What Others Say

We use your column in our Saturday Spiritual Life section, so I always read it. The new one about Rafael is just totally cool. Again, great column. It touched me enough to email you.
- Greg Jaklewicz - Editorial Page Editor, Abilene News Reporter

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Changing The Rules 10-26-2010

It is always important to know the rules in anything we do. We have rules at school, rules at work and rules at home. We establish laws to govern traffic: speed limits, stop signs, turn lanes and signals. We pass laws for family, marriage, commerce and civil conduct. We spend billions of dollars to employ law enforcement officials, judges and lawyers with courts and legal systems to make sure the rules are obeyed.

We even have rules for play. Every sport has its rules with umpires and referees to insure that the rules are enforced. In some cases we add instant replay to make sure their rulings are fair and objective. Still, arguments erupt and tempers flare when either side believes it has been unfairly judged. We will likely see grown men kicking dirt and yelling in each other’s faces during the World Series arguing about the rules and how they have been enforced.

Some rules are unwritten. We assume we know them from birth. They are common to every culture on earth. They are simple rules: love your family and your friends. Do good things for them. Love your country. Whoever hits first is in the wrong. If someone hits you, you can hit them back. Don’t break in line. Take your turn. Lend only to those who will pay you back with interest. Look out for “number one.” If someone wrongs you, get even. Sometimes we follow these rules even when they conflict with the law. They are the stuff of most movies and novels. They are the rules by which we live our lives.

Jesus’ words sound strange when compared to our natural assumptions about how life is supposed to work. . "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36).

When Jesus came, he changed all the rules.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Rangers and Josh Hamilton 10-19-2010

A year ago I wrote my first Reflections column about Josh Hamilton’s relapse and recovery as an alcoholic. In January of 2009 he had taken a drink, which led to another and another. The end result was an embarrassing bar scene caught on cell phone video. Hamilton immediately confessed his relapse to his wife and family and to the Rangers management. When it became public nine months later, he confessed to everyone. Ian Kinsler spoke for the team during that episode. He said, “We don’t need an apology. That’s his battle. We’re here to be his friend and love him as a teammate.”
A year later, Hamilton is being touted for the MVP in the American League with a season batting average of 359 and 32 home runs. When the Rangers clinched the playoffs against the Oakland A’s on September twenty-fifth, Hamilton excused himself from the traditional champagne celebration. Instead, he showered and headed back to the stadium to speak to fans regarding his faith as part of Faith Day Oakland. The next day he said, "I'm excited and what happened yesterday as far as the guys celebrating in here, that's part of it. It's not for me. I'm not saying that I wouldn't have liked to have been in here with them. I just felt like it was in my best interest if I didn't participate. But it's amazing that it just so happened to work out that we clinched the same day they are having Faith Day and I'm speaking out there."
Last week, the Rangers won their first division title against the Tampa Bay Rays. Having watched their teammate struggle with his addictions the Rangers team did something that has never been done before in major league baseball. Putting action to Ian Kinsler’s words of a year before, the team decided to put aside the champagne and beer. Instead, they celebrated their historic win with Ginger Ale so that Josh Hamilton could be included.

Writing about the event, sports columnist Matt Friedman wrote, “In today’s sports world, it’s rare to see athletes that go out of their way to make a classy gesture. But we have seen it … tonight, the Rangers sacrificed their booze for a teammate. It wasn’t going to be difficult to cheer for the Rangers to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, but now they have given me a true reason to pull for them.”

The Apostle Paul gave us a principle that is illustrated by the Rangers actions regarding Josh Hamilton. He taught that we should each consider the impact our actions and decisions make upon others. He wrote, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. … It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Wedding 10-11-2010

It is an American rite of passage, the ultimate moment when dreams come true. No expense or effort is spared to make the wedding the perfect moment. Family and friends travel hundreds of miles just to be there. Parents go into debt to provide the perfect cake, the sit down dinner, a gala reception, not to mention the bride’s dress and decorations.

