Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Surprises Here...More on Reconciliation

I don’t know why judgmental piety continues to shock me, but it does. If you’re not a Christ-follower, than this post will be of little interest to you. I do want my unbelieving friends to know that I admire and appreciate your honest authenticity!

I’m ashamed of the way we Christians sometimes treat one another, and it’s time we take ownership. Whether I express my frustration in a small group, or on a social networking site, the religious extremists always slap me down.

The latest came after hearing a sermon a couple of weeks ago. I have sought reconciliation with a handful of church leaders several times. I’m not sure why I keep going back in hopes of building bridges. I mean, they’ve made it clear that reconciliation is NOT on their to-do list, but I’m a romantic optimist (and I keep thinking the leaders will do the right thing).

So, after hearing the convicting message about anger, forgiveness, and reconciliation, I posted the following as my status update: “Hey church leaders. How can you hear a sermon like that and not be motivated to reconcile?”

Several people shared their own personal stories of disappointment and frustration, but one person said, “How sad that some people can’t forgive.” That is absolutely a true statement, but what does it have to do with my observations

Look, both statements are accurate and factual. We are commanded to forgive AND reconcile! Not either/or, but both are necessary to build a healthy body, a flourishing church, and robust spiritual health.

I guess I’m not sure why my friend decided to respond to my comment with her mention of forgiveness. Was she passing judgment on me—suggesting that I hadn’t forgiven? I forgave the gossip, lies, and cruelties exacted on my family and me years ago, and then I was convicted to seek reconciliation. I’ve written before about how restoration was denied me, however, because I work for the theatre.

The importance of reconciliation is expressed all throughout the New Testament. Matthew 5:24 admonishes us to not even offer our gifts to God until we have been reconciled with those from whom we are estranged. The verse says, “First go and be reconciled with them; then come and offer your gift.” GO…and be reconciled. How much clearer can it be?

So, before we sing in the choir, sit with the babies in the nursery, greet at the doors, or put a penny in the offering bag, we are to go and be reconciled. Yes, we are also to forgive, be kind, love one another, be generous and peaceful, etc…

I have many non-Christian friends, and I love them dearly! I’ve learned more about what it means to be of good character from them than from so-called believers. They do right by people just because doin’ right is…well…right.

I’ve seen un-churched friends leave work early so they could go see someone they argued with and be reconciled with them. They don’t have an angel sitting on their shoulder to prompt them to make the good and honorable choice, but they do it because the relationship means that much to them.

Christians pray for forgiveness, and then think that act excuses them from doing the virtuous thing. Yes, that’s a general statement, and it certainly doesn’t apply to all believers, but it’s far more common than I’m proud to admit!

Maybe if we weren’t so sure we’d be forgiven for every little thing, we’d be more careful of what exactly those little things were!

Look, I’ve reached out and sought agreement and mutual understanding from Christians, and I’ve heard every excuse as to why it can’t be. But those justifications have NO Biblical foundation. So let me sum up…we Christ-followers are called to forgive AND reconcile. It’s simple and clear.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saying Yes to Cracks

Today, Tom and I spent a bit of time wandering the back packer/rock climber/snow skier paradise that is REI. Recreational Equipment, Inc. (or REI) is the first place we head when looking for camping accessories, gear, equipment, or survival supplies. It’s a pretty awesome store, to be sure.

We strolled around, measured me for a backpack, and then looked at rock climbing paraphernalia.

“I’ve always wanted to rock-climb”, said Tom. Okay, this news surprises me.

“Really? Since when?”

“Since always. In fact, I’m gonna set a goal for myself, and make it happen.” And I think he will.

I started looking—really looking at the special equipment needed to climb a sheer face of granite and not die. One needs the right shoes, ropes, aluminum rings (carbiners), and monolithic protection.

Then I saw the Spring-Loaded Camming Device, or SLCD. The idea of this ingenious little mechanism is to hook into the cracks of the rock to secure the climber and give him something to hold on to as he pulls himself up ever higher.

When placing an SLCD, the climber pulls a mechanism to retract the cams, places it in a crack with the stem pointing down, and releases the mechanism, allowing the cams to spring back against the rock. When the SLCD is pulled downward (say, because of a fall), the spiral-shaped cams are forced harder against the rock, making it more secure. – Stephen Edwards, rock climber

Although some rock faces are considered “sheer”, there are always cracks—some are crazy tiny and some are deep and wide. Without the cracks there’d be nothing to grab hold of and therefore the rock would be impossible to climb.

I love the movie, “Pretty Woman”. Edward (played by Richard Gere) is afraid of heights. He occupies the penthouse suite, which is on the roof of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. He won’t even step out onto the terrace to look out over the city because he’s too scared. Why then, if he’s so afraid of heights, does he stay up there? “Because it’s the best.”

That’s the very reason people give when asked why they climb mountains. “Because it’s the best.” They love the view, the air, the adrenaline rush, and the feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes with overcoming great obstacles and making it to the top.

If we are to reach our full potential and climb to the top of life, we’ve got to face our fears, get and use the right equipment, and summon all our strength and courage to tackle the challenge. But (and this is important), if life is smooth and without cracks, we won’t have anything to hook onto and pull ourselves up. The crevices, cracks, and crannies are necessary imperfections that help us in our climb.

So, next time you hear someone bragging about how smooth life is and how lucky he or she is to have never encountered any breaks in their perfect life, think about the rock climber. Those people might miss out on the experience of standing high up on a challenging mountain of trials and knowing the thrill of surviving—of making it to the top.

You know…I like the fact that my fissures and fractures have been exposed. They’ve given me the footing I needed to climb up over the obstacles and ugly hurdles. And let me tell you, the view from up here is awesome!

Monday, February 7, 2011

When Exercise Systems Talk Back

I really do love to exercise, but I am easily bored. So, I change it up all the time. I often walk or I move to the Wii Fit, the P90X videos (when I’m feelin’ crazy), or a dance DVD.

Last year about this time I purchased the Jenny McCarthy exercise program for the Wii called, “Your Shape”. The package includes a DVD and a small camera. The idea is that the user mirrors Jenny’s avatar and the camera captures the user’s movements. The system senses whether or not the consumer is in sync with Ms. McCarthy.

I plugged in the camera, slid the DVD into the Wii system, turned on the TV, and started to exercise.

Jenny’s cartoon image began stretching and moving on my TV screen, while my image was captured by the camera and projected in a small box in the lower right hand corner of the television. I mirrored her movements perfectly. The camera, however, had a slight delay. This means it APPEARED that I was behind.

Suddenly, Jenny starts talking to me. “It seems you’re having difficulty with this move. We’ll slow down a bit.” Jenny McCarthy is berating me. Are you kidding?

I move closer to the camera in hopes it sees me more clearly.

“Okay. Are you ready?” Jenny prods. “Let’s go!”

We stretch and reach. I can see my image in the corner of the television and the camera is still not reading me properly. My arms are up over my head, but the “me” on the screen looks like she’s moving in slow motion.

“You still seem to be having trouble with this move.”

I am not having trouble, Jenny McCarthy, and I don’t like your tone!

I popped the DVD out of the player, unplugged the camera, and repackaged the whole stickin’ thing. Jenny had been in my home for less than 30 minutes, and I was ready to send her packing!

I drove to Costco, walked up to the return counter, and handed the yellow box back to the woman.

“Is there anything wrong with the product?”

“Yeah! Jenny McCarthy is talking smack about me.” The lovely cashier handed me my money, and I headed home.

Now excuse me while I put on my P90X DVD’s. That guy can’t see me so as far as he knows I rock! And a bonus—he’s way cuter than Jenny!