Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Authentic, Synthetic Worship

I am a pastor without a church.  It is on purpose right now and I feel pretty good about this.  I get the chance to talk to people that church-workin’ pastors would not have the chance.  Many times it starts with some negative feelings and experiences by a local church that turned them completely off of church and, in some cases, have led them to a total disbelief or questioning of God.  They are usually surprised to find that I am ordained and tell them that I actually became ordained AFTER I left full-time local church ministry.

The first thing I generally tell them is that my personal jury is out on this so-called organized religion.  I, too, have been jaded by committees, chairpersons, lay leaders, pastors, clergy, church ladies, choir sopranos and old saints.  I prefer to be where people least expect me or where people are hungry for authentic worship moments like the nursing home, the hospital bed, the emergency room, and bedside.  I prefer to be where I would want to meet Jesus – not at the altar, not during a hymn or a potluck dinner but walking down the street, or in the store, or in a moment of true crisis when the church doors are the last ones I would think of pushing open at the moment. 
Now don’t get me wrong – I actually adore corporate worship and the local church setting.  I have been witness to the moving of the Holy on countless occasions during many different church experiences.  I have preached in churches with over 10,000 in attendance and as few as ten.  I have seen, felt, heard and tasted the Holy in Sunday worship, Bible study, in-home prayer groups, communion, baptisms and yes, even a potluck dinner.  There is authenticity to be found everywhere two or more are gathered in His name.  The problem is that there is also a lot of non-authenticity to be found in those gatherings as well.

The definition of authentic is to conform to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance or belief.  It is having a claimed and verifiable origin or authorship, not counterfeit or copied.  The opposite of authentic includes supposed, false, fake, mock and synthetic. 

A synthetic experience is one that is made up to solicit a pre-planned outcome.  Many years ago I was an adult leader for a confirmation camp experience.  The teachers had prepared a very dramatic presentation of the cross which called for an evening walk through the woods, up to a hill, where they would experience three living people on crosses about 15 feet in the air, completely reenacting the crucifixion.  Their goal on the outside was to allow the young people the opportunity to experience this tragic moment in Christian history – the pivotal point of our faith.  But what they wanted was to melt the kids emotions to the point where they were on the verge of tears and then to pop the salvation question on them and see how many would come to Christ.  Not surprisingly most of them received Christ that night.  But was the experience authentic or synthetic?  I think it was synthetic for most.  For some the experience hit home and it was the drama that touched their hearts but for a lot of them it was fear that motivated their decision.  I’m not saying the experience was wrong – it just should have been a choice given to the young people as to whether or not they would like to share in a re-enactment of this particular event.  They were given no choice – they were lead there to fulfill the synthetic worship goal.

One could argue that all worship is synthetic and it is this lack of authenticity that pushes people away.  I, for one, have never found it to be a worship experience to pile as many kids in the front of the church every February and force them to sing, “My Jesus Valentine”. I found it fake – contrived – and somewhat pathetic.  But in the same vain I have been moved to tears by a solo song performed only in sign language – a liturgical dance – and yes, even a sermon. 

I’m getting to my point.  I see corporate worship as BOTH authentic and synthetic.  When I was a church organist there would be times that people would complain about the really loud postlude or the 20th century composition I chose to play in the middle of the service.  Sometimes I would brave it and ask the question, “so of the 21 pieces of music I played today, the only one that spoke to you was the piece that you really disliked?”  Of course not – and that’s my point.  Corporate worship is designed to try and reach everyone – some through music, some through song, through dance, through scripture, through tradition and some through call and response.  Yes, some people do still get moved by speaking the Lord’s Prayer or even the Apostle’s Creed during worship.  Some people can sense the Holy and truly enter in to worship surrounded by 10,000 people while others find Christ in their midst in a crowd of 2 or three.

