picture taken from cdni.wired.co.uk
For anyone living under a rock and who doesn't know what Ashley Madison is, and why it's getting hacked is such big news, check out the Wired.com story on the topic before reading any further.
This story has been the topic of conversation on every major news outlet, talk show and radio show and it is no surprise that this has become big news, as the website has been a conversation of mass controversy since it's inception. As I have spoken with various people, it's apparent there has not been much sympathy for either the company of those caught in the crosshairs of this hack--and honestly, that isn't surprising. Living a secret life and having it catch up to you seems like justice in itself and to find a morsel of empathy for those involved, seems almost impossible. What is even less surprising is that the internet justice is in full force will all sorts of opinions and judgements being made and I am not sure how I feel about that. Sitting back and listening, I think it would be hard to argue against people being justified in seeing the ugliness of this whole situation, but I still wonder if we have reacted much too quickly and if there has been a lost opportunity for something greater than judgement. I don't know if I can really answer the question of what our response should be, but I do want to ask the question of what our response could be.
Don't get me wrong, I by no means am here to defend the actions of those who used the website or the business model of Ashley Madison themselves. I am a child of divorce, whose parent's marriage ended due to an affair. I know, all too well, the consequences of such an action and the destructive nature it can have. But this whole situation has caused me to think and ask this question: When we are shown the ugliness of sin and all it's consequences and fallout, how should we react? How could we respond? Especially as followers of Christ, what should our attitude and action be towards those who have fallen trap to the temptations of the flesh and done these grievous things? Should we look different? And what would different look like? I mean, I don't think I need to defend why such a thing is evil and only brings hurt, brokenness and destruction. But, what now?
I don't suspect my musings on the topic will even come close to scratching the surface of this complex issue, and so please don't read this as three steps to solving everything, but simply a reminder of three ancient radical ideas that has been changing the world and turning it upside down for centuries.
1. Take a Long Hard Look In The Mirror
It can be so easy for us to bring judgement on others forgetting our own blind spots, shortcomings and sins. Simply put, it is easy to judge others for the sins we don't struggle with while working so very hard to keep the sins we carry and struggle with safely locked away in the broom closets of our hearts. We should never forget the words of Paul in Romans 3:23, that say "we have all sinned and fallen short" and no one can say the opposite.
Jesus came to seek and save, heal and make new, redeem and refurbish, and reconcile the world to the Father. The great reality is that humanity is tainted and warped from it's original form... we all fall short and miss the perfect mark. The only difference to those who are redeemed, is just that, we are redeemed. It is not that we are better, or somehow advantaged from those who have found themselves on this long list of adulterers. No, it is only by the grace and love of Christ, that we have new life: "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:6-8)
First and foremost, we need to have an attitude of humility when looking at this and speaking on it. We all need to take a long hard look in the mirror and take stock of our own lives, see all that Christ has cleaned up and always remember that we are all screwed with out grace! So let us do the same and show some grace, or "do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).
2. Return Evil With LOVE
Maybe you are thinking, "They had what was coming!" and maybe you are right. With every action we choose to do, there are always consequences... good or bad. Like ripples in the water, when we move and act, the world around us is affected. A story like this should bring great soberness that no person can go about life doing whatever they wish and not expect that those actions will never have any consequences for themselves or others.
But, what about this attitude of karma? This border line over-justified indignation and reaction of judge, jury and executioner? Is it not bad enough that so many families will be levelled without the added judgements coming from the masses? No matter how justified we may be in doing so, should our first reaction be fuelled by hatred? People will reap what they sow, but the question I am asking is how should we react or even act in the midst aftermath.
What if we responded in a way that no one expected? Imagine what would happen if we were a people who, when faced with this evil, returned that hate with love? And I am not talking about fluffy, feel-good love either. I am talking about piercing, world-altering, life-changing, heart-purifying love. It isn't good enough that we simply make a point; what we really need in the world isn't more people who need to be right, but people who make real change.
Jesus speaks of this radical, life-changing love in Matt 5: 43-48: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt 5:43-48)
What if we gave this kind of love to those who deserved judgement? What if we became agents of love and healing in the world, instead of perpetuating the cycle of destruction? Do they deserve it? No. But, that is the beauty of the power of grace and love. There is this profound truth found in Proverbs that reads, "If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you." (Proverbs 25:21-22). When you come face to face with this kind of love, it changes everything! It goes counter to anything we think should be true. Why bless those who would curse you? Why forgive those who wrong you? Why show love to those who drive violence in this world? But this kind of love can change the world... one person at a time... from the inside out.
