Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 3:16 am
Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my dad listened to talk radio on KRMG.
On occasion, when I was not staring out the window dreaming of hitting three home runs in a World Series game, I would tune into the talking voice blaring from the speakers of my dad’s 1966 Mustang.
There was one particular voice I enjoyed much more than others: Paul Harvey, who taught me every story had a backstory and a surprise, if only we were patient enough to listen for it.
He told of kings, presidents, authors, missionaries and many other famous people who had influenced the world.
As he closed each segment, he would end it with his signature catchphrase, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
One of my mentors, Roger Olson, professor of Christian theology and ethics at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, wrote an interesting article recently about selective memory in religious history books.
He pointed out that many history books exclude “the rest of the story” when it comes to historical figures.
We baptize history in many cases, retelling it to suit our desired arguments. History, like life, is a messy endeavor doomed to be misjudged if not assessed from many different vantage points.
Even when it comes to life, we often forget there is a “rest of the story.” We like to jump to conclusions, render skewed judgments and voice opinions before truly knowing the full measure of a person or his or her story.
We have turned into a culture that does not take time to listen, ingest or walk around in someone else’s shoes.
We often jump ahead of ourselves to render the credibility of someone’s situation based upon our own preconceived ideas and limited knowledge about the circumstances.
The disciples asked Jesus one time, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
Their question reveals the cultural and religious bias the disciples possessed.
They believed the man’s predicament was brought about by his own personal sin or the sins of his parents.
Jesus tells them they misjudged the situation and the man. In other words, they did not know the rest of the story.
In a world where people have unique and personal narratives that demonstrate the worst and best of humanity, we would be wise to listen before we jump to conclusions.
We would do well to research and discover all perspectives before drawing conclusions based upon selective knowledge.
Or, as Harvey used to say, “Now that we know the rest of the story,” maybe we can be understanding and empathetic to others’ circumstances.
We will not always agree, but maybe we can speak with a little less venom. More than anything these days, we need more listening and understanding and less biased and unfiltered opinions.
Before we speak, before we judge, let’s make sure to get “the rest of the story.”
Mitch Randall is pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma. A version of this article first appeared on NorthHaven’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @rmitchrandall.
In an effort to broaden its message the Church of England has banished mention of the devil from the vows parents take when their children are baptized. Far removed from the hideous, red, horned, sulphur reeking image of Christian history, the satans that devil me are extremely shadowy and phantom-like. They are not quite fully formed but are filmy skittish creatures that bob in and out of consciousness. They are more unnerving than scary.
Just as in the Bible my satans have names that testify to their character: I’m not Sure, What If, You’re not Good Enough, No One Will Like That, and You’re too Old. These attack at vulnerable moments such as when a new creative idea or when plans of a new adventure are just beneath the surface. They rise up to spoil the view of a beautiful moment when the world is shivering with newness and promise. They drag me back to experience the ravages of failure and uncertainty. They tell me that no sane person could possibility believe in God after looking at the mayhem described in the morning newspaper.
I wish my devils were horrible looking creatures with pitchforks, flaming eyes, horns, and long scaly tails. I could confront them head on and extinguish them or at least give them a fight to the death. My satans are too clever for that sort of role-playing. They are able to form themselves into beguiling forms of doubt, uneasiness and paralysis. They whisper, “Who do you think you are to try such a stunt? No one will listen to you. Don’t be silly. Why should you stick your neck out? Who cares anyway? You will only feel betrayed. Aren’t You Tired of Being Ridiculed?”
These enemies posing as friends have been around long enough now for me to recognize them and what they are about. They are skillful at disappearing and then reappearing at the most crucial times. I cannot wait them out. They gain strength from the shortest hesitation. They manage to worm their way into the tiniest crack. They are not only tenacious but they are relentless. These devils sap my energy and enthusiasm. They caution, “Wait. Let someone else step forward. Why do you want to become involved? You have done enough. People will understand if you walk away.”
Conquering these devils is far more difficult than removing the offending words from a vow. What the serpent unleashed in the Garden of Eden is doubt. Doubt is insidious. It lurks and shows itself at the slightest hesitation.