Authentic worship is that moment when YOU experience the Holy.  It can happen through a synthetic, contrived and purpose-driven worship experience in your local church building.  It can happen in a casual encounter with a small group of close friends.   
I miss the local church but since I have been out I have had some unique and wonderful encounters with the Holy.  It does not matter where you are.  Sitting in a church building doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.  But you CAN find the holy in all creation and I encourage you to seek it out.  Once your heart is in tune with your spirit you will encounter the Holy.
Remember the story of the woman at the well?  A woman who at the time was seen as less than anyone else (she had had several husbands and was now living with another man who was not her husband).  In the heat of the day when she knew no other people would be at the well fetching water, she went to the well.  It just so happens that Christ was walking that way also, headed to the same well.  It was there that she had an encounter with the Holy.  Christ called her out for her sinful ways and encouraged her to confess her sins before God and to walk right.   Christ spoke of the living water – the water of life – as it, too, refreshes just as the cool water from the well.  The Samaritan woman was enlightened.  She realized that through God comes the true refreshing of her soul.  She actually went on to share her encounter and subsequently led many people to a similar experience.

This woman does not appear in scripture again.  It is a story used as an illustration – a story or a truism, it fails to matter.  The point is made clear.  Even Augustine, almost 400 years later, would use this story to describe the spiritual thirst of humanity and the thirst that is never quenched until people are in the presence of the Holy.
When I am so blessed to enter in to conversation about faith there is a common river that runs between all of them and me.  It is a thirst for more – a thirst for a true encounter with the mystical, the divine, the Holy.  It’s a thirst – a need – for an authentic encounter with the Holy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Can Humanity Love UNconditionally?

I have been learning a lot about myself the past week or so.  More so within the last 72 hours.  I have learned that although I have an enormous capacity to love people – I have limitations.  When I realized that I immediately pushed it down deep inside me.  I was shocked and somewhat embarrassed to hear my conscience admit that I do not love completely, wholly AND unconditionally. 

Take a look at this Wikipedia™ definition for unconditional love:  Unconditional love is a term that means to love someone regardless of one's actions or beliefs. It is a concept comparable to true love, a term which is more frequently used to describe love between lovers. By contrast, unconditional love is frequently used to describe love between family members, comrades in arms and between others in highly committed relationships. It has also been used in religious context to describe God's love for humankind (source: 

Unconditional love is that love that has absolutely no ‘end game’.  It has no last straw, end of road, or final curtain.  It has no strike outs.  It has a selective memory and easily forgets wrongs.  It holds no grudges.  It has no tipping point, no boundaries to cross, no place it cannot go.  This type of love has no expiration, no ‘honeymoon is over’ and does not vanish.  It does not kill nor can it be put to death.  As the song goes, there is no mountain to high and no river to wide.  It has no sense of ‘too much’ and does not give up when “at the end of the rope”.  In fact, it is the type of love that doesn’t have any end whatsoever. 

Author Earle Josiah says that “our actions possess moral worth when they are based on goodness and love” (EXPAND YOUR CAPACITY TO LOVE;  BookSurge Publishing, June 14, 2007).  He goes on to say that if we would just educate and “cultivate our minds so that every wish of our hearts is inspired by love”, that we would be less likely to withhold love.  No more of this, “I can only love certain people” or “I just can’t love this person”. 

In the Greek there are four words that are often translated, “love”.  They refer to love as sexual attraction (Eros), a feeling based on blood relationship (Storge), warm friendship founded on mutual esteem (Philia) and love based on principle (Agape). 

Agape is that type of love which is hardest to live out.  It demands that we surrender emotions and nature.  We put aside our ‘gut feelings’ and ‘intuitions’ and love no matter what.  It is the same type of love Christ implores us to participate in when he said we should love our enemies.  It is the love that we should probably be aspiring to embrace but our human experiences, our hurts, our short comings, our ideologies, and our spirituality all serve to limit our capacity to love. 

When we put our love for someone in a box with conditions, when we keep a score card of the relationship in order to justify love, we fail ourselves and those whom we are trying to love. 

