The Honey Badger was in New Orleans last Sunday, playing for the Arizona Cardinals versus the NO Saints. Apparently he has strong support from ex-LSU player Patrick Peterson as well as his adoptive parents. He played an outstanding game, ended up making 10 tackles (which actually isn’t good because he’s a safety – this means he was making downfield tackles) and intercepting certain Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees in the end zone, halting a Saints drive.
Whether you love him or not, you have to give Tyrann Mathieu credit – he has not let his previous failures destroy him.
This reminds me of a little snippet of an interview with a noted shrink – working with some of the people injured/disfigured in the Boston Marathon bombing – that got my attention. The person writing the article asked, “What do you try to do for a person who comes to you for treatment?” The analyst said, “Our objective is to free the patieant from the tyranny of the past.”
The past can enslave us. Its fears, failures, and defeats can absolutely grab us by the throat. In that sense, it is a tyrant. And a tyrant is a cruel master.
Who among us has never failed? There isn’t one of us who does not know how it feels to fail in some way in our lives. It is tempting to throw our hands up and say, “What’s the use? I tried. I really tried. But things didn’t work out.”
And then we see others excel and advance in doing what we failed to do and we grumble about their luck or their playing politics and that we were too good to do that sort of thing.
The big danger is getting stuck in the failure. Once I visited a woman whose husband had failed in business. He sat silently in a corner of the room while I visited his wife, smoking one cigarette after another, obscuring himself behind a gray cloud. Failure had destroyed his will. He had given up. It was terrible to see.
Moses led the children of Israel into the wilderness. They spent 40 years there. Jacob loved Rebekah. He had to work 7 years for her hand after being tricked by his uncle, Laban (and previously having worked 7 years!). The disciples were in disarray after their Master was crucified. 300 years later Christianity was proclaimed the religion of the Roman Empire.
These people had faith. They turned their failures over to God. They asked God to teach them from their mistakes. They sought forgiveness and reconciliation. They had hope.
Here’s reality: the longer you live, the more times you will fail, and so the more you will have to deal with failure, both your own and that of loved ones and colleagues. So don’t let failure enslave you or defeat you. Keep trying. Keep the faith.
This "Back to Church Sunday", come on back...and bring someone with you! Martha Reese, in her book Unbinding the Gospel, says there are nine different kinds of persons to reach for the Church.
1. Children and Youth of the Congregation
Think of every Sunday School class and Youth meeting as a way to help our children know Jesus. Working with our own children is evangelism.
2. Children and Youth's Friends
Our children have friends at school and in the neighborhood. Inviting them and helping get them to activities is evangelism.
3. People Attached to the Church Who Never Joined
When invited to join or be baptized, they often respond enthusiastically. It's also life-giving to the person who makes the invitation.
4. Committed Christians from Similar Church Backgrounds
People move to town. They look for a church with a similar feel to the church previously attended.
5. Committed Christians from Different Church Backgrounds
These people must make a theological and usually a denominational shift. This often involves a conversion element because of theological differences.
6. People Raised in the Church Who Drifted Away
We know people who believe in God, have attended church in the past, but who are not committed to a congregation. They just drifted away, usually at a time of life change. They are likely to visit a church if someone says they love their church, or if they feel an urge during a life change, or if they are invited to a church event.
7. People Raised in the Church Who Were Hurt
There are plenty of "walking wounded" who no longer attend church: people who had bad experiences at church, burned out in leadership roles, felt they were judged by other members, have had a faith crisis because of a traumatic event, and even some who were so bored they gave up on church. They will visit a church if a trusted friend invites them.
8. Unchurched People Like Current Church Members
A growing number of people have little or no exposure to Christianity or churches. They were not raised in the church or baptized. Although they may think they are Christians, they are not. This includes millions of Americans, according to Reese. They are like members in terms of jobs, schooling and ethnicity.
9. Unchurched People Different from Current Church Members
Everything said about the previous group applies to this group, but they are different from most of your church's membership. Imagine a church of predominately upper-class African Americans evangelizing recent Chinese immigrants who have moved into the neighborhood. Imagine a blue-collar Caucasian congregation working with Hispanic attorneys and professors. It's challenging.
Reese says it's easier to get someone to join in the first group than the last group. In fact, she alls this an evangelism pyramid - as the pyramid gets skinnier near the top (#9), helping people connect with the church or become Christian becomes more engaging. But we need new people, new ideas, new hearts, new faith! Pray for our newbies, from wherever they come!
www.5lovelanguages.com - Go to this site to determine your preferential "language of love". It's easy: on this screen it says front and center, "Click here to begin". Go for it! The current sermon series will be exploring the love languages into September, so learn a little more about your love language: Words of Affirmation? Acts of Service? Receiving Gifts? Quality Time? Physical Touch?
