Friday, March 30, 2012

A love of the underdog...

Many of you have probably seen the video of Jonathan and Charlotte, the British singing duo, floating around the Internet this week.  The twosome recently performed on Simon Crowell's Britain's Got Talent.  Jonathan is a heavyset, disheveled teenager who appears to lean heavily on his partner.  Simon Crowell, with his usual disgust, appears to judge the young duo as they walk on to the stage.  Whether Crowell's comments are just setting the stage or are an accurate depiction of his feelings, he shows a human tendency to pre-judge a given situation.  As viewers learned from Paul Potts and Susan Boyle however, appearances can be deceiving.  Jonathan blows away the crowd with the power of his voice.  Soon all audience members and judges are standing in ovation.  Another unlikely star may have just been born.
What is about this type of story that has such wide appeal in our world?  Perhaps it is the fact that we are guilty of the oft-repeated sin of Crowell, prejudice and judgment.  Almost everyone has the tendency to judge based on surface appearances and often we do not take the time to know people on a deeper level.  Of course the opposite direction is true as well.  A great many of us have felt judged and excluded by others due to our ethnicity, our looks, our economic status or a diagnosis.  Surely this is one of the great issues of our humanity: we often exclude others while desperately trying to be accepted for who we are.
Jesus dealt with this issue in Matthew 9.  After calling the sinful publican Matthew to be a disciple, He then joins Matthew at a banquet at Matthew's home.  Other tax collectors and sinners gather to share the banquet along with Jesus' disciples.  On the skirts of the party are the Pharisees, pious, proper and judgmental.  They demand to know why Jesus' is sullying His reputation with this sort of crowd.  Jesus answers their questions by stating a principle which all of them would have acknowledged to be true: it is the sick and not the healthy who need a physician.  In other words, it is just these sort of people that need accepting the most.  If you already feel included, I can't give you anything, but if you feel left out I can bring you into fellowship.
The Pharisees thought by judging others they could gain position.  Jesus lets it be known that position is gained by accepting others into relationship.  These notorious sinners that Jesus associated with knew what it was like to be excluded from fellowship and community.  What Jesus offered to them and offers to us is a merciful acceptance that restores relationship.  The next time we are tempted to judge people based on external appearances let us remember how painful it is to be excluded and how wonderful it is to be accepted in Him.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
~John Green

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: Try to please everybody."
-H.B. Swope

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming."

Monday, March 26, 2012

As you start your week, remember...

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
-Anne Frank

Sunday, March 25, 2012

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” 
-Mark Twain

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Great song, great singers

Darius Rucker and ADELE sing the Lady Antebellum hit, Need You Now.
Classic-style country love song given a bluesy-pop twist.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Perspective from world famous friends...

As you may remember from previous posts, I went to college with one-half of The Secret Sisters.  They are really taking off and are featured on the new soundtrack for The Hunger Games which premieres today.  This song alludes to the belief that tomorrow will be better than today.  In dealing with problems in my life I have tried to keep this attitude and perspective.  You can't always know what tomorrow will bring but we can always hope it will be a step in the right direction.  I have been told this song was written about the life-changing storms that destroyed a great deal of rural Alabama last year.  The Secret Sisters, Lydia and Laura Rogers, are originally from Muscle Shoals, AL.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of what does life consist?

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
~ Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Sometimes in life we can begin to think that the world is only as big as our ideas about it.  Our perceptions and our learning vary from individual to individual, but it is certainly true that no one knows everything.  We must learn to be willing to admit that there are many things that we do not and perhaps cannot understand.  We must learn to look on the world with wonder.  While we may not understand something or someone that does not make that thing or person evil, backward or wrong.  We need to always be looking to know more and at the same time to be amazed at the breadth and the depth of our universe's unknowable nature.
The universe is vast beyond imagination and, yet, as people of faith, we believe that in that vastness we as individuals have meaning and purpose.  To grow in our faith we must look out as well as in.  When we see the wonder of this life we perhaps will be motivated to seek out the Author of this life.  God has the ability to be both unknowable and yet also very intimate.  As we extend ourselves in faith, God will reveal Himself in a variety of ways.
Our charge is to not limit God to our narrow ideas of Him.  We must approach God as He is and we must approach Him just as we are.

