I smell forgiveness and candy.

I don’t know wither this is awesome or sad. Jimmy Kimmel challenged his viewers who are parents to record themselves telling their children that they ate all their Halloween candy, these are the results.

First the awesome. It’s funny to watch the over the top reactions of the kids. Candy is of course trivial, and a luxury and its funny to watch the kids act like this is a matter of vital importance. The other awesome part is the imaginary story I build around these sorts of things. I’m sure I’m not the only one who invents stories to go around snapshots like these. In this case its the story that these are households where pranks and jokes abound, the kind of situation where love and laughter go hand in hand. The kind of households where lives are filled with wacky 80’s sitcom activities and where each day ends with a freeze frame and theme music.

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(I like to imagine that even though the Breakfast Club was just a movie somewhere this guy is still freeze framed on this football field)

Then there is the sad. In a way this whole thing seems a bit mean spirited. I hope these kids aren’t learning to tease and bully others. I hope they aren’t leaning that it is OK to upset others as long as people think it’s funny. But what makes me think it’s sad even more is how seriously these kids take their candy. These kids yell at their parents and get noticeably mean towards them, shouting, telling them to leave and so on. It makes me want to go tell the kids “Its only candy, you can get more” and then remind the kids how much their families do for them. Candy is a luxury and sure it tastes good but it still is a bonus, a perk, a frivolous thing to add some color to life, it does not define life. But these kids act like their life is at stake, that the loss of their candy is a threat to their existence.

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(We have their demands, they want 4 tootsie rolls and a pack of hubba-bubba)

As I think about it more it may not be accurate to make this issue about candy alone. The kids plan for Halloween, prepare for it. Then they put on special clothes and carry out a task they would not do without some form of compensation. Then that preparation and effort pays off at the end of the day when the kids get to enjoy what they’ve earned through their labors. In other words trick or treating is in many ways work. Kids go out do labor in return for payment. It may seem odd from an adult’s perspective but the same work in exchange for pay dynamic is at play here.

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(Although everyone dressing in costume can really spice up a business meeting)

With that in mind it changes the dynamic of the whole thing. Were you to take an adult and tell them that you spent their whole paycheck their response would be just as strong as the responses of those kids. The only real change would be that it is far less endearing when an adult throws a temper tantrum.

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(And yet Adam Sandler has made tons of movies where the only plot is “Adult throws tantrums”)

But with all that being said I finally come to the reason I have decided this video is awesome. Forgiveness. There are a handful of kids who forgive the fictitious mistake of their parent. Some forgive right away with a smile on their face and my favorite moment is a boy who pauses seems like he may explode with rage and then walks towards his Mom says its ok and gives her a hug. These kids have learned to forgive, they have learned that the relationships in life that matter are more important that the fruit of their labor. They probably learned this by watching the adults in their life be role models of this kind of forgiveness.

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I think we could all stand to learn to forgive better than we do. We all have those things that make us angry that in the grand scheme of things aren’t all that important. Maybe we could all stand to pause for a moment and think if what we are so angry about is really not all that important, are we throwing a tantrum over candy. For me the next time I feel myself getting upset about something I’m going to remember that boy hugging his Mom and be reminded that nurturing relationships is far more important than stuff, people matter sugary treats not so much.

Peace
Jamie

Christians, Jews and Muslims a family tree where no one is the Stephen Baldwin

Often times it seems like famous families have at least one member who has a normal life. For instance the manning family has Peyton and Eli but there is also their older brother Cooper. I wonder what it’s like when his brothers start comparing the designs on their Super Bowl rings, I bet it make his funny story about the office picnic he went to seem a bit anticlimactic. Or worse yet what about famous siblings where one has far more success than the other. It must be an awkward moment at the Baldwin house when Alec talks about the big role he just landed and all Stephen has to talk about is how luck he was when he bought some runts and the whole package was banana.

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(Seriously why do those other flavors even exist)

Or when Sylvester and Frank Stallone get together and after Sylvester talks about his big summer blockbuster does Frank spend the next several hours seeing if anyone remembers that he was in Staying Alive the 1983 to Saturday Night Fever?

