Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Love Covers A Multitude of Hatred

I find it ironic that while the violent rage of riots were going on in Baltimore Monday evening, our Night Ministry was in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Chicago feeding the hungry. Although we have been in this neighborhood quite a few times, Monday evening was different. We knew before going down into the city of Chicago of the unfortunate events that were taking place in Baltimore, yet there was no hesitation within us for our safety. And what stood out most for us on this particular evening was a greater heartfelt gratitude among those we were feeding. Many of them have begun to recognize us by face or by name as our team comes regularly every two weeks on a Monday night, rotating with other churches or groups. One gentleman asked if our team could come out twice a week, of course that brought one of my team members to tears.
 On this particular night their emotions of gratitude were much higher than times past. Perhaps within all of the hatred going on in Baltimore, they were able to experience first hand the act of love.

 Their appreciation for us coming into their neighborhood and giving them a homemade meal brought us to a higher level of wanting to be a church that serves outside of the four walls of the church. After all, isn't this what the church is called to do?

When you view all of the photos of the devastation and craziness in Baltimore that have gone viral, there are some images that stand out for the good of mankind.  The image of the mother pulling a Madea and beating her son over the head with her purse for taking part in the rioting. And the images of Pastors and some of their flock huddled on various street corners praying.

There is a scripture verse that says love covers a multitude of sins, but love covers so much more.
 Love conquers hatred, anger, and hurt,too.

With America filled with so much hatred and violence, it may seem like a daunting task for churches. But maybe if each of us individually took on that task of acting in love, it may reciprocate into something greater, something wonderful.

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."
- Mother Teresa 



Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Tale Between Two Parents, or Should That be... Tail?

If you had a choice, which birthday party would you or your child attend:

1. A birthday party where the invitations for the child's birthday designate which gifts the recipient wants.
    Plus, if you give them a present not on the list, you must include a gift receipt so the child can return it for  something else. The gifts designated were not daily necessities to the child's actual well being either.

2. A birthday party where the invitation went viral for a bullied 13-year-old teen who had received no RSVP's to his party.

If you chose the second birthday party, Hooray! You carry within you compassion and love; emotions that somehow still lack within our society.

Believe it or not that first birthday party invitation is true. Parents of the children who received those invitations took to social media to vent their frustration of the selfishness provided by the child's parents.
Actual photos of the selfish mockery within the invitations went viral quickly.
Surprisingly the second story which happened last month, was revisited in the news lately as a result of the breaking of the first story. Naturally the outcome of the bullied teen's party far exceeded the first child's party, which is only unfortunate due to his selfish parents request.

When no one responded to Odin Camus birthday party, the mother of the teen who has Aspergers Syndrome felt slighted. She went to social media and created a Face Book Page for her son's party.
The next thing you know hundreds of people showed up for his birthday party at a local bowling alley.
Odin also received 4,000 text messages relaying birthday wishes to him; some of those coming from celebrities such as singer Carrie Underwood and actress Molly Ringwald.

Imagine what can be achieved when we set before us a foundation of trust and humbleness,
 leaving selfishness behind.

 Humbleness and trust will always win. Always.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sunrise, Sunset

Beautiful sunsets last week in Chicagoland.

Beautiful sunsets last week in the Pacific Northwest.

Beautiful sunsets occurred last week in Southern California.

Beautiful sunsets last week in Arizona.

I see a recurring theme here. I could not believe how spectacular the sunsets were last week near my home in Chicagoland.

"On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it." - Jules Renard

As I looked around last week through social media, especially Face Book friends living all over within the US, the recurring theme was pictures of great sunsets. No matter what time zone or climate you were living in one thing was for certain, pieces of heaven prevailed.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hair Nation

"And when power ballads come back, we'll get big hair again."
- A musician on Hair Nation music
It always starts with a song you hear on the radio while flipping through the channels. A song that gets you doing mental damage by thinking about the past and where you were when that song broke out. Satellite Radio carries a station called Hair Nation devoted to vintage metal rock music from the 80's and early 90's, when everyone had big hair and band members had really outrageous big hair

Another popular output within this genre of big hair music was the metal head bands coming out with power ballads to attract a wider audience. They called them power ballads, but what they really were was just another form of love songs. Now did you really think a heavy metal band would come out with a sappy love song and damage their reputation by calling it a love song? I think not.
When I accidentally  (yep, that's how I am choosing to word this) came across the hair band Poison singing
Something to Believe in, what attracted to me to this song on this particular day of accidental listening were the lyrics. I remember when this power ballad came out in the early 90's, but the lyrics resonate today even more on the society in which we live in.
The lyrics talk about:
 A television evangelist taking people's money (in association with the Jim and Tammy Baker fiasco in the writer's mind).
A Vietnam Veteran struggling with an America who won't support him while he still struggles with forgiveness in what he had done there.
A best friend who was a lonely man who died alone in a motel room on Christmas Eve.
And, what drove me to pieces when hearing this song,
 I drive by the homeless sleeping on a cold dark street
Like bodies in an open grave
Underneath the broken old neon sign
That used to read JESUS SAVES

A mile away live the rich folks
And I see how they're living it up
While the poor they eat from hand to mouth
The rich is drinkin' from a golden cup

And it just makes me wonder why so many lose, so few win
Throughout the song the singer cries out,
 And give me something to believe in, if there's a Lord above
And give me something to believe in Oh, Lord arise
It's hard to imagine that we still struggle with these same societal issues today. It kind of makes you wonder what are we really doing here? Are we making sacrifices for others? Are we helping out those in need? Or are we just living life out, traveling upon a road minding our own business?

