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Posts Tagged ‘The Way’

I suppose it happens often, that we learn more about people at their death than we ever knew during their lives.  In fact, living under the sub-culture of a strict religious sect as a child, the first time I ever heard of Elvis was the day he died.  I was out taking my banana-seat bike off some sweet jumps we built, when a neighbor kid stopped me and squealed, “Did you know Elvis died??!!!”.  I had not yet learned it wise to conceal ignorance of matters that seem common knowledge so I asked, “Who’s Elvis?”  I don’t know if my friend was more shocked at the death or at the fact that I had never heard of him.

But one man who passed this week I knew a little of.  In 1986, Amnesty International held a benefit concert in my city.  I went, not because I knew much about their work, but because of the amazing line up of musicians coming. I still remember this as the best concert I’ve ever attended.  Five hours of some of the greatest music the 80’s had to offer.  The topic of the night was Nelson Mandela, still in prison.  We recoiled at the thought a developed society could, in our modern times, be so deeply and oppressively divided over race.

I later heard all the excuses surrounding the “it’s just the way things are” philosophies, as well as all the derogatory opinions of Mandela himself.  A co-worker from Africa of British descent, whose family fled Rhodesia during the transition to Zimbabwe, flatly stated that black Africans cannot govern themselves.  He astutely observed that all attempts at their own independence ended in bloody chaos, without taking into consideration what might be creating the challenges.  A client listening in to this conversation, a white, British citizen himself, had some choice remarks about their average intelligence and other things which I really prefer to forget.  This was right about the time when Mandela was being released from prison, soon to do the opposite of what white people expected.  Forgive.

Yes, Mandela had a different political ideology than most Americans embrace, and yes he did resort to violence in his past, as so many often do when they feel it is the only way to overcome their oppressors.  That’s not a foreign concept in America is it?  I think that’s what those canon shot fireworks on 4th of July are meant to commemorate?  Who is a terrorist and who is a liberator?  Just depends which side you are born on doesn’t it?  Violence is violence.  Either it’s a solution, or it’s not.  A worthy cause doesn’t make it prettier.  I understand why people believe it’s necessary.  I am sad when people (anywhere) see it as the first solution.

Often anger and hate boil over and create an endless cycle of killing and revenge.  But when Mandela walked out of the prison, he chose to leave the anger and hate behind and be truly free.  He led his countrymen in this path, and prevented what everyone expected – more killing than ever before.  I have read some of the most encouraging things in the last few days of his life and work.  They give me hope that peace and reconciliation can come, and hate can be put away in other places of the world where it seems to have consumed the minds and hearts of people.

There is no good side in a hate-filled land.  There is no bad side when Christ loves all the people involved with his own pierced hands and heart.  One side may be stronger than the other, but it is to the strong and those who have the power, to choose the path.  What if our enemies overcame us tomorrow?  What philosophy would we wish them to carry?  The one we now hold?  Or the one that Jesus taught, and Nelson Mandela learned to live and teach?  What if those First Nations that European civilization oppressed in America from the time the first ship landed, had a chance to rule over the kingdom built on their blood and land?  What would they choose and what would we deserve?

There are so many issues in this world we only seem to hear one voice from.  Often we may think there are only two sides when there are many.  We don’t seek to understand why, or walk in the shoes of another’s life to see through their eyes.  We want to be right, stronger, superior, victorious.

I discussed with my oldest son recently the phenomenon of super heroes in our pop culture.  Our society, in my experience, is overwhelmingly aspiritual, while at the same time very religious in some places.  But we still have our icons to worship – be they actual human celebrities, sports teams and players, or cartoons.  The heroes are strong, overcoming, witty, invincible avengers.  Yes, that’s the name of the movie even!  They are the opposite of Jesus, my superhero.  Are we a part of this culture that admires these values above all and not even realize how deeply drawn away we are from the heart of Christ?  We are so attracted to the patriotic Captain America, the strength of Hulk, and the self-centered humor and blind pride of Iron Man.  Mankind has always needed something bigger and  more powerful than themselves to worship.  The nature and heart of what we choose in this regard reveals our own desires.  I believe it takes the stronger man and woman to choose peace.  I am not sure I am that strong.  It’s hard to choose it even under my own roof sometimes.

My heart breaks for so many suffering people in this world – for the atrocities of the past, and the present.  This time of year, we think and speak of peace.  I shared a picture recently on facebook that said, “Dear God, let me worry less about putting Christ in Christmas, and more about getting Christ back in “Christian.”  It was shared more times than anything I have ever posted in my several years there, which shocked me.  I believe we deeply sense a problem in this country within the Body of Christ, but it’s easy to point the finger at all those “fake Christians” out there, when we need to look at our own lives – held up to the Light of Christ and His LOVE.  Let that Christ in the Christian begin with me.  Most of the time I feel like a paper-thin, invisible Christian.  I want the light to shine out, and for people to realize it’s HIM and not me.

Mandela’s heart was also tied with those who still waited for freedom.  I don’t want to argue about what that means, or what people deserve.  I just long for that with him, for all people.  When enemies collide in love – it’s the most beautiful thing on earth.  It began in the Cross, and may it continue to spread, one changed life at a time.

