Posts Tagged ‘light

11
Nov
22

Set Straight

I don’t know if you heard or not, but Tuesday of this week was kind of a big day.

Of course, I am referring to the fact that Tuesday was the day Patrick (the dog) and I made our visit to see our hospice patient.

OH! Yes! I almost forgot! It was also half-price canned goods day at our local grocery store.

Just kidding. Yes, it was also ELECTION DAY… that time when you and I and 47 percent (according to a November 10, 2022, article from the Washington Post) of our eligible neighbors went to the ballot box and exercised our hard-won freedom to decide our political futures.

Since this week’s Election Day activity did not involve voting for the U.S. President, it goes by the name, “Mid-Term.” As in, the middle of a presidential term of service. Mid-terms – as everybody knows – are always giant snorefests with most people choosing to stay home and fold fitted sheets rather than go to the polls and vote. 

Except this time around it was different. A LOT different. This time people actually CARED! This time people believed SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT was at stake…

… mainly because it WAS! 

This election came at a time of high national anxiety. It came at a time when spirited civic discourse has (mostly) given way to mean-spirited knife throwing. It came at a time when the phrase “civil war” is being used with increasing frequency. It came at a time when people on both sides of the debate demonstrated a willingness to bend or completely abandon facts. It came at a time of greater divisiveness since the actual Civil War.

And so, in that keyed-up spirit of MOMENT and CONSEQUENCE, I posted the following eight-word sentiment on Facebook: Kind of scared to look at TV tonight.

Naturally, I got a lot of “AMENs”. Turns out other people were scared, too. 

But I also got some pushback. Primarily from people of faith. Their sentiments varied a bit in word choice, but the gist of the message was, “Don’t worry! God’s got this! He is on the throne and rules an unshakable kingdom!” Some quoted one or more scripture passages carrying the message, “Be not afraid for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:13, and others).

I will admit; when I first read these responses, I did not really appreciate them. I mean, sure. God is and will always be on the throne. You’ll get no argument from me there. 

But I felt compelled to elaborate. I replied to these folks and said, “The reason the Lord’s Prayer says, ‘… thy kingdom come, thy will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven’ is because God’s will is currently NOT being done on earth. When God plopped us down here, God entrusted us to be God’s agents of justice and mercy to help bring about that kingdom.”

And then I let my emotions get a little carried away and added, “I am not sure trusting in God’s sovereignty should lead us to disengage from the instruments (and institutions) that can either aid or hinder justice-making.” 

Ouch.

And there you have it… a demonstration of the way, in a few poorly chosen words… a reasonable (though passionate) conversation can take on a terse, unintended edge. 

Were my friends suggesting that Christians should disengage from the world, gazing beatifically heavenward while ignoring the muck and mire of political sausage-making? 

Of course not.

Were they saying God doesn’t care about what happened Tuesday in the U.S. mid-terms?

Probably not.

Instead, they were reminding me that regardless of the party in power, or what color the U.S. House of Representatives might turn out to be, we never need to live in a state of fear. I think they were trying to remind me that our forebears in the faith endured times of greater injustice, moments of more profound suffering, periods of more painful persecution than you and I can possibly imagine. 

Finally, I believe they were trying to remind me that even in the heaviest moments of darkness, those ancient saints were somehow able to keep their eyes fixed on the Light.  

And for that reminder, I am eternally grateful.

Abundant blessings;

13
Apr
20

Team Jesus

Team JesusI made my choice a long time ago.

In the middle of one of the darkest times of my life… when every door seemed to be sealed shut… when my relationships only offered pain and resentment… when the future looked as lifeless as the surface of the moon… when I lacked the energy to even put one foot in front of the other… I cried out to the sky in anguish.

At that moment, I did not even attach a name to the object of my cry. My plea was just a miserable arrow, launched aimlessly into the darkness. Honestly, I did not even believe there was anything there for it to hit.

But then it happened.

As Paul Tillich once said so eloquently in his epic sermon You Are Accepted, “Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual…”

There is no other word that even comes close to describing what happened to me in that next moment. Like a bolt from the blue, I was struck by grace. A deep peace seeped into my soul, displacing the fear, the self-hatred, and the remorse that once filled it. I had no idea how it was going to happen, but I had every confidence that from there forward, everything was going to be OK.

Later, with the help of compassionate friends and family members, I was able to attach a name to my life-altering event. I understood that this most extraordinary rescue came by the hand of Jesus. They also helped me understand that it came – not because I was such a great guy, or because I was the one-millionth customer that day – it came because that’s just how he rolls.

And yes, I knew I was free to turn and walk right back into my old life. No conditions were attached to that rescuing stroke of grace.

Instead I chose – in gratitude – to start following him. I chose to call Jesus the Lord (i.e., the Ruler, the Primary Authority, the True North, the Guidestar, the el Numero Uno) of my life.

Doing so, I came to discover, also meant calling HIS narrative about life THE narrative about life.

Jesus’ narrative about life is nowhere more clearly articulated than in the annual celebration of Easter. When we re-tell the Easter story, we are reminding ourselves of the narrative that says, “To die is to live.” It is the narrative that also says, “Love is stronger than fear… light is stronger than darkness… life is stronger than death.”

In not one, not two, but THREE on-line Easter services yesterday I said the words, I sang the songs, I felt all the feels.

But now here on Easter Monday, I see I am facing a challenge.

I am facing the challenge of actually LIVING as if all that is true. (We all face that challenge, actually).

In other words, if Christ is actually alive and has indeed overcome the grave, I darned sure better ACT LIKE IT! I better immediately jettison the notion that all the hatred and anger in the world is too powerful. I’d better disabuse myself RIGHT NOW of the idea that the forces of darkness have the upper hand.

I had better start speaking and acting and thinking like a member of Team Jesus… that is, like someone who hears him say, “… take courage… “ (Matthew 14:27, NRSV) and then who actually TAKES COURAGE!

If I really believe in the truth of The Greatest Story Ever Told, I need to flush out the bitterness, purge the resentments, and expel the pride that is constantly trying to take root in my soul.

Hymns and candy and Honey-Baked Hams are awfully nice. But if Easter doesn’t show itself in the way I live, I might as well have spent the day yesterday whistling Dixie.

Happy Easter Monday, everybody. How will YOU choose to observe it?

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!

27
Feb
18

The MLK quote I can’t stand…

MLK quoteI am a fan and admirer of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. His sermons and speeches arouse hope and a passion for justice in my heart. But honestly, there is one quotation of his that just bugs the heck out of me.

The quote is: “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

Yes… it is a powerful quote.

Yes, it hits the proverbial nail on the head.

Yes, it speaks Truth with a capital “T” and shines a righteous light squarely where it needs to shine.

So what’s my problem with it?

Actually, I love this quote. But I say that it bugs me because it convicts me and makes me squirm in my seat every time I hear it.

This quote throws cold water on my knee-jerk impulse to post negative, snarky Facebook comments about national and world events.

It makes me look into the mirror and ask, “What are YOU doing to spread actual, tangible love in the world?”

I hear the question… I ponder my answer… and I fall silent. Because I am not sure I have an answer.

But I know I have to keep seeking one. Actually, we ALL do.

Our future probably depends on it.




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