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Lazarus, Come Forth

randomlychad  —  September 21, 2016 — Leave a comment
deesisPanel2_lazarus from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Tim, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.

“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.

Yet he didn’t.

Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.

Yet Jesus let him die.

What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).

And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:

Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.

Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.

All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.

Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.

Believest thou this?


View on YouTube

If you’ve attended church at all in the last twenty years our so, chances are good you’ve worshipped to the sounds of Hillsong. Hillsong is a church which began in Australia under the auspices of Pastor Bryan Houston, and has become a global movement of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through teaching and song. Along those lines, the Hillsong movie, Let Hope Rise, debuts tomorrow, September 16th, in the United States.

Above is a clip discussing what worship is: surrender. A recognition that God is God, we are not, and oftentimes an appropriate response is simply lifting our arms in surrender. For myself, while corporate praise and worship has its place, I need to find a quiet spot, laying aside the cares and worries of the day, the distraction of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my phone, etc, and get alone with God. It’s in those times where songs like Worthy Is The Lamb have moved me to tears, reminded me of my abject creatureliness, and my utter need for Jesus.

That is what what Hillsong is all about: connecting people with Jesus. Along those lines, I’d like to give you a copy of the Let Hope Rise soundtrack. Simply leave a comment, or share this post, and you’ll be entered to win. The giveaway will run for a week. The winner will be announced in this space.

By all means go see Hillsong Let Hope Rise in theaters this Friday.

God bless!

Greater

randomlychad  —  August 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

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Greater, the story of Brandon Burlsworth, is now out in theaters. It stars Neal McDonough (lately of TV’s Arrow). Brandon had one dream: play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Problem was he was overweight, slow, and had never played at that level.

How did he become the greatest walk-on play in history?

That’s the story of Greater, of how Brandon’s grit and determination in the face of derision and overwhelming odds would not be denied. He worked harder, practiced longer, and still gave all the glory to God.

See below for an essay from actor Chris Severio on what it meant to him to get the privilege to play Brandon in Greater:

GREATER Offers Great Life Lessons
By Chris Severio

Actors wait their entire lives to play a role as meaty and meaningful as Brandon Burlsworth. I was blessed to get that opportunity in my first movie, bringing Brandon to the big screen in GREATER, in theaters everywhere Aug. 26.

Brandon was a true champion and role model for so many, and I hope this movie entertains and inspires you and your family. For all the young athletes, new athletes, struggling athletes and dreamers out there (and their parents), these three lessons from Brandon’s life hold the key to building character and finding your destiny.

         Dont let anyone tell you that you cant: Brandon was not the most physically gifted athlete. He struggled with being overweight, wasn’t naturally graceful, was a pretty unlikely candidate to be a college football All-American and then drafted into the NFL. He was able to do it all because he refused to listen to those who doubted him or his abilities. He always believed in himself, knew that through hard work and dedication, he could be anything he wanted to be. The only thing standing between you and your dreams is how passionately you’re willing to produce them.

         Dedicate yourself to something greater: Its no coincidence the film of Brandon’s life is called GREATER. As a Christian, he believed he was called to be a man of integrity and honor off the field as well as on he dedicated himself, first and foremost, to God. Your faith can strengthen you, and like Brandon you can choose to be a role model on and off the field.

         Help others: Brandon Burlsworth was a giver. He didn’t just play football, or live his life, focused exclusively on his wants. He made others needs a top priority–family, team mates, friends and fans. As he dug in deep to reach his potential as an athlete and a man, he encouraged and supported those who were taking that same journey alongside him. Brandon didn’t just make himself better; he made others better, too, because he was intentional about finding ways to help them.

Below, I’m privileged to share a clip from the movie that shows how dedication, persistence and helping others can contribute to your character and destiny.

https://youtu.be/vyYFGBUESIkGreater clip

I hope you enjoy GREATER and are as inspired by Brandon’s story as much as I and so many others who knew him and know of him have been. He was a remarkable young man, and having the privilege of bringing his life to the big screen was a remarkable experience.

