Maybe it's because my church has been doing a sermon series on the sins of the Church, but lately I keep running into more and more people who have been deeply wounded by the Church. Things that a pastor or a leader said or did to them, lack of a welcome, a large dose of guilt. By far, the greatest infraction that I notice repeated over and over again in the stories of pain, are instances of judgment. People were hurt because they were excluded or judged by someone at their church. I hope that you can see how much it hurts others when we measure, judge or condemn them. I hope that we can see that the only people that Jesus crushed were the religious hypocrites who judged others. Jesus spread love. God's love is big, broad and wide, and He does not draw lines of separation, only circles that take people in. The Church will never win people by judging them. If you see someone that you don't like, or you don't like what they're doing, just love them. Reach out and give them the gift of grace just like God thankfully extends to us each and everyday. It starts with me and it starts with you...
Sometimes it's easy to be blessing consumers. We enjoy the good that comes our way and forget that it comes to us for a reason. But the reality is we're blessed to be a blessing. What we have isn't just for ourselves, although blessings do bring us pleasure. What we have is given to us so that we can give to others. Financially of course, but I'm also talking about a smile, a hug, words of encouragement, etc. If you have joy, it's to be shared and given away. Look for the discouraged person. Look for the one whose soul is downcast. Seek them out. Hug them. Lift up their eyes. Help them to see the joy of living (again). Amazingly when you share God's love with another person, you'll find yourself refilled and blessed in the process. Think about it....ALL of us really are blessed in so many ways to be a blessing to others!
Here's what one blogger did (kikielectrique.blogster.com). I realize it's not revolutionary, but it obviously did have an impact of the recipients and the givers:
"Few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I decided to do a free hugs day in Saskatoon. It was friday night, the evening before the D-day that I realise it is pretty much a snow storm outside, in the end of April, bloody prairies!!! ''So what, if it is sunny, we' ll do it anyways'' we said. Saturday morning, sunny and melty snow outside, we get up, eat a delicious vegetarian breakfast (that's new to me, vegetarianism) and walk to the closest supermarket to get some boxes, after all, we need to identify ourselves that we are selling nothing but giving FREE hugs!
A few ''free hugs'' cardboards later, we are back on our feet to walk to Broadway street, a little bit worried it might not work. How silly we are to ever think that! How could this NOT work? After all like my partner in crime and crazy friend Josiane said: ''we only need one hug to make it work, right?''. She was totally right, the purpose of our act of sharing love and hugs is to do it only (at least) once after all.
Well, it happenned, and we huged and huged for many hours with many random and not random (friends) people who joined us and huged with us. It was amazing, and so rewarding. One word: Wow. People kept telling us we were awesome (smiles) and came back for a second hug! A lady told us that was the best that could happen to her in her horrible day, that we arrived in her life at the right time, its so good to know you can help people just by huging them.
Some pedestrians asked us why we were doing that? Well, we answered, why not? Just for fun! In this individual and stressful world we live in, why not stop a couple of minutes (or hours) to hug people and share the love?"
Do you ever have trouble remembering someone's name? You may have asked them for their name but you weren't listening when they told you, and now you have to ask them again. Don't you hate it when that happens? I met a guy last week (his name is Earl, which by the way I've managed to remember) that said he used to have trouble remembering people's names until he realized why. He was focusing solely on his introduction of himself when he met someone new, and not on the person he was actually meeting. Once he got it through his head that the important one was the person he was meeting, not the one he was introducing, he was able to focus on people and remember their names.
How remarkable and remarkably simple?!
"Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans."--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So make somebody's name important to you today. Remember it.
In humility, consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
I gotta say, Abraham Lincoln is one person I can't learn enough about! For example, in a conversation that allegedly took place between Abe and his best friend, Joshua Speed who, upon finding Lincoln reading the Bible, laid a hand on his shoulder and remarked, "I am glad to see you profitably engaged.""I am profitably engaged," was the affirming reply."Well, if you have recovered from your skepticism, I am sorry to say that I have not.""You are wrong, Speed," said Lincoln, looking up from the pages of his Bible. "Take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will die a happier and better man."
Three things particularily struck me about this exchange:
1. For starters it's very apparent that Lincoln believed the Bible and relied on Christ as his strength.
2. Lincoln's statement speaks into the cooperation of reason and faith. Christianity is not unreasonable. It doesn't require blind or stupid faith. It requires a reasonable faith. That would be, as Lincoln described it, a faith that travels along with reason until reason can go no further, at which point faith goes the rest of the way alone. That says that faith is not antagonistic to reason, it's just that reason alone isn't enough.
3. Joshua Speed, who was Lincoln's best friend, did not share Lincoln's belief. This is a good example for us, because we usually tend to gravitate, especially with best friends, to people who support the same belief systems we hold. We might have acquaintances that are not believers, but rarely best friends. It's a great example of the kind of friendships I believe we as Christians need to cultivate—relationships of mutual respect with unbelievers.
