Good News and Better News … April 11th, 2016

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Good News Grays Chapel

Yesterday I was at Grays Chapel United Methodist Church.

It is located in a place called Grays Chapel, North Carolina, which has been granted the blessing of a name despite its size.

I liked them.

I’m not so sure they liked me at first because after all, I was a stranger. Because I was a stranger, I was therefore suspect.

Isn’t it interesting that most of the problems that come to us in life are hatched by friends and family? Rarely are we inundated by a predicament brought about by someone we don’t know.

That said, I had to make a decision on what I wanted to say to these fine folk. I mingled my words with songs, music and a bit of humor.

Yet, it is important to have a core message.

My core is so simple that it probably leaves some people attending my events a little disappointed–because I fail to attack the right people or praise those usually deemed worthy. So my success rate is very good, but is also plagued by the lack of having an adequate enemy we can all hate. Matter of fact, you can boil down what I have to say to the following:

1. The Gospel is good news.

I know people can find bad news in the Good Book, but I’ve never been one to try to turn it into the “Bad Book.” Maybe that makes my mission seem a little too simple or fluffy.

I don’t care.

People get enough bad news without having me set up my equipment and blare it from the PA system.

2. Jesus lived a human life.

Every attempt we make to turn Jesus of Nazareth into Apollo– who was purported to be half god and half man–makes him none of either.

The power of the life of Jesus is that even though he was driven by a calling and anointed by Spirit, he was bound by flesh.

It makes what he has to say much more pertinent to our lives, instead of him coming across as some professor from heaven, wonkishly trying to explain how things work to a bunch of dumb students.

3. Run from what’s complicated.

I do it all the time.

I meet individuals who think it takes a committee meeting to turn on a light switch. They spend more time discussing the Rules of Order than ordering someone to step in and rule.

Jesus said his way was simple and easy. My thought is, whenever things are is no longer falling under that gentle approach, they are probably also no longer Jesus.

So that’s the good news I had to share with the people of Grays Chapel. I don’t know whether it impressed them. Perhaps they wished I would attack the Republican, curse a Democrat, or whisper a stance I hold on what people should do in their bedrooms.

I don’t care.

The good news is:

  • The Gospel is good news.
  • Jesus came to be human.
  • And life is not meant to be complicated.

Oh, by the way–there’s one piece of better news:

Don’t leave love.

No matter how much you get tempted to redefine your commitment to the human race with some other emotion than love, abandon it. Even when you disagree or you think something is evil, don’t leave love.

May God find each one of us in a loving state of mind … when He, and He alone, decides to judge the world.

 

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Jesonian: Mike, Carol, Alan, Suzanne, Bill, Alicia, Dan, Becky and All of Us… November 30, 2014

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guns in dumpster

He said he “did not come to be served,” but to be a servant to all.”

Yet we turn Jesus of Nazareth into a religious icon instead of a person of purpose who was out for the best of mankind.

Mike wants to know if you really meant what you said, Jesus. You told us to be “poor in spirit.” So would you do us a favor? Tell those preachers to stop pushing your perfection. It’s not impressive–it’s intimidating. We don’t need you to be perfect–just aware and understanding.

Carol is curious if you really do “mourn.” You told us to do it. But it’s really important to Carol that you’re touched by her difficulties, even if, from your lofty perspective, they seem silly. After all, silly is something we have to discover for ourselves.

Alan asked me to inquire of you if you think “being meek” is an actual power position, or just some pious platitude. Can you show us, in your life and teachings, and in your dealings on earth, how your gentleness actually wins the day?

Suzanne contacted me and wondered whether you still “hunger and thirst” for truth and knowledge. It sure seems like some of your followers have frozen themselves in time, refusing to thaw out and learn much of anything. Can you take your words and spirit and prove to us that God is still growing in His experience of being “Our Father” every day?

Then there’s Bill. Bill’s going through a rough time. He wanted me to ask you if you really are merciful. Are you giving out second chances? Would you consider granting a third opportunity? And Bill knows that in some areas of his life, he requires a fourth go-round.

Do you know Alicia? She wishes to find out what you mean by “pure in heart.” You asked us to be pure in heart–yet can you share in some detail how you continue to be honest with us and grow with us?

