Friday, November 21, 2014

Passion


A few weeks ago my wife and I along with friends attended the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs.  It was a crisp cold evening as we sat there and watched the final scenes of the life of Jesus being played out before us.  As we watched my mind began wondering why it is called a passion play.  When I got back to the motel room I studied the subject.

I found out that in approximately 1175 the word passion was adopted from Old French to Old English to mean the, ‘sufferings of Christ on the Cross’.  By Middle English the word ‘passion’ described a strong barely controllable emotion.  The original meaning of ‘passion’, as the sufferings of Jesus, fell out of common usage in the 1600’s.

I studied the word passion in my Bible concordance.  In King James the word passion, meaning the sufferings of Jesus, is found in only one verse, Acts 1:3   “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”


The most common meanings of the word ‘passion’ today is extreme compelling emotion, great anger or rage, enthusiasm or fondness, strong love or affection, and  lust.

Do you know anyone who has a passion for something?  We have just had an election in this country and I found that many people were very passionate about their candidate or political party.

I have met many Christians who are passionate about their beliefs; but do we as Christians have a passion for Jesus?  What is at the top of the list of our life’s priorities?  In Matthew 22:36-39 we read, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


We as Christians should keep the Ten Commandments, but if we are not passionate about Jesus and our neighbors it does us no good to keep them.  Our relationship with Jesus is all about priorities.

Matthew 23:23,24 record Jesus as saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Jesus didn't say not to follow the fine points of the law; But He wants us to focus on the weightier matters.  In John 15:12 He said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. And to make sure that we understand he repeats in verse 17, “These things I command you, that you love one another”.


How do you think Jesus feels when we lose our passion for him and our love for each other, and replace it with a mechanical form of religion where instead of loving each other we fight with each other?  In Revelation 2:4 He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love”.  Does Jesus have something against you, have you lost your first love?  Are you passionate about Jesus?

When you have a passion, others know.  Passion is more than mere formality and habit.  It’s enthusiasm, its strong love and affection.  To have a passionate church full of love for one another we must each one personally become passionate about Jesus.


Do you have passion today; A passion for Jesus who died for you?  1 John 4:10-12 states, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us”.

Jesus endured passion: He suffered for you.  He is still passionate in his love for you.  Are you passionate about Jesus or are your passions in other areas?  Let’s decide today to be passionate about Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slugger


S is for Slugger.  Occasionally I like to do a book review on my blog. Today's review is of the book “A Dog Named Slugger” by Leigh Brill. It is a first person account of Leigh’s partnership with the big yellow Labrador Retriever that was her service dog. As Slugger provided balance for her on walks, he also brought balance to her emotionally and mentally. He was her calming and comforting companion as she graduated from college and obtained her master’s degree. Because of Slugger she was able to have a career and lead a more normal life.

The book offers a lot of insights into what it is like for a handicapped person to grow up with their disability. In the book, Leigh opens up her heart to the reader and gives you an idea of what a person with cerebral palsy goes through. She does it in a way that doesn't elicit pity but pleads for understanding. Her service dog Slugger gave her the confidence to come out of the shell she had been hiding in. He not only improved her day to day life, but he also instilled her with the confidence she needed to stand up for herself.


If you are an animal lover you will learn to love Slugger just by reading this book. I was amazed to learn what a service dog could do for someone like Leigh. Besides steadying her when she walked and helping her up and down stairs, he could also turn light switches on and off, drag laundry baskets, retrieve items and perform so many helping tasks.

I really enjoyed the book and found that it was like three books in one. First, it is almost an autobiography of Leigh. She does a great job of letting you into her life. Second, it is simply a great dog story. In a way it reminded me of the book "Marley and Me", but in a more serious vein. Third, it is a great introduction into the world of service dogs.

I really enjoyed reading A Dog Named Slugger and recommend it highly. You can find it at Amazon.com by clicking on this link.


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Thursday, November 13, 2014

It Happened to Me - by Abby Carney



My cousin, Abby Carney, is a freelance writer. She does editorial work, copywriting, copyediting, consulting, ghostwriting, transcribing, and social media projects for clients. She casually dabbles in poetry, essays, creative writing, and friendship bracelets as well.

