Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Gold Medal People

My family is enjoying the winter Olympics right now. We watch some of it each day I think. You wont believe this, (I wouldn’t believe it if you said it) but we even watched “curling” last Sunday. I accidentally cheered when the American rock slider guy made a great shot. I was slightly embarrassed.

I love when people demonstrate a noble heart. We were watching couples ice skating last week and a Chinese couple (Zhang Hao and Zhang Dan) was going through their routine when Zhang Hao suddenly dropped his partner while doing a high lift. She crashed to the ground and landed on her knees. She tried to get up but fell back to the ice. Zhang Hao tried to lift her but she couldn’t keep her feet. He helped Zhang Dan over to the side. The music stopped and she was about to leave the ice when something happened.

It was like she came to herself and said, “No way! I came here to compete and I will finish this.” Zhang Dan gathered herself and skated back to the center and they finished their routine. They did the lifts, jumps and footwork as planned. No more falls or stumbles. When it was over, she cried. But she finished out of sheer will. I was proud for her. They didn’t win the gold medal, even with the fall they won the silver. But Zhang Dan's heart deserved gold.

There are a lot of people in the world who are good people: Gold Medal people. Those who endure illness without complaining are of this heart. People who face chronic pain but bear it bravely are of this metal. Those who work hard at marriage when it is far from good, these are gold medal people. People who try and try and get slapped down by the cruelty of life only to get back up again and keep trying. These are the gold medal people.

No I’m not saying they’re always holy or righteous or saved. I’m simply saying that they display in their character that part of their soul that is still God imprinted. Any goodness demonstrated by a human is a reflection of God no matter the kind of person they are. There is no goodness in the world that is not God created. Even those who turn their backs on God are made in his image.

I know a few gold medal people. And may I say here that Jonathan and Carolyn Taylor (my mom and dad) are of this heart. They never made it to the Parent Olympics. Dad wouldn’t even try out. But they are godly upright people who do their best to love their kids and grandkids, serve their God, share with others and love each other in the process. So in case I never said it before, I think they deserve a gold medal for being of noble heart and teaching me to love that about others.

Michael Taylor

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Where’d All the Good People Go?

I’ve become a fan of Jack Johnson’s music. Its sort of a mellow, fun, island music with guitar and a nice touch of steel drums. Very cool. He also has some words that are good and carry some worthwhile ideas. May I recommend a couple of songs; “Break Down” is a song about slowing life down and enjoying it for a while. Another song I like is a cut called, “Good People”. This is a song about seeing the television and wondering, “where’d all the good people go?”

In the chorus Johnson says,

"Where'd all the good people go?
I've been changing channels
I don’t see them on the TV shows
Where’d all the good people go
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow."

Yes there is some good on the tube. There are some good people in the world and some who are doing good things. But don’t we have too much appetite for the bad? (Look at that last line from the chrous again.) I don’t have enough cynicism in me to believe that everything is bad and getting worse. I want to fight through my cynicism and see the good people being and doing what is good. Paul wrote, “[Jesus Christ] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14)

The phrase “what is good” appears 6 times in the three chapters of Titus. Give the book a quick read and you’ll see that “doing good” is thematic in the letter. I read a piece by Dr. George Sheehan some years ago where he described a man out for a jog on a beautiful morning. He sees a man painting on the eve of his house. So the jogger yelled up to the painter, “Do good!” Without looking up the painter yelled back, “Intend to.” To which the jogger yelled back, “God’s watching.” Again the painter responded, “Hope so.”

My encouragement is that, as Sam the Brave says in The Lord of the Rings, “there is some good in the world, and its worth fighting for.” Believe in the goodness of God in the world. Don’t buy into all the bad we hear or observe. The noble heart does good, believes good and even fights for good. I know everything isn't good. But He who is good is present in everything and He is the redeemer of all things.

