Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Going to the Promised Land

I have always loved the exodus story despite its contradictions. Why did God have to harden Pharaohs heart and make it so hard to let the Hebrews go? And why did God have to make it so gruesome at the end, with killing all the Egyptian first borns while smearing the blood of dead lambs on the Jewish door posts to protect them? And why did the Jew wander for 40 years around the desert? Oh, right because like all men, Moses couldn’t stop and ask for directions. Passover is a time of new creation, a time of remembering the struggle of our past and being delivered into a new land. How many of us here long to be renewed, to a new you, a new creation and a new land of love and opportunity?  

I remember with heartache my own failures, when I lost my marriage, my first business, and I believe for a time, my sanity. My best friend was a bartender. I was not at all worthy of being around.  Then a friend of mine, a truck driver invited me to travel with him on his 18 wheeler for a few days. As we headed across the open road I could feel the weight of my misery growing lighter. He was a Christian, in the best sense of the word, a recovering alcoholic, and a man who wore his sorrow on his face. He told me as the miles fell under our wheels of such desperate times as driving his rig blind drunken down the Rockies  hoping he would die. Until the day he almost did. His brakes gave out and the runaway ramp was miles away. As the adrenaline pumped into his body he prayed. God, spare me this and I will give my life over to love. Somehow he managed to get to the runaway ramp but he was doing over 80 miles an hour with 60,000 pounds at his back. He hit the ramp fishtailed in the gravel and stopped inches before the end. That runaway ramp proved to be his promised land. He was good to his promise, got sober, fell in love, married, had four kids and went looking for sorry cases like me to help them create a new life.  He would tell me often that the exodus story was his favorite, a reluctant prophet Moses once a prince of Egypt who led his people out of bondage. Who doesn’t need to be led from bondage he asked me. With his help I began to free myself from the misery, sell the business, move back east, meet Francis, fall in love have a bunch of kids and follow my call to ministry.

What makes us creative enough to find the promised land? It starts with a willingness to be open to the possibility. 

With Grace and Grit, John

Friday, April 8, 2016

Stones: A Post Easter Meditation

What would it take for any of us to experience a resurrection? “Life” observed an old friend of mine “is the tomb”. We are surrounded by finitude. There is only so much time to fill, only so much money to spend, the people we love die or they go away and our days are, more often than not, filled with sorrows punctuated by happiness. The Buddha said, “life is attachment, and with that comes sorrow.” What would it take to roll away that great stone of our troubles, and feel the sunshine on our faces once again?
Think about those new directions that your life took after some failing in another; the death of the loved one, a divorce, losing your job. The good news is this: Each of has an Easter awaiting. It’s not reserved just for the holy, or even the courageous. Each one of us has the power of resurrection, right here and right now. Today, one of you is feeling the pain of a separation, today one of you is struggling with the demons of addiction, today one of you is feeling numb after seasons of meaningless labor, today, more than a few of us are feeling the chill of winter’s sorrows. We want to feel spring but it’s so hard!
What stands in our way? Stones. Big stones. Stones of doubt, control, and fear. One of us must face a life of new choices but feels powerless to move. The stone of fear. A marriage seems stuck and while others have suggested how to get it going again we resist. The stone of control. We feel anger at a loved one for an almost unspeakable hurt. We know we need to forgive but how? The stone of anger. We need to make a decision about our future and soon, but what if the path we are considering is the wrong one? The stone of doubt.
I have no illusions here, my friends, I have been through some of these troubles. These stones are not easy to roll away from the tomb of our lives. There is a lot more to resurrection than daffodils and bunny rabbits. This can easily be the most difficult work you will ever face. But you can do it! I know that we can roll away those stones and walk again into the light.
How? With trust and hope. So it is with any of us. We will rise again from our struggles to a new day with trust and hope. Trust is what underlies our hope. So it is there that it must begin. Resurrections are only possible when we begin with the ones we love. When couples struggle in a relationship their ONLY salvation lies in trusting again. These can be big stones; doubt that the person will not hurt us again, fear that we will be hurt again, and our desire to control the relationship so that we won’t be hurt again.
Trust is the leap into love that says “it’s going to be o.k. to open up again even if the worst does happen.” Trust says “whatever happens, it will be all right”. Trust rolls away the stones of fear and control.
It is the depth of our struggle that gives us hope as long as we can trust that it will get better. Resurrection doesn’t mean freedom from life’s struggles but a renewed willingness to live through those struggles. One old friend used to say “It’s a great old life as long as you don’t weaken.” But you know what? It’s a great life even if you do weaken. Because rolling away the stone has more to do with openness than strength. 
With Grace and Grit, John