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Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Playing God in Popular Culture

In Gratitude, prayer, Recent Headlines on April 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

Quite frequently as a writer and commentator, I am inspired by the news of the day. I read a lot and have opinions about many topics. Oddly, in the past week, I have been riveted to stories about Bret Michaels, the lead singer for Poison, and reality show star. Honestly, until I started watching Celebrity Apprentice this season, I had no idea who he was or any of his history, but I am now a fan and I am worried about his health. 

At first, I found myself embarrassed by my concern and absorption. I am not a huge consumer of pop culture, television even less so. I do not follow the shows, the stars, or the plots. I tend to pick about one show a season that grabs me. In the past, it was American Idol, but I have lost interest. I do admit, though, reality television entertains me. I do not know if it is seeing how people behave in unreal situations or it just appeals to my people-watching fetish. 

However, I realized my concern and affection for Bret Michaels goes deeper. He seems real. In the few weeks I have watched the show, I have observed a decent man who can cry or celebrate with genuine emotion. Probably one of the most telling characteristics about him is how he always recognizes the people he works with. He compliments them, thanks them, and genuinely appreciates their help. 

I learned to look past the surface. My first impression was that some stoner, head banging, hard rock, wild man was on the show.  I never in a million years thought he would be the one I’d be cheering for. He looks the degenerate part, indeed. Instead, I saw a man who loves his children, wants to earn money for his charity, and really behaves like a team player. He steps up to the plate week after week. 

I do not even know where his walk is spiritually. I realized it does not matter. He just comes off as a good person who loves life and the people in it. I watch Donald Trump’s antics with equal fascination. He does not know that he is a caricature for capitalism on steroids, I am certain of it. He has fascinated me for years, perhaps irrationally so. I just am amazed how un-self aware he is. Moreover, it does not affect him in the least. He is who he is and makes no apologies. Sometimes when he sits in his boardroom and uses the iconic words “You’re Fired!” I think he is playing God. I do not know where he is spiritually either. Then I consider the idea of “playing God”. 

Is playing God about sitting and judging people and pointing out their shortcomings at every turn? Is playing God about knowing you can determine the fate of going forward? Alternatively, is playing God a bit closer to the New Testament? Is playing God about walking with everyone, regardless of appearance, and assuming the best? Is playing God about remembering all you encounter and showing kindness to anyone who crosses our paths? 

Maybe, reality shows touch me on a deeper level. A place I juxtapose New and Old testament understandings. A venue to enjoy all the ways of looking at we who are created in His image, and see how they behave when under a microscope. Make no mistake; I know they are just shows.

I also know I am watching closely and I want him to be okay.

He has our prayers.

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The Power of Prayer

In Church and State, Gratitude, prayer on April 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

Every person of faith I know at one time or another has questioned, “Does God answer our prayers?” It’s a fair question. I don’t really consider prayer as a DJ request line to God where all we have to do is ask and it is given. Instead I consider prayer a way to organize and focus our thoughts.

Prayer is what gives hope in seemingly hopeless situations. Prayer is how we pause and reflect on the direction our paths will take us. Prayer is our way of getting in touch with our Creator.

When I was in high school, every morning following the announcements, we had a moment of silent meditation. It was an opportunity to gather my thoughts for the day ahead. Some people finished their last-minute homework, some just counted seconds until it was over, but indeed some of us prayed. I imagine some prayed for an A and some prayed for a sweetheart to ask them out. I contend the outcome to such prayers had little to do with the prayer and more to do with free will and choices. Those who studied got As and those who interacted with the sweetheart got asked out.

So why pray? Why bother if we are autonomous creatures who are going to ultimately make our own choices?  Why do answered prayers seem to be answered so randomly and illogically? Everyone has a story of someone who was terminally ill and when they lived credited their survival to the power of prayer. That never quite sat well with me because I think it minimizes the prayers of others who didn’t survive their illness. Were their prayers unheard or any less valuable? Or perhaps the answer was not the expected answer. Life, yes, in eternity. A woman I knew well passed away a few years ago after a long battle with cancer. Never did she feel God was ignoring her. Her final hours were spent praising life, not lamenting unanswered prayers. She was surrounded by loved ones. A true tribute to life and her Creator.

