Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him (Psalm 98:1).”

A new year is supposedly a time of change. What most people think about is making resolutions to change themselves in some way.

This isn’t the theme of the current animated fantasy movie “Brave”.  According to the protagonist Merida, a princess, the person that really needs transformation is her mother Elinor.

Elinor and her husband King Fergus have invited allied Scottish clans to their castle so that the first-born sons can compete for the hand of the teenage Merida. However, the spunky young lass wants no part of this arrangement.  This is understandable, as she can run rings around the doofus boys who are her suitors in every way.

In scenes as old as the hills, Merida and Elinor have clash after clash. Teenager against parent. What a surprise.

Merida is out in the forest one day when she encounters a “will o’ the wisp” which leads her to a witch’s cottage. Merida arranges to buy a cake which the witch has promised will “change” her mother.

After Elinor unsuspectedly eats a piece, she is changed alright. She is turned into a bear.

This is bad enough, but the impact of the event is exacerbated by the family history. Her husband King Fergus is renowned for having fought and defeated a monster bear, losing his leg in the process. So the king has no love for bears.

Merida and Elinor flee the palace and find a holographic recording left by the witch. This message says that the spell will become permanent “by the second sunrise” unless Merida “mends the bond torn by pride”.  Merida takes this to mean that she is to repair the family tapestry she tore during one of her fights with her mother.

Merida and Elinor reenter the castle and take the tapestry as they are being pursued by Fergus and the clans.   Merida mends the tapestry as they once again flee.

In the exciting conclusion, Merida fights off her own father and the others, telling them “”I will not let you kill my mother!”.  Of course, they have no idea what she is talking about.

In the process, the evil bear defeated by her father shows up and attempts to swallow Merida. Elinor fights off her fellow bear and this enemy is killed.

As the sun rises on the second day, Merida remembers the parameters of the witch’s curse and throws the tapestry over Elinor. However, it appears to be too late.

Merida cries and kneels before her mother and exclaims

“Oh, no! I don’t understand. I… Oh, mom, I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I did this to you, to us. You’ve always been there for me.  You’ve never given up on me. I just need you back. I want you back, mommy. I love you.”

Merida feels the touch of her mother and looks up to see that her mother is once again human. Elinor hugs and kisses her daughter.

“You’ve changed!”, Merida screams. Elinor replies, “Oh darling. We both have.”

The real bond torn by pride has been mended: by love.

I think many of us are like Merida. We claim we need to change, but what we really want is for the people who are causing us grief to be transformed.

What we don’t understand is the impact our own negative behavior has on those around us, especially those close to us. We most likely have had a major role in making the person who they are today.

We like Merida could state,”I have done this to you.” Our barking, cajoling, yelling, manipulation and and abuse have done major damage.  Furthermore our attempts to remake others to suit us have actually harmed them.

The teenager Merida had to go through hell to see that the solution to the problem she was having with others lay within her. At the end of the movie, she says:

“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.”

Merida took the first step in changing herself. She had the courage to look within. Then she  confessed her lack.  God calls us to do this as well (I John 1:9).

However, we shouldn’t  just stay in remorse. We ought to move on to love, compassion and understanding of the other, as Merida and her mother did.  Doing this will at least change us.

More than likely, though, continued love of the other will also result in their changing as well. However, even if the other person doesn’t change, we will engage in what Emerson Eggerich calls “The Rewarded Cycle”. Even though the other person doesn’t respond to our love (and we may have to wait a long time), God will reward us for our effort.

If you are like me, you have a tendency to dwell on  the results of the curse we are under in this world and our own failures and say “Woe is Me!”. However, the third stanza of a popular New Year carol tells me that this is not God’s desire for us:

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.”

Jesus came at Christmas to dispense with the evil portrayed in “Brave”.  The curse doesn’t have to be allowed to stay in our homes, our workplaces or other spheres where we have influence. It can be booted.

What is needed is  the courage at the New Year to change ourselves by appropriating and spreading His encouragements in our relationships with others.


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“Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me (Psalm 13:3-5).”

I once had someone tell me in a professional situation,”I can tell you’re not happy here. I can tell by the way you walk.”

I initially was offended by this statement. For one, the person had hardly seen me in three months. In addition, I wondered what my ambulatory methods had to do with my performance in a job that was more mental than physical.

However, the more I thought about it the more I tried to take these comments to heart. It was not the first time someone had commented on my appearance as I walked. Someone close to me once said,”You walk like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

So lately I have been trying to get more of a spring to my step. I have been out walking in the forests in my community, giving my body a good hearty push. No more of this dead man walking stuff!

While I initially had reservations about someone commenting on my body language, in all fairness our nonverbal features do communicate. I should have known better since I teach language and cultural behavior.

One of the great incidents in American history involved a nonverbal action which may have saved the country during the Revolutionary War. It involved an attempt by George Washington to convince his officers not to rebel against Congress due to this bodies lack of payment for the army’s services.

According to William Safire, the officers called a private meeting. Washington learned about it and showed up where he really wasn’t welcome and gave some remarks to persuade them against their potential insurrection.

The speech apparently didn’t have much affect, but something Washington did after it  carried the day in his favor. Here is Safire’s account:

At the conclusion of his speech, which he read from pages of his own clear writing, Washington looked at his sullen audience and drew a letter from his pocket. It was from a member of Congress, he said, explaining the straits the country was in and what the body was attempting to do to pay the debts of the war. He squinted at the writing in the letter and could not go on. The audience of officers sturred in their seats, wondering what was wrong with their commander. Washington then groped in his waistcoat pocket and drew out an item that only his intimates, and very few in his audience, had seen him use. They were stunned to see him requireds to put on a pair of glasses to read the crabbed writing.

“Gentlemen”, he apologized,”you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

Biographer James Thomas Flexner writes.”This simple statement achieved what all Washington’s rhetoric and all his arguments had been unable to achieve. The officers were instantly in tears, and from behind the shining drops, their eyes looked with love at the commander who had led them all so far and long. Washington quietly finished reading the congressman’s letter. He knew the battle was won, and avoiding, with his instinctive sense of the dramatic, any anticlimax, he walked out of the hall…”.

Actions sometimes do speak louder than words. Erwin Lutzer emphasizes how the father of the prodigal son demonstrated his joy at the boy’s return.

Luke describes it:  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.(Luke 15:20).”

Lutzer mentions how uncharacteristic the father’s behavior would have been in the culture of the time. So would have been clothing the boy with his own robe and ring, symbols of authority, as the father did.

I figure that sometimes I just worry too much and it shows. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.

In talking about the our great country and its standing with God, Lutzer mentions that in the great scheme of things we should as individuals put our presents and our futures on His loving shoulders. I think if I do that there will be more of a lively step in my gait, and a gleam in my eye.

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Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,  yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19).



I didn’t get this comic, because I didn’t understand the term “Parkour”. Therefore, I looked it up Parkour.

Here is what that great, sometimes unreliable, Internet source Wikipedia says about it:

Parkour (sometimes abbreviated PK) is a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. Originally developed in France, the main purpose of the discipline is to teach participants how to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. Traceurs (parkour practitioners) train to be able to identify and utilize alternate or the more efficient paths.

Now I get the humor of  comic.

Woman: “Toby, are you running from the bullies at school?”

Toby: “It’s only cool if you call it Parkour.”

Just running from his those seeking to beat on him isn’t cool to the boy. However, if fleeing from them involves an avante garde activity, then  it’s what the people in the 60s called “groovy”.

People who particpate in PK are called “traceurs”. The unofficial motto of those who are engaged in the movement is “to be and to last”.

Obviously this is the goal of the Bucket kid. If he is truly running cool, he is actually developing his self confidence and critical thinking skills according to the traceurs.

Philosophically, Parkour is characterized by freedom and the lack of competition. Thus, having a dedicated site for doing this kind of activity is contradictory to PK’s purpose.

Furthermore, it is a practice which involves the reclamation of humans. Doing PK is supposed to help the enthusiast interact with the world, not be protected by it.

Traceurs prefer real places with real obstacles. This is why Parkour is practiced in gyms, offices, parks and abandoned buildings.

Even the British military has begun to incorporate it in their training. In addition, the United States Marine Corp is introducing Parkour.

PK is really nothing new. This free running style has been around since Neandrathal days.

Prior to the First World War, Georges Hebert went to Africa and noticed the agility of the the people in the tribes there. He began to develop PK-like training based on the following traits:

  • Energetic or virile sense: energy, willpower, courage, coolness, and firmness
  • Moral sense: benevolence, assistance, honor, and honesty
  • Physical sense: muscles and breath

Despite the potential dangers, Parkour appears at its core to develop positive aspects in its advocates.

 This morning when I read  an episode of the life of David in the Bible (I Samuel 27), I questioned his state of honor at this time. It didn’t seem like the experience, which involved his fleeing to the Philistines and away from the bully King Saul, was very positive or right.

David seemed to possess during this period some dishonorable characteristics. They included to me fear, cowardice, and dishonesty.

However, I am now reconsidering my thoughts about David’s jaunt to the Philistines. I think he might have been engaging in an ancient form of Parkour.

David surely was attempting to survive (“to be and to last”). In addition, he was seeking to find the best method to get around his obstacles, which mainly involved King Saul and the thousands of men he was employing to hunt him down in Israel.

In addition, David didn’t ask to be sheltered from harm in Philistia. He asked the Philistine king  Achish to let him live in the free and open spaces of the countryside instead of in the well-protected   royal city.

David wanted his freedom and he got it. He wouldn’t allow other men, including the two most powerful men in his region, to control him.

It is possible that David moved over to Philistia in order to train himself, his family and his men for the future. After all, he had been anointed as the future king of Israel by the prophet Samuel at God’ direction and would need to prepare for the day he inherited that responsibility.

While among the Philistines, he and his followers kept fit in the qualities needed  in the art of war, and continued to assist Israel in fighting its historic enemies. Sure he lied to King Achich concerning whom he had fought against on his raids, but this can be written off to clever strategy against the Philistines, who were also long-time enemies of Israel (I Samuel 27:8-12).

As the life of David shows, things are not always as they seem. Boys running from bullies may actually be developing themselves.

I have recently become a big fan of the HBO series called “The Wire”. Although I am a Johnny-Come-Lately to the show, I am looking at old DVDs and continue to be intrigued by its portrayal of my hometown of Baltimore, which has been called “gritty”, but is constantly trying to escape that image.

In this series, just about everyone is trying their best to make the best of a bad environment.  The worst off are the African American kids in the ‘hood.  With drug dealers controlling their neighborhoods, they have a tough time not becoming involved in the crime and the business.

For example, middle schooler Michael Lee sells drugs. However, he has kept his self respect and freedom by bravely resisting the enticements of Marlo Stansfield, the young new kingpin of the drug trade.

Another middle schooler, Randy Wagstaff, has unwittingly become an accessory to murder. He was told by those involved in the killing to tell the victim that a young woman was waiting for him in a park. There, the victim was taken away and put to death.

Randy is greatly disturbed by his inadvertent role in the killing when he learns the truth. Yet, he isn’t totally pure. 

He continues to walk  a difficult line between goodness and evil. The police consider him a good kid, however,  and do their best to protect him.

The police are also moving and shaking to survive, even thrive. For example, rebellious detective Jimmy McNulty takes a demotion to patrol officer in order to straighten out his life.

Dedicated police such as Major Crimes Kima Greggs and Lester Freamon manage their way out of the division when a politically motivated new boss comes in as a “unit killer”. They move over to Homicide where they can continue to maintain their nobility as real police.

Life surely deals us what appears to be a bad hand at times. It would behoove us, though, to step back and consider what really may be going on.

It could be the Lord wants to use the circumstances so that we engage in a little Parkour.  What may seem like like disastrous slavery could  really be God’s means to give us our freedom.

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“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).”

This morning I overslept and walked late into the final early morning men’s seminar I have been attending at my church. As I sat down, men continued to give testimony to what they had learned.

One cerebral-looking fellow stood up and begin to speak. He talked about how he has been striving at work to be more efficient. The man, who appeared to be a technical person, mentioned that he wasted a lot of time because of inefficiency.

He went on about how he had come up with some ideas to be more efficient, and the writing had gone into several hundred pages. As he held up the course workbook, he explained that he wanted to be more effective at work so he could spend more time working on the types of things he had learned on Tuesday mornings.

“I figure it will take about a year for me to learn to apply the things I learned from this (again holding up the workbook),” he said. My fellow early riser said he believed progress  would be like the slow turn of an aircraft carrier.

I sat there groggily amazed. My book from the course was sitting in the rear seat of my car at the time.

I didn’t even care to bring it in this morning. I had left it in my car many times before, also.

I expect my book will make its way eventually to a place beneath some stack of papers on my dresser, never to be seen again. I know I have to pick it up one more time because I am supposed to come up with a “manhood plan”.

This plan should be done before my small group gets together for lunch next Monday. While I don’t mind the task, my own lack of efficiency and stucture stand to keep me from accomplishing anything with it.

This unstructured task orientation is the nature of my temperament. I confirmed this last Sunday in another class, one on gifts, at church, this one on Sunday mornings and much later than the men’s meeting I have been going to for 8 months.

Plans like the one asked for by the men leading my course usually end up well-written, but also well-hidden. They never see the light of day after they are finished.

I have recently thought how little my life actually reflects the high minded truths and insights I have written here in this blog over the last year and a half. I have mused that if these writings survive me, some people would think that perhaps I really had it together.  If they only knew.

It has occurred to me today that my disregard for the application of God’s Word is pretty contemptuous of Him. I surmise that He thinks my passive behavior is pretty contemptible.

 The brainy expert I heard this morning, on the other hand, intends to spend the next year learning to apply the things  from the biblical course he just took. In my early morning numbness, I was impressed. 

I was also challenged. “Oh  yeah, application”, I thought. I should know better, given the amount of exhortation I heard on this subject in the early days from the leaders in the Christian circles I hung in.

Not following through would make the last eight months of Tuesdays a mockery. Indeed, I think deep in my heart I see the exercise of application as futile, at least for me.

What I am saying when I toss material from Christian leaders is that I believe that  x ≠ y (with x being the insights from the course I just took and y being doing something to change my life from what I learned). In my heart, I believe the wisdom  is valuable, but application is not.

This is the inference of my do-nothingness. In other words, I don’t see the goosebumps I sometimes felt at 6:00 am listening to the speaker are connected in any way with subsequent action.

This thinking aligns me with those outside the faith, to be honest. The apostle Paul desribed people of his day who were not holding to the truth to his disciple Timothy:

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (II Timothy 4:3,4).”

Paul doesn’t say this exactly, but his advice to Timothy also infers that the people he was discussing had no inclination to act. They just wanted the goosebumps. Why else would he tell Timothy:”…but you keep your head in all situations,  endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (II Timothy 4:5).”

To Paul, a true Christian not only pursued sound teaching, but he also  lived it out with action. Paul could look back on his own legacy and note that he had “fought the good fight…finished the race…kept the fight (II Timothy 4:6,7)”.

Going to church functions for months and not doing what one is told puts one in dangerous territory, since lack of application mocks God, as noted above.  God doesn’t suffer mockers lightly.

This was brought home to me by one of these viral Emails I occasionally get in my box. This one came from a relative.

The text of the Email reviewed the cases of some famous and not so famous personages who themselves suffered God lightly, i.e., mocked Him, and paid for it. The following story really got my attention:

“In Campinas , Brazil a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a
friend. The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter, holding her hand, who was already seated in the car, ‘My daughter, go with God, and may He protect you.’  The daughter responded,’Only if He (God) travels in the trunk, ’cause inside here it’s already full.’

Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident.
Everyone had died. The car could not be recognized -what type of car it had been- but surprisingly, the trunk was intact.

The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To
their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken.”

