excuses, excuses, excuses!

no saw“The cross solved our problem by first revealing our real problem, our universal pattern of scapegoating and sacrificing others. The cross exposes forever the scene of our crime.”

Richard Rohr,  Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

A more intricate way of saying BUT we’ve come to know as making excuses. We all do it; we’ve done it from the Garden of Eden onward. [Am I my brother’s keeper?] The dog ate my homework. Really?!? And we actually believe people will believe us.

To be sure, some excuses are legitimate. The dog and nuclear holocaust are not one of them. The funny thing is that we make excuses to God for the things we’ve left undone, or for the things we’ve committed ourselves to do and haven’t. It’s one thing to say you’ll take out the trash or cut the grass; it’s quite another to swear an oath, or make a promise to God and not follow up on it.

This can become a very dangerous game with rather austere consequences.  DO NOT PLAY.

Psalm 15, a psalm of David, puts it quite eloquently for us—

1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;

 He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he 
take up a reproach against his friend;

 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

 He who does these things shall never be moved.

I’ve highlighted the phrase that we all need to take to heart…, and put into practice.  No excuses.

NEXTHonor God, honor people…, make a difference,

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But…BUTT OUT!!

black-man-yelling-into-phone-500x295

Ok, OK…, this “butt” piece may not be what I intended when I first started writing this whole series, but it seemed to fit. Why— because sometime you don’t want to deal with all the crazies nosing around or interfering in your business. You simply want people to BUTT OUT!!!

    In this over-connected techno era it seems like everybody has access to your information, your identity, your very personal and financial documents. You can run, but you cannot hide. More and more, the concept of personal privacy is being challenged. How much information about you do governments, clothing lines, credit card companies, medical practitioners and medical insurers, even grocery stores have a right to know about you, let alone, the right to share with their “partners”?!?

    Hamlet, in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, once pondered “To be, or not to be. That is the question.” Today that question would be more like “To be known, or not to be known.” A young bride once said to me that the greatest fear she had of getting married was being known.

    It’s not so much that knowledge is power, as it is the withholding of information, knowledge, is power. Too many prying eyes, too many internet connections, have made us a culture of isolationists. LEAVE ME ALONE! BUTT OUT! If you think privacy on the internet is an issue, try personal privacy in life. We crave personal privacy, personal space, and, not unexpectedly, a deepening desire to be alone, to be silent, tranquil, in a serene, safe place. Not easily accessed in our open-faced society.

    Some of us even want God to Butt-Out. He becomes too intrusive in our lives, always interfering with what we want, with our rights and pleasures. Does he really know what’s best for us? Who says? Well, he does. Contrary to popular opinion, God is not sitting up in heaven trying to think of ways to take the fun out of life, or steal our joy, or rob us of our pleasure. More likely than not, he is trying to protect us from ourselves. One of the consequences of wanting our own way, with no acknowledgement of the perimeters-of-protection he has set in place for us is that we are left to our own undoing. Ignoring Christ’s principles for living is simply not a smart move. Telling the Lord God Creator, in essence, to butt-out, is quite dangerous.

    Sitting humbly before him to learn is a much wiser choice. And safer.

    Your move.

NEXT— But I’m afraid.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Lese Majesty Notre Dame Cathedral

notre dame
(Photo credit LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

     This is the image that blazed across our local newspaper in Colorado Springs this morning. Like many of us, it pierced my heart. I’m not that much a religious person, but I am a genuine Christian, one who doesn’t strap his faith onto the rest of his life; rather one who integrates his faith into everything he does.

     What struck me about this picture, being part art historian, is the juxtaposition of the alter, the cross, the statue of Mary holding her son Jesus, with the total devastation that lay at their feet. What a depiction of our present world’s quandary.

     Within less than 3 days of this tragedy, almost one billion dollars has been raised to rebuild this Parisian landmark. Pledges have poured in from across the world, from small churches in Arkansas, to major European conglomerates, to individuals, to tycoons, to common folk.  This incredible generosity bespeaks of the love and honor that people held for this global landmark— this personification of Paris. As one Parisian said,

 “Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations.” [https://wnep.com/2019/04/15/first-photos-show-damage-inside-notre-dame-cathedral/]

May God bless all those who are contributing to the restoration of this majestic icon of Western Civilization!