We are not simply called to love the lovable, but even more so to love the unlovable, and wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to express the power of the Cross to the world that so desperately needs its message and, in so doing, shock it with a LOVE that covers a multitude of sins?
3. Full of Love, Fueled by Faith, Addicted to Hope
It can be easy to see the negativity in the world. The hate, the destruction, the fear, the violence. But as those who carry the Message of hope, we have the amazing privilege to be agents of this hope, delivering it to those who so desperately need it. As people who carry it inside of us everywhere we go, God in us is reversing this cycle of slavery to sin and He set us firmly on the promises of Jesus and the finished work of the cross, anchoring us in that HOPE for all eternity. "Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. ...This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls." (Hebrews 6:11, 19a).
Imagine a people who were full of love, fueled by faith and addicted to hope; that we ourselves are, and all our actions are full of love for others, because we have been filled with His love and loved Him beyond measure; that we can go into the unexpected with great faith, with no strings attached, because we are fueled by this great faith which drives everything about who we are; and that we become a people who are addicted to hope, breaking the chains that bind people in the prisons of their own making.
Imagine a world where people were loved deeply, set free, made whole, fueled by faith and motivated by something that would not only changed their own lives, but the whole world. People who are no longer driven by fear, hate, shame, or violence but now by faith, hope and love. This reality is more than possible and we are called to be a part of that very mission of seeing that Kingdom advance. Not a Kingdom that uses violence and force, but one that lays down it's own rights with a King that literally sacrificed His own life, to give us NEW LIFE. Let this addiction to hope start in our own lives and spill out to all those who are hurting and broken. As Kingdom people of the Cross, standing in front of a broken world, I think we have a message that offers something unique to the conversation that can bring real life-giving change.
Let me leave you with this: During a staff prayer and communion time, we were meditating on all that the Cross represents and I presented 1 Corinthians 13 in light of that reality. As you read these words, think on them with the Cross in mind and how we might live our lives in response to that reality:
LOVE NEVER GIVES UP.
picture taken from www.mrwallpaper.com
Ah, summer. Finally. Trees are green, grass is lush, and the sun is shining. Days like today make it seem like there isn't a care in the world. The problem we can fail to see is that while we feel better in the sun, the issues we had in the fall, winter, or spring aren't actually gone. They're just masked by sunshine.
Don't get me wrong - I love summer. I smile more. It's the time of year I feel the most alive. However, when stress, anxiety, depression, or any other multitude of issues decide to park in your psyche, they don't go away just because the sun is out. It just feels that way.
See, the experiences that are imprinted on us, the things that shape the way we think, feel, and behave all come from somewhere and, sunshine or snow, they don't go away without specifically addressing them. It just feels like a bigger deal to be depressed when there's three feet of snow on the ground and no end (or sunshine) in sight.
So, how can you possibly enjoy summer knowing your problems are lurking around the corner, waiting for the first rainy day to jump on your back and return you to your own private hell? Simple: beat them to the punch. Do whatever you can to address the difficulty you're facing.
If you've ever bought a new car, I'm sure you were surprised on the drive home how many people had your same car. That's how psychological awareness works as well. Once you start to pay close attention to what is going on in your world, you start to see patterns emerge. Once you start to recognize the patterns, you can begin to predict (ahead of time!) how you are going to react to a given situation.
Once you begin to recognize the patterns and are able to accurately predict behaviours and responses, make some decisions. How long are you going to allow yourself to act a certain way? Sometimes actions and responses are biologically based and will require the services of a psychiatrist. For the behaviours that are truly under your control, start to make the call to put the negative reactions in their place.
Now that you know (or at least are pretty sure) what's going on in your head and what you want to do with it, do it. Nike got one thing right: Just do it. It is simple but certainly not easy. You can decide all sorts of things, but those decisions are meaningless until there is a follow-through. This is where people get hung up. It is the hard part. It is the part that requires that you hold yourself accountable for all the things you think you should do. This is where you feel guilty for that bag of chips late at night, or calling your mother for the third time in one night, or dumping that girl in a fit of anger.
