accomplish YOUR holy purposes.”

AMEN.




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