Archive for the ‘intentionality’ Tag

How good it is to center down   1 comment

I have not written for while mostly because the relentless cacophony of opinions and perspectives that assault us on every subject under the sun has been somewhat overwhelming.

I have been reading ” Mobilizing Hope – Faith Inspired Activism for a Post Civil Rights Generation” by Adam Taylor* and I came across this wonderful devotion from Howard Thurman’s “Meditations of the Heart” that I thought I would share with you:

 

How good it is to center down!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;

Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,

While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment

    and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense

    of order in our living;

A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion

    and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment –

    the kinds of people we are.

The questions persist:  what are we doing with our lives? –

    what are the motives that order our days?

What is the end of our doings?

Where are we trying to go?

Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?

For what end do we make sacrifices?

Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?

What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?

Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.

As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,

   there is a sound of another kind –

A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.

It moves directly to the core of our being.  

Our questions are answered,

Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round

With the peace of the Eternal in our step.

How good it is to center down!

Howard Thurman

*( By the way this book has one of the best chapters on Racial Reconciliation and Racial Justice I have read)

 

Heroes!   1 comment

I saw a striking post on face book posing the question if our professional sports stars are not essential why are they our heroes and why do they get paid so much? Interesting thought, but surely a more interesting one is about those largely unknown people who have suddenly become our heroes. The grocery clerks, healthcare aids, teacher/Moms and so many others. These people and many others like them have been plummeted into the front line where there is real danger and the need to work harder than ever.

One of our church family posted this wonderful prayer for these unsung heroes and in case you missed it I wanted to share it with you. The question is how can we make sure that these people each of whom has a name, who were serving us faithfully before this crisis are not taken for granted in the future?

 

Bless the merciful
A Sunday Blessing

By: Sarah Bessey
March 29, 2020

Oh, God. Bless the merciful. Bless them.

Bless the hospital chaplains who are crying and praying in trauma rooms with the scared and the hurting. Bless the doctors and the nurses, the janitors and the lunch ladies, the front-line workers and behind the scenes faithful ones during this terrible time. Bless the ones in the nursing homes with lonely seniors, putting themselves at risk to keep caring for the vulnerable. Bless the families on the other side of the window glass with phones, smiling and waving and holding up signs of love to their elders. Bless the vulnerable and at-risk and those who open their doors to them even in the midst of a pandemic. Bless the scared kids and the adults who notice them.

Bless the ones who cry too much and feel too much. Bless the wounded healers.

Bless the kind ones, who speak words of life and gentleness. Bless the benefit-of-the-doubt givers, the one-more-chance lavishers. Bless the comforters and the kleenex-passers. Bless the walkers-in-another’s-shoes. Bless the wheelchair pushers. Bless the ones there waiting after the chips fall, and the edifice crumbles, and the truth comes out. Bless them for their grace for both the flyers and the thud-ers, for the fury and the glory. Bless the ones baking bread and leaving it on doorsteps for the parents they can’t risk seeing. Bless the ones who serve without fanfare or book deals or media attention. Bless the ones who love vulnerable children, day after day after day. Bless the ones who are lonely and alone, who are isolated and vulnerable, who are struggling to breathe.

Bless the ones who lavish grace and bandage wounds and figure out how to make ventilators in factories. Bless the ones who intubate and the ones who are crying in the stairwell, overwhelmed by caring. Bless them for they give dignity to the rest of us. Bless them because they see us and they love us anyway.

Bless them for standing in our thin places between too-much and not-enough, the places where our hearts are breaking and our fears are manifesting and we are so scared and so alone. Bless them for being the ones that show up in the fault lines to hold our hands and pray and weep with those who weep.

Bless them for their patience, for their uncanny ability to just keep going, for their ability to be present instead of checking out for something less demanding. Bless them for long days on their feet in uncomfortable PPE gear, sweaty and exhausted and filled with mercy for us anyway. Bless them for their determination in the face of suffering, for the patience in the teeth of our it’s-going-to-get-worse predictions, and their faith in our story.