Mmm, mmm, mmm, good....NOT! I don't know about you, but this word just doesn't sound like such an appetizing name for any dish, but I guess that’s part of the fun of finding bizarre words. The word’s etymology doesn’t help either: "slumgullion" is believed to be derived from "slum," an old word for "slime," and "gullion," an English dialectical term for "mud" or "cesspool." The earliest recorded usage of "slumgullion," in Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872), refers not to a stew but a beverage (yuck!) The sense referring to the stew debuted about two decades later, and while there is no consensus on exactly what kinds of ingredients are found in it, that’s the "slumgullion" that lives on today. (from Merriam-webster) So there you go....it's forever changed my perspective of stew.
The man who said ‘I’d rather be lucky than good’ saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward and you win…or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.
That line is taken from the opening narration from the 2005 Woody Allen film Match Point that I recently watched on dvd. I think for most people, you either have an affinity for Woody Allen films or you don't. For myself I happen to fall into the first category probably because I tend more toward the quirky and ecletic. To me Match Point is a film that yet again reaffirms Allen’s talents as a filmmaker. I haven’t seen such a quality piece of work from him since Deconstructing Harry. His talented cast and crew brought to life a story that focused on the forces of life that are both in and out of our control. The plot constantly shifted directions and remained one step ahead, yet it always kept my interest. The resolution of the film was satisfying because the plot was believably resolved while Allen presented a thematic worldview in a subtle yet unobtrusive way.
I will say Match Point is a bit of a departure from Allen’s usual subjects, but on a larger scale the themes are still very familiar. The film is set in England and opera makes up most of the soundtrack. But before you roll your eyes and groan (yes, admittedly when I heard the opera at the start I did the same), the use of opera surprisingly framed the film amazingly well because like so many of that genre’s tales, this film’s plot had tragic consequences. It really was a good call!
The acting was top rate, especially by Scarlett Johansson (Nola Rice) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Chris Wilton). The characters were real people with believable conversations and motivations. Without going into all the specifics of the plot (you'll just need to see it), I will say that the conflicts Chris (the main character) encountered are universal. They were about choosing between submitting to or ignoring his selfish desires, doing what he wants or doing what is best for others. Like a character in the tragic operas he loves, the chain of events he sets forth lead to dire consequences that disrupts the lives of everyone involved because every decision is affected by things out of his control. He ends up trapping himself in a corner that he himself cannot get out of.
Overall I would definitely recommend this film, it’s an engrossing and interesting movie, one that manages to engage and affect you right till the closing scene. Rating: R
Here's an excerpt of what a friend recently sent to me to share her thanks and her love for her friends. It was incredibly touching and something I'll cherish for a lifetime. But that's not exactly why I'm sharing it. I share it because she get's "it"...the connection between Jesus and friends. Read it and you'll see what I mean.....
"Interesting how when I first imagined finding Christ, I would close my eyes and try to picture him. What he looked like, what he was wearing etc. I'd catch glimpses of him in prayer now and then, but sometimes I would try so hard and all I could squeeze out in my brain were just features from pictures I have seen all my life. Silly me, all I really had to do was open my eyes. He has been closer than I could have hoped! He is here in person, in the flesh and I get to hug him every time I hug you guys, cause that is where he is.
The point of this email is that I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH. I want to make sure, and in writing, that you know how much I value your friendship. I want you to keep this email in your bibles or somewhere close as a reminder that the days you are feeling useless, or like God is not using you, or you are not doing enough, that such thoughts are lies and you are sadly mistaken. God uses you in ways that you just don’t even realize. It is with that, I pray everyone in the world have friends like mine whose heart radiates the love of Christ."
I recently finished it and didn't want it to end!!! I received this book as a Christmas gift from a friend and I gotta tell ya it was one of the best gifts!! It was such a captivating read and I just loved getting lost in the book. That hasn't happened in a long time....maybe I should read more historical fiction, eh?!
Basically the book leads up to one of the epic battles in history....Azincourt. It was fought by France and England, two very badly matched armies that met in atrocious conditions on St. Crispin's Day, October 25th, 1415, that resulted in an extraordinarily unexpected English victory. Even the English thought they were toast since their army numbered a mere 6,000 tired and hungry men against a fresh and well-armed French army of 30,000. It's long been held that it was the English archers who made victory possible and it's through an archer, Nicholas Hook that the author tells the tale and politics of the events leading up to and through the battle itself. But here's a tidbit I just find so incredibly fascinating....consider this stat....an archer at Azincourt averaged a mere 12 arrows a minute and that there were 5,000 bowmen; this means in one minute 60,000 arrows struck the French, a thousand arrows a second. It also means that in ten minutes the archers would have shot 600,000 arrows!! This totally blows my mind!!
Here's a clip about the history of Agincourt (english spelling) from the author's own words....