Tag Archive: JohnRing

This week, yes the week before Easter, has been a rough one. Overall I’m fine and I don’t mean “Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.” While some would say I’m probably one or more of these, none are over the top. It probably has something to do with the Holy Week and Easter being right around the corner.
Easter is supposed to be the celebration that brings hope to our hopelessness. It is to be the pinnacle to a season of reflection about our weaknesses and failures. Jesus conquering death, slapping the evil forces in the face with his resurrection, is to inspire and move believers to life. But for some reason I have been reminded that good news of the resurrection is not always perceived in such a way.
Here we are going to talk about life beyond the grave. Explain that to a 6 year old who stayed up all night with his sick guinea pig only to have it die the next morning. He doesn’t necessarily understand the abstract spiritual life. He has to process that his guinea pig that he loved and only had for one month is dead.
Then the phone rings and you find out a friend from your past at the age of 35 had pneumonia, passed a blood clot and died. Spiritual talk, Bible verses and trite sayings don’t necessarily sooth the mourning soul. Proverbs says “Don’t sing song to a heavy heart.” The author of that one got it right. Sometimes we just sit and ask God, “Why?” We probably won’t get an answer we don’t already know.
The pains and sorrow so life won’t go away this week. We remember the Holy Week for the sufferings Jesus went through to pour out his grace upon mankind. I agree 100%. It is soothing to the soul to know the God I put my rest upon understands the thoughts and feelings that plague us.
A reader sent me an email a few weeks ago. He was talking about the hurt in his life. As I sit this morning trying to be encouraged in the resurrection of our Lord the song he sent to me in his email hits home. It’s the song, Grace by Rachel Platten. I’m not ready to have someone screaming at me “He is Risen” Sunday morning expecting the response “He is risen indeed.” Instead we need the soft voice of a Savior who says “my grace is sufficient.”
There is not enough space to publish the words of the entire song. It can be found on Youtube. Consider a few words:
Is this what I’ve become? Someone who gets jealous of someone?
Instead of open arms and honest praise, I’m closing doors and pushing love away
When did I come undone? When did the colors of my canvas start to run?
I can’t control the teardrops on my face, I know this ain’t the girl my mother raised
I used to wear love like an army I used to know nothing could harm me
Now fear got up all in my head, I’m all in my head, And I made a mess, I confess, I’m ashamed
Chorus: And I need grace To step inside my mind, help me be a better person
Or at least a better version of me, ’Cause right now, all I wanna do is scream
That I need grace,’Cause I’m running low on faith
And I really wanna change my heart,’Cause I’m falling apart these days
And what I really need is grace,Watching over my mistakes
Yeah I really wanna change my heart,’Cause I’m falling apart these days
And what I really need is grace.
Thank you Paul for sharing your cry for God’s gift of grace.
This Sunday, Easter Sunday, I don’t necessarily remember the resurrection so I can sit around and wait to die and go to heaven. I remember the resurrection this year as a sign of the hope I have in Jesus and the pouring out of his grace when my faith is weak and as Rachel sang, “I made a mess and I’m ashamed.”
Now, I can softly say, “He is risen.”

The coach grabbed the young man by the collar of his jersey and lifted him up off the floor pushing him hard into the wall of lockers.  With his hand balled up full of jersey he was screaming endlessly into the players face.  Eventually the anger subsided and he let go of the jersey turning his wrath against the rest of the team.  The only offense to the young basketball player was a weakness in his left handed dribbling and the inability to read the half court press put on by the aggressive opponent.

This would not be the first time nor the last time number 10 suffered the aggressive anger of his coach.  It happens to be the one he remembers the most.  The coach never mentioned the fact that the center never flashed to the center of the court during the press.  He never made adjustments for the weak left hand of his point guard.  Nobody was going to play in the NBA on this team.  Only one player would ever play one game beyond high school.

The coach had a reputation.  Few let out about his anger and abuse.  His reputation was his ability to win basketball games.  He won games with limited talent.  He won National Championships with talented guys and that’s all that mattered.  It’s funny how when one is of impressionable age what becomes expected and normal when the distance between good and encouraging is a world away.

The point guard was asked to show up years later at a banquet honoring the “successful” coach.  He refused.  He was one of the only men to avoid the event.  He got a phone call.  It was one of his old teammates asking him to attend.  The callers voice went silent when he heard the answer.

Without hesitation the now husband, father and coach replied, “If I want to honor a man for his ability to win basketball games I would come.  However, the cost was too great.  It is only by the grace of God that I remain a Christian.  If his example was what a “Christian”  should be I should have given up on the faith a long time ago.  I can’t honor him.  He won games.  He molded young men to be just like him.   He is not what I want to be nor my kids to be.”

That night they hung a banner in his honor in the largest Christian school in the Baltimore, MD area.  I wasn’t there.

Somehow “Christian” was boiled down to praying before everything we did and obeying the school behavior code which was thicker then a large print Bible.  We weren’t allowed to curse.  The coach could but he won games.  Doesn’t the Bible say to respect authority?  As long as we hung under the line of shame it must have been Christian.  Cross that line and there was hell to be paid.  That was the Christianity I grew up with.  At times when my mind reminisces I wonder how I remained a believer and follower of Jesus.