For more along these lines check out Acts 17 and Paul's sermon on Mar's Hill.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Some perspective...

People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.

The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.

Monday, March 19, 2012

As you start your work week, remember...

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."
-Mother Teresa

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lessons from the past

As our nation continues hurdling forward paying little mind to our collective history, we would do well to remember that we are in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.  From the spring of 2011 until the spring of 2015, we will be passing a different date each day that represents a century and a half's removal from the War Between the States.  
The Civil War brings out strong emotions in the students of history.  The issues of equality, independence, agriculture, commerce, religious destiny and national and sectional fervor that so defined that struggle are still being evaluated in our contemporary national conversation.  Just as the advocates of a strong central government inevitably came to clash with those bent on a sectional determinism, our current political discourse is dividing us along the lines of those who see government as part of the solution to our cultural crisis and those who view government as a necessary evil that is best in its most limited and restricted form.  It is unwise to conjecture as to what side of our current political argument the leaders of the past would have found themselves just as we as moderns cannot fully understand the state of mind held by our fore bearers in their time of crisis.  The best we can do is to learn from history what lessons it is willing to impart to us in contemporary times.  By looking at the lives, writings and legacies of the heroes of the American Civil War, we can see that many of those leaders were moved by a sense of honor, duty and loyalty which can hopefully be revived in our current times.  When men care more about the preservation of what they hold sacred than they do about personal fortune or accolades then we will have better national servants for our leaders.  When those leaders desire the greater good for the majority rather than special rights and privileges for an elite minority then we will have a government which better serves the needs of our citizens.  When every person contributes through active service to the betterment of the whole we will have a society where everyone is considered both equal and yet unique.  May we go forward in the hope that in our diversity there is strength and in our mutual respect there is hope for our nation.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"...all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” 
-C.S Lewis in Mere Christianity

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fellow FHU grad Madison Chandler...

“Let it be known to the Americanologist of 3000 AD that we idolized a strange, boomerang-shaped, mighty, fiery thoroughfare of broken hearts and blessed events which we called BROADWAY.  That will explain us.” 
― Gilbert Gabriel

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi Day

It is March 14, 2012 (3/14/12).  
Some of my more academic (dare I say, nerdy) friends call this day Pi Day based on the mathematical figure that begins 3.14 and carries on into infinity.  Other friends will be marking today as the halfway point of Lent as they are on their journey to the cross.  For me it is Wednesday, the day in the middle, never my favorite day.  Wednesday seems so far from the social times and fun of the weekend ahead and also so distant from the refreshment of last Sunday's worship.  The vast majority of our lives it can seem are spent in the middle...looking back on past failures and successes and dreaming of future adventures yet to come.
Learning to live well on days that in all ways seem ordinary is a skill that it is wise to develop.  Not everyday can bring excitement and if we had excitement everyday it would no long excite us.  Not everyday can lead to breakthroughs and beginnings for us.  Some days are just in the middle of life and have no outward specialness of their own.  We don't grow most though on our birthdays, but rather we grow on the 364 days between the lighting of candles and eating of cake.  Never forget that even in the most ordinary of days you have an opportunity to grow.  Whether it is in renewing a friendship, expanding your mind or being good to your body, the small acts of kindness you pay to yourself will in the end define your days.  Be gentle with yourself and use the ordinary to grow better and bolder.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
-St. Paul to the church at Ephesus

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails..."
-St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church

Monday, March 12, 2012

“The stage is a magic circle where only the most real things happen, a neutral territory outside the jurisdiction of Fate where stars may be crossed with impunity. A truer and more real place does not exist in all the universe.” 
~ P.S. Faber

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where are you from...

Where are you from?

