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Looking Back to Move Forward

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Where are we, the (2)1st century or the 21st century?

“That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9 

In Christ, the passage of time doesn’t have the same relevance it has apart from Him.  Whether we’re in the 1st century or the 21st century, Christ is unchanging.

I want to live, always being ready to give a reason for the hope I  have within, and doing so with gentleness and respect.  (1 Peter 3:15)

Join me if you like.

  My Highest Aspiration: To have no life but Christ’s….for Him to be in me and I in Him… for He is in the Father.

BLH 2

 

 

A Day In The Life

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6)

One of the first albums I ever purchased was “A Day in the Life” by jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.*  I was 16.  Before that, I and most of my friends were into R&B song played on 45s.  To the uninitiated, most vinyl records at that time were the smaller, two-song 45rpms (one song on each side) or the larger album sized 331/3 which contained multiple songs on both sides of the vinyl.  

I still have that album all these years later.  I also have it in a CD.  It is one of the most mellow sets of music in my collection, and I still enjoy listening to it a half century after venturing into the record shop to buy it.

Yesterday, while out driving, my wife and I were reflecting on our lives (a little bit about the past, but mostly about the present), and we both concluded that we are content in life.  We both still have room to grow and have a desire to serve, but we’re really not striving or stressed by what we don’t have or by what we have not accomplished.  

A day in my life does not have the variety that it once had as my pace of living has purposefully slowed.  There is a mellowness I’m able to experience more now than ever before.  Now, when I do engage outside of myself, I’m able to experience more energy and focus because the distractions and distortions that might otherwise be in the foreground have shifted to the background.

Comedian, writer, director, producer Mel Brooks is famous for the saying “It’s good to be the fill in the blank” in his films.  I think it’s good to be content.  I have been given my portion.  The boundary lines of my inheritance surround wonder, beauty and hope.  It’s like a 331/3 album.  There are many songs, and each one has contributed to my good.

It’s good to be content. 

Blessings!

* “A Day In The Life,” recorded by Wes Montgomery at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1967. 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                     

Lament

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Several days ago, a colleague who teaches at a northeastern college posted a powerful lament on Facebook® as a response to the events at the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.    

In its noun form, a “lament” is a feeling or expression of grief or sorrow sometimes found in song or poem (Free Dictionary, Online).  Though not exclusive to the Bible, many of the psalms attributed to King David are prayers of lament in which he shared his feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness with GOD (and sometimes aimed at GOD).  The Book of Lamentations, attributed to the Prophet Jeremiah, is an extended lament over the fate of Jerusalem after its downfall at the hands of the Babylonians.       

I processed that post as a reminder and a challenge to make a decision, to rail or to lament?  The natural thing to do is to rail.  Anger is an easy emotion to express.  The violence on Capitol Hill was the fruit of long-term railing, a verbal shaking of fists, that led to the use of physical fists and beyond.  Is it right that I rail at others, directly, through social media or other means, in order to vent my feelings?  It certainly would be easy, and I can’t claim that I have never done that.

Somehow, though, I’ve come to believe that biblical lament is the better choice.  The battles that need to be fought are GOD-sized; humans have been railing at each other for one reason or another for multiple millennia, usually without lasting positive effect.  It is a failed strategy, although it often feels good in the moment.  Those moments, however, pass.   

The strength of lament is that it acknowledges both our emotions and our human limitations and gives those frustrations, angers, pains, points of sadness, and hopeful desires, and places them in the hands and heart of GOD.  The familiar pattern of biblical laments is that after all the complaining is done, trust and confidence in Him is expressly affirmed.

Furthermore, lament is a way to “cease the striving” which exhausts our souls and which leads us away from GOD-centered wisdom and toward self-centered wisdom, which, in the end, is not wisdom at all.  So while I won’t deny my feelings nor will I anesthetize my thoughts through a faux spirituality which denies hard reality, I will not rail at the wind nor at others.  I trust that when the proverbial dust settles, He will make all things well.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.    

