The Look!

It’s THE LOOK that we’ve lost. THE LOOK that says there’s more to living than DESPERATION! THE LOOK that opens eyes to the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God!

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(Another reflection from the Book of Acts)

Well, it’s still chapter 3 and there’s something else that has caught my attention…and my heart. It’s verses 4 and 5. I want to share it with you from 3 different translations:

  • Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. (New Living Translation)
  • Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them. (The Message)
  • Peter and John, looking straight into the eyes of the crippled man, said, “Look at us!”  Expecting a gift, he readily gave them his attention. (The Passion Translation)
  • Peter and John stared at him. “Look at us!” Peter said.  So the man watched them closely. He expected to receive something from them. (God’s Word Translation)

The phrases that the Spirit highlights for me in all these translations is the response of that man who was unable to walk since his birth. In each translation there is that word (or a form of it) EXPECTATION! And what caused that sense of expectation in this man who never expected to walk? This man who had begged his whole life and who had no hope of anything else but a lifetime of begging had more than likely looked at some people and knew, “Well, they aren’t going to give me anything.” Why EXPECTATION and why now?

It must have been THE LOOK! Not his looking at them, but THE LOOK that was in the faces of Peter and John. He must have sensed that these men had something for him, something he desperately needed. THE LOOK on their face stirred up something in the man unable to walk, and that something was EXPECTATION! Granted, he didn’t have a clue about what he was going to receive–nonetheless, he knew something was coming. And it was coming.

He could have not looked at them. Or he could have looked at them and missed THE LOOK. But he didn’t because he could not afford NOT to look. Some people live a life of hidden and quiet desperation but not this man. Desperation was written all over him. There was that billboard behind him that everyone could see. And his desperation led to his EXPECTATION when he saw THE LOOK!

And this had led me to today’s musings–actually it’s more like a deep sadness in my heart. It comes from that question that the Holy Spirit has put in my heart. Here is that question:

WHAT HAPPENED TO ‘THE LOOK’?

The western church, meaning in Europe and the U.S.A., continues to be in a state of decline in mainline protestant churches. All around us are people living in desperation just like that man unable to walk. They are LOOKING for answers to calm their deep-seated desperation. They long for EXPECTATION beyond their DESPERATION. So they LOOK anywhere and everywhere…except to the church.

Church, we are living in the perfect time–lives sinking in DESPERATION looking for EXPECTATION of something better. Local churches should be overflowing; instead they are struggling to survive. In a couple of weeks I will be attending another “conference” for my Tribe and there will be reports for disposal of congregations who have closed their doors since last year. What went so DESPERATELY wrong, Church?

It’s THE LOOK that we’ve lost. THE LOOK that says there’s more to living than DESPERATION! THE LOOK that opens eyes to the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God! THAT, my friends, is what Peter and John had. Oh, we have A look, but it’s not’s what Peter and John had.

Church, we have a history of a different look. Our culture has seen a different look–

  • the look of contempt for our culture
  • the look of judgment and condemnation
  • the look of disapproval
  • the look of “I’m much better than you”
  • the look of “You don’t belong with us”

And so, the lives of DESPERATION look away from us. And who would blame them. I once served a church that had beautiful, I mean beautiful stained glass windows. To protect them they had installed Plexiglas protectors on the outside. But over the years they were no longer clear, only a dingy yellow. It prevented those on the outside from seeing the beauty of those windows. The only way to see them was from inside. And that was the message that church was sending. “If you want to see these windows, you need to be an insider, someone like us.” I don’t know if they ever replaced them. So I’m guessing outsiders still can’t appreciate the beauty that has been hidden from them.

Church, we need to give up our look for THE LOOK! THE LOOK that says, “I’ve been where you are, and truth is, I still struggle at times. But I have found The Way out and I’m working on my journey out of DESPERATION. Tell you what, let’s walk out together!” THE LOOK is one of–

  • compassion
  • hope
  • joy
  • peace
  • confidence
  • humility
  • and so much more

In fact, THE LOOK is looking just like Jesus! The sick and sinful were drawn in to Jesus because of THE LOOK and they will be drawn in today when we have THE LOOK rather than our own look. Is your church declining? Then I would highly encourage you to find a mirror, and LOOK at yourself. If you don’t see a face that is broken, a face that is crying for all those people living in desperation, you need a face transplant–you need The Face of Jesus!