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(I remember Frank, I remember!)

It seems that a forgotten sibling is not that uncommon. It does seem a bit unfair that they become the punchline of jokes just because their brother or sister is a celebrity but that seems to be the way things work out sometimes. This paradigm even pops up in the Bible too.

 

Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

So Abraham has a son named Issac who has a son Jacob who has a son named Joseph (who starred in that technicolor dream coat musical). This family and their descendants would become the people of Israel, the Jewish people. So Issac son of Abraham and his wife Sarah would become the forefather of a tribe that would become a nation. The Jewish people who have survived the worst that history has to offer can all trace their beginnings back to Issac, not a bad legacy to have. On top of that the Bible talks about the Jews as God’s chosen people. The whole old testament is pretty much focused on telling the story of these chosen people and the involvement of God in their life. The problem is Abraham has two sons.

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(And when I say problem I mean someone is probably not going to live)

Ishmael is Abraham’s son with his slave Hagar. He was in effect plan b, his wife Sarah was unable to get pregnant and he needed an heir. When Sara gave birth Ishmael was no longer needed and he and his mom were sent away into the wilderness. If ever there was a slighted sibling story this is it. Issac gets to inherit his father’s everything (including some big promises made by God) and Ishmael gets sent of into the wilderness where death was more or less expected. What makes this really harsh is that other slighted siblings get talked about more than Ishmael we hear some of their stories, Ishmael on the other hand is little more than a footnote that many people are unaware is even in the Bible. But something strange happens in the wilderness.

At he moment that Hagar is ready to throw in the towel God steps in and saves her and Ishmael. On top of that God makes a big promise to Ishmael that he will become the father of a nation to just like his baby brother. By the way that nation is also still around today. Muhammad the founder of the Muslim faith is a part of that nation which Ishmael founded. So just as the Jewish people, and by extension Christians, identify Issac as a forefather Muslims identify Ishmael as a forefather. Turns out Ishmael isn’t a slighted sibling after all.

The Bible despite being a huge tome essentially tells one story. The old testament is the story of the Jews, God’s chosen people and the New Testament is the story of how Jesus’s life death and resurrection brought God’s grace into the story in a New and all encompassing way. What this Ishmael story reminds us is that when we focus our attention on one area or person we can miss the significant contributions of the other.

What makes this truly note worthy is when the passage says that God was with Ishmael. It doesn’t say it in a way that means just at that moment but that God was with him forever, just like God was with Issac. People of one faith or another often times make the mistake of thinking God is only with them. This is particularly true when it comes to Christians and Muslims since we both are talking about the same God. Sure we have differences is how we understand God’s involvement with us has transpired. They would say Jesus is a prophet not a messiah but at the end of the day we are all talking about the same God. A God who was with and continues to be with both sides of this family tree since way back in the Book of Genesis.

Perhaps we should stop thinking that God is closer to one person than another. We tend to want to make distinctions that separate people. God doesn’t seem to make those distinctions. God doesn’t care if you are famous or not or is you can throw a football well or not I don’t even think God is too concerned if you spend your Sundays in a Church or a Mosque God wants you to Love him and to love one another. So lets focus on love rather than our divisions in understanding.

Peace

Jamie

But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s the rallying cry of youth across geography and time. Its the impetus behind too many bad ideas and regrettable decisions to count.

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(How many of you lived this story.)

The idea generally is that young folks don’t always think about or understand the consequences and implications of their actions.

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(For instance MC Hammer didn’t realize we’d still be making fun of this look 20 yeast later.)

There is, however, another side of that statement. It seemed like a good idea at the time can be said of those times when you are doing what you feel is right to later discover you were mistaken. Those times when you are sure your right only to find out you were wrong. I think we’ve all had those moments where we are advocating for something passionately and realize all too late that our passion was misplaced. Sporting events seem to bring this out in people. A few months back you would have heard me eloquently explain why the Denver Broncos would easily win the Superbowl.

