Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: darkness (page 1 of 2)

Book Review: Punching Holes in the Dark

Punching Holes in the Dark: Living in the Light of the World, Robert Benson, Abingdon Press, 2016.

I have made it a spiritual practice to carry a journal with me, and use it to write down prayers and reflections. At times it is just a few random scribblings, at other times it is pages of recounting and reflecting on a slice of life. These journals are Moleskins, hardback, and leather bound. Some are plain, and others are adorned with superhero or cartoon characters.

No matter the kind of journal, it holds various scribblings that reveal my heart.

When I read Robert Benson’s Punching Holes in the Dark, it felt a little intrusive. It was like I was holding one of his journals and reading through his scribblings. And with each turn of the page, I began to see what was in his heart.
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YouTubevotional: Justice

scale_3960cYouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals  click here

Introduction

The word “justice” is being used a lot lately. We use the phrase “justice for all,” but what does that mean? For some, justice is building a wall. For others, justice is tearing down walls. The way we understand justice too often finds itself in alignment with our politics and not our faith. “What does the Lord require?” the prophet Micah asked.

The answer? “To do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

aJustATL is a non-profit, multi-platform social media campaign to connect Atlantans with various non-projects in the city. On their YouTube channel, they ask Atlantans, “What does justice mean to you?”

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Light

the light pours into the dark room.

it illuminates only a small space.

but it is enough to cast away the darkness.

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Guest Post: Hope in the Darkness

by Lauren Wright

washing_3262c-2Read Psalm 31:9-16.

When I was in 4th grade, I desperately wanted a guinea pig for Christmas. Being the clever child that I was, I decided that I would name my guinea pig “Hope,” because it was what I “hoped” I got for Christmas. Clearly I didn’t think this through, because I ended up with a male guinea pig named Hope…! At the time, I thought that hope meant wanting something badly. I thought that hope was about wishing and dreaming.

This passage really speaks to the true meanings of hope and trust. The psalmist illustrates the dichotomy of trust and hope with rejection and despair. This passage begins with descriptions of the pain and suffering that the psalmist is facing. Phrases like ‘I am the scorn of my adversaries, the horror of all my neighbors’ speak to this rejection from all in the community, and the isolation and loneliness that follows.

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The Grey-Sloan Memorial Chapel

I, like many other clergy, did a semester of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). It is a requirement for ordination. A few summers ago I completed mine at the University of Virginia. There, like in many hospitals, is a small chapel. I spent a lot of time in that chapel. Praying for certain patients that I had met; sitting in the silence if only for a few seconds; praying with loved ones who were struggling with what was happening.

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Sermon: Children of the Light

The sermon I preached at Peakland United Methodist on Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Quote: Advent Reminder

Advent Quote

All Hope is Gone

the Light that had been sent to the earth was growing dim
love had been replaced with hate
peace replaced with war
the Light had been arrested and dragged away into the night
betrayed by a kiss
but the Light would not go out
the chains rattled as the Light was pushed and kicked
the Light was declared guilty
the people who were loved by the Light cried for the Light to be extinguished
those who loved and followed the Light denied ever knowing the Light
their hearts were filled with the darkness of fear
but the Light would not go out
insults and salvia were hurled at the Light
the Light was flogged and beaten
forced to hike the hill called calvary
mocked and stripped, the Light was left with very little
expect love for those who hated
but the Light would not go out
the Light is finally nailed in place, keeping it from spreading
the banging of the hammer causes the Light to flicker
pierced in the side, the Light continues to dim
until finally, the Light does out
and there is only darkness
and all hope is gone

Guest Post: The Revealing Light

by J. Alan Sharrer

Read Ephesians 5:6-14.

Key Verse: “You used to be like people living in the dark, now you are people of the light because you belong to the Lord. So act like people of the light and make your light shine.” (Ephesians 5:8-9a)

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comOne feature of the smartphone that has come in handy more times than I can count (besides actually using it to, you know, call someone) has been the flashlight function. It seems pretty basic, but when a situation has arisen where I’ve needed a a boost of light, the app has never failed to disappoint me. Sometimes I’ve needed to make sure the path our family is walking on is clear of any upcoming obstructions. Sometimes I’ve had to retrieve a lost pacifier in a pitch black room without waking up sleeping children. Sometimes I’ve successfully navigated through the house at 3 AM without stubbing my toe on a building block or door jamb only because I picked up my phone and turned on the flashlight app.