Remember, love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Seeing The Wrong Question

Jesus changed the question! The original question was “Who is my neighbor?” but Jesus asked, “Who WAS a neighbor?”

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Well, the Holy Spirit did it again. He did a Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap the back of the head moment with me. It came from J.D. Walt in The Seedbed Daily Text, a daily reading I do. (You can click here to find it) Truthfully, I have been a bit lax in reading it, so I’m behind a bit. But I am catching up.

This morning I was reading it and the text was Luke 10:25-27. You may have heard it referred to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I’ve read it and preached it many times over the years. But this morning…like I said, it was that Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head moment. Let’s review the passage one more time.

An “expert” came to Jesus to test him. Imagine that, an expert “testing” the Son of God. The story has 5 questions:

  1. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (The “Expert”)
  2. “What is written in the Law?”  (Jesus)
  3. “How do you read it?” (Jesus)
  4. “And who is my neighbor?” (The “Expert”)
  5. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (The “Expert”)

It’s questions 4 and 5 that got me that slap on the back of my head. Truthfully, it felt more like a baseball bat on the back of my head. I’ve read it, preached it, heard it taught, heard it preached with the emphasis on question 4: And who is my neighbor? And so we walk away thinking that the point of the story is that we need to be looking for and helping that poor person beat up and left on the side of the road for dead. Then taking responsibility for their most immediate needs. Sounds like a good theological perspective to me.

But J.D. Walt pointed out something I had overlooked–and thus–a lesson I had not learned,,,until this morning. It’s Question 5: Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? Did you see what Jesus just did? In case you missed it, and since I can’t reach out and slap you on the back of the head, I underlined it for you. Can you see it now?

Good grief folks! It’s as clear as the baseball that hit me on the back of the head. Jesus changed the question! The original question was “Who is my neighbor?” but Jesus asked, “Who WAS a neighbor?” Thanks J.D., for helping me see that I’ve been asking the wrong question! Perhaps what we, who claim to follow Jesus, needs to ask ourselves the question J.D. posed to me: What kind of neighbor do I want to be?

Spend the rest of your day…and the rest of your life, asking yourself the question that Jesus posed to this alleged expert. But don’t just ask the question–find the answer. The right answer will be to become the kind of neighbor who reflects this magnanimous and extravagant grace of God.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! Oh, and unless you want to be slapped on the back of your head by the Holy Spirit, remember to ask the right question!

A Moving Journal-Day 8

 

Day 1 of clean-up.  Another trip to our local storage unit for “stuff” we’re not moving.  My son and my best friend came to help.  Loaded up my personal pick-up.  And another trip to the local thrift store.  As I was unloading our “actually good condition stuff” I noticed something.  And then I remembered noticing the same thing.  People bringing junk to the thrift store.  Clothes that were dirty and obviously worn out.  Sofas and chairs that were either ripped, worn out, filthy or all of the above.  Lots of broken junk.  People either too lazy or too inconsiderate (meaning extremely selfish) to properly dispose of the junk.  Now this thrift store has the added expense of disposing of someone else’s junk.

And to those who think, “Well, they’re poor, they won’t mind.  They will be thankful to have my junk.  I know it’s better than their stuff.  After all, I made the effort to bring it over here.”  The lesson the Spirit taught me wasn’t about transitions and moving, but about life as a follower of Jesus.  And here is the lesson I learned today:

Treat all people with kindness, dignity, honor and respect.

Those whom society has label “The Poor” are no less human than those who consider themselves Middle Class or higher.  As humans, they deserve to be treated with the same courtesy and respect shown at social organizations or country clubs.  When those who are in poverty, of which nearly all would love to be out of, see the kind of junk dropped off at thrift stores and “mission” centers, it sends out a clear message to the poor.  It says, “This is all you are worth–no more or no less.”

Ever since Hurricane Katrina, I have been active in disaster response and relief.  Some people clean out their attics and the stuff that didn’t sell in their latest yard sale, pack it up to “help” those poor victims of that disaster.  While at Waveland, Mississippi, when bags and boxes of “very-used-clothes” arrived, we added them to the “levee” behind our operation center.  I kid you not, one box was full of men’s leisure suits.  Give me a break!