I remind myself and my tormentors that I was not created to be fearful. My creator crafted me to walk boldly into each day and face each moment as it presents itself. With God I never have to face my fears alone. My wife has a favorite scripture verse that she has taught me. “But perfect love casts out fear.” I do not know what is coming around the bend, but I know that I can handle this moment. If I keep my focus on the present not wishing for the future or living in the past, I can walk through it.
When my faith grows weak, I lean into the faith of brothers and sisters who hold me up in my weakness. Their faith strengthens me and grows my faith. We need to hear each other”s stories. We need to hear that others have walked these dark alleys and have emerged stronger. Communities of faith are designed to help us strengthen one another. Scripture tells us, “That two are better than one…. If either of them falls down, one can help the other stand up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV) Rev. Amy Butler says,’There’s significant power in sharing our stories with each other. When we have the courage to name the pain we carry, we find out that soon enough that we are not alone. And knowing that we’re not alone often uncovers enough courage to take the next step in a painful situation.”
MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014TALK WITH THE PREACHER
We are not alone
There’s significant power in having the courage to name the pain we carry.
By Amy Butler
You know, I’ve always thought that one of the principle practices of a good pastor is connecting people. But I’ve now come to believe that one of the principle practices of being a good human being is connecting people. Because the worst thing about walking through a hard time is feeling that you are all alone.
The truth is that we need to share our stories. In fact, without that sharing, it’s doubtful we can ever become the beloved community Jesus envisioned.
These days I’m enjoying some weeks of sabbatical before I get back in the pulpit. This means various things, including increased use of sunscreen and long-neglected closet organizing projects finally marked off the list.
This also means I get to go to church. I mean, I get to choose anywhere I want to worship, slip in the back of the sanctuary and sit in the pew.
The other day I was sitting in worship in a small New England congregation where public prayer is a custom. The pastor got up during the prayer time and invited folks in the congregation to name their prayer requests out loud. The call for requests was broken up into three categories: prayers for the world, prayers for others, prayers for ourselves.
This week there was plenty to say when the pastor asked for prayers for the world: another Malaysian airliner down, continued bombing in the Gaza Strip, escalating gun violence in major American cities. Prayers for others was similarly populated: brother Joe; home recovering from back surgery; Aunt Marjorie, mourning the death of her cat; the local library fundraiser coming up in a few days.
Curiously, when the pastor got to prayers for ourselves, the entire congregation sat in silence.
Not one person stood up to say they were grieving a loss, living through a painful time in their marriage, worried about money, wondering if God exists.
Thoughts tumbled one over one another in my own mind: I’m worried about coordinating an upcoming move; I’m grieving the death of my brother; I’m anxious about beginning a new job; I miss my kids; I feel so much sadness and hopelessness when I watch the news and I want to be able to talk to my friends and colleagues of other faiths about what’s going on in Israel and Palestine, but I don’t know how.
As I sat in the silence I wondered if I was the only one grieving or scared or sad.
But I know I wasn’t. I looked around at all the shiny faces in those pews and I knew I couldn’t be the only one. Still, presenting a perfect façade to the world around us, as so many of us do, seemed to be the accepted standard of the community that morning. I did not speak up.
I thought of this experience in church just the other day when I finally had the opportunity to introduce two friends of mine whom I am sure should have been friends with each other long before they’d ever met me. The reason? They shared a story — pain-filled life experiences that shaped them both into the incredible people I know them to be.
I’d tried for awhile to connect them, but I’d heard a lot of hesitation. “It’s too hard to tell my story,” one of them said. “I’m ashamed,” the other one told me.
But when my friends finally met each other and shared their stories, here’s what they told me: “She understood me.” “I finally realized I am not alone.” “Wow, it’s not just me who lived through this.” “I felt God was here.” “I made a new friend.”
I knew it!
There’s significant power in sharing our stories with each other. When we have the courage to name the pain we carry, we find out soon enough that we are not alone. And knowing we’re not alone often uncovers enough courage to take the next step in a painful situation.
