Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Silver Linings of the Boston Marathon

So many stories already; so many blogs concerning what happened in Boston on Monday. It's one of those things, like the Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11, the death of close loved ones or loved celebrities, or finding Saddam Hussein: you'll likely recall where you were when you heard what happened.

For example, I was in class when I heard about the Oklahoma City Bombing, at Otto Linn Library when I heard about Michael Jackson (though I had dreamed what happened the night before), at home when I heard about my Grampa, heard about a close personal friend I was helping write a book for over the internet while at a public library, and laying on my bed listening to my radio the December 2003 evening Saddam Hussein's capture was announced. I was at the local library when I heard about Boston, and as soon as I could, went to my dear friend Nan's facebook page to make sure she was alright. and I thank God she - and those whe knows - were and are!

Soon after I read what happened, the man at my table called someone to tell them the news; they hadn't heard. Hundreds of prayers were going up all over Facebook, and for those who choose not to pray, they were thinking of the victims and their families; of Bostonians. And today, at my art class, a friend said she was glued to the television much of the day, and lit prayer candles. Today in Portland, there was a scare due to a toolbox that was seen as a "suspicious package." While it took an extra hour to get where I was headed, I am thankful for the teams of people at the ready who were cautious enough to make sure one of our bridges wasn't going to be blown up. Then tonight, I noticed a friend in Panama who will be participating in a race to memorialize what happened in Boston and support those who were running there. Others will be doing so, as well.

What I was doing was praying and praising, both. Praying for the injured, the families of the dead who will continue to mourn, the survivors who may end up with PTSD, the emergency workers and first responders who will also have some traumatic aftermaths in their minds and possibly their hearts when all is said and done.I will continue doing so. For just like the OKC bombing and 9/11, we cannot forget. This is NOT OK.

I've read stories about a young 8-year-old boy being among the dead. I mourn for his poor family, as I do for the other two known dead. I've read of two brothers who both lost partial legs... at different hospitals, not knowing what the other was going through, not to mention the others who have needed amputations and emergency room help of other sorts. But I've also heard stories of kindness that touch my heart to no end; stories of courage in the face of evil and fear.

Bravo to those who STOOD UP to fear; looked terror in the face. Bravo to those who came to the aid and rescue of those affected emotionally, physically, spiritually, by what has happened in Boston, and who continue to do so. Bravo to those who are willing to run that 26.2 mile remembrance. This is what it looks like to have faith! Risking is an act of faith, and it is heroism at times, too. So, I want to commend and thank those who have done so.

Yahoo Sports! Dan Wetzel wrote, "Senseless violence. Cowardly acts. Innocent casualties. A murdered 8-year-old. Blood staining Boylston at the finish line of the Boston damn Marathon." Yes, this is the reality... but the bigger reality is that this brought the country back to awareness, and back to God. Not that it should take something this senseless to bring us to our knees before God in prayer or praise. Not that we shouldn't be praying circles around our loved ones, events, and country... but that is beside the point. What happened in Boylston brought Jesus to people's minds, love to the forefront of their hearts, and thankfulness that things weren't any worse to those of us who can pray but not be there.

Boston... remember you are loved! Remember that not all people have hatred and evil writhing within them. This was intent on bringing America to its knees in terror. It brought us to our knees in PRAYER, instead! It brought out the good in people; it forced some people to walk on the water of their fears; others to be kind and form relationships they otherwise never would have. It strengthened the resolve of many that we will NOT tolerate this type of behavior. And in spite of everything else, looking at the silver lining of this terrible event... these are something to be thankful for.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Of Slingshots and Beater Cars

There was an interesting, poignant, and so true video shown today at church, and between the video, last week and today's sermons, and the books I've been reading lately, there has been a theme: RISK.

Risk is something that every follower of Christ, every disciple (apprentice, learner, follower) of the Lord, should be familiar with. Each time we TRULY step out in faith, there is risk. 

Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker and pastor of Washington DC's National Community Church, writes: "Faith is the willingness to look foolish. Noah looked foolish building a boat in the middle of a desert. The Israelite army looked foolish marching around Jericho blowing trumpets. A shepherd boy named David looked foolish charging a giant with a slingshot. The Magi looked foolish tracking a star to Timbuktu. Peter looked foolish getting out of a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus looked foolish wearing a crown of thorns."

the thing is, he points out, each of these scenarios led to tremendous breakthrough miracles. The more foolish something seems to the world, when we are walking in faith, the bigger potential for a miracle. Father and son authors Kevin and Chad Dedmon discuss this risk taking and call the place of action "the chicken line." They challenge us to step beyond the place of fear by faith; walk toward the edge and jump. they ask us, what's the place where you're chicken at? What's your chicken line? And then... they challenge us BOLDLY to cross it, by faith. The biggest miracles they've witnessed were after the line has been crossed; the place Batterson calls foolish. And to the world, it IS foolishness, but to God, it is FAITH!

In Bethany Hamilton's case, the chicken line wasn't surfing. She had surfed for years. The line was going back into the water after having her arm bitten off by a tiger shark. Her story can be read, or observed by a film of the same name: Soul Surfer. I've read the book, but not seen the movie. She writes, though, that while the spirit of the movie is the same, it is obviously not the book.

The fourth book I read this week also made an impact, though it wasn't necessarily a "Christ-centered" book. It spoke of Jesus some, true, but it also looked at the mythologies of Mexico, and was a novel. It's called, simply, The Butterfly's Daughter, and is written by Mary Alice Monroe. It tells the story of a young woman, Luz, as she takes an epic journey... into herself. After her grandmother, Esperanza, has died, she takes a trip that reveals family secrets that can either shatter her, or make her whole. The CHOICE is up to her. She RISKS, taking the beater car her grandmother (her Abuela) bought her the day before dying, traveling from Wisconsin to San Antonio, and on to the mountains of Mexico. But that RISK was one of faith... in her grandmother's love for her and in the strength of the monarch butterflies she has loved her whole life.

In all of these cases, there is the risk of action battened down into the hatch of faith. The action of what others may say is foolishness but in one's heart, one knows they MUST take in order to get to the other side of whatever it is they are called to do. And Pastor Jim, over at Open Bible, has been challenging us with his new series on Identity Crises, as well. It is a RISKY challenge to take on, but a challenge one MUST, if they are to walk the talk of the follower of Christ, and that challenge is to be a TRUE disciple of Jesus. A learner, an apprentice, a disciple; one who sits at the feet of Jesus, watches Him, learns from His actions, attitude, words. And to do it with LOVE.

The video below is one shown this morning as the beginning of Jim's presentation... it is timely and truth.

      Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus... YouTube video

UPDATE 7/16/13-- COME OVER and check out my FUNDRAISER! Journey to a Thousand Voices...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stepping Out of the Boat...

Recently, I read John Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat. It isn't the only courage-related text I've run across lately, nor will it likely be the last.

Courage... stepping out of the boat... is something I've studied a while now. Not because I lack it, but to better understand it. Courage is action taken in wisdom in spite of fears. It is getting your feet wet even if you're afraid of the water, knowing something better will come of it. It is taking that leap of faith you know you should, despite the whispers that you can't or shouldn't do it. It is saying hello, even though you may be rejected. It is saying goodbye, even though it hurts, because you know it is best. It is asking the powerful question. It is many things, but it is action-based... and it takes faith.

Water-walker. All photos herein from
Courage isn't about being a risk-taker, per se. A lot of people are risk-takers, but not necessarily courageous. And a lot of people who are the opposite of risk-taker... they have courage. They take the step they fear most because they know they will be a better person for it. They don't take the step just for the thrill of it.

Tupak Shakur once said, "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive." And it is to this end I aim... not to allow anything else to die inside while I live. What about you?

Are there dreams you have inside that you KNOW you can step toward, even fulfill, but fear has stopped up the way there? Are there talents you don't use because you're afraid of what others will think of you? What about your authenticity? Are you being the person God called you to be; the person you KNOW you are, or are you putting on a mask for the world to see, afraid of what the world might say? Even if that world is only one person, that's one person too many to have us living in fear. That's one person too much that we don't need fear. What can man do to us, anyway? They cannot take out authenticity away or cause us to live in fear without our consent. We cannot allow what others say, think, or do... or what we THINK they will say, think, or do... to prevent, stall, or create stillborn within us that which we were created to do, to be.

Walt Disney said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." And that is true... it may take stepping out of the boat in the midst of the greatest storm of your life, but if it leads to the fulfillment of your dream... will the storm stop you?

Sometimes courage means waiting. Not passively, but actively, patiently waiting, as on the Lord to bring strength.

Sometimes courage means running, soaring, walking, going where you'd never have before. Sometimes it means taking that trip, sending that letter, saying hello to that potential friend, confronting that person with love, saying goodbye when it is for the best... it can take a lot of forms. What is your dream? How can you get from here to there, without stomping on others (that is recklessness, not courage)?

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do," Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us,  and Robert Frost says,"The best way out is always through." When we stop and look fear in the face, and still walk through it, doing the things we think we cannot, we step into new levels of faith and glimpse new horizons of the beauty of true living.

As some of you know, I'm getting ready to begin a new project that I hope crowdfunding can help with. For me, this is stepping out of the boat. This is stopping to look fear in the face, and not allowing what other people to think get in the way of what I know I must do, for my own soul's sake, and to be authentic to who I am.

I've thought a lot about it, done the math a hundred different ways, and think I finally, finally have it narrowed down to three ideas for how to go about what I'm looking to do. All include an element of travel, which for me, is the part that involves getting up courage and facing fears that I didn't always realize I had. All include an element of creativity, which is exciting but also has an element of fear, because part of me is tempted to cater instead of write what I must... and know that it will be great for those who it is meant for, even if I don't know who they all are at this point. Not only writing, but photography... I take risks with both of them, but for me, those risks take courage that I know I can and will muster, when the time comes. As a planner, I am thankful I can plan at least some of this adventure, even though much of it will be more free-form than my comfort zone prefers.

So, stay tuned for water-walking. Stepping out of the boat, even when there's a storm. Not just from me, but look around you. Who do you know that steps into the waves? Is it you? A loved one? A mentor? What are you learning from watching others in their life journeys, and from their courage?

It's time to step out of the boat!

UPDATE 7/16/13-- I'm STEPPING out of the BOAT!! COME OVER and check out my FUNDRAISER! Journey to a Thousand Voices...