In 2011, I was put in charge of a distribution center in the small town of Hackleburg, Alabama where in that small community 18 people died and over 100 were injured.  I started sorting and organizing donations and I cannot tell you the disgust of the “used” clothes dropped off before I took over.  There were some that had 25 cent yard sale stickers, some that had mold, and some that were dirty–I mean D-I-R-T-Y!  These people suffered unimaginable horror and pain from the tornadoes, and  now were being dumped on by people thinking they were helping.

Well, I digress to my other Kingdom work, so let me get back on track here.  When junk is given to thrift stores and organizations designed to the poor, it is treating the poor as if they were junk.  How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.”  This is a quote from Bill Bennot, church planter, leader and author of the book:  Unstoppable Kingdom: An Apostolic Leadership Culture And Transformation.  Remember that your actions speak louder than your words.  If you wouldn’t wear it to go out in public for lunch or supper (that’s ‘dinner’ for those unfortunately not from the South), then don’t give it to the poor.  If it’s broke, don’t give it to the poor.  If you kids won’t play with it because it’s broke, don’t give it to the poor.

Here is the truth:  we are all poor somewhere in our lives.  There is some type of poverty in all of us.  So let’s start treating the poor like we should be treated, because, somewhere–there is poverty in each of us.  Don’t pass on the inferior and pretend you’re acting like Jesus.  You’re not.  If you want to act like Jesus, get to know them and how they feel.  And instead of giving them a handout, offer them a Hand-Up.  They need to know their true worth–in God’s eyes.  And passing along your junk, isn’t helping them see their true worth.

Well, I guess that’s all for now.  Maybe tonight I will sleep beyond 3:50 a.m.  So I say, “Goodnight John Boy!”

Slide27

My Apology: “Why does HE Eat With Tax Collectors And Sinners?” (Like me?)

(This post is for those I wounded last week.  I am truly sorry.)

 

 

 

 

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Mark 2:15-16 (NIV)

We know the Pharisees, A.K.A. The Religious Police, loved to ask questions.  Many of their questions directed to Jesus were attempts to discredit Him or find just cause to put Him to death.  So today we often ignore and disregard their questions.  But this question…this question is a great question and deserves our full attention.  Regardless of their motives, it is a question that should be allowed to roll over in our gray matter.  And I believe the answer says something, not about the nature of the Pharisees, but about us and the very nature of God, Himself.

Sharing a meal in their culture was a very important moment.  Meal time was a moment of sharing life with friends or showing hospitality to a stranger.  It was deep and intimate, even sacred.  Perhaps in our day of take out, eating in front of the TV, families eating in shifts, meals don’t seem to be sacred moments.  And the images of the Walton Family around the dinner table are forgotten memories.  But when this question was asked, it shows the significance of the dinner table.  Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners, like ME?  Who are we to have Jesus share such an important moment?  Look at the people who would have been around that table that evening.  Better yet, look at ourselves as being at that meal.

  • Like the tax collectors, we can driven by greed
  • We become overly obsessed with our feelings
  • We put others down for our own reasons.  Yes, the Pharisees put down those tax collectors and sinners.  Don’t you think they did the same toward those Pharisees?
  • We allow ourselves to be over-inflated with a sense of self–self-importance, self-righteousness, selfish-desires
  • We make poor choices in our life
  • We do not consider the consequences of those choices
  • When wounded we lash out at even our friends in anger
  • We manipulate people for our own ends
  • We allow labels to become our sole identity
  • We point out the faults of others while ignoring our own
  • We ignore what matters the most
  • We close our eyes to the needs around us
  • We find all kinds of good excuses for our sins
  • We put blame on the doorstep of others
  • We gossip
  • We smear the good name of others
  • We withhold forgiveness when hurt and tightly hold on to our grudges
  • We give in to our lustful desires
  • We point out the problems without offering solutions
  • We worship idols of our own making, misuse God’s name, excuse ourselves from weekly worship, dishonor family, kill both literally and figuratively, violate God’s sexual ethic, take what is not ours, lie to and about others, and we want what our neighbor has
  • I know I missed some more of mine, and in case I missed your sin, fill in the blank here_____________________

I know that I am truly the least deserving of sharing a meal, of eating dinner with Jesus.  I fail Him more times than I care to admit.  I mess things up.  I assume.  I forget.  I become careless.  I surrender to the wrong things.  I fail to fight the right things.  I am sitting at Levi’s table.  And there HE is, passing me the mashed potatoes, smiling at me and my fellow sinners.  Laughing at our jokes and telling his own.  Why in the world does HE seem to enjoy sitting at the sinners table?  I hide it, but inside I’m twinging at the thought that here I am, eating a meal with Pure Holiness, with God Himself.  Inside I’m cringing, desperately wanting to run out the door and hide in my shame.