I believe that in order to love another person with as few conditions as possible (I’m not saying that as an excuse to get out of loving them with zero conditions but merely pointing out a shortcoming of humanity) we must first have the capacity to love ourselves. 

We fail to love ourselves because we are, indeed, caught up in our misdemeanors, our offenses, our sins, our errors, and our short-comings.  We know the true self and when placed in the light we are embarrassed, ashamed, and sometimes down-right horrified.  Perhaps if we tried really hard to love everyone around us as deep as possible then we won’t have to love ourselves.  But that type of love gets tiring for both the giver and receiver so it is easier to not love ourselves and to limit who we love and how we love them.  We get little back in return and when it does get returned to us it is distorted, misinterpreted, and expects even more from us. 

Is it possible to love UNconditionally?  Is there room in the human heart and mind and spirit to love in such a way where there is absolutely no way that love would fail, drift, lessen, or die?  Or do we refuse to do that because we are afraid of, or believe that we will be, hurt in return?  Our experiences tell us this will happen – our love won’t always be returned in kind. 

Christ did not mention that loving our enemies would reap a great harvest of sunshine and satin pillows of happiness.  Mohammed, Shakespeare, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II all urged us to love one another with great passion, energy, forgiveness, kindness and with no limitations but none of them mentioned what we would get in return.  They simply said we should strive to do that.  Our reward comes around later BUT that is not characteristic of humanity and we want something for our investment.

Look – all I’m trying to say here is that when we love someone hard, fast, furious, passionately, and unconditionally – when it HURTS to love them so much – we are setting ourselves up for disappointment IF we are expecting something in return.  Being loved and showing love are two completely opposite experiences.  We can hope to be loved unconditionally and therefore be allowed to have shortcomings but first we must love ourselves that way.  We must make the right choices for ourselves.  We must agree to learn from our mistakes and not continually beat ourselves up for them.  We must ignore negative behaviors of others that tend to bring us down.  We must strive to be a better person in all aspects of our lives and we must be able to hold ourselves accountable for our actions while allowing ourselves to be loved.  Then we can love our fellow humans with few, if any, conditions.

You have probably heard or read I Corinthians 13:4.  It is commonly referred to as the ‘love chapter’ and is read at pretty much every wedding I have ever attended.  I offer it up here for you with some editing.  I challenge you to do what I have done and in verses 4-7 and substitute the word ‘love’ for your first name.  If you believe you truly love Unconditionally than this will be a clear and truthful reflection of you.  But if it causes your heart to shout, “Doh!” or your spirit to feel shame, then give yourself permission to change and embrace it. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Kurt is patient, Kurt is kind. I do not envy, I do not boast, I am not proud. 5 Kurt does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and Kurt keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Kurt does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Kurt always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. ……13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Hold yourself to these ideals and see what happens in return.  Loving unconditionally – by definition – may be something we never fully achieve because of our human shortcomings.  Love is a state of being that we should all continually strive to achieve.  It is in the trying and practicing that we will experience agape.

--------------------------------------QUOTES TO PONDER---------------------------------------

“Intense love does not measure, it just gives”…Mother Teresa

"The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well"...Elisebeth Kubler-Ross

"You don't have to go looking for love when it's where you come from"...Werner Erhard

“…There’s nothing wrong with tough love, as long as the love is unconditional”…George W Bush

“To give and not expect a return, that is what lies at the heart of love”…Oscar Wilde

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them”…Thomas Merton

Friday, October 14, 2011

I have been caregiving for my parents for the past two years.  My mother was diagnosed with a very rare cancer and my dad has Stage IV Alzheimer's and skin cancer.  I moved them in with me about two years ago as soon as mom received the diagnosis.  You can read about that journey at if you would like.