We have added our twists to the wedding traditions. While many weddings are still held in cathedrals, churches and chapels, they have moved beyond church walls in search of exotic places to “tie the knot:” on mountain tops, at home plate, on beaches and boats.. Wedding music is no longer limited to the bridal march. We have opted for country western, hip-hop and pop. We have added unity candles and unity sand. But one element remains unchanged in every wedding ceremony: the high point of the event is the entrance of the bride! Everything leads up to the bride’s entrance beaming beneath a white veil, adorned in an elaborate dress that enhances her beauty.

I like weddings held outside. In the one I attended last weekend, the flower girl entered the gazebo under a bright blue sky scattering her petals on the bride’s path. She stopped at the entrance, tugged on a rope to ring an overhead bell then shouted with excitement, "She's coming! She's coming!” The crowd giggled and smiled as they always do when children perform, then they turned their heads searching for their first glimpse of the bride.

It reminded me of Jesus’ love for weddings. He performed his first miracle at Cana in Galilee, turning water into wine so that the wedding moment would not be spoiled. It also reminded me of the wedding scene predicted in the Bible. The Scripture is clear. One day Jesus will return like a bridegroom prepared to receive his bride. Jesus said, “I will come again.” (John 14:3). He urged us to be perseverant and patient, waiting for the bridegroom’s arrival. (Matthew 25:1-13).

If Jesus is the bridegroom, who is the bride? According to the Bible, we are. Scripture teaches that everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ and follows him helps form the bride of Christ. We are the bride of Christ as members of his church. Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) We are the bride of Christ as citizens of the Holy City built by God in Heaven. (Revelation 21). Like a bride who prepares for her wedding, we need to prepare ourselves for his coming.


I can hear the flower girl’s voice ringing in my ear: “He’s coming! He’s coming!” “The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Class Reunion 10-4-2010

This weekend the Corsicana High School class of 65 gathers in Corsicana for their forty-fifth class reunion. I am a member of that class. I walked across the stage at CHS forty-five years ago to accept my diploma from our principal, Mr. Armistead. Like all other graduating classes we made speeches to one another about dreams and visions, about how we would change the world. In some ways, we did change the world. In other ways, the world changed us.

In our youth we watched John Glenn orbit the earth in Friendship 7, the Mercury space capsule no larger than a VW Bug. In 1963 we sat mesmerized beside the radio listening with our teachers to the breaking news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. When we walked across the stage two years later we scarcely understood the watershed moment of history in which we were living. Some of us shipped out to serve in the jungles of Vietnam, others headed off to college. We pursued our educations in a volatile world. In 1966 a sniper paralyzed the UT campus from his perch atop the UT Tower. For almost two hours he gunned down students, killing 16 and wounding 32. In 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. fell victim to a sniper bullet in Memphis. Two months later we watched Bobby Kennedy die in a pool of blood in Los Angeles. In 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on protesting students in what would become known as the “Kent State Massacre.”

We watched the world go global and we went global with it. We bought the first PCs with “floppy discs”: the Commodore 64, the Tandy and the TRS-80. We played the first video games with “Pong” and “ Pac-Man.” We bought the first mobile phones and referred to them as “ bag phones” because they looked like luggage. We created a connected world with e-mail and the World Wide Web. We flew on the first jet airliners and visited places we never expected to see. We watched the world shrink until we could be anywhere on the globe in twenty-four hours.

We married, had children, raised families, and now many of us have grandchildren. We made mistakes, did some things we regret. At times we wish we had done better. But, forty-five years after graduation, we feel blessed. We have, most of us, discovered a deeper understanding of faith that only comes after decades of laughter and sorrow, success and failure. Many of us can now say, as King David said many centuries ago, “I once was young and now am old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.” We know the world is a dangerous place. It has been dangerous throughout our lifetime. But we have also discovered that God can be trusted and that His promise is true: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”