May we love all the people God put on this Earth, and consider ourselves in an honest manner.  

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I may have only minutes before the many people who live in my house wake up.  This is an experiment to see if I can write a post that makes any sense in this small window of opportunity.  The other day I ran across a picture which perfectly describes the fantasy of an introvert writer who lives in a small space with many other people.

jumping bowlI can dream can’t I?  I do love all the people in my house so very much.  But I also love silence and solitude.  Even Jesus had to get away by Himself with His Father.  I have yet to pray all night however!

Yesterday I spent  several hours working in our backyard (a.k.a. neglected jungle) and barely made a dent in what needs to be done.  The previous occupants of the house let things overgrow for years. They also left their own piles of debris which we are still gradually eliminating, and finding interesting uses for.  In addition to rocks, metal, leaves and sticks, the other big challenge to clean out is the Mondo grass that has been allowed to take over large portions of the lawn, as well as the vines and shrubs attacking the fence line.  So while all this wild plant life grows so vigorously, the edible vegetation I am actually trying to grow barely makes any progress.  They sprouted, but haven’t grown.  Squirrels keep digging holes in the bed.  If a Scripture has come to your mind by now, I’m sure it’s the same one that I began to hear in mine.  The Apostle Paul lamented about how easy it was for him to do what he didn’t want to do, and the thing that he wanted to do – he didn’t do.  It never ceases to amaze me the reflections of spiritual truth contained in the Creation.  Jesus also loved to draw lessons from what He made, and I am thankful HE is the gardener of my soul.  His green thumb is so much better than mine.  Paul concludes his dilemma with thanks to Jesus for deliverance from this “body of death.”  (Romans 7)

535454_560529423967130_2035587773_nBut here is a paradox.  In nature we see a life force that is overwhelmingly strong and finds a way to survive when it seems there should be no way.  In extreme conditions and against all obstacles, life finds away.  But left unchecked, this life can cause the death of other things.  It takes over.

As I worked yesterday, the beauty of the blue sky behind a few low-hanging clouds quickly drifting by refreshed my weary soul.  Two Cedar Waxwings courted each other in a tree overhead, and another tiny, adorable bird was cracking a pecan that never let go of the tree.  I looked up the hill behind our house, where the most noteworthy and wealthy families in the city live.  I can see some of the buildings on the property of a well-known man who just passed away this week.  In the same year, he and my son both became ill with cancer.  This disease doesn’t care if you live at the top or the bottom of the hill.  At cancer centers you find people of all races and religions in a somber fight to live against that which refuses to die.

As I learned how cancer develops and grows, I also saw amazing spiritual parallels.  Cancer represents an attempt at immortality, gathering resources for its own growth and survival, even at the expense of the host.  Self-destruction eventually comes either through a barbaric onslaught of chemicals and radiation, or in the end – its own “victory”.  The mechanisms by which it achieves its goals are incredibly diverse and complex, and the more I studied it, the more I began to see a sinister war, not a disease.  Cancer takes what the body uses to defend itself and appropriates it for its own use.  It establishes a control center, then outposts , supply lines, and lines of protection.

For most of human history, this has been the way of expanding earthly kingdoms as well.  The way of fallen nature seeks to establish its own security at the expense of everything and everyone around it.  Not all kingdoms are content within their own borders, just as some human cells decide they don’t want to ever die.  Some people live their lives this way on a personal level.  Jesus came to show another Way.  Dying brings life, not killing and taking.  It’s so foreign to our “natural” way we often believe we can follow Jesus and still cling to what feels so obviously natural to us.  Jesus said, he who loses is life will save it, and he who seeks to save his life will lose it.  In this very simple statement we see the cause and cure of our own spiritual cancer.

I eagerly wait for a real, humane cure to the physical examples of cancer.  Nearly every day I hear of someone else entering this war, and we have lost far too many friends and family to it.  And I am in NO way suggesting that those who carry the physical disease do so because they have succumbed spiritually.  But the spiritual form grieves me maybe even more so.  When I hear attitudes and convictions of people who take up a side against other human beings for their own elevation, either nationally or personally, I believe we are promoting spiritual cancer.  It now smells like death to me, even though I have been guilty of it many times.  Compassion means to suffer with, not blame, judge, condemn, or feel no grief over the deaths of perceived enemies, as if they were dogs.  No, we care more for dogs come to think of it.  And may I continue to see where I may apply the Cure.  I agree with Paul, “Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!” for this deliverance which continues.   But we must see ourselves as we truly are, and Him as He is, not as we wish Him to be.

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I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please.

– Wilbur Rees

(Found in the latest issue of Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter)

The videos below are of Paul Washer, and he explains very clearly how to have more than $3.00 worth of God.

This man is obviously burdened with a heavy message for American Christianity. This is not the way Jesus spoke to the sinners He met who were broken and repentant such as Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, and the thief dying next to Him on the cross. This was however how He spoke to Pharisees. If God is sending us men like this, what does this make us? Are we willing to be honest and see ourselves for what we really are? Are we going to weep and repent or are we going to pick up stones to kill the prophets? If this is eye salve.. I pray we put it on and truly see.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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