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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guilt and Gratitude

I woke up this morning thinking about guilt and gratitude.
Those things were on my mind in part because of a friend’s teen-aged grandson. He is a drug addict, and in recent weeks, his desperate parents have “bet the farm,” so to speak, to try to save him. They have spent the money they had set aside for his college education, plus other funds they have raised through loans, to get him treatment. It’s a huge risk they’re taking.
My guess is that the young man has a good chance of recovery if he can respond to what his parents have done out of gratitude rather than out of guilt. While there is most assuredly guilt he needs to acknowledge and amends he needs to make, can any meaningful or lasting change result if guilt is his primary motivator? I doubt it.
The young man’s story is also, of course, the Easter story in which God “bets the farm” for each of us—and risks it all. How should we respond?
If our choices are guilt or gratitude, shouldn’t we choose gratitude? Of course we each have our own guilt to confess, our own amends to make. But surely what God wants for us is what those parents want for their teenager: a healthy life that is full and rich. A life that is grounded in and shaped by gratitude.
For some reason, though, I often find gratitude to be the more difficult choice. I know full well how to feel guilty, for I seem to have had lots of instruction there, and lots of practice. On the other hand, I do not seem to know quite as much about living freely with a grateful heart.
This Easter season, inspired in part by my hopes for my friend’s grandson, I feel called to explore the possibilities of gratitude. And while I do not know where that exploration will lead me—any more than those parents know where their son’s journey will take him—I am eager to give it a try.
How about you? How does gratitude affect your life and work? How do you foster it? How do you make it your guide?

Angier Brock, Guest Blogger

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Outsiders

One of the reasons I like to watch Glee is that on the first episode I saw, the show choir sang my second favorite modern song* (Proud Mary a la Tina Turner) in wheel chairs. They did Shriner-style parade driving tricks during the chorus, “Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river”.

My 22 years at Lincoln High inform me that most of the story lines rely on some pretty far-fetched premises. Principal Figgins is a nitwit, come-and-go football team members (including girls and Arnie (the boy in the wheelchair), district competition nearly every week, omnipotent/malevolent cheerleader sponsor, better than Broadway costumes, and the list goes on. 

The Glee writers don’t shy away from issues - teen pregnancy, bullying, teen alcohol abuse, gay rights to name a few. Does it matter if the music is the vehicle for the controversial topics, or the topics are the vehicles for the music?  It clearly showcases some highly talented musicians. Looking at them I believe they believe they feel called to exercise their gifts for our entertainment. I find it inspirational; God bless them.

I celebrate this outrageous, ridiculously popular show.  It consistently elevates and supports the outsider.  As a coach and teacher I was called to those kids and I didn’t have to go looking for them.  In a small way I saw these students as God’s precious creations and it grieved me to witness the injustices the school experience often allowed to happen.

The Bible has a fair amount to say about outsiders. In the Message (Matthew 9:13) Jesus says, I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."  Whether they mean to or not, the Glee people deliver us the gospel. Who doesn’t need that?

Questions: Do you encounter outsiders in your world? God forbid, do you create outsiders?  Are you called to welcome others? Who can you welcome today?
*#1 is the Beatles Here Comes the Sun. I guess I’m getting old if I call these titles modern!

by Tom Pappas

Friday, April 15, 2011

God is always more...

That is what Nancy Boyle, one of the heroines of Lumunos taught me. 

I was thinking about this the other day listening to Paul Simon talk about his new CD, “So Beautiful or So What.” (I am thinking of buying it for the title alone.)  The most interesting part of the interview was when he was asked if he ever feared running out of inspiration for new songs.

Simon admitted that this would make him anxious, if “it” (his inspiration) left and didn’t come back.  For a man who has been as creative as Paul Simon has for so long (More than 20 albums over 60 years!) I can only imagine how terrifying that would be. 

Then Simon paused and then said this: “If this were it [if my music career were to come to a close], there will probably be something else…”

Calls do come to an end, which can be a kind of death. Calls to certain work, calls to be in partnership with certain people, calls to various commitments draw to a close.  Sometimes the call ends slowly, other times abruptly.  Sometimes ending a call can feel like a relief, other times it can be painful.  Sometimes we know what is coming next, other times we let go into a spacious or terrifying empty space.  One way or anther, the “it” comes to a close.

And in the words of Paul Simon, “there will probably be something else…”   There will be something else because our call may change, but the fact that we are called never does. There will be something else because (in Easter language) death isn’t the last word.  There will be something else because God is always more.