A couple of days ago she had an essay published on the website xoJane.  The essay made me stop and think about my own thoughts and actions.  I asked her if I could re-post the essay on An Arkie's Musings and she graciously gave me permission to do so.  You can check out more of her writing at  www.abbycarney.com


IT HAPPENED TO ME: Becoming An Airport Janitor Got Me Free Flights And A Lesson In Privilege

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta, but it really feels worlds apart from the city center. With 207 domestic and international terminals, and flying more than 260,000 passengers daily, it’s the world’s busiest airport; and spread over 4,700 acres, it makes every other airport look and feel like a quaint port.

It is also home to Delta’s corporate headquarters and technical operations center, which employs over 25,000 Atlantans. Through a subsidiary staffing agency, I became one of those employees for a summer.

It was the summer an African oil baron tipped me 40 bucks that I lost an escalator as I was leaving work; the summer a D-list hip hop group sexually harassed me and all I did was blush and laugh it off; the summer I was the only white girl working in the Delta Sky Lounge, the summer I read Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of The Presence of God,” and learned to check my middle-class white privilege that I’d never realized needed checking until then.

It was the summer before my senior year of undergrad, and, having been rejected from all the internships I applied for, I learned that sky lounge room attendants (fancy jargon for janitors) at the airport received full flight benefits in exchange for working just two to three shifts per week. I would do many, many (legal) things for cheap or free flights, so of course I went for it.

The requirements were having a pulse and passing a drug test, so with relative ease, I landed the gig and got right to work sweeping floors, washing dishes, and pilfering cheese and crackers from the lounge to munch on during my 15-minute breaks.


I drank straight espresso to stay awake all day, because the hours passed slowly, and I smiled at all the ritzy travelers, always eager to engage in any and all conversations. I was genuinely interested in hearing about people and where they were traveling to.

My favorite terminal was Terminal E -- it was the largest lounge, and the only one that serviced international flights. Nothing made me happier than sweeping up invisible crumbs and eavesdropping on conversations I couldn't understand in Arabic, Portuguese or German. Technically, I could understand sparse amounts of German, thanks to my brief encounter with the language in college, and I once made a group of German businessmen hold back their laughter while I stumbled through some pleasantries in Deutsch.

I also loved the international lounge best because it had showers for the guests, and one of my duties was to clean and re-service the shower rooms after they were used. Those were my five minutes of solitude, locked into a private bathroom. I would sing and pretend I was Cinderella cleaning up after her evil step-sisters, sopping up all the moisture in the room with the dirty towels and squeegeeing the shower so it looked fresh and clean. (But really, it wasn't clean -- just dry).

My greatest takeaway from that summer however, wasn't the free trips I took to Seattle, D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Boston again, but the lessons I learned about myself via my coworkers. I attended one of the most diverse universities in the nation, and always felt happily challenged in my classes that typically boasted a roster of students of all backgrounds, and nationalities. I was a sociology minor. But working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in College Park, Georgia, the world’s busiest airport, and one of its largest, I became truly aware of my privilege for the first time, in an uncomfortable and jarring way.

Brought up with a “no task is too small” attitude and accustomed to positions of service, I didn't think I had anything to “check” myself for. I was a smart and aware young woman with a good head on her shoulders. Oh, but pride cometh before a fall, as some of my more religious coworkers would have said. (That was another way we often passed the time, discussing the Bible and having religious debates as we made circles around each other, looking busy with our brooms and dust pans; or simply encouraging one another with uplifting Bible verses we’d bookmarked. Bet you've never seen airport janitors sparring about Jesus and feminism, or waxing poetic about the love of God before.)

I found myself exhibiting an odd mixture of pity and self-righteousness when travelers would ask what I was doing working a job like that? Like it was somehow beneath the awesome, well-mannered me. I hastily reassured everyone who asked, and often those who didn't ask, that I didn't need this job. No, I was just doing it for the flight benefits, and yes, I was a serious student pursuing a serious degree, and I would be quitting this whatever job in the fall to go back to school.

But it took me a while to realize that this stuck up mentality was incredibly off-putting and insensitive to my coworkers, many of whom were born and raised in underprivileged neighborhoods of South Atlanta, historically plagued by crime, inequality, and simply fewer opportunities than a middle-class, suburban white girl like myself.