Alone With Him

“Have you ever been alone with GOD?” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

I am very blessed in that I have several friends with whom I can engage in unfiltered discussions about spiritual and theological issues.  There are still matters about which I’m not fully resolved, and so having the ability to wrestle with these things out-loud is important to me.

I had once such conversation a few days ago concerning how well individual Christians, many of whom are physically disconnected from their local churches because of Covid, are faring spiritually.   I’ve had a little exposure to church leaders who conducted their ministries in physically and emotionally hostile environments, and I’ve long questioned how we in the West would handle it if there were significant and long-lasting obstacles to traditional church participation (i.e. church school, worship service, prayer gatherings, small groups, etc.) and the close relationships, mutual encouragement/support and calls to action that grows out of that fellowship.  

I think we’re pretty much there, at least for a lot of former regular church goers.  Unlike other parts of the world where hostility and sometimes virulent persecution of Christians is normal, Covid does not allow for the development of an “underground church” (except for maybe some anti-maskers and “Covid is a conspiracy” advocates).  Nine months has been more than enough time for most of us to settle into new routines, including those who may have been church fringe players to begin with.  Getting up on Sunday (or Saturday for some) morning and preparing to head to a church gathering place may have been replaced by new routines.  Virtual attendance/participation has become an important tool for many.  Some others may have checked-out enough that even virtual participation is inconsistent and maybe even unimportant.  When Covid is no longer the threat it is now, will those groups return to in-person presence?  Have new routines become so hardwired so that it is unlikely the local church will see them much, if at all?  

The big questions for me are how many of them counted on regular physical attendance for their spiritual feeding, but never adequately developed the passion and discipline to feed themselves?  How many are good with having someone else explain scriptural truths to them but never developed the habit of regularly digging into scripture themselves?  How many are grateful to know someone is praying for them or will ask someone to pray for them but don’t have a prayer life of their own?  How many don’t know what it’s like to spend time alone with GOD?     

As a former local church pastor, these were always concerns.  Imagine an adult who would have nothing to eat unless a parent or someone else prepared a meal and then literally fed it to them.  Not only that, they wouldn’t even have much of an appetite, but would eat if someone provided it.  As ludicrous as that sounds, it is not at all a far-fetched metaphor for those who have never developed any consistent, personal devotional life outside of the four walls of the church building.  They “eat” only when they “come to church” and only what someone else serves them.  The pervasive reality of Covid not only complicates this issue for these folks, it highlights it with a bold yellow highlighter.

Jesus, in one of His parables, used the example of ten young women who were to be the bridal attendants at a wedding ceremony.  Because the wedding celebration could begin upon the arrival of the bridegroom, these young women needed to be prepared for both a daytime and a nighttime arrival.  Consequently, each of them had lamps, but only five of the women had sufficient oil to take them well into the night.  Instead of the other five getting oil for their lamps as night fell, they all fell asleep.  Suddenly, word came that the bridegroom was near.  They rushed to purchase oil.  Meanwhile the wedding celebration began without those five.  When they arrived, they were denied entry when the bridegroom said he didn’t recognize them.       

While the ending may seem preposterous to our 21st century western ears, the parable was intended to be an object lesson on spiritual readiness.  The oil enables the lamp to cast physical light in the same way that the indwelling Spirit enables the believer to cast spiritual light.  Attaining capacity and demonstrating it in daily life is the validating indicator for each one desiring entry into the eschatological wedding ceremony (Rev. 19:7-9).  That kind of oil can’t be purchased in a store; it is the direct result of regular alone time with the One who gives spiritual oil freely and abundantly to those who earnestly seek Him (Luke 11:13).  

Covid, I think, has exposed the soft spiritual underbelly of those too dependent on others to give them their spiritual bread.  That substance is needed daily (Matthew 6:11).  Without it, we may not be ready when the Bridegroom arrives because we are not casting light…and not able to.

