Light at the End of the Tunnel (Hill)… November 29, 2011

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Charlotte, North Carolina

I do not wish to aggravate people but I am certainly willing to do so if it’s going to generate the kind of dialogue that will create betterment and change. I greatly prefer exhortation to aggravation. (Candidly, the only difference between aggravation and exhortation is in how well it’s received.)

Arriving in Tunnel HIll, Georgia, last night for the second date of my Christmas tour, I was rather dubious about the results. I was struggling with a bit of a 24-hour stomach virus, which was giving me an entirely too descriptive tour of my intestinal system. Four inches of rain had fallen during the day and it was also damp and cold. People had lots of reasons NOT to come out to Tunnel Hill United Methodist Church to see our little dog-and-pony show (which, since it’s Christmas time, might be better presented as Reindeer and Donkey Show.)

But to my delight, a whole bunch of folks decided to brave the weather and perch themselves in a small auditorium to peruse the wares these gypsies had brought out for the evening’s delight. And truly, it was an exhilarating experience.

For after all, there are really only four things necessary to create transformation, or what we shall call revival. Fortunately for me, last night all four of these attributes showed up in the hearts and lives of the good folks of Tunnel Hill (thus my title:  Light at the End of the Tunnel (Hill)). Let me relate them to you and give you a bit of commentary which will show why we are in the middle of a stall in our nation instead of a thrust forward.

If you want to see things get better and improve your lifestyle, you must:

1. Show up. Life is not a download. Experience cannot be uploaded nor can it be texted to you–even though some people think that would be “tweet.” You have to actually be there in the flesh to experience the sensation. Without that, you are simulating an encounter which will end up being not quite as fulfilling and therefore will leave you jaded and fussy about the whole process.  Show up. My sponsors often lament that more people don’t come out to events they schedule. I think that’s ridiculous. I’m always shocked when there’s ANYBODY there, considering the temperament of our nation. We just persist in believing that we can push a button and will be inundated with entertainment or inspiration. Life is just like banking–if you’re not going to invest, don’t expect a return. So hat’s off to you, Tunnel Hill.  You showed up.

2. Listen. And I don’t mean listen critically. If you’re going to take the trouble to show up, give yourself the thrill of believing that you’re going to hear, see or feel something completely wonderful or different. There are many people in this country who are still hearing but they don’t really have an ear.  Or is it that they have an ear and they aren’t hearing? One way or another, the information is being assimilated through their own opinions and being decimated in their touchiness instead of allowing for deeper understanding.  You’ve got a heart, you’ve got a soul and you’ve got a mind. That’s assuming that you’ve showed up so your strength is already present.  So at least bring one of those to receive nourishment.  In other words, receive emotionally, receive spiritually or receive mentally.  Tunnel HIll, I am astounded to the depths of my soul at how you listened for an hour to my little stories.

3. Learn. Of course, to admit you learn something means that you have to give into the notion that there may be knowledge that you don’t already possess. It does demand a bit of humility. But without humility, the human being naturally defaults to pride. And pride sucks because it’s a bull butting heads with the rest of the world. Learn. What IS learning? It’s listening and finding something ON PURPOSE that is unique to your ears. If you spend your whole life nodding your head–acting as if everything you hear is merely a reflection of your previous thoughts–you will not only battle arrogance, you will drive away people who could be of great benefit to your journey.

4. And finally, share. Once you’ve actually listened and learned something, walk up to the person who happened to be your teacher on that occasion, and tell him or her how much it meant to you. Once again, that means we have to hurdle a whole bunch of pride and acquiesce to the realization that we are in need of input. But it means the world to other people to know that they’ve impacted your life and it is the only way to guarantee that you will remember what has transpired instead of letting it slip from your grasp, becoming part of your past instead of incorporating it into your future. Share. Tell somebody how they’ve enriched your life–or don’t be angry when no one tells you how enriching YOU’VE been. Once again, the delightful gathered at Tunnel Hill United Methodist Church learned and shared with me how much moments from the evening meant to them. One beautiful lady explained that she had not been out to a Christmas program for some time because her daughter had died at Thanksgiving two years earlier and she hadn’t had the heart to celebrate. But she showed up. She listened. She learned. And she shared that she was so glad she had come.

There is light at the end of the Tunnel (Hill) because if people soaked by four inches of rain, chilled to the bone, in a small town in Georgia, can enact the kind of attitude that affords exhortation, then just maybe we have hope to escape aggravation and become new creatures.

So my day begins. I plan on showing up. I’m listening. I certainly will learn something. And I will continue daily to share my findings with you in the most vulnerable way possible. Don’t be surprised if America continues to suffer from amnesia about its true value–because we must understand that an I-phone is a really nice invention–but no replacement for “I show up.”

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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