     But what of the ruble that lay at the foot of the cross, at the feet of Jesus? These are the 850 year old oak beams that held the roof of the cathedral, now devastated and burned. What can replace them? Surely not more oak beams. But what?

     In so many ways this is an image of our postChristian world. A billion dollars will easily repair the cathedral, but what of the lives of people who have lost faith in their church, in their personal relationship and trust in God? What of them? What will become of them? A billion dollars doesn’t come near to rebuilding or restoring, their faith.

     I put it to you that genuine Christians around the world have a responsibility to reexamine their faith in the God of the universe who has created and who will restore all things to an greater glory, even greater than this glorious Notre Dame. We have the responsibility to repair and rebuild the faith of so many who have lost faith in Christ in these pluralistic and often convoluted times.

     So as we contribute to repairing this magnificent cathedral, may we also spend some time, and money, rebuilding others’ lives, to honor God, in Christ Jesus. May this tragedy remind us again of our mission to bring this broken, charred world to the offer of a new life in the Lord who sustains it all— Jesus Christ!

A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully.
[John 10:10 CEV]

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!

Gary

BUT..3- Becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t need a but

presmedalfreedom“Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something.”  ~Dorothy Sayers

     The image for this article is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to American citizens (and others) who have made a substantial contribution to the shaping and preservation of our American heritage and to the world. Recipients in recent history have been- Walt Disney, Bruce Springsteen, Ellen DeGeneres, Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, and Bill Gates.

     None of these men or women said “no” when they were told it couldn’t be done. They just did it. We need to emulate their perspicuity and perseverance. Too many of us give up midstream; or worse, we dream but never start.

     What are the characteristics of people who just do it? Who make no excuses? For one, they stick to it! Take Elon Musk:  he has found so many ways to fail that he has probably lost count; but he keeps at it. On a personal note, I used to say that I had failed so many ways that I had raised failure to an art form. Elon Musk stuck to it; so did I. And so do a lot of you. Keep it up!

     Another characteristic is listening to criticism, especially creative criticism. You know what to do with the negative critics. No you don’t. Actually, listen to them; listen to lots of people. One mouth, two ears…, remember? You want all the creative input and creativity you can get.

     Then there’s regrouping and starting over when you realize you’ve been heading down the wrong line of development. Don’t be ashamed; be smart.

     Psychologists tell us that the key to successful, long term relationships is humility. This is also true of anyone who seeks solutions rather than making excuses. One of our Board members recently designed reorganization for her business that eliminated her division. That’s creative, gutsy, and reeks of humility. She made no buts about it. She just did it.

     She could do it because her character gave her a base for such courage. If we are to become people that have no buts, we must pay dedicated attention to nurturing not only our skills, but our moral character and spiritual selves as well. Never doubt that your life has a spiritual dimension that calls for your attention. It is the basis for everything else you do. From the song in the movie, Saving Sarah CainTURN UP THE MUSIC, “make peace with God and make peace with yourself.” That’s good advice and as good a place to start as any.

     There is so much more to becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t make excuses, but I will end these contributions with just one more— build bridges, don’t burn them. Too many of us burn our bridges behind us, or in front of us. Christians are especially good at building walls between one another; and the world outside. Christ never intended it to be this way.

NEXT— Butt-Out!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

BUT 2, People who Offered no excuses.

the 100“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” ~ Christian Morganstern

But… . ~“But... people who offered no excuses

     The nay-sayers— you know who they are. I’ve had my share too. BUT, there are simply a large group of people who seem to be unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining in the menacing clouds, the God-given good we all can access. You’ve heard the phrase— “Life is a bitch…, then you die.”Well, that would be a step uP for some of these people. For whatever reason, they are so terrified of failure that they never try anything, especially anything new.

     Invariably, the first word out of their mouth, in response to what you are attempting is “But… .”

     If you’ve had people in your life who constantly offer you their “Buts… .” BUT, rarely their help, ideas, or encouragements, I offer you this list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. It’s time we took encouragement from those who did not sit on their butts, BUT made a difference, for better or for worse. [Thank you, Michael J. Hart.] This listing is of only the first 25; if you want to see the other 75, buy the book or hit the WEBsite.

     Enjoy!

