Saturday, April 27, 2013
Torch Bearers Save Man Who Lost Both Legs, AP
Plato has written that the souls of people on their way to earth life pass through a room full of lights. Most receive a taper to guide them in the dim country of this world. A chosen few receive a torch. These are the poets, seers and saints who lead and lift the race out of darkness toward the light. They are the law-givers, way-showers, truth-tellers, grace-givers and life-savers. Without them humanity would lose its way in the dark.
I guess he missed the room where candle snuffers were also being issued. It’s dark enough in this existence without experiencing those who are law-breakers, dead-enders, lie-tellers, hate-givers and life-takers. Many of these extremists operate under the guise of some religion. Their lives ease out of the light so far that their soul devolves into permanent darkness. They consciously seek to turn out the bright lights of humanity and cast the world into a chaotic existence apart from the presence of our Creator.
Fortunately, we still have torch bearers among us. And we have the assurance that God’s Son has power over the dark side and will ultimately persevere. In the meantime, the torch bearers appear in the middle of the most catastrophic events and can be seen running towards the cowardly bombing carnage and walking up the stairs of the World Trade Center while others run the other way.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Reflecting Beauty, Jamestown, NC
The bright sunlight of spring ushers in a much welcomed time of the year after the dark bleakness associated with the fallow winter. And with springtime comes the beauty of blooming colors all around us. A Facebook friend recently posted a thought by a person I have absolutely no knowledge of but like the sentiment. Paramahansa Yogananda is quoted as musing that “Life has a bright side and a dark side, for the world is composed of light and shadows. If you permit your thoughts to dwell on evil, you yourself will become ugly. Look only for the good in everything, that you absorb the quality of beauty”. One eyeglass maker has a specially coated lens that is sensitive to light and reacts to it. When we look for the bad aspects of life, it coats the lens through which we view life until we can only see darkness. But when we look for the goodness in life, the lens opens up to the Light of the World and its beauty.
I don’t believe we should ever live with the false illusion that there is no evil or darkness around us, but I also believe that we see in life what we look for in life. And it is well that we seek out the goodness of life that can rise out of the ashes of darkness after the flames of destruction have passed. New spring life rises out of the recycled star dust of every winter season. The shining love of our creator is reflected by every new creation we look for and absorb.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Three Daughters, Chicago, IL
During a ninety year period from 1850-1930 around 250,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children from the teeming cities were placed on “Orphan Trains” and most were adopted by families throughout the expanding American West. In Romans 8 Paul reveals that we received the spirit of adoption from the grace of our Creator and “by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”.
We wear many hats during the course of our journey. When it comes to family relationships we can be a son, daughter, parent, grandparent, great grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. But when it comes to our relationship with our Creator, we are simply sons and daughters.
When Jesus taught us to pray The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, he started with the words “Our Father, who art in Heaven” and he addressed God as Abba or Father a total of 170 times in the Bible. Jesus created a new way of praying that is as natural as a child talking to his father. By creating us in his own image, God truly wanted someone to love and someone capable of returning that love.
And that qualifies all of us on this spinning orphan train of life as sons and daughters of one universal and eternal family of God. Some day soon, we need to take better care of each other and start treating each other like the sons and daughters we were created to be.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Golf in the Kingdom, Asheville, NC
The 2013 Masters Golf Tournament this past April weekend provided a lot of viewing enjoyment and didn’t disappoint! It also provided two very gritty playoff performances by the winner Adam Scott of Australia and Angel Cabrera of Argentina.
Many in the sporting world thought Scott would have been permanently scarred by his devastating loss in last year’s British Open. He was four strokes ahead with four holes left to play and he lost the golden major ring by one stroke. Some said that demons would haunt him until he quit the game. Instead, he used the experience as inspiration to try again, saying the Open gave him belief that he could compete and win a major.
Cabrera was ranked 269th in the world coming into this year’s Masters. One sports writer wryly observed that he “seems to fall out of the sky every now and then, find his footing on a golf course and contend in a major”. He won the 2009 Masters on the second playoff hole by doing just that.
All the fortunes of the day once again distilled down to the second playoff hole as a light rain overhead slowed the putting surfaces below. Angel’s birdie putt was on a track to fall dead into the hole, but it pulled up frustratingly close to the edge. Scott’s twelve foot birdie had just enough extra velocity to drop in for the victory.
Cabrera was gracious and philosophic when asked how he felt after walking off the green. He mused through an interpreter, “Golf gives and takes, so sometimes you make those putts, sometimes you just miss them, but that’s golf”. I’ve joined others in observing how much the game of golf mirrors life. And Angel’s words echo the opening lines of Frank Sinatra’s 1960’s hit; “That’s Life, that’s what people say. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.” But the victory for Scott also echoed the second verse of that very popular song that caught folks’ imaginations; “That’s life, funny as it seems. Some people get their kicks, steppin’ on dreams. But I just can’t let it get me down, ‘cause this big old world keeps spinnin’ around.”
In the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett, “I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spinnin’. And it’s good to know it’s out of my control…Just enjoy this ride on my trip around the sun. Just enjoy this ride till it’s done”.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
A New Beginning, Wrightsville Beach, NC
The recent focus on the events of this Easter season always gives us pause to ponder philosophical questions. Probably the key question that is asked would be “What would have happened if Jesus had not risen from the tomb and defeated death”? C. S. Lewis has noted if that had happened, Christianity would have drifted into the sands of time and never been heard of again. That event was pivotal in the course of God’s grace being dispensed to humankind.
And then there was the impetuous disciple Peter. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas with that infamous “kiss of death”, Peter’s knee jerk reaction was to draw his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus immediately asked them, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me”? Jesus was leading a revolution, not a rebellion! Later, just before sunrise as Jesus was being tried, Peter fulfilled Jesus’ prediction and denied that he ever knew him, not once but three times. When he realized what he had done, he left weeping bitterly. What if a distraught Peter had hung himself after denying Jesus three times? He would not have been the person that Jesus appointed as the rock that He would build his church upon. This kingdom of God would ultimately be founded on the principles of weakness, poverty, suffering, loving and serving others, and remembering Jesus when breaking bread.
And then there was Judas the turncoat. Judas was the man this little band of brothers relied on to manage the finances and carry the money bag. He understood what sustained the inverted kingdoms of this world—power, money, swords and clubs. He was looking for a warrior king to vanquish the oppressing Roman rule of his people. Jesus was a big disappointment to Judas and so he betrayed him. Then, when he realized what the thirty pieces of silver had accomplished, he went out in anguish and hung himself. The term “kiss of death” now means an intimacy with something that subsequently causes your destruction. BUT, what if Judas had only waited three days? The resurrection showed all of the remaining disciples that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and they all went on to live inspired lives. Perhaps a forgiven Judas would have been the rock and redirected the rest of his life to the new revolution. A converted Paul that had originally persecuted Christians went on to write a significant part of the New Testament.
We absolutely know that God can bring good out of any bad situation that develops as mortal men continue to exercise their free will. And He will use the most unlikely human candidates to accomplish His will to demonstrate that His acceptance is available to anyone. History would then have recorded Judas as one of the most revered disciples instead of the most repulsive after the events of Easter. Both Peter and Judas illustrate the axiom that “It is better to be a follower who fails, than one who fails to follow”. What about us?
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Prairie Winds, Central Flint Hills, KS
The book of Genesis is about beginnings. God spoke the universe into being and created human beings in his image. God is love and love expresses itself toward something or someone. Creation and destruction are constantly active around us. And the basic building block of all creation is the chemical star dust of that big bang. Human bodies were created from this star dust and human beings are given life the moment God’s “breath of life” enters the lifeless shell. The moment we breathe our last, our mortal bodies return to the star dust of the universe, presumably to be recycled into another creation. Modern science has long ago determined that matter can neither be created not destroyed.
Later in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, the prophet had a vision of God leading him to a valley of dry human bones. The dry bones represented the hopelessly and spiritually dead condition of the people. And God told Ezekiel to prophesy that the breath of the four winds would come and breathe into those slain, that they might live. And life was restored as the bones rose up and lived again! Once God puts His spirit back into a people, they will have new life.
Later in the New Testament book of John, the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples behind closed doors. He greeted the disciples by informing them that as the Father had sent Him, He was sending them out into the world to spread the good news of forgiveness and eternal life. He accomplished this by breathing on them and informing them with the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide them. Only God still has the power to forgive sins, but now we all have the kingdom within us and the privilege of telling others that God’s priceless grace of forgiveness and an eternal spiritual life after death is available to all!
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Aura, Greensboro, NC
There are two accounts of men being restored to life after dying that are just nine chapters apart in the book of John. John 11 tells of Jesus restoring the body of his good friend Lazarus after he had been in the tomb for four days. The dead man’s body appeared when Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out”! He who is life can surely restore life! The hands and feet were still wrapped in linen and a cloth was around his face. His earthly body had been brought back to life to demonstrate Jesus’ power over life and death, but Lazarus remained a mortal and faced a second death at a later date.
John and Peter run to the tomb where the crucified Jesus had been laid after Mary excitedly reported that the tomb was empty on that first Easter morning. When they entered, they found strips of linen lying there. The burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head was still in its place. The linens were positioned as if he had passed right through them. It would have been impossible for a grave robber to have taken the body and left the linens undisturbed.
When Mary confronted Jesus in the burial garden, she didn’t immediately recognize him until he called out her name. Later, he appeared among the disciples within a locked room where they had gathered in fear of being arrested themselves. When he appeared a second time, Thomas was made to believe by touching his pierced hands and side. Later, he joined the disciples by the sea shore and shared a breakfast of bread and fish.
The resurrected body was unique. It was not subject to the same laws of nature or the flesh and blood restored to Lazarus. Jesus’ resurrection was both literal and physical and he was not a disembodied spirit. It seems a totally different creation that awaits you and I had emerged on that first Easter morning!