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The 2016 Election? “It Just Doesn’t Matter,” Said Jesus (and Bill Murray)

The 2016 Election? “It Just Doesn’t Matter,” Said Jesus (and Bill Murray)

If you are stressed out about the 2016 presidential election, take some advice from Jesus (and Bill Murray) … it just doesn’t matter. Rarely, if ever, will I comment on politics. But as I look around and see the growing angst and conflict permeating society on the eve of the election, I wanted to offer a few words of comfort, regardless of your political orientation.

Two millennia ago Jesus was caught in the cross hairs of a geo-political question that the Jews of his time probably thought threatened their very existence. The geo-political power of the day, the Roman Empire, had conquered Jerusalem and imposed its will on the Jewish people, taking control of everything. The imposition of Roman power was everywhere. In the case of the puppet kingdom, Judea, Herod’s rule and Herod’s forces would have been the superficial, nominal political entity. But everyone knew that Rome was the power behind the throne and that Herod was a puppet leader, really. Many Jews resented this and were looking for a politico-military leader, a Messiah, to overthrow the Roman domination system and restore the divine theocracy the Jews longed for. They wanted to make Jerusalem great again (sorry couldn’t resist that).

The Pharisees would be among those religious extremists who were seeking to restore the greatness and glory of an independent Jewish state and who resented the power of Rome. The Herodians, on the other hand, were a party among the Jews who were supporters of the Herodian family as the last hope for retaining for the Jews a fragment of national government, as distinguished from absolute dependence upon Rome. Herod held his dominion by grant of the Roman Empire. Therefore, the Herodians supported Rome and would be in favor of paying tribute to the supreme power. They were part of “the crooked establishment” (sorry, couldn’t resist that one, either).

Even though the Pharisees and the Herodians were politically at odds, they were united in the dislike of the newly-introduced subversive reformer known as Jesus of Nazareth. So they joined forces in an effort to silence him once and for all. The account in Matthew 22 goes as follows:

16 And [the Pharisees] sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Jesus out-maneuvered this perverted alliance by brilliantly waiving the question and putting it back on them to decide whose “side” God was on. In essence, he rose above the political fray and said “you’re both wrong” and “it just doesn’t matter.” “God is on neither side.” “You’re asking the wrong question.” Jesus realized that the “true” kingdom is not geo-political. It is the kingdom of the human heart. To Jesus, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21.)

To Jesus, elections or revolutions are not the way to seek or find peace. Remember, trying to find worldly solutions to what are, in essence, the spiritual problems of society never works. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.) Our hearts get troubled and afraid when we try to control things (or people) outside ourselves. Our hearts get troubled and afraid when we look out “there” and what’s wrong with everything out “there” as the cause of what’s making us feel bad “in here.” That type of outside-in thinking will never make you very comfortable because you cannot control anything (or anyone) out there. And the more you try to control what’s out there, the more frantic and helpless you will feel “in here.”

What if what is going on inside of you matters more than what’s going on out there? What if you looked in the mirror and decided to change the person you see there instead of looking at your big screen and trying to change what’s going on in the reflection of the world you see there? You can’t change the world. But you can change you.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This is a secret that all of the great spiritual leaders have always known. Politics don’t matter. Personal transformation does. I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote. I’m not saying government is unnecessary. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to elect the very best leaders. But let’s be realistic. At the end of the day, YOU are the problem. YOU are the one that needs to change. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. Gandhi is reputed to have said “be the change you want to see.” Michael Jackson (yes, MJ) sang it beautifully this way:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

The election is scary, but who we are as human beings and how we treat each other matters so much more and, in the end, will determine what kind of world we have. What we need is a revolution of listening, loving and caring more than a political revolution.

So when your man or woman loses the election this year, whatever the case may be, take a cue from Jesus, Gandhi and Bill Murray. “It just doesn’t matter.” YOU matter. And if you want to stop feeling frustrated and powerless, take control of your life, change who you are. Stop blaming “the system” and become the change. Transformed people transform the world.

Faith is a Decision

Faith is a Decision

Faith is a Decision

Faith is a Decision

Faith is a decision.  It’s the decision to keep loving, to keep being kind, to be patient, to think of others, and to do your best to follow Jesus, regardless of your circumstances, regardless of your trials, despite how you feel, and despite opposition.  It’s moving forward.  It’s being the person you know you’re supposed to be … without waiting. So many people wait.  They say, “I can be kinder when ….”  They say, “I will be able to give when ….”  And then they point to circumstances, situations or people that allegedly hold them back as the justification for holding back.  Faith doesn’t wait.  It acts even though the circumstances aren’t ideal, even though there’s opposition, even though there is less than perfect understanding, even though there is doubt.

