Chapter-a-Day John 11

tear
tear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then Jesus wept. John 11:35 (NLT)

I’m struck by the range of emotions Jesus experienced in today’s chapter. Confidence, frustration, compassion, anger, trouble, sorrow, and earnestness to list those top of mind. Jesus was clearly not afraid of His emotions. He felt things deeply.

I’m reminded today of Ezekiel’s prophecy:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

The women in my life will tell you that I’m a softy. It’s true. Tears come more easily to me  the older I get. God continues to work on me, and I can feel Ezekiel’s prophetic words literally fulfilled in my own heart. As I sit or stand in worship and the tears begin to run down my cheeks I regularly call to mind, along with Ezekiel’s words, a line from an old Bob Dylan tune: “It is only He who can reduce me to tears.”

I believe that experiencing Life in abundance requires experiencing deep emotion. Jesus’ ability to feel deeply and sincerely express His emotions was not a sign of His weakness, but a testament to His strength.

A Great Man in Need

Andy Bales was my youth pastor when I was in high school. His impact on my life was immeasurable. More than that, he has quietly “walked the talk” better than any living human being I’ve ever known. I pass this along with hope and a prayer for him.

The Best for Andy Bales

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012 9:25 am

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – It’s hard not to feel a range of emotions for Rev. Andy Bales. There’s fear. There’s awe. There’s tremendous respect and tremendous worry on his behalf.

Most of all, there’s hope that he can overcome the hurdles that are in his path.

Los Angeles Downtown News last week reported on the unenviable challenges confronting Bales. The 53-year-old CEO of the Union Rescue Mission is in need of a kidney transplant, though that’s only part of it. His rare blood type, O negative, means there is a limited pool of donors. Making matters worse, he has a serious heart condition, and until he undergoes heart surgery, he won’t be able to get on the list for a kidney transplant.

The choice might seem easy to an outsider: Get the heart surgery, get on the transplant list, save your life.

For Bales, it’s more complicated. He knows that having the surgery would almost certainly lead to kidney failure, which in turn would require him to go on dialysis. That would force him to cut back heavily on his job of overseeing the mission in the heart of Skid Row. It’s something Bales is reluctant to do.

This is a choice almost none of us can understand in the way that Bales does. We can feel for him and guess what we might do in such a situation, but no one can really fathom having to make the decisions he faces.

Bales didn’t set out to make his health a public issue. The media came to him and he only spoke out because he hopes doing so will bring attention to the work he and others do each day at the mission.

That, by the way, is a tremendous amount of work, and it’s a job that has become more challenging in the past few years, as the slow economy has lessened the amount of financial donations to nearly all nonprofits. The mission at 545 S. San Pedro St. seeks to aid the impoverished community in numerous ways. There are drug and alcohol counseling for hundreds of individuals. There are meals served, an average of 3,000 a day, every day of the year. There are the shelter beds provided, more than 900 a night for men, women and families. There are clothing and medical services dispensed. The list goes on — much of it can be glimpsed at urm.org.

Bales’ condition is serious, but it would be wrong to see this as a death sentence. He continues to show up at the mission each day, to work to better the lives of others. It’s easy to find people who sing his praises.

Right now all we can do is wish for the best for Andy Bales. We hope that in the coming months the community will continue to support him and the mission.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2011

Chapter-a-Day John 10

by shefftim via Flickr

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10 (NLT)

The further I get in the journey, the more keenly aware I am of both life and death. I want to be about things that are life giving and avoid those things that hint, or reek, or lead to death.

Each day I get to make a dizzying number of choices about what I think, say, and do as well as choices regarding things to which I watch, listen, and read.

More and more I find myself asking “is this life-giving, or does this hint of death?”

I choose life.

Chapter-a-Day John 9

David Tennant used the skull of pianist Andre ...
David Tennant used the skull of pianist Andre Tchaikowsky for Yorick's skull in a 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” John 9:39 (NLT)

Wendy and I love Shakespeare, and we love to see Shakespeare staged whether it’s our local Pella Shakespeare Company‘s performance in the park or the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. One of the things that I’ve learned in watching the Bard’s work is that you always want to pay particular attention to the fool. The fool is never quite as foolish as you think he is, and quite often the fool winds up confounding the wise.

That’s why I’ve always loved today’s chapter. It has all the qualities of a great Shakespearean scene. On one side we have the wise, learned, pompous religious leaders with all of their power, wealth and education. Before them stands a lowly, poor, once blind beggar who is not the fool they think he is. Jesus gave physical sight to the blind fool so that the spiritual blindness of those who claim to see could be revealed. That’s great drama.

This morning I’m chewing on the reality that Jesus, while repeatedly reminding his followers that they were not to judge anyone, continually explained that He came to judge. I find that we love Jesus the lover and healer, but no one really wants much to do with Jesus the Righteous Judge. Today’s chapter reminds me that Jesus not only came to give sight to the blind, but to judge those who think they see for their spiritual blindness. Jesus said He came to both save and condemn. One without the other makes for both a boring story and a weak character.

Gettin’ My Gangster On

Guts & Ruby
Lawrence "Guts" Regan

This weekend I’ll be playing Lawrence “Guts” Regan and Wendy will be playing Roberta Van Rensselaer (a.k.a Ruby O’Toole)  in Union Street Players production of Ayn Rand’s “Night of January 16th.”

Experience the sensational courtroom trial as a jury of audience members decides the verdict at each performance.

Thu @ 7:00 p.m.
Fri @ 7:00 p.m.
Sat @ 7:00 p.m.
Sun @ 2:00 p.m.

Tickets:
$8 in advance
$10 at the door

Pella Community Ctr.
712 Union Street
Pella, Iowa

Tickets can be purchased on-line at the Union Street Players website or you can call the USP box office at:
641.230.1172

Chapter-a-Day John 8

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, Wendy and I attended an induction ceremony at Grandview College. Our daughter, Taylor, was inducted into the Alpha Chi Honor Society. It was interesting to listen and to learn about the various honor societies. The motto of the Alpha Chi fraternity was  the second part of Jesus’ quote from today’s chapter: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Along the journey, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the way we pick and choose what pieces of God’s Message we want to hold on to, and those we so conveniently choose to ignore. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” is such a powerful quote, but it’s really the consequential end of an “if then” statement. What Jesus said was that the knowledge of truth and subsequent freedom is the result to following Him, and remaining faithful to His teaching. In a few chapters, Jesus will make the claim that He is the Truth. You can’t have the result without the source.

Today, I’m thinking about the ways that I conveniently ignore truths out of a desire to escape uncomfortable spiritual requirements. I’m asking God for a little forgiveness along with the strength and grace to embrace Truth and all that it requires of me.