I was the definition of sociology-textbook class privilege when I incredulously balked at the suggestion that 20-year-old me could possibly be a mother, because it’s something I was often asked: “How many kids you got?” I thought it was a joke, but most of the other girls my age had growing families, and I actually asked people, “Why don’t you just take classes at community college? And then you can pursue what you really want!” I wondered why they didn't make use of their flight benefits and travel around, when it’s the only reason I took the job. Doing it for just the minimum-wage pay seemed ludicrous to me.

I confessed my peaheadedness to a friend, and he recommended I read the book “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, so on the long journey via public transportation, through security, and aboard the airport people mover (yes, that’s its official name) between terminals, I committed those passages to heart, in a genuinely pious attempt to lose my pride and ego. Through my days of endless sweeping and trash emptying, these words gave me comfort: “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

And when a fellow room attendant shared with me her tribulations as a single mother, about her depression, and her attempts to take her own life, I fought back tears, and listened intently, letting her pour her heart out. I didn't do anything for her but listen and hug her tightly, but it moved me deeply, and made me feel purposeful in being there in a way I hadn't recognized before.

It was also the job that taught me to overcome my fear of discord. When a grumpy room attendant scowled and slammed doors in my face throughout a shift, I didn't simply retreat in fear and mope about it. I tracked her down and asked, “Are you upset with me? If I've done something to upset or offend you, please let me know so I can fix things.” She scowled again, but eventually shared what was going on and was in a brighter mood by the end of our shift. I’d learned that being purposeful and direct is often necessary in order to deliver the olive branch that was always desired.

I was surrounded by travelers almost daily. With so much of my identity belonging literally up in the air, and in transit, I felt at peace there, with boarding calls and flight delays as my background noise. It was my haven, like the cloud where angels and spirits rest between worlds, because they don’t claim any particular one as home. It was like a constant real-life montage of the opening scene of "Love Actually" when everyone is greeting their loved ones at the airport.

Decently traveled, but not yet desensitized, the magic of the entire process of journey-making had not yet worn off on me, and even with my clear plastic purse, in my black slacks, black button down, and slicked back ponytail, scurrying along to my assigned terminal, I couldn't help smiling at every briefcase-toting stranger, wondering where they were off to, wondering where they had been, and who was waiting for them at home.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Overflowing Grace


No one likes to be stopped by a patrolman and I am no exception.  A while back I was stopped in the town of Point Barre, Louisiana.  As I neared the town the speed limit dropped from 65 mph to 45 mph. I tapped the cruise control and traveled along with several other cars as we slowed down. The next thing I knew, there were blue lights in my rear view mirror. The patrolman must have been shooting his radar right at the 45 mph sign, and he had to pick me out of 4 or 5 cars to stop, as we were all traveling the same speed. The ticket cost me 160 dollars. To say the least, I was not happy. I felt that the ticket was unfair. I had been trying to obey the law and yet I got a ticket.

My situation reminded me of an illustration that I have heard explaining God's grace. Imagine yourself driving down the road, doing 100 mph in a 55 mph zone. A police officer stops you. If he gives you a ticket--that is justice--for you got what you deserve. If he lets you off with just a warning--that is grace--for though you deserved a ticket, he did not give you one.  But what about my situation where I received a ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit?


There are many Christians who like me in Point Barre feel that they aren't really doing anything all that bad. They are trying to obey the speed limit, which should count for something. They don't see grace being all that great. They are trying to live right. God should realize that.

But many Christians realize that the law has been broken whether they were going 5 miles over the limit or 50. They realize that they deserve a ticket, and are overwhelmed by the unexpected grace. They know that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23).

Romans 5:17 tells us that "if, through one man, death ruled because of that man’s offense, how much more will those who receive such overflowing grace and the gift of righteousness rule in life because of one man, Jesus Christ!

I wish for you overflowing grace!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Grace Happens All Around Us


This is my article as published in the November 6, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.


Grace seems to often pop up in places that I never expect it. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that simply stated "Grace Happens". It is true. Grace happens. It happens all around us. Often we are too busy to notice.

A few years ago grace happened to me on Halloween. My wife had bought lots of candy in preparation for the kids she was expecting to come to our door. She was prepared to give candy, and lots of it, to anyone who rang her doorbell. She waited with anticipation, because she loves to see the kids in their costumes. The doorbell rang for the first time. She went to the door and opened it with a bowl of candy in her hand. There stood two kids, but they didn't have anything to put candy in. They didn't say trick or treat. They stood there with a long stemmed rose in their hand. "We are not asking for candy", they said. "We want to give you a rose".

