Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: journey

Guest Post: A Deeper Journey

by Morgan Stafford

washing_3262c-2Read 2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10

As I prepare and review lessons for this season of Lent, I find great wisdom in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Paul aims to encourage and motivate his fellow followers of Christ to deepen their inner faith despite a myriad of outer circumstances which could easily prevent this aspiration. As a youth minister in an urban setting, I witness the challenges which young people must deal with on a daily basis.

Just as Paul must acknowledge the difficulties facing the Corinthians, I must consider the context in which these young people live. How can I teach reconciliation and righteousness without acknowledging stress and suffering? Just as the Corinthians received both “honor and dishonor,” I must equip my youth to live out their faith in a world which may reward this faith in some settings while punishing them in others.

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An American Tail (1986)

an_american_tailAn American Tail is the second animated film from director Don Bluth after he left the Disney studio. The first was The Secret of NIMH. Both of these “mouse” films try to recapture the magic of the classic Disney films like Snow White and Pinocchio. Yet, it struggles to compare. The music and lip-singing is distracting. The animation is detailed and full. It makes use of computer animation in a way that was unique at the time. But, it is clear, that the vision comes from the early Disney films.

The hero of the film is the second child, Fievel. His and his family undergo hardships being ruined by an oppressive government of cats in 19th century Russia. Homes are destroyed and burned. The cats chase the mice away, and the mice decide to migrate to America, where there are no cats.

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Guest Post: The Journey of Lent

by Brian Mateer

Read John 4:5-52.

lent_13565c
For me the season of Lent is one of the most special and spiritual times of the year.  I enjoy all of the seasons of the Christian calendar but Lent holds the most meaning for me.  Lent is a personal and communal journey and time of connectedness with God that feels as if I am in the plot of a great drama.  My nature is to rush to Easter morning but I know that if I do I will miss so much on the way of the journey.  If we fast forward to Eater we are depriving ourselves of the penitent nature of Ash Wednesday; the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness mirroring, in a small way, the temptation of sacrifice I have chosen as a discipline during this 40 day period; the high and intense crescendo of Holy Week; the gift of celebrating the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday; the gut wrenching feeling of the crucifixion on Good Friday; the silence of Holy Saturday; and finally the climax and celebration of Easter morning.  It can be difficult to be patient and to wait for the resurrection.

Reading through John 4:5-42, we realize that Jesus was tired from being on a journey.  He rests at Jacob’s Well, while the disciples go find something to eat (v.8).  While sitting beside the well “wearily”, he encounters a Samaritan woman that has been on a journey of her own, a life journey.  We find out a little about her life story and that she had had five husbands and the man she is living with nowis not her husband (V.17-18).  It seems as though this woman is looking for something that has been unquenched by the men she has had in her life.  Jesus offers her “living water” so that she may never be thirsty again.  Jesus declares to her that “I Am the Messiah!” (v. 26).  I Am the love that you are seeking!  I Am all you need for your journey!

Additionally, Jesus also declares to everyone.  He is the “I Am” for all of our journeys.  The woman is “surprised” (v. 9) that Jesus even speaks to her because she is a Samaritan.  The disciples are “shocked” (v. 27) to return to see Jesus even talking to a woman.  Jesus Christ, the Messiah for All people in All places!

In closing, I am intrigued that Jesus choses to pause his journey and spend two days in the Samaritan village.  When I begin a journey, I always have the end goal or destination in mind.  I never leave time for rest. I never leave time for a side trip.  I have a linear perspective of a starting point and an ending point and a timeline of getting there.  Perhaps this is the reason why the journey of Lent is so special to me.  Lent allows for; and creates time for reflection, introspection, rest and communion with God and others.  Thanks be to God for this journey, in His time not my own.

Brian Mateer is t he Director of Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Martinsville, Virginia.

Path of Grace

Read Psalm 121.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comMy family used to have a collie named Penny. She was a rescue. A friend Dad’s found her in a ditch and we adopted her. I loved that dog. She was sweet and kind. She was loving and nurturing. Penny, like so many other dogs, always knew when I needed her.

Behind our hour in rural Hanover County, was a path that lead to the creek and would wind around to my grandparents’ property. Penny would accompany me on my treks though the woods. Penny would walk next me, but most of the time she would run ahead of me. Once a few times ahead of me, she would turn around to make sure I was still following the path, as if she is saying, “It’s okay. The path is clear.” Penny truly was “man’s best friend,” for me.

God is like that. It may seem like a cliche to say that life is a journey, but it is. And God walks with us on that journey. In fact, God will walk ahead of us at times, turn to make sure that we are still on the path. The journey is getting from where we stand on the path to where God is beckoning us to be. As if God is telling us that, “it’s okay. The path is clear.”