And then I overhear the Pharisees question: “Why does HE eat with tax collectors and sinners, like him (pointing that finger at me)?”  Or am I pointing my own finger at me?  (Heavy sigh, and some tears right now.)  “Why, Jesus, why?  Why me?  Why now?  Can’t you see what a mess I am?  I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.  I am a man of unclean lips!  Why are you smiling at me?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Quit looking at me with that smile, I’m unfit and worthless.  I’m a failure!”  But HE keeps on smiling and says, “Would you like some more bread?  Here, let me refill that cup.”

More bread?  Refill the cup?  Me?????  Now I really want to run out that door and hide and bitterly cry.  I could, I should–I ought to run away now!  “Run, Randy, Run!”  My hands are shaking as I take the bread.  My legs are shaking as I take that cup.  Were I to stand up now, I feel like my legs would collapse.  So I stay at the sinners table, holding the bread in one hand, the cup in the other, and my eyes locked into the eyes of Jesus.  I just don’t understand, why?  I am so small, so unfit and unworthy, such a mess.  I feel like this failure is final and fatal.  Washed up and washed out.  But then HE says, “Eat that bread, I know you’re hungry.  And that Cup has the finest wine ever.  You should taste it.  It is really good.”

Could it be true?  Does Jesus still care about me?  Dare HE forgive me?  A fresh start?  Is there unfinished business that this sinner needs to do for HIM?  I’m still unsure, uncertain when He reaches out and touches my hand with HIS hand.  And I see it, clear as day–the Scar!  It’s the exact size of those spikes used by Roman Soldiers to nail someone to a Cross.  I have to ask, “Jesus, does that scar still hurt?”  He keeps on smiling and gently says, “Not anymore.  In fact, I’m rather proud of that scar.  I have a few more I could show you, but not at the dinner table, Randy.  And I’m just as proud of them, too.”  Vainly I hold on to my question, “But why?  Why Jesus?  Why me?”

The smile is gone but the look is serious, like urgent business, like something important needs to be said, MUST be said.  His lips begin to move and HE says, “Randy, just eat the bread, son, and drink the wine.  It really tastes great.  None better, I tell you.  If that doesn’t answer your question, then ask ME again.”  That scarred hand lifts my hand holding the bread to my mouth as if to say, “It’s OK.”  I taste that bread, and tears roll down my cheeks; not tears of shame I had been holding back.  They were tears of release.  With that same scarred hand, HE guided my hand holding the cup, and I drank.

There was a flood of relief coming over me.  Oh, I still had some uncertainties about the future, but I knew those scarred hands were holding me now and would not fail me later.  And reality hit me back to the moment; the moment of that question:  “Why does HE dine with tax collectors and sinners like Randy?”  Those disciples looked terrified.  Why don’t they put those Pharisees in their place?  I wanted to jump up and shout, “Hey!  Why don’t you just ask Jesus?  You cowards!”  The word cowards being directed at both the disciples and the Pharisees.

But it was like Jesus knew what I was about to do.  His hand gently pushed me back into my seat, at the sinners table.  HE leaned into me and whispered, “Don’t be so hard on My disciples there.  They don’t know what you know.  Not yet, but they will, they will.  Besides, I’ve got this.  And about last week?  If you had given your pain over to me, I would have handled it, too.  Excuse me for a moment, I need to say something.”

“Guys, you are right.  I am here eating with tax collectors and sinners.”  His scarred hand now rests on my shoulders, as if to say “Like this one”.  He continues talking, every eye in the room on HIM, including mine.  What will HE say?  “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. And these people around this sinners table?”  Now HE is looking at me, and smiling again.  “Unlike some, they know they are sick.  So they have come to the Doctor, all in hope that they could become whole again.  Now, if you will excuse me, MY patients are waiting for me and I don’t need to keep them waiting any longer.”