Popcorn and Candy
GRACE DISPENSERS

Unexpected grace. Out of the blue. I never thought that on Halloween someone would come to my door and give me something. I think that is a key to understanding grace. We Christians often focus on the fact that grace is undeserved. That is true, it is undeserved. If you deserved it, it wouldn't be grace. But not only is it undeserved, it is unexpected.

I think that is what Paul is trying to get us to see when he wrote in Ephesians 3:8, "to me, who am less than the least deserving of all the saints, this grace was given". He seems to be almost unable to believe that grace was offered to him. It was unexpected. Maybe that is why he talks about grace more than any other Bible writer.

Look for the unexpected today. Look for grace in unexpected places. I know that you will find it. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:14, "the grace of our Lord is exceedingly abundant".

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Orphans


World Orphans Day is observed on the second Monday of November.  The purpose of World Orphan’s Day is to facilitate public awareness of social issues surrounding orphans and displaced children’s social issues, and to engage community support for the causes.


Here are some facts about orphans.

1. It would take 80,000 orphanages with 500 children each to house all the orphans in Sub Sahara Africa left behind by the pandemic of AIDS.

2. Over 60 million orphans go to bed hungry every night.

3. 143 million children are suffering from malnutrition, and 400 thousand of those will die this year.

4. HIV and AIDS is devastating global communities, and millions are facing the horror of war and abuse EVERY day.

5. Nearly 144 million children across the world are orphans.

6. Every 2 seconds, another child becomes an orphan.

7. 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day. That is a newly orphaned child every 14 seconds.

8. Malnutrition plays a part in more than half of all child deaths worldwide. Every year, malnutrition is associated with the deaths of five million children under the age of five.


In our comfy little corner of America it is hard for us to realize what these facts really tell us. Why should I as a Christian worry about these problems that have been brought on by the sinful behavior of others? Are orphans any of my concern?

God’s word tells us in James 1:27 “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us”.

How can we help? Pray! Pray specifically for those organizations whose mission it is to help the orphans. Trust God to impress upon your heart what you might do or give.

Take, for instance, George Müller, who was born in Prussia in 1805. He didn't care about anything other than pursuing his own pleasures. His future looked bleak, but God was working in George’s life. In 1825, he became a Christian and changed from a drunken con man to a humble man who depended on God for everything.

In 1832 he became the pastor of a Brethren congregation in Bristol, England. Bristol would be the center of his ministry for the next sixty-six years. As his work among the poor in Bristol grew, Mueller saw the need for an orphanage. He read the scripture in Psalms 68:5 that says “God is a father of the fatherless”. He believed that if God was truly the father to orphans, all he had to do was to make himself available to care for the orphans and God would supply every need. So that’s what he did.


As God increased his faith Mr. Mueller built homes and cared for more and more children. The orphanage he operated had five mammoth buildings, and over the years took care of the needs of over 10,000 orphans. At his death, he was caring for over 2,000 children everyday!

Mr. Mueller never told anyone of his needs for his orphanage, his church, or his own personal needs. During his ministry he took in the equivalent of 250 million dollars for the support of the orphanages without ever asking for a dime.

Do you think that God cares about the orphans? What has he asked us as Christians to do about it? The Bible tells us in Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Rebuke the oppressor. Help the orphans. Stand up for the rights of widows.”


I think that the Bible makes it clear that we as Christians have a duty to help. We need to take the focus off of ourselves and become more concerned for all of those who need our help like the 143 million children who are suffering from malnutrition. A child under the age of 5 dies every 3 seconds from neglect, starvation, or exposure. That is 30 thousand every day, 11 million every year.

With the economic downturn here in America a lot of Christians, myself included, expend a lot of emotional energy worrying about conditions and how they will affect us. We need to take our focus off of ourselves and focus on the task that God has given those of us who have more than enough to sustain us.

1 John 3:17 tells us “If anyone has enough money to live well, and sees someone in need and refuses to help—how can God's love be in that person?

