Month: July 2013

“One Cheek, Two Cheek, Three Cheek, Four”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgAfter reading recent social media posts I am moved by the number of people who have lost or abandoned any faith they might have once embraced or for which they may have simply searched.  I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised, I have stated frequently that had I founded my faith on other Christians I would have left the church within a year.  I’m not saying that Christians treat people better or worse than our secular neighbors but that we do so in like manner.  Politics and pain are commonplace in many organizations but church is where people go vulnerably in search of healing for the soul.  Yet most people who have ever attended church for any significant period of time have been hurt by a fellow parishioner or leader.  As I reflected on this painful truth I pondered what church might look like if she rid herself of selfishness.  Here is what I came up with.

Picture an individual entering a church service late, interrupting with a string of blasphemous expletives, stealing the wallets of the congregants, using their credit cards to commit identity theft and slashing the tires of every car in the parking lot on his way out.  Now, imagine that in response the church members throw the violator a surprise birthday party complete with champagne, caviar, steak and lobster followed by a three-tier birthday cake and then for a gift present him with a luxury Caribbean cruise.  To top it all off, the members pay off all of the perpetrator’s debts.  I envision a church that would make John Lennon’s world of “Imagine” appear more like a totalitarian police state.

You may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  The landscape of our social world is littered with the debris of wounded souls who sought God’s healing in church only to be victimized by the selfishness of the devout.  However, some still maintain hope.

I am confident that Jesus would prefer His church to be known as a purveyor of forgiveness and grace rather than as one divided over music, preaching styles, service times, carpet colors, and chairs versus pews.  Moreover, I have not drawn this illustration to describe the odd congregation that 20/20 might highlight in a documentary piece but rather as the expected norm throughout Christendom.

The shame is that even many of God’s people would consider such a notion implausible. What could possibly possess sane people to respond with such forgiveness?  That is a topic for another day.  For those who scoff at the impracticality of this vision I encourage you to set pragmatism aside for a moment and focus on the heart change required, yet available to realize such transformation.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:17

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“The Greatest Blood Donor”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgFor several years one of the highlights of my world has been donating blood.  Yet, like so many others the thought of being stuck by a needle has never been very appealing. However, several years ago, after my dad had some major surgery he asked me specifically if I would donate in his name.  It was a small expression of paying back for the blood that he had received during his surgery.  How could I refuse?  It also started me thinking about how many other people desperately need blood at any given time and how supplies can run startlingly low.

Since then I have discovered that the sense of satisfaction of being able to help people in critical need is so fulfilling that I look forward with glad anticipation every time my bi-monthly appointment approaches.  The reward for donating significantly outweighs the momentary trepidation of a couple of minor pinpricks.  Please don’t think I’m trying to present myself as a hero; I don’t watch any of the tests or insertions and I don’t look at my blood at any point before, during or after the donation; such is the weakness of my constitution.

So then why donate?  At a recent appointment, while just making small talk, the phlebotomist asked me why I donated.  Without really thinking about it I responded by saying that my hero, Jesus, was the greatest blood donor of all time and that my donations aren’t nearly as messy as His.  As it turns out she was a Christ-follower as well and we shared our mutual appreciation of Jesus and the cross.

Blood donation helps me to identify more with Jesus.  He experienced some trepidation before His bloody donation but He knew that it was necessary in order for others to have life.  He followed through and brought hope to all who find themselves struggling to make sense out of the darkness that can so easily cloud our world.

Another thought provoking experience happened when I attended one of the Puget Sound Blood Center’s donor appreciation luncheons.  They discussed how that, in an effort to abolish the labor and cost intensive need for donations, there is an ongoing effort to develop synthetic blood.  However, researchers are not even close to such a breakthrough.  I pondered anew the amazing power and complexity of a God who created such a fantastic, life-sustaining solution that man cannot seem to imitate or recreate it.

As a devotee of Christ, my passion is to be as much like Him as I can.  The more I try and the closer I get the farther I realize I have to go; but it is an inspiring and rewarding journey.

Regardless of your spiritual leanings, or lack thereof, I encourage everyone to consider participating in this life-giving practice.  It could change your life.  It will probably save someone else’s.

“Farewell Uncle Jesus, We Hardly Knew Ye”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgThe topic of fond memories shared with departed relatives often arises at family gatherings. Remember when Uncle Joe tried to use chopsticks?  Grandma always had gum in her purse.  Uncle Ed’s sneeze could rattle windows.  Grandpa never left the house without playing an embarrassing game of “pull my finger”.

We don’t talk about their current activities other than voicing a hopeful “of course he’s looking down on us with joy at Thanksgiving”.  Even that euphemism is based on an optimistic assumption void of any evidence that our dearly departed is involved in our conversation.  This is understandable.  They are gone.  They have departed this world and gone to another realm.  I get that.  It is wonderful and healthy to wander down memory lane reminiscing about Uncle Ralph’s obsession with his classic roadster.  However, imagine talking about Uncle Ralph in the past tense if he were relaxing in a wingback chair on the other side of the family room. It would be awkward, hurtful and very inappropriate.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is alive and well thank you very much.  So why is it that we talk fondly about His changing water into wine, calling forth Lazarus from the grave or quenching a violent storm without giving equal voice to what He is doing now?  Most people don’t dispute that while He walked on this earth Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead and healed broken hearts, spirits and lives.  Therefore the time has come for us to stop treating Jesus like a dead relative; someone who once lived, did some wonderful things and then died and went to heaven.

Everything that Jesus did in human form He still does today.  He does it through us and through the power of His Holy Spirit.  Because of some of the dramatic “side shows” performed by pandering charlatans we sometimes avoid discussing the idea that Jesus came not only to seek and to save but also to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, give sight to the blind, release the oppressed and proclaim the Lord’s favor. (Excerpt from Luke 4:18-19)  As we wrestle with all of our moral hang-ups and engage in meaningless quarrels and disputes about… well, to quote Shakespeare, “much ado about nothing”, the true message of Jesus’ passionate love for all of mankind demonstrated through His practice of Spirit-empowered redemption and healing gets buried under so much meaningless debate.

Hey everyone!  Jesus is alive! He loves us and He wants to fix all of our broken parts and pieces including healing broken hearts, casting out unwanted vices and addictions, restoring lost dreams and providing all of us with purpose, hope and a brighter future. He did not come to condemn but to save.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” L’chaim!