Oh, I suppose my failure to obey God’s Word isn’t the same as blowing smoke in His face. However, the passivity makes it appear that in my heart I find Him and His Bible laughable -of no real consequence in my life. Nice feel-good stuff, but where’s the beef?

Melanie wrote a song which portrays me and God in this dance over His teachings.
“I rode my bicycle past your window last night
I rollerskated to your door at daylight
It almost seems like you’re avoiding me
I’m OK alone but you’ve got something I need, well

I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates
You’ve got a brand new key
I think that we should get together and
Try them on to see
I been lookin’ around awhile
You got something for me
Oh, I got a brand new pair of rollerskates

You got a brand new key.”
God’s got some wisdom and insight from His people He wants to tweak in my life. The teaching won’t do all it can do without my “key”, my application.
God doesn’t really need me. He does ok without me, but He wants me.
With my application of what I hear from godly men and women and his Word, He would have  a conduit in which He and I, working together, would bless the world. We would really fly down the streets of my town.
Unfortunately, I am not available. God keeps coming by my door with the new stuff from His storehouse of biblical goodies, and I keep avoiding Him. My failure to greet Him and His Word with other than touchy-feely emotions is pretty disrespectful toward the living God.
So what to do? There’s that word again-do. 
Well, I think a good place to start is to review the definition of manhood I learned from the course I just finished. The leader of that course says that real men reject passivity.
If that’ true, and from God, then I need to go dust the crumbs off my coursebook in the back seat of my car and complete my manhood plan-and do it with enthusiasm.
Change doesn’t come easy. I know that.
This is probably why I am a passive, unstructured man. I hate pain. I have enough in my life without saying to God,”Hit me.”
But from my techie friend this morning I learned that I am not in a good place, just sitting in a chair at 630 am and listening, waiting for the “tinglies”. 
I gotta get off my duff and head on down the road. Unfortunately, metaphoricaly it’s raining outside. 
It’s been pouring literally these days in my town, too. This led me to look up the old “April Showers” ditty.
I was surprised by what I found. Everyone knows how the showers turn up flowers in May.
But what is never thought of is the opening line to the song:
“Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss….”
Amen to that. Life is tough. But applying God’s  will at least provide some semblance of  joy in life.
God says so. In that case, I have to decide if  I am I going to just observe what I just wrote and treat it as a goose bump statement,  or if will I act on it. For my sake, and the sake of my loved ones, I hope so.


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 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (((II Corinthians 4:7-12).”

This morning as I drove my kids to school, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you'[re alive.”  I admit it. Sometimes I wish I was not.

I suffer a lot from depression, and have tried many ways to deal with it. For instance, I take medicine.

Still, on mornings like this one, it’s hard to overcome. It’s a miserable, cold, rainy day and I am stressed.

My wife has said something to me recently, though, that is beginning to get through to my tough hide and connect. She has been telling me,”Enjoy your new job.”

This statement has caused me some cognitive dissonance. I think this is because I don’t really think I can, will or am supposed to enjoy it. As one friend once told me,”Work is…work is…work is WORK!”

I recently got hired to coordinate a short project at place of employment. It pays better than my regular gig, and it seems like it’s going to be interesting.

Yet, I am focusing at the moment on negative things and I am worrying. These both are common traits of mine when I am under stress.

But my wife is right. Why not enjoy it?  Why not have fun with it?

Sure, things could, and probably will, go wrong. But that’s life. It’s a fallen world.

My job is to make sure the people I serve have a good experience. I think it may also be that I have to be sure I have a good one, too.

Where do my thoughts of potential doom and gloom come from? I suppose they come from a lot of places.

Perhaps one of the sources of my pessismism about life comes from being an adult child of an alcoholic. There’s been a lot of research about the effects of that situation.

Maybe there is a generational curse at work. I have thought of that recently, also.

