Love Triumphs and Trumps all

Romans 2:4-11, "Grace always triumphs over judgment" fears, factoids and faketoids

I am scared to write this Blog I am more scared to not write it:

This is an incredibly crazy fear based and projective world as, one person starts a movement out of compassion to say to those who are in fear of being oppressed, you are “safe with me” or to a way to show to those who live in fear that they want to be a “safe person”. It is not just a “silent protest” as that protest is reactivity due to fear. It can more appropriately be proactivity due to understanding, comp…

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The trend is adapted from those who protested Brexit in the U.K.
VANITYFAIR.COM|BY EMMA STEFANSKY

Judgment Confused is Grace Refused

The essential character of God is Mercy and Grace

Romans 2:4-11 gives incredible enlightenment to the issue of God’s Judgment and God’s goodness, kindness, mercy and grace:

Do you show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to a change of heart and mind (repentance).  Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.  God “will repay each person according to what they have done. (   ) To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality He will give eternal life.  But those who are self-seeking, who reject truth and follow blindness (evil) there will be wrath and anger.  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil:  first for the Jew, then for the gentile; but glory honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism.

God’s righteousness is not God’s holiness or “right behavior” but it is having a “right heart” toward all creation.  This “truth” sheds light on the confusion between judgment or anger and wrath of God and kindness or mercy and grace of God.  God is only angry, when we refuse or show contempt for the “riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience”.  This sheds light on forgiveness and the shadow cast on the unforgiving or unrepentant.  Not even God forgives a person until they enter a “season of honesty about their behavior and openness to be “unburdened of their wrath and anger” and to “receive the mercy and grace that transforms the heart”.  Regeneration is not about believing in God’s forgiveness but receiving God’s forgiveness and transforming grace.

People often labor between “having to forgive an offense” with the result that there hurts and pains are silenced or “not forgiving” by which they are imprisoned in shame and guilt for “not forgiving”.

What makes any of us think that we have to do what God cannot do.  To forgive someone who is not transformed from darkness of their own denial, into the light of self awareness is worse than what a Japanese proverb calls “writing on water”, it is being flooded with shame and disillusionment.

What we are to do is “to have a heart of forgiveness” which spares us of shame and shifts the responsibility of transformation from the offended to the offender while removing the offended shame or guilt for un forgiveness.  God who forgives all in his heart does not forgive anyone until their heart is healed of its own wrath and condemnation.  So it is with us as well.

 

More on this tomorrow!!!

 

 

The Power of Patience

The Discipline of Patience

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From the first day of surgery after being hit by a car while walking in June 2016, I have set incremental goals and celebrated every little achievement.  From the first time I could move my left leg, to the first time I was able to get a sneaker on my left foot, to the first time I could hop into a wheelchair, to the first time I could get out of the wheelchair, to the first time I could put full weight on my left foot, to the first time I could drive myself to a RedSox game and watch it from my wheelchair, to the first time, I could walk with crutches, to the first time I could walk with just a cane, to the first time I could walk without the aid of a cane……my healing over the last 4 months and six days have helped me to learn the power of small steps, small things, and patience to allow any change to happen slowly but surely.  The only way i will walk 26.2 miles next week, TCS NYC Marathon week will be a celebration of small steps paving the way for 26.2 miles.

Patience is a virtue that is developed by the discipline of “incremental change”.

Jealousy: an Attribute of God Misunderstood

jealousy not so clear

I have always been a little confused by the words of scripture, “I am a jealous God”.

I have never experienced jealousy as a positive thing but I believe God to be positivity divine or at least positively divinity.

This past weekend I was at a training where a part of me was triggered.  I felt jealousy, but in  very different way.