If the church can be anything these days, don’t you think it should certainly be a place where those kinds of connections happen?
After all, we claim to follow the One who showed up, told his story and shared life with others who learned to tell theirs. And look how that kind of community changed the world.
Mary Lee Talbot
A woman was checking out at the grocery store and the clerk told her, “Have a nice day.” The woman replied: “i have other plans.” “That [have a nice day] is not something Jesus would have said,” the rev. Daisy Machado said to begin her sermon, “You Are,” at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service Friday. “He said ‘go and sin no more’ or ‘rise up and walk’ or ‘go and make Disciples.’ go be salt, be light. But lots of people say, ‘i have other plans.’ ” Her Scripture, Matthew 5:13-20, is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, she said, used salt, light and the law to teach the Dis- ciples who they were. Jesus, sitting out in the open but in a very intimate way, told his Disciples, “You are salt; you are light. not ‘i think you might be’ or ‘i want you to try really hard to be,’ or ‘You should have a committee to develop a mission plan,’ ” Machado said. “We think of these as commands but Jesus meant them as descriptions of who the disciples were.” She quoted the Talmud, which states that the world can exist without pepper but not without salt. Salt was valuable in biblical times; the word salary comes from the latin word for the portion of the wages that roman soldiers were paid in salt. Salt enhances flavor and it preserves meat. “Jesus was telling his followers that they should add zest to the lives of the people around them,” Machado said. “They should be an example for others, but this is the messy part — they have to interact with people, to get involved [in the world]. What good is salt if it never gets out of the shaker?” Salt is not useful to itself, so Jesus’ followers exist for others. They were not to be overbearing, she said, not browbeating people about their sins, but they should use the right amount to flavor a dish. “The Disciples should live with the blatant hope that god is in the world,” Machado said. Salt in biblical times was a compound of sodium chloride and other elements like gypsum. if the sodium fell out of the compound, the residual product was thrown into the road. “The salt compound lost its flavor; pure salt will not change,” she said. “We lose our distinctive character when
we can no longer be distinguished from the tasteless values around us. We lose our usefulness. We must remain faithful to who we are.” The Disciples were the light of the world because they received their light from Jesus, she said. “He called them not to see but to witness acts of justice. The cause of these actions is god in heaven.” According to Machado, some people don’t talk a lot about what difference the church can make in the world. “People are skeptical of the influence the church can have but Jesus did not share that point of view,” she said. “How- ever imperfect and human the Disciples were, and however imperfect and skeptical we are today, we can make a specific impact.” She continued: “The church was not important in the world when the gospels were written. Jesus was talking to the poor. Was it hyperbole to tell them they were the light of the world? How could nobodies be light? How could they make a differ- ence in the roman Empire? Yet the church grew and expand- ed. We have to realize that Jesus got it right — those who feel the world’s pain, who build bridges, who have mercy, are light to the world.” no one puts a light under a bushel after it is lit. “This bushel is a vessel big enough to cover a lamp. The lamp is not snuffed out but covered,” she said. “What are our bushels? Self-absorption, a life where religious endeavor is un- important. A light does not end up magically under a bushel; the only way to cover it is to put the bushel over it.” Jesus asked his followers to show up in the dark places and light them up.
“He was describing the here and now, not the future,” Machado said. “Jesus was talking about the Disciples in the here and now and he is talking about us here and now. The abundant life is the gift we give to others to make a difference for others. We have to dare to be singular, to be distinctive in how we use our money, our time, what we value.” The way we remain distinctive, she told the congregation, is to acknowledge that we are yoked with god, and Christ invites us to play a role in the mission to engage the world. Machado then added that Fred Craddock, the noted preacher, said that Christians have two tasks — witnessing and “benevolent intrusion into the world.” “We have to reject self-interest and self-protection,” she said. “We have to feel the pain of our neighbor.” Jesus told the Disciples that he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. He called them to live in the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. “Spiritual righteousness originates in the heart,” Machado said. “Jesus calls us to be transformed. We have made the world to be a certain way — full of violence, greed, corruption and inequality. There is little light and less flavor.” “Hear Jesus speak,” she continued. “We need to make a dif- ference because we can. ‘You are,’ he says to each of us. i want to remind you, sisters and brothers, that you are all of great value. You are all important for god’s design. You all have to get out of the shaker. You are called to be salt, be light. You are the ones called to expand the church beyond stained glass and stone walls.” The Rev. John Morgan presided. Bud Brown, the host at the Bap- tist House, read the Scripture. The Motet Choir sang “Come Down Angels,” a traditional spiri- tual arranged by Patti Drennan. Virginia Oram was the soloist. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the choir. The choir sang “God is Here” by Glenn Wonacott as the introit all week. The Allison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Depart- ment of Religion supported this week’s services. For those who would like more information about the 47,000 children at the borders, links provided by Machado can be found in the online version of this story at www.chqdaily.com.