It has been a very busy two years.  I'm very proud of the progress my mother has made.  But in the midst of her personal triumphs and successes is the dark, ever-present cloud of Dad's Alzheimer's that is rapidly stealing the love of her life from her.  They celebrated 50 years of marriage this past September - a testiment to their strength and love and endurance through almost impossible odds.  They are still very much in love, sneaking kisses in the kitchen and holding hands at every opportunity.  They write each other love notes sometimes and leave them on their pillows to read at nights.  Still he quietly and silently slips away.  The disease strikes both the old memories and the new ones - the very new ones - the ones we created just today never took hold, were never synthized in the brain.  It's all just-another-day for my father as he tries to keep up with conversations and things that are happening.  All the while he really has no idea that he is ill - and yet he knows his love is hurting and feels frustrated by it, often.  Through it all they will never leave one another's side.  They will never forsake the other and they will forever be in love.  I gift that is so rare these days that it almost sounds like a tale from days-gone-by.  We should all be so lucky to have a life-partner that is truly in it for LIFE.

This weekend I will be moving my parents in to a senior, independent living facility.  They are moving on and I'll be moving to my own place closer to the city of Milwaukee.  We have developed some traditions which I will miss but will look forward to re-living each time I visit with them.   I won't share them with you because they are important, memory-making moments for us. 

I dont' know what I will go through emotionally when they are not here in the house anymore.  My brain will, no doubt, move through many emotions.  I have friends who never speak to their parents, are from a divorced home, or have lost their parents.  A classmate of mine from high school, Debbie, lost her father a few years ago and this year just lost her mother.  A close and dear member of our extended family lost both of his parents in a car accident - I believe he was 19 at the time.  I KNOW how fortunate, lucky and blessed I am.  Even as Dad is enveloped by this disease I will adore him, respect him, love him and make memories with him till his last breath.  Because he is my father and he deserves that.

I was wondering what would happen if our heavenly Father began to forget about us?  Little things at first like perhaps he stumbles over our name or forgets where we live for a moment.  Then begins to forget some of the memories we have made together.  What if he has no recollection of that day and time in space when you finally knew He was what you were looking for and you accepted Him for what and who He is?  What if he forgot about His own Son and what He did?  What if God just...forgot about us...

God won't forget us - we rest in that promise.  But we forget Him all the time.  We knew him once, didn't we?  Then something happened and we started forgetting.  Sometimes we remember for a moment but maybe the memory hurts, so we push it back.  Maybe we just simply forgot who He was and how important He used to be to us.  Maybe we forgot about Him...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walk With Humility

I have a confession to make.  This confession is not difficult NOW that I have come to fully embrace my errors and have learned how they can actually work to make me a better person.  But it is something I have rarely confessed to many people so here I am about to put it online for everyone.

I used to be a habitual liar.  For so many years I was fiercely and intensely focused on pleasing other people that I would intentionally lie to one group of people and then tell a different story with another group of people.  Each day I would decide the following items based on who I would be interacting with during that day:

-        Hair
-        Clothes
-        Attitude
-        Music that I listened to
-        Language filters (think about it!)
-        Areas of expertise
-        The past and my future endeavors

It was a LOT of work.  I would decide who to become in light of who I was around in order to be accepted by them.  I hear it is a common trait among us Pisces but I know a lot of people for whom this applies that are not Pisces.  It became so intense that I no longer did it on purpose – it almost came naturally.  I had developed what amounted to multiple personalities.  Whoever I thought needed to be pleased with my existence is who I morphed into being.  Wow, God must have been so disappointed in me because in the secret, quiet places of my heart – I was very disappointed in myself.

On this journey of life, while we are mere vessels traveling on this big blue island in space, we encounter God’s amazing diverse Creativity through the land, the landscape, and all who inhabit this space.  Yet each time we try hard to please others we are denying God’s diverse nature.  Instead of rejoicing and celebrating in and through our diversity we try to become what we were not originally created to be.  We try to become like others.

So the lying-self that I had embraced and became so good at – often backfired.  Want to feel like a young child again?  Get caught in a lie.  It does it every time.  It CAN be one of the most humbling experiences of our existence yet sometimes we can get caught up in trying to cover that lie and deceive others that it just all goes tumbling out of control.  Some days you wake up and really have no clue who you truly are.  What’s worse is that usually when you are caught is the time you are being true to yourself but when held up and compared to all the lies you have seeded and harvested through the years – well, you know the story of the little boy who cried wolf.

