Monday, July 31, 2006

God @ The Movies: Forrest Gump

Where are we going? That’s a question of trust, isn’t it?

Even though we may have made the decision that God really is good and really does love us, "life is still like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get."

Sometimes you get the really tasty stuff and sometimes you bite into coconut almond surprise. Following Christ doesn't mean that we're suddenly and magically sheltered from reality. We still live in a messed up world where our bodies fail, people stab us in the back - figuratively and, sometimes, literally, and tragedy strikes us and those we love. How does living "in Christ" help us cope with that reality?

Today's movie, Forrest Gump, will help us unpack that very question.

The plot line is really pretty simple. As one reviewer put it, "The film tells the tale of Forrest Gump, a simpleminded man, who manages to live, thrive and survive through three of the most turbulent decades in American history." He becomes a college football star, a decorated soldier in Vietnam, a ping-pong champion and a folkloric jogger-hero. He meets presidents, invents the happy face and unwittingly teaches Elvis how to dance.

"His story is everyone's story. The good stuff, the bad stuff, the ok stuff and the not-so-ok stuff. One cannot help but fall in love with this simple character. One cannot help but root for the poor bugger as life piles load after load ... on top of him. And one cannot help but cheer with tears of joy as Forrest continues to emerge from the pile smelling of the proverbial rose."

While that's the story of Forrest's life, the movie is actually about three people - three broken people and how they deal with the pain of that brokenness.

First there's Jenny, who befriends Forrest in childhood and briefly becomes his wife and the mother of his son, before her death. Emotionally, physically and sexually abused by her father, Jenny is very broken.

She deals with her pain through rebellion and escapism.

We see her bounce around from place to place as a waitress, a hippie, a stripper and a radical '60s groupie, experimenting with sex, drugs, the party crowd, and political activism. But it doesn't work. Her pain only increases to the point where it's almost unbearable, which is what we see in this clip.

Chapter 12 89.39- 91.08

Then, there's Lt. Dan, Forrest's commanding officer in Vietnam. Early in the movie we learn that someone from his family has died in every American war. But Dan isn't as fortunate. At least, that's how he sees it. His legs are blown off in a battle with the Vietcong, but Forrest saves his life and, according to Dan, robs him of his destiny.

Lt. Dan is a broken man in every sense of the word and he attempts to manage his brokenness through anger and bitterness towards God.

Chapter 8 59.48- 61.58

Later, when Forrest becomes captain of his own shrimp boat, Lt. Dan shows up to help out. But shrimping is hard and day after day they come up empty - literally.

Broken person #1 is Jenny, #2 is Lt. Dan, and then there's Forrest himself. Born with an IQ of 75 and a crooked spine that forces him to wear leg braces as a child, Forrest's life is no picnic, either.

Notice that instead of rebellion and escapism or anger and bitterness towards God, Forrest approaches his imperfect life with a childlike faith.

This is demonstrated throughout the movie,

Chapter 3 15.26-17.48

Miracles happen everyday, in the middle of life's messes. That's Forrest's approach. It's a stark contrast to the ones taken by Jenny and to Lt. Dan.

And it's the exact approach that God wants us to take as Christ followers.

Mark 10:13-15
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. But when Jesus saw what was happening, he was very displeased with his disciples. He said to them, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God."

Jesus is saying that without the approach of a child, without childlike faith that simply trusts in God as a loving Heavenly Father, we can't even get into the Kingdom.

But childlike faith does more than just "get us in."

It actually sustains us every day as we deal with the pain of our own brokenness that comes from living in this messed up world. There are at least five aspects of childlike faith illustrated in Forrest's life.

1. Childlike faith trusts the Father's heart.

Instead of blaming Him or running from Him when there's pain, it comes to Him and says, "Daddy, I hurt." It remains convinced that, in spite of that pain, God is still in control and is still good.

After Jenny dies, Forrest reflects on how it all fits together. Listen closely to what he says.

Chapter 18 131.08- 132.48

That's a pretty deep thought isn't it - that despite the randomness of pain, there is still a destiny designed by a loving Father? The Apostle Paul, put it this way ...

Romans 8:35, 37-39
Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Childlike faith trusts the Father's heart of love even though it can't see His hand in the circumstances.

2. Childlike faith also trusts that God will eventually turn what is bad in those circumstances to our good.

Remember the scene where Lt. Dan says to Forrest, "Where is this God of yours?" and Forrest says, "Just then, God showed up."

Chapter 12 94.05- 96.25

But He doesn't show up in sweetness and light. He comes in a hurricane - and that's bad. Or is it?

Childlike faith understands that, eventually, Bubba Gump shrimp is what those who believe in Jesus are going to get, too. Again, Paul writes ...

Romans 8:28, 31-32
We know that God causes everything, even the bad stuff, to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose-that's the people with childlike faith. What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?

Childlike faith trusts the Father's heart, trusts that God will eventually turn the bad to our good ...

3. Since it trusts, childlike faith doesn't demand all the answers now.

It's natural to question, "Why did this or that bad thing happen to me?" but in reality, most of the time, there are no answers. And childlike faith accepts that.
Listen to this profound dialogue between Forrest and his dying friend Bubba.
To Bubba's "why" question, Forrest simply replies, "you got shot. That's why it happened."

Childlike faith can live with that answer. Why? Not because it's naive, but because it trusts that one day the Father will give an answer. That day is homecoming day.

Hebrews 13:14
This world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.

And when that homecoming arrives, the Bible says ...

Revelation 21:4
God will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.

This is why Bubba's desire to go home is so memorable to Forrest. Childlike faith understands that there are no complete answers until we go "home" to Heaven. And so it doesn't demand them.

4. Childlike faith produces a desire to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.

Ephesians 5:1-8
Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins ...
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. Don't be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him. Don't participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it!

In other words, you have the faith that God loves you so let it affect how you live.
That's what we see when Forrest hits the financial jackpot after God blesses his shrimping business through the hurricane. Instead of using his newfound wealth to build a fortress of comfort and self-protection, he goes to work cutting grass for the city of Greensboro. Watch what else he does.

Chapter 14 101.31- 102.59

I think God would just jump for joy if we lived like that! Childlike faith overflows into a lifestyle that pleases the Father.

5. Lastly, childlike faith is not wimpy. It's just the opposite. It produces an incredible tenacity, the ability to just put one foot in front of the other, even when the pain is unbearable.

In the scene after Jenny almost takes her own life, she goes back to Greensboro and back to Forrest. It looks like they're going to live happily ever after, but she's so wounded that she can't give and receive love, and she leaves him. And you think it's a devastating blow for him.

But watch what happens.

Chapter 16 113.45- 116.00

Romans 8:14-15
God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?"