I think of so many who took the other path.  We all knew what we saw and what we experienced was far from Christ.  When what we see and what we hear does not match up a choice has to be made.  So many chose to run away.  The problem is I don’t blame them.  I wanted to run.  It was an act of God that I didn’t.

There are times I still want to run away.  I don’t want to run away because so many are no different then my old coach.  I want to run away when I find myself being that arrogant, abusive coach fighting for recognition and control in my own abilities.

I told a friend lately that my greatest flaw isn’t my left hand is basically useless or I can’t read the half court press.  I also have no concept of mathematics beyond algebra.  I can’t spell a lick either.  No, my greatest weakness is I think to highly of myself.  Not only is it in the genes as you can tell from this story, I had excellent teachers.

For those who have run away, come on back.  The example we ran from wasn’t Jesus.  Begin by forgiving me for the pain I have caused.  Begin by forgiving instead of condemning.  Now that is the Jesus in the Bible not in the locker room or the basketball court.

Maybe I wasn’t listening.  Maybe I was too hard headed.  I don’t want to blame someone for my own self absorption.  All I know is I don’t want to continue in it.  I thirst for having grace dominate my life even when those who light my fuse surround me.  I’m hungry for Christ to make a difference not so much in my moral behavior but more in my heart.  I want a lot.  Just like staying in the faith has been an act of God, it’s going to take the same to keep me from being just like the guy who could win basketball games.  No different than my salvation, it must come from Jesus.

In a culture a long long time ago (1977 to be exact) a classic was born.  People lined the sidewalks anxious to view a new world.  A new cast of heroes emerged.  They were men, women and children and a few beasts as well.  Star Wars was here and here to stay.  Forty years later and the force is still with us.  It helps when Disney studios purchases the production rights.

In the past, posed in a future context (Star Wars paradox) outside of an explosion of new special effects a galaxy of the imagination would amaze our world.  Lightsabers, Ewoks, and Jedi Knights would become the norm.  A new breed of individuals, Luke Skywalker (gotta love that name), Hans Solo, Princess Leia and Yoda (my favorite) would engrain themselves in our lives.  Today they give our old heroes, Superman, Batman and Aquaman a run for the money (literally).  Evil gets a new persona.  Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Darth Maul and the worst one, Darth Plagueis personalize the dark side.  By the way, does anyone know what “Darth” stands for?  I’ll make it easy for you.  It means “Dark Lord.”  George Lucas was brilliant.

This week Episode VIII:  The Last Jedi will be released.  Episode IX will come in 2018 and there will be more in the near future.  Follow the money trail…it leads to unknown planets where the battle between good and evil rages on.

Star Wars has entrenched itself deeply into our culture.  Certain quotes have become commonplace.  “Luke, I am your father,” is often heard in our family especially when one of the kids asks “why?”  “Laugh it up Fuzzball”, “Size matters not” and the #1 of all time “May the Force be with you,” dominate our memories and slip easily off our tongues.  Star Wars is more then a movie.  It has engrained itself generation to generation since its birth and continues to grab us scene after scene.

Along with the Star Wars avalanche has come a breed of films focused on Super Heroes, Marvel Classics and more that not only reveal the fight between good and evil but continue the desire for someone to rescue us from evil’s influence.  While every hero wrestles at some point with their calling Star Wars takes the hero to a new level with their commonality.  Luke, Leia and Hans could be your next door neighbor.  Actually Star Wars culture says everyone has “the force.”  It is only a few (the Jedi) who are born with the ability to engage it.  They are born with a purpose and calling to oppose those who have fallen victim to the dark side of the same force.  The Jedi are of simple birth with a calling of epic proportions.

Star Wars was more then a timely special effects futuristic yet historic film full of fantastic imagination.  In a sense it is a commentary on real life.  Our issues are cloaked in Star Warese.  Family issues prevail.  Fear of living like a clone exist.  Political battles with little middle ground dominate the screen.  Evil lives.  The need for something more than a good effort dominates the soul of any Star Wars fan.  Now we can relate.  Maybe that is part of Christianity’s problem, we don’t relate well.

Hollywood has been one of the biggest purveyors of Christianity and it might not even know it.  Every element introduced in each episode has elements of the gospel story.  Evil reigns.  Good falls.  Everything mentioned so far can be found in the pages of an actual ancient document that reveals a force, a hero of epic proportions and a cause that will continually fight in every episode. That dark force is relentless.

This Christmas many of us can’t wait till Luke Skywalker returns (another Biblical theme) to rescue the resistance in “The Last Jedi.”  All my friends and family are waiting in bated anticipation.

Years ago, in a world far far away, a baby was born.  He didn’t bear a lightsaber.  Instead he would bear a cross.  The force was indeed with him for no mere man could walk the path he walked.  In the Apostles Creed we read, “He descended into hell,” to defeat the evil that dominates the soul of every man, woman and child.  He wasn’t the last Jedi.  He was the Redeemer, the King of Kings and for us Star Wars addicts, the Lord of Lords.  His resistance force, the Church, struggles at times without question.  Often it falls on its face.  But, this classic has an ending.  Lord Jesus will one day rescue the resistance and evil will be vanquished once and for all.  No more Darths.  Lord Jesus only asks one question over an over when he personally fought the fight right here in this galaxy. There was an exchange between Luke and Yoda in one of the first episodes.  Luke said, “I can’t believe it.”  Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.”  Jesus’ one question was the same today as it was then…”Do you believe?”