Today I am proud of the man in the mirror.  When I look at the person reflecting back at me I thank the Creator for seeing me through.  If it was me, I would have given up on me a very long time ago.  But the patience of the Holy is something we simply cannot wrap our brains around.

When I counsel people who are caught up in the web of lies and deceit there is always the question of how to stop.  How do we stop when the mere act of stopping is going to bring in to question our very character – our morale center is going to be exposed and it will not be pretty!

There is one person in this world that has had an incredible profound impact on my life.   He is the person who helped me and gave me permission to embrace who I am and to stop the lying nature that was in me.  I will call him J (and probably not a coincidence that his name and Christ’s both start with the letter J).  He wouldn’t put up with it.  He was able to see what it was doing to me.  He was able to see the dark and rotting nature of my soul that was built on lies and deception and trying to please other people.  I thank my God every day that He sent someone like this in to my life to teach me so much. 

You have to look deep and accept the consequences of your actions.  You have to embrace the person that God wants you to be and be willing to deny who you have been trying to be.  You cannot be more than one person.  It is tiring and a very lonely.  People will catch on. They may not be able to put a finger on it and define it but they catch on to the negative spirit and they will eventually walk away from you.  All that time and energy you spent on pleasing them and the end result is:  they are no longer in your life because your very nature caught up to you.

Imagine what we could accomplish in this life if we focused on pleasing God and being pleased with the person we see in the mirror each day.  It starts by loving ourselves so much that we no longer focus on what others may require of us.  What we should focus on is what the Lord requires of us BECAUSE what He requires of us is truly what our hearts desire. 

I find it interesting that the answer to what the Lord requires of us is found in a small book of the Bible called Micah.  It is simple yet takes a life-time to master.  There are three instructions:

1.       Do what is right
2.      Love mercy
3.      Walk humbly with God

Be good to yourself.  Be true to yourself.  Be honest to yourself.  And when you do you will find that you are being good to others – you are being true to others – you are being honest to others.  Through this you will find the freedom that you so long to experience.  You will know complete surrender.  You will know and feel the grace of God working in and through you.  Live with courage and seek to find that inner voice that is crying out to you to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk in all humility with your God.

Friday, October 7, 2011

To Phone Or Not To Phone

So I have been without a phone for about two weeks.  For five days it had no battery then a dear friend had it to update and fix and then from there it was all downhill.  I’m now waiting for a replacement phone to show up at my doorstep tomorrow morning.  Then of course I’ll need to boot it up, download all my apps, and update the phone.  All in all I will be a very happy man when I’m able to communicate with the world once again.

But what have I really missed?  Let’s think about this:

* instant contact with friends via text messages

* updates from Facebook

* phone calls

* access to emails instantly

I’m not really sure why I need to be reading facebook updates every five minutes.  No offense to my friends and family but there hasn’t been anything on facebook that couldn’t wait till I was actually able to log on from my computer.  I missed nothing by being able to read them instantly.  And I’m sure my friends have not missed my checking in to the coffee shop, pick n’ sav, Verizon store, and a friends’ house.  I don’t think they really care if I went grocery shopping last night at 9:00 p.m. and the fact that I didn’t update my location did not send everyone into a crisis status wondering where Kurt has been.

No one has sent me a text message that couldn’t wait till the evening.  If I didn’t return a text message they no doubt tried to call and then sent a message to my email and facebook which I got at the close of each day.

The phone calls are hard to miss as the phone also serves as my business contact.  But honestly, 95% of my clients utilize email and in the past two weeks I have received about ten emails from clients, all of which I answered at the close of each day.

So what have I really lost?   The ability to pick up my device to avoid contact with other humans, to excuse myself from a crowd to check my text messages, and feeling loved and connected with other humans.  That is what I lost.  But why do I require this device to feel good about myself? I know my friends and family love me.  I know if I need them they are there – but I don’t HAVE to know everything as it happens.

