Helping Each Other Finish the Race

I don’t know if you’ve seen this story or not, but it’s a beautiful reminder of the Olympic spirit.  That though these athletes are from other countries, they’ve trained for this, they’ve endured various challenges for this moment, and they persevered over injuries, early morning wake ups, weather, and apathy to routine.  Sometimes we need a little bit of help to finish the race.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/17/sports/olympics/nikki-hamblin-abbey-dagostino-womens-5000.html?_r=0

“Get up.  We have to finish this.”

Sometimes we need a little help and encouragement to finish the race.

It reminds me of the Mark 2 passage.  The one where a paralytic man’s friends help him by lowering him from the roof to be healed by Jesus.  This passage has always been a favorite of mine because they go the extra mile for their friend which illustrates perfectly Christian community – not just talking the talk but walking the walk.  Action, not merely words.  You see Jesus had already started healing people and when he came to Capernaum there was standing room only inside the house. There were four friends and a man on a stretcher that were trying to get in to see Jesus because they had faith that if Jesus saw their friend, he could be made well.

It was so crowded,that they literally had to tear up the roof to lower him down.  To me, there’s something really powerful about them having to actually dig through and get dirty to help make this miracle happen.  According to some scholars, the roof was usually made of beams about 3 feet apart.  These beams would be filled with twigs, then packed with clay and covered with dirt.

If you have ever worked with drywall or insulation, particularly taking it down, you know that there’s small particles and dust everywhere.  A big mess.  So as you can probably imagine, as these four are pulling away chunks of clay, bits of dirt, and dried leaves are falling all over those below.

And the people who stood in the room, who most likely had some small rubble or debris dropped on their heads were doubtfully very thrilled and the men had to know this when they concocted their plan.  They risked a lot because they had faith in who Jesus is and what a tremendous impact he could have on the life of their friend.

Sometimes we need people to come alongside us to bring about God’s healing.  Sometimes we need conversation partners as God speaks through another, sometimes we need others to recognize the God spark in us, when we can’t imagine it’s anything but extinguished, sometimes we need a push or someone to reach down and help us up.  And that’s okay.  We’re supposed to be community to and with one another.  We’re here to support and be the hands and feet of Christ as the Holy Spirit leads us in the words to speak that all people are created in the image of God and God has called us all GOOD.

We need to be the ones that receive the help and then give the help.  Everyone is on a journey, with twists and turns, highs and lows.  We are not any of us invincible.  We all need help sometimes.  But we also need to give that same help to others.  I think that God allows some things to happen, hard roads to walk, to give us empathy with one another.  God works all things for good, after all.  I’ll invite you to insert your name for love as I write the Message version of 1 Corinthians 13.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

So when you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you see someone down and out, don’t be afraid to step out in faith and let the miracle happen.  We are all on this blessed journey together.  Every one of us. We can’t do this life alone.  We all need to lean on each other.

Those Lights

I’ve really enjoyed the lectionary texts from the past couple weeks that have focused on light.  I’ve always liked Epiphany but even more so this year for some reason.  I appreciate that Epiphany is not just one Sunday that we celebrate those lovely wise folks coming to see the new born King, but that it’s an entire season stretching until the day before Ash Wednesday where we’re all opening our eyes to God around us.  To me that’s pretty significant in our church calendar that this time between the birth of Jesus – the incarnation – and Lent is a time where we a people of the light get a chance to center and focus on that light, opening ourselves to it.

I admit that I’m now watching ABC’s “Off the Map.”  If that makes me a drama and Grey’s Anatomy lovin’ television watcher than so be it.  I like the concept that these three doctors have come to this jungle to get away from whatever they have left back home and yet they seem to face these same fears and concerns no matter how far they have run.  In the first episode the three newbies gather and realize that the doctors that hired them had done their homework on each of their back stories.  The guy of the group says, “So much for a blank slate!”

I think sometimes we feel like that.  “So much for a blank slate!”  We wish that everything would just go away and be wiped clean.  The thing is though that community and church is not just about slates being wiped clean although it does say Jesus scatters our sins from the east to the west.  But there’s something about people loving each other in spite of the flaws and the crud.  There’s something about folks sharing in that refuge and safe place and being that harbor for each other whether it’s in the good, the bad, or the ugly.

Sometimes that being there for one another is letting go of a past wound or hurt.  Sometimes it’s acknowledging and saying outloud a secret that has kept us bound and stuck, whether it be our own, a family secret, or a burden we just kept on carrying.  Sometimes it’s admitting that we may not have it all figured out and we really struggle in some areas.  Sometimes it’s confessing something and seeking reconciliation.  Sometimes it’s just being open to where the Spirit of God leads.

It amazes me that at the times we are the most down or low or hopeless/helpless/spent – these are the times that often the light starts to break into those cloudy days.  There’s just something about that light that no matter how dark it may get – it breaks in.  We watched the movie TRON last night.  I know, I know – not the most high brow or Oscar worthy – but it was really surprisingly good and we didn’t want anything that would make us think to much at the end of a long Sunday.  I never saw the original but I really liked this one.  Part of the beauty of the story is that one of the characters had never really seen the sun.  She had no idea what that would look like.  She had read about it in books, true, but if you think about it – if you had no concept of what the sun is – how do you describe it?  The warmth, the light, that it’s practically everywhere, that it moves and shifts and changes.