And as for me?  I don’t have to ask why anymore.  The wonderful taste of that Bread and that Wine are still in me.  He IS right, the taste is good, great, and wonderful.  I should have trusted Him last week.  I was just thinking, “You know, Randy, if you had done that last week you wouldn’t be sitting at the sinners table now.”  But, I thought again, “No, I need to be at the sinners table at every meal, because I am still sick and need what this Doctor alone will give me.”  Now excuse me, Jesus is about to tell another joke and I do not want to miss a word He says…

The Best Way To Help Right Now…

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The very best way to help SURVIVORS (I say survivors because it is a better word than “victims”) of Harvey RIGHT NOW, is stay away, listen, and donate money.  In the arena of Disaster Response I am now a seasoned veteran and speak out of and from my personal experiences.  I am not so dumb as to think everyone has had the same experiences I have had, so I allow room for anyone to disagree with me.  And please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section.

Within every disaster are the disasters that happen after the event, which can be as catastrophic, IF NOT MORE THAN the original event.  Here are the disasters that happen AFTER the natural disaster, and they are caused by human beings, well-meaning human beings, but these add to the problems and do not help:

  • THE ARRIVAL OF SUVs.  No, not the type of vehicle.  Spontaneous Unaffiliated Volunteers.  Some of these have had some type of training but most have not.  These start showing up IMMEDIATELY and do want to help, and get upset when they don’t get to help.  When volunteers show up BEFORE they are requested, you get in the way and hinder First Responders.  The first phase of a disaster is known as the Emergency Phase.  They are the ones who rescue, recover, and prepare a path for volunteers to safely go into the impacted neighbors.  DON’T GO IN UNTIL YOU ARE INVITED!  Do you want visitors simply walking unannounced and uninvited into YOUR home?  Well then, extend the same courtesy to the Emergency workers and SUVIVORS.
  • WATER!  Listen before sending bottled water.  After the April 2011 Tornadoes I sent an 18 wheeler stacked full of water back to our Disaster Warehouse from one location, and had more than that still onsite.  This becomes a logistic nightmare.  A couple of evenings ago I was in a conversation with my counterparts in Texas and one of them said that after the wildfires a couple of years ago they had enough water left over to end their drought.
  • CLOTHES!  Oh, my Lord, what a disaster.  Do not send clothes unless requested.  And…NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER SEND USED CLOTHES!  While working in Waveland, Mississippi after Katrina, we have our own levee built in the parking lot we were working out of from USED CLOTHES!  In Hackleburg, Alabama I filled up 2 dumpsters every other day with used clothes.  Could have filled them up every day but they only emptied those dumpsters every other day.  Their condition was pitiful and many even had 25 cent yard sale stickers still on them.  Don’t use a disaster as a way to clean out your closets.  The survivors had already had too much dumped on them for you to DUMP your used clothes.
  • SHARING MISINFORMATION!  This is perhaps the biggest disaster of all.  After the loss of life and property, the next casualty of a disaster is The Truth.  Please allow those “in-the-know” to share “what-they-know-at-that-moment” to pass along vital information, I said VITAL information.  Just because “somebody told me that somebody told them who was told by somebody else” doesn’t mean it’s actually the truth.  And even if it shows up on Google…well, everything on the internet is NOT true, sorry to burst someone’s bubble.  And understand that information gathered changes constantly.  It’s not that the officials are dumb or trying to mislead the public.  Conditions are very fluid in the aftermath of a disaster, so be patient and understanding.

With that said (and believe me, I could say a lot more!), what IS the Best Way To Help the SURVIVORS of Harvey RIGHT NOW?  Glad you asked me that!  Here’s the Best Way To Help:

  • #1 is PRAY!  Now if you are one of those who are thinking, “Well, I guess that’s the least I can do”, please wait before you start praying.  And if you are one of those who think “Prayer won’t help” then don’t pray.  Prayer isn’t the least you can do, it’s the most you can do.  Prayer is powerful because I’ve seen the results of honest, earnest prayer, powerful results.  You will be surprised what God will do when we get our heads and hands out-of-the-way.
  • GET SOME TRAINING!  Many organizations, especially faith-based groups offer training.  I know because I am a trainer for my Tribe.  “Why?  Just get the stuff out-of-the-way.  It doesn’t take degree to do that.  You’re just making it more complicated.”  Well, did you know that you need the PROPERTY OWNER to sign a “Right of Entry” or “Right of Access” form BEFORE you go to work.  Without that signed form, you are guilty of trespassing.  And…if the survivor has insurance, you could cause the survivor to lose money in the insurance settlement.  Now that’s being real helpful.  And in the case of flooding, do you know how much needs to be disposed of and what can actually be reused?  Speaking of removing debris, what are the local rules for sorting the debris?  You may not be able to just dump everything into one pile if local officials require sorting the different materials.  The result is you have left the SURVIVOR with a mountain of debris in their front yard.
  • CONTACT THOSE OPERATING REFUGEE CENTERS!  See what they are needing to assist the survivors.  OK, so you may not be seen on The Weather Channel, but you will be seen by a SURVIVOR and that may be the very moment that changes them from despair to hope.
  • LISTEN FOR BRIEFINGS AND REPORTS FROM LOCAL AUTHORITIES!  Don’t go by what the Weather Channel or news networks say is needed.  Go the extra mile to find out what supplies are ACTUALLY needed for the SURVIVORS.  Listen to organizations that will be “boots on the ground” for what is needed.  Typically, these are faith-based organizations.  In my Tribe, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief) has a long history and knows what is needed to help in the clean-up.  Give only what is asked for.
  • DONATE MONEY!  This isn’t the preacher begging for money.  There will be some things that will need to be purchased.  But don’t give to just any organization.  Give to those who will get the most bang from your buck.  In my Tribe, when you give to UMCOR Disaster Response 100% of those funds provide direct aid to the SURVIVORS.  There are absolutely no administrative or operating costs taken from your donations.  I know that other Faith Tribes have a similar group and process.  I know that the Red Cross gets a lot of publicity in times like this.  Remember, I am speaking from my experiences and only mine, but I have noticed that Red Cross gets more news publicity in reports and does less work.  I have a good friend who volunteers for Red Cross.  I know they do a lot of good things.  But know that some of your donations are used for program and administrative costs. (I refer you to this Newsweek report).
  • WHEN THE INVITATION IS GIVEN FOR (TRAINED) VOLUNTEERS TO HELP, IF YOU ARE ABLE, THEN GO.  And please remember in a disaster of this magnitude that clean-up efforts will be going on for weeks, probably months.  Again, speaking out of my experiences, initially there are tons of volunteers.  But when the camera crews go away, the number of volunteers begin to diminish.  Don’t be sad if you can’t go in with the first groups.  Be glad that you may be able to go in later because the job is not finished until the last home is mucked out.  (Don’t know what mucking out a home means?  See, you need training!)
  • FINALLY, BE THERE FOR THE LONG TERM RECOVERY!  This process will take years, not months.  After roofs have had tarps put on and all homes mucked out, then comes the repairs and rebuilding.  Many SURVIVORS will not have adequate insurance, or maybe no insurance at all and will need help, both in volunteer labor and funds.  And this is yet another reason why I encourage you to support faith-based organizations.  I have sat around many long-term recovery tables with some of the finest people ever as together we looked for ways to get the SURVIVORS back into their homes, homes that are safe and sanitary to live in.  My Tribe’s group, UMCOR, is always among the first in, and the last to leave.  I know because I am part of the UMCOR Team.  By the way, if you are in my Tribe, United Methodist, then YOU are part of the UMCOR Team!

And remember to love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the praise and glory goes to Him!  Oh, and stop calling the “victims” and call them who they are:  SURVIVORS!

 

Hurt By The Church?

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This is a real issue and a real problem for those who have been hurt; for churches who inflicted the pain; and for churches who are trying to be faithful to the work of The Kingdom Of God who are ignored by those who have been hurt.  In October of 2015 Jonathan Hollingworth wrote a great piece that I offer for your reading.  Jonathan says it much better than I can.  Here is the link:  What Not To Say To Someone Who’s Been Hurt By The Church  And remember:

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

“I Feel The Need To Say Something!”