Planning is moving ahead regarding the purchase and installation of a large screen to enhance our worship experience. Three bids are being sought. Laity are discussing running necessary cables for the hardware. The wheels are slowly turning.
Others have inquired regarding an expansion of the chancel area: we have two sets of plans in hand from the architect; however the current set-up seems to be working quite well as it provides ample room and can be reconfigured for weddings and other events.
Dropped a coffee mug the other day. It was three ways of busted up. Looking at it got me to thinking about events that interrupt our lives - that shatter them. Events like disease, betrayal, pain, and adversities of every kind can forever alter our lives. When the boom gets lowered on us, its best simply to hang on, slowly get better, and begin to live once again. What was inside us seems to have spilled out, leaving us literally drained.
When the cup of our lives is broken, we must find a way to glue it back together again.
Our brokenness affords us the opportunity - forces it on us, actually - to change. Pain has the potential to transform our lives. Of course, it also has the potential to leave us shattered. In her book Walking on Water, Madeleine L'Engle writes about the relationship between faith and art. A particularly arresting passage reads: "I look back at my mother's life and I see suffering deepening and strengthening it. In some people I have also seen it destroy. Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow".
Sometimes the brokenness of our lives is not so shattering: things like daily problems that irk us. It may involve troubles that trail off endlessly into the future with no end in sight, be it chronic illness, pain, depression, or addictions.
Instead of being overwhelmed or defeated by the brokenness, why not view it as having something to teach us? What can we learn from the broken or incomplete parts of our lives?
ASSIGNMENT: Take a coffee cup. Turn it upon its side on your table. Let it serve as a reminder of your brokenness and emptiness. If you have a couple of unshelled pecans or peanuts or some such, place them by the cup. Make a little arrangement. Let those shells remind you that the shell has to be broken in order to get to the fruit. And may they remind you of the potential power for personal growth that is within your difficult times.
Carry these words of Anne Lamont with you: "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and wo
Where do you learn peace? Out fishing on a beautiful stream? Anybody can be peaceful in that kind of environment. So instead, God will put you in traffic jams. He'll give you a day when you have a pop quiz and a rush project and your friend wants to borrow money that you don't have and your computer crashes and your car breaks down and everything's going wrong. And it is there, in the middle of the storm, that you learn peace.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze' says the Lord". ~Isaiah 43:2 NIV
We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances. I go to Disneyland I'm happy. I go home and realize how much I spent, I'm not happy. Joy is internal. Happiness is external. God will teach you real joy in the middle of grief.
Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. ~Peter 4:13-14 NIV
Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world". ~John 16:33 NIV
[Warren, Rick, The Purpose Driven Life for Graduates]
A pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place for spiritual/religious reasons. So in a very real sense, each believer in the Great Beyond is a pilgrim; we believe there is something beyond this life, and we are journeying toward it. Because we are pilgrims whose homeland is not of this earth, we sojourn, seek, struggle, discover, doubt and experience amazement.
We have been blessed with dreams come true and hope realized. We have experienced the sadness of dreams destroyed and expectations dashed. We have had to start again - over and over again - with people, with dreams, hopes, our work, our love, our life.
Journey is what it is - the way of the human spirit. It implies necessarily that we are going somewhere, that there is an ultimate destination. This gets lost in post-modern culture with its hyper-mobility. Our destinations here vary: it can be across Zachary to the WalMart, or to Baton Rouge for a medical concern, or simply over to the neighbor's house. Other times we travel across time zones and oceans and encounter cultures far different from our own. Please be mindful that journey also refers to moving within the interior of our own lives. And here we can encounter more alien territory than a continent across the ocean.
If we journey inward, our travel guide must be the eyes of faith. It seems like we go along, seemingly lose our way, relinquish the way things were, seek a new path, and indeed discover it. We keep seeking meaning in and for our lives; we uncover new insights about who we are and what we do.
Finally we reach our true home, the place Joyce Rupp wonderfully describes as the place of "forever hello". This is the place where we are finally able to rest in contented fashion - no longer restless - near to the heart of God. This is a place of abiding peace. The paradox is that when we find our home in God, so we find our home within ourselves. When we journey to God and discover the place of "forever hello", we are able to accept ourselves as God accepts us, for, as Thomas Merton says, we understand we are truly made in the image of God.
There are plenty of struggles in this life. Do not let it dissuade you from continuing your journey. Keep the faith. Nourish it. Keep moving.