Monday Morning Musings for 01.09.17

  1. As the year turns to 2017, as we contend with more and more things that are false and phony, from photoshopped magazine covers to fake news, we crave what is real and authentic. This actually spills over into Christian faith because, let's face it, it's not that hard to fake. In this culture, you can go through the motions and learn the lingo and people will assume your faith is deep and rich when it's not. In my own life, I have found a good plumb line is my prayer life. When I am walking with God closely, when my heart is in the right place and I am living in tune with His will, my prayer life is solid. When I'm distant and worried about "me", it stinks. In Colossians 4:12, Epaphras was described as one who "wrestled in prayer" for the Colossian church so that they would be able to "stand firm, mature and be fully assured." Wow, do we ever need those three things, but we fail to pray because either we're not totally convinced it works, or we just don't care. You see, I think prayer is an act of love. Think about it . When do you pray intensely? When someone you love is in trouble. Yet Jesus says, "As I have loved you, so love one another." One of the ways we love the Church and love the community and love our city is to pray - and we pray out of love, adding to the authentic and deep expressions of our faith. Let's stop going through the motions. Let's love each other well and do more than just talk about prayer. Let's actually pray, one for another. #tryit #itworks
  2. Following my New Year's column in the Orlando Sentinel (The Story of Us, Not the Story of Me) in which I tried to move people out of their self-centeredness and towards serving the needs of others, almost as if on cue, the editor of one of our large local magazines declared in its winter issue that 2017 was "The Year of Me." #makingmycase#thatstorydoesnotendwell
  3. Over the break, I read Mark Helprin's outstanding novel A Soldier of the Great War, a work of historical fiction taking place just before and through World War I. As the novel, begins, he writes of his main character, Alessandro: "Throughout his life he had suffered periods of despair only to be lifted from them and to rise at the speed of falling." It's one of the best sentences I have come across in some time. It's the gospel. We fall. We despair. We make mistakes, but always the grace of God lifts us - and we find ourselves rising at the speed of falling - even as we will in the fullness of time. It does not mean life will be circumstantially easy, only that His love and grace will always overwhelm the sin and evil that so fills our world and our hearts. In essence, it was my sermon on Christmas Eve. Truth: we're a mess. Grace: we are cherished, delighted in and forgiven by God's love.
  4. How can a person parachute off the 22nd floor of the 55 West Building, land on Church Street, gather up his chute and walk away - and never be found?
  5. Simon Sinek, a national consultant on leadership and work, shared something that I found profoundly helpful: when people use social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc), it activates the section in the brain that produces dopamine, the same section that is typically called our "pleasure center", the same one that is activated through exercise, sex and certain drugs. What that means, scientifically, is that social media is something that is addictive. It's the reason you have the urge to look at it constantly. It's why you go crazy if you lose your smart phone. It's why you keep it by your bed at night. Therefore, it's an addiction we have to fight. I have changed our practice at church so that no cell phones are allowed in meetings anymore. What do you do when you bring one to a meeting? You look at it until the meeting starts. You ignore others. Then you put it face down on the table until it buzzes which distracts everyone. If you don't bring the phone, you might actually have conversations with others such as, "How's your Mom doing? How's that play going that your son is in?" I am convinced it is at least part of why younger generations struggle more with interpersonal relationships. They are so dependent on social media that they have far less experience in face to face relationships. #putawaythephone
  6. THIS WEEK'S SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: It seems insane to me that in this day and age, there could be a 69% increase in the number of guns seized by TSA from checked bags at OIA, this year over last. Are there really that many people who don't know that rule? #againstthelaw#yougetarrestedforthat
  7. We need to continue to work on healing the racial divide in our city and in our country. For that reason, I was deeply disturbed by one piece of collateral damage from the election cycle. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan declared in a speech before the State of the Black World Conference, "The white man is going to push. My message to Mr. Trump: push it real good. That's what we needed as motivation to finally separate from whites. Push it so good that black people finally say, "I'm outta here." This is absolutely NOT the rhetoric or leadership we need. We don't need strident separtist groups and we must speak out vehemently against them. We need to move towards one another, not away, building relationships instead of inciting hatred.
  8. MOVIE REVIEWS: I saw two movies over the break and both were disappointing. LA LA LAND: I give it a 5 on a 10 scale. The first hour was about as slow as it can get, and then the second hour provides emotional manipulation as the Director completely takes advantage of your sensibilities and wrecks you at the end. There were some great scenes - a few good song and dance numbers - but all in all, not very good. PASSENGERS: I give it a 7. Premise is a bit hard to imagine, but the acting was so good by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence that they make you believe it. Very enjoyable. ROGUE ONE: A 10!! It was awesome. Start to finish, it plugs in missing elements of the story while adding great texture and depth to the entire franchise.
  9. Congrats to Margaret Peebles for completing a cold Disney Marathon yesterday and doing it without her training parter, Jack Peebles. Deep condolences to Jack, who after all that training, hurt his back early and could not finish.