There are some conversations that I simply find no pleasure in participating.  In fact, I absolutely HATE being in those conversations.  There are some red flag phrases for me that causes my mind to scream, “Run, Forrest, Run!”  For example:

  • “I saw on Facebook…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “From where I sit…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “Some people were talking and they wanted me to tell you…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”  (Perhaps only a fellow pastor or someone in church leadership understands this one!)
  • “Well, I would never…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “Do you know what’s wrong with our world?”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “I was reading in the New York Times…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “The Lord told me to tell you…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “Well, here’s the way we used to do it…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “I feel the need to say something!”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”

It’s that last one that makes me want to run like the wind.  Now do not misunderstand me; there are times others can bring the right words, the timely counsel that will make the difference between sinking and swimming.  Did you notice my phrases, “there are times” and “timely counsel” and this is not a rant against them.  I’m talking about those who feel like it is their God-given gift and responsibility to ALWAYS put in their two-cents worth of wisdom and 1 minute of being the Sage.

This morning I had this passage in my mind and it is the basis for this rant, excuse me, Blog!

1-2 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

3-6 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

11 “No one, Master.”  “Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

John 8:1-11 (The Message)

Some teachers, commentators and scholars hone in on that part where Jesus said, “Neither do I.”  But I’ve heard even more wonder, “What exactly did Jesus write on the ground?  Why didn’t John tell us?”  And truthfully, so have I wondered.  I remember one summer in Emory when I sat at the feet of one of my favorite professors, the late Dr. David Naglee.  He suggested that it may have been a quote from The Mishna which said if a person was in a position to prevent someone from committing a sin but did nothing to try to stop them, then they were guilty of committing that sin.  And in the case of adultery, they would have to be in a place where they could have prevented it from happening.  Sounds reasonable.

But we do not know if that is what Jesus wrote.  So I went to the Greek to see if it could enlighten me.  According to Strong’s Concordance the Greek word used is “grapho” and it has a variety of meanings.  I looked at that word “grapho” and almost immediately I thought of the word “graphics”, as in graphic art.  Maybe Jesus was just doodling on the ground, like some do in class or when the preacher is preaching.  But I digress; what caught my attention this morning was what Jesus did while the Religious Police were spewing their venomous sewage.  Have you ever paid attention to what Jesus did while that sewage of hate, of sinners and Jesus, was flowing at the rate of about 1000 gallons a minute?

“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger in the dirt.  Excuse me Jesus!  Those guys are making fun of your teachings.  Those guys are spewing hate!  Those guys are being mean to that woman.  You are the one who always took the side of the oppressed.  This woman is being heavily oppressed.  Say something Jesus!  Don’t you feel the need to say something?  “Nope!” and He went back to doodling on the ground.

 And when they kept on pestering Him, He finally gets up and we see His lips start to move.  There you go Jesus!  Now open up and let them have it!  Tell them how wrong they are!  Call them low-down snakes again!  Put them in their place!  Better yet, just rip them apart!  And He says, “OK.”  What???  Is that the best you can do?  Don’t you have something else to say?  And then those lips move again, now we’re getting somewhere.  “Go ahead, but the first rock thrown has to be by the one who hasn’t sinned.  Then the rest of you can let the rocks fly.”  And then Jesus goes back to doodling on the ground.

Nothing else.  Jesus goes back to the silent mode just as when they first presented this “sinner” to Him.  Jesus finally does say more, but I am going to leave those words for another time and another blog.  I want you to see how Jesus responded to a situation that, in our opinions, DEMANDED something be said.  Jesus says nothing but doodles on the ground.  You cannot say that Jesus does not understand the serious nature of this confrontation.  He knows that the future of this woman is at stake.  When confronted with their hate, Jesus simply draws doodles in the dirt.

In our culture and nation, maybe this part of the story has something to say to us as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  When hate and anger is being thrown around like a Frisbee, maybe our best INITIAL response would be to follow the example of The Master.  Get out a sheet of paper, church bulletins work nicely, too, and draw some doodles.  Not every situation demands we say something.  Perhaps Jesus knew something we do not know–that there are moments when we can say a whole lot more by saying nothing.  This is one of my favorite memes:

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Maybe, just maybe, the best way to silence all these protests and unrest is to say nothing at all.  Maybe, just maybe mind you, that when we feel the need to say something we really need to say nothing.  Allow The Master to take those thoughts and work with them and you.  Give The Master the opportunity to bring the wisdom of all eternity to work with those words.  Allow The Master to clean those words up and flavor them with His Love, Grace and Mercy so that when you do speak it will be like His words–Timely and Timeless!  Maybe, just maybe this same process will work when dealing with all those “other sinners” out there.  You will never know if you never try it.

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