Prayer is not a fast food menu where we see what we want, order it and drive forward with a few bills to get it wrapped and ready to consume. In the movie Bruce Almighty, when Jim Carrey’s character is overwhelmed with prayers, he simply says yes to all of them. It’s pretty humorous. I thought the “winning the lottery” prayers were priceless. Everyone won something like $1.00.

I think we confuse getting what we want with having our prayers answered.  Prayer is the way we organize our wishes, hopes, fears, ideas and thoughts and offer it up to a higher power.  It is our way to humanize our communication with God, the way we feel heard.

Earlier this week, I seriously contemplated closing down this blog and the accompanying Facebook page. I said several prayers asking for guidance. I didn’t feel like it was accomplishing the original goal of two-sided (or more) communication.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about a truly blasphemous “prayer” and we had the highest readership we’ve ever had. The email and support Lifted on Eagle’s Wings has gotten humbles me. I believe that people do want dialogue, we do want to listen to each other and we do want to walk forward.  I am renewed.

I believe in prayer. Amen!

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Resurrection Eggs

In Gratitude, Holidays on April 2, 2010 at 7:11 am

This week, as my family gets ready to celebrate Easter, I pulled out our Resurrection Eggs from storage. This is a project we made when they were very young, but it remains a tactile reminder of Easter.

To make your own Resurrection eggs, you need 12 different colored plastic toy eggs, an empty egg carton and a few miniatures as reminders.

Egg 1 contains something that represents bread/wine. I put little dollhouse baguettes in mine, but I’ve also seen communion cups to recall The Last Supper.

Egg 2 has 3 silver coins to represent the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.

Egg 3 contains a strip of leather cording to represent the soldiers using whips on Jesus.

Egg 4 has a scrap of purple fabric to remind us of the royal robe the Romans wrapped around Jesus.

Egg 5 has a little grapevine wreath to represent the crown of thorns. 

Egg 6 has a miniature cross to remind us of Jesus carrying his own cross. 

Egg 7 has small nails to remind us what were used to nail him to cross. 

Egg 8 has two dice to remember how the soldiers gambled for his clothing.

Egg 9 has a piece of sponge for the sour wine on a stick they gave him when he was thirsty. 

Egg 10 contains a miniature sword to remind us the soldiers pierced his side.

Egg 11 contains a small rock to represent the rock in front of the tomb where the dead body of Jesus was placed.  

Egg 12 is EMPTY, Because our Savior has overcome death and LIVES.

Amen.

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What will you give up for Lent?

In Church and State, Gratitude, Holidays, Non Profit on February 15, 2010 at 8:45 am

As Christians celebrate their last few days before Lent, a traditional period of sacrifice, we move toward voluntary austerity in our lives. We prayerfully reflect for 40 days in remembrance of the 40 days Jesus was tempted in the desert. We celebrate at the beginning of the season to use up the fat and meat in preparation, hence the terms Fat Tuesday or Carnival, (farewell to meat as a literal translation). We celebrate at the end of the season with the joyful resurrection of Jesus. The forty days are book-ended with festivity, as if the forty days were endless, instead of a moment in time. 

What if everyday of life was a struggle with poverty and hunger?  What if you were homeless? What if you lost your job? What if you had drug-addicted parents? What if the conditions of your life were not chosen, but merely a circumstance of birth? 

These are scenarios all too familiar. Today, 49 million people around the nation will be hungry. It is all too easy for those of us with full bellies to complacently become what I consider the “but I’s”. What I mean by that is our attempt to explain how we would combat lack of income, but I… would never let my family go hungry, would find a job, and would do whatever it took, would not sit back and accept charity, and would pick myself up by the bootstraps… ad infinitum”.

Many of us have an inner dialogue that assumes what we would do before we went hungry. It is very easy to fall into that trap of making someone else’s problems about us. In our attempt to understand, we assume. 

It is very easy to turn away from giving with an open hand because we work hard for what we have and why should we give to someone who has never worked as we have? Why should we share what we earned rightfully? I have been tempted to add my name to a statement “make drug tests mandatory to get welfare”. It makes sense, of course. Why should someone who is doing something illegal receive the fruits of my labor? Then I wonder, what about their children? Should the children suffer because their parents make irresponsible choices? Should a child go hungry?