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(And the agony of defeat.)

This happens with important things too. Your a strong advocate for a political candidate and then they let you down. You believe a reform will be positive and then it doesn’t go the way you expected. I’m sure you have your own story. For me I remember arguing with my brother that I was sure they’d find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I was so sure they would.

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(Did they ever look under the couch cushions?) 

These mistaken beliefs can shape our actions our outlooks and our values. I kept thinking about this while reading today’s reading.

 

Ephesians 4:25-32

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

That opening line, Let us put away falsehoods has become something of a trap for people. Since it goes on to talk about the manner in which we are to live people understand this to mean “Understand the truth of God and live accordingly.” That is all well and good in theory but a lot harder in practice. The truth is on a lot of issues there is no universal agreement with what God’s truth is. This can lead to people on both sides of the issue claiming that the other is blind to God’s truth. Lumping those who disagree with them into the group of thieves and evil doers in the reading. In the end people walk away frustrated with one another.

 

The Church has reversed it’s understanding of a lot of issues over the past few thousand years. The church has in the past been pro slavery, pro gender inequality, pro crusades, anti Jewish, and a lot of other mistaken stances.

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(Although one man still stands by the Churches strict no dancing policy)

The problem is we are always clouded by our own thoughts and ideas. We as people are very good at using the bible to justify our beliefs. The problem is that often we don’t realize we are doing it. In that list of poor stances the church has taken I’m sure there were people who followed along whole heatedly believing they were doing what was right.

 

Perhaps when the reading is talking about forgiveness and putting away malice one of the things that it is referring to is setting our ego aside. Perhaps we should always remember that we have been wrong in the past and will be wrong again. Sure we should stand strong in our convictions but at the same time we should be open to other ideas, hear people out and even challenge our own assumptions. If an idea can withstand scrutiny, debate and counter argument then it is a valuable idea, one on which to stand. Hopefully the next time we say “it seemed like a good idea at the time” it’s followed up with “so I’m glad I cam to a new understanding” not “and I’ve held tightly to that bad idea for years”.

 

Peace

Jamie

 

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(Some people never learn)

We have nothing to fear, except vending machines

Roller coasters are one of those things that seem to split people in to two camps people who love them and people who will never go on them. The split seems to be a result of the basic premise of a roller coaster, its scary. People ride on them to enjoy the thrill of being scarred, they should call them thrill rides! Although people do get hurt on roller coasters, like that time a bird flew into Fabio’s face, they are designed to be safe while presenting the illusion of danger. I know many of you failed to finish that last sentence because you were picturing a bird flying into Fabio’s flowing hair.

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( I can understand the bird’s confusion It took me hours to realize he didn’t have a bird’s nest on his head.)

The truth is you are more likely to be harmed driving to the amusement park than riding a roller coaster. But for those who love them the illusion of danger is quite a thrill. Our brains take in information and come to conclusions. They register a huge fall twists spins and high speed turns and start a fight or flight response because all of that sure seems dangerous. And while theme parks take advantage of that to provide a fun ride other things we are afraid of lead us to make poor decisions. We think something is a threat and spend time and money addressing the perceived threat, or avoid it or we simply live in fear of it. There are lots of things that we are afraid of sharks, spiders, flying, strangers and so much more. The odd thing is that most of those things are far safer than things we encounter without fear or things we actively chose to do.

 

Deer kill more people annually that bears (130 vs 5)

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(You can see it in their eyes, they have evil intentions!)

More people die from choking on a pen cap they were chewing than from lightning (about 100 vs 40-50)

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(The pens consider it justice for all the abuse they’ve suffered.)

Vending machines kill more people than roller coasters (13 vs 4)

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(Shown here: The earliest prototype of a terminator.)

More people from die falling out of bed than from tornadoes (450 vs 60)

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(It’s worth the risk to sleep in this piece of awesomeness.)

and more people die from texting and driving in the us than from all air travel in the world (6000 vs 1200)

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(Can I still play my Xbox while driving?)