The following post was actually written a few years ago, but I couldn’t think of anyone other than my wife’s grandma–her nona–who has lived a life more personally inspiring to me. I’m posting this again because, while nonni doesn’t suffer from any afflictions other than extreme old age (she’s now 102!), there’s a show on the A&E Network, Born This Way, which chronicles the lives of folks with Down Syndrome. They face life one day at a time like the rest of us, yet often with more joy de vivre than those of us the world terms “normal.” Why is that? How are they able to overcome when starting with the deck seemingly stacked against them? Watch Born This Way every Tuesday night on A&E to find hope, encouragement, and inspiration.

 

I can think of no living woman stronger than my wife’s grandmother. We call her “Nonni.”

Nonni was born in a poor Sicilian village in the early part of the last century. She was part of a large family, and learned early the value of hard work. Being one of the younger children, she also learned early the sadness of loss: an older sibling was killed in South America (where he had emigrated), and her own father apparently died when she was about ten. Nevertheless, she pressed on, helped her mother provide for the family.

As hard as things were in America during the Great Depression, imagine living, and marrying, in what were arguably third-world conditions during that time. Yet that’s what Nonni did. She met and married her husband, kept animals, and I believe farmed on another’s land, in the middle 1930s.

Somewhere in the midst of that, they started their family. And sometime during that period, Nonni left Catholicism for the Italian Pentecostal church. One did not do that at that time. Though I don’t know with certainty, she may have been labelled apostate–everyone knew there was only one true church (not a slam against our dear Catholic brothers and sisters–it was just the culture of the day). Even her own husband kicked her out of their house.

But she, with love and grace, eventually won him over.

They had another child. And sometime not long after, her husband was conscripted into Il Duce’s army. She did what she had to to provide for their children–including being a wet-nurse for others’ babies. She grew food, made pasta, made clothing, and made do with whatever she was able to make (combined with whatever meager soldier’s salary her husband was able to send home–if any at all).

She went long periods of not knowing whether her husband was still living, or not, but all the while praying for his safety. (While I can conceptualize, I can’t really quite imagine the privations she, and millions of other Europeans, endured during World War II).

Eventually, the war ended, Il Duce was deposed, and Nonni’s husband returned to her. They had another child. They had twins who didn’t survive long after birth.

At nearly forty, she had her first hospital birth–via c-section–of their last child.

When she was forty-one, Nonni and her family sold all their earthly possessions, and headed to America. Initially, she was told that not all of them would be allowed to go. She didn’t accept this answer, instead prayed to God that He would make a way. And He did.

But can you imagine leaving behind all you knew–your culture, your friends–for a strange land where you didn’t even speak the language? Can you imagine reinventing yourself in your forties?

Nonni did it. And through hard work, sacrifice, and faith, did it, and prospered.

In the fullness of time, she saw her children apply that same grit, and faith, and make their way in the United States. Grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren, were born.

But it hasn’t all been wine and roses; no, she has seen innumerable friends and family members pass on from here to the hereafter. She has buried a husband, and two of her children. Yet her faith remains strong.

You see, it is because of her faith that I am here to write this today. Because she, at some time in the thirties, “found Jesus,” and told her family about Him, that I heard from her granddaughter. And believed. And subsequently married that granddaughter. Yes, God could have raised up someone else to tell me the “Good News,” but He didn’t–He started with a poor Sicilian woman in a place not many in the world have heard of.

Because of Him, Nonni is my spiritual ancestor. I will be forever grateful for her. I also owe her a word of thanks for the svelte figure I’m rockin’ these days–because she taught my wife how to cook! 😉

Though Nonni is now old and frail in body, she is sharp of mind and undiminished in spirit. And still tells all who will listen about Jesus, and what He has done for her.

Nonni: a stronger woman who can find?

Who has been a “Nonni” in your life?

Who inspires you?

Born This Way

randomlychad  —  July 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

Folks, Born This Way is show on A&E showing the real life joys and trials of living with Down Syndrome. Please watch the trailer for the current season: