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Posts Tagged ‘easter’

by Rocky Glenn

An unexpected adventure found on a long night’s journey to observe the super moon although the intended destination was never reached, the unforgettable sensation of chills running down my arms when voices unite bringing the musical arrangements of my first Easter cantata to life, losing track of time when my newborn son opened his eyes and stared into mine as I spoke, the sweet contentment of my baby girl sitting on my lap while her favorite Disney princesses ice skate right by us, gazing into my wife’s eyes on our wedding day as I serenade her with a song written specially for the day . . .

Some of life’s greatest treasures are simply the moments we hold in our heart and reflect on, better known as memories. Memories are moments of time which made a mental impression upon us. At the time the impression is formed, we likely do not realize the images, emotions, sights, and sounds which are being recorded. Memories aren’t something you can force to happen. They form naturally and spontaneously with nearly no conscious effort on our part. Memories are formed when we learn to enjoy the moment.

Enjoying the moment can take many forms and does not necessarily mean a time of happiness, giddiness, and laughter. For the marching band students from my previous post, the director’s admonition to enjoy the moment certainly did not authorize them to be frivolous and silly during their performance. His words served as a reminder and encouragement to simply say, “You’ve prepared. You’ve put in the blood, sweat, and tears required to get you here. Now, relax, give it all your all and do what you know to do.” He was telling them to be present in this moment and experience it as it happens with joy, pleasure, and satisfaction.

To better understand this concept, it’s important to know the difference between happiness and joy. Though similar, the two emotions differ based on their source and where they originate. Happiness relies on external factors such as circumstances, events, and even other people. Happiness can be fleeting: here one moment, gone the next. Joy is lasting and is found internally. It resides in controlling what you can and letting go of what you can’t. Joy comes in knowing who you are and accepting who you are. Defined biblically, joy simply means a calm delight. This is the message the band director was trying to convey. Remain calm and delight in this moment and the memory will form itself.

Despite the moments listed above, some memories do not become enjoyable until we view them in the future as reflections of the past. To label those moments as bad memories is a disservice. I believe this is where the pleasure and satisfaction part of enjoying the moment applies. Even in times of unhappiness, pain, and sorrow, it’s possible to reside in a state of calm delight. No one enjoys times of loss and suffering, yet during those times some of our most treasured memories are formed. I was five years old when I lost my grandfather in South Carolina, yet no one will ever be able to steal the moment I crawled up on his hospital bed and kissed him on the cheek and said, “I love you, Papa,” for the final time although he was already gone. Twenty-seven years later I stood beside my mother in the emergency room as we now said goodbye to her dad, and he drew his final breath. Those moments were crushing and heart-breaking to live through but looking back I value each of those moments as both honored and sacred moments.

If I’m being honest, since I set out on this path a couple of weeks ago of examining what it means to enjoy the moment, I have encountered just as many moments I wished to run away from as I sought to enjoy. On many occasions I’ve neglected the notion of being present in the moment as I’ve longed for an escape. I will share more about that next time as I discuss why we don’t often enjoy the moment and what keeps us from doing so. In the meantime, I encourage you to take time to read this tale from three years ago of my family’s experience of attempting to enjoy the journey of going on vacation.

Rocky

More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

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by Rocky Glenn

My thoughts going into Easter this past weekend were a mixed bag of criticism, questions, and self-analyzation.  Although this wasn’t the first year we have not actively participated in any church based Easter activities, ghosts of special sermons, carefully selected worship songs, newly purchased clothes, and orders of service timed to the minute haunted my mind.  I have actively, willingly, and intentionally played a role in times past of ensuring Easter Sunday morning service is meticulously planned and flawlessly executed.  Every effort was made to make the right impression on the countless visitors we were certain would be in attendance.  After all, if the plan was executed perfectly it would draw people to join our congregation and our attendance would increase showing how great of a place we were.  Heck, if we performed well enough, visitors might even make a decision to follow Christ!  Oh yeah, I guess we were actually celebrating Christ’s resurrection as well, but, despite being repeatedly mentioned throughout the course of the service, it never seemed to be the real focal point.  There was more concern taken over the timing of every agenda item and every detail of cleanliness and structure rather than celebrating the day for what it was to represent.  It was the biggest Sunday of the year and was treated as such.  It’s the institutional church’s Super Bowl!

Late last week I had a conversation with a long time friend via text and we discussed the subject.  Having walked together through many different courses of life, and many changes in beliefs for each of us, I knew he was someone safe to talk to and would not return any judgment if I shared my true feelings.  I mentioned my disdain for what it has become and how I referred it to as the Evangelical Church’s Super Bowl.  The response I received was a simple, “It’s pretty much all Christians’ Super Bowl,” and he went on to explain it should be a cause of celebration.  He mentioned the resurrection should truly be the one thing in the world we have reason to celebrate and the manner in which we do so should inform people of the power of the resurrection.  I pointed out my problem is it’s the one day of the year we talk about the resurrection and we then live the rest of the year forgetting  it.  We celebrate and look forward to the day itself and gloss over the event.  The next response I received was significant and gently reminded me there were three fingers pointing back at me on the same hand with which I was pointing at others, “Most people are very inconsistent.  I know I am to an extent . . . I say that to seem somehow piously humble, I mean it. I’m an inconsistent mess sometimes.”  The conversation which followed took us everywhere from the prodigal son and his older brother to being focused solely on our own salvation to the true purpose of our faith being faith itself and not our eternal destination.