That being said, I will be one happy man to have my phone back in my hands.  The question is:  have I learned anything from this experience?  Is there something I can take away from this ordeal that will make me a better human and for that matter, a better Christian?

The only thing it reminds me of is how much time I spend with, our away from, my God.  I wonder if God feels the same way about me that I did the first couple of days without my phone.  Just in the same manner that I suddenly felt disconnected from the world, I wonder how many times God has felt disconnected from me?  Perhaps the lesson learned is to prioritize my life better.  I don’t need to tell everyone where I cam 24/7, what I’m doing, or how I’m feeling.  I don’t need to read what everyone else is doing all the time.  My time is very valuable and precious and none of us know whether our post on Facebook will be our last one.  What matters is what we do with each and every valuable minute we are given.

As for me – today I plan on spending a little extra time looking at the leaves change color.  I want to hear a piece of music I’ve never heard before, and perhaps send a friend a note to let them know I love them.  I plan on hugging my mom one extra time today and reminding my father how much I love him.  I plan on spending a few extra minutes with special people and trying to make every moment with them, extra special.  I'm planning on emailing someone I met years ago to let them know I still hold them in high regard and I'm NOT going to wait or expect a response.  I'm going to look at some photos of my grandfather and remember what an amazingly good man he was.  I'm going to plan a little for tomorrow but make sure I don't take too much of today doing that.  I'm going to play with Rita (our bichon) a little more today and I'm going to make someone smile.  And sometime today, probably towards the end, I'm going to check my Facebook.  Tomorrow I'll spend time with my new phone but not as much - because there will be so much more to look at, listen to, and experience tomorrow.

A few years ago I made a life-altering decision and have not regretted it one bit.  At the time I spoke with a very prominent and wise psychologist. She said something to me that has continued to resonate inside me and I believe it is important in light of the past two weeks. She simply said, “so you decided to finally start living this thing called life”. 

Go forth today and LIVE.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Choose the Right Choice

So it seems that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn't feel the economy is getting any better. His report was that the economy is not only not getting better but it’s probably going to continue getting worse.  He stated that people are “…dissatisfied with what the economy is doing right now”.  My initial response?  A very sarcastic, “RRRRRREEEALLY?” 

Interesting but I’m wondering if he is as unhappy with it as many of us are considering he still has a job and he makes a reportedly $142,000+ a year. I don’t know about you but my outlook of the economic situation would be slightly better were I making that type of money.

But money doesn’t buy us happiness right?  Or does it?  I think having an increase in cash flow does bring us some level of happiness if even for a fleeting moment.  In fact we know that when given a small wad of cash the pleasure center of the brain lights up for a few moments the same as it does when given food, sex or some drugs.  It just makes you feel better. 

For some it brings security and the ability to protect themselves from negative circumstances.  Part of the purpose of life is to experience the ups and downs of this earthly experience.  If life were a constant state of happiness, we would miss out on the whole experience.  But for many people the lack of funds is a constant emotional pressure that continues to pile up.  Every day is a constant reminder that we have no money when everything around us is demanding one thing from us:  our money.  I know more people in my immediate sphere of influence who are making at or below poverty level and I live in a fairly affluent area of the country. This constant, financial nagging brings us down every day and so those periods of joy and happiness are very few and far between.  For many people life seems to be one destructive day after another with no end in sight.

What brings you joy?  What brings you a true sense of happiness?  I mean a TRUE sense of it – when the smile goes from your face right down to the depths of your soul?  What makes your heart sing out?  Is it possible to smile through destruction?  Is it possible to laugh during moments of sorrow?  Is it possible to feel joy during so much despair?  Where is joy?  Maybe we don’t allow ourselves to be happy because we fear it may be at the expense of someone else?  Or we feel guilty because people around us are not happy.  Maybe there really is a martyr gene in some of us? 

Here is the secret to life.  Are you ready?   You can write it down or copy and paste it or whatever you need to do to remember it but here is my response to the age-old question:  what is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life is three-fold:  First, allowing ourselves to be happy.  Stop punishing ourselves for our past mistakes.  God reminds us that when we ask forgiveness he takes that and throws it as far as the east is from the west – in a straight line – never looking back.  Yet we continue to usurp God and we constantly look back, beat ourselves up over it, and punish ourselves.

Second, we need to decide if we are going to be PROactive or REactive.  When we choose happiness we are being PROactive but when we allow life to choose for us and to dictate our response we are being REactive. 

Third, we choose to allow life to empower us or defeat us.  But the choice is ours.  We THINK that it is life that doesn’t allow us to make these choices but that is only the defeatist’ point of view.  Allowing every circumstance to empower us to rise above it in spite of the circumstance – THAT is the key.
The bottom line answer:  the meaning of life is made of choices.

I have often said that no one has the right to steal your joy.  I recognize that many people also give it away.  Joy is yours – no one should be able to take it and no one should demand or expect you to give it away.  This shift in thinking takes a lot of work because it demands that we dig down to the core of who we are on a daily basis – right down to our foundations – and to fix what is broken. 

Life is like walking a mountain path with a blindfold on.  You have no on at the end to pull off the blindfold for you and suddenly reveal all life’s great mysteries.  Each step can bring about a moment of enlightenment.  Each step can become a pivotal moment in our lives.  Life is a group of steps all strung together.  Like stepping stones.  It is our choice to fear the stepping stones, or pick them up and throw them at the Goliath we call life. 

Oh God, in mystery and silence you are present in our lives, bringing new life out of destruction, hope out of despair, growth out of difficulty.  We thank you that you do not leave us alone but labor to make us whole.  Help us to perceive your unseen hand in the unfolding of our lives, and to attend to the gentle guidance of your Spirit, that we may know the JOY that you give to your people.  Amen! From Bread for the Journey, ed. Ruth Duck, Copyright 1989, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, OH; reprinted by permission

Monday, October 3, 2011

Take Time To Be Holy

In 1997 a columnist with the Chicago Tribune penned one of the most profound essays I have ever read or heard.  You can hear the work here  Mary Schmich wrote an essay entitled, "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young"  which became a book Wear Sunscreen (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1998) ISBN 0-8362-5528-3. Schmich published a short gift book adaption of the essay, Wear Sunscreen: A Primer for Real Life, in 1998. A tenth anniversary edition was published in 2008.

In 1999, Baz Luhrmann released the song you can find at that youtube link I just shared with you.  The song was a number one hit in several countries.  It is a wonderful message and a great reminder to take some time to perform some of the simpler things in life.

You ever get an ear-worm?  You know, a song that gets stuck in your head, usually just a few lines, that keeps running over and over and over again?  I call it an ear-worm and it can feel just like that.  Sometimes it steers my entire day.  Lately I've had a hymn stuck in my head and it was brought on by listening to Baz Luhrmann's song set to Mary Schmich's words.  I guess my spirit must have been inspired and so set out on a search through my memory files for something that could continue to support the ideas and motivations behind Schmich's lyrics.  This hymn came racing to my head and I share the lyrics with you below as yet another way to simply say, take some time today.  Take time to be holy - speak with God - stop for a moment and look at the changing colors of the tree.

I was with a friend recently and we were driving through the country-side and we came upon a very large tree just exploding with fall colors.  It's pretty early to be seeing such vibrance and such a color splash in the trees but it looked as if it were actually lit up by some unseen power source. 

Unfortunately my friend never looked up from his cell phone to see it.  And I thought, "how sad that you just missed this marvelous gift that was given to just us".  I wondered how many people flew past that same spot and never noticed that tree. 

Take time - to share - to see - to appreciate - to love.  Take time to experience the holy in the least expected of places...

  1. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
    Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
    Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
    Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
  2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
    Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
    By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
    Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
  3. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
    And run not before Him, whatever betide.
    In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
    And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
  4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
    Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
    Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
    Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.