Thursday, September 29, 2011

Furious Love

(The following story is a re-telling of a story told by Brennan Manning in The Furious Longing of God)

Once upon a time there was a college student named Larry.  Larry was rather large.  Fat actually, and unkempt.  He wore jeans that had seen better days, a constantly dirty t-shirt and no shoes.

He was as low in self-esteem as one can sink and still manage to survive, if that is what you call what Larry was doing.

He had no social life, for he was labeled by everyone as “ugly”. 

One year, at Christmas time, Larry found himself back home with his parents in Rhode Island.  Larry’s father was a typical lace-curtain Irishman.  That meant on the hottest of days he would come to the dining table with a tie and suit on; he spoke in subdued tones. 

As the New Year approached, Larry told his Dad he needed to get back to school the next day. 

“What time, son?”


“Well, I’ll ride the bus with you as far as I can.”

The next morning Larry and his father rode the bus to his dad’s work place where Larry caught another bus to go to the airport. 

There was a group of men in front of his dad’s work place and they began making loud and degrading remarks to Larry.  “Oink, oink, oink.  Look at that fat pig. 

Another man remarked, “If that slob was my kid he’d be out the door so fast, he wouldn’t know if he’s on foot or horseback.  Hey pig!  Give us your best oink.”

The harsh words continued.

At that moment Larry’s father, for the first time in his life, reached out and embraced him, kissed him and said, “Larry, if your mother and I live to be two hundred years old, that wouldn't be long enough to thank God for the gift He gave to us in you.  I am so proud that you are my son!”

What amazing and informational words those were. 

Here’s what happened. 

Larry went back to school.  He remained a hippie, but he cleaned up the best he could.  He began dating and to top it off, became the president of one of the fraternities.  He also managed to "squeak" by with a 4.2 grade point average.  He had what you might call a brilliant mind. 

On June 14, 1974 Larry was ordained a priest in the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.  After being ordained, he spent the next twenty years as a missionary in South America, living a life of total service to others in a redemptive and grace-filled way.

Why the transformation?  Why did Larry turn from being a fat slob and an aimless nobody?

For one defining moment in time, Larry felt unconditional love from his father.  That moment changed his life forever.  His father healed him. 

Did you read that right? 

His father HEALED him!

His father had the guts to give Larry the blessing he so desperately needed in the face of cursing and taunts.  His father looked deeply into his son’s eyes and saw the good that Larry couldn’t see for himself.  He affirmed Larry with a furious love, and changed the whole direction of his son’s life. 

Changed by furious love!

What an amazing transformation. 

Larry is the vehicle for this story, but it was his father’s love that this story is really about.

People cross our paths daily.  Some are casual acquaintances; some are intimate loved ones and friends.  But what matters is how we see each relationship. 

--Maybe you work on a college or university campus and you interact with students all day long.

--Maybe you are a boss and have an employee who needs just the right word from you to effect his/her transformational moment.

--Perhaps you have a friend who is desperate for those words of healing.

--The person most in need of your transformational words might just be a sibling or your own child.

Regardless, there are some people whose destinies could be changed in the blink of an eye with just the right words spoken at the precise moment in time when they are needed the most. 

Will you be that person speaking those words?

My wish, my prayer for you, is to see those close to you as redeemable.  Show them grace in a graceless world.  Dare to love with furious love. 

Love that is blind to circumstances, physical attributes body odor and clothing style.

Love that is blind to racial differences, religious opposites, and life-style choices.

Show Furious Love. 

What an amazing concept. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's Go Together

I like living life in pairs and groups.  There is something about the shared experience that adds to the memory.

A few years ago I read a book by Reuben Welch entitled We Really Do Need Each Other.  In it he tells this story.

“After teaching a class on group and interpersonal relations at the college campus where he taught, the class decided to take an hour and a half group hike together up to a place called Henniger Flats, just outside Pasadena, California.  It was to be a sort of culmination of all that they had learned during the class time.

They picked the day, they set the time, they made the sandwiches and the chocolate and bought the soft drinks and packed the back-packs and off they went.

The strong, stalwart ones started out fast, lead by Don, a former paratrooper.  In no time the group was strung out all along the trail on their way up to the top of Henniger Flats, with Don in the lead, marking the trail for the others to follow. 

Don paused, looked back a few switch-backs and saw Jane, who was as we say “a bit over weight.” 

Don felt a strong urge to go back and walk with Jane for a while, which he did.  The others up ahead often called out, “Come on up.  Go faster.” 

Jane would call back, “I can’t.  I don’t think I can make it.”

“Oh yes you can.  Try harder,” came the reply.

And Jane did not make it to the top.

Thankfully the group decided that this was no way to end this shared experience together, so they decided to try again, only this time they made some new rules.

This time we will all go together, or we don’t go at all.”

So they picked the day, they set the time, they made the sandwiches and the chocolate and bought the soft drinks and packed the back-packs and off they went.

Time passed.

It took them four hours to reach the top, and by the time they arrived all of the back packs were empty, the sandwiches were eaten, and the hot coco and the soft drinks were all gone. 



What a concept. 

What if we adopted this idea a bit more in our lives, in our towns, our state, and our communities? 

What if families banded together in such a way as this and determined “we are family, we are together, and we survive together.”

What if churches exhibited this concept?  We would probably sing a good mixture of hymns and praise songs and nobody would be left out. 

What if the strong stalwart ones could humble themselves enough to reach back for the weaker, slower ones and lend a helping hand? 

That would be something else, wouldn’t it?

We’ve got to go together!

Some will definitely 
have to slow down.

          And some will probably
need to speed up.

But we do it together.  We go together.

It’s not a matter of finishing first, or having your own way.  It’s working together as a group, sharing, laughing, loving, crying, but it’s all about this thing called “TOGETHER”.

We are facing some dire times.  If ever there was a time for us to pull together it is now.  Jobs are being lost. Families are stressed and being pulled apart.  Blood pressures are rising, bank accounts are dwindling. 

What do you say?  Next Saturday, how about all of us go up to Henniger Flats? 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Let's Go Invent Tomorrow

Today is done.  Last week and last month are distant memories.  I can’t go back and change anything that happened in the past.  But tomorrow is coming. 

Steve Jobs made the statement, “Let’s go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday” when he was reinstated as head of Apple Computers in 2007.  Living in the past is … the past.  Yesterday’s meal was for yesterday.  Last week’s sale was great, but now we need tomorrow’s sale. 

I love looking back as much as the next person, but only long enough to reflect on where I’ve come from, and to navigate my moves for tomorrow and do better.

It’s all about tomorrow.  What can we create tomorrow that will have lasting significance?

There are sales to be made tomorrow.
There are blogs to be written tomorrow.
There are kids to hug tomorrow.
There are conversations to be had tomorrow.
There are grand plans and vacations and destinations to be anticipated tomorrow.

Move toward tomorrow.  Hold onto the memory of today, but go and invent tomorrow.

You and I get a blank page on which to write tomorrow.  We can create, dream and invent and become anything we want to become -- tomorrow.  Tomorrow is not stuck on yesterday. 

I made a misstep today. 
I spoke out of turn. 
I looked bad in that performance.
I didn’t listen with both ears before I spouted off.
I over-talked a critical contact person yesterday.

Tomorrow I will do better, be better, listen better, act better.

How can we invent tomorrow?
1.      Learn from today; note our weaknesses and do better.
2.      Read more on subjects of interest for our future.
3.      Take a class in our area of interest.
4.      Ask for help from someone who is successful.
5.      Write down five things we  can do better tomorrow.  Tackle them one at a time.
6.      Know thyself.  Take a personality assessment to help with our self-understanding.  Live the examined life.  Discover our own acres of diamonds.  (If you haven’t read this book, you really should.)

Our tomorrows are waiting. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just Who Are You?

Some say ..
“I’m just a
   “I don’t have
      “I can only do …”
         “I never finished
            “I thought about it but
               “I tried but

Me?  I’m just a guy, living in Edmonds, Washington, married to a wonderful woman named Carolyn.  I write something each week that I hope will make a difference in someone’s muddled world.  I’m just me, doing my thing.  It’s not much, but it is something. 

You see, it’s what I can do, for now, to help improve my corner of this world.

What about you?  What can you do for now? 

Who are you? 

Maybe you’re a mom, raising kids alone with no husband in the picture.
Are you a mid-level manager with dreams and ambitions?
Is retirement your lot in life, and you feel on the shelf?
Do you have that next great idea for a widget, yet can’t find investors?

Who are you, really?

I know a bit about disappointments, setbacks, hopes and dreams yet unrealized.  I understand that people will sometimes let you down. 

What can you do, right now that will improve your lot in life?
--Can you spend an hour in deep thinking?
--Can you re-tool an idea and create a better solution?
--Can you restore a relationship that has gone sour?

Take heart.  Have hope.  You are better than you think you are.  You are resourceful.  You can do more.

We are all human beings, with dignity, and we’re made in the image of God.  We have divinity in us.  We each have goodness -- stuff that this world needs. 

Don’t despair.  Don’t throw in the towel.  Hang on.  Have hope. 

Be a becommer.  Be you.  “Be all you can be” (thanks to the US Army).

Just who are you?

You are an amazing individual with so much to offer. 

Discover you! 

You are something else!!!

What a fitting close for this thought from the Psalms.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, and then out; 
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking
Body and soul, I am marvelously made
I worship in adoration—what a creation
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
the days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.
(The Message - Psalm 139: 13-16)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Where Is Hope?

“Where is hope” you ask? 

If we listened to the doomsday thinkers of this age, we wouldn’t even look out our windows, for we would be convinced there is no good in this world, no one cares, and we are going to meet our end at any moment.

So, where is hope?

It comes sauntering down the street, smiling, offering to help a neighbor clean up his yard after a strong windstorm.

Hope is found at the end of your wrist as you reach out your hand to help someone in need.  And you respond simply because you can.

Hope is a sack with a hamburger and fries handed out a car window at an intersection where one is asking for a miracle.

Hope is heard in the prayers of a mother offered for her child who lies in the hospital on an operating table.

Hope is found in an envelope containing $100 or $1,000 that is left anonymously with your name on it.

Hope is an encouraging card received in the mail from a friend who just happens to know you are struggling at this particular moment.

Hope is an email with just the right word for you in your moment of greatest need.

Hope is you buying a family in need a sack of groceries.

Hope is a smile and a kind word to someone down on their luck.

Hope is an encouraging word spoken when it is most needed.

Hope is seen when the electricity is turned back on after a devastating storm has ravaged your part of the world.

Hope is a Good Samaritan coming along when your car has stalled on a cold and rainy night.

Hope is a job offer when there were thirty other candidates.

Hope is a doctor coming through the door with a smile and the words “He/She is going to be Okay.”

Where is hope?

It’s found at odd moments, in simple expressions, and offered by a variety of individuals; those who simply want to make this world a better, a more forgiving, grace filled place to live.

How can you give hope?
Love.  Reach out.  Extend your hand of help and your heart of compassion. 

Sometimes you may need to reach for your credit card or cash in order to offer hope.

Sometimes, it’s a phone call, a card, an email. 

Where is hope?

Hope is in the heart of the giver and the receiver.

It is in a quiet cathedral or sanctuary.
It is in the Bible.
It is in a lovely song.
It is in any form where the giver and the receiver connect in love and compassion.

Where is hope?

It is here, now.  It is in you and me.

Hope is two people connecting with human kindness.

My life verse from the Bible contains these words.  For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord.  Plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

A future with hope!

                              I like that!

And it is offered to everyone. 
  -No race requirements.
            -No economic requirements
                      -No height and weight 
                                -No age or gender 

A future with hope.

Move confidently toward your future filled with hope!