Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘EPIC’

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge - to Christ, Spiritual Maturity, and Hope to the World

The Bridge.  A new name, a new vision, a new pastor, a new approach to ministry, a new congregation.  By the way … I’m that new pastor.  I took the position in October, and it’s been great!  I love the people – “the survivors” is what I call the folks who made it through the turbulence of transition from former pastor/former church to new pastor/new vision.

Maybe you noticed the logo caption.  We, the people at The Bridge, want to be a bridge to Jesus.  We will never change the message!  It’s Jesus Christ, the Lord, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived in Palestine, taught disciples, was crucified, dead, buried and RISEN!  And coming King!

While we’re orthodox in our beliefs we will tend to be unorthodox in our approach to reaching out to the “dechurched” and the “unchurched.”

Matt Chandler (Google Matt, and look for him on You Tube as well) describes the dechurched as people who attended church when they were younger (pre- and even post-adolescence) but, for a ton of reasons, decided church wasn’t their thing.

I’ve come to the conclusion, after years of observation myself, that the dechurched may have thought attending church was pointless, irrelevant, dead/lifeless, populated by hypocrites, and constantly wanting more and more money.  The dechurched may have been hurt in a plethora of ways while attending church, and they’ve decided, “Who needs this!?”  Unfortunately, they may have seen hypocrisy in their own home and decided, “Why go to the trouble of going to church on Sunday morning when there are better things to do?”

The dechurched, after years of wandering the planet, wondering if there is a personal God that’s as sick of “church” as they are, believing that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, and investigating every spiritual nook and cranny there is have finally decided, “If I can find a group of REAL Christ-followers – authentic, transparent, loving, kind, other-centric, missional and more – I’ll check it out.  If I can find a group of Christ-followers who are honest about their imperfections and don’t make excuses for their misbehavior (they actually ask for forgiveness and want to make things right), I might check it out.  If I can find a diverse congregation that does not try to be politically correct but (instead)  tries to love each other the way Martin Luther King dreamed, I might check it out.”

It is my hope that The Bridge will be all those things!  I want to hang out with people like those I described above.  I want to build relationships with honest-to-God and authentic people who get the Gospel, believe it, and want to live in a community that looks and sounds a lot like Jesus if He were living here, and now.

Sounds idealistic?  Sounds impossible?  I don’t care what it sounds like – this is the vision I have for The Bridge.  Before my life is over I want to be with a group of people who want to do “Church” the way Jesus intended it to be.

Give me some feedback!  What did I leave out of my vision.  That’s an honest question.  I want to know.

Mysticism

The search for understanding and truth winds through the “Land of Mystery.”  To find wisdom we must begin with unknowns – things we do not understand today but we may tomorrow.  Moving from infancy to adulthood, experience should tell us that we begin not knowing anything and discover that we can know some things.  (Interestingly, along life’s way, if we have the good fortune to become elderly we return an infancy of sorts – this time KNOWING that we don’t know much of anything still.)  Part of life’s journey, if it to be LIFE at all, must wander through the extraordinary, the beautiful, and the complex.  Otherwise, life remains two dimensional – flat and statistical … numbers and letters, having no color, no joy, and no love.

The agnostic may know what they logically don’t know, but such an approach to living remains a mystery to me.  Why would any man be content to eat tasteless food or walk the path of self-imposed blandness?  Instead of saying, “If there is a God, prove it to me,” why not approach the question of God this way:  “If there is NO God, prove it to me.”  Why not accept that we know only in part … we do not know the whole, or everything.  Ah, but that is a fool talking.  No self-respecting agnostic would ever dare start there.

Only when a man can look into the heavens and say, “It’s too wonderful for me,” or smell a rose and say, “The fragrance is marvelous,” can that man begin an honest search for truth.  If, however, that man can brush aside the wondrous and marvelous, is there any hope that he can grasp any truth at all?

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Mysticism keeps men sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  He has permitted the twilight.  He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland.  He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them.  He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths AND the contradiction along with them.  His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight:  he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.  Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also.  Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth.  He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not.  It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.  The whole secret of mysticism is this:  that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.”

