Anything is Possible!

With Love, Hope, and Perseverance


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Not the Scary Kind of Christian

Coexist-bumpersticker by Patrick Byrne via wmc

Image by Patrick Byrne via Wikimedia Commons

 

 “I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”             _____Mahatma Gandhi

I found this version of the Gandhi quote at  Skeptics Stack Exchange,  where they seem to have done a some research. I can understand why Gandhi might have said this.

I am a Christian.  An open-minded, progressive, tree-hugging Christian.

I’m writing this because I want you to know we exist.

Sometimes I wonder if I should even call myself a Christian because of what that label has come to mean to so many. The media likes to celebrate controversial, often negative, people who call themselves Christians, (and maybe they are – it’s not for me to say) people who are not open-minded, not progressive, and certainly not tree-huggers. They are the kind of people who scared the Christianity out of me and drove me to fierce agnosticism when I was in my twenties.

I don’t want to be one of the scary Christians.

It wasn’t until after I became a parent, working in a challenging, bureaucratic  social service agency, that I took a chance on a church, because I knew I needed something more than my agnostic, nature loving philosophies with a side of sci-fi.

I was skeptical. But the little Episcopal church welcomed me with open minded intelligence and introduced me to their “three-legged stool” of scripture, tradition and reason. My questions and doubts were accepted without condemnation. They loved me. This love and acceptance allowed me to become open to learning more about Jesus. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn about him.

This past Sunday, one of my church friends, a young college student (younger than me anyway) shared that most of his friends are atheists, and he is trying to show them that all Christians aren’t like the conservatives they see in the news.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that it’s anyone’s right to be a conservative Christian if they want to. I have beloved friends and family members who are conservative Christians. To tell the truth, I’m becoming more conservative, in my  behavior as I get older. But I’m still liberal and open minded in my beliefs. Maybe that’s why I have beloved friends and family members who are Buddhists, pagans, agnostics, atheists, new agers and eclectics.

I believe in the love of the Jesus who hung out with the poor and the prostitutes and loved them, the revolutionary Jesus who raised women and children up as people to be cared for and listened to instead of property.  I love the Good Shepherd who seeks his lost sheep, not with condemnation, but with love .

GS close up

Open minded, progressive Christians don’t make the news much, but we’re out here.

Oh, and I still like a side of sci-fi, now and then.

 

 

 

 


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Joel Osteen is one of the Good Guys

“You must quit looking at what you don’t have and start believing that all things are possible.”   __ Joel Osteen

A  friend posted this article criticizing Joel Osteen on my Facebook timeline. Just the title, “Grace, grace, and grace: How to Battle Osteenism in Our Time,” turned me off.

I don’t want to battle Osteenism. I really don’t want to battle anyone. I’ll battle the devil when I have to. But Joel Osteen is NOT the devil. I’ve read excerpts from his book, Your Best Life Now, and found it refreshingly positive. It was a little like reading The Secret, but from a Christian perspective. It’s an easy jump, considering, “Ask, Believe, Receive,” is right there in Matthew 21:22.

The criticisms in the article my friend shared, include Osteen not having enough scripture, and encouraging us to focus on ourselves instead of God. The author writes, “…We want to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I am good, I am holy, I have made it all on my own.”

Yes, I do want to say, I am good, I am holy, but I know darn well I have not made it on my own. God brought me to this place of Grace. I had a feeling Osteen knows that too. So I watched some of  his videos. This one is  called: “Be Positive or Be Quiet.”  (Though it starts in the middle of a joke, the actual sermon starts around 4o seconds in.) It was well worth my time.

The more I listened to Joel in this video, the more I liked him. He used plenty of scripture and biblical stories to explain how and why we need to speak positively and not speak negative thoughts. He gives God all kinds of credit.

I know we have to address things that are wrong, but we can do it by saying what we want. We can talk about our hopes, what we want for our world, nation, city, neighborhood, family, and life. Like it says on my favorite bumper sticker:

Encourage your hopes, not your fears.

I’m not completely head-over-heels for Joel Osteen.  I might not believe everything he believes.

I do believe we can disagree and still admire and respect each other for good work. 

I have no interest in going to a mega church. Being an introvert at heart, crowded stadiums are not fun for me. But if he can get over 40,000 people to come to his church every Sunday, he must be on to something powerful.

I believe those people are hungry for hope. Me too. I thrive on positive words of encouragement. There is too much negative energy being spread into the world by the mainstream media, and by some religious leaders. Negativity becomes toxic after awhile.

Joel Osteen talks a lot about hope. And he talks a lot about Jesus and God, too. I believe he’s one of the good guys. And even if I don’t agree with everything he’s ever said, we’re still on the same team.

“Take your dreams and the promises God has put in your heart, and every day declare that they will come to pass.”   ___  Joel Osteen


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He’s Alive!

Happy Easter!

As part of the completion of this series on, Jesus Christ Superstar, I offer the theme song:

I like seeing Judas hangin’ out with the angels. It looks like he’s been forgiven.