As Solomon said, there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:17).  There is a time to get ready and then there is a time to celebrate.  Let’s learn how to get alone with God now so that we can be ready later for the celebration.   

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.   All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.  

Hold On, Just For A Moment!

I was watching a college football halftime show and one of the analysts was lamenting to extent to which Covid-19 had upset normalcy in society and particularly its impact on the unencumbered play of college football.  Like the rest of us are impacted, all players, coaches, fans, and schools have been affected.  The schools with big-time programs also have experienced major economic hits as their football programs provide millions of dollars in revenue.  Taking a stab at humor, there was a paper shredder on the table and the analyst making the complaints started shredding pieces of paper with the year 2020 emblazoned in bold letters.

For certain, 2020 has been a tough year around the globe, but before it passes into obscurity let’s not ditch it before looking to see if there are lessons we can glean from it.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It’s not 2020’s fault.  Sure, there is symbolic blame we can cast on it, but when the clock reaches 12:01am on January 1, 2021 we will face the same challenges as we did in March 2020.  It was only a year ago when we were looking forward to saying “Happy New Year” as 2019 came to a close.  While there may be light at the end of the tunnel because of the pending availability of vaccines, it may be mid-summer before we have universal availability in this country, not to mention other countries around the world.  The challenges of economic and emotional recovery will loom large well into 2021…and there are no guarantees, which brings me to the next point.      
  • If nothing else, this experience, hopefully, has taught us and continues to teach us that we don’t have the control over our environment we thought we had.  Scientific and technological advances combined with the relative wealth of living in a “1st world” country can create an illusion of sovereignty, unlimited personal agency and even arrogance.  Nope!  No matter how far advanced we become, there have always been historical events beyond the control of persons, individual and collective wealth, scientific expertise, and governmental strength that remind us that we are neither transcendent nor unlimited.  Perhaps it was just our time.  This alone should humble us…and keep us humble.
  • The only tests of resilience are difficulties.  Endurance is only needed when there is something to overcome.  This past year has required, of all of us, resilience and endurance.  For some, it has been more so than for others.  Still, I suspect it will continue to be so as we try to recover, adapt, and move forward.  And perhaps the resilience and endurance we’ve had to demonstrate in 2020 will give us confidence for whatever we may face in the future.

So, before we throw 2020 away into the dustbin of forgetfulness, let’s take time to see what else it might say to us that can actually help us in 2021.  May the new year give you clear eyes to see and fresh ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.  

Blessings.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                

Advent Memo

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”                                                                                (Luke 2:11-14)

Asking the question, “Didn’t you get the memo?” or hearing someone say, jokingly, “I must not have gotten the memo” is a pretty common and light-hearted way of talking about instances of not getting a piece of information that everyone else seems to have gotten.  This passage from Luke is a memo of sorts sent, not to the elite of society (I suspect there was a shortage of elites in rural Bethlehem), but instead to some blue-collar outdoor workers assigned to the night shift.  

The message to them was one of peace.  I’ve always preferred to look at these words as GOD extending, by way of His Son, a peace offering to the humanity that was estranged from Him.  The relationship between GOD and His greatest creation was broken and dysfunctional.  The healing of relationships always requires someone taking the first step.  GOD took the first step and extended a hand.  

Many since then have taken the memo to heart and have made peace with GOD, through Jesus Christ, and have experienced the reality of a peace that is hopeful and which sustains through time or circumstance.  Quite a few are alive today; I’m blessed to know some. 

Still, we seem to live in an environment where harmony and benevolence (mutual peace and goodwill) is in too short supply.  Caustic attitudes, self-centeredness, anger, resentment and even worse, with the attendant justifications and confusion, seems the order of the day for enough folks that it’s impossible to ignore. Did they not get the memo?  If not, why not?  It’s not like anyone is hiding it.  It’s there for everyone.   If they did get it, are they ignoring it as if there is no downside to ignoring it?  What’s up with that?