There’s something unexplainable about the light but there’s something incredibly powerful.  In these days after the shooting in Tuscon, as we think about what it means to be community and shelter for one another as the Jars of Clay song talks about that I’ve mentioned before, I think about all of us holding candles together as one.  All of us lifting those candles as one.  That’s a powerful sight.  That it’s our collective voice, our collective being – lighting up as one.  Not “Lord in your mercy, hear my prayers” but “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.”  That we as community as a fellowship of believers lift each other up, we rejoice with each other, we mourn with each other, we keep telling each other to press on.

In that same episode from “Off the Map” (I know, I know) the main doctor says at the end to one of the new girls who’s figuring out why’s she there to look at the Southern Cross.  They’re a set of stars that look like a cross in the sky (yes, I wikipedia-ed it so it’s sort of legit).  He talks about how Magellan used the Southern Cross.  He knew that even if he was lost, he knew that if he found that in the sky, he would make his way back home.  All he had to do was keep on going.  So he tells her, “Keep on going.”

Now I know that there are times when we don’t want to “Keep on going.”  There are times when we think we can’t keep on going, much less want to.  But there are people and songs and scriptures and even those sometimes annoying bumper stickers that are lights that pop out along our way that help light our path to keep on going.  There is a shelter of people that help us to keep on going.  And that’s not just with a slate wiped clean, because you can’t escape and dodge forever, but that’s with all of who we are and are yet to be.

So are we those lights for others?  Are we ready to welcome people?  Are we ready to open our arms and our hearts and our eyes?  Are we as the Church/church ready to offer a refuge, a harbor, a light to those in a world raging?  Or do we just look like a big blob of dark with all of our “stuff” that sometimes gets in the way?

One of my favorite songs off of the new Jars of Clay “Shelter” CD (i know i can’t stop listening to it) is one called “Small Rebellions.”  Sadly there are no youtube videos that I can find out there yet.  But the words are below.

“God of the break and shatter – Hearts in every form still matter – In our weakness help us see – That alone we’ll never be – Lifting any burdens off our shoulders – If our days could be filled with small rebellions – senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all – if we stand in between the fear and firm doundation – push against the current and the fall – God of the worn and tattered – All of your people matter – Give us more than words to speak – ‘Cause we are hearts and arms that reach – And Love climbs up and down the human ladder – Give us days to be filled with small rebellions – Senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all – If we stand between the fear and firm foundation – Push against the current and the fall – We will never walk alone again – No, we will never walk alone.”

I’m glad that we don’t walk alone.  That there are lights along our way guiding us home and that we can be lights to the world.  Open our eyes Lord that we may see the ways that we can grasp hold of your light today that the world may see and know…

Psalm 27:1, 4-9, Isaiah 9:1-4

Miley Cyrus…oh my…

Yesterday was one of those crazy campus ministry days.  This weekend we’re hosting our first wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception.  Wow!  We hosted our first wedding reception two weeks ago and it was beautiful!  I have no doubt that today’s wedding will be just as beautiful and special.

I’m so glad I’m writing this today and not yesterday.  Yesterday morning when I got to Wesley the air conditioning unit was making a buzzing sound.  I could hear the fan going in the building but the two fan blades in the actual unit weren’t moving at all.  As y’all know – this is the hottest month that newscasters have on record and this is South Carolina.  Needless to say – it was hot!  We have a now close relationship with Adams Services.  Adams does heating, cooling, electrical, and plumbing so between all of those things we have plenty of chances to see them between fixing up Wesley and trying to continue to maintain The Wesley House.  They are all great guys and I trust them completely.

They got here a little after 1 and thankfully had a temporary fix for us by 3 which was great.  Yes, they’re going to fix it more next week when I’m on vacation and yes, this is still only a temporary fix because this unit is old and decrepid and we need to eventually by another unit – you don’t want to know that price tag.  Bottom line for me though – it was fixed!  It was a little warm for the rehearsal/rehearsal dinner last night but when I got here this morning it was a nice 72 degrees which is miraculous for this building.  And now both families are decorating away and fellowshipping with each other and it’s beautiful…..and cool.  Nice.  Praise God for a cloudy day!

So why is the blogged titled Miley Cyrus you may ask?  Well all day yesterday I could only think of one song and it was Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.”  Some of you may be shaking your head and saying that I am crazy for thinking of that song by a teen pop star/blah, blah, blah.  However – I like the stinking song.  Disney mistakenly sent us the Hannah Montana movie and although our kids aren’t nearly old enough to see it or care a wit about it, it wasn’t half bad.  And I’m a little embaressed to admit that but who cares.

In campus ministry land I do often feel like it’s the climb.  It’s an amazing and awesome climb 98% of the time.  I love, love, love my “job.”  It’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else.  But let me tell you, yesterday when the air conditioner is broken and I hear the pricetag for fixing it and next door at The Wesley House, we’re fixing a bathtub, front door lock, and calling Comporium to fix a cable box…things feel like an uphill battle trying to keep this property in shape and accessible.

What makes it all worth it though is things like today.  Yep, this property stuff drives me crazy, but it’s worth it to see this wedding today!  It’s worth it to have gone next door to Wesley House this morning to borrow the vaccuum and see one of our new residents at home in her new room and her facebook status, “is an OFFICIAL resident of the wesley house. love my life. 😀 😀 :D”  That makes all of this other junk worth it!

So maybe it is the climb.  And maybe it is Miley Cyrus.  But it sure did speak to me.  Thank God there’s no limit to what God can speak to us through.  In this life sometimes we have to keep climbing and bounding over the hurdles thankful for the daily mercies and blessings that come our way even in the midst.

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody’s gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It’s all about, it’s all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa