Street Theology…

Who comes to mind when you hear the word, “radical?” When used as a noun, a radical is someone advocating complete political and social change. As an adjective, a radical describes someone who “affects change.” The greatest radical ever was Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to bring us more religion. He came to show us the true character of God, and He shook things up a bit while doing so. The change He affected remains over 2000 years later.

What??? Wasn’t Jesus the pacifist who told us to pray for those who persecuted us, and to turn the other cheek? Hey, He didn’t even stand up for Himself when He was on trial for His life. Jesus doesn’t sound like much of a radical.

When teaching the crowds and disciples, Jesus called the religious leaders, the Pharisees, hypocrites! The Pharisees were the guys, above criticism and reproach. It was unthinkable, even risky, to challenge them or their authority. While some may have been critical of them in private, Jesus called them out publicly. Sounds pretty rad to me.

When Jesus went to the Temple, He found it overrun with thieves and disreputable traders. Jesus made a whip and drove out the sheep, cattle and crooks, thereby returning the Temple into a true place of worship. Again, Jesus sounds pretty rad!

Most of Jesus’ teaching took place in public. He went to people’s homes, orated the famous Sermon on the Mount; He even had dinner with despised tax-collectors. Jesus went where the people were, reaching out compassionately, offering hope, redemption and restoration. Jesus method of teaching was different from the Pharisees, and the people responded.

Street theology is getting away from the safety net of the church. We go where the people are, serving their needs, offering hope as best we can while not being concerned if the population we serve ever goes to church or not. We meet them where they are. The heartbeat of any faith is it’s people, not the building, rituals or beautiful stained glass. We must think and act differently to effectively reach and impact others.

We can continue playing it safe. We go to church on Sunday, hear some music, throw money into a collection plate followed by a message from our spiritual leader. We go home. Live our lives. Rinse. Repeat. Let’s be risky. Let’s hit the streets…

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Are You Busy Yet?

What happened? December is already here? It’s ironic how we save the busiest month of the year until the end. All year long we have proudly worked for the title of being the “busiest person around.” Shouldn’t December be a time to relax a little? Yet we work so hard to buy the perfect gifts, select and decorate the perfect tree, plan a festive Christmas Day celebration with family and friends, stress ourselves to the point of overload while smiling for the cameras that all is well. When Christmas finally arrives, we might make it to church if we aren’t too exhausted from all the “fun” December brings.

In our quietest moments, when we take time to reflect, we realize all the busyness doesn’t bring us joy or self-worth. I would suggest it robs us of inner peace and leaves us feeling empty. So how do we get to the true spirit of the season, and how do we remain connected to it all year? It certainly doesn’t come from more gifts, brighter tinsel or a bigger tree. Our greatest sustainable joy comes from giving. Giving of ourselves impacts us in a way that can’t be bought. Author Leo Buscaglia wrote, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” All of us, every one of us, want our lives to matter. We matter most when we make it about others and not ourselves. Our natural tendency to be selfish throws up roadblocks at every turn. I know it’s a battle for me.

Our greatest moments of happiness and joy come from doing something for someone who can never do anything to repay us. There’s something magical about it. This universal law reminds me of something Jesus said (paraphrased), “What you did for the least among you, you did for Me.” This year, and all year long, let’s take time for others. And most important, let’s do it quietly with humility. The One whose approval we need is watching, and that’s good enough…

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The Story That Changes Everything…

Six years ago I was told about a young man many might look at, and on the surface think, “What a loser.” He wore spiked hair, dressed Goth, and he had ‘love’ and ‘hate’ tattooed on his knuckles. Only in the 11th grade, he looked like someone to avoid. If you noticed, I referred to the young man in the past tense. That’s right. He committed suicide. Why? It seems this “bad kid” had just made his first ‘B’ ever on his report card, and he was afraid to go home and tell his dad.

Could this young mans life have been spared? Yes, I believe it could have.

Rachel’s Challenge is the largest organization in the world which focuses on kindness and compassion. Named for Rachel Joy Scott, the first child killed at Columbine High School, her story, the “story that changes everything” has been experienced by over 29 million people worldwide. About two months before her death, Rachel wrote an essay titled: “My Ethics. My Codes of Life.” In the essay she wrote, “Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. You never know how far a little kindness can go.” Rachel’s story of reaching out to others transforms the lives of everyone who hears it.