Think about it.

 

Saint Mobes

Jim Moberg is a saint.  You may have never heard of him, but he’s a saint nonetheless, and I say that, beautifying him, because he has taken hospitality to a saintly level.

At Jim’s place, what’s his is yours.  Need a bed?  Done.  Need a meal?  Pull up a chair.  Need some conversation?  You got it.  Need an internet connection?  Plug in.

mobes-at-kaanapali.jpgThis hospitality thing in Jim’s life could have come from good genetics, but it didn’t.  His gift came from a new birth – a second birth.  If he were so bold, Jim would tell you that he’s generous because he’s been the recipient of God’s love, forgiveness, and grace.

His face may never adorn a cathedral’s façade, but that doesn’t matter to Jim.  He may never receive a Nobel for showing warmth and kindness, but Jim won’t lose any sleep over it.  He’s got something better than fame or reward.  He’s got satisfaction.  What Mick Jagger complained he could “get no,” Jim has by the boat load.  And he’s hospitable for the best of reasons.  Jim’s a Jesus freak.

When he reads this – my tribute – Jim’ll blush a little and say, “It’s no big deal.”  But it is.  It is a big deal, Jim!  You enrich the planet.  You model the love and grace of God.  You’re a good friend.  If you worked on your ping-pong, you might be perfect.  Ha!  Kidding aside, I wish Jim could bottle his version – his recipe – for hospitality.  You’d love its taste.  It goes down sweet and smooth, and refreshes its recipients to the bone.

Good for you, Mobes!  You’re the best.

Oh, and can I come back?

(St. Mobes is the guy on the right … with Ryan, Brandon, and me) 

Loving You … and More

img_1302.jpgThe greatest thing we can do in life is love.  There are three qualities of life that make living wonderful and human – faith, hope and love … but “the greatest of these is love.”  Faith allows us to live above the normal tenors and tones; hope is the stuff of confident and believable dreams.  But love ties us to other time travelers with cords of immeasurable strength, deeper emotion, and superior thought.

Can love be commanded, or demanded of us?  Some think not.  Maybe most think not …  And so, if someone were to command love, or command anything, there are those who would resist loving, or whatever, just to retain control of their life.  But, arguably, the greatest Man to ever live said that we are commanded to love – and we are to do it in ways that bring love its fullest expression and fulfillment.

That  Man, Jesus Christ, was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” and He replied that the greatest commandment was to love God.  He then volunteered the second greatest commandment:  to love our neighbors.  He concluded that all the commandments (to not steal, murder, lie, covet, etc.) hung on these two – loving God and loving our neighbors.

Some people think Jesus actually suggested a third commandment when He said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The actual quote is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But Jesus was not saying, or commanding, that we should love our selves.  He was just pointing out that we should love our neighbors … anyone who crosses our path in life … to the same degree that we love ourselves because He knew that no human being (generally speaking) would have a problem loving themselves. 

I really want to explore what it means to “love” God, and I’ll do that in another column, but today I want to write about loving others.

We humans long to be loved, and give love.  Like a puzzle lacking its most significant piece, we have a hole in our hearts that is shaped for love.  We have it in our DNA – to be loved by someone, and to express love to someone.  Like boiling water in a tea kettle on a hot stove, we want – we must release this pent up something … this emotion that is in us and of us.  And we want to have love returned to us in a genuine way.  And that is a key thought, too, don’t you think?  Don’t we all want to be genuinely loved and authentically love someone else?

That said, you might think that loving others comes naturally. … but it doesn’t.  Loving is an acquired taste.  But once it is delightfully experienced, it’s addictive.  Loving others is a learned skill.  So, I suggest that if it wasn’t commanded, we might only drink in love, hoping not to spill a precious drop.  (For example, if parents don’t model it, children won’t do it naturally, because it’s MORE natural to be self-centered and selfish.  With our first infancy cry, we demand to be taken care of.  From birth WE COMMAND others to love us, and we do so with our incessant grasping and howling.)  Loving, like sharing, must be taught.