Childlike faith isn't timid and wimpy. It tenaciously says, "since I've gone this far I might as well turn around and keep on going."

Childlike faith trusts the Father's heart when it can't see His hand. It believes that He'll use life's bad stuff for good. It doesn't demand all the answers now. It desires to live a life pleasing to the Father. And it perseveres, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

How are dealing with the brokenness in your life today?

Are you rebelling and escaping, like Jenny?

Are you angry and bitter like Lt. Dan?

By the end of the movie, both of these characters realize the emptiness of those strategies and come around to Forrest's way of thinking.

I’m praying that's what happens to you and me. I trust that you can see that childlike faith is a sustaining faith, strong enough to triumph in a world where "life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you're going to get."

Are you learning beliefs, practices, attitudes, and a lifestyle that reflect a childlike faith?

Chapter 18 133.14- 133.37

God loves you and is waiting for you to come home.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sometimes the most courageous act is what you don't do.

John 8:1-11
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

"Teacher," they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?"

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, "Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?"

"No, Lord," she said.

And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."

No one knows what Jesus wrote in the dust, but it did take courage for the men involved to drop the rocks that they meant to kill this woman with. Is God asking you to drop a rock or two?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves you. He has also given you a destiny and dream to pursue- now go for it!

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Community is hard work. As a result, many people love the idea of community more than the experience of community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The church is to be the distinctive community of believers for which God created the world as in 1 Peter 2:4-10.

We are to be a family of very different people united by our faith in Christ, as per Ephesians 2:11-22.

Our purpose is to glorify God through lifting up each other and living like Jesus before the world, Ephesians 4:7-16.

We are to be an undivided body of disciples who are God’s diverse gifts to the whole world, 1 Corinthians 12:4-27.

Our unity carries the responsibility of love, Romans 12:3-21. Our love is unconditional, costly, considerate and available to all.

We are to seek peace by modeling the forgiveness we know in Jesus Christ, as in Colossians 3:10-12.

Our recent trip to Kelowna was rich with these truths. Being blessed by the hospitality of Randy & Deb, doing life together, all because we shared and continue to share a common love for Jesus Christ and each other.

Wow, that's the church! It meets in a home on 1602 Bennett Road, and in many other homes, too. Make it true in yours today.

John 15:13 The Message
"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

God @ The Movies: Seabiscuit

Today we’re looking at the movie Seabiscuit. Context of movie is in the 1920’s and thirties before and after the great depression. This is a movie not just about a horse, but even more importantly a movie about three broken individuals who find healing in their relationship with one another.

Introduction of Characters:

Charles Howard
Tom Smith
Red Pollard

Chapter 2 - 7:03 to 8: 02

Smith is a horseman, riding the open ranges who’s life is now being changed due to the age of the automobile and the fences along highways. He becomes a trainer of horses for a wild west show. Instead of living the life he has known and is designed to live he ends up doing what he does to present a show of the wild west that he had known.

Charles Howard is a rags to riches story, He is an entrepreneur, becomes very wealthy, he is a likeable man with energy and optimism. He replaces horses in the stables with cars. His toasts and speeches are always “ to the future”

Then comes the stock market crash of October 29…. 25% workforce unemployed.

Red Pollard: We are introduced to him as a younger boy, who is a natural horse rider and well read young man. When his dad was out of work. He got a job at a horse farm, and learned how to be a jockey.

Chapter 4 - 16:36 - 18:10.

Dad and mom leave him at the farm because they cannot afford to feed the whole family. Red becomes a jockey who is too tall and always struggling to make his weight of 115. He ends up being a training jockey in a ruthless and cutthroat environment. At a young age he is a gentle and soft hearted young man who is well read and loyal to his family…. He feels abandoned and confused, after facing hardships, disappointment, abandonment and an unkind world, Red begins to become hardened and angry.

In the meantime, Charles Howard is forced to lay off workers and is feeling the crunch of the post wall street crash and the great depression. When he and his wife go on a business trip into the city his son, who is about twelve years old takes out the family truck and tragically dies in an accident. Howard’s life and optimism about the “future” is radically altered. His wife never recovers and ends up leaving him.

Tom becomes a drifter and rail rider, Howard is no longer interested in cars and money, and Red, trying to make money wherever he could becomes a part time jockey and a very poor boxer, trying to make money in a sport that he is not very good at.

Tijuana Mexico became a a booming town where many Americans would go to get respite from the woes of their own country and lives . Horse racing became big and we see how these three men’s lives become interconnected.

All three men are broken, their lives are no longer the same as they once were. They do not yet know one another and yet we will see that circumstances in their lives are conspiring to bring them together for a purpose.

We call this God’s providence and when we fully believe in the all knowing, all powerful and all present God, we learn to trust that no matter where we are on our journey, that He does have a plan and does have things under control. Even when we are in the depths of our brokenness, we can trust God that he will bring good out of this brokenness if we yield to him and submit our will to His will.

Charles Howard becomes less interested in cars, likely due to the death of his son in a car and becomes more interested in horses and horse racing, but more importantly he becomes more interested in people. He begins to look for a trainer. His wealthy friends encourage him to find a big name trainer. But because of his own brokenness Howard seems to be more interested in helping other hurt and broken people.

Chapter 8 39:43 - 42:30.

Howard hires Smith as his trainer. Smith tells him that he needs to look for a horse with heart and is not going to run away from a fight. They end up in Saratoga New York looking for a horse. Smith meets Seabiscuit who is too small to race and has been trained to let other horses beat him. Seabiscuit has small horse syndrome, an attitude, but also a fire inside of him. The horse was abused and deemed lazy and became hardened. Like Red Pollard he became bitter and angry from the hurt and pain of life.

Smith sees a spirit in Seabiscuit, and looks past his anger and aggressiveness. He does the same with Red Pollard.

Chapter 9 - 47:52 - 48:35.

Point: Having people in our lives that can see past our stuff, past our outward appearance and protective measures and see the potential, is a gift.

God knows our hearts, He knows our potential because he made us in his image, but as a result of the fall that image became distorted. We are all broken in some way, some of us just more visibly than others.

Romans 5:12
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

Our brokenness is part of the human condition. How much do we desire for others to see past our brokenness and give us love. Just as Smith instinctively saw past the outward brokenness of Seabiscuit and Red Pollard, so Jesus is able to see through and past the evidence of our own brokenness. God sees the inside while humankind sees what’s on the outside. And as a Christian community we learn and grow into maturity so that we may see the potential of each other and come to see the inside, grow to see each other as Jesus would see us, As Tom saw the potential in Seabiscuit and Red, how wonderful it would be for all of us to have someone see our potential and encourage that. We can do this for one another.