I was in a wheelchair for the last three months and have been walking for three weeks.  I was sitting in a large room where the teaching staff of which I was a part was doing yoga on a wide open beautiful naturally wooden floor.  this is the kind of floor my wife and I would dance on but I cannot at this time dance. They were doing yoga and I would l often be part of the group moving to the rhythm of the inner soul.  I felt internal jealousy and I spoke for that jealous part.  It was not that I wanted them to stop what they are doing and focus only on me which is how jealousy is usually perceived I simply wanted them to not ignore my presence in the room. What if God’s jealousy was not about his or her or their inability to handle you having no other God’s before him/her/them but that they simply do not want to be ignored.  When we ignore our “spiritual” intrinsic and internal parts we do ourselves a disservice.

Jealousy is not to control us as much as it is to teach us to not to put anyone person or group ahead of any other group which in effect ignores or dismisses the reality of the other’s existence.

Jealousy in human circles creates anger, hurt, despair, disloyalty, fear, etc.

In its divine circle it creates the space for the other to not be ignored but to experience compassion, courage, calmness and care.  Healthy jealousy is about wanting to connect with compassion and care not wanting to control with fear.

To attribute to God human jealousy is to miss the clarity and connection of divine jealousy.  It wants more for you not from you.

When we ignore God we are tutored to ignore people.  When we embrace God we tutor ourselves to embrace all people regardless of anything

 

 

Why Pain?

Pain is our teacher and friend not our enemy and adversary

When pain comes along

Go away says the throng

When pain attacks a part

It feels like an arrows dart

Pain comes, it intends not to stay

With a message, often hard to say

The message it’s always true

Is not a message to make you blue

The message of the dart

Is to open up your heart

When anger and fear arrive

They from light try to drive

So settle into, invite your pain

Let it linger and don’t complain

It will surprise you with a message

From heaven, from an inner Sage

Invite the pain of body, mind, heart

To write it’s message, softly start

To see it as a friend who lightly

Would write a word of love brightly

Upon the open heart

Into the open mind

From the messenger beyond

To still the waters to a pond

So when pain comes knocking

Please don’t turn her away

Include her as a part of your play

And listen to what he would say

The Soft caring side of God and the Strong creative side of God

The Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God

We live in an either or world when all nature tells us that it is a both and world.  What if it is not either both and or either or but both either or an both and.  Are you confused yet.

Here is a simple way to think of the dualities of nature that balance and counter balance each other.

Jesus is portrayed as the “Lion of Judah” and the “Lamb of God”.  The “Lion of Judah” presents the courageous victor in battles.  It also reminds us that it takes courage both to create a world of freedom and preserve that creation.  The image of the lion of judah is inclusive of Judah one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  It was Jacob who in the emotional moments of the brothers 11 setting up the murder then selling into slavery of their brother, Joseph.  Instead of killing him Judah intervenes and suggest they fake his death and alternatively sell him to the Egyptian convoy passing by condemning him to a life of slavery while keeping them from actually killing him while representing that he died in a lions jaw.  Judah is the one who spoke up to intervene and Jesus as the Lamb of God speaks up fro God’s intervention in the world so that death passes over all those who embrace the Lamb of God who came “to be slaughtered for the sins pf the world.  God in Jesus is the prototype of both the courageous Lion and the more courageous Lamb of God.

The imagery of the Lion and the Lamb represent the soft and caring side of God and the Strong and powerful side of God.  In the end they are one and the same. The either or is the both and!

Modeling and Molding Christian Character

A perspective on prosperity

It is hard to believe that the twin towers , the field in Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon were all systematically and intentionally targeted for demolition.  15   years later we are no safer nor even wiser.  A bomb went off two days ago in NYC increasing the fear and uncertainty n the Northeast.

Our pastor preached a good sermon on the Sunday that held the space in the calendar of September 11.  The focus of the message was that of choices and holding up the crystal clear message of God through Moses  in Deuteronomy 17:12.