My Mom and Dad, Retha and Claude, loved each other, and in so doing created an atmosphere in our home that encouraged loving.  We saw their love, felt their love, and then wanted what they had.  That’s when they began the teaching process.  Mom and Dad taught us to love.

Got a question for you.  In all our talking about love, are we first loving?

Think about it.

(pictured above – Brandon, April 1, 2008) 

People Watching – Maui Style

I’m a people watcher.  Are you?

waiting-in-maui-airport.jpgI had a wonderful occasion to watch people … all strangers … over the last 24 hours.  About 175 people arrived at Maui’s airport to fly back to the mainland.  Dallas was our destination – about a seven hour flight, give or take, depending on the jet stream.  From Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, we would fan out from there – one guy to Brazil, one lovely lady to New York’s Hudson’s valley, another guy to St. Louis, a couple to Florida.  Me?  Back to Richmond, Virginia.

American Airlines is a great airline.  I love their reach.  British Air, Quantas, and Cathay Airlines are a few of their partners.  American fits most of my world travels.

Last night our AA 767 had mechanical problems, so we had to deplane and wait for repairs.  It turned out that our plane needed a part, and that the repairs couldn’t be done until today.  American put us up in a really nice hotel, The Grand Wailea, and gave us a food voucher.  The other passengers and myself didn’t get to enjoy all the fantastic amenities of this “Five Diamond” hotel, but we did get a decent rest.

Up at 3:15 AM, on the bus by 4, and back to the airport at 4:40.  Whew!

It’s now 11:15 AM, and we’re still not on the plane.  The repair part the mechanics needed and ordered for American Flight 6 came in, sort of.  Turns out whoever does the part-sending-out sent the wrong one.  Hmm.

But I gotta tell you, if you’re going to be delayed … and delays happen … you will want to have a similar experience to mine.  American employees (from the pilots and flight attendants to the mechanics) at Maui’s airport are the best, and they have gate and ticket agents you’ve only imagined in your dreams.  Every one is full of ALOHA!  Each person waiting on us has been so sweet.  And nice.  (You can’t teach the kind of “nice and sweet” we experienced, and you certainly can’t put it in a policy manual.)

I’m not sure when we’ll get off the ground, but being safe is better than being on time, right?

And if you’re going to be delayed at an airport, wouldn’t it be great if everyone you had to work with was sweet and nice?

Another mind-blowing observation I made today is … surprise … how nice MOST of the passengers have been.  Oh, there’s a few boneheads who have complained about anything/everything, maybe because of brain damage or a shallow gene pool.  Whatever.  Why make it tough on the people around you, or the children with you?

Anyway, back to “the MOST.”  Former strangers have chatted, shared stories, and been downright friendly.  Smiles were the rule, not the exception.  I watched one family do homework together, the dad quizzing his kids on math and English while the mom sat close by, smiling and encouraging.

Human beings, when tested, can show such cool and admirable qualities.  True character comes to the surface when put to the fire.

How’s your day?

Think about it.

What Does “Aloha” Mean?

img_0658.jpgWhat does “Aloha” mean?  According to To-Hawaii.com, “aloha” can mean hello, goodbye, love and affection.  But its meaning goes well beyond any definition you can find in dictionaries.  In Hawaii, you hear aloha all the time and you are treated with aloha everywhere.  (Hawaii is called the Aloha State, and for good reason.)  Aloha express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people.  It was the working philosophy of Native Hawaiians; they felt it was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii by one of their ancient gods.

The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.”  (It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, when God created Adam He “breathed into him the breath of life,” and Adam “became a living being.”)  The word “aloha” comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, front and face, and “ha,” meaning breath.  

According to the old kahunas (priests), being able to live the Spirit of Aloha was a way of sending and receiving positive energy, or living in harmony.  Aloha was and still is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect.  

Inspired by the philosophy and the wisdom of the Spirit of Aloha, nowadays many institutions and businesses in Hawaii carry its name:  Aloha Tower, Aloha Stadium and Aloha Airlines.  Many Hawaiian singers write and perform songs about aloha as well.