But, don't give up. You've spent your whole life building patterns. Now, you get to expend energy adjusting those base patterns into something that reflects who you want to be. I will say it again: it is hard work. If you are unable to change things on your own, look around for someone to give you a hand. Write, talk it out, go to therapy, whatever will work for you. But whatever you do, keep at it.
See, sunshine is great. It helps your garden grow, makes your skin warm, and lets you drive with the windows down and the music up. But, it doesn't fix your problems. You do that.
Ashley Hanson is a Registered Provisional Psychologist at Base Counselling in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He believes people need to have a safe space to explore their lives and why they do what they do (think Romans 7!). He loves Jesus, his wife, and his two kids. If he had a dog, he would love that, too.
Picture taken from img4.wikia.nocookie.net
by Dan Parker
Disney may not be the most congruent or accurate example of life in any of its facets. Especially in regards to talking animals, fairy godmothers and dancing chimneysweeps with a flare for rooftop choreography. But sometimes, just maybe, they hit the head of the metaphorical nail. Case in point, Pinocchio, or more specifically, Jiminy Cricket. He was the physical embodiment of our ever intangible conscience. But just open your mind and see beyond a singing insect. Something more ethereal. Real.
Each person has and will always have their own methodological way of connecting on every level of personage whether it be to an individual, a community, or higher power. And far be it for me to ask you to try to relate God, the all powerful creator, to something that you could smash with the palm of your hand. What I am trying to convey is that God, more often than we tend to realize, is that still small voice deep inside. Like Jiminy Cricket.
He speaks to us softly in our moments of bliss and elation, and in lovingly shouts, calling out to us in the times we feel overwhelmed, outnumbered and tripping over our grief. So easily we shrug it off, disregard the wisdom of His words, and follow our lack of better judgement. We allow the white noise of life to cover the emotional language of God. In a sense, we are whitewashing His promises with unintellectual static of polluted thoughts and misguided philosophy such as the old cliché “God helps those who help themselves." Yet God still constantly tries to gain our attention.
IF YOU WOKE UP EVERY DAY TO THE CONCLUSION THAT GOD REALLY WANTED TO DO THINGS THROUGH YOU AND NOT JUST TO YOU...
At its core, Christianity is the only belief in which man is not the one doing the chasing, but instead, it is the opposite. God chose to make us, love us, and pursue us. Relentlessly. What could be a greater example of romance than that? In Michelangelo’s 'Creation of Adam', he depicted the relationship between man and God fairly accurate. God is reaching out fervently, and yet, still Adam is barely interested enough to put effort into lifting his finger to connect to his creator. We become complacent. All of us. I keep the image of the two hands on my wall to remind myself. As John Ortenberg said, “God is closer than you think”.
In the animated adaptation of Pinocchio, this little runaway is headlong in bad choices, erroneous thought, and bad decisions all the while being chased by his still small voice, pushing him away in attempts to gain a glimpse of vain happiness that the world has to offer. Through it all, he is still wanted, watched over, and pursued. Life choices carry him away, down the into the dark, away from an incredible love and freedom. ‘Deafening’ by Disciple is a great example of the connection.
Psalm 46:10 begins by stating “Be still and know that I am God…”. If you woke up every day to the conclusion that God really wanted to do things through you and not just to you, that ultimately He loves and adores us, and He wants us to reciprocate that affection, would you maybe find it easier to take each day in stride? Would you find humanity less taxing? Listen to that small little voice inside each of us- to our Jiminy Cricket.
picture taken from interestingthings.info
I’m a dude. A male. A manly man, if you will. So pregnancy will always be quite a mystery to me.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. Whenever I see a pregnant woman, my mind is utterly and completely blown. That bulge is housing a person. A human being. Now, if you think too hard about it, the mind wanders to some creepy, “Alien”-esque stuff. But before that cookie crumbles, it’s a beautiful thing to think.
Likely, if you’re reading this, you came into this world through this exact miracle. And I think that’s pretty cool.
The number of things that had to align for you to come into existence is honestly perplexing: your parents had to meet, one had to woo the other, they had to be intimate (if you don’t know what I mean, please ask your parents) … never mind mentioning the biology/biochemistry/physics of how the natural process itself goes down. And then YOU. You exist. You’re here. You’re breathing, thinking, feeling, experiencing. Even reading this! (Which you may regret by the end anyway as a waste of time, but hey: it’s cool nonetheless).
