Monday, December 20, 2010

Slaves to the Son

"Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God," Romans 1:1 (Emphasis mine)

Every man who is worth his salt will struggle every day. The things that we struggle with will vary depending on who we are, but make no mistake, we all struggle. This is also the case with the person who's story I want to share with you. Though I don't know their name, it's their story that matters.

The person I want to introduce you to grew up around 2,400 years ago, living in a cave with others. This slave, like the others living in the cave, was chained to the floor of the cave, forced to face a wall, with a fire burning behind him. They were forced to stay in this position for their entire lives, only doing their master's will. The cave was ruled by the darkness, and the darkness only. This began to play on the psyche of this slave. He always felt there must be so much more to life than being tied down to this cold, dark cave that kept them from feeling any joy. He decided that if there was any chance to escape from this dark cave, he would take it. Realizing that there had to be so much more, he grew determined to escape the hopeless life that existed for him as a slave to the darkness.

So he began watching the slave masters, always observing their habits. Looking for a weakness that he could use. As he was planning in his mind, his arms began twisting and grinding on the shackles that were holding his wrists together. He had been made free of the bonds that kept him a slave. Now, with the chains broken, he left he cave as a free man.

The slave left the cave and hoped for something beautiful. He hoped for something he had never seen before as he began walking toward the front of the cave. As he came out of the cave, he stepped out a ways and stopped. The glory of the sun overwhelmed him! The slave knew that in his heart, the other cave dwellers needed to know about the glory of the sun, and he was determined to share the good news with them.

However, as he arrived and began teaching about the sun and all it's glory, the other cave dwellers could not see past their own misery to believe in such a thing. They immediately rejected the slave's message as too good to be true. They were so used to only being able to see the light by looking behind them, that they were unable to see the hope that lied directly in front of them.

You and I are, in a figurative sense, this former slave. We were once in bondage to darkness, with no hopes of ever being released. However, due to God's grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are released from our cave. While this slave found his glory in the sun, we find our glory in God's Son. When this slave found comfort in the warmth of the celestial sun, we find our comfort in the Heavenly Son. When we are released, we find The Son and all it's beautiful light which brightens up our world. We see the world through this light and decide that this is where we want to spend the rest of our life.

No, though I don't know his name, I can see his face. That's because the face of the freed slave has the face of you or me. Though this story was written over 2,400 years ago by Plato in his "Allegory of the Cave", it still rings true through you and I today.

Just like the slave did, I hope that we will all be willing to return back to the cave, not to stay, but rather to pull those still living there into the glory of the Heavenly Son.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Today You... Tomorrow Me"

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27
First, let me apologize for my lack in postings as of late. A multitude of things have kept me away. However, I wanted to share this story with you. It moved me and made me rock back on my heels and truly examine myself.
The story I'm about to share with you is a true story, and I tell it as it was told to me. It begins with a young man who was making his way back home on the interstate in a Jeep he didn't own when he blew a tire. He thought to himself that this is no big deal, he would just change the tire and be on his way. However, his friend didn't have a jack big enough to fit the Jeep, leaving him stranded on the side of the road. With no other options, he had to rely on his fellow travelers to come to his rescue.
So the young man made a sign and put it in the window of the broke down Jeep stating that he needed a jack, and even offered to pay any passerby who happened to stop. None did. Though many people passed by him, and could see he was in desperate need, none could be bothered to stop and offer him any assistance. Even a few tow trucks came by and didn't bother to check on him. The feeling of hopelessness was beginning to grow As the fourth hour of being stranded rolled around, the man was growing hungry, and knew he was going to have to make the dangerous decision to hitch hike his way out of there.
Just as he was about to give up all hope, a white van pulled up.
From the white van, a man traveling with his entire family hops out and walks over. The man doesn't say a word to the stranded traveler, but instead inspects the situation with the tire. He looks at the sign in the window, but makes no gesture of understanding. Speaking spanish, the man calls his young daughter from the van. She speaks English and she tells the traveler that they are immigrants from Mexico working in the local produce fields, and that her father doesn't speak English. As she is speaking with the young man she asks if he has eaten anything, and offers him a tamale from their cooler. As she is feeding the stranded traveler, he looks over and notices that the father has cut a log from a downed tree on the side of the road to make the jack fit. The young man rushes over to assist, jacks the Jeep up, and begins taking the lug nuts off of the wheel when he snaps the father's tire iron. The father doesn't blink an eye, and instead sends his wife off in the van to fetch another tire iron. She quickly returns with another one, and finally the tire is changed.
As the father is cleaning up, the no longer stranded traveler gets $20 from his wallet to pay the father, but he refuses to accept. The traveler then tries to quietly slip it to the mother, and she takes it. A few moments pass and the father and daughter are loaded back into their van. They give the traveler a tamale but refuse payment, and he thanks them again. As he is walking back to his now repaired Jeep, he unwraps the tin foil around the tamale to find nothing else than the $20 he gave the mother. He rushes back to the drivers side of the van to give it back to the father who had been more than gracious to him when the father just shakes his head and smiles. Using great concentration and searching for the words, the father says the simple yet powerful words, "Today you... tomorrow me." With that, he rolled his window up and drove away, leaving the young man with a repaired Jeep, a full stomach and his $20.
It's interesting to me to think that it was a stranger, whom this young traveler considered poorer and less fortunate than him, who made such an impact in his life. The traveler, in telling this story, said that he has not been the same since. When he sees someone broke down, no matter how busy he is, he stops and does whatever it is he can to help them get back on the road.
I wanted to share this story with you because it is the very essence of what we, as Christians are supposed to be on a daily basis (Lk 9:23). However, all too often we find ourselves too busy to notice those around us who may be spiritually stranded. This story should ring close to home because after all, we are all migrant workers in this world ourselves (Mk 16:15,16). However, rather than picking peaches and cherries, our fields of harvest are souls (John 4:35).
Have we been worrying so much about our own spiritual journey that we've failed to see those broke down on the side of the road, crying out for help? Are we moving so fast that we can't read the signs? If so, let us remember our Christian duty to bring others out of hopelessness, and onto their own spiritual journeys with God (Mk 1:17). After all, we know that the road of a Christian is not one paved in gold (Acts 14:22). Rather it is full of pot holes, lost souls, and flat tires. You never know when you yourself may be in need of assistance again. So slow down long enough to remember, "Today you...tomorrow me."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Play A Happy Note