Light is a powerful thing–so powerful, in fact, that it can sweep away darkness and direct people in the way they need to go (think of a lighthouse). Jesus told a large gathering, to this effect, “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

It’s very easy to look around us as we shine the light of Jesus and notice the never-ending parade of lewdness, depravity, and sin that threatens to consume everything it gets near.

But we need to stop and consider something else with our flashlight first.

Ourselves.

In today’s reading, Paul shares a sobering reminder that we all were once in the darkness, kept away from God due to our sin. But Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changed all that. As a result, our faith in him transformed us into “people of the light” (v. 8). In order to shine, however, we’re encouraged to be five things in the passage–good, honest, truthful, non-partakers of evil deeds, and exposers of the darkness (vs. 9-11). To do these, we need to consider our own hearts. We might be honest in the big things of life, but what about the small things, like being undercharged at a restaurant? When a friend asks us how we’re doing and we respond with “Good,” are we telling the honest truth? Are we one way in public life yet harbor a secret life that, if found out, would surprise, shock, and shame those close to us?

Take some time today to consider these questions and ask God to take his flashlight and shine it on you.  By confessing and asking forgiveness, those areas of darkness can be eliminated so you can be better used for his glory.

When the flashlight shines on us, may we be found full of Jesus’ light and love, ready to reflect it for the world to see.

J. Alan Sharrer is a Senior Writer at HollywoodJesus.com.

Guest Post: Monsters in the Dark

by Steve Norton

Read Luke 9:1-41.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.com“Don’t leave the room, Daddy.  There’s a monster hiding in my closet.”

It’s a situation that is familiar to many of us.  You’re putting your child to bed and they won’t settle.  Despite all your assurances to the contrary, they remain convinced that something or someone is hiding in the shadows of their bedroom.  Exhausted, you turn on the lights so that your child can see for themselves that there’s nothing to be afraid of and hope that this helps them to calm down and go to sleep.

There’s a mystery to darkness that often causes anxiety among people.  Regardless of age, a fear of the unknown can grip anyone and set their imagination ablaze with the most horrible of scenarios.  The quiet becomes deafening and the shadows, menacing.  In these moments, light becomes a source for hope.  Surrounded by the night, many will cling to the smallest flicker of a flame for comfort.

And yet, sometimes, there are people that have been in darkness for so long, they fear the light.

As we continue forward in this season of Lent, we find ourselves in the midst of this tension between light and dark.  Moving towards Good Friday, we become increasingly attentive to the darkness that builds in the distance (not to mention, within ourselves) yet also prepare for the light of hope that follows.  Jesus was keenly aware of this contrast, constantly reminding the Disciples of what is to come.

“Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” he states honestly.

Focusing on the presence of his light, Jesus’ ministry was based on the premise that his truth could cut through the shadows and reveal God’s hope for humanity.  An interesting example of this tension comes in John 9 as Jesus pauses to heal a man who was born blind.  Placing mud on the man’s eyes and instructing him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, the man immediately rejoices and begins to share his story with those around him.  However, his excitement causes such a disturbance that he is immediately brought before the Pharisees in order to explain what has happened. (In fact, the Pharisees were so stunned by these events, that they even drag his parents into the Sanhedrin to confirm his identity!)

However, in the midst of this moment, we bear witness to a much more significant conversation at play.  Although their confrontation appears to focus on the matter of the man’s healing, the Pharisees are far more interested in the identity of Jesus.  Passionately arguing that Jesus could not be who the man claims him to be, the Pharisees reveal their own spiritual blindness through their inability to see and celebrate the work of God that’s taking place right in front of them.  In other words, whereas the (formerly) blind man both experiences and accepts Jesus as the Son of God, the Pharisees deny themselves that opportunity by their lack of faith.

In some ways, I admit that it’s hard to fully blame the Pharisees for their disbelief.  Although they would have known all the prophesies about the coming Messiah as teachers of the law, it is often another issue entirely to accept the fact that He has arrived (and not in the manner that you expected).  However, because of the hardness of their hearts, they also reveal themselves as the ones who are truly blind to the reality of God’s Kingdom.  While the blind man celebrates his newfound sight at the hands of the present Messiah, the Pharisees are left stunted by their lack of vision.

As we journey in this Lenten season, this conversation about the identity of Christ should lie close to our hearts as we grapple with the significance of the Cross.  In moments of darkness such as these, we yearn for the light of Christ to shine brightly so that we too might experience the hope that He offers.  Although there are those who refuse to see Jesus as Lord, our desire to embrace Him brings healing into our lives and opens our eyes to His truth and glory.

In doing so, this light also destroys those pesky monsters once and for all.

Steve Norton is a staff writer at HollywoodJesus.com and blogs at Movio Dei.

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