In fact driving in general is the most dangerous thing we do in a day and yet most of us think of driving as a casual activity or pastime. I believe the entire country music industry would fall apart if there were no more songs about how cool it was to drive cars.

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(Country music may be out of luck but we sing about driving and surfing.)

The point of all this is that sometimes the most dangerous part about something is how the fear of it negatively impacts our lives. I started thinking of this after reading today’s scripture.

 

Colossians 1:15-23

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;16for in* him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled* in his fleshly body* through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

 

Lots of people read this and think the message is that if you shift away from the faith in the gospel then you are no longer holy and blameless. This leads to a bunch of other questions about how do I stay faithful to the gospel, is there a right way and a wrong way to do it, do I have to be faithful my whole life or just at the end, people have different understandings of which way to be faithful is right so how do I pick the right one, what about kids who are to young to understand matters of faith, what exactly is the punishment for not being faithful, is there a point in time where I run out of chances to be faithful, and many more questions. The sum total of all these questions is self doubt and if you believe you are outside of God’s grace, perhaps irredeemably so, in short it creates fear. In other words this becomes a verse that instills fear in people, fear of a God who’s grace is not for them. I think this is the exact opposite of what Paul is trying to tell us.

I think Paul is telling us that we don’t need to be afraid of what God has in store for us. There isn’t some divine check list on which we need to rack up enough gold stars to pass.

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We have, by God’s grace been saved. The result of this is we no longer need to be afraid. I think Paul stating that we need to remain faithful and not lose sight of hope is a warning to not backslide into a life of fear. Just like we are afraid of many things that we don’t need to be, we don’t need to be afraid that God’s grace isn’t for us, because it is for us. The faith and hope help us to be reminded of this and live accordingly, to live as people free from this ultimate fear.

Being afraid of things which we shouldn’t be afraid of leads to irrational choices and mistakes. So being afraid that we are outside of God’s grace leads us to avoid God, who we feel has already made a judgment against us. In fact the most dangerous part of God is the fear that leads us to avoid God, a danger we create in our own minds.

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(So your saying it’s safe to come out?)

Live knowing God’s grace is for you and that you don’t need to be afraid.

Peace

Jamie

 

Author’s note: In case vending machines have taken over the world by the time I post this, I for one welcome our new robotic over lords… oh and you owe me like 330$ for all those times you failed to dispense the food I paid for.

Styles

Well The 2013 movie season is officially over. With the Oscars in the books we can stick a fork in 2013. It’s the first year in a long time where I can say I didn’t see too many of the movies talked about at the Oscars and I didn’t see many movies in general. When I looked at the top money making movies of 2013 I noticed a trend, an almost complete lack of original ideas. Here is the list of movies that made over 200,000,000$

1) Sequel based on a book

2)Sequel based on a comic

3)Loosely based on a fairy tale

4)Sequel

5) Comic book reboot

6)Original Story!!!!!!

7)Sequel

8)Sequel based on a book

9)Sequel

10)Sequel based on a book\

11)Sequel based on a TV Show

12)Sequel based on a comic book

13)Based on a Book

In case you didn’t notice a pattern there were a lot of sequels, adaptations from books and comics and combinations of those two things. In the top 13 there was only one original story, Gravity. This could be a sign that film writers are lazy and figure the best bet to make money is to stick with established stories an characters.

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(“The only thing that makes me happier than all this money is people paying to see a movie just so they can complain that the book was better”)

OK So it is partially that. But That doesn’t explain why so many people go to see these movies. If you add up all the income these movies made you end up with approximately a money bin full.

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(Pictured: My accountant who gave me the calculated movie income)

So Why is it that so many people are going to see remakes, reboots sequels and rehashes. Seriously how many Dracula, Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, and A Christmas carol movies do we need because if you add up all the remakes of those movies you end up with an absolute ton. These movies wouldn’t keep being made if they didn’t have an audience and they clearly still have an audience. People are willing to put down 10-20$ on a movie ticket and watch a story that they already know or at least characters they already know. I think the reason may be that people sometimes want to hear and see things presented in a new way. Sure they’ve seen the story before but not like this. That’s why people will read books, watch movies, watch the TV show adaptation and heck maybe even go to the Broadway musical

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(How could this possibly be bad)

Sometimes people just want to hear the same message in a different way, when it comes to understanding something sometimes we need that information presented in a new way.