What was strange is to hear the choices as presented by Moses and God to the people. It was to chose life and prosperity and or death and obscurity.  What was strange is the incongruity of that foci with the focus of the day.  The first death on 9?11 was of a Brooklyn Priest who without fear for his own life but with confidence and trust in the need of others and his clear role as a minister to “put the needs of others ahead of their own”. 374 firemen died that day giving their lives in service of others. Their is nothing more intrinsically Christian than to “give your life so others might live” which is exactly what Jesus had done (modeling) and taught the disciples to do so (molding).  They chose death without fear of or for themselves.  They choose death and prospered in all of our minds and hearts as the ultimate sacrifice.  Two fighter pilots one the first woman to have that role took off for the not so friendly skies.  Their was no time to put missiles or other artillery into her plane.  She knew her job as to fly her jet into the other plan still lurking for a clear path to the White House.  Because of the courage of the crew the plain was down before she got to it.  May no mistake her though she new her job.  To give her life a sacrifice for many.  this is the heart of the Christian life.

That choice of death far out weighed the choice of life and prosperity. In another sense the story of risking my life in service of others is itself to choose life in the tradition of Jesus choice of life and death both resulting in a different kind of prosperity. Even in Deuteronomy 30 – 32, Moses chooses to go up Mt Nebo to his death rather than trying to convince God of his right to enter the promised land.  Maybe choosing life means choosing what God has for me rather than me trying to tell God what I want. So sometimes choosing life as opposed to the darkness of self-centered preoccupation is choosing prosperity. Other times choosing death, in service of a good life of service for and to others, is prosperity in a different sense.

The modeling of Christian principles molds others in the way of those principles.  Religious molding is not the same as spiritual modeling.

 

 

I know Aaron, Who is Hur?

The subtle message of Male focus on ministry

My wife and I were talking recently about the need for supportive people to be present at the side of leaders.  Which by the way I totally agree with.  She asked me who my Aaron is?  I said and “Hur”.  She continued talking about the role of the supportive Aaron who when Moses as the leader got tired Aaron held up his arms, so the Israelites who continue to be victorious in battle.

I said what about “her”?  She had totally focused on Aaron who as a brother to Moses had a lot of inbred, perhaps even nepotistic focus and awareness.  I said isn’t it interesting that your whole focus was on the one side of Moses while the other side needed encouragement and support as well.  She laughed and said I was totally right (an experience that trust me does not happen in that direction too often).  It is usually she who is right as my her!

We laughed and talked about how intrinsic, infectious and internal is the prejudice against woman in a supportive way in life and ministry when the reality is that we need both men and woman in leadership and we need both men and woman in supportive roles of leadership.

Hur was for those who are not aware was the second person next to Moses holing his arms up when he tired of the position and needed to sit.  Perhaps the use of the name “Hur” is subtly, suggestively, and maybe even  purposefully suggestive of the ignoring and limiting of the role of woman in ministerial roles that has been part of the organized and male driven leadership of the church.

Make room for both your Aaron and your “Hur” or should that be “her” in your life and witness to the glory of God and the roles of both men and woman in life and service, in leadership and supportive roles in your life,

“And Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses, and victory was secured”

Breaking the Silence Barrier

Suicide and Depression are parts that need to be heard and embraced

25 years ago I was the senior pastor of a growing church and invited the Youth pastor to debate me and he could choose the side he was most confident in representing>

The topic was is Judas Iscariot in Heaven or Hell.

He understandably chose the latter.  After all the conventional and not so compassionate response of the church at that time was that Suicide is an act of defiance to God’s ordered life at best and at worse “punching a one way ticket to hell as the unforgivable sin”.  The debate need not be commented on here as it is not the point that I am raising this for a different more focused reason.   During the audience participation, the proverbial Q&A, one elder of the church was irate and yet polite as he raise d the objection that hearing his pastor argue that Judas committed suicide because he had no sounding board no forum to share what he had done without his own internal shame and external judgment (shaming) having a place to be voiced without judgment and with full compassion.  This triggered his fearful parts that it would result in young people feeling that they could contemplate, share, and entertain such feelings.

