Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: new life

New Life is Coming

My father-in-law was in town a few weeks ago. We took him up to the Blue Ridge Parkway one day to explore the mountains and its trails. Spring has just started and the trees are still barren and dry leaves still litter the ground.

Yet, there were signs of spring.

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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.

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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?

 

Star Trek III: Search for Spock (1984)

Star Trek III The Search For Spock (1984) QuadAs the second film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, draws to a close, the crew of the Enterprise bid farewell to their beloved officer of science: Mr. Spock. In a final scene, Spock’s body is released from the starship to the bagpipes of “Amazing Grace.” He has died and has been laid in his tomb.

In the third film (the third of the eleven films in the franchise), the saddened crew return to Earth, only to realize that Bones, or Dr. McCoy, is going slightly crazy. It turns out that while Spock’s body was left on the new planet Genesis, all of his memories flooded into Bones. Bones is not himself, because Spock is occupying part of Bones’ mind.

Spock’s father, the respected Ambassador, requests that the Enterprise crew retrieve Spock’s body and bring it, along with Bones, to Vulcan. In the process, Spock’s memories will be reunited with his body. In order to achieve this, Kirk (William Shatnar) and the others must take the Enterprise without permission from the Federation. Their risk pays off, but not without encountering a Klingon Bird of Prey. The Klingon warrior Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) is on his own search; a search for the secret to Genesis. A secret that he believes will give him absolute power.

The crew of the Enterprise is still shaken by the sudden death of Spock. Mostly because he willingly gave his life to save them all.

Spock: The needs of the many outweigh the . . .
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one.

The Christ-figure imagery continues in Search for Spock. As a science team (the main scientist being David, Kirk’s son) searches for life on Genesis, they discover Spock’s burial coffin in the forested, garden-like part of the planet. They open it and only find his burial robe. The scientists eventually find a small, Vulcan boy in the forest. The Vulcan scientists are quick to realize that this child is Spock. “He’s not himself, but he lives.”

New life. Resurrection.

This theme of new life continues in the film, as Kirk comes to terms with the knowledge that Spock is worth the risk. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many,” he says as he risks all to save Spock. Kirk embodies the shepherd in the parable that Jesus tells in Luke 15. The shepherd counts his sheep and notices that he only has 99 out of 100. He takes the chance of leaving the 99 behind to go in search of the 1. To the Holy One, every stray soul is worth searching for. And like Kirk’s, the search includes risks. Jesus’ parable of the shepherd in search of the lost sheep was a metaphor for what Jesus was doing at that moment to fulfill the Kingdom of God. In a post-resurrection context, we are the shepherd risking all we have to search for those who are lost.

Come Out of the Wilderness

Read Luke 3:1-6.

John the Baptist choose the wilderness as his context for ministry. The wilderness was the place where the Hebrews wandered around for forty years. The wilderness was the place where Jesus was tempted for forty days.  Th wilderness is dangerous and inhospitable. It is barren, rough, and rocky. It is unstructured and chaotic. It is a place of challenges and tests. In the wilderness, John was preparing the way of the One who will refine and redeem.

Susan Mink writes that the wilderness “has long been a metaphor for a place of spiritual trials and transformations.”  The wilderness is the place of  preparation.  The wilderness is where we get ready for the change we are about to make in our lives. The wilderness, then, becomes the starting point for new beginnings and new life.  John’s preaching in the wilderness is an invitation to come out of the wilderness and into a new life, new beginnings.

What does your wilderness look like?  How are you preparing for new life and new beginning in Jesus Christ?

Today, consider your wilderness and journal about how your wilderness is preparing you for the coming Christ.

Pray

God of New Beginnings, may your Holy Spirit dwell in us during our wilderness moments.  Prepare us this Advent for the coming Christ Child who makes all things new.  Amen.

 

Slow Down

Read 2 Peter 3:1-18.

From Henri Nouwen’s With Open Hands:

What is perhaps most striking about the visions of the world’s future is that they have taken form completely independent of Christian thinking which is preeminently future-oriented.  Those enormous powers which are gaining ground in the hardened world, which cry out for a new age, a new world, and a new order can find no solid roots in Christianity, it seems.  While Christians were so busy with their interior household problems and were so preoccupied with themselves that they lost sight of the rest of the world, a growing need for salvation outside of Christianity became more and more evident.  This suggestion Christians often regarded as merely naïve, anarchical and immature.

And yet you are Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as  you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come.  You are a Christian only when you believe that you have a role to play in the realization of this new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with a holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled.  So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.

What new order, new structure, or new life is needed in your life?  What needs to change?

This newness will not happen right away.  When we decide to change our lives, it takes time. We have to wait.  Today when you find yourself having to wait, slow down and view the situation as a blessing, and then journal about the experience and what it was like to look at waiting as a blessing.

Pray:

Almighty God, may Your Holy Spirit dwell in the midst of our lives as we prepare to wait.  Guide us to be be patient while we wait.  Help us to slow down to hear Your voice and to see Your blessings.  Amen.

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