Is God’s love in you? We certainly don’t want to hear the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:45,46 “I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

My friend Richie Owens has written a song that addresses this issue






Somewhere In Time
By Richie Owens

A newborn baby cries as
Tears filled his mother’s eyes
Her joy is eclipsed by her fear as
Men on drugs with guns and knives
Run up and down the streets outside
And there’s no future for this baby here

Somewhere a child is safely playing
Somewhere there’s plenty all the time
Somewhere life is pure and perfect
She cries why can’t that somewhere be mine

Are we not called to lend a hand
Glad to do all we can
To save the drowning in the sea of life

We cannot win this world by might
By corporate power or legal fight
But by His spirit reaching out
And turning on the light

Somewhere a little girl is hurting
Somewhere a mans crossed the line
Somewhere hopes and dreams are shattered
And we need to find somewhere in time

We claim to love Jesus
Live our lives at his feet
While he scours the dump
In search of something to eat

Somewhere there’s no help or guidance
Somewhere no one sees the signs
Somewhere lifes just too busy
And we need to find somewhere in time.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Nicolas N. Scott Eulogy


Eric Scott delivered this Eulogy at Nick Scott's memorial service. He graciously gave me permission to post it to my blog. Whether you knew Nick or not, Eric's eulogy is powerful and really made me think about the way I view people. Please take a few moments and read his words.




Eulogy for Nicolas N. Scott
by Eric Scott
Ph.D student in Computer Science
George Mason University

The last few years of Nick’s life were hard. Certainly harder than anything I've been through. There is no way to sugar coat it: as a homeless man in Oklahoma City, Nick suffered a lot. At Nick’s age, he should have been looking forward to an open-ended vista of possibilities. The American Dream, with all its hopes and promises, should have been tantalizing him with its optimism. And on his good days, Nick did dream of future success the way a young person should. He dreamt of getting his G.E.D. and going back to school, of making enough money to pay back everyone he had ever hurt, and of becoming a lawyer and helping people in situations like his.

But most days, Nicolas was trapped in a sense of futility. Robert Frost described an old man in a similar position in one of his poems, “The Death of the Hired Man.” Young as he was, it could easily have been Nick, Nick who lived as an illegal immigrant in his own country, barely eking out a living as a hired hand. Frost writes of him:

So concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.

If there’s one thing that I've consistently heard from Nick’s friends and acquaintances over the years, it was that he was truly concerned for other folk. Nick did many things that he regretted, some things as innocent as stealing food to survive, and some things less easy to forgive. I don’t know what it’s like to be locked in the cycle of hopelessness that so many people living in poverty experience from day to day. I’m told that money loses value when there is never enough of it. There is a certain logic to irresponsibility in situations where human flourishing is rare and precious.

But people never lost value for Nick. Nick was a passionate believer in compassion and empathy. Nick stood in judgment over himself for his failures to do justice to people and their experiences. And he stood in judgment over me, over society and criminal justice, and over the church. The one person I never heard him criticize was his late mother, Tilly Scott, who for Nick embodied a complete and unconditional regard for the well-being of her son.

Nick went back and forth on his religious beliefs. Life on the street doesn't afford much luxury for debating academic arguments about God and theology. He didn't know what he believed, but he read his Bible regularly, and Nick seemed to genuinely feel that Christ was often more present in the homeless shelters and jail cells of Oklahoma City than in its churches. He tried many times to explain to me his belief that there is good in everyone, a source of dignity even in what most of us would consider broken and violent souls. Nick knew convicted murderers that he believed were among the most profound representatives of Christ-like compassion that you could find.

A few weeks ago the minister at my church in Virginia delivered a message on forgiveness, and challenged everyone in our congregation to forgive one person that week, and to ask forgiveness from someone. Things were tense between Nick and I at the time. He’d told some fibs while trying to get my family to help him with rent money, and I was feeling pretty stern. It was a busy week for me, and I procrastinated on my homework, but finally I told Nick that I forgave him, and that supporting him was what was most important to us. He died that evening.

Because of my minister’s challenge, I have the comfort of knowing that Nick’s last words to me were of gratitude. That week, his family had chosen to love him unconditionally. He told me that it meant a lot, and that he would try to do better toward us.


But what I failed to do, and what I wish I could do now, is ask Nick’s forgiveness. Not just for the times I wasn't there to help him. I want Nick’s forgiveness for being slow to learn how to see the dignity in every human being. It is always far easier to judge the homeless than to help them, even with family. On Nick’s behalf, I challenge all of us, myself included, to see the Christ in those in need. We have to go beyond feeling sorry for others, and build relationships that allow us to truly understand them. Nick is no longer here for us to learn to love, but his belief in love is something we can carry on now that he is gone.
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