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

I want to tell you the story of Derek Paravicini. Derek is a 31 year old who lives in Surrey, England. To read Derek's condition in a medical chart, would leave a very grim impression indeed. You see, Derek is blind, mentally handicapped to the point of barely being able to count to ten, and cannot discern his left from his right due to an extreme learning disability. Indeed, the odds were stacked against him when he was born premature at only 25 weeks, weighing only 1 1/2 pounds. But this isn't the end of Derek's troubles. He also suffers from autism. That is just what you will read in the medical charts. If you were to meet Derek in person you would discover a completely different person.

Despite suffering from autism, blindness, and a severe mental handicap drastically impairing his learning, Derek is one of only 19 people alive in the world today who is considered a musical savant. This means that Derek has the unexplainable ability to relate and play music in ways that no other person can. Derek is capable of hearing a song once, regardless of it's difficulty level, and recite it back to you in near perfection. He is even capable of categorizing the notes of a train engine as it accelerates. He virtually sees music. Once he hears a song, he never forgets it. It is believed he has over 1 million songs stored in his brain. Rather than divide his brain power into many different tasks, the majority of his thinking is used exclusively for music. While I found this impressive, it is not what I found most impressive about Derek's story. It was his personality.

I was watching a man who appeared to suffer greatly from many different physical and mental handicaps yet his personality and upbeat spirit would never let on. He has this way of speaking to people, and using his voice too. He loved to play for people, and would even take requests. Regardless of how obscure the song chances are Derek would play it for you with enthusiasm. Derek has such a positive energy about him that people cannot help but smile and feel good when they are around him. They tend forget his disabilities because he makes such good use of his infectious personality.

But the world is not full of "Derek's", is it? Unfortunately, we seem to find ourselves surrounded (usually at work) by the one person we could only describe as 'The World's Most Negative Person'. This person is superhuman, because even though there can only be one 'Worlds Worst', they seem to hold a position in every office across America. They're nasty to their coworkers, they always complain, and even cut coworkers down in front of others. They hate their job, and the work load that comes with it and are bound to make you feel the same. After all, misery loves company, right? This person is decidedly not a Derek Paravicini. However, you can be.

We all have an energy source flowing through us, and it only comes in two forms; positive and negative. More often than not we accept the negative energy into our lives with more ease than we do the positive. In other words, we are affected by negative circumstances with more ease and let it affect us to a greater extent. Think about it, have you ever been so nervous about something going on in your life that you're unable to sleep at night? Instead of sleeping you are up out of bed, pacing the floors or nervous cleaning? This is the classic example of nervous or negative energy taking control.

Perhaps you were in a really good mood until someone else who was in a bad mood comes around? Have you ever noticed how fast this can change your minset? You go from feeling happy and upbeat to falling into a slump, and you don't know why. That is because the transformation of positive energy into negative. But how can you get rid of it? The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed. It is all about our mindset on how we choose to see and react to these situations. If we choose to react with pessimism, then we will reap a harvest of suffering. If we choose to see the world with optimism, then we will receive blessings from it in return. Negativity is going to happen, we cannot stop it. What we can do is control how we respond to it. This is the refusal of allowing negativity to control our lives, instead turning to positivity, which is a basis in our christian living (Phil. 4:8).

When someone is being negative, simply refuse to accept it and guard your positivity like it were a treasure. That is because it is. If you try to spread a positive attitude onto others, they will eventually catch it like a cold. It starts with only one person and spreads like wildfire. This is a great way to minister to people because it leaves them wondering about you. If you do it right, after they finish wondering about you, they will be left with one conclusion- God. It is a part of letting our lights so shine.

So the next time things begin to feel overwhelming, just remember that you still have your sight, and you are not handicapped, and just play that negativity a tune until things lighten up. Might I recommend Philippians 4:8, or perhaps James Chapter 1 in C-Sharp?