The journey that God is beckoning us on could be various things. It could be starting a new job, or starting a new ministry. It could be seeing your child for who he or she really is. It could be meeting God again for the first time. It could be anything. Whatever the journey is, Psalm 121:8 offers us hope on that journey:

The Lord will protect you on your journeys—
whether going or coming—
from now until forever from now.

The image of God, like a lovable dog, running ahead of us on our path and looking back to make sure we are following, is a beautiful image of sanctification. God does not leave us where we are on the path, instead God calls us – beckons us – to a closer relationship with God.

Sanctification is grace for the journey. Let’s face it, while life is a journey, life is messy. We are going to get dirty, and that’s okay. The point of the journey is to restore the image of God within us. And at the center of that restoration – at the center of this journey – is grace.

And what an amazing gift that is!

I pray during this season of Lent that you stay on the path you are walking and know that God is with you.

All I Wanted To Do Was Hold An Alligator

A few weeks ago, Megan and I were driving from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Lafayette. On the side of the interstate, there were signs that read, “Hold Baby Alligators.” On the plane to Lake Charles, we had kinda joked (but were kinda serious) about going somewhere to see alligators. So, when we saw these signs, we thought, “Why  not?” On the way back to Lake Charles, we turned off the interstate and followed the “Baby Alligator” signs to a Jeff Davis Parish park.

We pulled into an almost deserted parking lot. Off in the distance, cars were whizzing by on the interstate. Did they know this little shack resided here? How many were passing up this opportunity to hold a baby alligator?

The little shack of a building was quiet when we walked in. Megan and I stood there waiting . . . .waiting . . . waiting, until a volunteer finally walked in. In tow behind her was a mother and her son. The son was about 8 or 9 years ago and was super excited about holding the alligators and getting to see the bigger alligators. (Yes, there were two bigger alligators and a huge snapping turtle just hanging out in the pool.)

The volunteer was a retired school teacher and principal who spent her time volunteering at various places in the community. Her attention was mostly on the mother and her son. She was able to squeeze in some time for us while we were standing there, to hand Megan a baby alligator. While the volunteer was still having the conversation with the mother, she rattled off a few (probably important) things about holding a baby alligator, which went mostly unheard because of the broader conversation.

IMG_1146

Megan is holding the alligator exactly as it was handed to her.

What we did hear was that we shouldn’t worry. The alligator would not open his mouth because there was no oatmeal around. The baby alligators, when they are first rescued (yep, rescued), are bottle fed. Afterwards, they are fed a diet of oatmeal. We’re talking about vegetarian alligators.

After a few minutes, Megan handed the baby alligator to me. The volunteer explained to us that in a 24-hour period of eggs hatching, the mother alligator will leave with the babies that had hatched. Sometimes there are unhatched eggs left behind. These baby alligators are rescued and raised at the park and when they are grown, are released.

The mother and the son were still with us during this whole time. The son stood next to me as the volunteer explained some things to us, listening as if he were hearing it for the first time. As I held the alligator, he would pet it, like it was a puppy. Every few seconds, he would tell me something he had learned from the retired school teacher turned baby alligator raiser. Finally, he would declare, “Alligators are my new favorite animal.”

New.

As we stood there taking turns awkwardly holding this baby alligator, the mother of the mother-son duo, was talking loud and fast. She was telling us that she and her son were on their way from Houston to Alabama. They were leaving the home they had in Houston for a new start in Alabama. She began to share the series of unfortunate events that led to this journey. (It was very Thelma and Louise.) No journey that a son should have to go through.

As Megan and I left the little shack, we were struck by how open and honest the mother was in telling her story. And the more I’ve pondered that moment, I have to come to realize that the loudness and the quickness of her talking wasn’t as much because she was anxious about what was happening and in telling her story. But because she was excited about being on a journey, literally, to a new place.

New.

Not all of us have the courage to embark on such a journey, much less to talk about it with complete strangers. It is difficult for us to find the courage to leave a home we’ve always lived and move to a new one. The same is true about our spiritual lives. It is difficult to leave behind the comfort of knowing what we know and journey deeper in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus Christ. It takes courage.

It is the courage of Ruth, who left behind her home country to journey with her mother-in-law. A series of tragic deaths had left Ruth, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law widowed. She was faced with a choice: To stay in her home town, or to follow her mother-in-law back to Bethlehem. She choose the long journey of loyalty.

Ruth  text - jasoncstanley.com

It was a journey to new life. A new beginning for Ruth. A new marriage with Boaz. A new family with deep roots, that would eventually lead to Jesus – the One who gives new life.

New.

Ruth had the courage to embark on a journey that led to a new life. Our journeys don’t have to be across the country, but we too can embark on a journey that will lead us to new and deeper spiritual life. The question is, do we have the courage to start?

 

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