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.

Furious or Faithful

Anger with compassion is Intimate and Integretous

I was reading a devotional this morning which was dealing with Genesis 3:21 “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and the woman, and clothed them”

The author used the illustration of a mother:  making a special cake and putting it on the kitchen table.  She then told her two children to not eat of it, as it was a special cake prepared for a special purpose.

When the inevitable happened she says the mother yells, “I can’t believe you ate the cake. I gave you one thing to not do.  One thing! Furious she kicks them out of the kitchen.”

I became furious. I heard an internal voice say,  “Okay man settle down it is not that critical”.  So I took a deep breath or two then decided to blog on this issue and concern.  I know the author was well intentioned and trying to be cute.  I do love the image of God making sure people have sweatshirts on to keep them warm as this does present a compassionate God.  I do have some concerns and questions:

 

Why picture God or humanity this way?  It is not even close to unfolding the text.  As I calmed my furious parts down, I imagined that on that days thousands or more years ago, God did the same thing.

 

First the text clearly indicates God’s compassion, as instead of being exclusively furious, he made clothes for them to effectively intervene at a practical level and in a caring way. Their action gave opportunity for God to react not in anger and fury but with love and grace.

Second, anger and even fury are just emotional responses to disappointing moments.  It is the behavior in response to those emotional moments that indicate character and substance.  I have no problem with God being angry at their defiance.  Yet, while “hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn” (, heaven is full of compassion for a humans preoccupation with indulgence and self satisfaction even if it is self defeating.  Even when God throws the couple out of the garden (the kids out of the kitchen), it was not his fury that did so but His compassion.  They had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil so God could not let then stay in the garden to eat presumably (knowing the past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior) of the other tree, the tree of eternal life.  Had He not led them out of the kitchen they would have sealed their eternal demise by continuing their behavior with no opportunity for restoration to the mother’s love or redemption from their “fateful choice”.  Again God’s compassion likes and cares for his creation.  He does not strike down his creation but likes them up!

Thirdly, what mother would set these children up this way.  The nature of children is to be curious and investigating.  Touching and eating are primary senses.  We were at a museum that has a kid’s space with all kinds of creatively created objects that children were to walk around and see but not touch. My wife commented, “really they expect children to not do what is innately natural for them to do. I thought, “yes and why do we think the God who created us is not aware of the very nature that he gave us and would actually punish us for “being kid like” or “just human”.  Then additionally, why would we think that this God who knows who and how we are, would respond with a part that only slams for doing what is the most natural thing to our species.  GOD clearly responded with love and compassion.  Would not a caring mother do similarly. If indeed she chose to set the plate this way, would she not know or presume that the kids would eat.  Would she not then come in while they are eating and say:  “I totally get that you saw and are enjoying this cake regardless of what I said.  I get that if I did not want you to eat of the cake I should have put it out of your reach.  At the same time there is something I want you to learn from this:  a life lesson.  In fact that is why I did not put it out of your reach.  So here is what I want you to learn:   If you just do what you want based on what looks good or tastes good and think it is okay to do, without thinking of the effect or affect on you or others, you can miss all the pleasures and good things I have prepared for you to know, experience and grow through.  Even this one can cause you to grow.  So know I love you regardless of anything you do. Additionally, I will always be wanting you to learn something from your faltering and failures perhaps more than you would ever learn from your good choices and successes.  Life is about learning and growing “in wisdom and stature with God and fellow humanity” (sound familiar).

God in effect says:  I will never throw you out of the kitchen without preparing another kitchen from which you can eat, live, and enjoy life.  Calm out of the cold, cave of your hiding,  I have prepared sweatshirts and sweat pants for you and they will keep you warm and will forever be a symbol of my covenant of love for you regardless of anything.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

Comments welcomed!

A Friend is Someone: who is there when the rest of the world is not

Defining a friend a collection of sayings - add to it and send it to me if you like

A friend is someone you turn to.

A friend is someone you confide in.

A friend is someone who stands by you.

A friend is someone who lifts your spirits.

A friend is someone who encourages you.

A friend is someone who you treasure always, as they treasure you.

A friend is someone who makes you smile.

A friend is someone who brightens your day.