HOW JADED HAVE WE BECOME THAT WE CAN FORGET ALL OF THE INCREDIBLE PARTS OF LIFE - EVEN THE VERY FACT THAT WE’RE ALIVE
I think our very existence is extremely simple to take for granted. The miracle of you being you, of me being me, of we being we, is so obvious to us that we can totally and completely forget it. And then we get bogged down in the details of everyday living.
I heard someone say on the radio (Yes, I listen to the radio. And not just regular radio - talk radio. I’m actually 80 years old) something that has rung around in my head since then. He described every day events as the “mundane realities of life”. Seriously? Come on, now. How jaded have we become that we can forget all of the incredible parts of life - even the very fact that we’re alive - and characterize our daily experiences as mundane?!
Yet, I know we all fall victim to this manner of thinking. Maybe even on a daily basis. We’re occupied with paying bills, with eating food, with sleeping 8 hours a night (let’s be real: if it’s 5+ we’re all pretty happy), with brushing our teeth, with driving through traffic to work, with walking the dog; the list goes on. For myself, it’s the moments where I find myself getting caught up in things that don’t really matter in the long run that I lose that perspective on life. I get distracted by thoughts like, “Do I look good enough today?” “Am I cool or interesting enough for people to want to hangout with me?” “Do I have enough money? Do I buy the right things?” “…” The list goes on.
EXPERIENCES CAN BE GOOD OR EXPERIENCES CAN BE BAD, BUT IN MY OPINION EXPERIENCE ITSELF IS AN UNBELIEVABLE MIRACLE.
I’m not an expert, and I know I’ll likely get backlash from this, but these are the sort of thoughts that allow people to fall into the curse of depression. In my humble, uninformed, Caucasian-male opinion, it’s a loss of perspective. When we forget how incredible it is that we are alive every day, of course it’s easy to lose hope and forget joy. When we get distracted by the little things, we simply can’t see the forest for the trees; we, regretfully, are blinded by the periodic pain and hurt we can find in each day, yet overlook the fact that we are even experiencing anything! Experiences can be good or experiences can be bad, but in my opinion experience itself is an unbelievable miracle.
Here’s a scenario I bet most of us have starred in at least once: it’s Tuesday afternoon, you’ve just finished work/school, you’re hungry, you’re tired from not sleeping the night before because Netflix wouldn’t let you stop watching How I Met Your Mother until you finally do meet her (and she *spoiler alert* dies anyway), your phone is dead and you were expecting a phone call from your mom/husband/uncle/sister whose last three calls you’ve ignored because you were at the bank/grocery store/post office, and then all of a sudden you hear the crunch of your bumper as it makes contact with the car in front of you (and on the Whitemud at 6pm of all places). You step out of your vehicle to receive the torrent of angry accusations from the other driver. You try to call the tow truck but to no avail because your phone is still dead. So you sit down, defeated. You let out a big sigh. “You’ve won, life,” you think to yourself. “I’m tired of always losing.” Yes, an edition of this story has happened to me. I’ve thought those thoughts, and thinked those thinks. Most of us have.
But take a step back.
WHAT I DO KNOW IS HOW SATISFYING IT IS TO LOSE YOURSELF IN THE JOY OF WHAT I BELIEVE TO BE GOD-GIVEN LIFE AND PURPOSE.
You woke up this morning. You were breathing. You are breathing. Your feelings have been hurt throughout the day, but you’ve been blessed to feel at all! Amidst even the worst of days, you’ve still experienced the greatest thing that we can experience: life itself.
Aside: I don’t mean to minimize the pain that we all go through. And, honestly, you’re probably going through way worse pain than I am. I don’t know. But what I do know is how satisfying it is to lose yourself in the joy of what I believe to be God-given life and purpose. I don’t mean to seem accusatory; I merely wish to encourage. end of aside
If you have an eternal mindset, be you of whatever religious or spiritual ethos, this life now is a blessing. If your view of life ends with this life, this is all ya got. Either way, we can’t afford to forget or dismiss this phenomenon called life.
And possibly more so, we can’t afford to neglect the wonder of childbirth.
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