Archive for hope

Cryin’ Time

Posted in Encouragement with tags , , , , on June 16, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

ab2e6aae7569767e3cebea551eb71fb3The kid would not shut up.  The whole way back to Chicago from Newark he was screaming incessantly from his seat two rows in front of me.  It was bad enough to be stuck in a flying tin can, but to have a child crying like that was almost unbearable.  I didn’t have earphones, so the best I could do was to close my eyes and tune him out by recollecting the events that happened at the Writer’s Conference.

There was the time when we were all gathered in the chapel for midday worship as the rain came down in sheets outside.  The run from the event hall to the chapel was rather unpleasant, but there were no unhappy faces as we sat in our soggy state singing praises to God.  Just as we came to the line in the hymn proclaiming God’s majesty like the power of thunder, a deafening peal shook the chapel exactly was we were singing the word “thunder.”  We all glanced around at one another and just smiled.  Coincidence?  God showing off?  A not so subtle reminder?  Perhaps God was looking down and nudged an angel with an elbow saying, “Check this out.  Humans love it when I do this.”
Then there was the reading.  People who signed up had the opportunity to read samples of their writings for five minutes.  Some were mediocre, some were profound, some were just like the rest of us.  There were the occasional few that really hit home, though – such as when Em read his poem for his daughter that he had just sent off to college.  The precious moments he had with her when she was a child.  The periods of joy and sadness that they shared as she grew into a young woman.  And then finally the moment where they said goodbye at the riverbank while she went off to start the next chapter of her life.
Although my daughter is only three, it made me think of the things I will share with her and the things I will miss with her.  Since I no longer have the opportunity to see her every day, I imagine there will be many moments that I won’t get to have, although I’ll always do my best to play a pivotal role in her life.  It reminded me of the importance of parent-child relationships and how we have to choose peace and kindness toward those we love rather than grief.  As Father’s Day approaches, it’s especially important to consider these dynamics.
Suddenly, the voice of the crying child on the plane sounded less like a headache-inducing wail and more like the sweet music of an innocent child.  I became aware that such cries are to be embraced right along with the laughter because we won’t always have the opportunity to hear either one.

Stop Wishing!

Posted in Encouragement with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2016 by thecrossingchicago
man_climbingWhat a wimp.  I had three 45 lb plates and a 25 on each side of the bar and I was doing sets on the bench press like nobody’s business.  He only had two 10s on either side of his bar.  He might as well just stay home and lift pop cans.  It would save him the money on the gym membership.  In reality, though, he was lifting a lot more than I was.  It wasn’t just the 85 lbs that he was pressing off of his chest, it was also all of the comments telling him that he couldn’t do it because he only had one hand.
Amir lost most of his right hand in Afghanistan to a roadside bomb and is now living in Chicago as a refugee.  I often see him with his brother spotting him on the bench as he grabs the bar with his left hand and rests it between the stump and what he has left of a forefinger on his right hand.
Another at the gym – Ahmed – has nothing left but rounded stumps where both arms were blown off up to the elbows in Syria.  But that doesn’t stop him from doing what many people say they will do when they get around to it as they sit in their chairs dreaming and speaking of “someday.”
I was listening to a motivational speech recently, and the speaker said something that struck me: The richest place in the world is not Shanghai and it’s not Dubai or Singapore or Riyadh – it’s the cemetery.  So many people have gone to their graves with “someday” on their lips and unrealized dreams in their hearts.  Too many of us are making excuses as to why we can’t do something, even though it torments us every day that we don’t.  We wish we could plug the ears of our soul as our personal legend cries out to us from within: “This is why you’re here!  This is who you were meant to be!”
Perhaps today we can begin to do something different.  Try stopping and listening to that voice within and see what it has to say.  Even better, start acting on it and see what happens.  Don’t go through life like “those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat” (TR).  Don’t spend your days saying “I wish,” when you have everything you need to make it happen!  And when you need encouragement, just come and watch Amir and Ahmed lift their complacency and excuses off their chest along with their weights.
Here’s to doing,