Red meets Seabiscuit. In one scene Red tells Seabiscuit, I know what you’re all about. He understands him because he has the same brokenness and anger inside him. They are both diamonds in the rough. They develop a bond.

Howard takes both Seabiscuit and Red Pollard back to San Francisco so they may train. Howard begins to heal and regain his lost soul. The barn, which used to house his race cars now becomes home for Seabiscuit and his team of broken men.

They discover that Seabiscuit is a very fast horse. They begin to win races, and form deep friendships at the same time. They also have an understanding of their own brokenness and fallibilities. They develop into a community who needs one another. They develop into a community who understand their weaknesses and problems and desire to journey with one another any way.

As a church community at CoHo we recognize and confess to our brokenness, we encourage authenticity and difficult dialogue. We strive for an authentic and real community. It is not unusual to look around after a service and see us crying together, consoling one another, praying for one another. We need not paste on the false smiles that have hidden our hurt and pain and struggle.

Billy Graham’s daughter, Ruth Graham has written a book titled In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart.

In the book she speaks of her two broken marriages and the chaos of her life as she attempted to keep on the plastic smile and live up to the expectations of being Billy Graham’s daughter. In one interview Ruth Graham says,

It doesn’t matter who you are or what family you come from. Life happens. And life brings you blows that you don’t expect." It happens to Billy Graham’s family too.

Ruth Graham had an understanding that in her image she had to carry God’s reputation, wanting God to look good. She goes on to tell a story of divorce, depression, dealing with her own kids teenage drug use, eating disorders and pregnancies.

Some of you are going through or have gone through tremendous pain of loss. Divorce, loss of job, loss of family, loss of health, loss of innocence, some of you are recovering from abusive and highly dysfunctional homes.

But in our brokenness we often build a house of cards around us. We have unhealthy mechanisms that help us cope with the reality of our own brokenness and our broken world. Denial, ambition, aggression, depression, all symptoms of or coping mechanisms that never allow us to come to a place of healing. In my own life the house of cards came tumbling down in rapid succession as divorce, job loss, loss of friends, my parents divorce, and my father’s death came one after another. And in my own healing journey I have tried to be open with my own story for the same reasons that Ruth Graham has.

Graham says in the same interview:

To be open with our struggles is to minister to others. Being authentic allows for ministry. People who are hurting need to know that they are not alone and struggle is part of the human condition, and no one is exempt.” Ruth Graham

The Apostle Paul knew that for him to minister and do what God had called him to do that he must be authentic with his own life and struggle. We get a glimpse of Paul’s authenticity in his letters to the first churches, and we can glean from those that Paul was authentic in his daily life. Paul didn’t wear the painted on smiles, and false optimisms that some of us have experienced in churches. He was real with his struggle and real with his hope.

In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul writes of his weaknesses when he tells of pleading with God to remove what he calls a thorn in the flesh,

“ I begged three times to take this problem away from me. But he said to me “ my grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me… Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong. 2 Cor. 12: 8-10 NCV

This theme of Paul’s in being able to speak of his own brokenness and weakness is threaded through many of his letters to the churches of the first century.

As in any relationships, those that are close to us are sometimes required to hold a mirror up to our stuff so that it can be healed.

Chapter 13 - 1:04:24 – 1:05:29

Red still has to deal with his anger and how it is affecting his life and his ability to be the best jockey he can be. ( he fouled me… he cut me off, what am I supposed to do! )

Point: What are you so mad at….? What are you so scared of? Why are you so worried? We need people to ask us the tough questions sometimes so that we may begin to live the examined life.

Dealing with our issues, admitting our brokenness, being confronted by those who care for us that something is not quite right, and humbling ourselves to ask for help, is part of the healing journey.

In Henry Cloud’s book Changes That Heal he helps us understand that it is necessary to have people in our lives that will speak truth. But he warns that truth without grace is legalism and brings death and destruction. In community it is much easier to see the behaviours of others and quickly pronounce “truth” . “Well, stop doing this, stop doing that, I see this in you, you need to change that.” But in some relationships and churches there is no grace. On the other hand when there is grace without truth we believe that we have licence to do whatever we want or brings instant pleasure and we never fully grow and mature. Healing comes when grace and truth are melded together in a healthy environment, that has patience for one another.

Grace + Truth + Patience = Healing

Jesus represents to us this combining of grace and truth. As we are broken in what is known as original sin, so we are reconciled to God through the grace and truth of Christ.

Speaking of Christ, John writes,

“ Because he was full of grace and truth, from him we all received one gift after another. The law was given through moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:16 – 17 NCV

In community we recognize that it is those who care for us who are willing to speak truth into our lives, even when the truth may hurt or cause us to have to face the repressed issues that are holding us back from healing. Howard did not deliver the truth of Red’s behaviour without first establishing a caring relationship. That is grace. So if we are tempted to deliver a “truth” to someone we ask ourselves, have I first established a relationship of grace.

If you are tempted to deliver truth, ask yourself have I first established a relationship of grace?

Red is humbled and broken and is finally able to go to the man he trusts and ask him for help. He had come through the school of hard knocks and vowed not to ask for help in anything, Until he is finally confronted with and confronts his own brokenness and anger in a place of grace.

Chapter 13 - 1:05:30 – 1:06:41

And it is when we are humble and understand our brokenness that we can come to our Father in Heaven and ask him for help. This is when our own hearts are ready to receive the gifts that he has for us. Red was not able to receive until he was able to confront his own hardness, come to terms with it and then humble himself and trust in Howard who was a father figure for him. And like our father in heaven, Howard surprises Red by giving him not only what he needed, but by giving Him extra blessings.

The blessings we receive from our father in heaven are not necessarily material, but He desires and wants to give us more in this life than we can ever imagine. We know that he works through people, and we begin to ask each other for help as well.

Broken people can sometimes appear to be the most proud. But maybe what we may deem to be pride and arrogance is really fear. Fear of rejection, fear of judgment, fear of intimacy. Brokenness in many ways can be used to crack the shell of our pride and fear. Some of us remain stubborn in our brokenness, but that stubbornness stops us from hearing what God has to say. When we finally lay our will down, our own desire and our own pride, accept our broken state and ask God for help, we are open to the power and restoration of God’s truths as expressed in the Bible, by His Holy Spirit and in community that we know as church.

Our hearts become softened, our attitudes become humble, and we are open to hear and experience what God may have to say.

We are blessed when we confess our brokenness. We are blessed when we confess our sins, We are blessed when we confess our weakness and our need for God.

“ God blesses those who are poor in spirit and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs” NCV

“ God blesses those who realize their need for Him for the kingdom of heaven is given to them. Matthew 5:3 NLT

In Seabiscuit, the path to redemption begins for the three men who’s lives are intertwined by fate, or what we would call God’s Providence. When we are broken we begin to pay attention to God’s providence, we pay attention to those he brings into our paths, we pay attention to circumstance, opportunity, and evidence of His timeless truth of love, hope and restoration of soul.

Seabiscuit goes on to race and win. Men who were broken suddenly felt restored, men who were shattered finally found their voice.

They go on to publicly challenge the mighty War Admiral, a triple crown winner – eighteen hands high. An arrogant horse owned by an arrogant man. Several scenes back and forth showing War Admiral’s owner turning down the challenge to race seabiscuit.

But Red is not ready yet because he has not completely confronted his own brokenness. In one race leading up to the match race with War Admiral, Red loses the race and Smith is angry with him because he thinks that he didn’t listen to his coaching.

Chapter 18 - 1:21:20 – 1:22:41

Red never told Howard and Tom that he was blind in his right eye. Tom wants to get a new jockey and write Red off.

“ You don’t throw a whole life away because it’s banged up a little bit.”

In Smith’s own words Howard reminds him that a life and a heart is worth nurturing or caring for, particularly when it becomes banged up a little bit. How about us? When we fall or stumble or lose our way, do we hide it? Like Red did. Or do we finally come clean with our stuff and admit to those that we love, whether it be in family or community that “ we can’t see out of this eye.” We can’t see our behaviour sometime, we can’t see the deep pain that is causing for us to continue in our cycles of brokenness and despair. We can’t see out of this eye. Yet what a relief when Red is able to confess that to Howard and Smith. Howard is a wise man and uses Smith’s own words.

“ You don’t throw a whole life away because it’s banged up a little bit”

When we’re in the story together we don’t give up on one another. As a church community or family, many of us know each others story. It has become a safe place to tell your story of brokenness and redemption and not feel judged. It is a place where it is safe to say that I’m not living the “victorious” life and I’m struggling. God hasn’t given up on us, so we don’t give up on each other because we are banged up a little. And we recognize and humble ourselves to admit that we are all banged up a little. And that is where healing in community comes.

Charles affirms Red as Seabiscuit’s jockey after the press vilifies him for his errors. They go on a cross country trip to challenge War Admiral’s owner to a race. The media and the public catch on to the story and cheer them on.

The challenge is accepted and Howard and Red and the gang go east to take on War Admiral. In a twist of fate, while test running another horse as a favor to an old friend, Red has a horrible accident and his leg suffers a severe break. He is told that he will never ride again.

Howard is reminded of the son he lost in his truck accident. They contemplate scratching the match but Red insists that they call his old friend and world famous jockey, George Woolf to ride Seabiscuit in the race against War Admiral. In the late nineteen thirties horse racing was as popular as football and this race would be akin to the Super Bowl.

Seabiscuit wins in a dramatic finish, and in the movie you can’t help but be moved by the scene with sweeping music and dramatic flourish. Red Pollard is listening on the radio from his hospital bed.

They return home and Red still believes he will ride again in spite of the doctors’ prognosis. Red’s anger returns as George Woolf now becomes Seabiscuit’s jockey. In a subsequent race, jockeyed by Woolf, Seabiscuit then comes up lame and he too, damages his leg.

Red nurses Seabiscuit back to health, and makes a splint for his leg as he believes, against the words of their respective doctors that they won’t race again that they will indeed race. After Red nurses Seabiscuit back to health, he expects that he will race him again but Howard and Smith get George Woolf to test run him with the intent of entering him into another race.

Howard has a change of heart and realizes that as much as he fears Red getting seriously injured that he has to let him race.

Red and Seabiscuit, against all odds, and in the love and support of his community come back and go on to win,

Chapter 25 - 2:09:50 – 2:12:10

When we go through the healing process of admitting our need for Christ and each other, opening our hearts to change and love, and committing to the journey together which is what Smith and Howard and Red and Seabiscuit did, then we may go on to win the race that God has set before us. The race that we win is not necessarily marked by worldly successes, money, fame, security, or comfort. It is a race that is a journey of redemption and restoration of heart, soul and mind from our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world, to one of maturity in character and faith.

It is a race run in community, perfecting our faith. just as each of these main characters needed one another, we cannot run this race alone.

Hebrews 12:1-2
“ We have around us many people who’s lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and makes it perfect.

We look to Jesus in our brokenness, and we look to His community in our brokenness, but first we come to a humble admission that we are all broken, and we recognize the gifts that can come from this brokenness.

But like Red and Howard and Smith and Seabiscuit, we commit to the journey, we commit to the race together.

As we leave let’s think about what that means to commit to the journey together...

Through His gift of Christ, our father has shown us an amazing love in our brokenness, He has shown us an amazing love in forgiving us our sin and being patient with our broken nature. He is our encouragement to be patient with one another on the journey of healing from our brokenness.

by Bob Stenhouse

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

God @ The Movies: Crash

Today we look at the Academy Award winner of the best picture for last year, the movie Crash. Christianity Today also rated it one of the top 10 best redeemable movies of 2005. I don’t choose the movies as such- they seem to choose me. There are ones that I’ve previously watched and there are others that come along and I become convinced that we need to look at them, such as the movie today, despite that fact that I hadn’t seen it before. I believe that it’s the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That being said let’s look at today’s movie:

Crash is set in present day Los Angeles, and features the lives of several individuals and couples, as their lives crash into each other over a 36-hour time period. It is intense, & rated ‘R’ for language and sexuality.

The film opens with a series of interactions that are tense and filled with discrimination, anger and hatred.

Two police officers have been rear-ended by another woman and engage in a sarcastic, racist interchange.

… A storeowner who was recently robbed enlists the help of his daughter to buy a gun and encounters more racism and hatred.

There are two young men discussing their treatment in a restaurant, using racist terms and then they car jack the SUV of the local District Attorney and his wife;

In a subsequent scene we see the couple that had been carjacked having the locks changed on their posh home because of the robbery. That situation is erupting into a fight:

Chapter 3 12.17- 13.13

The DA then tries to set his strategy and press release concerning the killing of an off duty African American police officer by an undercover narcotics officer, who happens to be Caucasian. It is filled with derogatory comments about African Americans and Iraqi’s.

In this next clip we witness the relational fallout among a couple that was pulled over, discriminated, abused and humiliated by a racist police officer. Bob, who just started a new blog, had an interesting post called The Paradox of Policing. In his post he addressed police brutality, and we realize things aren’t always as clear-cut as we’d like them. The categories we see with are in need of some revising.

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names." Chinese proverb

Chapter 10 53.38- 55.18 1.40

In this brief clip we watch the Director and the storeowner in pain. The storeowner was vandalized and has lost everything because of his negligence and brutal treatment of a locksmith, while his producer has just discriminated against the director.

Chapter 11 59.03- 60.06

Life in the dumpster’. What can men do with such reckless hate?

In the following scene, we watch the woman who had been molested by the police officer, now upside down is a car accident. The very same cop shows up to try and help her:

Chapter 12 64.00-65.45

This woman had her categories revised, didn’t she? Jesus was, and still is doing that to us, too.

Luke 10:30-37
Jesus replied with a story: "A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

"By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

"Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, `Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I'll pay you the next time I'm here.'

"Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.

The man replied, "The one who showed him mercy." Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

That woman’s husband has become fed up and is making his last stand, and it could lead to his death. He’s arguing with police officers that suspect a crime, and they are ready to shoot him. The partner of the racist officer is standing up for him:

Chapter 15 78.55-79.20

I didn’t ask for your help!”

Did the Jewish man have similar thoughts while the Samaritan was approaching, and even tending to him? The Good Samaritan parable is all about action, and love and not theoretical Ivory Tower philosophical discussions at Starbucks.

The officer who rescued the woman he abused because of her skin color didn’t see that distinction while in the role of a ‘helper’, a rescuer. Jesus has made all of us rescuers!

Earlier, the racist officer had taken his young partner aside and told him to wait, to withhold the judgment for some time on his racism. ‘Let time and experience show you who you’ll become’, he says. The caution still holds true for us. Training is learning the rules; experience is learning the exceptions and wisdom knows which to apply when.

Wisdom helps us refine the categories we see in. Less tribalism, more love. Less power, greater spiritual authority. That’s the way of Jesus.

Ever shown hatred with ‘just a ‘look’’? Ever experienced it that way? When I was young, I was walking to the corner store. I looked at a kid, he looked at me, we basically said, ‘You want to fight?” and we did. After a couple of seconds I said to myself, ‘this is stupid, so I left the fight & went into the store; the other guy was dumbfounded, and finally left. Most fights with others are due to what’s going on inside of us aren’t they?

The DA’s wife is calling a friend and sharing what’s going on inside of her,

Chapter 17 85.27-86.35

I wake up like this every morning.”

Crash shows us very painfully how negative energy spreads, how sin entangles, how anarchy feels. It shows us the main forms of relational sins: assault and withdrawal. Many of the scenes and hurtful; interactions happen because someone was hurt and then they recycle the pain.

Hurt people hurt people!

"Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead." Chinese proverb

James 4:1-3
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

A police officer says at one point in the movie, “Things are more complicated than we originally thought.”

No kidding.

Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

In this last scene, we witness a car on fire, an act of destruction that quickly brings others to join into the fray.

Chapter 21 103.15- 106.36 3.21

In the midst of all the pain, the people don’t need more anger; they need compassion, mercy, love and grace. We can either add fuel to the fire or we can be a part of putting it out. Billy Joel was wrong when he sang, “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” We did! You and me. And every day, with every action and inaction, we either add to the fire and destruction or say with the help of Jesus, ‘It’s time to put out the rage in my own heart first.'

Angry people live as if the world owes them something that they can never quite put their finger on. Angry authority figures are impossible to please. Angry leaders attract angry followers and the cycle of dysfunction keeps going.

Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" John 16:33.

"What difference do Jesus' death and resurrection make in my relationships?"

"How do I glorify God in the midst of this struggle?"

"How do I serve people who oppose me?"

The gospel provides the enduring basis for overcoming violence and despair because of its power to transform hearts. And transformed hearts lead to transformed lives, transformed churches, and transformed societies. This is the hope that is in Jesus Christ. This is the reason we’re called the Community of Hope.

For Christ followers, relationships are what we are concerned with. We often experience frustration with doing the right thing!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Find a need that beats your drum. Create a plan, and then make a dent. Trust that your rewards will come. And credit them as heaven sent.” Peter Drucker

Jeremiah 29:11
I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not or disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I've Got Rights You Know

Rights are big these days, aren't they? It seems daily that appeals go out on behalf of the Charter, or to challenge the Charter. More often than not the parties involved are seeking their own good. Granted, we need to have certain rights spelled out, but as Ken Sande reminds us, even as Christ followers it seems that we focus a little too much on our individual rights.

Rights are not something we deserve and possess for our own benefit. They are privileges given to us by God, and He wants us to use them for his glory and to benefit others, especially by helping them know Christ.

Consider thess questions whenever you ponder a discussion of the Charter,

"Will exercising my rights honor God by showing the power of the Jesus Christ in my life?"

"Will exercising my rights advance God's kingdom--or will it advance only my interests at the expense of his kingdom?"

"Will exercising my rights benefit others?"

"Is exercising my rights essential for my own well-being?"

Philippians 2:3-4
Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pursuing The Dream

For what am I most grateful?

For what am I least grateful?

Where have I been most aware of God’s presence?

Where have I been least aware of God’s presence?

These are key questions that allow us the needed growth to reach towards our dream.

"I don't care about material things. It never meant Jack to me. … The only thing that I guess I would treasure more than anything else is the health of my kids, then my wife, then me. In that order. Everything else I could take care of easy . . . I'm here. I go to bed at night, you know, with four kids laying on your head. That's a lot cooler existence than being on the cover of a goofy magazine with the latest starlet. It only plays well to selling covers of magazines. It's a pretty lonely existence. I can tell you firsthand." Jon Bon Jovi

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Dream Come True

On Sunday, my ten-year-old son was returning from a week in San Francisco. As we gathered as a family at the airport, I was very excited to see him. He'd had a great time and our house had been quieter, but all-in-all, it was time for a teary reunion.

As he came into view, head bobbing over a rail, I felt my heart swell with emotion. As I made eye contact, his face flushed red and a huge smile erupted.

We ran to each other and I gave him a crushing "I love you so much" hug, which was reciprocated. My son was home. Later that evening, when asked who he missed, he said "my mom and dad."

When asked what he missed about his dad he added, "His cuddles and his encouragement." Wow. I would have given him the car keys if he'd have asked. (That would have been a problem; he's only 10!)

The feeling of returning home, of coming back to the fold is a God-given joy. God has always welcomed back His people, and the images Jesus shares with us are of a dad who runs shamelessly to his returning wayward son.

Luke 15:20-24
While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him... "His father said to the servants, `Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began.

On Sunday afternoon, we had a party, too!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Dream Of A Church...

What do you dream for Community of Hope? Or for your own church?

Think and drink deeply from your dreams, following the likes of Joseph, Daniel and the great visionaries of the present...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dream Cycle II

“The best way to influence others is with your ears, by listening.” Dean Rusk

Are you listening to those around you? Do you hear their dreams in what they say? Are you attentive to the rumblings of the Spirit in the life they live?

