Monday, March 29, 2010
During my time here in Australia I have been able to build relationships with some incredibly amazing people. The other night, one of those amazing people accompanied me to church. She’s from a small town in Ontario, Canada and has no church background aside from a few Christmas services and a frightening encounter with an angry preacher at a funeral.
So it goes without saying (even though I’m saying it) that at the end of the night I was eager to hear what she thought.
At first she spoke of the huge auditorium and the beautiful campus that housed it (It’s cool…It’s Hillsong), and how it was in sharp contrast to the churches in her town, which all happen to be on Church St. (Go figure).
Then she hit me with a couple of statements I wasn’t prepared for.
She told me that she had never been in a room with so many passionate people. To that point in her life she didn’t think it was even possible for people to be that passionate about anything. She said she could tell it wasn’t just a whole bunch of people in a room, but it was a real genuine community. From the worship, to the preaching, to the people… she was blown away.
Seeing the look on her face, and hearing the tone of her voice, made me realize a few things I almost forgot.
I almost forgot the effect that a passion for God can have on someone …
I almost forgot the look in a person’s eyes when He awakens hope in their heart…
I almost forgot how amazing it was that His passion and His hope are always active in me because of the love he showed in His Son.
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Let us never take for granted the awesome power of God in our lives…
Let us never forget, that same power can change the life of another in an instant.
Please don’t be like me and forget, even for a moment, the goodness of God. I encourage you to carve out some time in your week to reflect on the goodness of God in your life. Reflect on those moments when he “showed up” and left no doubt that He exists and that He hears your call.
Love, Life, Christ
Monday, March 22, 2010
I’ve watched my mom stand perplexed as to why my dad continued to choose drugs over our family.
I’ve watched my mom cry in shame to a landlord because we couldn’t pay the rent.
I’ve had to painfully listen as my mom explained that we didn’t have groceries because my dad wasted all of our family’s income on drugs.
I used to see all of this and think my parents needed a divorce. My mom would try to explain to me that she loved my dad and leaving him wasn’t an option. She would always say, “It’s not right to kick a man while he’s down. Your dad needs me.”
I never understood that when I was younger, but I’m starting to now. I used to think that I would one day grow up, get married, and “get it right.” I would be Bill Cosby and my wife would be Phylicia Rashad. Love wouldn’t be difficult at all. It would just come naturally. I wouldn’t ever be selfish or dependent like my dad. And my wife would never argue or be mad at me, plus she’d prance around the house looking cute and doing chores while speaking Spanish on the side just because I like how it sounds.
I’ve since waken up from that fantasy to realize that the test of love is not how perfect it seems to be on the outside, but the hardships it has endured. It’s trials and pain and hardship that proves whether love is true and strong. I used to think my mom was dumb for staying with my dad… now I see that she wasn’t dumb at all. She just understood love more than I did. She understood real unconditional love.
My parents didn’t prepare me for perfection, but they did prepare me for the reality of true love, involving sacrifice and commitment. Any sinful selfish couple learning to love one another has hard work cut out for them, and I couldn’t have picked two parents better suited to teach me that than mine. My parents have taught me more about relationships, love, and marriage than any “picture perfect” parents could have. Now, I thank God they didn’t get a divorce, because they have proven that it is possible to be faithful in the face of uncertain and hard times, and through the darkest of moments.
Do my parents have a perfect marriage now? Absolutely not.
Are there plenty of marriages better off than theirs? More healthy? Absolutely there are.
But I don’t know any two people who have had to prove their love for one another through more challenging circumstances. And for that I respect what they have gone through together. My parents’ love is steadfast, faithful and unrelenting. I don’t think I’ll be in circumstances like my parents. But I still want the kind of love they share. A love as resilient as theirs’.
When I was younger my parent’s marriage disappointed me, now it gives me hope. I hope that my wife has the patience and resilience of my mother. And I can only pray that the gentle and compassionate heart of my father has rubbed off over the years. (I’ll blog about my dad’s love next… so come back.)
I’ve learned that life is not Hollywood.
I’m learning about real love.
I hope I’m ready.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Hello people!!!! I’m Riis, Manny’s best friend, or best-looking friend; I’m fine with both. I’m currently studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia and I thought it would be a great time to jump into the blogging business and check in with all you beautiful people.
I have the privilege of living with a cool old Australian lady named Ursula. She rents out the rooms in her home every semester to students at the near by university. The first day I met Ursula she told me a story about a Korean student and a Chinese student that she housed a while back that made me think a quite a bit.
It doesn’t rain much here in Brisbane, but one night while the two students were living with Ursula there was a huge rainstorm. Thunder, lightning, winds, heavy rain…the whole nine yards. The next morning the Korean student expressed how frightened she was the by the storm. Ursula told me that she wondered why the Korean student was so frightened by the storm; surely at some point in her life she had seen and heard a storm like that…right? Shortly after the Chinese student explained to Ursula why the Korean student was so frightened. It turns out that she was not frightened by the wind, or the rain, by the thunder, or even the lightening…she was frightened by the sound of raindrops on the roof. For you or me the sound of raindrops on the roof seems like a forgone conclusion during rainstorm…that’s just what happens. We have all heard the noise, we may not hear it frequently but surely it’s a familiar sound…right?
For this Korean student whose whole life has been spent living in high-rise apartments in metropolitan Korea the sound of raindrops on the roof is not familiar, nor is calming, or even a foregone conclusion during a rainstorm…it’s frightening. When we think of someone’s immersion into a foreign culture we tend to focus on things like the language barrier, behavior, or cuisine. Seldom do we focus on the subtle differences between cultures that can make a world of difference when it comes comfort and understanding.
This little story had such a huge impact on me because… well…I’m in love with the Church (not your first guess?). I absolutely love the Church. I’m not talking about the building on Sundays that some of us go to where we talk and act funny, where we perform a whole bunch of rituals, and hear a bunch of things that don’t have any effect on our lives (and most importantly don’t have anything to do with Jesus). I’m talking about the radiant bride of Christ, the conduit through which the world will know and experience the amazing, transforming love of God. That’s the Church I love deeply, and because I love Jesus and his Church, I love the lost.
I think we often underestimate how much of a cultural collision occurs when someone steps foot into a Church. I’m sure we fully understand that a Church service or gathering may be new, different, or possibly even strange to someone who has never been in that environment, but have we ever considered the possibility that an experience at a church could be frightening? If your like me this idea is extremely frustrating because there is no possible way for us to know what type of experiences people bring into Church when the step through the doors. The probability of someone walking into a Church and being offended, uncomfortable, or frightened is quite high. So where does this leaves us?
I think being a follower of Jesus is such a privilege because we are entitled to so many invaluable nuggets of truth that help us navigate through life. In this case we don’t have to have all the answers…all I have do is receive and reflect. We are promised a perfect love that drives out all fear. For our sake, and for the lives of those around us we should prioritize saturating every area of our life with the perfect, transforming, and comforting love of Christ. Trusting that people will ultimately see his perfect love working in and through us. Surely his love is bright enough to outshine anything that may distract, offend, or frighten anyone when they walk into a Church. So I encourage you… RECEIVE his love… REFLECT his love so that you can truly be a child of God “without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”(Philippians 2:14).
Love, Life, Christ