Bless them for their heart to ease the suffering, to smooth the edges, widen the roads. Bless them for their cups of cold water, and their plates of food, for their prison visiting, for their preemie-baby hat knitting, for the signs in the windows saying “thank you, essential workers!” decorated with stickers and glitter. Bless them for the healing work of their gifts. Bless them when they smell of salt tears and someone else’s sh** and our unwashed bodies. Bless the funeral workers and the priests who have run out of words. Bless the journalists and politicians who are wise and merciful, the public health officials and the sign language interpreters. Bless the site preppers and the cleaners. Bless the merciful because they are so often the only glimpse of goodness.

Bless the merciful as they carry our own burdens with us; we cannot know how low they are bowed with the grief of the whole world groaning for healing and hope even as they keep moving forward. Bless them in their anger. Bless them in their frustrations. Bless them in their fears. Bless them in their exhaustion. Bless them when they are overwhelmed and want to quit. Bless their sleep and their rising.

Bless the ones who care for the ageing and the dying, for those making the way a bit smoother for the families left behind. Bless the ones who hold the hands of the poor and broken and you and me. Bless the ones running right towards the hurting with their hands outstretched.

At the end of all this may we bless them with rest and gratitude, with compassionate and generous policies and pay, with just systems and actions. At the end of all this, may they know they were our heroes not in spite of their weakness and humanity and moments of breaking but because of them. At the end of this, may we value love and mercy.

Bless them because it takes more courage and strength to be merciful, compassionate, and kind than we could have ever imagined. May they find love and strength, courage and compassion at their rock bottom.

Essential?   Leave a comment

In our Zoom hang out after church on Sunday we were sharing how hard it is for some of us to stay at home and feel like we are doing nothing while some are having to work harder than ever. They’re having to encounter real danger as part of their daily routine. This would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago let alone when they filled out their application. In the course of the conversation it was pointed out that the reality is, staying at home is, in itself, making a real contribution to stemming the tide of this virus.

As I thought about this later in the day it reminded me of the command God, through Moses, gave to the Israelites as they left Egypt. Confronted with the Red Sea in front of them and an advancing Egyptian army behind them God says “Don’t be afraid, just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today” Exodus 14:13. In the Psalms, we are urged to “Be still and know that I am God.” The truth is, it’s the “being still” and “standing still” that is so difficult and make us feel that we are not contributing.

Could it be that being and staying still is one of the lessons that we are able to learn by experience as we stay at home? The interesting thing is that I often overlook the rest of Psalm 46:10. It goes on to say “ I will be honored in every nation.” Surely the implication is that if we are not still, we run the risk of getting in the way of His being “honored among the nations.” If the Israelites had decided to take action they would certainly have obstructed the plans that God had for their deliverance. And it was the news of that deliverance that spread among the nations and brought Him honor and glory.

Those of us who play our part by staying at home have the opportunity to understand the “being still” is a crucial part of “knowing He is God” It is just an opportunity to observe. It is by being still when we are told to do so, that we are actively allowing Him to run the universe. Sometimes He asks us to participate, on other occasions he simply asks us to stay out of the way. So to those who are currently staying out of the way, thank you for doing your essential job so well!

Outrage and Hope   1 comment

Recently I was scrolling through Facebook (often dangerous) and came upon an article that shocked me to the core. Actually I was so outraged that I had to at least try to investigate if the information was  an example of the notorious”fake news”. So for reasons that I trust will become apparent I am resisting the urge to provide you with a link to the article so you can be outraged as well. Suffice it to say that article recounted how one of our news stations broadcast an investigative report on how Iceland has succeeded in almost completely eliminating Downs Syndrome from their population.On the face of it an interesting story until as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that the report is celebrates and praises an achievement that has been brought about by aborting any pregnancies that have the slightest chance of being Down Syndrome children.

Now I confess that to a limited extent this is personal to me. I have friends who have Downs Syndrome children and without exception they are wonderful human beings and the world would unquestionably be poorer without them. While making unique and productive contributions to their communities, they spread  joy and love in ways few others are able to parallel. However as I thought about this further I became dissatisfied with the idea that I could merely join the chorus of protest and outrage. As a follower of Jesus I have so often regretted that all we seem able to do is join the chorus when, if we really believe that Jesus is the hope for the world we should be able to find away to proclaim hope with an equally loud and passionate voice.