Much of what Jesus preached just did not make sense. Sell your possessions. Love the least among us. If you have two dollars, give one to your brother. There are no conditions attached to the call to be generous. There are no tests, hoops to jump through, or forms to sign. The call is simply to share. As Christians, we are saved by the gift of grace, we do nothing to deserve the gift, but it is ours.

As we spend the Lenten season choosing to give something up, choosing to reflect, wouldn’t it be something incredible if for 40 days, we chose to give up conditions for generosity? What if we simply give as Jesus gave, without question of merit or deserving-ness. What if we stopped thinking what we would do in such a situation and instead truly asked, What Would Jesus Do?

 

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Behold, All Things are New!

In Church and State, Gratitude, Holidays on December 31, 2009 at 9:11 am

Revelation 21:5 seems an apt verse as the millennium has now completed decade number one.

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Prior to Lifted on Eagle’s Wings conception, I had spent quite a bit of smug time disregarding “right wing Christians”. I am strong in my faith and let “them” have theirs. Nevertheless, it bothered me. I was troubled that I could not understand so many people who were proud in their faith. I kept thinking that there ought to be common ground since we are all Christians.

Then, over the summer, my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, made the decision to ordain gay ministers. The resolution narrowly passed and the church has been set into turmoil with differences of opinion.  I exchanged several emails with my pastor, and while we do not agree on this topic, we discussed it peacefully. I understand why he believes as he does. It does not mean I have the same opinion, but I see the other side. 

That discussion sparked a desire to talk about more topics that are divisive. Through discourse, I believe we can find understanding. However, religion and politics are taboo unless the parties agree ahead of time to discuss them. That was the impetus behind our blog and Facebook page. When our mutual friend introduced me to Cara, I assumed she would be of the same mindset as I, since our friend declared we had much in common. When my shock wore off that we were politically opposite, I realized that God brought an opportunity into our lives. 

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Kucinich stated, “You know, first of all, the American eagle needs two wings to fly.” That sentence resonated with me and the church song “On Eagle’s Wings” always moves me to tears. I believe that we have a chance to use our faith to discuss our differences of opinion without anger.  The eagle is a perfect symbol of our shared faith and our mutual national pride. With only one wing, an eagle would fly in circles, but with two strong wings on each side, the eagle soars with dignity and grace.

The past two months have been incredible. I am learning to listen with an open heart and open mind. I no longer consider “them” as anything other than my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all God’s children and He has given us a shining chance to learn through His word and our amazingly diverse viewpoints. I am learning the true meaning of loving with an open hand. All friends are welcome to participate in our dialogue.

As we enter a new decade, I am enthusiastic and filled with joy at the prospect of continued friendship, love and conversation. Thank you to all our friends, readers, and contributors. May your last day of 2009 be filled with many blessings and may the blessings continue into 2010.

 

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Early returns

In Gratitude on November 5, 2009 at 12:04 pm

What happens when you mix RED and BLUE?

And on the third day…

We have much reason to celebrate. Thank you to all our early friends and supporters. Our blog has been received so positively!

We’d like to thank several friends who have highlighted our new venture.

Aaron D. Taylor, a young Christian author and missionary, had this to say about our blog, “Get this. They both love the Lord–and each other! Imagine that! …They want to bring some civility to the two sides and break down barriers of misunderstanding… I think it’s brilliant!”

J.M. Urbanski, a NYC based writer and author, said this, “I can appreciate what the authors are trying to do; they’re trying to understand each other and accommodate each other’s differences. Instead of being politically divided by religion or opinion, it might be an idea to converge in spite of it, instead.”

Tonight November 5, 2009, we are featured guests on Robert Soroky’s Blog Talk radio show, Table Talk. He says, “I will also have two women (Left and Right) joining me on the show to talk politics. Believe it or not, their opposing views brought them together, but guess what made them friends”

Guess what, indeed, Robert! We would love to have you call in or listen tonight. The show starts at 9:00 PM EST, and the call in number is (347) 327-9964

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We are so grateful for our friends and colleagues who are celebrating the spirit of unity with us. Thank you! Stay tuned for much more!