Too often we're running at the redline and aren't able to listen to ourselves, never mind others. What dream is emerging in your soul?

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Dream Cycle

A nagging question in the mind of every man is, “How fast will it go? How fast can I go? How fast can I go in it?”

Today we’ll look at the movie, The World’s Fastest Indian to get a picture of the dream cycle. What is a dream cycle you ask?

A dream cycle is the idea that every one of us is on a journey toward who we want to be, who we were meant to be, and what we will achieve with our lives. Making progress on this dream-inspired journey will require us to grow. You can take tangible, giant steps toward becoming the person you want to be and achieving the things you want to do with your life.

A dream is simply a compelling awareness of what should or could be, accompanied by a growing sense of responsibility to do something about it.

What gets you up in the morning? Lets watch what gets Burt Munro up in the morning, in 1962 in a little town in New Zealand called Invercargill.

Chapter 1 – 00.27- 2.35

You get the picture that Burt Munro is a bit of a character, don’t you? He’s obviously mechanically oriented and very interested in speed. I admire those with mechanical aptitude. Because I don’t have a lot of it myself.

We find out that Burt Munro is retired and seeking to find out how fast he can ride his favorite motorcycle, a 1920 Indian Scout. His dream is to take it to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and get a timed run in. he runs on the beaches in New Zealand, and the roads, but not only is it hard to get a good runway for speed, it’s also very dangerous. Bonneville is the Mecca of speed.

Burt doesn’t have much by way of resources to get to the United States, so his friends hold a fundraiser for him. He ultimately gets a loan from the bank, using his ‘shack’ as collateral to secure enough money to get to the US. The dream is slowly dieing for Burt, and his lack of funding, along with a heart problem aren’t helping maters either.

The young neighbor, Tom, who really looks up to Burt asks him about his dream:

Chapter 3 25.43- 27.35

“Any day above ground and vertical at my age is a good day.” Listen to the optimism in Burt, optimism that helps keep his dream cycle going.

Anthropologist Lionel Tiger distinguished between what he calls little optimism and big optimism. Little optimism subsumes specific expectations about positive outcomes: “I will find a convenient parking space this evening.”

Big optimism refers to — obviously — larger and less specific expectations: “Our church is on the verge of something great.”

Here are some other examples,
Douglas Macarthur: “I shall return
Robert F. Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are and say why; I dream things that never were and say why not
Martin Luther King Jr.: “I have a dream
Jimmy Valvano: “Never give up
Casey Kasem: “Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the sky

When Munro finally gets all the dollars needed to go, he finds a disappointing feeling inside set off by the fact that many don’t believe that he can make it.

Chapter 4 29.30- 30.35

If you don’t go when you want to go, when you do go, you’ll find you’ve gone.” That is so true, regardless of your age.

Listen to how Munro responds from deep within his soul about the opposition, or disbelief that he’s encountering:

Chapter 4 32.00- 34.00

It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. Theodore Roosevelt

Well Burt Munro makes it to Los Angeles, having to work off his passage on a ship by cooking. While in LA he’s helped by a transvestite and a Hispanic car salesman, along with a few others on the highway to Utah. He finally sets his eyes upon the Salt Flats and watch his reaction. Remember, Burt Munro had been dreaming of this for over 25 years.

Chapter 9 78.50- 80.55

Every dream is Holy Ground.

Well, as Burt gets ready to run his motorcycle, he finds out that he was supposed to pre-register. His dream is so close to fruition, but policy and procedure Nazi’s now are suffocating it. He reaches out to a new friend, fellow speed nut Jim Moffat for help. Moffat asks the race organizers to at least let Munro’s motorcycle go through tech inspection. Let’s watch what happens.

Chapter 10 88.04- 91.04

There’s always opposition, or obstacles to overcome in pursuit of a dream. Some of us are more inclined to create goals and pursue them; while others are better equipped to follow a direction and deal with the problems that crop up. Neither way is better; they can complement each other quite well.

Burt Munro does get to run a trial. We’ll pick up his run after several miles, each one being successfully faster than the previous. His bike, his equipment leaves a little to be desired. He faces searing heat from the exhaust pipe, as well as a high-speed fish tale. Watch and enjoy:

Chapter 14 114.00- 117.05

Wow, what a ride. As Burt Munro shows us, so much of a dream is the person you become as you pursue it. The reward is in the doing it. The challenge is dealing with disappointment without becoming cynical and sarcastic.

Dreams take growth!

You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather is. Irish proverb

What God is often teaching us in the pursuit of a dream is refining our experience of ‘no’. Tell a young child, “No” and they’ll either pout or throw a tantrum. Sadly, many so-called adults behave the same way with God.

True dreamers understand that the currency of opposition and suffering is a necessary deposit for a later return.

At one point, Munro had just made it to LA, only to find the bike crate damaged. The customs official; suggests he sue the shipping company and Munro simply says, “I’m not going to waste my life suing anybody.”

No matter what your age, you can pursue your dreams. Several Munro’isms: getting old ain’t for the faint of heart; many a good tune is played on an old banjo; life’s a funny thing- you never know what’s around the corner.

We can learn from Burt Munro that you need the help of a community, and people that love you to pursue your dreams. Sadly, many times the church is the place people become discouraged from their dreams!

Ephesians 3:20
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

There is much confusion over the idea of our dreams, especially in Christ followers. We often start at the wrong place, which means that even with a good plan we’ll end up in the wrong place!

Munro began his quest like we need to: with God. For Burt, his was the God of speed; for us, ours is the living God Jesus Christ.

"You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans."

Discover your divine destiny. Not our own destiny!

The quickest way to make ourselves miserable is to continually focus on ourselves. Bertrand Russell

God-inspired dreams are not placed in your heart as a taunt. If your dream really is God-given, you can reach it.

God wants us to grow to the place where we want what He wants. It is the pursuit of this dream that brings every other dream to fruition, modification or demolition, if need be.

"The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wants me to do; the thing is to find the truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die." Soren Kierkegaard

In the movie Burt Munro, doesn’t just have a heart problem; he also has a prostate problem. He has a need to pee more often than he should. The story goes of him peeing on his lemon tree for fertilizer. Sadly, we often do this to each other’s dreams. Lets not pee on them. If we have questions or doubts, there are better ways to fertilize another persons dream. Dreams can be very fragile indeed.

Goodwin’s Expectation Principle: A potential leader tends to rise to the level of genuine expectancy of a leader he or she respects.

What if we practiced Goodwin’s Expectancy Principle with each other and our dreams: nurturing the Godly pursuit of what He has placed within us. Being there for each other during the setbacks, during the formation of Godly character, and cheering on the victories. Sounds like what a good church should be doing for each other!