I am from a place where everyone really does know your name and they are, in fact, almost always glad you came by to drink coffee and share some news.
From a place where you live long in the shadows of cotton pickers and beloved grandparents.  Where people trust people and know their banker by name.  It's a place that never seems to wake up despite the advance of technology and time.  
I'm from a place where country music and Gospel are the soundtracks of our days and King James Bibles are the script we just keep reading and living year after year.  
From a place where going out for fast food is a treat and where vacations are planned years in advance.  A place with a community library, a rural route and a full service gas station.
 I'm from a place where a revival is still news in town and when a new restaurant opens we all take guesses on how long it will stay.  
This is a place where everyone once was a Democrat and now just about everyone is a Republican and yet no one seems to have changed one thing they believe.  
It's a dinner of leftovers with your folks after a day of working in the yard or in the field or at the factory and it's knowing that some good people go to church and some good people don't.  It's believing in things like hard work, tough love and redemption.  
People still get baptized here and people still drift away.  
It's a place that most people want to leave when they are young and few actually do.  Most of those come back even if just to die.
From a town where everyone knows the undertaker personally and where people are still new even if they have lived here 30 years.  
Some people might say it's a backward place and in a lot of ways they would be right.  
Yet there is something special about knowing people truly and loving a place deeply and realizing that nowhere else would quite be home.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"I want to take the word Christianity back to Christ himself, back to that mighty heart whose pulse seems to throb through the world today, that endless fountain of charity out of which I believe has come all true progress and all civilization that deserves the name ... I go back to that great Spirit which contemplated a sacrifice for the whole of humanity. That sacrifice is not one of exclusion, but of an infinite and endless and joyous inclusion. And I thank God for it."
~ Julia Ward Howe

Friday, March 9, 2012

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."
- Dorothy Nevill

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More Lea Salonga...

A medley of selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber's hits from Evita, then Jesus Christ Superstar, then Sunset Boulevard and then back to Evita.
Music has the ability to take us to wonderful and surprising emotional places.  For the brief space of the performance the actor becomes the person portrayed and we are left with a better understanding of the emotional lives of our collective history.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, March 4, 2012

One of my favorite quotes...

"It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God's greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you have been through."
-Witley Phipps

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Real SMASH

With the new show SMASH creating quite a stir on cable, I thought some of you might be interested to see a brief clip from Lea Salonga's audition for Miss Saigon.  You will see the two writers (who also wrote Les Miserables - one is the man who gives the autograph and plays piano) and you will also spy a very young Cameron Mackintosh on the panel.  Salonga would originate the role of Kim in Miss Saigon, play both female leads in Les Miserables at different points, and later be known for being the singing voice for Disney princesses.  This clip is so raw and she is just starting out, but it seems as if the people in the room know that she is going to be something very special.

"Please don't let me stop thinking and start blindly frightenedly accepting!  I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out.  To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love."
~ Sylvia Plath

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Learning to teach

"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre."
 ~ Gail Godwin

One of the great things about getting to teach so often is that one gets to present ideas in a way that is both educational and entertaining.  I believe that teaching is a gift that, while it can be honed, is usually a natural talent.  The best teachers I have had, whether in the church, the classroom or in the realm of life, made learning exciting and fun.  A certain element of drama is involved in teaching.  Certainly knowledge and preparation are important as a teacher, but at least as equally as important is the ability to translate that raw information in a lively and thoughtful way. 
My grandmother is a gifted storyteller and was wonderful at the presentation part of teaching.  What she lacked in knowledge about pirates, Native Americans and famous battles from the past, she compensated with a dynamic delivery and cliff-hanging presentation style.  This method of teaching encouraged us as children to then investigate the subject further in our own time.  Had it not been for her detailed and dynamic style, I might never have been motivated to such a great interest in history and folklore.  Fortunately, I was blessed with a childhood that encouraged reading, investigating and learning.  I believe this attitude toward learning demonstrated by my grandparents and parents motivated my sister and I to be life-long learners.  One benefit of loving to learn is that you will almost naturally come to love to share your knowledge with others.
In addition to family influence, another teaching example stands out to me.  I had a brillant Bible teacher during my undergraduate education.  In his class on Acts of the Apostles, he demonstrated a breadth of knowledge that far out-distanced my previous experience with the material.  Having more than just knowledge, he taught the course as if you were really there with the early Christians experiencing the same dramatic events that are witnessed in that book.  I learned so much in that class both from his knowledge and his teaching ability.
If you are preparing to teach please remember: knowledge of the subject matter is valuable and essential but so is the ability to relate that information to your audience.  When these two elements are joined together in the right proportion for the situation, learning is sure to result.