Whatever the spring, I see myself much of the time as a person going through a life which is a dry wasteland, where there is no water. Mine is an unfulfilled life from my own perspective.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song describing a person in this emotional state:

“Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland.
Got a head-on collision, smashin in my guts man.
Im caught in a crossfire that I don’t understand.
But there’s one thing I know for sure girl:
I don’t give a damn for the same old played out scenes
I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens.
Honey I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now.
You better listen to me baby:
Talk about a dream; try to make it real.
You wake up in the night with a fear so real.
You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come.
Well don’t waste your time waiting

Badlands you gotta live it every day
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price youve gotta pay
Well keep pushin till it’s understood
And these badlands start treating us good

Workin in the field till you get your back burned
Workin `neath the wheels till you get your facts learned.
Baby I got my facts learned real good right now.
You better get it straight darling:
Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be kings,
And a king aint satisfied till he rules everything.”

What is the way out of these badlands? Will they ever start treating me good?
The answer to the latter question is that in this life I can’t necessarily expect  my circumstances to treat me well.
However, there is an escape route from my depression and poor outlook on life resulting from things like broken dreams and heredity. God is the way out of the badlands. Springsteen writes:
“I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got.
Now I believe in the love that you gave me.
I believe in the faith that could save me.
I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it
Will raise me above these Badlands.”
My way out of my badlands is through the love God has given me, the faith in Him which saves me, and the hope He continually provides.  The path out of my depression is hope in the living God.
My hope can’t be in my lineage and my good or bad work.  Even the people of God in the flesh don’t have that hope.
The true people of God aren’t the physical sons and daughters of Abraham, as the Jews believe. The Bible tells us the people of God are the children of Abraham that come from faith in His promise of a Savior, a Person  who would bless all mankind (Hebrews 9:8).
Jesus experienced a short, and by earthly standards, an unfilfilling life. He was not upwardly mobile. He was rejected and despised, and ultimately executed.
Yet, He fulfilled God’s plan for Him, even though from the world’s point of view at the time it looked like defeat. His death brought life to all mankind.
That’s got to be pretty fulfilling to Him in retrospect (Isaiah 53:1-6).
Jesus was victorious.
Springsteen ends his lyrics in a note of hope that tells me my life on this planet can also be one of  triumph, also.
“For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
That it aint no sin to be glad you’re alive.
I wanna find one face that aint looking through me
I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these
Jesus doesn’t look through me. He is looking right at me, even as I type these words.
Jesus despised the shame that came with his horrible lot in life, but he kept his eyes on the prize, that of  the joy to come. Just as Jesus has His eyes set on me after His victory, I need to fix my eyes on Him to lead me through the badlands (Hebrews 12:2). 
If I am going to enjoy my new job, and my life in general, as my wife admonishes me to do, I have to get my eyes off of myself and onto God and others. This is the way to life that is truly life  (I Timothy 6:17-19)!
In a recent communion service, a lady shared how the resurrected Jesus met some disciples on the road to the town of Emmaus. They talked with Him, ate with Him, but didn’t know Him until one point when their eyes were finally opened and they knew who He was (:Luke 24:13-32).
This dear lady further shared her thought that the men knew Jesus well enough to finally recognize Him. Her encouragement was to know Jesus well enough that we too would know who He is.
My hope is that the things I go through serve to help me know Jesus and to make Him known to others through my life.  Along the way, as this is brough about why not enjoy the process? At least I know where it’s going to end: out of the badlands.

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“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones (Proverbs 15:30).”

Carter Chambers and Edward Cole are an odd couple. Edward is a billionare businessman, while Carter is a struggling African American mechanic.

However, they are linked together because they are engaged in the same fight: a battle against cancer which is sucking the life out of them.

They are roommates in the same hospital when they both learn that they have less than a year to live. As a result, they develop a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket”, a “bucket list”.

In the movie of the same name, the two men leave the cancer ward and begin to check things off their lists, using Edward’s money to fulfill their dreams. They jump out of airplanes, drive souped up cars around a race track, and visit exotic locales.

Along the way, they engage in a discussion over the meaning of life. Edward’s thinking is “we live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.” 

When it comes to faith, Edward doesn’t get it. He tells Carter, “I envy people who have faith, I just can’t get my head around it.”

