Sunday, November 27, 2011

Living Traction

Living Traction
“Rubber hits the road”  “Let’s get some traction”  “Measurable impact” 
These may profoundly articulate why our lives are so precious.
As a man of faith, I firmly believe that our eternal life in heaven will / is so much better than our time here on Earth.  All brokenness is healed in Heaven.  All disability is made able in Heaven.  A day in Heaven is better than a lifetime on Earth.
So why do we cling so to this existence?
1.  God values life and so it would be brokenness to end life pre-maturely.  Yep, this is a valid answer.  However, it is an answer that may not fully explain why “we” cling to life so vehemently.
2.  The 5 senses inspire the soul.  The breath and sight, sweat and touch all invigorate our souls.  In the best of times our extreme sacrifice of service for the other is so akin to that of Jesus Christ that our souls experience the eternal perfection of God - even if in a glimpse.  Our good works gain traction against the suffering and sadness of this life outside of Eden and we discover bits of what God intended when breathing life into us.  That moment of creation when we “became” is such a profound experience of God that when the rubber hits the road we are profoundly reminded of the moment.
3. The Golden Rule is even more true than karma.  The rule of karma would suggest that your actions return to you.  Or as popularly understood, if you treat other poorly than you will be treated poorly.  My experience does not bear this out, at least not in a way so consistent as would be necessary for me to bet my life on it.  Beyond popular understanding, the Golden Rule speaks that we should treat others as we wish to be treated ... because we have already been treated beyond our deserving.  God has so loved and embraced us beyond our deserving that our natural response is to thankfully treat others well.  Ingratitude is the sin we regret.  We cling to this life for more opportunity to live out the Golden Rule and thankfully treat others well.  Our soul understands this better than our 5 senses and our soul drives us where our 5 senses dare not conceive.
Cheer this life for it is a true blessing from God.

Monday, November 21, 2011


by Dr. James R. Brooks
Our pantry is scant.  Not bare, but shelving shows through.  In part by design for we are preparing to move.  We hope we are preparing to move but that is another story.
Tonight we shopped for groceries.  The banks were closed and I carried the temporary checks my bank provided.  Preparing to move has left me uncertain of future addresses.  Purchasing hundreds of checks to be shredded seemed an unwise decision.  Temporary checks seemed so much more wise.
After 90 minutes, two grocery stores, two trips through the aisles filling a cart with food, two trips through the check out line, two rejections of my check, two explanation to my son I decided to wait till the bank opened and shop with cash.  The last experience was the worst.  As we walked away from our cart full of food with my rejected check in my hand, my son asks “no food?”  And I say, “no food.”
Honestly there is money in the account.  The grocery stores do not take a temporary checks.  It is a simple matter of access.  For me it is a simple matter of access.  Yet my son’s words haunt me.
A parent’s nightmares are many.  Hungry children is one.  My son’s words stood the hair on my neck at attention.  My explanation of how checks work and how banks work and blah blah blah quieted his mouth.  My explanation did not remove from my ear his simple words, “no food?”
When I began this reflection, I anticipated a sappy ending of compassion for the truly poor.  Sort of a mock humility as I claimed my status in the world and inspired myself to strive harder to meet the needs of my neighbor.
In truth, what would I deny my neighbor to remove my son’s words from my ears?  What  inequality would I create to insure that my son is never hungry?  Many a parent, like me, would dare not speak the next few questions that dwell within us along this line of thought.  The action we would take is unspeakable.
And God so loved the world that God sent God’s only Son.  And we crucified that Son.  The reasons were many.  Our guilt universal.  And on Easter, the tomb empty (as we fear for our children’s stomachs) and then the appearances such as Emmaus over a meal when bread is broken (symbolism that convicts).  We are saved.  My child saved by God’s child.  Even I who would do the unspeakable to save my child.  Even I am saved. 
Why do saints lie prostrate before God?  Unlike I, they understand their place and the magnitude of God’s grace.  My thanksgiving, I pray, be full of that understanding.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Beatitudes: A Way of Living

by Dr. James R. Brooks, Lead Minister at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Edwardsville, IL

Want to get the most from the impending holiday season?  How about getting even more from the relationships that mean the most for you?  What of experiencing more of each day?
Why do martyrs do that they do?  You know - gladly professing their love of Jesus in the face of torture and death.  What are they seeing that inspires them so?  I want that for me and mine!
Jesus had a funny saying - those who save their lives actual lose their lives.  Similar is true of the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are A Way (Matthew 5:1-12) was part of my sermon this past Sunday.  After the sermon I kicked myself (almost literally) for not sharing more practical thoughts.  Here are the practical thoughts I wish were in that sermon.
Practical Methods of living the Beatitudes:
1.  Experience loss (Matthew 5:4) - intentionally deny yourself something over time ... soda, tv, dessert, texting, social media, soap operas, elevators, etc ... invest that time in listening for God’s voice and reflecting upon your experience of loss - when something was removed from your daily experience what did you seek to fill that time / space / void? 
2.  Create Change (Matthew 5:6)  - alter your routine, re-arrange your desk, walk to work, fold the laundry differently, set the table uniquely ... reflect upon your experience of this controlled change, then upon change that is uncontrolled, then upon the space / energy it creates in your life for God and your neighbor ... new found empathy for those who cannot control the circumstances of change?  
3.  Offer Peace (Matthew 5:9) - Read Luke 10 while looking for the offering and receiving of “peace”, Ruminate on the impact of your language for or against peace with those you love or tolerate, Do you feel closer or further form God when you intend peace each day? 
4.  Thankful Tithe (Matthew 5:11-12) - After experiencing loss, change and peace ... do you feel thankful?  Does feeling thankful inspire your giving to God and others?  Giving of time, talent and treasure?  
These are but a few practical and early ways to living the Beatitudes.  The Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 3rd century CE took this lifestyle to awe inspiring heights of experiencing God and neighbor.  
Your days can be magical ... don’t settle for the ruts and rituals that grind life into dust.