 

1 Kings 19

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

Yes God came to Elijah in the silence. What makes this interesting is that Elijah was looking for God in the big flashy spectacles. Burning Bushes, booming voices, Plagues, Miracles, wonders, fiery doves, Strangers, Angels are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing the ways God has communicated with his people. Elijah was familiar with the Big actions of God but Found God’s voice in the still silence. The point is often made that we need to slow down some times, so that we have a chance to find God in the still silence too, its a good and valid point. What I think is often missed however is that God keeps on communicating in a multitude of ways from the beginning of the bible to the end. The point is God seems to know that we need to hear is message in new ways, that sometimes the same message needs to be spreed in a variety of ways.

 

Yet so often Churches seem to have the idea that their way to spread the Gospel is the best. Contemporary, traditional loud music, soft music, indoors out doors, traditional Church building, non traditional church building, guitar, organ, and so many more distinctions begin to arise. The answer to which is best is yes. Just like some people like chocolate, and some like vanilla we need different varieties because people have different tastes and sometimes tastes change.

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(I prefer Scotchy scotch scotch ice cr… wait does that say limited batch, I need to go out and stock pile a dozen or so pints)

The power of our ability to spread the Gospel sometimes lies in the variety of ways we have to spread it. So instead of focusing on which is best we should start focusing on what is the best way we can use our contexts, our strengths, our gifts and our traditions. Don’t tear someone else’s way down, build your own way up!

Peace

Jamie

Set up to Fail

My neighbor growing up owned the hardware store in town. To this day he has stayed open despite all the big box hardware stores moving into town. His father had opened the store years before, and it would seem my neighbor grew up learning to operate a businessmen because he seems to have done a good job of doing so.

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(Alot better than when I opened a lemonade stand)

I remember when I was about ten or so he had an addition built on the back of his house and after he was done there was a lot of dirt that needed to be filled back in around the new foundation. I was hanging out with his son and a few other friends and he told us that if we could move half of the remaining dirt pile to where it needed to be, around the foundation, he would give us 100$ to split. 100$ was a huge reward, even if it had to be split four or five ways so we were in. The pile didn’t seem so big and my neighbor even gave us tips on how to shovel more efficiently. He gave us a few hours to complete the task and we were on our way. It went poorly. The pile was way bigger than it seemed and we were terribly inefficient with our shovels.

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(Even this guy is better with a shovel than I was)

My neighbor got back, chuckled and sent us on our way with empty pockets and sore hands. Maybe he was trying to teach us a lesson about not taking jobs too big to finish. Maybe he wanted us to learn the value of a dollar.

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(Maybe he wanted me to look more like a Dickensian street urchin) 

Whatever his purpose I remember walking away discouraged. There was know way were going to meet the standards necessary to earn the rewards, a lesson we learned after it was too late. In other words we were set up to fail, an experience which feel pretty bad. I think some people believe God has set us up to fail.

1 Peter 3:8-12

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Those standards are pretty high aren’t they. Always be humble, unified, sympathetic,, love everyone, and bless those who do evil to you or abuse you. In other words be perfect. This reading also makes it seem that the fruit of all that labor is God’s blessing and failure to meet those standards means God turns away from you. Many go on to interpret this to mean be perfect and go to heaven or else. Which to summarize means we are set up to fail because there is no way we can live up to those standards. Almost always when people believe this is God’s message for us they get discouraged and turn away from God, and the truth is I don’t blame them. I wished I had walked away from that shovel and dirt pile in my neighbors yard, I with I had done something more productive or fun with my time. Being set up to fail is discouraging, disheartening and something to be avoided.

