Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meet me in the middle in this season of political season of discontent.

There is a song, “Meet Me In The Middle,” whose lyrics have kept running through my head during this politicial season of discontent: By the way, I pulled this off the internet and the spacing is not correct, so I apologize to the author ... 
Well, I could be persuaded, yes I could
Ask me very nicely if I would
Wait to get an answer (and you will)
Wait a little longer 'til you get my bill.
 Time is of the essence, all in all
Catch me at my weakest, up against the wall
Of good intentions, which were mine
When you didn't like it I was out of time.
 Don't go to extremes, no no
Don't go to extremes.
Just meet me in the middle.
Give a little credit where it's due
You know that I would always do the same for you
And all I wanted was to hear it said
I wasn't gonna let it go to my head.
 Don't go to extremes, no no
Don't go to extremes.
Just meet me in the middle
That's all I ask
Meet me in the middle
Is it such a task.
Halfway wrong, halfway right 
Halfway left and then out of sight
Out of mind, out of line
I was all lined up like a sitting duck
So come on, well come on.
Meet me, meet me
Meet me in the middle
Why don't you meet me in the middle
In the middle of the road.
Never did expect to feel this way
Never did intend it turning out this way
Never meant you harm, not a single thought
Never was malicious and look what I got.
 Every accusation that was thrown on me
Based on no foundation and you just don't see
Lest you think we've gotten to the very end
Well, everything that goes around comes around again.
Don't go to extremes, no no
Don't go to extremes
Don't go to extremes, no no
Don't go.
Meet me in the middle
Why don't you meet me in the middle 
In the middle of the road
Well, meet me in the middle
Middle, yeah yeah.
 Just meet me in the middle
That's all I ask
Meet me in the middle
Is it such a, such a task (meet me in the middle)
Given all the horrible rhetoric that is being passed out in the name of patriotism recently I have felt that I am caught in some horrible twilight zone and cannot escape. I am deeply concerned about the multi-millionaires who are trying to buy political office for their idealogy.
 I am deeply concerned about the extremely vocal minority who think if they shout something loud enough, long enough that it becomes true. I am deeply concerned about those individuals who make up the political right and left who believe that they have the only answers for our future. I am deeply concerned that the America I’ve come to love and appreciate won’t be around for my grandchildren to enjoy.

We need saner minds and voices … we need individuals on both sides of the political aisle and along main street America who are willing and committed to “meet in the middle.” As both Eisenhower and Nixon believed, according to David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon, that the only way to lead this nation successfully is from the middle then we should elect men and women who are willing and are ready to compromise, giving up some of their long cherished ideas, to work with others that they disagree with … as they meet in the middle.
We are now a nation of extremes, but those people found within the extremes cannot govern because they are not willing to meet others in the middle. If, like a married couple, they only hold on to what they believe to be true – their version of reality – then divorce is the only option and civil discourse no longer takes place.

We’ve been here before as a country and the results were not pretty. Remember the hatred during the Viet Nam war? Remember the hatred during the race riots? Remember what happened to the country when we were divided along north and south lines over the issue of slavery? Remember? Do we really want to return to those days? Or … we can start meeting each other in the middle … we can start listening to each other again … we can begin to restore some sanity to our discourse about the problems that our great nation is facing … we can, once again, get back to working for what is best for everyone and not just for a few … we can begin to meet each other in the middle … yes, we can … if we really want to.

Tonight children in various costumes will go door-to-door as they trick-or-treat. The lights on our porches will be turned on and candy will be passed out. Isn’t that just another name for political campaigns? If we don’t give them the treats (our votes) they want then we are threatened by some nasty tricks. They are all wearing some scary masks – they appear to be something until they are elected.

Or, as Rick Hotton, in his comic strip Holy Mole, stated on October 21, 2010 – “When you stick to your position, you will never meet in the middle.”

Now is the time and today is the hour for all good men and women to step up to assist our nation to regain some sanity and meet each other in the middle … before it is too late.

Quote for today: Patriotism is not a short and frenzied burst of emotion but the long and steady dedication of a lifetime.  Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Grabbing the initiative and becoming really successful in life (Luke 6:31) with the stories of the two of wealthiest gentleman in the city of Gainesville.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 6:31 (TM)
"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!”

When General Robert E. Lee found an officer under his command gazing with satisfaction in the mirror, the general said, “Sir, you must be the happiest man in the world.” “Why,” questioned the officer. “Because,” said Lee, “you are in love with yourself, and you haven’t a rival in the whole world.”

“Grab the initiative” … be a self-starter … take hold of the reigns … are but some of the motivational phrases used in today’s world. I’ve been to the Tony Robbins’ motivational seminars. There is one message from all the speakers. “You can do it. There is nothing holding you back. Just take the initiative because no one else will do it for you. You will be successful.” It has made Mr. Robbins a multimillionaire. People are hungry to be successful. We want what we want.

What Mr. Robbins doesn’t understand is that what we want above all else is not success and power and riches. No it is to matter. It is to make a difference. It is to love and be loved. Everything else pales next to that.

While being a pastor in Gainesville, Florida it fell to my lot to hold the funerals in the same year of the two wealthiest gentlemen in the entire county. Their incredible wealth didn’t bring them happiness nor did the positions of influence and authority. They both had beautiful homes with more than one servant. It was the desire to love and be loved.

I sat with the families and heard them speak of their father and daddy. One family shared how their father had shaped the city of Gainesville. They shared what he had accomplished, the power he had possessed, the influence he held over others … but nothing about love … and his family showed it. The other family sat around the large family room and laughed about how much their daddy tried to give his money away not to bring honor or fame to him, but simply because there were people in need.