By God’s grace in this particular situation I believe I found a way to do just that. One of the most compelling podcasts I listen to comes from an organization simply named Q*  Its founder, Gabe Lyons, and his wife Rebekah have a Downs syndrome child themselves, and in a recent edition interviewed an wonderful lady, Heather Avis. Heather has adopted two of these amazing children. She tells a story of joy and hope that provides a powerful repost to anyone who considers  the elimination of such people is anything to be celebrated. So I enthusiastically provide links both to this conversation and to her book ” The Lucky Ones.”

One final thought, I am wondering if the sharing of hope should not be a priority in my thinking whenever I consider responding to the vast range of tragedies and outrages that litter our news media from home and abroad. If, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the answer and that He is enough then it is that hope which is the unique and powerful contribution we can offer, in humility, to these conversations. Otherwise we simply join the rhetoric that fuels the anger that so often brings yet more tragedy… What do you think?

*Q is an organization that facilitates wide-ranging conversations about the most challenging issues of our day. It is probably the most stimulating podcast I listen to and is guaranteed to challenge you to think differently!

Is Serving enough?   Leave a comment

At our church we are  beginning an extensive discussion of our values. This was prompted by a podcast from Craig Groeschel, along with the realization that 2017 will be our 10th birthday. This significant milestone provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the past and look to the future. Our observations of our church currently indicate that it is a  healthy and an interesting and exciting place, one where we can confidently invite others. However we recognize that we are, for the most part, “insiders” and so biased. In addition we lack clarity on the “why” of our current  perceived well being, hence the need to articulate, not just the values we would like to have, but more importantly the one others would identify in our activities and behaviors.

In the course of this discussion we listed ” service” as an important value. As I thought about this I wondered if “service” alone was sufficient to express our value. After all multitudes of people , people of faith and no faith would say that serving others and community involvement was important to them and for everyone service is often hard, inconvenient and even painful.

However if  we list “service” as a value for our church family perhaps we  need to dig a little deeper to describe the uniqueness of Christian service. As I pondered this I remembered that Jesus himself said the he came “not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45  This struck me in a new way with the emphasis on the first and last parts “not to be served” and “give his life …”. If we are to follow our Savior’s example then the special qualities of our service are not what, we do but how and why we do it. In seeking “ not to be served” and ” to give” we act solely in response to the amazing sacrifice of love made for us by Jesus. We do this joyfully and at the expense of our our own wants and desires because, once again, this was the pattern that He gave us.

This is important because it provides a distinct contrast to what Lyons and Kinnaman (Good Faith – Being a Christian when Society thinks you are Irrelevant and Extreme) describe as the “new morality of self fulfillment.” Tragically  the prevailing cultural values are leaking into the Christian community. Recent research indicates that more than 60% of “practicing Christians” agree  with statements that “the highest goals in life are to enjoy it as much a possible’ and ” to be fulfilled in life you should pursue the things you desire most.” Serving others can fall within either of these objectives. However as Christians we are called to serve because He served and sacrificed for us. To do so we must frequently and joyfully set aside our own desires. So how then should we express the value of service in a way that is uniquely applicable to followers of Jesus… any suggestions?

 