Dan wants to be a “peace-maker.” Yet he hears the rumble and rumors of war everywhere. What does it mean to you? That’s what Dan wants to know. Are you still backing nations and cultures? Or are you pursuing any human being who has a desire to bring peace instead of murder and destruction? Is “whosoever will may come” your plan of action? Or just a campaign slogan?

And Becky. Oh, my dear Lord. Becky has had a hard time with people gossiping about her and criticizing her. She reads over and over again that you say, “Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake.” She just wants to understand how to let it roll off her back without stuffing the pain down in her gut, to resurface at a later time.

And I guess all of us want to know how you expect us to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” when we’re hurt and shunned. It seems to be a bit more of your divine nature than your human one. Did you really have a divine nature? Or were you a human being who discovered the secret of “being of good cheer,” jumped on board and rode it all the way to resurrection?

I guess it’s pretty simple. Mike, Carol, Alan, Suzanne, Bill, Alicia, Dan, Becky and all of us really need you to be more like Jesus, instead of so much like God.

If we understood God, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.

Can you tell us how you did it?

Would you relate what it was like to be human–just like us–and still find a way to be blessed?

 

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The Rule of Croak … March 31, 2014

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bullfrogIf you want to be effective, start affecting what you can affect–or become a freak by freaking out about what you consider freaky.

The rule of croak–it’s very simple:

If it goes on after I die, I will stop worrying about it while I live.

I have sons with wives and I have grandchildren. They have lives of their own and will do just fine after I escape this mortal portal. All that will be left of me is a memory, so I should be about the business of making memories.

I know it is popular to believe that life is hard. I suppose if you decide to complicate it by involving yourself in matters that do not directly pertain to your field of activity and scope of influence…well, perhaps it becomes twisted.

But it is elementary when you school yourself on your field of expertise and you know exactly what makes you unique to life as we know it.

  • My family will go on without me.
  • The Dow Jones will not lose a point upon hearing of my death.
  • CNN and FOX News will have no controversy concerning my demise.

What will be affected are my writings, my music, my traveling, my heart, my humor, my ideas, my wit, my whimsy, and probably my business partner, who’s been working with me for eighteen years and may notice for a season that the “oom-pah” of her life has lost some “oom.”

So since this is directly in my field of play, it is what I will pursue.

It reminds me of the time when someone asked me if I wanted to play hardball or softball. When I examined the two balls, I saw that both would be rather hard if they hit you. What makes softball more pleasing is that it is pitched your way underhanded, it’s slower and it’s bigger, and therefore easier to hit.

There you go.

The rule of croak is like the game of softball–finding the pitches that come your way, keeping your eye on that big ball and doing your best to hit it out of the park.

True pride and vanity is any notion that we have power, influence or even consideration in any matters other than those directly linked to us.

I reject that vanity.

So to my children, friends, the US government and the rest of Planet Earth, let me tell you that I will give you a blessing–and myself one as well:

I will stay out of your business unless I know I have something that will help, and I will focus on what I can do and keep doing it better and better … until I’m no longer allowed to hop around.

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Galvanized … June 27, 2013

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GalvaLife is not about always being right. If it were, we would be doomed to constant condemnation with ongoing reminders of our inefficiency.

Life is about getting simple.

Even though they are tempted to complicate their existence, intelligent and spiritual people always break down every piece of valuable information to its smallest part. And then …

Well, that’s the key. Once you find out the simple way to live, then the entire journey becomes about being faithful.

When I stood in front of the folks in Galva, Illinois, last night, I realized that they were encountering the same kind of confusing rhetoric in their everyday lives that I experienced myself. For instance, I am told that to be a complete, whole person I must purchase, believe, sign on the dotted line or rally behind some sort of cause which is presently in vogue. In the process of trying to chase down these dangling morsels offered to me, I lose sight of my own mission and sense of mercy.

So what is the goal in being with these gentle human beings in Galva, Illinois?

To galvanize. To literally shake up and excite one another with precious ideas that we hold dear–and to refuse to be sucked in with transient experiences which don’t offer any promise of improving human beings.

I pity those who are trying to be political in a world where politics has proven to be enigmatic, if not dangerous. I feel sorry for those who pursue religion, with all of its fussy doctrines, when spirituality is simple and has one moving part: NoOne is better than anyone else.