And Still I Rise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 9, 2016 by thecrossingchicago
Being raped at the age of 8 did not stop her from rising.  Although the man who raped her (her mother’s boyfriend) only served a day in jail for his crime, still she rose.  Even though she felt guilty for telling her family about what happened and that the man was found dead the day after his release from jail, still she would rise.  While she became mute for five years out of shame, fearing that it was her spoken words that led to this man’s death, that’s right; she still rose and nothing could stop her.
Jogging home from the gym yesterday, I was listening to a writer’s podcast on which Brene Brown was being interviewed.  She told about when she was on Oprah and after the recording was over, Oprah turned to her and said, “Maya Angelou is in the green room, would you like to meet her?”  Little did Oprah know, that Brene used Maya’s poem, I Shall Not Be Moved at the end of the semester for her classes.  When she went in the back and met Angelou and told her how much she admired her, Angelou took her hand and recited in song a few lines from the poem: “Like a tree planted by the waters, I shall not be moved.”  When I heard this, I got goosebumps.
Naturally, I had to look the poem up and not only read it, but hear Angelou reciting it herself in her amazing musical voice.  Sitting and listening to her recitations of I Shall Not Be Moved and And Still I Rise with tears starting to well up in my eyes, I pondered what I should write about for this week’s e-blast.  I looked up at my book shelf across the room and saw it there through the salty warmth that both blurred and magnified my vision: a small yellow book of poetry sticking out because of its color, entitled And Still I Rise.
Enjoy this recitation of the breath-taking poem that only one who had been stepped on and pushed down could have conceived.  As you listen to the power and depth of Maya’s voice and the magic of her words, remember that we all rise.  People may try to create you in their own image.  Their perceptions may try to paint you in a certain way.  They may may hate and despise you for who you are.  You may be too sexy, happy, beautiful, amazing, caring, loving, or wise for their own good.  But remember, no matter how hard they may step or with however much force they push, there is a place inside that cannot be broken, “and so naturally, there [we] go rising.”
More on rising at Easter . . . .

Yeah, But . . .

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2015 by thecrossingchicago

what i talk aboutOne of the great things about being a pastor (and there are many), is the opportunity to do a lot of writing.  I enjoy writing and the places that it takes me, but I am constantly wanting to take it to the next level.  I want to publish the non-fiction book I just wrote. I want to write novels. I want to publish more short stories. I want to develop a unique voice that moves people, etc.  I do ok and I realize the only way to become a good writer is to write.  There are other factors such as reading the works of good writers and setting aside a number of hours a day to write, even if I just end up staring at a blank page the whole time.  As much as I know all this and realize that I can probably become a fairly capable writer, there is always this nagging, “Yeah, but . . . “ going on in my head.  In the end, I am my own biggest critic and hurdle to overcoming mediocrity. 

“Yeah, but I have nothing important to say.”

“Yeah, but I can’t write like the great or even good authors.”

“Yeah, but I just don’t have the natural talent.”

“Yeah, but I will never be able to write anything worth reading.”

“Yeah, but I don’t even know where to start.”

You get the point.  Despite reading that a writer’s first draft is hardly “worth a damn” (Hemingway) and that it takes lots of practice, that nagging voice is still there.  Knowing that a disciplined writing regimen would elicit results that I can’t even yet fathom still sometimes leaves me paralyzed. Hearing writers like Stephen King say that even an average writer can get good merely by writing frequently (but a bad writer doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell – thanks a lot, Stephen), I am still plagued by a lack of confidence.  Even when folks are kind enough to tell me that I’ve got a gift for writing, I usually figure they’re just being kind.

On occasion, though, I hear something that gives me a burst of confidence or at least a glimmer of hope.  I hope these little nuggets will reach you, too, wherever you are and in whatever struggle you are plodding through.

I just finished a book by one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.  He is not only a good writer, but he has an imagination that is second to none.  Whenever I pick up one of his books, I can be sure that I won’t be disappointed.  The book was called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  It was a memoir of sorts of his dozens of marathons and triathlons and a little bit about how he got into writing. 

The book has energized me not only for writing, but I’ve also increased my running as a part of my daily workout.  I am amazed by the fact that, by tuning out my negative mind with music or podcasts on my iPod, I am able to run a lot farther without thinking about how my legs hurt or telling myself that I’m not a runner.  Instead of thinking about running, I just run.

