The Ties that Bind Us Together

It is approximately 6:20 a.m. and I am sitting in the Midway Airport in Chicago.  To say I am a little anxious is an understatement.  I am flying to Houston to be with my mother through a very difficult time.  She will be undergoing open heart surgery to replace her aortic valve.  I can only imagine how frightening this must be to her as she prepares for the operation.

There is a part of me that is responding to this situation in a very selfish manner.  I am absolutely dreading the thought of going back to Houston.  It is very difficult to be a missionary in your own backyard.  Houston is my backyard.  Unfortunately, it is not the kind of place that I visit to refresh my spirit.  I tend to prepare for spiritual warfare. 
Several members of my extended family do not bring out the best in me.  Matter of fact, the biggest fear I have is not that my mother will have complications from the surgery, but that I will have to encounter particular family members that I have long given up on maintaining a relationship.  You know the type of people about which I speak.  The kind of people that rage into your life like a tornado, only to leave the scene in utter chaos.
I get so caught up in the mundane stuff that I forget that I am a pastor.  I allow the resentments of the past to creep back into my life and keep me in a state of a restlessness and anger.  As a pastor, I am sent into the world to be a living witness to the Gospel of Christ.  That includes being the light of Christ to my family.  That means all of my family.
I equate my journey to Houston like Jonah’s journey to Nineveh.  Part of me says, “I really don’t want to go God.  Send someone else.  These people are not worth saving.  They are horrible.” 
I know that I will surrender to what is right.  What matters is that I forgive those in my family and offer the Word of God to the ones who need to hear God’s message.  I will lay aside my desire to run away from a very difficult situation and stand in the Word.  I know that Christ will strengthen me.  It is just getting to the point where I can surrender to allow God to utilize my life.

Let us love one another

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of a story from my own life that changed me profoundly.  Long before the terrorist attacks I befriended a family.  They were, and still are, kind and understanding.  I enjoyed their company.  My thought is that most people would find joy in knowing my friends.  I can honestly say that my life is better because they were a part of my life.
One horrible day, my friends lost their three year old child in a very bizarre accident.  I have never seen a community grieve like they did for my friends.  On the day of the funeral, I was invited to pray over the body of their small son.  The men in the group began to shovel dirt into the hole which became a final resting place for the body of this wonderful little boy.  My friend assured me that the soul of their little one continues on and eagerly looks forward to a reunion in heaven.
As I spoke with my friends after the funeral, I asked the question, “How are you able to cope with this loss?”  They explained to me stories of their faith and how that faith sustains them through extremely difficult times such as these.  I stood back and felt the presence of God fill me as I gave praise to my Creator.  I wanted the kind of faith of which my friends spoke.  They had an incredible anchor in the time of storm.
My friends were, and still are, members of another faith tradition.  That day there was no talk of who was right and who was wrong.  There was simply the presence of the awesome Creator of us all.  My limited scope of my Christian faith grew that day, for I realized that our God is bigger than anything we can ever imagine.  Something within me felt enlightened in ways I had never before experienced.  I understood that day that I am not meant to judge another person.  I am simply called to love them.  In the middle of love and understanding God dwells within us.  The most important thing is not that we prove to each other who is right or who is wrong.  The main thing is that we love each other as Christ loved us.  Language will take care of itself.  It is the gift of love that will speak to our hearts more clearly and certainly more profoundly.
I use this story of my friends, because up until the point that I revealed to you their religious system, the story could have sounded like any one of our Christian stories.  I am not saying that we are to water down the Christian message of hope and surrender our fundamental beliefs.  I suggest quite the opposite.  We humble ourselves to accept that the Holy Spirit may manifest its Divine presence in any way God chooses to reveal God’s self.  The truth is I had to practice the gift of love to experience the joy of friendship or to grieve with my fellow brothers and sisters in the sorrow of loss.  God was present in my life when I surrendered my lack of compassion and simply loved as Christ loves me.  God’s love was with me, through me, and revealed in spite of me.
I am a Christian with a powerful awareness that I am not called to verbally chastise the world in absolute judgment, but I am here to transform the world with actions of love.  This love inspires me to continue in service to humanity.  As we come to the time of remembering those who lost lives or those who lost loved ones due to acts of terrorism, let us remember that we must move beyond our desire for revenge.  Our weapon and strength is the most powerful one we can muster.  It is the love and radical presence of our Almighty God.  As the Apostle Paul said, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Cor. 13:4-7).  Let us continue in our journey towards perfection.

When Someone Wrongs You

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the LORD,
because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion; no one cares for her!’
(NRSV Jer. 30:17)

I recently was doing some volunteer work at my son’s high school. Through a strange turn of events, I was told that I was no longer invited to volunteer my services at the school. I was told through an e-mail and without a meeting (which would have cleared up many of the details that surrounded this comedy of errors). In the process I discovered that someone who I thought was a friend was simply saving himself and did not help defend me. I was very shocked and deeply disappointed that I would not be able to provide opportunities that should be minimal standards of music education in the classroom.

As I came off the event fresh and hurting, I ran across this verse in Jeremiah. I am not at the point of forgiveness. I am not sure how long it will take, but I do know that this verse spoke into my wound. It reminds me that God will be there to refresh me and will comfort me.

My challenge is not to be mired down in anger. I can easily be taken away with the feeling that I was wronged. I mean, don’t I deserve the satisfaction of seeking revenge? While my human weakness screams out yes my heavenly sense reminds me that I need to pray for the situation and rediscover God’s grace alive in the world. That world includes my heart as well as those who hurt me.

I am not ready for that last part. It is my faith which gives me hope that I will move past the anger, into the healing of God, and eventually forgive those who wronged me. I give thanks today that this is a process by which only Divine intervention speaks to me in tenderness gently pushing me to the next level.

christopherjoiner

Some Thoughts Along the Way

Cazandra Campos-MacDonald

We take our journey with love and hope.

Perseverance Runner

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

strugglewell

That marriages in crisis will find Biblical solutions and reconciliation

jefflust

Reflections on leadership and what it means to be the church God intends for the 21st century.