Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Future with Hope

Today I write as myself, NOT Adele the minister, NOT Adele the Christian, but the Adele who seeks to find hope in this world but struggles after all she has witnessed and experienced in her life.

Last week God helped me to see a glimmer of hope for the future. For almost 4 weeks now I have been leading a Back 2 School bible study with some of my youth. Last week we looked at "Sharing God's Love." In the Discussion portion of the study we had three scenarios to discuss how we would show God's love. The two we discussed were:

                     1. Will is a 16-year-old high-school dropout. He often smells of cigarette
                         smoke, wears tattered and torn clothes. Will doesn’t know where he fits
                         in at church.

                    2. Ben openly tells other youth that he is bisexual. He is bullied because of this.

The responses to each scenario included: talking to the person, inviting them to hang out, standing up for them, telling them it is okay to be who you are. One person even added that you might have to change yourself if you are the one that is being the bully.

The age range in this group of youth is 14 - 17. Listening to these responses gave me hope in the midst of the world I live in. My prayer is that this small group of youth is a reflection of the youth that make up this world and that the hate that persist in this world will start to die as this generation gets older and the love and compassion that was demonstrated in this group will become more and more the norm and way of life for all.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Value of a Life

If you are a regular watcher of CBS Evening News: On the Road segment then you have probably seen the video below. I still hope you will read this post.

It is not often that movies or stories make me cry, but this story touched me where God's love always breaks me. (In a good way) You see, I have successfully managed to build a wall just thick/thin, (depending on how you describe it) enough to be moved by a persons story but not show any sign of weakness. As a minister, chaplain, pastoral counselor this can be healthy but also unhealthy when I lose touch with the people around me. But no worries, God always brings me back to reality where humanity is undeniable and I am changed in that moment. The story of Woody Davis is one that has changed me.

The part in the story that caught Steve Hartman by surprise is the same part that caught me too. It blew my mind that this man, Woody Davis was blessed that he was dying slowly. "Really, it is a blessing to die slowly?" Well, in this case it was. But what overloaded my emotional system was the obvious, apparent and overwhelming love of God that was on a pine box in the form of signatures. God's love can be found in signatures.

Most people don't have the same benefit Woody had in seeing how much people loved him before he died. While our families and friends are still living we should show our love now before they die. Let us show others the value of their life before they die. Just like the town of Corbett, Oregon did for Woody before he died.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Individual VS The Community

"Love Bears ALL Things" 1 Corinthians 13: 7

Dictionary.com defines "to bear" as to hold up, support, hold or remain firm under.

In the past 3 -4 weeks we as a country have had a lot happen and been challenged to "bear ALL things" We have bore witness to two shootings, one in a movie theatre and another in a Sikh Temple. We have witness the division of our country over the issue of equal right for the LGBTQ community as some ate at Chik-fil-a as a sign of support for traditional marriage and those who boycotted in support of granting equal rights to all. We are also bearing witness to the political process in this country as we watch repeated negative political ads on the TV, and those will continue through October. I don't know about you but in times of great division in my personal life or in the world I have difficulty loving all my neighbors and bearing all things and trusting that God will bring us all through difficult and stressful times. What makes this all so hard to bear is what I see happening to the greater community in America. In this country we are afforded the right to free speech and the right to practice our faith according to our own conscience without government interference. As I watch Americans, and more specifically Christian Americans, I see the individual being raised up to a higher level than the greater community. My observation is that the community and the unity that is inherent within in it suffers as individuals stand up, declaring their rights without a thought about how it might affect the community at large. The best example I can give of this are the two shootings that I mentioned above. With the issue of Gun control put to the side here we see communities being shattered by the violence through the death of people and the trauma those left behind have to deal with. If we want to, and I say if with emphasis, change the emotional tone of our country right now then we have to start to think about the community. We as American Christians have to live a life of love in the midst of hate and division. Love and community are the means by witch we will change the tide of the destruction of the community.

In Matthew 26: 50 - 52 we read:

50 Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you are here to do." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  

Many who favor gun control will use this verse to support their argument but I want to look at it through the context of the individual and the community. Prior to this scene Jesus has been praying in the garden and his disciples have been sleeping. Jesus is fully aware that the hour of his arrest is at hand. For those of us who are believers in Christ appreciate and accept the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, but in that moment his disciples probably saw it very different. Their friend was being arrested, who had committed no crime and they were helpless to do anything. For one disciple the instinct was to defend his friend, who happened to be Jesus, and strike with force in an attempt to stop this unlawful arrest. If this same scenario played out today,would we do any differently. Jesus was focused on the community and the need for the community to be redeemed so they were no longer under the punishment of sin. For this disciple though, he was focused on an individual, Jesus. Today we know that nothing could avert what Jesus had to do but can we say with all honesty, that when we defend the rights of individuals that we are not dramatically altering the makeup and dynamic of the community? I don't know. What I do believe is that every time the individual is raised higher than the community the community suffers and we fail to bear ALL things in love.

In addition to the events over the past few weeks their has been rich theological responses to these events through out the blogosphere. Some have been personal responses to the hurt they have felt from an event in our country. 

Some have challenged me to think outside of myself and about the greater good of the community and what I can do to lift up the community. 

And another has looked closely at the myth of redemptive violence in the face of the violent culture we live in.

As I have tried to work through and process my own emotions and read these thoughtful words I have to make a personal pledge to God and those who read this blog. I want to live a life of love as a faithful Christian and as a response to the love I have received from and God and witnessed God giving to the community. As the community I ask my friends to join me in this pledge and for us to support one another that we might bear ALL things as God has called us to do.

*Please take the time to read the articles link to this post. Through them may God encourage you and challenge you.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

This is not my home! Or is it?

This post goes out to everyone who is struggling with life right now. Those who have known hurt at the hands of others, those who are watching a loved one slowly leave this world for the heavenly one, for those who wish they could just escape reality and those who are trying to make this world a better place for all.

Growing up in the church I often heard the phrase that this world is not our home, that our home is with God and one day we would join God and Jesus when we leave this earth. While I do believe this my work @ HopeTree Family Services along with a new song has made me look at my life here on earth a little differently.

A new video debuted last night during a re-run of "So You Think You Can Dance." The song is "Home" and it is sung by the latest winner of American Idol. Take a moment to watch the video before you finish reading this post.

"Just know you're not alone cause I'm gonna make this place your home"

While this earth is not our final home it is our home right now. Some people live in the home they have chosen, others live in a home of not their choosing but none the less, it is their home. When I watched the video last night I took comfort in the words above. It reminded me that I am not alone and that God is with me.

Wherever you are, whatever situation you find yourself in, you are NOT alone, God is with you and he will make this place your home until that day when you see him face to face in your final home.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and LOVE again!

1 Corinthians 13
And now I will show you a more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess tot he poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where their are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part an we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

When I read this verse certain words jump out at me: but, have not, is, does not, is not, always, never. This words on there own have meaning but in a passage help us to understand what love IS and IS NOT. Up until this morning my week has been one of inconveniences. You know, those little things that get under your skin and they take up way to much of your time and interfere with what must get done at work, home or school. Well, I get mad, really mad when these things pop up. Then yesterday when I was leading a chapel for the youth I serve I read this verse from 1 Corinthians, and what jumped out at me was, "it is not easily angered". OOPS, for two days I was not living out of a mode of love. I don't know what happens to you when you are angry but I get tired, can't sleep and become an emotional mess. Hmm, maybe there is something to this "love thing" scripture talks about.

Right now in American culture there is a lot of hate going around concerning the statements by Dan Cathy, head of Chik-fil-a. Supporters are rallying around the company and today will flood the fast food chain to eat as a sign of their support. While those who feel disenfranchised by Mr. Cathy's statements on marriage are rally to scheduled demonstrations today as well at Chik-fil-a's around the country. Some state governors and mayors have gone so far as to say they will not grant permit license to the company in their cities and states. Each side has dug it's feet in the ground and attacks between the two sides have not been polite. I am sure you have seen it on facebook as I have. There is very little love if none at all right now in our country when it comes to the issue of equal rights regarding marriage. I have my own beliefs and stance on this issue but it DOESN'T matter. Yes, I said what stance I take on this issue does not matter because as a Christian I am called to LOVE. LOVE my neighbor. No matter what issue is being discussed in this country and in the political arena I am a follower of Christ first and an American citizen second. As a follower of Christ I am commanded to love my neighbor. Who is my neighbor? EVERYONE! And when I love there is no room for anger, there is only room for kindness, rejoicing, protection, trust, hope and perseverance.

As Americans we are privileged to live in a country where we are free to speak what is on our mind, and to practice our faith according to our own conscience. I call out to all my friends and those who ascribe to the Christian faith that we exercise these freedoms from a place of love. Remember, we are children of God first and American citizens second.