A Culture of Offense   1 comment

No, this has nothing to do with football or any other sport for that matter. These thoughts came to me as I read an article about cinema’s (movie theatres) in England banning a commercial, prepared by the Church of England. In the short clip a number of different people participate in a recitation of the Lord’s prayer. The commercial, which was scheduled to have played before the new Star wars movie, received the approval of every regulatory body during its production. Nevertheless, I learned from an article in Britain’s Daily Mail that, at the last minute, the permission was withdrawn on the basis that ” it might offend some people.”  The ban has prompted a cacophony of protest from every quarter, including from none other than Richard Dawkins, declaring the action to be ridiculous. But their actions are perfectly consistent with, what seems to be, our rampant culture of offense. One state university has proposed a resolution the every student has the right not to be offended. But where does all this end? It matters very little whether it is a cup in Starbucks or a cross on Mount Davidson some believe they have the right to declare offense and as a consequence have the offending item removed. Often the christian community are active participants as we wave banners and shout our protest at some movie or other media pontification.   But isn’t a significant amount of what we now define as “offense”  what we used to call disagreement or even dislike?  Has anyone ever suggested that it was even desirable to “like” or “agree” with everyone and everything?  I am not for one moment suggesting that there are not situations when it is right to express offense and ask or even demand change. But shouldn’t this be limited to occasions when an individual, their faith, race or culture is insulted or in some way denigrated?  We cannot permit each other to take offense at a persons right to be who they are,  have their beliefs and express them.  If we continue to permit people to suggest they have a right protest offense at anything that they see or hear that reflects a belief other than their own I suggest we are on the way to a society that will eventually be entirely devoid of meaning. Perhaps it is that very trend in our culture that we should take every opportunity, not to be offended by, but to resist in every way we can.

Growing Hope   Leave a comment

imgres       Family movie night at New Life yesterday and we saw a really interesting movie ” Where Hope Grows.”  (in the course of this blog I may stray into “spoiler” territory if and when I do so I will proceed this with the word SPOILER and you should stop reading at that point to avoid information that might spoil the movie for you). This is the latest offering from such movies as Courageous and Fireproof. Calvin Thompson is a single father living with his seventeen year old daughter Kate. He was a major league baseball player until his lack of performance resulted in him being kicked off the team . Since then his life has spiralled out of control, fueled largely by the contents of a bottle. At his local supermarket he meets a young man with Downs Syndrome who takes pride in his nick-name -Produce and, of course, he is responsible for the fruit and vegetable displays in the store. The movie chronicles the relationship between Calvin and this grocery store employee, Produce as they become friends and their lives become intertwined. SPOILER

 

The movie begins by revealing a number of lives largely devoid of hope. Calvin with no hope of any direction, Katie without hope of any change in her father, and Produce with no hope of becoming employee of the month! Calvin sees in Produce, however, an uncanny ability to remain cheerful and positive in any situation and in the end asks Produce what his secret is.  Produce never articulates any details but in time asks Calvin if he will give him a lift to church and suggests he might come in. Inevitably Calvin declines choosing rather to join his friend on the golf course. During their round his best friend confronts him as a loser detailing his lack of purpose since leaving the major leagues . Calvin’s violent response leads him into a freefall drunken binge resulting in him lying, passed out on baseball field having missed an interview for a job. As the story proceeds Calvin tentatively approaches Alcoholics Anonymous and things begin to change.

I won’t disclose any more but there are a number of notable aspects of the story. Produce gives a powerful picture of unconditional love as only a person with downs syndrome can. Anyone who has been in contact with one of these wonderful people will inevitably be engulfed in their effortless and irrepressible affection and cheerfulness. For Produce hugs are the order of the day and, as he engages Calvin in unconditional friendship it is hard to avoid being reminded of the unconditional love we are offered in Jesus. When he was asked his secret I wondered, is there anything in my life as a follower of Jesus that would prompt that  question of me?

The movie ends not with a death-bed conversion or dramatic life changes (although the end is not what I expected!) but rather in a place where all those who had no hope at the beginning of the story are granted a glimmer of that hope. Kate has her father back, and Calvin has a job. It would seem they have joined Produce at church so we see the seeds of faith beginning to sprout! Yes there is hope for Produce too, but if you want to know about that you will have to see the movie!

Posted August 29, 2015 by jolm15 in Movies

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Being Attentive   Leave a comment

” The Attentive Life” by Leighton Ford continues to fuel a number of thought lines that God seems to have been prompting in me. They seem to focus on the importance of intentionality in our lives. How much of my day to day life is “intentional” and how much is “accidental”?  How much of that which seems accidental would God have preferred to be intentional and how many things did He have to say to me unexpectedly when He would have preferred to have spoken quietly to an attentive child. Maggie said to me that one of the great things about vacation is that she is enjoys “the undivided attention of her husband” for extended periods of time………… I wonder can God say the same? Is He enjoying my undivided attention for extended periods of time?

Posted February 4, 2008 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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