 

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(No one wants to be Sisyphus) 

There is good news, that isn’t how God works. Were everyone to live the way that Bible reading was laid out the world would be a better place. I don’t think there is even an argument to make a world where everyone is kind to everyone else is a good world, one I wish I lived in. That obviously isn’t the world we live in though. We live in a broken world with animosity, hatred and abuse. Living the way 1 Peter describes above is a goal, one which we will always work for and never attain. We don’t do it so God will love us or bless us we do it because he already has. Jesus lived and died for all of us, God loves us, we will be OK. And so we work towards a goal not so God will let us into heaven we do it because it will make the world a better place, and a perfect world is another unattainable goal worth working towards. We aren’t set up to fail, because of Jesus we have already succeeded.

Peace

Jamie

Judgement Dread

I had an amazing encounter once. I was speaking with a man and after a few minutes of chit chat he said “I see you noticed my belly”, it did appear that the man was well fed and his Santa-esque physique was hard to miss. There are “two Babies in there” he went on. I asked him how that happened and he went on in detail about how scientists had put them there as part of an experiment. He told me he was happy that he was pregnant and looked forward to the babies being born. What made this more amazing was that he told me he had been pregnant for 14 years and no news outlet had ever picked up the story.

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(Yeah kinda like this)

Ok so you are probably thinking one of two things, the first is that I’m not on the level and the second possibility is that I’m incredibly gullible. The truth is I left some details out namely that I had this conversation with a man who was hospitalized when I was chaplain at an inpatient mental heath facility. In other words the man was suffering from a severe mental illness. I spoke with him and gave him space to share his story. In order to make that space I avoided contradicting his story even though I was of course fully aware it was more than a little inaccurate. The point of bringing this up is to illustrate judgment vs. evaluation. You often here people say something along the lines of don’t judge me. They usually mean that they don’t want you to draw any conclusions about them based on their appearance, behavior, circumstance or anything else. However they often ignore the fact that although it is unnecessary to judge someone, to draw conclusions based on subjective opinions, it is another thing entirely to draw conclusions based on objective facts. When it came to the pregnant man I made some evaluations based on the facts, for instance I concluded he was not in fact pregnant. I did my best however to avoid making subjective judgments such as judging the man to be bad or a liar or not worth talking to. The point is often people mix up judgment and evaluation one we should avoid and the other is good, here Jesus talks about how he feels about judging.

 

John 8:12-19

 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  So the Pharisees objected, “You testify about yourself; your testimony is not true!” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you people do not know where I came from or where I am going.  You people judge by outward appearances; I do not judge anyone.  But if I judge, my evaluation is accurate, because I am not alone when I judge, but I and the Father who sent me do so together.  It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true I testify about myself and the Father who sent me testifies about me.”

Then they began asking him, “Who is your father?” Jesus answered, “You do not know either me or my Father. If you knew me you would know my Father too.”

Jesus points out he doesn’t Judge and to paraphrase he says if he did Judge his judgments would be evaluations. God isn’t in the business of forming opinions about us such as that we are bad, or liars or not worth Gods time. The truth is when Christians talk people often think we are judging them because they think our God is Judging them too. We aren’t judging and if we are we should follow in Jesus’ footsteps and stop. We don’t need to form negative opinions about people, God has already formed an opinion, we are all God’s children and God loves his children. When we are looking for an opinion about people maybe we would be well served to start there all the people we meet are children of God.

 

It doesn’t stop there however because we should evaluate. That is we should draw conclusions based on facts, God did after all give us the gift of thought and we would be well served to use it. Some people and their actions hurt us, we should stay away from those people and those actions, that’s not judgemental that is an evaluation of risk. God does not want us repeatedly walking into harmful situations in the name of not judging. Sometimes our actions hurt or separate us from others we should change those actions and find new ways of interacting with others, that’s not being hard on ourselves its evaluating who we are and who we want to be. And yes sometimes we need to be honest and share with people that their actions hurt us and that we wish that would change. We don’t need to judge but we should evaluate. Jesus says that those who follow him wont stumble, we should always be evaluating if we are following him and how we could do a better job of it.  We shouldn’t avoid sharing with others where they may have made a misstep in the name of not being Judgmental either.

