Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Speaking Truth To Beauty

With thanks to Delanceyplace.com, for their quote from Marilyn and Me, by Susan Strasburg:

Susan Strasburg, daughter of famed acting instructor Lee Strasburg, had her star turn on Broadway originating the role of Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank. Nominated for a Tony Award at the age of 18, she became the youngest actress to star on Broadway with her name above the marquee title. Here she recounts seeking feedback from award-winning actor Sir Laurence Olivier:

"As much as I loved doing Anne Frank, it now overwhelmed me. After a year and a half, the high emotional pitch of the performance had taken a toll on my energy and psyche. I was getting every germ that floated into Manhattan. I was losing weight, unable to eat. The year before, [Lee Strasburg student] Marilyn [Monroe] had brought Laurence Olivier to see the play. Afterward he'd been very complimentary. As we were taking publicity photos, all smiling our best airline stewardess smiles, I'd pleaded, "Please, Sir Laurence ..."

" 'Larry,' he'd insisted. 

" 'Please ... Sir ... Larry, tell me what you really thought.' He cleared his throat. 'Well, dear child,' he'd said precisely, 'half the effort would have had twice the effect.'

"I was devastated. My smile evaporated, as did his. The flash popped, and the moment was stamped indelibly on film, and on my ego. Marilyn came to my defense. 'She does that because she cares. She wants the people who came to see her to get their money's worth.' I was grateful to her. 

"It was true I'd asked, but he didn't have to tell me. He was supposed to be an English gentleman. I knew how the actress felt who had screamed at my father backstage after her opening night, 'How dare you come back here and tell me the truth?' "

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...sometimes the truth hurts. No wonder the apostle Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who Is THIS? A Prosified Christmas Hymn

Who is THIS?

Who is this child sleeping in Mary's lap? Who IS this being welcomed into this world by sweetly singing angels and watchful shepherds?

Well...this baby being guarded by shepherds and serenaded by angels is Christ the King! Don't waste any time! Bring your praise and adulation to Mary's baby boy!

Bring him gifts of sweet aromas, expensive treasures, and soothing oils. Everyone, whether poor or rich, should come to Jesus and acknowledge his greatness. He is the ruler above all rulers, and his coming to Earth opens the way to salvation for us all...so put him on the throne of your heart; let him be in charge and fill you with love.

Raise your voice in song - loud and long! The virgin mother is singing her lullaby, so let's sing our praise of deep, abiding joy: This newborn child - Mary's baby boy - is the Holy One sent from God...the Christ!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I wish you all not only a Merry Christmas, but a heart filled with the Love of the Babe, the son of Mary.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Am A Refugee

It started out as a misunderstanding of where a couple tickets were telling a couple people to sit at a sporting event, and ended up being a viral blog post about racism, terrorism, and fear.

And the most surprising aspect of it all was the verbal challenge being used as an accusatory weapon: "Are you a refugee?!?"

Hmmm...let me think about that.

Refugee, noun...a person who has fled from some danger or problem.

I have certainly tried my best to avoid problems like personal conflicts or unappetizing meals, but what about important problems? And what about actually fleeing?

Truth is...my biggest problem - separation from Yahweh because of my bent toward sin - has absolutely caused me to flee. I have run into the welcoming arms of Jesus. And the deeper truth, as Jesus illustrated in his story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), God didn't stand around waiting for me. He took the initiative.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Where Is God When It Hurts?

In the spring of 2007, a disturbed student at Virginia Tech chained some doors shut, killed thirty-two students and faculty members, then killed himself.

As part of a local church's attempt to help students and other residents start working through their shock, grief, and fear, author Philip Yancey was flown in to speak on the subject of one of his books, Where Is God When It Hurts?

Considering that some people may be asking that very question in the aftermath of last week's shootings in San Bernardino, allow me to share a little of what he said, as recorded in the book, What Good Is God? (To read my previously-posted comments about this book, click here.)

I would like to promise you a long life and a pain-free life, but I cannot do so. God has not made that a guarantee and not even Jesus was granted those favors. Rather, the Christian view of the world reduces to a simple formula. The world is good. The world is fallen. The world will be redeemed. Creation, Fall, Redemption - that's the Christian story in a nutshell.

You know that the world is good. Look around you at the glories of spring in the hills of Virginia. Look around you at the friends you love. Though still overwhelmed with sorrow just now, you will learn to laugh again, to play again, to hike up mountains and kayak down their streams, to love, to rear children. Yes, the world is good.

You know, too, that the world is fallen. Here at Virginia Tech in April of 2007 you know that as acutely as anyone on earth. The author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel had a conversation with a renowned rabbi and asked him the question that had long been haunting him, "Rabbi, how can you believe in God after Auschwitz?" The rabbi stayed silent for a long moment then replied in a barely audible voice, "How can you not believe in God after Auschwitz?" The shootings here on campus, as well as the mega-evils like Auschwitz, show what humanity on its own can produce. "Apart from God, what was there in a world darkened by Auschwitz?" asks Wiesel.

The final chapter of the Christian story asks us to trust that the world will be redeemed. This is not the world God wants or is satisfied with. God has promised a time when evil will be defeated, when events like the shootings of Amish children at Nickel Mines and of students at Columbine and Virginia Tech will come to an abrupt and stunning end. More, God has promised that even the scars we accumulate on this fallen planet will be redeemed, as Jesus bodily demonstrated to Thomas.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...God specializes at wringing every last drop of good out of even horrible situations. He took the worst thing mankind could ever have done...the killing of Jesus...and turned it into the best thing that ever happened to us...our salvation. We expectantly await what good Yahweh is going to bring out of the insanity of the San Bernardino shootings.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Suit Up! The Battle's On!

Just finished a study of Paul's letter to the Ephesians in one of my church's rejuvenated Sunday morning Christian Education classes (i.e., Sunday School). It was great to sit in a room with several other adults and discuss how to follow Jesus in the light shed by Paul's words.

One of the most familiar passages in the letter talks about putting on the "full armor of God" (6:11, 13): "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17 NIV)

The interesting take our teacher took was to forget about concentrating on which part of the body is being protected by which piece of armor. Instead, look at what those armor pieces are protecting us from...what attacks of Satan are being neutralized by this equipment?

A Christ-follower needs a belt of TRUTH because the forces of evil are attacking with an onslaught of lies and deception. According to Jesus, "there is no truth in [the devil]. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar, and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

A breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS will not only protect me from the hurtful consequences of sin in my life, but get this...it's not MY righteousness that's being talked about. It's God's armor. It's His righteousness. I'm just wearing it. He declares me righteous because of Jesus' sinlessness, not mine.

Because Satan is out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10); because he wants to cause loss and chaos and worry; because that's the kind of thing I'm fighting against, I need to be ready. And my readiness comes from the good news that I am at PEACE with God. The gospel assures me that Yahweh is on my side in this battle.

The shield of FAITH deflects and defuses the burning little barbs the devil throws our way: "You're not good enough. God is so tired of hearing you whine. You've blown it too many times." I can stand firm with Paul and say "The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

We are given the strong assurance of a helmet of SALVATION that protects us from Satan's abundant supply of condemnation.

We have the sword of the SPIRIT(the WORD OF GOD) that absolutely counters flimsy weapons of flesh and blood, hearsay and rumor, death and decay.

Truth is...Paul could very well be listing a seventh piece of armor when he writes, in verse 18, "And PRAY in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."