Ryan quoted on his blog, The Bassic Point of Vue: Thanks to everyone who's supported our dream by coming to shows and buying our music and merch and just plain appreciating what we do! Hopefully the best is yet to come!

Robert & Lois, maybe going to Belize!

Terry & Bev, who dreamt of a holistic place for Natives North Americans to find Jesus Christ.

To all of you who dreamt of a place like CoHo where we can be a part of God’s work in transforming the broken hearted into hope filled followers of Jesus Christ.

For Ted & Bev, who uprooted the whole family to pursue God down in Alabama.

For so many of you, pursuing what God wants from your life, "Way to go!"

Hebrews 11- all about faith, ‘dreams’.

"Anyone living their dreams picks up the people around them." Dr. James B. Richards

Don't put live eggs under dead chickens. Howard Hendricks

Let your friends help you nurture your God-given dreams towards fruition!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

All Things New

All Things New by Steven Curtis Chapman
listen to the song
You spoke and made the sunrise, to light up the very first day
You breathed across the water, and started the very first wave
It was You
You intoduced Your glory, to every living creature on earth
And they started singing, the first song to ever be heard
They sang for You

You make all things new
You make all things new

Then the world was broken, fallen and battered and scarred
You took the hopeless, the life, wasted, ruined and marred
And made it new

You make all things new
You make all things new
You redeem and
You transform
You renew and
You restore
You make all things new

You make all things new
And forever we will watch and worship You
You turn winter into spring
You take every living thing
And You breathe Your breath of life into it over and over again
You make the sunrise, day after day after day
But there's a morning coming, when old things will all pass away And everyone will see

And forever we will watch and worship You
Now and forever

You are making all things new
You're making all things new


Even new for you & me!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


1 Peter 4:8 (The Message)
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Become a Hope Builder

There are many who would have us believe that hope fades, and that it should rightfully be that way. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man."

That clearly is not the message of the Bible or the mission of the life of Jesus. Instead of stamping out hope wherever we go, God desperately wants us to rekindle and nurse those dieing embers back into a raging fire for the broken and downtrodden!

Hope serves to lead us to the end of our lives by an agreeable route.

If we are to become rabid hope builders, there are a few simple questions that we can ask ourselves to help give us a laser-like intensity regarding hope:

My core strengths are:

I am most passionate about:

The difference I most want to make in the world is:

The place that God has set me to be a hope builder is:

If we'll take the time to periodically review these questions, we'll be well on our way to being able to build hope in those around us, and indeed ourselves through the way God has made us.

1 Thes­salo­nians 5:16 – 18 The Message
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Gratitude Speaks

"Put your appreciation into action by taking time to show your appreciation. Tell one or more people something you appreciate about them. Remember, what you put out comes back." Doc Childre and Sara Paddison

Write a quick note, send an email, make a phone call, or just say something to someone. Pay it forward!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

To Be In Ministry...

To be in ministry is to be willing to stand between a God and a people who are longing for one another's love, and that usually means that you turn back and forth between them with no hope of tending either as well as each deserves;

To be in ministry is to serve a God who never stops calling people to do more justice and love more mercy and simultaneously to serve people who nine times out of ten are just looking for a safe place to rest;

To be in ministry is to know things are not as they should be and yet to care for them the way they are;

To be in ministry is to suspect that there is always something more urgent that you should be doing, no matter what you are doing, and to make peace with the fact that the work will never be done;

To be in ministry is to wonder sometimes if you are missing the boat altogether, by deferring pleasure in what God has made until you have fixed it up so that it will please God more;

When I wake up in the morning I can't decide whether to enjoy the world or improve the world; that makes it difficult to plan the day. E. B. White

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thin Places

The Irish have a name for places where the Presence of God is so strong they act like portals between this world and another. They call them 'thin places', and it's a place where you sense God's spirit and proximity in powerful ways. They can be very ordinary, or quite exotic.

One of the reasons we need to know our favorite 'thin places' is that they have the power to recharge our spirit. We have to know where to go when our spiritual flame is flickering.

Hildegard of Bingen coined the term 'green power' to describe the divine power of creation to speak into our human spirit.

You never enjoy the world aright till the sea floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars; and percieve yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Seventeenth-century Anglican priest Thomas Traherne

Where are your thin places?

Monday, July 03, 2006

God @ The Movies: Simon Birch

How many of you have seen Simon Birch? Anybody cry? I did.

This movie is tough on the heart – partly because the main character, a young boy, dies in the end – but also because it constantly walks the line between a comedy and a tragedy. One minute you find yourself laughing and, then, in the next scene, you can’t believe what just happened.

On the surface, the story is about friendship and about faith - which we discover in the opening scene as the narrator, Joe Wentworth, tells us that his own faith in God is a result of his friendship long ago with a boy by the name of Simon Birch - a boy who, from the day of his birth as the smallest infant ever delivered at Gravestown Memorial Hospital, was most unusual.

Let’s pick up the story where Joe left off. It’s the summer of 1964. Even though Simon is so small, he and Joe are both 12 years old. And both of them have – shall we say – “identity issues” that they are dealing with.

Simon’s issue is fairly obvious in that he doesn’t fit the mold because of his size. But there’s another factor that runs deeper than that, one that we first learn of after the boys go swimming one afternoon. Listen closely for the “great expectation” that gives Simon hope in spite of his limitations.

“God is going to make me a hero.” That expectation is Simon’s identity even more than knowing he’s not attractive to girls, even more than living with his parents’ disappointment, even more than having to deal with his limited stature.

What about Joe? His identity is shaped by the fact that he doesn’t know who his father is. His mother, Rebecca, has remained single and raised Joe with the help of her mother, has kept his identity a secret from everyone.

Not only does that leave Joe feeling lost, it also means he has to endure the suitors who come calling for his mother’s attention … which leads to one of the most enjoyable scenes in the movie and shows the unique bond that sometimes exists between boys of that age.

One evening, Rebecca invites Ben Goodrich for dinner. Ben, who knows he also has to win Joe’s heart as well as Rebecca’s, brings Joe a mysterious present in a tightly closed paper bag.

The bag is a stuffed armadillo which eventually becomes one of Joe’s prized possessions. Later that evening, Joe and Simon decide to sleep out in the back yard and they wind up discussing the potential of Ben Goodrich as a father. Simon begins the conversation by saying, “I like him.”

Simon doesn’t hesitate to speak the truth in very plain words. There’s a bluntness than can be taken the wrong way but, there’s also a refreshing wisdom once you get used to it. Joe is used to it and accepts it as Simon’s way. But there are others who do not.

One Sunday morning, when Rev. Russell is announcing the various upcoming activities of the church, Simon interrupts him. As we watch, listen for the church leadership’s opinions of Simon.