One of the dynamics of peace with GOD is that it leads to peace with others.  GOD apparently values peace a great deal.  See Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” i.e. those who intentionally seek and make peace with others bear a resemblance to their Father in heaven.  

I’m not speaking of false peace which is just an absence of visible conflict or where animosity is suppressed behind a false face.  The peace I refer to is rooted in and flows from such a deep reverence and regard for GOD (love) that it translates into a deep, unselfish regard (love) for everyone else’s humanity.  It makes no distinction.  Jesus spoke to this when He said that loving GOD with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment and second to that is loving our neighbor as ourselves.  

We can’t experience this if we don’t have or really want His peace within, if we didn’t read the memo or take it to heart.  It is there for the taking.  Take it!  Though others may choose not to, don’t settle for less than GOD’s best.    

As we approach the celebration day for the first Advent of Jesus Christ, let us recall what Paul, an   Apostle of Christ, said from his imprisonment: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Read the memo.  Selah.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

ADVENT(URE)

A common word heard in the Church community this time of year is “Advent.”  It is a noun that means that something waited for is finally here.  Something important has occurred.  With the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, for example, the advent of the next generation of (pick your favorite brand) is enough for some people to wait in longs line (queues, for my European readers) in order to have the privilege of paying an outrageous sum of money to have better “bells and whistles” on your cellphone than the cellphone you’re replacing.  Everyone experiences advent in some context.

In the broader Church community, Advent refers to the first coming of Jesus as the promised Messiah (Hebrew version of Christ), the spiritual basis for the holy-day, Christmas.  Brief sidebar here: Messiah/Christ means GOD’s Anointed One.  The Church also anticipates a second Advent in the return of Jesus (that certainly would qualify as being pretty important), something promised multiple times in the documentation of prophecies in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and in the New Testament.

So now that the primer is out of the way, let me get to what’s on my mind.  I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but I’m now struck by the thought that the root of Adventure is Advent.  Am I the only one caught by this?  It’s doubtful, but I don’t ever recall anyone talking about this.

An adventure is the experience of something exciting, bold and maybe even risky.  There is, at its core, the idea of an arriving or a happening as a result of this exciting, bold, and/or risky step.  Adventure has described my life from the day I became a follower of Jesus.  My arrival at this choice to belong to Him and subsequent, related choices in the decades following, can be characterized by all three words: excitingbold and risky.  My life with Christ has been an adventure.  Not that most days have been high mountaintop experiences or low-in-the valley challenges, but on the whole, this is a life I could never have foreseen or planned, nor would I would trade it for anything other.  

Of course, there have been scary times, rocky places, high moments and some lows.  There have been questions by others about the wisdom and practicality of my commitments.  I’ve had to walk away from some folks who couldn’t get it and from vocational and personal pathways incongruent with this life.  I was once told, after resigning from a pretty lucrative career in order to begin preparing for pastoral ministry, that it was like I was bungy-jumping naked from the 57th floor of the high rise I worked in.  There’s a picture for you…a scary one on multiple levels!  I was actually in an office on the 57th floor when I was told this.    

I’ve had to sacrifice in multiple ways, including my right to define my own morality.  And I’m not alone in this…my wife, partner, and best friend chose to come along for the ride (thankfully!) knowing that it would cost her, too.  

Still, the pluses have been so much greater, in quality and quantity, than anything I have sacrificed, the most significant being that I “know a living Savior who’s in the world today” up close and personally.  This is not a cliché.  I know Him and He knows me; and because of this I take time to count my blessings, and man, there are so many and often beyond my comprehension!  More than once He has spoken to me in as close to being an audible voice without actually being audible, including once while I was driving alone on the Penna. Turnpike wrestling with a Big problem.  His presence in that car was so tangible, I literally turned to look at the passenger seat to see who was talking.  I can go on and on, but I won’t.             