As I reflected back on the conversation over the next two days, I believe he hit the heart of the matter with the word inconsistent.  If we are all honest with ourselves, we are all just a giant bundle of inconsistencies. Paul stated this in his letter to Rome as simply, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”  To live a human life is to live a life of inconsistencies.  Inconsistencies appear in both our actions and beliefs and become glaringly obvious when the two do not align with one another.  What we believe as absolutes today are the very things we may question tomorrow.  Theologies and beliefs I would have once defended I now despise and detest.  Though I lived a life once grounded in rules, regulations, and expectations, I strive now to live with an open minded letting Love be my guide.  Yet, in the very same breath with which I proclaim to live in Love I often find myself judging and looking harshly at those who choose to remain in the path I traveled for many years.  Despite striving to live freely in grace and seeking to show grace to others, my back still stiffens as my blood pressure raises when I’m cornered about why I walked away from the life I once lived.  I find it difficult to not respond in anger when being accused of leaving my faith and when I am judged as sliding down a slippery slope to damnation.  The churchboy I lived as would never openly admit to living such a life of inconsistencies no matter how true it would have been.  His life was all about maintaining the perfect image of what he believed a Christian should look like.  I would like to believe the churchboy I once was is dead, but as I shared recently I am forever recovering.  

Brennan Manning admitted his inconsistencies like this:

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

I’m at a point in my journey where I can truly recite Brennan’s words as my own.    Brennan captured what I now believe a Christian truly is as he concluded his statement above with the words of Thomas Merton, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”  This goodness of God is found in returning to Paul’s letter just a few sentences after his admission shared above, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul’s words bring us back full circle and return us to Jesus and his resurrection which is where our discussion began.  In pondering and reflecting on Easter, I found I was not alone in the process.  One friend spent the week on social media questioning if our obsession with and promotion of holy days had gotten in our way of enjoying the blessing we have in Jesus Christ each and every day.  On Easter Day itself, he gracefully summed up the week with the following sentences:

There is nothing wrong when we celebrate a certain day as “holy” when it is an option you choose in your own conscience before God.

At the same time, there is not a single instance in the grace portion of your and my bible where a holy day is presumed true and where celebrating a certain day is ever mandated.

Whenever and wherever a mandate to observe a holy day is present, it is a violation of God’s grace who cleansed our consciences and who liberated our minds and our consciences to enjoy him free of manmade ritual and tradition.

A life of grace is a life free of manmade mandates of ritual and tradition.  It all comes down to your own conscience before God.  To share grace with others is to refuse to view them through your own personal mandates which arise as result of that conscience between you and God.

Inconsistencies will arrive and plague us as long as we live but as Paul, Brennan, and Thomas all point out, it’s through Jesus we overcome them.  His consistency overcomes our inconsistencies just as His perfection overcomes our imperfection.

Rocky

 

 

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As Easter approaches, a popular morning TV program has been doing a series on the topic, ‘Can you be Spiritual without being Religious?’.

Now I don’t agree with every opinion given, but that the topic is being discussed is a good thing, bringing to light that there is a difference between being spiritual and being religious.

Obviously these days when you use the word spiritual, you can get into all kinds of strange thoughts and ideas. When I say spiritual, I am talking about a daily life following Christ and allowing His love to flow through us.

Spiritual Religious

My wife and I are no longer religious, but we are more aware of the spiritual, day-to-day life with God.

We realize that God is not a being up in heaven, coming down to visit us only when the conditions are right, or we are in a certain building, or we have been extremely ‘good’ over the past week.

No, God is spirit, and He is with us constantly. More than that, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God dwells within us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

I am not sure why it is we have always thought of God as a being who is way up there somewhere. The bible makes clear that we are one with God, and that God dwells within us.

We  seem to think that the Kingdom of God is a place we go one of these days when this life on earth is over. I think this also is a big misconception. God says His Kingdom is within us. That means right now, not some future date.

If we could only get these truths in our head and in our spirit, I think we could live a life that would really make a difference. People would see such a change, a life of love, caring, power and compassion. Unfortunately, we have been taught by religion that this just isn’t the case. We rely on trying to work hard, follow the rules and just survive until we get to heaven. So we go on, living life without the power of the Kingdom of God, arguing amongst ourselves over doctrine and belief, and letting people see we really don’t have anything to offer them that is meaningful and different.

It is time we come to understand that God and His Kingdom are within us. He is not up there in heaven waiting on some future day when we go to join Him. God lives in us and is with us constantly.

Jesus was the perfect example of God living in man. We can be Jesus to the world today. We can show love, compassion, and acceptance to the world around us each day. We are not God, but we are one with God. The Spirit is within us and he will teach us and guide us daily. Listen for the voice of the Spirit in every situation. Realize God is within you and allow His love to touch those around you every day.

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