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(I didn’t  want to seem Judgmental so I didn’t tell this man he was packing his parachute poorly)

 

So if someone shares an honest evaluation with you listen and if you find yourself judging someone stop.  We are all on this journey together  lets help each other along the way.

Peace

Jamie

 

And since the title is a Judge Dredd reference here you go

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvJiYrRcfQo

 

 

Gifted

One of my favorite jokes that revolve around the holidays is misunderstanding what the purpose of a gift is. I think Seinfeld did the joke best. Jerry gives his dad a Wizard pocket organizer. His dad is unaware off all the things the organizer can do and instead only uses it to calculate the proper tip at restaurants. Jerry spends the whole episode trying to convince his dad that he can do other things with the device to no avail. Pee Wee Herman (never thought I’d get to write about him) does the gag as well with an iPad.

http://youtu.be/BiDHUNiurqY

I’ve never tried using my iPad as a drink tray but I know there are much better uses. By the way this video came out about 20 years after Pee Wee’s show was canceled which really makes me wonder if the set was just waiting around collecting dust for this video. The point is we often seem to not realize the full potential of things especially when they are new and impressive.

 

Isaiah starts by reminding the reader that compared to God we are insignificant. He goes so far as to call Jacob a worm and Israel an insect. That piece of the reading is very small and Isaiah spends more time telling us about the amazing things God is doing. Filling us with his power and hope, caring for the poor and answering us when we call. God is doing amazing things for us and through us. Whats more is that we understand this action of God being spoken of as the life and ministry of Jesus. Isaiah is letting us know all about the coming messiah all about Jesus. The amazing thing about this is that we know these actions are for us as a gift of love and grace. This is the sort of thing that should fill us with vigor to go and do God’s work with our hands. Sadly it seems that too often people never get past the first few lines.

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(Ok so sometimes not getting past the first few lines is a good thing)

It can be easy to become hung up on our own insignificance when compared to God. And certainly God does not want us losing perspective and equating ourselves or anything else with him, that whole false idols commandment and all. But God does not want our humility to be an anchor that weight us down. We are called to enter into the world and with God bring glimpses of his kingdom to life. We have been given an amazing gift, the freedom and support to do God’s will may we use that gift to its fullest.

Doors

My earliest Christmas memory is from 1984, I was 3. After opening all the presents there was one remaining, the infamous “to the family” present. These were always a mixed bag as a kid usually it was a bigger present but at the same time it usually involved sharing. As the youngest of 3 brothers sharing wasn’t something that always went so well for me.

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(We’ll let you know when it’s your turn little brother)

What we opened was an Atari, I loved it and spent a lot of time during my childhood playing video games. I was pretty good at figuring out what I needed to do next. I would usually be able to get to the end of games and found it to be rewarding. Of course there are always hiccups along the way. Every person who ever played a video game knows that moment when you fall in a pit or the turtle monster eats you and you look at your controller and say “you it’s your fault”. Yes every one know the frustration that erupts when you can’t quite make a jump and your convinced that the fault lies in that small rectangular piece of plastic. The other pinnacle of frustration is the dead end. When you have no early idea what you are supposed to do next. This is where my greatest enemy in all of video gamedom comes in… the door. Yes the mighty door . When I would get to a door, certain that my next task was behind it, there were few words more terrifying than “Key is required”. Nothing was more heartbreaking than those moments where you need a key and have no clue where it is and you know the only option is to backtrack endlessly until you find it. It was so confusing to me, I could be a giant mountain of a man able to break rocks in two but a flimsy wooden door which I could kick down in my sleep blocked my path like a great colossus. There was no easy way past that mighty door. Luke had Darth Vader, Sherlock had Moriarty, and I have a simple flimsy wooden door.

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(This barbarian turn away from the camera, so you would’t see he was crying)

The Church seems to be in the midst of a similar feud with doors.

