Monday, August 27, 2012

One Small Step

I have been flooded with memories since hearing of the death of Neil Armstrong this weekend. I so vividly remember the first moonwalk, when I heard for the first time the words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These words, along with his very name, are now etched in the annals of history. The experience defined a generation and spoke a pervasive word to humanity.

To remember the first walk on the moon, you have to be about my age or older. I was four! My mother sat me down in front of the old black and white TV with the rabbit ear antennas and said, “Stephen, you need to watch this, it’s a day you will always remember.” I certainly do, and I remember it vividly.

I am humored by memories of our housekeeper, who came in and told me it was all a hoax, that it wasn’t real, just like the radio show about Martians had been fake (when I got older, I realized she was talking about the infamous “War of the Worlds”). I was confused, but my parents told me later that yes, it was indeed true, and I had been watching history in the making.

Throughout my life, my mind has floated back to that day in front of the television watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. When so often our lives are defined by our limitations (our abilities or lack thereof, our circumstances, our decisions), the first moonwalk reminds me that there is another way to look at life. Life is defined by our infinite possibilities.

What step are you called to take? Wherever you are in your life, one small step might lead to your own spiritual moonwalk on a whole new world of possibilities. It takes one small step to embark on this new path, this new walk, this new adventure.

Are you willing to take it? Perhaps you have spent much time and energy preparing to take that one step, and you know very well what it is but you are caught in fear. Or perhaps God has not shown you what step it is that you might be called to take. Wherever you are in life, I pray that you might have both clarity and courage to step off the ladder.

"We walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's Not Enough to Be Honest

We value honesty, and rightly so. It's a pretty good thing.

But I'm fascinated that though the scriptures compel us to speak the truth (after all, "bearing false witness" made it to the top ten "no no's"), speaking the truth is not just about being honest. Not really. 

You can learn a lot not only by what's in the scripture, but by what's NOT. Here's the astounding thing. When Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Ephesians, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control," honesty is conspicuously not included. Why? It's not enough to be honest.

I'm going to say something radical, perhaps even controversial. Honesty is not a uniquely Christian value.

I'm certainly not encouraging you to lie. George Burns said, "You've got to be honest; if you can fake that, you've got it made!" I'm not suggesting you be dishonest, but I am saying it is not ENOUGH to be honest.

Maybe we should watch out when we find ourselves saying "I'm just being honest!" Do we hear what we say? JUST being honest? If we are only being honest, we haven't gone far enough.

The call of the gospel is not to speak the truth ... period, end of sentence. The call is to speak the truth in LOVE. That's a bigger commitment than just being honest.

In Ephesians 4, where Paul writes of our call to speak the truth in love, he begins "I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling ... with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Honestly, how can we ever be brutally honest?

Season your speech with salt. Spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere you go. Speak the truth, and often a deeply profound truth. But always speak the truth in love.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meditation on My Broken Gourd Instrument

This morning, during my morning prayer, I felt an unexpected urge to spend time with my broken  gourd instrument. I didn't know why, really. It has sat on my shelf for a whole year, ever since I broke it moving here from my last ministry appointment.

A couple of times over the year, I have rummaged through my desk to find superglue, only to squeeze the tube and have nothing come out. Rather than fool with it further, I had tossed the glue back in my drawer and gone on with life. So there the gourd sat.

It's a beautiful, fully rounded brown gourd shaker that was a gift for use as hand percussion at the Academy and other worship experiences I lead. It's also in my study just for fun! It's from Cameroon. I can shake, thump, or rub it to make different sounds. People who look around in my study often reach for it, it's a natural hand magnet. I have missed shaking my gourd, but still it has sat there all year in two pieces, laying bare its brokenness.

But today, I was drawn to my broken gourd. I went to my desk and found the superglue again, and once again I routinely squeezed it and remembered I had been through this before. But this time, I did not give up so easily. I examined the glue, taking the top off. To my surprise, I found the reason glue had not been forthcoming is that I had not punctured the necessary opening in the first place. You know how it works, one has to take the top off and use the pointed end to get the whole thing started.

I thought, "really?" What does that say that it has taken me a year?

I mended my wonderful gourd and laid it on my small altar on the corner of my desk altar by the candle. And I meditated about my own journey of spiritual healing and the healing so many others desperately need in a world of distrust, competition, and unhealthy dynamics. How often do we lay in our brokenness when healing is so readily available? How often have I let something lie that needed mending, getting accustomed to seeing it in pieces rather than pursue the grace God has for me so closeby? How often have I just gotten so used to things being broken that I don't notice?

I think God has given each of us just what we need to find wholeness again. But we don't always approach the gift creatively. We rummage through the drawer looking for hope, some scripture or prayer or holy place, some relationship or conversation or means of grace ... but we throw it back when we find it doesn't work fast enough or without a little more effort. We get comfortable with leaving things broken and laying around, whether they are outer relationships or inner rhythms. And so we don't make the music we would love to make with life.

I'm glad I listened to the Spirit's nudge and glued my gourd today. And I'm glad it formed some great morning prayer time. I look forward to shaking things up now that I've got it together.