Galvanizing–uniting behind ideas that we know are historically human-friendly, are filled with God’s grace and are easy to remember.

Because the second part of being galvanized is to take a piece of steel and put a coating of zinc on the outside to protect it. What is our coating of zinc for our steel of faith?

I think it’s very compact and easy: I will live a life of good cheer, but I also will not be led astray by whim, fancy, fad, and intimidation.

Galvanize-to excite one another with good things and to use that sensation of goodness to protect us from the ridiculous onslaught of movements that are contrary to the advancement of mankind. I will finish up in Galva tonight. And yes, we will galvanize ourselves:

  • We will become excited about good things and use those good things as a protection against lunacy.
  • We will avoid all attempts to seek out enemies in order to prove that OUR cause is better.
  • We will rejoice in goodness instead of making fun of it because we deem it “too wholesome.”
  • We will uncomplicate our lives and be thankful that we have the ability to do so.
  • We will believe in a God of love and extract from our faith any images that deny His existence.
  • We will value fellowship over worship and tenderness above attempts to turn people into what we want them to be.

The problem is not that some people are better than other people and education is not a solution that will make us superior. Some folks just learn to learn the right things–and then stay strong in them.

It is the difference between addressing your problem and your problem residing at your address.

 

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Tomorrow’s Today… May 11, 2013

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North RichlandI never think too much about tomorrow. I try to stay on my daily bread and focus on the activities set before me in this particular twenty-four-hour period. Yet sometimes tomorrow’s activities are part of today’s thoughts.

For instance, I know that I am going to be at Smithfield United Methodist Church tomorrow morning. I really don’t have any worries about it–after nearly forty years of interacting with folks and sharing my heart, I have discovered that the real secret is to keep it simple and never try to make things appear either bigger or smaller than they actually are.

But I have also learned that there are a few goals which can be pursued when pressing flesh with mankind–and womankind, for that matter–which universally set in motion a pattern for success instead of fostering a climate for dissent.

Communication. It’s the main thing on my mind. I believe it’s very important that people understand what I’m trying to say and comprehend who I am. I don’t hide behind books, philosophies, religious attitudes or my history of experience. What I try to do is share a very simple message in a simple way, tapping as much excellence in my talent as I am able to do in the moment.

I do not think that we will ever achieve fellowship or stimulate an atmosphere for renewal when we’re presenting things to each other that we don’t understand.

Case in point: I don’t talk about heaven very much. It’s not that I don’t believe in it–it’s just that for most of us it’s not the next stop on the bus line. You’ll rarely hear me mention the devil, simply because there is a dark nature in each of us which already wants to believe there are evil reasons why we don’t achieve righteous conclusions.

I chat about human things and how to do them better. In the process of that communication I hope to make connection. That link-up is a simple question: “Can I help?”

I just don’t think we do much to assist our brothers and sisters by giving them more problems, more commandments and more reasons to despair. If you can’t edify folks, then exhort them. If you can’t exhort them, encourage them. If you can’t do any of those three, you might just want to leave ’em alone.

After I’ve made a connection, I am joyously looking forward to a sense of contentment. What is contentment? “I discovered my best and I gave it to you.”

Candidly, without knowing that this is true, we either become grumpy or obnoxiously make excuses for our failure.

And the final part of the process is continue. Yes, I want to continue to do what I’m doing for as long as I’m able to pursue it, while garnering a new idea from every encounter.

I’ve been criticized by friends and family because I listen to every concern or criticism and weigh it in relationship to what I know–even if the words spoken were an attempt to hurt. I don’t think there’s as much danger in our being overly analytical as there is in repelling critique that might just give us a better path.

So when I come to Smithfield tomorrow, I want to communicate. I want to make sure they understand me.

I want to make a connection–to see if I can lighten their load instead of piling up their wagons with useless trash.

Because when I leave, I want to have the contentment that I’ve given my very best to these fine children of God.

And I also would like to know that because I was with them, I can improve the quality of my own presentation.

That’s what I call tomorrow’s today. It’s a quick review in my heart and soul to renew my mind, looking for better ways to use my strength. And because of the beauty of the process, I am often granted the blessing of leaving a town having edified both my audience … and myself.

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Bounce … May 3, 2013

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ying yangKeeping it simple.

