“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Who do you say that I am?"

  Some friends got together as they often did just for a cup of coffee and some conversation. It was clear that one of the group was having a tough day. He hardly raised his eyes, looking at his coffee as it swirled in his cup. He friends noticed his atypical quietness. 

   "Something bothering you?" one of them asked.

   "I am not having a good day" he replied. "I don't like the way people treat me sometimes. I don't understand them."

   The friends looked at him with concern. Sure he was someone with an intellectual disability, but he always seemed friendly, happy, ebullient.

   "I don't get these people. Who do they think I am?" he asked in a moment of clarity.

   "Some people think you are a child. That's why they teach you with flannel graphs and puppets." one friend responded.

   "Some people think you are just not a nice person. That you or your family have done something bad, so you are the way you are." said another.

   "I think some people think you are different from them. That is why they put you away from them with people they think are different because of their impairment, their disability. They think they are doing you a favor by separating you and treating you differently."

   "Some people think you have nothing to give. That's why they don't let you be with everyone else."

   "Some people are afraid of you. Because they don't know you, they worry about what you might do."

   The man paused in thought as they looked at him with concern.

   "But what about you. Who do you think, I mean, who do you say that I am?"

   One bold friend quickly spoke up. "You are the same as me. You are the image of God, a person with purpose, gifted in a unique way so that you can contribute to the Body of Christ. We can't do without you, and we should be showing you special honor such that your gifts might be seen and felt by the church. You are the same as anybody else."

   "People have not told me that before. But I hope that is who God says I am" he replied.




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hospital reflections

I just spent 24 hours in the hospital. My experience was so positive, I began to reflect on it as a model, perhaps a metaphor for how the church should be. I began at the emergency room. It was a smaller hospital in Southern Florida. The way things worked out, I was there at a time that wasn't very busy. The juvenile floor had staffing so after my procedure (appendectomy), I recovered there.

As I received the care I did, I felt so welcomed. The staff were extraordinarily patient with me and so friendly. In spite of my needs, they were non-judgemental and supportive of me. They were anxious to be helpful and even though I was only there briefly, they repeatedly told me how they wanted me to be well, down to a note on a white board in front of my bed that said, "we want you to get well." For that 24 hours, I was separated from the world, the larger society, but the plan was only to make me well and send me out again at my physical best. Overall, they were all about meeting my needs as their patient and nothing seemed to be too much trouble.

Now I am not one who has spent much time in the hospital, but I honestly, really didnt want to leave. A woman from food services had come by to tell me about her home made beef stew and biscuits for dinner which sounded fabulous and when I was told I would be released after lunch I was actually a little disappointed. I will also tell you I was surprised at my feelings. Who would be disappointed about being released from the hospital? I seriously wanted to stay a little longer to have the stew and because everyone was so nice.

Jesus in confronting the Pharisees in Mark 2:17 said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners." I don't think I would be taking this metaphor too far in asking, "What if the church were like my hospital experience?" What if people who are sick with sin would be welcomed as I was. What if people who were sick from the experience of negative social treatment were welcomed as I was. It should be a place where people go and feel the kinds of things I felt.

At the event I was attending, there were people I know, who have walked away from their faith. They are sick in a way, and both don't know it and perhaps havent felt the healing atmosphere I felt at the hospital, at a church. That they would walk away is not a wise decision on their part. If only the church could be as irrestible as my care givers.

Seriously, I was a man in the hospital who had his emergency addressed. I was on my way back to health but didn't want to leave those who were the agents of my healing. God bless my care givers at the hospital! But God help his church to bless people as I was blessed, within the confines of his church. God teach us how to be like that.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lightening the load leading to obedience

A colleague of mine, Dr. Kathy McReynolds recently wrote this for a project we are both working on as team members. She wrote,

"The church can help to lighten the load
by coming alongside people facing such circumstances
to make obedience more attainable"

I found that statement so profound. We think of coming alongside of people who are suffering for whatever reason, truly attempting to lighten their load, but have we ever thought about how that same effort can lead to obedience?

When I was recently in the Dominican Republic, my co trainer, Dr. Ben Rhodes asked a member of the group to briefly restate the story of Job. The class member described how Job lost his family, except for his wife. The fellow then said, "Satan left a weapon of mass destruction...his wife!" We all thought that was hilarious, but it was also so true. She was his "support" but it was a support that was attempting to lead him into disobedience. "Curse God and die!" is what she said. Job's friends were not much better in terms of leading him to obedience.

But we have the opportunity to come alongside people and support them with the strength to keep their faith in God. As we lessen their suffering with our presence, we perhaps make life more manageable, allowing them to take their eyes off of their pain, off of themselves to reflect a bit on their situation. I think people may be more easily tempted to do wrong things when they are tired, or physically exhausted or in pain. They may choose options to lessen these feelings and the things that they choose may not be the best for them.

When we come alongside of others who are suffering for whatever reason, our mere presence can be what is needed to help them to even attempt to be obedient. As appropriate, we can offer words of encouragement that can help as well. Obedience is hard for anybody, hence Christ's death leading to our forgiveness. What a beautiful thought that I have the ability to help you in the midst of trials or testing to be obedient as you do for me!


Monday, October 12, 2015

Presentations by Jeff McNair from Faith Inclusion Network conference

I recently had the privilege of participating in a conference put on by the Faith Inclusion Network. As a part of that conference, I did a brief presentation and was interviewed. Karen Jackson the Director of FIN graciously provided me with the links to those two videos. They are provided below.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Are you suffering for doing good?

While in Dominican Republic, I met a woman who asked me about a neighbor of hers with mental illness. She related how perhaps once a month or more, her neighbor will go into episodes of aggressive and mentally ill behavior. When she would feel an episode coming on and about to happen, she would come to her and ask for prayer. With tears in her eyes she related how she seeks to help her neighbor but doesn't know what to do, prays for her but she doesn't seem to get better, and at times feels the results of her aggressive, mental illness episodes.

I think we have been conditioned to think people always should get better as a result of ministry. I think we have also grown to believe that ministry should not result in suffering. But that is not really what scripture says. I Peter 2:20-21 says, if you suffer for doing good, you were called to this. It could be that if you are suffering because of the degree to which you have entered into the suffering of others, you should not be surprised. You should rather rejoice that you are following your calling.

The woman who told me of her neighbor was an intelligent person whose tears could have easily been eliminated by simply rejecting her neighbor.

Instead, she embraces her neighbor, fulfills her calling of suffering for doing good, cries for her neighbor's suffering, and is driven to desperate prayer for her neighbor. None of these things would happen without her obedience in seeing her neighbor (like the Good Samaritan) going to her and suffering for doing good through entering into the suffering of her neighbor. But this does not make it easier.

These interactions leading to suffering are chosen interactions not necessarily imposed interactions. Obviously one can also suffer for doing good in others lives that was not chosen but rather imposed by life. This is not to demean that form of suffering for doing good at all. However, there is something special about choosing interactions with people that will lead to our personal suffering because we want to be obedient. We help others, but we also help ourselves. We are driven to humble dependence in God; a place where wants us to go.  We say, " Lord, I want to go to the place of humble dependence so I will choose to enter into suffering FOR MYSELF and my relationship to you." Both me and the person whose suffering I am sharing are blessed, are benefitted in ways pleasing to God.  This happened because by faith I submitted myself to my calling.