Michael Taylor

George Sheehan – Personal Best 1992
Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams 2005

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Far You've Come

Did you see the commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast where there are two doctors standing at the side of a patients bed? A fly is buzzing around them and one Dr. picks up the shock paddles and zaps the fly. The fly falls onto the chest of the sleeping patient. As the Dr. leans over the man’s chest to look at the fly the wife and daughter enter the room to hear the Dr. (still holding the paddles) say, “Well, that killed him.” It’s commercial greatness!! But the perception of the wife and daughter was not reality.

The phrase “perception is reality” has popped up on more than one occasion in the last week. I think this idea is a truck load of rotten squid. Perception is perception. While we can perceive a thing accurately, our perception is just that. Perception means, to see (or understand) a thing from a certain point of view. We all see the world from our own perspective. But our point of view should not be held as "reality" simply because we see it that way. More to the point, we should not look at others and decide that, from our perception, they are lacking in some way.

When we look at another person on the journey toward Christ likeness, it is not our perception that matters. The scripture says, “Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4) Our responsibility is not to evaluate, but to encourage, to support; to bear the weakness that may be present. No, of course we should hold those close to us accountable for their actions provided the relationship permits that.

If we are being developed by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives then we must accept that same process in the lives of others. We are yielded and responsive on different levels in regard to this. Some of us are hard headed and some are hard hearted. Some are open and teachable and some are broken and pliable. Paul wrote, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Just a few verses later he reinforced this idea saying, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (2:13)

I’ve come to love the music of “The Wallflowers”. While Jacob Dylan is not the poet that his father is, I think he is a better performer and does have meaningful things to say in his music. In a song called, “How Far You’ve Come”, the writer says this;

It's ok to believe that you're not good enough
God is not angry, not blind, deaf or dumb
He knows how far you've come

I think he is onto something. It’s to our Master that we stand or fall. And this is true of everyone else. On the journey toward Christ, reality is what matters. Jesus’ perception is the only reality. “God is not angry, not blind, deaf or dumb, He knows how far you've come.”

Michael Taylor

Note: The song "How Far You've Come" is from the Rebel Sweetheart album.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Work of Decay

Last Sunday we did something that I had never done before. Our family and some friends visited a church in our community. No, of course we’ve visited other churches before, but not like this. We were told it was a congregation that was “racially diverse” with “energetic worship”. Their worship was certainly energetic and once we arrived, they were diverse.

It felt very strange. There were a lot of people looking at us and you could tell that they weren’t sure why this little band of white folks showed up. But the worship was great. The people of the church were sweet, warm and friendly. It was really a cool experience.

The guest preacher spoke from John 11, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. But he spoke from a perspective that I had never considered. So I want to share it with you because I really think there is some value in this. But I want to give credit where it is due. I don’t know his name but God does. So if this gives you a reason to be grateful, throw the props toward that brother.

When he spoke of the tomb he said that the stone was placed over the opening not to keep Lazarus in, but to keep some other things, (thieves, wild animals etc.,) out. And then he drew this analogy. He said that Jesus had tarried so that through the death of Lazarus the glory of God might be seen. “Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"” (John 11:40) Then he asked this question. Has God placed you in a tomb for some reason? Has he placed a stone over the opening to keep well meaning family and friends from coming to your rescue before he has finished doing the “work of decay” in you? He said, “There are some things in you that need to die. You keep wondering why you can’t seem to make any progress, but God is still trying to knock off some aspects of our character, (dead things) so that HIS glory can be revealed in you.”

That brother’s message really spoke to me, for I’ve been in that tomb for a while. I’ve wondered why I couldn’t seem to make any headway. I felt for a time that God had given up on me. But really, He placed a stone over the tomb and he has been doing the work of decay in my life for a good while.

Last week after my posting called “Is the Gospel Set Free”, my little
brother sent me a note that said, in essence, “The way you,ve always been is not in line with what you’re saying here. What gives?” I sent a note back saying, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ve been wrong - a lot. I think I’m finally seeing what God has been trying to work out of me for a good while now.“

So when you see someone change in a significant and better way, perhaps it’s God’s “work of decay”. I’m grateful for this work and I’m praying that he moves the stone soon.

Michael Taylor