I feel terrible on most days.  With a paralyzed stomach and gastrointestinal system, you constantly feel nauseous, bloated and gross.  I have constant chronic nerve pain from my malnutrition.  The vertebrae in my back grind on each other–sometimes with every move.  It would be so easy for me to wait.  It would be so easy to say, “I can be kinder when … I feel better.”  It would be so easy to say, “I’ll be able to give when … I’m not so sick.”  But when you realize you may never be free from nausea, sickness and pain, you realize that you either must move forward and push through the obstacles or sit and let the obstacles hold you back.  You also realize that there will always be obstacles.  But you have to move forward.  You have to keep living.

You don’t have the option to say, “I’ll be a father when ….”

You don’t have the option to say, “I’ll go to work when ….”

You don’t have the option to say, “I’ll be a good husband when ….”

You play with the kids … when you’re sick.

You go to work … when your insides are bubbling like a cauldron.

You go on walks with and listen to your wife … when you feel like puking.

You go on with life.  You choose to live.  Despite how you feel.  Faith is the decision to push through and do the things you know you need to do and be the person you know you need to be.  It eliminates excuses.  It runs from rationalizations.  It hides from hesitation. Jesus was well aware of our human tendency to wait for things to be ideal and convenient.  But fair weather discipleship is not discipleship at all, as we learn from this account in Matthew 8:

18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.

19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

What did Jesus mean when he said to the excuse-maker “let the dead bury their dead?”  I think one possible meaning is that if you choose to let circumstance hold you back, you are not living.  You might as well be dead.  If you choose to let the inevitable obstacles of life prevent you from getting on with your discipleship, from doing what you need to do, from being who you need to be, you’re not living.

So reach deep down inside and stop making excuses.  Don’t wait for the sun to shine.  Don’t wait until you feel better.  Don’t wait until the clouds have parted.  Don’t wait until you understand everything perfectly.  Don’t wait until all of your fears or worries are resolved.  Just get on with it.  Move forward, even if you don’t know why, even if you don’t know whether it will work.  Have the courage to do what you need to do and be who you need to be, despite how you feel and in spite of your circumstances.  That, my friend, is faith.  THAT is what moves mountains.

 

You Will See Me Rise

You Will See Me Rise

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You Will See Me Rise

As I sit here in my hotel room on Whitley Bay, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom, watching the sun rise over the North Sea, nibbling on some animal crackers I brought with me from the states to quell the rising surge of nausea in my stomach, I feel so loved and understood by God. It is windy outside … and cold. The day is less than perfect. My body is less than perfect. I can hear the seagulls in between the intermittent gurgling of my stomach. I can hear the wind whipping the ice cold waters of the North Sea as I hear my stomach and bowels churning in protest—as if they, too, were being acted upon by some invisible and relentless force like the wind. And yet all of these “problems” and imperfections make it all so perfect somehow. The sunrise is magnificent and all of the nasty elements make it even more so. The sun is rising above it all. And so am I. The clouds will move. The wind will shift. The tides will change. The gulls will fly here and there. Would I dare change any of it? Could I really improve upon the beauty that is all around me, imperfect at it may be?

Turn your face to the wind, my friends. Something is causing it to blow. Turn your face and stare into the blazing sun. Something is causing it to shine. Turn and face your challenges. You can focus on all of the “imperfections” in your life. You can try to rearrange them. But doing so would be like tampering with the majesty of the storm. Doing so would be like re-orchestrating the sunrise—silencing the gulls, calming the winds, moving the clouds. But are you really able to paint a more beautiful picture? Is your way really better? If everything was the way you wanted it, would the picture be any better? Or is it better to embrace the “imperfections” and see the magnificent perfection in it all! For me, I am choosing to embrace the marvelous scene before me. I’m choosing to stand in awe of the marvelous imperfections of life. I’m choosing to see the beauty in the randomness of it all. And, in doing so, I feel so happy, so loved, and so understood by the One who paints upon the canvases of soul and circumstance.

The Clouds and Shadows of Life

The Clouds and Shadows of Life

The clouds and shadows of life—the hard times, the dark times—add to its majesty. Were the skies of life always clear blue, the beauty and mystery of living—the silver linings, the rays of hope—would be lost, and so would we. There is beauty in opposition. Keep fighting. Keep going. Keep loving. Eventually the big picture will emerge. When taken as a whole, life is beautiful and amazing because of its clouds and shadows.

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