According to Murakami, he was sitting watching a professional baseball game in Tokyo when he caught a foul ball and at that moment had the epiphany that he could write a novel (I don’t see the correlation either, and neither did he). He had no experience writing whatsoever and was running a small jazz bar with his wife at the time.  On his way home from the game, he bought a fountain pen and some writing paper and got to work.  Over the course of many months of writing from 3 am when he got home from the bar until the sun came up, he completed his first novel.  He submitted it for a contest and won.  The next year he released his second novel that was also written in the wee hours of the morning.  He sold his bar and convinced his wife to move out of the city so he could embark on a full-time career as a novelist.

What struck me the most was that a man who had no writing experience whatsoever put his mind to writing and got to it.  He stumbled along the way and had plenty of excuses not to write, but he was determined.  So determined, in fact, that he did his writing after a full day’s work when most of us are dead to the world.  He honed his craft and, through perseverance, became a very good writer.  His mindset about hard work paid off in his career as a novelist.  Having completed over 40 marathons and two ultra marathons (62 miles) as well as being strict about his allotted time for writing, translated into some very fabulous books that have brought joy to many readers.  It wasn’t so much that he had a savant for writing (although he obviously had to start off with some aptitude), but rather his mindset and discipline that helped him live his dreams.

The other part of the encouraging equation is something that my son’s coaches say at almost every practice.  It has been attributed to a number of motivational speakers and athletes, but rings true regardless of who first uttered it.  “The two things in life you are in total control over are your attitude and your effort.”  Here, here.

I may or may not have an aptitude for writing that is any better than anyone else’s.  But I am quite sure that, with a good and positive attitude (meaning kicking the yeah, but right in the yeah, butt) and giving all the effort I can (I will reap in direct proportion to what I sow), then I will succeed at making my dream a reality.

This is not only true for me, but it is true for YOU!  Is there something that you’re aspiring to do?  Is your mind trying to tell you that you’re any less than you really are?  Do you feel like life is dragging you down and keeping you from being who you know you were made to be?  Then don’t take it lying down!  If you’re reading this now and saying “Yeah, but . . . “ then I’m saying right back at you, “Yeah, but it’s who you were made to be!”  So don’t settle for anything less.

You Can’t Keep A Good Person Down

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 7, 2010 by pastoralb

Occasionally, we have dreams that are so vivid and surreal that they stay in our minds all day and often disturb us. I had such a dream last night. To make a long story short, in the dream, my five year old son had died and I only discovered it when I found him in the casket. This weird dream haunted me all day and made me think of the parallel worlds that were witnessing the death of another son. Just as many planets in the universe revolve around different suns, so the entire universe is centered around this one Son. God must have looked down upon his son and felt a terrible pain in his heart as he bore the sins of the world on that day at Calvary. At the same time, his earthly mother was watching as the son whom she had given birth to about 30 years before was being mocked, beaten, and nailed to a wooden cross. I can only imagine how both “sets of parents” must have felt at the suffering their son was enduring.

Before you start to think (or maybe it’s too late) that I am writing a sad or macabre message, let me get to the point. The death and suffering, thank God, are not the end of the story. Imagine also the elation that Mary must have felt when she saw her son that she had watched die – walking and well three days later! Imagine the rejoicing there must have been in Heaven when the angels saw that Christ was alive.

I often wonder what happened in that tomb. Did Jesus just open his eyes, sit up, stretch, and walk out? Did angels appear in the tomb and gather around his body and pour life back into him? Did the Father himself come down into that tomb and cradle His son until he opened his eyes? We will not know until we see our Lord face to face, but what is important for now is the fact that he DID get up and walk out of that tomb.

So what does that mean for us? There are the obvious theological ramifications such as defeating death and sin and killing the “old Adam”, giving birth to the “new Adam” so that our eternal life is sealed. But, this also means that no matter how bad a situation seems, there is always hope for a happy ending. No matter what we are enduring now, whether it is a personal matter that is weighing us down or a business that is lagging or just not taking off, we know that there is STILL HOPE. If our body is ailing and we can’t seem to get better, there is STILL HOPE. Don’t think for a second that you are defeated, because as we have seen throughout history and our own individual lives, the story isn’t over until HE says it is. So, hang in there because the dividends of your faith are right around the corner! It’s the third day, the son (sun) is rising, and don’t look now, but that stone in front of the tomb is starting to move!

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