Top (25) 100 List

  1. Muhammad (570 – 632 AD) Prophet of Islam.
  2. Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) – British mathematician and scientist.
  3. Jesus Christ (c.5BC – 30 AD) Spiritual teacher and central figure of Christianity.
  4. Buddha (c 563 – 483 BC) Spiritual Teacher and founder of Buddhism.
  5. Confucius (551 – 479 BC) – Chinese philosopher.
  6. St. Paul (5 – AD 67) – Christian missionary and one of the main writers of New Testament.
  7. Ts’ai Lun (AD 50 – 121) Inventor of paper.
  8. Johann Gutenberg (1395 – 1468) – Inventor of the printing press.
  9. Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506) – Italian explorer landed in America.
  10. Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) German/ US scientist discovered Theory of Relativity.
  11. Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895) French biologist. Developed a cure for rabies and other infectious diseases.
  12. Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) Italian scientist – confirmed the heliocentric view of the universe.
  13. Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) – Greek philosopher and polymath.
  14. Euclid (c. 325 – 265 BC) – Greek mathematician.
  15. Moses (c 1391 – 1271 BC) A key figure of Jewish / Christian history gave 10 Commandments of Old Testament.
  16. Charles Darwin (1809 -– 1882) –Scientist who proposed and popularised theory of evolution.
  17. Shih Huang Ti (259 – 210 BC) – King of the state of Qin who conquered & united different regions of China in 221 BC.
  18. Augustus Caesar (63 BC-AD 14) – First Emperor of Rome.
  19. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who believed Sun was the center of Universe – rather than earth.
  20. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743 – 1794) French chemist and biologist who had leading impact on the chemical revolution.
  21. Constantine the Great (272 AD – 337) Roman Emperor who accepted Christian religion.
  22. James Watt (1736 – 1819) Scottish engineer. Watt improved the Newcome steam engine creating an efficient steam engine.
  23. Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) – English scientist who contributed in fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.
  24. James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) Scottish physicist. Maxwell made a significant contribution to understanding electromagnetism
  25. Martin Luther (1483-1546) Sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church – starting the Protestant Reformation.

  [Hart, Michael H. 1992. The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Revised and Updated for the Nineties. New York: Citadel Press]

     Every one of these individuals faced overarching obstacles in their efforts to influence people, improve existing technologies, challenge the church, defy governments, and change the world around them. You will find it no different. Anyone who seeks to make a difference must prepare for those who say it cannot be done. Get used to it.

     Yes, I just copied/pasted the list. BUT you needed to see it. BUT, they decided to make a difference. How are you doing with that in your own life? Get on with it! You know there is just something, ONE Thing, you simply MUST do before you die.

     Get on with it!

NEXT— Becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t have a but.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

But…. an introduction

original

An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. ~Billy Sunday

But… . ~an introduction

     We’ve become a myriad of excuses. We need to be a world of actions! But, no, it’s easier to make excuses than to follow through on what we’ve committed to. I am as guilty of it as you. For my mornings, the graphic for this article says it all. Seriously, I don’t want coffee in the morning: I NEED coffee!

     “But…!” ummmmmm. Right.

     But we never did it that way before.

     But I was too tired.

     But my support staff did not arrive in time.

     But I ran out of time.

     But I wanted it.

     But honey… .

     But God… . [Lot’s more on this.]

     But, But, BUT!  Sometimes I feel like we’ve left off a “t.”

     We’ve become so good at making excuses that we should all have a Masters Degree in the Arts for our accomplishments.

     This series will shift radically from the problems we face with communicating with our own culture, let alone to another one, and turn our attention to a unilateral human problem— making excuses. First, we’ll look at a series of people who DID NOT make excuses. Then, we’ll study the psychology of WHY we make excuses. Finally, we’ll examine some of the excuses we make and WHY we make them.

     So if you’re one who never makes excuses, you can skip this series and wait for the next one on lies we tell ourselves…, & God.

     BUT, preliminarily, let’s define our terms.

An excusedef. transitive verb

1ato make apology for

  bto try to remove blame from

 [Mirriam-Webster Dictionary]

     So, how’s your excuse-quotient these days? Up to snuff? Most of us are so good at making excuses we are not even aware we are doing it. Tune in next time for some discouraging examples of people who pushed through!

