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Mar. 2, 2016

Have you ever attempted to describe something to someone who has never seen what it is you are trying to describe? Try as you might they just don't seem to get the picture. Even with all your enthusiasm and excitement complete with your most descriptive words something seems to get lost in the translation. Often they look at you with their sense of anticipation of what you are describing. Perhaps you are thinking that whatever you have seen that you are so excited about sharing with them they should have gotten it on your first attempt. Then is seems that your frustration begins to build and, well, everything goes downhill from there!

 

Several years ago I served as a minister of music and youth in a congregation in Augusta, Georgia. As I reflect on this time in my life an important truth came to me regarding my relationship to God. The truth had to do with relating to God because I had to as opposed to relating to God because I wanted to. I hadn't really thought much about it before but once it started to come to light a new awareness began to sprout in my understanding. I remember thinking a lot about the differences between doing something out of a sense of obligation and doing something because I discovered within the doing an inspiration that was beyond me. 

 

I will never forget the day I was meeting with a bunch of young people at the church. We were discussing various events and happenings in our lives when all of a sudden the idea that had not too long before became such an inspiration to me I began to share with them. I indicated that service to God should never be something we do because we have to do it. Rather, it should be something we do because we want to do it. That takes it out of the realm of service and puts it into living! 

 

What occurred next I was not anticipating. There was a young man seated in the group that was present because he was visiting his relatives for the summer. As I shared this personal inspiration with the group I happened to be looking in his direction. All of a sudden I noticed a look of awareness that came to his face and particularly his eyes. His whole demeanor changed as well as his body language. What I believe I witnessed within this young man was his awakening of the Spirit's presence within him. I didn't have to try and convince him of my inspiration. He was able to see what he needed to see by the Spirit.

 

Awareness is just that. When we are brought to a place within ourselves to come face to face with God in Jesus Christ we begin to see our true selves. We begin to see ourselves the way God has always seen and known us. You may have become frustrated with trying to describe light to someone who has never seen it but once the Spirit of God reveals His Light the awareness is unmistakable! Maybe that's what the Poet was saying as recorded in Psalms 17:15. "As for me, I will continue beholding Your face in righteousness; I shall be fully satisfied, when I awake beholding Your form.

Feb. 28, 2016

Have you ever experienced a situation whereby you entertained a moment of inspiration and then perhaps shared it with a good friend? After you shared it, your friend gives you a look that communicates, "you just now coming to this?" I've seen this look before, I'm thinking, "so you've known this for how long and you haven't shared it with me?" I had one of those not long ago so I'm taking the chance of sharing it here in hopes that some of you will rejoice that I'm just now coming to this. But there may be those reading this reflection where maybe this will be your initial moment of inspiration. Either way as we reflect together it is amazing to me how one moment of inspiration can open up a reservoir of divine influence inviting us still deeper.

In Matthew chapter eleven Jesus issues an invitation for rest to all those who labor and are heavy-laden. The word used for labor seems to mean those who are growing weary by the moment under the stress and strain of one's circumstances. Then Jesus continues the invitation by offering his yoke.

My path into chaplaincy training took place at the Baptist Medical Center in Pensacola, Florida. I was blessed to interact with a number of fellow pilgrims seeking similar training. One of those fellow travelers was a Catholic Priest name Jerry. He had served as a missionary in Africa. One day we were discussing the passage in Matthew related to the yoke and particularly how easy it is. He looked at me and asked if I understood what that meant. You know how some of us are when we are asked such questions, "...oh sure, I know what that means"! Truth is I didn't know and perhaps he could sense that so he preceded to relay his experience from his missionary days. He told me that he had observed the Africans carving out a yoke in order to pair up two oxen for the purpose of plowing a field. He said that the yoke would fit over the oxen's shoulder blades. If the yoke did not fit well it would begin to rub a sore place on the blade and once that happened these animals would not pull at all. If the yoke was "easy" meant that it fit well and the animals would pull all day.

Now I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to figure this out but for as long as I have heard this invitation to "...take my yoke upon you" in my mind's eye I saw myself taking the yoke of Jesus and putting it on my shoulders. It never occurred to me that Jesus was already in his yoke and for me to take it upon myself meant that he accompanied the invitation. Duh! Once I got this then "learning of him" began to make sense. It's not my yoke! He doesn't need to learn of me. He already knows me better that I know myself. One of my African-American students added to my understanding the other day by informing me that often a more experienced animal is paired in the same yoke with one that is being trained. Once I visualized that I am yoked together within the yoke of Jesus Christ and this union is within me I fell into that reservoir I spoke of earlier. 

The way we think is vitally important to the way we are! I want to encourage you to begin seeing yourself yoked with Jesus. No matter what your circumstances, visualize within yourself taking every step you take initiated by the one whose yoke you wear!

Feb. 20, 2016

Not very long ago I was presented with a new thought. Have you ever been presented with such a thing? You know, the kind of thought that takes you further into an existing thought whereby the original understanding takes on an entirely different meaning? Well, my reflection presently includes such a journey. I was presented with the idea that pertains to the source of an action. The action is best described by "mercy." 

Let's say, for example, you happen to be driving down the highway and you come upon an accident that just occurred. You are following behind two other cars. The drivers in the  two other cars, for whatever reason, continue on their journey evidently deciding perhaps that someone else with more expertise will be better able to lend assistance. At any rate all of a sudden you are faced with a decision. Do I follow the other two cars or do I stop to lend whatever assistance I can? A lot of thoughts can run through a person's mind. Almost like the proverbial tug of war exercise we may have experienced as children. What do I do? Should I stop? What will I see? I don't know anything about first aid. 

Then something seems to surface within you, a memory, a thought. This memory seems to come from deep within you. All of a sudden the memory of a car accident that you had been involved in several years earlier captures your attention. Recalling the various people that stopped to assist you comes rushing back into the fore front of your gaze. It seems to be more vivid now than when it occurred. It was so painful all you wanted to do was forget it ever happened but here it is. 

You find yourself applying the brakes to slow down your car then it happens, the decision is made to stop and assist. You're not sure just what you can do but that doesn't seem to matter. All you know is that whatever it is you can or can't do seems to blur into the reality that you are present and available. Other motorist also begin to stop and soon your presence folds into theirs and together you become a force that moves in concert to come alongside the suffering at hand.

How does that happen? Where does the motivation to help find its spark? I'm beginning to entertain the thought that such motivation comes from the bowels of humanity. Without mincing too many words, the human bowel contains some very caustic material. Recalling the motion picture Forrest Gump, there was a term used in the film that indicated that pain and suffering comes to all of us and it was described as  "shit happens." 

If humanity has described pain and suffering with such terms comparing it to the caustic material found in the bowels of humanity then perhaps it can be said that when one recalls their own pain and suffering, while viewing the pain and suffering of others, perhaps it is out of that source where comes an empathetic response that has mercy written all over it. If this is so then maybe that's why the "Good Samaritan," spoken of in Luke chapter ten, stopped and assisted the man lying on the side of the road left for dead. 

My guess is this Samaritan knew something about pain and suffering. There is no telling what he may have endured to bring him to the place within himself that viewed another's misfortune with such compassion to action. Whatever it was I contend that it came from deep within his own bowels of mercy. We all have that capacity to move with compassion to aid those in pain but it seems that until we deal with our own painful past we will simply continue up the road only to ignore the hurting. Allow me to encourage you to use what you already have to bless those who cross your path daily. You won't regret it! Blessings on your Journey!