A friend may be someone you do not even know, who takes time to say hello.

A friend is someone who doesn’t take your side but is at your side.

A friend is someone who knows your heart even when they here your hurt.

A friend is someone who sets their schedule aside because caring for others is more important than schedules.

A friend is someone who sticks closer than a brother or sister or mother or father, a friend is always available to sit at your table.

 

A Message from and to A Third Grade Class, like a child can lead us

Never and always

Never stop caring about the little things of life

Never stop dreaming, and don’t give into strife.

Never stop wondering are we on our own

Never stop thinking has your spirituality grown

 

Never stop building bridges that lead to better tomorrows.

Never stop trying and do not give into sorrow

Never stop feeling amazed at the beauty that surrounds you.

Never stop hearing the music, and do not give into the blues.

 

Never stop pushing away negative thoughts that make you feel sad.

Never stop looking at all the miracles we have had.

Never stop loving the ones you hold dear.

Never stop giving in acts of love, and do not give in to fear.

 

Never stop smiling, but look forward to each new day.

Never stop shining in your own special way.

Never forget that all storms will clear.

Always remember brighter tomorrows are always near.

 

-Anonymous

 

The Hope of the world: Intentional Acts of Kindness

Not random acts of kindness but intentional spontaneous acts of goodness and kindness gives hope

The following quote from Abraham Lincoln gives old perspective on our days: “In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to us all and it often comes with bitter agony.
Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now believe that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again. Knowing this, truly believing it will make you feel less miserable now.
I have had experience enough to make this statement”
– December 23, 1862
 
Lincoln said this in the context of a bitter war that we call the “Civil War”. There was nothing civil about it. It was barbaric. Fear, anger, hostility ruled the country. Dominance and control was seen as the only way to resolve differences. In over 150 years not much has
changed. All the humanism of the 20th century has not made us more human. All the religion and spirituality of thousands of years have not brought love and peace to the floor of our living.
 
We would rather crush our enemies on the floor than work at understanding their hatred toward us. We use religion in the same way. Superiority, egoism, being right(so we think) energizes not “love and peace the essentials of God.
 
Christians and another religious groups all play the same song. We care about you but we know you are wrong and we are right so if you just believe the way we tell you the world will be a place of love and peace. How arrogant, self-serving, antithetical, and incongruent with the Jesus who said if they are not against us they are for us”.
 
Only when we all let go of the I am right they are wrong attitude will we see others not thru a prism glass but though a clear window having first looked in the mirror and seen the beam inn our own eye.
 
AS my life comes to a close I want to commit every moment of the next one or tow or even three decades of living to sowing seeds of “love and peace” in the world so my grandchildren might inherit a better place to live and raise the children than the current world of violence and vengeance.
 
A world where acts of kindness are reported on the front page of the newspaper and the media chooses to not report the heinous and senseless acts of a few.
 
The other day my wife and I drove up to a Starbucks. There was a long line of cars waiting in the drive through. They had their cars running for air conditioned comfort, there was little space between each vehicle. As I arranged myself in my wheelchair I noticed that the path to the door was blocked by the cars. I also noticed a young man alone in his white pick up truck looking my way. He was not distracted by his focus, or his radio, or his phone but he saw me. The next thing I saw was surprising and welcomed. He backed up getting very close to the vehicle behind him. Getting the vehicle behind a little uncomfortable that had them back up getting a little more space. He had made a clear path, unobstructed to the door, for me. My wife pushed me through the parted red sea, in the teeming heat. We both were saying a loud thank you and he waved. Then suddenly I saw him jumping out of his comfortable air conditioned car in to the heat of the day, ran to the door and opened it for us. I said to him,
“Thank you, this is beyond the act of kindness of moving out of the way this is above and beyond thank you. He said it’s nothing. I said oh no this something that everyone should see. Thank you. My wife echoed the same sentiments as he went to jump back into his truck.
 
I thought “a young man in a white pick up truck”…..there is hope for our world!
 
So my experience from a wheelchair makes this statement: “Deliberate, instinctual, intentional and spontaneous acts of goodness and kindness motivate by humanism, decency, or religious teachings are the hope for the world.”