Carter replies, “Maybe because your head’s in the way.” Carter, unlike Edward, is a man of faith.

Overlooking the Pyramids, Carter tells Edward:

“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death.  When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions.  Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.  ‘Have you found joy in your life?’  ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”

For Carter, this joy is found in meaningful relationships. As the two men do the items on their bucket list, he realizes more and more how important his wife Virginia and family are to him.

On the other hand, Edward’s focus is on fulfilling the list itself. When Carter attempts to reconcile Edward and his estranged daughter Emily, Edward becomes angry. He lashes out at Carter:

” This trip was supposed to MEAN something to me? Like it was gonna change ME? How did you see it playing out Carter, I knock on the door, she answers, she’s surprised and angry, but I tell her how much I love her and miss her, and OH, by the way, I’m gonna be dead soon so I’m reaching out to you because I don’t wanna die alone?”

Carter replies,” Everyone’s afraid to die alone.”

Edward, walking away in anger, tells Carter, “I’m not everyone! This was supposed to be fun. That’s all it ever was.”

 The trip ends. Carter is dying with joy because he has hope, while Edward has neither joy nor hope.

Carter’s view of life is more akin to that of those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Christians understand that they can be joyful because of their trust in the work of Jesus on the Cross.

We have peace with God because of what Jesus did for us. Not only that, we are being saved through His life. Indeed,  perseverance and a godly response to suffering (such as that of cancer) empowered by the life of Christ in us actually produces hope for us (Romans 5:1-9).

Despite the  argument which results in a bad end to their trip, Edward rushes to Carter’s side as the end approaches for the latter. As Carter is dying, Edward is given a letter to read from him. It reveals the mutual benefit they gained from each other:

 “Dear Edward, I’ve gone back and forth the last few days trying to decide whether or not I should even write this. In the end, I realized I would regret it if I didn’t, so here it goes. I know the last time we saw each other, we weren’t exactly hitting the sweetest notes-certain wasn’t the way I wanted the trip to end. I suppose I’m responsible and for that, I’m sorry. But in all honestly, if I had the chance, I’d do it again. Virginia said I left a stranger and came back a husband; I owe that to you. There’s no way I can repay you for all you’ve done for me, so rather than try, I’m just going to ask you to do something else for me-find the joy in your life. You once said you’re not everyone. Well, that’s true-you’re certainly not everyone, but everyone is everyone. My pastor always says our lives are streams flowing into the same river towards whatever heaven lies in the mist beyond the falls. Find the joy in your life, Edward. My dear friend, close your eyes and let the waters take you home.”

Edward heeds Carter’s last words to him. He reconciles with his daughter and meets his lovely granddaughter.

More importantly Edward seems to have found faith in God. He speaks at Carter’s funeral of his friend’s influence on him:

“I hope that it doesn’t sound selfish of me, but the last months of his life were the best months of mine. He saved my life, and he knew it before I did. I’m deeply proud that this man found it worth his while to know me. In the end, I think it’s safe to say that we brought some joy to one another’s lives, so one day, when I go to some final resting place, if I happen to wake up next to a certain wall with a gate, I hope that Carter’s there to vouch for me and show me the ropes on the other side.”

As a result of his new faith, Edward seems to have died in hope. Carter narrates the end of the movie:

“Edward Perryman Cole died in May. It was a Sunday in the afternoon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He was 81 years old. Even now, I can’t claim to understand the measure of a life, but I can tell you this: I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open..”.

The lives of Edward and Carter in “The Bucket List” teach us that true joy is found in Christ.  This joy brings us hope for this life and the next (Romans 15:13).

This joy and hope we have found in Jesus shouldn’t be hid away for ourselves. Like Carter, we ought to be bringing joy and hope to others by directing them to faith in Christ and the benefit of loving relationships.

We can also learn from Edward’s generosity toward Carter in helping him fulfill his dreams of this life. He used his  riches to help another man find some joy and provide some inward healing in the process.

 There is joy in Christ, and there is joy in living (I Timothy 6:17,18). As believers, we ought to spread that joy around as much as we can.

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