My point is that because of the first Advent of Christ, I have experienced a great adventure.  And it’s not over!  I, like everyone else, don’t know how many remaining days I have, but as long as I’m here, I look forward to the Advent of Christ still to come.  That will usher in the ultimate adventure for “no eye has seen nor ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things GOD has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).    

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas because He’s real and He is for real.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless noted otherwise. 

Family

I grew-up disconnected from most of my extended biological family, although they are quite numerous, particularly on my father’s side (he was the second oldest of 15 children).  Consequently, I have (or had) lots aunts and uncles and a slew of cousins, most of whom I’ve never met. The reasons for that disconnection are complex and due to a family dysfunction that was in play before I was born; I was just one of the beneficiaries of it.

Thanks to one of my uncles, who used to stay with us during the summers when he was a college student and I was very young, I later learned a lot about the history of my dad’s family.  As a child, I had a special affection for Uncle Joe.  He was ten years younger than my father and still had enough play in him that I just enjoyed being with him.  I looked forward to him arriving every summer to work at the candy factory on the boardwalk in Asbury Park.  

One of his later in life hobbies was genealogy which he took seriously.  His research was pretty extensive, going back to my great-great-great-grandmother, a slave woman named Lucinda owned by a family from whom my family takes our last name.  He did research into that family as well and shared much of what he found with anyone in our family who was interested.  I was interested and have a lot of that documentation, including some very dated pictures.

I later connected with one of my dad’s younger sisters, and through her I met several cousins, her children and the children of other siblings of my father.  Some of those connections have been in person and some by Facebook® because they live so far away.  Sadly, a few of those face-to-face meetings have been at family funerals.  Still, establishing these connections has been a nice addition to my life; they have filled in some voids for which I’m happy.  One of my west coast cousins sent me a picture I didn’t have: my great-grandmother (b. 1867 – d.1944), and the family resemblance is uncanny.  These things are valuable nuggets to me, and I look to pass them on whenever I can.

The day Thanksgiving, two of our grandchildren (18 and 16yrs) surprised visited us.  My wife’s birthday was on Thanksgiving, and although they had called to wish her a happy birthday (we didn’t do the family gathering we normally do because of Covid concerns), they decided we needed a face-to-face visit.  When the doorbell rang, I asked my wife if she was expecting anyone, to which she said “No.”  I opened the door and there they stood with their Covid masks on.  They came in and hung-out with us for a while.  

It was good visit.  We got caught-up on how our granddaughter was faring in her first semester of college and how our grandson (a high school junior) was dealing with going to school a couple of days a week and the rest of the week taking virtual classes.  We talked about their aspirations and even some of their struggles and concerns, all of this with the TV on as background noise in the room where we sat.

I noticed our grandson scanning some of the pictures we have on a bookcase, pictures of various family members, and decided to pull out some others of their dad and our two daughters (their aunts), when all of them were very young.  I passed three or four of the pictures around, and it generated some conversation and few chuckles.  Before long they said their goodbyes and left, headed to the Panera Bread® a few miles from our home. 

As I was putting those pictures back into the albums, I was thinking that there is so much about our family my family members don’t know, and I would love to share it with them.  Isn’t the transfer of important information one of the responsibilities and privileges of older family members?   

I don’t want to push it on them.  Perhaps one day, they’ll develop an interest and an appetite for it.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise indicated.                              

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:17)

We’ve entered Advent season; what some describe as “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I agree that it is wonderful, not because of the traditional Christmas scenes which are often lovely and evocative of pleasant nostalgia, but because it focuses our attention on GOD’s gift offering of reconciliation and peace between He and humanity, namely Jesus Christ.  We don’t hear much about that offer of peace outside of the Church.  The truth is we needed GOD to make that move for us.