Just yesterday my Pastor reminded us to, "See people through the eyes of God."
Some wise words and appropriate for living in today's society. 

May we all valiantly begin to see and do things differently.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Rest in Peace and Thank You Lauren Hill

Lauren Hill, the 19 year-old basketball player who battled brain cancer so courageously, passed away this morning. Within her struggle she chose to live life to the fullest and chose to make an impact in her last days.
She did not let her tumor define her life. She could have chosen to opt out such as Brittany did, whom I wrote about a few months ago. I've added Brittany's story to this post not to compare her life to Lauren's, but to show how even when facing death you can make a difference in a positive way.

Lauren's dream was to play girl's basketball at her school Mount St. Joseph. After being diagnosed with brain cancer and not being able to play, her school gave her the chance to play one last time a few months ago. Even though Lauren only played in the first minute of game and made an appearance at the end of the game, over 10,000 people showed up to watch.

"I'm spreading awareness and also teaching people how to live in the moment because the next moment's not promised. Anything can happen at any given moment. What matters is right now." -Lauren

During Lauren's battle she set up a foundation and raised over 1 million dollars to cancer research.
I love how Lauren courageously chose life in order to make a difference and change the hope and lives of millions who battle with cancer.

Here is the post I wrote about Brittany Maynard a few months ago. Since then Brittany has passed away and, just like Lauren, will not be forgotten by those who knew and loved her. I just wish Brittany would have chosen to live to until that final moment.

 In exactly 18 days Brittany Maynard will die on her terms (her choice words). Brittany is a young vibrant 29-year old who was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and has been given only 6 months to live. Before the pain becomes unbearable, which doctors say will happen, she has chosen to move to Oregon where a Die with Dignity law is in place for terminally ill patients; where there are optional drugs available to end life. Brittany has chosen November 1st, two days after celebrating her husband's birthday, to die with dignity.

So much has been written over the internet and conversations all over social media in general about her choice to die with dignity. And I've read a countless number of comments from folks calling her brave and courageous. Brave and courageous? Really? This is how Websters Dictionary defines brave and courageous:

courageous: not deterred by danger or pain

brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage  

 Brittany is showing courage in accepting her unfortunate fate, but I don't agree with her decision. It is times like these where I wish a strong, vibrant Billy Graham were available to intercede and personally visit her to deliver to her a greater hope and a better choice than her so-called die with dignity venture. I've been greatly saddened by her story these past few days and I'm praying some spiritually strong minister will take the time to visit with her before November 1st.

When I think of brave and courageous I think of my friend Tony who battled with ALS. He was given a short time to live, but he ended up living longer.... 9 years after first being diagnosed. And each day when the physical abilities of using his hands and legs diminished, he still chose to live and to watch his two children grow. But, Tony had something inside of him, he knew that The Greater One lived within him. He carried with him hope. I believe even on Tony's worst days, he felt the comfort of the Lord.

Just recently a woman shared with me a story of her young twenty-something nephew who passed away from a terminal illness. Her son went down to visit with the nephew just before he passed away. He found the nephew lying upon his bed, arms raised, worshiping the Lord. After she shared this, it reminded me of the last time I saw my 95-year-old grandfather before he passed away:

 I watched my grandfather minister to thousands of people and had read numerous magazine articles written about his faith in the Lord and his unique style of ministering to people, so I now what kind of man he was. My grandfather was very close to meeting this man we call Jesus when I went to visit him in a nursing home. As I walked in the door, there he was sitting in a wheelchair, unable to verbally speak, but his arms were raised toward heaven as he worshiped the Lord.

I want to go out like these brave and courageous men: unafraid, arms raised toward heaven worshiping the Father, knowing He is my comforter in times of trial and affliction. A Heavenly Father who not only offers hope for the future, but who is there for the present.

Hope is our future.

  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Chicken Who Cried Murder and A Doubting Thomas

"Atta' boy Luther!"

Over the weekend I  came across the television showing  The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, a classic Don Knotts comedy from 1966. Don Knotts plays timid reporter Luther Heggs, who carries with him a wide range of imagination. An imagination so crazy the small town labels him "the boy who cried wolf".

One night Luther sees the murder of the town drunk and tells his story to the police at the station, only later to see the town drunk's wife dragging him into the police station... alive!

Luther is also convinced by his newspaper contingents to spend the night in an old mansion who some claim is to be haunted. When Luther agrees to stay the night he gets involved in some humorous haunting events which he then reveals to the whole town in a newspaper story. Of course the entire town laughs at him in unbelief, for he is forever known as the boy who cried wolf.

Upon also reading this weekend of Jesus and Mary Magdalene finding the empty tomb in the book of John, I couldn't help but also think about how others might have perceived Mary at first when she does claim,
 "He has risen!"

 Mary Magdalene did not carry the image of a boy who cried wolf, but what if there were just a glimpse or thought of disbelief by others, what would happen? Well, there were instances of unbelief from others.
In fact there are two different instances of unbelief, first from Peter and the other Disciple, who's name is not mentioned:

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.
(text taken from John 20)

It is important to note exactly what it says in verse nine, 
for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

It is when they see the physical evidence within the empty tomb that they believed,
 He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.

And the second event within this story of those who carried unbelief without seeing evidence, is the story of Thomas, forever known as Doubting Thomas.

 24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Probably the most emphatic part of the whole story of the empty tomb of Jesus, is when Jesus Himself says, "Blessed are those who believe without seeing me."

Although the tomb is empty, that in itself should be enough physical evidence for us to exclaim,

"Hallelujah, He is Risen!"