NEXT— “But... people who offered no excuse.”

No buts…,

Gary

It’s not easy being green

kermit     If you’ve been challenged by this call to develop a postChristian Gospel, please know that it has been something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. Remaining true to the Biblical/historical constructs of our faith, and to the Church, while trying to acclimate our message into yet another cultural context is no easy matter. Wycliffe Bible Translators face this challenge with every new language group they encounter; as did early Western Christian missionaries trying to introduce Western Christian constructs to Eastern and African cultures). Our difficulty is in recognizing that our postChristian era has developed its own culture and language group, based on its basic premise that there are no absolute truths; there is no meta-narrative to explain all of reality; there is no one singular system of belief that can encompass the grand diversity of human experience. At this point, of course, genuine Christians must disagree and still engage with the prevailing points of view.
     It is thus, at this point of division, that we must still follow our Lord into this world’s various cultures, adapting His time-tested message to be understood within the grand diversity of human experiences. This is not a task to be taken on lightly, let alone naively. Our message can neither be too complex to be grasped by the simple, nor can it be so simple that its matrix, woven throughout human history and into both ends of eternity, be lost in “the simple gospel,” with no context outside of the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Fulfillment rubric. That is why we must end our consideration of a postChristian Gospel with a reference to BEING GREEN.
     Being green, surprisingly, refers to more than environmental/ecological responsibility. The framework to which I refer comes from a 1969 musical piece sung by Kermit the Frog, Ring-master of Jim Henderson’s MUPPETS. I encourage you to watch it; go to-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpiIWMWWVco&feature=related to view our hero sing it in his own croaks.] “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.” (lyrics by Joe Rapposo)
     In the song, Kermit’s point is this- that he may not like the way he is, blending in, often passed over, ordinary; but this is the way he is and that’s that. He is the color of Spring; he is cool & friendly-like. And though as a frog he is small, he can be big, like an ocean, or important, like a mountain. He is green, and that’s just fine. Engaging the postChristian heart is a lot like being green. We may not be too good at it, we certainly don’t fit into our culture’s predominant mindset, but we have to remain true to who we are, to what we believe, and to be what Christ has designed us to be in the grand scheme of things. We are each called upon and designed to play our part in the daily activities of the Lilly Pond. Some days we just sit around and zap flies with our tongues; other days we may run into those postmodern Bull Frogs that beat up on us and take away our pad, trying to push us out of the operations of the Pond entirely. Nonetheless, God has plopped many of us in the middle of the postChristian Pond and expects us to live up to our responsibilities as a vital part of this society’s nurturing and development. We are here to bring Christ’s peace, forgiveness, and new life to the rest of the Pond. We may not like the taste of fresh fly on our tongue…, but we’d better get used to it if we’re going to make a difference.
     There remains yet one more thing to consider- merely practical suggestions on how to be who you are, within your own personality, family, church, and society, as you endeavor to translate the Christian message into postChristian-speak.
_____________________________________________
Play Time
1.      How do you befriend a person who is in pain and/or angry?

2.      To the best of your recollection, what is the Christian Gospel?
a.       Now find someone who is NOT a Christian and ask them what it is.
b.      Tell them your understanding of the Gospel. Ask for their feedback.
3.      Interview people, Christian and otherwise, about the statement- The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths. What did you learn?
4.      Ask people if they have overriding principles that govern their actions. Learn.
5.      How are your overriding principles apparent in your actions?
6.      Given that throughout history the Christian faith has adapted to fit into every people group, culture and era around the world, what do you think of the idea of a postChristian Gospel? Is it opening Pandora’s Box?
7.      To what extent is our message a mind-to-mind transfer of information leading to a decision to follow Christ? To what extent is it a heart-to-heart thing leading to an encounter with Christ that can be explained later?
8.      In what circumstances is a problem-solving model of the gospel more appropriate? In what circumstances is a fulfillment model more appropriate?
9.      How do you discover the presuppositions and assumptions a person holds about life and the Christian interpretation of life?
10.  How simple is the Gospel? How expansive could it be?
11.  How are you doing at being in the world, but not of it?
12.  Where do you have a tough time bein’ green?

NEXT TIME~ AFTERTHOUGHTS: my best ideas come to me in the shower
…mostly green,
Gary