Simon Birch isn’t a normal person and he doesn’t belong. That’s how the church leaders feel about Simon.

The boys’ identity issues set up the crisis that is about to follow on a sunny afternoon at the baseball field, where Simon Birch is called upon to pinch hit. Never before has Simon even swung the bat, but with the team losing badly the coach tells him to “swing away” in hopes that he will strike out and bring the game to a merciful conclusion.

How quickly things can change…

Just like that Joe goes from just an only child of a single parent to an orphan. And Simon, who received more love from Rebecca than his own mother, is the key player in the starnge tragedy.

“Is it reasonable to have faith in a loving God in the face of such random evil?”

The boys wrestle with that question. Who do you identify with in the following scene:

When we consider the problem of evil we often make the same mistakes. We set up an either/or challenge.

Events either make sense or they don’t. Everything that happens is either part of a grand plan or there is no plan at all. Evil events are either caused by God somehow or they are accidents of fate. The conclusion that you have to come to is that either there is a God or there is not a God.

1. Not all things that happen are planned by God, but everything that does happen is used by God.

God is not a puppet master pulling every string 24/7. It’s very clear from the scriptures that there is an element of free will at work in human beings and, indeed, in the created world and in the spiritual world. Some of the evil that happens comes from the working of those free wills. And when it does happen, God isn’t pleased. But he uses it for his purposes. The Bible calls this idea, redemption.

2. It’s difficult to know sometimes if the evil is caused by free will, forces of evil or by judgment of God.

Some evil happens because people cause it. Some happens because we live in a sin-cursed world where accidents and death are just part of life. Some evil happens because God sends it as a judgment.

However, it’s nearly impossible to know which of those causes is behind any given event. We just don’t see spiritual reality very clearly on this side of eternity.

1 Corinthians 13:12
We see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror … all that I know now is partial and incomplete …

3. Instead of thinking about the problem of evil in terms of either/or Jesus talked about God’s kindness in terms of “both/ and.”

Matthew 5:45
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Several months pass and the search for his father intensifies. At one point, Joe becomes convinced that his real father is Coach Baker, so he and Simon break into his office in search of the missing baseball that would prove it. They do find a ball but it’s not the ball and, so, Coach Baker is not the man.

In the process, however, they get caught and “sentenced” to community service in whatever way Rev. Russell deems appropriate. He decides that, following the church nativity play (in which Simon gets to be baby Jesus because of his size), the boys will help out with a retreat for the little kids of the church.

Look at this scene that happens right before the play.

Those in authority reject Simon, but there are some who have “ears to hear.”

The Christmas play turns into a disaster and this disaster proves to be the final straw as far as Rev. Russell is concerned. As we watch this scene, see if you can make out the picture of Jesus over the Reverend’s left shoulder.

Joe does go on the retreat alone.

While he is gone, Simon finds the missing baseball and learns the truth about who is Joe’s real father. So, he gets Ben Goodrich – who has befriended the boys – to take him to the retreat so he can tell Joe. When Simon arrives, he realizes that Joe is also finding the truth.

Jesus & Simon had a few things in common,

1. Simon had an unusual birth. So did Jesus-
Matthew 1:18
While she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

2. Simon was physically unattractive. Look at what scripture prophesies about the Messiah, Jesus-
Isaiah 53:2
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

3. Simon speaks the truth in a blunt but refreshing manner. What about Jesus?
John 7:15
The people were surprised when they heard him. "How does he know so much when he hasn't been trained?" they asked.

4. Simon Birch believes he is God’s instrument who will accomplish something heroic. Jesus seemed to think He had a mission, too, right?
Luke 4:21
Then he began to speak to them. "The Scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!"

5. Simon is at odds with the “religious auhtorities” and eventually cast out by them. Sounds alot like Jesus-
Luke 19:47
The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him.

6. There are some people who had “ears to hear” about what Simon had to say. Again, very much like Jesus-
John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Jesus came… he has saved us and called us to a holy life --not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:9

On the way home from the winter retreat, the kids on the bus get a little loud – as kids on buses tend to do – and the driver turns to tell them to be quiet. But when he faces forward again, a deer has run onto the road and, in trying to avoid it, he loses control

Simon takes command of the situation, and everyone makes it to shore … almost. One little boy is still trapped. At this point, however, the bus is sinking and his only hope is for Simon to lift him up so he can make it out of the one remaining exit. But that requires more from Simon than directing traffic. He swims through on eof those tiny windows to rescue to the last missing sheep, I mean child.

After the rescue Simon is in the hospital. Marjorie visits him and calls him, “A brave hero.” Joe leaves his hospital bed to talk with Simon. Listen to what Simon says to Joe.

"Are the kids OK?" And with that, Simon Birch breathes his last and Joe comes to believe in God. Why? Because he saw that God had either created Simon small for a purpose or had used his smallness to fulfill a purpose.

Why did Simon ask Joe to share his baseball cards with Ben? Because Simon knew that while Rev Russell might be his biological father, Ben is the “dad” Joe has been searching for. Ben is the “dad” that God has provided.

Just like that bus load of those kids were careening down towards the lake, you and I - because of sin - are headed for destruction. As disturbing as that scene was for us to watch, the picture that the Bible paints for those who don’t get off the bus is more troubling.

The Bible tells us that some 2000 years ago, Jesus got on the bus with all of humanity - just like Simon got on the bus with those kids. And God didn’t show up in the form of The Almighty because us people have a hard time understanding that. Instead, like Simon Birch, He came in our size and in our form so that we could hear him – if we chose to.

And then he did a most remarkable thing. He didn’t say, “Ok, now, everybody - do your best. Try really hard to save yourself” - which is legalism. He said, “I will get you off this bus. Trust me” – that’s grace.

And then he did another remarkable thing. He traded his life for the life of everyone on the bus.

1 Peter 3:18
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

What are you doing as God’s instrument?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

October Sky

Tomorrow we'll look at Simon Birch for God @ The Movies.

A great story that didn't make the cut, of which there are many, is October Sky. It is an incredible, heart-warming film about hope, optimism, perseverance, and reaching deep within yourself to overcome great obstacles, beat the odds and achieve a greater destiny than you might have ever dreamed possible.

Sometimes you really can't listen to what anybody else says. You just got to listen inside. Mrs. Riley

I've come to believe that I've got it in me to be somebody in this world. Homer Hickam

Who doesn't need a story like this for encouragement?

James 2:26 The Message
The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

Philippians 3:14
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What The Heck

What makes your heart sing? Does a hunger for satisfaction and fulfillment plague your soul?

You can do what you like to do.

Jesus wants you to become who you can be.

Always remember that we are Human Beings, not human doings.