We can break the sound barrier and think it is great but we hesitate to break the silence barrier on this incestuous enemy that once spoken for would have no power. As the Who sang, “The power of silence is a deadly friend, when no one sets the rules the instruments of death are in the hands of fools”.  It is foolish to think that silence will force any problem out of being a problem.  The opposite is more arguably true that silence perpetuates and prolongs the problem.  Breaking the silence gives opportunity for the “depressed and suicidal” part to find collegiality in the community of humanity and thus its power lessened.

To the Elder, who was speaking our of concern for young people, I would say. Youth are feeling these feelings and having these thoughts.  In compassion and clarity we need to invite these feelings and thoughts to be spoken to disempower them.   To keep them imprisoned in the halls of silence with iron bars of fear is to imprisoned by our fears.  to invite conversation is to invite the strength of community and compassion to bond together to change the slavery of fear and embrace the pathways to faith hope and love.

It is not about heaven and hell it is abut the hell of silence and the hope and love of heaven.

 

for more information go to www.afsp.org

Making the Best of the Worst of Times

Perspectives are our choices

Recently someones said to me, “I cannot believe you are recovering so quickly”, referring to the accident and the healing of my body, the attitude of my mind and the acuity of my spirit.

I think there are multiple reasons why 8 week as after the accident I am doing so well:  going to ballgames at Fenway Park on my own, having counseling sessions for clients in handicapped office space provided for me and my clients by a friend, attending my 1 year old grandsons birthday party in NYC driven by a friend, meeting my 11 year old grand daughter for her birthday event: The Little Mermaid at Albany Park Playhouse ( I drove myself she was driven by her mother and we all enjoyed the show, I preached for the first time since the last accident this past Sunday (8/21/16), went to Greenwich beach last Monday for the day. Today, later this afternoon I will throw the wheelchair in the back of my wife’s car, hop with walker out of the house and into the car. Then drive to pick up my 18 year old grandson then take him out to dinner as he prepares to return to Blair Academy for his senior year.

So how am I able to do all this? Strength of my will and desire? Partly but the main catalyst for this will and desire comes from God and people whom I love and who love me.  The truth is with the help and prayers of many family and friends who regardless of emotional tensions, or perhaps rising above them, are “making the best of the worst of times”.  That phrase was written in our wedding vows nearly 12 years ago now.  We are living those vows out.  Maybe that is what makes a family a family and good friends good friends, a good marriage: “Making the best of the worst of times”.

It is not what we do and say during the best of times.  That is just plain what we call “fun”.  In good times we tend not to get angry or upset with others.  Our focus is the good times.

Something very human happens in the worst of times:  hurt feelings, unkind or nasty words all fueled by anger and fear.

Something very Godly (even if you do not believe in God) happens in the worst of times.  It is what I believe is the very nature of God visible in many scriptures and perhaps outlined in Romans 8:28 which paraphrased might read “In the worst of times God takes those worst times and works them together for good for those who stay focused on Love as God does and who according to God’s purposes love regardless of anything”.

So there are multiple reasons for my speedy recovery.  One is hard work.  Another is allowing for slow progress. The best is always focusing on the best, the positive, the optimistic, on faith hope and love.  In this worst of times seeing and receiving the best:  family and friends have prayed for me, friends have driven me and provided meals for me, a friend has provided office space for me, a friend is understanding as I no longer use space in his office building, friends and family have sent encouraging notes even traveled to visit to Debbie and me (some actually changing their planned vacation (we obviously have had ours changed)etc.   We have kept our focus not on the accident but on the healing energies of prayer, hard work, and faith to be well.

Thank you one and all for making the worst of times the best of times as the best of people come out!

45 years ago when I was playing basketball in college one of my coaches said:  “sports brings our the best and the worst in people”.  I vote for the best to come out of the worst of times.