The purpose for such an action is not because I think I’m stupid or other people are ignorant, but rather, that complexity rarely brings about greater productivity. So let’s look at it logically:

I have a heart–emotions. I need to let them feel.

I have a soul. My soul is supposed to remind me of better things.

I have a brain. My brain is intended to be used for learning.

And I have a body, with strength, which always works better when I am in motion–doing

So my heart feels, my soul reminds me, my brain learns, and my body enacts. Pretty elementary, yet often is ignored. But what we may not realize is that each one of these parts of our being has a bounce position.

In other words, the human emotions are not meant to just feel. We all know people who feel things very strongly, who are not healthy at all, but rather, imbalanced. So the bounce position for emotions–after we’ve given them a good dose of feeling–is listening. I’m talking about empathetic, compassionate hearing of the needs, wants and desires of others. This is the relaxed position for our hearts when we’ve overindulged in feeling. We need the sensation of listening. People who do not listen and only feel end up distraught.

Likewise, even though the soul reminds us, no one actually grows spiritually without pursuing the bounce position of sharing. In other words, if God is speaking to us and we’re merely retaining the information instead of sharing it, putting it into practice or sending up a test balloon to confirm our findings, we will quickly forget the lesson and end up being obnoxiously stubborn. Yes, the bounce position from being reminded in our soul is sharing from it.

And even though the mind is pre-conditioned to learn, it requires a good bounce, when we go into our old files and replace them. Case in point: the reason prejudice continues in the US to this day is that although we have learned that it’s wrong, we have not gone inside our mental files to update what pumps out when we meet somebody of a different ethnicity or lifestyle. So in a sense, we’re nervously open to each other, and the nerves can’t go away until we replace the old information in our upbringing with new knowledge that supersedes it.

And in our bodies, although it is important to remain in motion, the “bouncer” is to be just as adept at resting as we are at working. We should learn to work efficiently but also to use our down time to recuperate instead of festering in nervous energy, which prohibits us from finding solace.

You see? Human beings are beautifully balanced between these great bounces.

  • Emotionally we feel, but we also listen.
  • In our soul, we are reminded of what is right but we find a way to share it in order to make it a part of us instead of just a theology.
  • Our brains learn, but then take the additional step of replacing old attitudes with new revelations.
  • And even though we desire to be extremely productive in what our bodies do, we require the alternative blessing of being equally as intuitive in our seasons of rest.

If you focus on any one of these things over another, you experience some sort of rebounding difficulty, which will leave you teetering on sensations of inadequacy which flare up in pride.

So just like a red rubber ball, all of this comes bouncing back to you. Find your bounce. Find your balance.

And in the process, find the beauty that God intended in His last creation … human beings.

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Whosoever… June 18, 2012

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“In a perfect world …”

I hate that phrase. It has to be one of the major cop-outs that has sprung into the lexicon of our generation as a universal excuse for falling short of pursuing excellence or often even achieving adequacy. Here’s my opinion. In a perfect world, we would stop saying, “In a perfect world.”

We keep stockpiling great ideas into an arsenal for storage which we call “the ideal.” I’ve even seen things go into this building to be put on mothballs that used to be functioning parts of society’s thinking.

The most recent one to be stuck in the closet is “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus used it as a symbol of defining the faith he was establishing among his followers, and now we look upon it as something that is impossible to achieve or the ideal that should be done, which we fail at, and therefore required repentance.

Somewhere along the line, we need to recognize that ideals cannot be abandoned without a death toll in the human spirit. I think that’s the problem with the word itself–most of us read the word “ideal” and break it up into two words: “I deal.”

  • “This is the way I deal with that situation.”
  • “This is the way I deal with people who are different.”
  • “This is the way I deal with frustration.”
  • “This is the way I deal with immorality.”
  • “This is the way I deal with telling the truth.”
  • “This is the way I deal with being friendly and open to others.”

When you redefine truth, you always come up with a lie. It’s just the way things are.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday I had the honor of sharing at a church that has three services. Now, they do not have three services because each one is so large that the capacity of the building would not hold them. No, all three services could fit into their sanctuary. There’s another reason that three services have been constructed. Some people in the congregation would say it’s because each group has a different taste in worship–but honestly, that isn’t really the case. Matter of fact, many churches which once had traditional and contemporary services are now blending them in style–but keeping them separate in time slots. So what is the reason for a church to have three services, when combining all three would not fill the room? It’s just the way we deal with our own prejudices.