Lately, I’ve been studying portions of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible).  After the creation story, the entrance of sin and death into the world, and foundation-setting for establishing  a godly human family, all found in Genesis, the remaining four books are essentially about the immense culture change that was needed for that human family to experience a distinctive spiritual formation leading to godliness.  I am currently nearing the end of Leviticus, a book that might as well be labeled, “GOD is perfect and holy.  If you want to be His, you be perfect and holy, too.”

That’s just the overview.  Wait until you get into the details…and there’s a lot!  The requirements of GOD, both in terms of what was to be done to be holy and what was not to be done to remain holy is just about beyond description.  It virtually (some would say “literally”) covered every aspect of human life, including things most of us would never think about as important.  But they’re important to GOD who reminded us that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and that nothing impure, imperfect, or defective in any way was acceptable to Him.

Though it’s not my first time in Leviticus, I haven’t studied it in a while.  I’m newly struck by the breadth and depth and height of GOD’s perfection and by how short of His mark I fall.  I’m struck by how much He demanded of those who He called “His people.”  Each time I open Leviticus, I see at least one requirement that I haven’t met; usually it’s more than one.  It would actually be discouraging to keep a list with each day of study.   

These weren’t the kinds of things to shrug-off as in “Oh well, I messed up again.”  No, there were penalties tied to these failures, some of them quite severe.  “Be holy as I am holy” has never been a small thing, a throw-away line, although we may treat it as such.  GOD is serious about His holiness and understanding this explains so much about the travails of national Israel throughout their history.  Impossible to comply is a phrase I would apply to trying to live this kind of life, and that is ultimately the point.  

In the “short-term” (what we call B.C. or B.C.E.), GOD showed mercy and grace to those who fell short of His mark of perfection and humbly acknowledged their shortcoming in confession and repentance.  He forgave them for their sin, reestablishing them in right relationship.  But as the Bible says, in the fullness of time, He sent His Son who lived that life of absolute, perfect holiness.  

Although Jesus never sinned, He took the sins of the world onto Himself, paying the penalty once for all.  He was the One who never fell short of GOD’s mark in anyway, and in that, fulfilled the requirements of all of the Law, including what is specified in Leviticus.  I am so glad for Jesus.  I needed Him to do for me what I was incapable of doing for myself.  I fell short…a lot; He didn’t…ever. 

In Romans 8:1, Paul the Apostle says, “Therefore, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (underline mine).  Who is that condemnation for?  It is for those who, with their own merit, don’t meet GOD’s perfect standards of holiness.  But for those whose hope, trust, faith and life have been placed into the life of GOD’s only begotten Son, there is no condemnation because He is the perfection of GOD’s holiness in every way.

All of the reminders of this makes this most wonderful season of all for me.  I pray that it is so for you as well.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved for text content unless otherwise noted.                  

Come On, Church!

While I haven’t seen it in a while, I used to enjoy the “Come On, Man” segment on the ESPN® Monday Night Football pregame show.  Do they still do it?  For the uninitiated, the segment highlighted bone-headed plays and player behavior from different games from prior weeks. Each analyst on the pre-game show would select several plays they wanted to highlight, a video would show the play and the behavior, which would always be something head-scratching, and the analyst would say, with disdain in his voice, “Come on, man!”  The underlying, unstated message always was, “You need to do better than that.”

In truth, the saying is a lot older than the sport show’s use.  I’ve heard it from others and have said it myself for many years as a reaction to seeing or hearing something from someone that provoked an incredulous reaction in response to their behavior or comment, “Come on, man!”  It’s another way of saying, “Are you serious!?” or “Are you for real!?” or “You’re kidding me, right!?” or “I can’t take you seriously!” or “That was messed up!”

If you’ve been following me at all, you know that I have a great love for the Church.  I’ve spent most of my adult life in it, both as a lay member and as clergy.  I write about it, directly or indirectly, much of the time.  I read a lot about it.  I have studied the Church from its inception to current times, and the most of its developments, transitions, struggles, successes and failures in between.  I believe it to be a mystical body with a holy, transcendent purpose.  And sometimes, I think we are living beneath our calling and beneath our privilege.

The various philosophical methods developed over the centuries to “prove” GOD’s existence and the validity of Christianity aside, my study, my reason, and my experiences (including my observations) combine to affirm GOD’s reality.  The holy and transcendent are not and cannot be products of human wisdom and creativity.  Therefore, participation in them come from invitations from above and these invitations and participation have specific modes (e.g. grace, the Holy Spirit, acknowledgement of sin, repentance, faith, rebirth, self-emptying humility, and intimate spiritual relationship expressed through obedience, study for understanding and wisdom and regular prayer).  

The faith on which the Church was founded was never intended to join the list of the world’s philosophies.  It was to stand apart as the distinctive, earthly body of the heavenly and holy person of Jesus Christ.  Without that distinctiveness, Christianity can’t be anything but one among many human philosophies rooted in an argument not a person.  

The invitations have come from above, but the response and participation within the Church is uneven and sometimes lacking.  This is even more the case when the Church’s attention moves away from Christ, His will and His ways, and focuses its passion on other issues, causes, concerns and their associated wills and ways.  The result: a confused purpose, diminished power to witness, and inconsistent ability to demonstrate transformation into Christlikeness, the intended fruit of faith.

Come On, Church!   

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.   

Step Away

“…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)

Looking back on life, I realize how much energy I’ve exerted trying to avoid toxic things.  That goes for situations and, occasionally, people.  I’m not referring to the common aggravating things that are part of everyone’s life that tend to bum you out, but rather the situations which (and people who) so negatively affect your outlook and attitude that only removal of yourself enables you to restore equilibrium.  And failure to remove yourself may cause you to either assume aspects of that toxicity within yourself or experience feelings of having a weighted soul (oppression).

This was a periodic challenge in the corporate settings in which I worked whenever office politics became pronounced and people were trying to assert power in obvious and (in what sometimes appeared to me to be) cynical ways, when people were jockeying for power and prestige, or when something went wrong and avoidance of responsibility and c.y.a. was the ingrained habitus.  Demonstrating skill in these areas, i.e. functioning in the midst of toxicity, along with demonstrating competence in an assigned area of responsibility, was a way folks survived and even thrived.  This wasn’t a constant, but it became prevalent enough that I had to leave.  Thankfully, GOD provided me a way out.

Of course, toxic environments and people are not exclusive to business settings; we find them in every arena in life.  And I think the dynamics in them are essentially the same regardless of the setting, become a part of the toxicity or recognize what it is and how it stands to impact and step away (mentally and emotionally, if not physically).  Unfortunately, I think many people who have opted to adapt to toxic environments don’t realize that they have done so.  They’re like the Fabreze® commercials; they become nose blind to it.  They don’t see anything irregular or harmful to themselves or to others, often despite the reaction of others to them.  

Scripture frequently used yeast, a leavening and fermentation agent, as symbolic of sin.  In the story of the exodus, the ancient Israelites were told by GOD to not use yeast in their baking of bread at the time of the Passover.  Later, they were told not to use it in preparation for certain sacrificial offerings.  In the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul used yeast as a metaphor for sin or that which leads to sin.  

Anything toxic (literally, anything harmful and capable of causing injury) influencing our spiritual selves is a sign that yeast is present and at work.  It is harmful to us and to those around us because yeast affects whatever it touches.  Adopting attitudes and behaviors which are toxic is sinful because they do not reflect the love of GOD nor love of others, regardless of how they manifest themselves.  I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons Jesus talked about the importance of having eyes that see and ears that hear.                                       

When I see it in myself, the antidote is to acknowledge and deal with it before GOD in an honest and non-defensive way.  When I experience it in situations or in others, I will try to speak to it as graciously as I can and may make it a matter of prayer.  After that and if nothing changes, I usually step away.  It takes too much energy to remain in the midst of that. 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.