 

Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Jesus gave an order to his followers. They were to spread his message and to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They listened well, spreading this community of people following Christ across the globe. From these humble beginnings Christianity was born and Billions of people followed Jesus. At some point this following became so big that the followers didn’t even have to go anywhere to find people to share this message with, people came to them looking to be a part of God’s activity in the world. Buildings were built as centers of worship and for centuries they were filled. Beautiful buildings, an emblem of the beauty of God standing high above the skyline as a symbol to the community of the power of God. The buildings of course had strong, sturdy doors

 

Things changed, it seemed sudden, many people stopped coming to those Churches. For a bunch of reasons this model of a huge building to draw people in like a lighthouse stopped working. The solution seems simple, go out and engage people again like the first followers did all those years ago. But there is a problem, those doors. It can be so hard to take what we’ve known and carry it outside those doors. On the other side of those Church doors, in the community, in the world there are people who need to hear the message of hope in Christ. They may think they know who Jesus is and what Jesus stands for but so often the picture they see is distorted, or missing pieces, the world need the message we have to share, they need the whole picture.

 

Back in those game the only solution was to backtrack hoping to find what I had missed the first time through. We as followers of Christ need to look back at our early Church leaders see how they engaged with those around them and continue living the mission that Jesus laid out for us.

 

Peace

Jamie

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(Doors are known to operate in both an open and closed position)

Catchphrase

Catchphrases are awesome. Little memorable quips repeatedly thrown out by a character that tells you all you need to know about the character. For instance in Happy Days the Fonz has his iconic AYYYYY, Rerun in Whats Happening had Dy-no-mite and Arnold Schwarzenegger had I’ll be back long before his catchphrase became an odd mispronunciation of the state he governed.

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(Mr. Governor it’s pronounced California not Cullifornaya)

Those catchphrases tell you all yo need to know about the characters, The Fonz was cool, Rerun was a happy goofball and Arnold would, no matter the odds, kick butt and come back to defeat the bad guy. I always thought it was funny to imagine if characters had a different catchphrase. I thought it was funny to think of how that would change the character. For instance replace Arnold’s I’ll be back with a diminutive “I give up” and all of a sudden you have a much different ending to all his movies.

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“Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”

“Sorry Henry lets try another catchphrase”

 

I’ve often wondered what the catchphrase of the Church is, or at least what should it be. It seems that all to often people outside of the Church think about today’s reading when they think about the message that Christianity is sending to them.

 

Romans 1:18-25 (NRSV)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

Not the rosiest of pictures is it. God’s existence is so clear that everyone can see it. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God must be actively avoiding him, and now the wrath of God is coming for all those who don’t believe in him. Yikes. The truth is a lot of people, outside the Church, hear this sort of message and feel strong armed and condemned. They feel like they are being told that their lack of belief, or lack of church association mean that they are bad people who idle away their time on trivial, Godless pursuits. Whats more they feel they are being told that God’s wrath is all that awaits them unless they make a change ASAP. In other words the catchphrase they are hearing is “Follow us, or else”. What a sad state of affairs, there are lots of messages that the Church has to spread, we call those messages the Good News or Gospel but to be clear the Gospel is not a threat.

 

Through out Roman’s Paul, who wrote it as a letter about 2000 years ago, spins a persuasive web luring readers into the inescapable conclusion that we all need God’s grace. He starts by indicting those who follow pagan worship, which would make those who believe in the God of Israel nod their head in Judgmental approval. Paul then turns that argument around in such a way that those who are nodding their heads in judgmental approval would realize they too fall short and should aim that judgment at themselves too. The clincher is that Paul drops Gods grace into the middle of those failings, into the middle of that judgment and shows us that Gods grace is for everyone. The point is that we all fall short and screw up but we are made right by God, who forgives all those failings not by what we have or haven’t done but because of his gracious love. We all need God’s grace and fortunately it’s there for us all. Or else makes a terrible and in accurate statement of the church, there has got to be a grace centered catchphrase to be found somewhere, I’m sure someone more clever than I could find it.

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“Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!”

“Still pretty bad Henry”

Peace

Jamie