Yes, there is a silent prejudice in America that cannot be spoken, cannot be shared, cannot be discussed and certainly cannot even be acknowledged. We no longer go around throwing stones or lynching people, but instead, use the sophisticated action of the delineation of our tastes in certain matters to create boundaries between each other. Candidly, there are just people in one service who do not care to be with people in another service because…

Well, I don’t know all the reasons. Honestly, maybe they don’t know all the reasons. Maybe it’s political. I often realize that the services I minister to on any given Sunday are divided right along political lines. The Republicans come at 8:30 and the Democrats at 10:30. Now, it’s not advertised that way, nor presented philosophically. It’s just understood. There are some people who don’t care to be with other people because of what they would view as an “intelligence gap.” It’s too cruel to call people “dumb,” so we substitute. “Simple.” “Country.” “Southern gospel.” “Working class.” “Blue collar.”  All words of prejudice, which trigger in the minds of those who silently hold those principles to be true, that these folks are not completely suitable for interaction.

It was the problem in the south in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Black and white people greeted each other congenially in the streets. They worked together. At first sight, you would have thought there was no difficulty between the races in Dixie whatsoever. The problem came when people of color would accidentally cross a line where prejudice had been drawn, and for some reason they forgot, or just didn’t know, and they suddenly became “uppity.” And then, what was once a very relaxed atmosphere between the races exploded into ferocious anger. Most black people in the south had no idea what the boundaries of “uppity” really were because it would change from time to time, based upon the discretion of the domineering white race.

Here’s what I know–we need some place in America where “whosoever” actually means “whosoever.” We need a place where silent prejudice is confronted as being a bit of silliness and foolish thinking. Honestly, not every person I meet on any given Sunday is particularly to my liking. I probably would not want to spend a week in the Poconos camping with them. But I can share a pew. I can share my heart for an hour. I can break down my bigotry and allow myself to believe that God loves them just as much as He loves me–and therefore God wants me to love them as much as I say I love Him.

Without this, the church is just another locale for silent prejudice, where we segregate off from one another, insisting that it’s just a matter of “preference.”

No one wants to be confrontational on this issue. I certainly don’t want to be known as the poster child for pointing out the silent prejudice existing in the American church. The anger that would be unleashed on such a crude whistle-blower would be almost beyond comprehension. I’m just telling you that I will no longer participate in such an irrelevant and irreverent maneuver.

I need to learn to not only preach, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” but also bathe that philosophy in the acid test of my dealings with humanity every day. I personally was at all three services on Sunday. I experienced the three different congregations. And I will tell you this–the only difference among them was in the level of tolerance they had for anything different from themselves–because if they didn’t like people in their own congregation, they certainly didn’t express any favor towards me. After all, I was a stranger. And if they had a heart to love others, I was blessedly included.

So it doesn’t come down to a choice between hymns and choruses, or organ and guitar. It is really an issue of whether you’re going to pursue the ideal, allow your own prejudice to be exposed, or whether you’re going to create a false world of “I deal,” where all of your prejudices are allowed to stay in full bloom and fill up the garden, forbidding the introduction of other different plants.

Yes, the first thing I would do to change the existing religious system is expose the silent prejudice that blocks us from allowing the “whosoever” ideal of Christ to be enacted. It means that in one accord we would have to admit that we still bring our own fussiness into the mix instead of allowing ourselves an opportunity to interact with people who are different from us.

After all, it’s only for an hour. It won’t kill ya’. You don’t have to go out to Sunday lunch with ’em. But if the church cannot establish itself as a “whosoever” district, we have nothing better to offer than the local bar, which divides itself into beer drinkers, whiskey connoisseurs, and wine sippers.

The first problem in America is silent prejudice. It allows us to maintain the insanity of our grandparents’ bigotry, while appearing to still be intelligent and open-minded.

I have told you many times, I still see color. I was raised that way. But I have learned to pretend that I don’t. I’ve learned how to pretend that it’s righteous that I don’t. And in the process of pretending, I have become a pretty good actor.

“Whosoever” means everybody. And don’t you agree–there should be one place in the world where you can go, where whosoever is not just an ideal, but a reality.

   

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