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What I See In You, I See In Me

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Have you ever known someone who was a black hole of negativity?  

You know, the kind of person who finds the cloud in the silver lining--the one who unceasingly criticizes others, spews hatred, venom, and anger at the world only to alternate with morose, unflagging self-pity.  

I've known a few people like that.  They bring out the worst in me.  

Because the worst in me---is that person.  

Years ago, I was taught by a very kind, wise and insightful man that when I'm fixing someone with the withering gaze of my scrutiny and numbering their faults on my internal ledger where I'm constantly keeping score, that I should repeat these words: 
"What I see in you, I see in me."  These words have served to sober me more than once, and bring me back from the brink of self-righteous anger and judgment to a place of brokenness, repentance, and openness.  

I'm reminded today that I haven't been saying those words enough lately.  In one of my daily readings this morning, I r…

Tingling Ears

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I think over the course of my lifetime I've read the story of the call of Samuel the prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures at least two dozen times or more, but I saw something new when I read it today.  

As a young child, Samuel had a nighttime vision/encounter with God where God spoke to him and gave him a prophecy to relate to the high priest.  The translation of that prophecy that I read today goes something like this: 
And the Lord said to Samuel:  "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle."  - I Samuel 3:11God shares with Samuel that what God is about to do will be spoken of, and the power of those descriptions of God's actions will tingle the ears of those who hear it.  
God's prophecy that Samuel delivered was against the abuses and excesses of the high priest Eli, and his family.  They had begun to use their position, influence, and power to further their own agendas, not God's, and there was g…

Learning to Embrace Defiant Hope

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I made the mistake of stepping into the path of the 24-hour news bus this morning.  I feel like I'm run over and lying in a gutter now.  Lesson learned.  

The old adage, "No news is good news" takes on new meaning in this current culture of ours.  

Seriously, if we're not being constantly confronted with the sobering images of one natural disaster after another, we're being inundated with stories of political scandals, shootings, and an endless parade of grandstanding politicians, who can't seem to get out of their own way.  It wears on you. 

Walter Brueggeman writes: 
Ours is a time like the flood, like the exile, when the certitudes abandon us, the old reliabilities have become unsure and "things fall apart."  It is happening all around us and to all of us. You and I have a choice to make when all is said and done.  

We can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the way things are, or we can find a way to transcend it all.  We can become distressed, disi…

BLVD - Week 3: "Three Seats"

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Today we're going to continue our sermons series BLVD.  The idea behind this series is very simple:  Christians need to become roads that connect people to Jesus.  We can't be the roadblocks that get in their way.  We need to make the way clear. 

As part of our way of illustrating these sermons, we've been focused on the idea of intersections, and proper directions, but now I'd like to shift gears a bit and illustrate today's sermon a bit differently.  We're still on the road, but let's step into a bus for today while we roll, shall we? 

When I used to live in downtown Chicago, I would take the bus to seminary from time to time.  It was about a thirty-minute ride in traffic with several stops along the way.  Where I got on the bus, there would typically be very few seats available, so I would often have to stand.  

I remember one day I boarded the bus and discovered there was only one open seat, but a woman had placed her bag on it.  

As I started to approach h…

Life-Giving Generosity

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Over the past two decades,  charitable giving by U.S. companies has declined at an alarming rate, dropping to 15-year lows in the early 2000's and descending even lower to date.  

Despite the fact that overall charitable giving by companies has decreased, what has increased is what is known as "cause-related marketing." 

In other words, companies will strategically engage in philanthropy as a form of public relations, increasing their brand exposure in ways that will provide positive impressions among consumers as well as increasing employee morale. 

While there may be some good that is done through the charitable contributions of companies who are engaging in this form of marketing, it has begun to come off as inauthentic.  

According to the Harvard Business Review, cause-related marketing may lead to an overall sense of cynicism on behalf of the public, and can also serve as a distraction from the overall goals of the charity involved.  

In other words, there's a differ…

When You Feel Beaten and Left for Dead

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My New Testament Bible reading for today was in the book of Acts chapter 14. As I read the chapter, I re-discovered something that I'd overlooked all of the other times I've read it.  

In verse 8 of the chapter, the Apostle Paul is preaching and teaching the Greek people in the ancient city of Lystra (in what is now modern day Turkey), and he stops to heal a man who had been unable to walk for his entire life.  

Then this happens:  
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” The people in the town are so enamored with Paul and his companion Barnabas, that they refer to them as the embodiment of Zeus and Hermes.  The local religious leaders even come out to offer sacrifices to them, but Paul finally dissuades them from doing so, giving glory to God alone for the healing.  

Then, one verse after all of the aforementioned brouhaha, we get this:  
Then some Judeans came from Antioch and Iconium and won t…

Words Upon Your Heart

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As part of my fundamentalist Baptist upbringing, I was compelled to memorize verses, short passages and (as I grew older) even full chapters of the Bible.  

By the time I was in middle school, I could quote vast amounts of Scripture, suitable for pretty much any situation.  I had awards from Bible Quiz team, accolades for my biblical knowledge... all the things a fundamentalist, Baptist kid could want.  

But by the time I was fifteen, I simply stopped.  I realized that all I was doing was just memorizing words.  The Bible meant nothing to me.  Around the same time, I relinquished my faith, gave up on the church, and spent the next three years going through motions until I was old enough to leave home. 

I found my way back to the church and to the Bible eventually.  I discovered a newfound love of Scripture that has deepened over the years as my understanding of it has grown and been re-formed. 

But I've struggled at times to be reconciled with my past life as a verse quoting, holier-t…