One gentleman was about influence, the other was about doing for others. They both died with great wealth, but one died alone, the other surrounded by friends and family. One treated people as pawns on the chessboard of life – a pathway to success. The other treated people as he wanted to be treated – with love and respect and in the process discovered success. The first gentleman started out with wealth, the other started out in rural Florida delivering turpentine for 25 cents a run. One’s pathway was easy, the other very hard. One learned how to step on others as he climbed the ladder of success, the other learned to stop and help others on the way up that same ladder.

If you met these gentlemen at the local store you would have known instantly that the first gentleman was successful, but you would have thought the second gentleman was the janitor. One was in love with himself, but the other was in love with the people of the world. One was constantly demanding things be done for him, but the other was always looking for what he could do for others.

One was happy, but the other … not so much. Each day we determine which path we are going to travel … what initiative we are going to take … what we desire to be the outcome of our behavior … what influence we will have on others … it is our choice.

We want to be loved so help us to love. We want to make a difference so help us to place ourselves on the line for others. We want to be remembered so help us to be memorable. Put us to doing. Put us to being. Put us to accomplishing. Put us to serving. Put us to work, Lord, put us to work!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Forgiveness and forgetting (Psalm 32:3, 5) with a Clara Barton story and a quote from John Wesley.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 32:3, 5 (NIV)
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long… Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. "Don't you remember it?" her friend asked. "No," came Barton's reply, "I distinctly remember forgetting it."

Let’s be honest … it is hard, extremely hard, painfully hard to forgive. Sometimes we just look at situations suffered by others and wonder, “How do they do that?” What is heard more often is, “I’ll forgive, but I will never forget!” Ouch! Too often isn’t that just like you and me?

Forgiveness is hard. And, as probably experienced by Clara Barton, very challenging … especially with some of the things we have experience in this life. Yes, some things are easy to forgive, but there are other things that make us wonder if even God himself could forgive under the circumstances.

If it were easy it wouldn’t be forgiveness. If it could roll off of us, “like water on a duck’s back” then anyone could do it. It takes a truckload of grace and the strength of the Holy Spirit to forgive. That is what makes it so special when it is given. That is what makes it so dynamic when it is experienced.

And then to take the step even further … to offer forgiveness even when it is not asked for. WOW! Now THAT IS GRACE!

Make it so in our life today. May we be instruments of grace under fire. May we be examples of forgiveness when it isn’t asked for.

General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The compassionate father waits for our return (Luke 15:20).

SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:20 (NIV)
(The son) got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.

Dr. Mitchell was impressing upon us that we are not under the Law when we're in Christ, but we're under a new law -- the law of LOVE. He used this to illustrate: In America there is a law stating a woman must take care of her child. So, a man comes to a new mother's home. He says "Are you taking care of your baby? The Law says you have to." The woman, tenderly holding her baby, said, "I don't need a law to make me take care of my baby." Why? Because she loves her baby! She feeds him, holds him, changes him because she loves him. I no longer need the Law because I'm under Christ -- a law of LOVE.

Would a law that states that we have to love work? Compassion is a strong emotion. If it is forced from without it is not genuine. If it is placed upon our shoulders like a yoke it will be seen as a burden. Compassion to be genuine must come from within.

Someone has written this observation: “It was in those who had recovered from the plague that the sick and the dying found most compassion.” We show compassion the best when we draw upon the experience of being in need of the same. Experience is a great teacher.

And yet, there is a level of compassion that is just a reality. It cannot be taught, it just is. It is the compassion of a parent for their child. It doesn’t matter the age of the child the compassion will always be there – genuine, honest, heartfelt – and this compassion motivates us at the deepest level. It cannot be explained or reasoned into existence. It is a reality.

It is this deeper level of love/compassion that God, the ever-present parent, has for us, the ever-present child. We have been loved even if we do not confirm that love. The Prodigal, in the biblical story, was always loved by his father even when he was far off. The love never stopped. It was genuine and heartfelt. And so it is with God’s love/compassion for us. It cannot be explained nor reasoned into existence. It just is!

We are all prodigal in one way or another. We are out in the world living the “high” life. We think that we don’t need the father … we are making it on our own. But there will come a time when something will click inside of us and we will realize that we really do need/want the love that can only come from the compassionate father. At that point and not until we will return to the father.

Thank you for loving us when we don’t deserve it. Thank you for waiting for us to return to you. Thank you for being the ever-present compassionate parent and welcoming us back “home”. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On being a real man (Hebrews 7:25) is to rely on Jesus as priest, with an interesting story about a stolen car and the police's search for the thief.

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 7:24-25 (TM)
But Jesus' priesthood is permanent. He's there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them.

In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car. So often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape his punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding his rescue.

Are we running away from God or towards him? By our denial of God are we not stating as clearly as possible our need for him?

Most of us do not like the feeling of being dependent on others. Oh, we are often quick to do for others. To go out of our way to help someone in need, but to admit that we ourselves might need something is a difficult step to take. We were raised to be self-sufficient … self-reliant and unfortunately that runs counter to the way God has designed life to be lived.

The strongest person I know is the one who states that he or she cannot go through life without God. That is not a statement of weakness but of strength. It takes great courage to place ones trust on God … to admit that we need God from day to day.

We have been trained from the earliest age, especially men, to be the strong one, to have all the answers, to be “Mr.-fix-it,” to be the protector, not to show our weakness … and so, for men especially, coming to Christ has the feeling of running against our very nature. In so doing, we are denying our natural state and we are walking away from being the real person God has created us to be.

It is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Show me a person who turns to God and I will show you a real man!

We want to be real. We want to be our own person. Help us realize to fulfill that goal, we have to turn towards you and place our entire trust on you … and then we will be free to be who you have created us to be.