Reduced to Tears Used by permission of Bishop Sauls
Posted: 07/14/2014 2:39 pm EDT Updated: 07/14/2014 2:59 pm EDT
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” (Rom. 8:15)
At the moment hundreds of children from Central America are risking a long, dangerous trip without adults to come to the United States to escape oppressive poverty, violence, and exploitation. They are receiving a mixed welcome, sometimes with compassion and sometimes with hostility. St. Paul’s words seem relevant to me.
The spirit of adoption is something I know a little bit about. Here’s how I learned.
Thirty-one years ago my wife Ginger and I were in the process of completing the home study process for the adoption of our first child. We had had all the interviews. The social worker had come to visit our house. (It was, by the way, one of only three times in my adult life that I’ve cleaned the oven. I don’t know why I thought our case worker would be checking to see if our oven was clean, but that is what the words “home study” conjured up in my mind anyway.)
The final interviews had come. These were to be with Ginger and me separately. I assume the reason for that is that if one of us had not really wanted to go through with the adoption we could bring a halt to the process without having to reveal the complete truth to our spouse. In our case, we were both as committed, and anxious in every sense, as ever.
I was to have my interview first, and I promised to stop at a pay phone (before the days of cell phones) to call Ginger and tell her what the social worker had asked on my way back to the office. I did. Ginger, in turn, was to call me when her interview, scheduled late in the afternoon, was complete.
The time of Ginger’s interview came and went. There was no call. I waited and waited. No word. I began to get concerned. My anxieties ran rampant. I feared that the social worker had completed Ginger’s interview and said something like Ginger would make a wonderful parent but that I was a complete Bozo who had tried to trick her into thinking we had a clean oven. I imagined Ginger crying because of the disappointment and too upset to call me.
Finally at about 5:30 Ginger arrived at my office door. She had red, puffy eyes. She had clearly been crying. I thought my worst fears were confirmed. Instead, however, she stepped in and said, “You have a son.” And she pulled out a picture of a Korean baby boy. We know him as Andrew. At that point I started to cry. It was all I could do. People from the office came in to see if I was alright. It was very embarrassing.
It turns out that the social worker’s last question to Ginger, as it had been to me, was, “So, are you ready for a baby?” When Ginger responded, “Yes,” the social worker had said, “Good, because I have a referral for you,” at which point she pulled out a file and a picture. Ginger had, of course, met this news with tears of joy, and in all the excitement she couldn’t remember exactly how to get to my office. She had been driving around a long time hoping to recognize something and be able to find the way.
Now, here’s the rest of the story. Ginger is the emotional one in our family. She could cry at the drop of hat. Happy or sad made no difference. Tears were appropriate for any occasion. Not so for me. Up until that point in our lives together, I had never cried. Not once. I didn’t think I had it in me. But when the news of Andrew came, the floodgates broke open. I started to cry, and try as I might, I couldn’t stop. I would think I had myself under control, and we would try to call someone to tell them the news. I would be prepared to speak, but when someone answered the phone, I would start again. I would have to hand the phone back to Ginger. I was reduced to nothing but tears.
People come to the United States from faraway places for many reasons. Some come to escape persecution. Others come in search of freedom. Many come in search of a better life. Some are oppressed. Some are displaced by war. Our son Andrew, and later his brother Matthew, came to complete a family.