 

Believe it or not, Aloha Spirit is considered a state “law.”  Although the word law sounds too strong and strict, Aloha Spirit is not a type of law that will get you in trouble if you break it.  Having “the Law of Aloha Spirit” on the books serves as a reminder to government officials (while they perform their duties) to treat people with deep care and respect, just like their ancestors did.   Aloha Spirit is more a lesson than a law.   By learning and applying this lesson to real life, government officials can contribute to a better world, a world filled with aloha.

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So by now you may understand that “Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell, or a salutation.  Aloha means mutual regard and affection, and is a reminder to extend warmth and caring for others with no obligation (payback) in return.  Furthermore, aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person.

Queen Lili‘uokalani said, “Aloha is to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable.”

I greet you in the Spirit of Aloha, and pray that you will discover the “breath of life” found in the Person of Jesus Christ. [Both pictures by Lowell Qualls, Maui – 2008 (c)] 

St. Bernard Ain’t No Dog!

st-bernard.jpgBernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the charismatic Catholic abbot of 12th Century France, is credited with inspiring the domestication of a breed of dog that would emulate his loving personality – the St. Bernard.  The abbot was such a lover of men and God that his influence on human history is considered extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect by any means, confessing later in life that he was immeasurably wrong in preaching the necessity of the Second Crusade – a war that had disastrous consequences still being felt today, but such was his influence.

 

John Michael Talbot, in The Way of the Mystics (with Steve Rabey; San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2005), wrote that Bernard often “condemned churches that were too big, too wealthy, and decorated too elaborately.”  On one occasion the abbot wrote:  “I will overlook the immense heights of places of prayer, their immoderate lengths, their superfluous widths, the costly refinements, and the painstaking representations which deflect the attention … and thus hinder devotion … I, however, say, ‘Tell me, poor man, if indeed you are poor men, what is gold doing in the holy place.’”

If Bernard had lived in my day, he would have fit right in with the rest of us living out the “Jesus Movement” of the late 60s and early 70s.  He would have been a hero.

I would want to be known and then remembered as a man who loved men and God.  I would rather be known as a lover than a preacher or a holy man.  I would rather share the sweet honey of God’s love than the vinegar so many associate with the purveyors of “the good news” (which sounds more like bad news in the ears of many).

St. Bernard wrote on another occasion about “spiritual maturity” (and again I quote Talbot), that quality of life that we Christ-followers are supposed to be aspiring to.  He was describing spiritual maturity by contrasting reservoirs and canals.  He said it “would be best if people resembled reservoirs, opening their souls to be filled with God’s spirit and then allowing the overflow to empower their ministry to others.  But instead, too many people resemble canals.  The water of the Holy Spirit flows through their lives, but it disappears as soon as it arrives.  ‘The want to pour it forth before they have been filled.  They are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.’”

“And unlike vinegar-stlyle preachers who try to keep people in line with threats of fire and brimstone, Bernard believed divine love could inspire ever-deeper devotion.”

I don’t think LOVE is so weak, so non-confrontational, or so flexible or adaptable that the lover holds nothing precious, and avoids holding to principles that might offend some.  I say that because Jesus was the consummate Lover, and yet He never shied away from sharing His thoughts about politics and politicians (see His reference to Herod, “that fox”), or religious bigots (the “hypocrites” and “snakes” that consistently opposed His ministry to those they thought unworthy of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness).  On the contrary, I believe that LOVE is, first and foremost, when it is its most powerful and most influential, having as its object God, and then Man.  And because the Lover of God loves God’s ways, His thoughts and His take on life, such a Lover will take a stand for God.

But, here’s the rub.  Many (and some most of the) times, God’s ways/thoughts/etc., are opposed to our ways, thoughts, etc.  Hmmm.  What’s a Lover to do?  Be quiet?  Be sarcastic and vinegary?  Or be brave, wise, and always LOVING of humankind, those wonderful creatures made in “God’s Image?”

Think about it.