Every year, Rachel’s Challenge receives hundreds of messages from students who planned to take their own lives until they heard her story. Many of the kids were going to commit suicide the very day the Rachel’s Challenge presenter came to their school. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I love the way Albert Einstein spoke of coincidence, saying, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Many precious lives have been saved because of Rachel.

So, back to our 11th grader. Could Rachel’s story have saved his life? I cannot prove it, but I am convinced he would have thought differently about taking his life. He would have seen himself as valuable, a person with a future and a purpose; a person much bigger than a solitary ‘B’ on a report card.

There is no shame in reaching out for help. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among adults. In 2016, suicide became the #2 reason young people died. If you or someone you know is feeling like they are done, have lost all hope, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, but every life is precious no matter the month. There is always hope…

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Your Flight Is Now Boarding…

Where does fear come from? We weren’t born with fear, doubt and worry. We have allowed ourselves to believe life is a treacherous mine field, causing us to seek safety and security rather than living fully. What’s worse, we allowed fear to control our thinking, and ended up settling for a life less than what we truly desire in our hearts. It’s time to change that.

Helen Keller wrote, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Keller was blind and deaf from the age of nineteen months, yet became a woman of great accomplishment. If you are reading this, you aren’t blind, so you begin where you are with a huge advantage over author, activist and lecturer Helen Keller.

Think back to your childhood for a moment. You had unlimited, even outrageous, dreams for your life. You were going to conquer the world, and nothing would stop you. What happened to the dreams of that child? Life happened. Hardships, hurts, listening to the wrong voices,  feeding our own insecurities numbed us into rationalizing why we should abandon our life goals.  We settled rather than taking flight.

It isn’t too late. We were made to fly; to soar. Our spirits are imbued with a higher purpose than most of us are living. We want our lives to count; to matter. Fear of failure and doubt stop us from taking that brave, first step. But take heart, you were created to make a difference.

Stop hiding from the child with huge dreams. Reconnect! It’s time to live again, and live with purpose, drive and fulfillment. When doubts surface, and they will, kick them to the curb. Be audacious.

Are you ready and willing to live again? To fly? To soar? I hope you answered yes, because your flight is now boarding…

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Conversations…

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events, small minds discuss other people.”

What kind of conversations are you having? Is your life focused on gossiping about your co-worker, or does J. Lo’s dating advice on Tinder got your attention? I will suggest there might be a bigger world out there.

We have numbed ourselves to what’s really important. Our focus has become small. People get cut off in traffic and immediately blast this indiscretion on Facebook. If you have a political opinion different from others you get multitudes weighing in, oftentimes hurling insults, telling you why your beliefs are wrong and you must see things their way. How’s that going?

In recent years, politicians have launched “listening tours,” whatever those are. In theory, the politico wants to be portrayed as genuinely concerned about the issues of the day. Entertaining his/her constituent’s voices, the politician seemingly wants to engage in conversation; to listen. There’s no honest dialogue, and the great portrayal becomes the big betrayal. Nothing changes.

I will offer there is another way…

When you rearrange the letters in the word ‘listen,’ you get silent. I don’t believe it’s accidental.

What might happen if we put our personal differences and insecurities aside, engaged with each other in meaningful conversation, and listened to each other?

How many times have you been talking to someone, yet while they are speaking you are ready with your reply before they even finish their sentence? We all do it. That’s called hearing, not listening. Active listening requires real effort, and it can be exhausting.

The human spirit is designed for growth. Think of your brain like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it becomes. Reading People Magazine and watching hours of television diminishes your capacity to think. At the very least it changes what you are thinking about, and impacts your conversations. Garbage in, garbage out, so-to-speak. Fortunately, the entropy of your brain I’m describing can be reversed.

Deeper, mind-stretching conversation expands your thinking while possibly reshaping your worldview. Be fearless when considering others’ opinions and beliefs. It’s not a threat to your convictions to see the world through different eyes. Be open-minded.

Our differences can make us better, stronger and more connected. They do not have to divide us. See through to the hearts of others, and let them see you for who you are. We can accomplish this, if we’re willing…

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