When I first thought of doing this as a series, I thought it was just a good idea.

But it turned into something more.

Listening to the songs and watching the scenes from Jesus Christ Superstar, reflecting on their meaning to me, more than 30 years after my first encounter with the movie, I’ve come to feel the story of Jesus more deeply. I was drawn back to the Passion of the Christ to relive some of that experience too.

I’ve come to realize that this project is not just from me. I am grateful to have been led this week by the spirit of the living Jesus.

To conclude this week, I want to leave you with this beautiful song, Alive, by Natalie Grant.

 

Thank you for joining me on this journey.


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Could We Start Again, Please?

(This week, I’ve been revisiting the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar.  You can read more about the film and the role it played in my life here.)

“Could We Start Again Please” is one of my favorite songs from this movie. I’m posting it a little out of sequence from the movie, but for me,  it seems to fit here.

I’m imagining the friends of Jesus waking up the morning after the crucifixion and hoping it was all just a bad dream.

The good thing is that, with Jesus, we can always start again. No matter what mistakes we’ve made, we can be forgiven. All we need to do is ask, and open our hearts and minds to the profound love of Jesus.


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The Trial and the Crucifixion

This week, I’m revisiting the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, a journey which started   here.

Today is the most difficult part of the journey for me. Though Jesus and his friends suffered the most, it appears to have also been difficult for Pilate’s wife. It’s interesting to note her expression, assuming she is the woman standing behind and to the left of Pilate in the trial scene below. Consider this brief mention in Matthew 27:19:

While he (Pilate) was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

I wonder about this woman and her dream. Was she a supporter of Jesus? There is much speculation about Pontius Pilate’s wife.

 

 

As this is “Good Friday”, (Holy Friday still makes more sense to me) I felt compelled to include a crucifixion scene. The scene from Jesus Christ Superstar doesn’t quite work for me. So I looked for something including Mary, the Mother if Jesus, in addition to Mary Magdalene. I must have remembered the following scene from The Passion of the Christ. It’s a powerful movie and much more  realistic than Superstar.

WARNING: The following scene is very hard to watch. It made me sob, again. You are under NO obligation to watch it, of course, and might not want to. Trust your own good judgement on whether to watch it or not.

So why did I watch it? Initially out of curiosity. I watched it again, knowing it would be hard, maybe because I wanted to know what a real crucifixion would be like. I find value in that awareness.

If you are able, here is the scene from The Passion of the Christ:

It’s hard to imagine it possible for any man (or woman) to survive so long under these conditions, especially after being severely flogged, but then Jesus was not just any man.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, comfort us all.

May we rejoice in knowing that this is not the end of the story.


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Gethsemane: Facing Fear

This post is part of my week long series revisiting the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. Thanks for joining the journey!

Ted Neely’s powerful performance as Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, gets me at the core of my being, every time.

Seeing the human fear and the weariness Jesus feels in this scene inspires me and even comforts me. He died for us in spite of his fear. His powerful connection with his loving Father gave him courage, but it was far from easy for him. Otherwise, He would not have asked for a reprieve.

This scene reminds me that each of us can deepen our connection with God, to give us courage to face our own trials, large and small.

We can ask God questions: Do you really want me to do this?

We can ask for help: Okay, God. Show me how. Help me feel your presence, your strength. Please give me the courage to do this.

 


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Jesus, Judas, and the Deeper Story

This week, I’m revisiting the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar.  You can read more about the film and the role it played in my life here.

As I experience these scenes thirty of so years later, I understand more. I understand some of the struggle Judas must have felt, so well depicted in the performance of Carl Anderson. I also appreciate the modern day instruments of war framing the dream scene:

 

Today, the last supper scene sharpens my awareness of the self- righteous complacency we can fall into with, “Always hoped that I’d be an apostle…”

But Jesus brings us back to a complicated reality. He knows the deeper story as he orders Judas to go and betray him. We see some of Jesus’ human side and feel the turmoil, and the love, between Judas and Jesus.

 


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Mary Magdalene and Me

This week, I’m revisiting the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar.  You can read more about the film and the role it played in my life here.

Of all the songs in this movie, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” drew me in most intensely, during my agnostic twenties. I questioned: Who is this Jesus guy really? And who is this woman who doesn’t know how to love him? What’s it all about?

I related to her confusion. The song implies that Mary Magdalene first seems to consider her relationship with Jesus from a romantic, or sexual, frame of reference.  This is understandable, not because she was a prostitute as she was historically, and wrongly, labeled to discredit her, but because she was human. 

As I watched and listened to her song, I saw that Jesus was like no other man Mary had encountered. Her love for him was different from any thing she’d felt before. She was afraid of the power of that  love. I understood her fear of being overpowered by love. I understood her fear of losing herself in his love.

And yet, she was drawn to him, by his goodness and his kindness.

And so was I.

 


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“Everything’s Alright”

This week, I’m revisiting the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar.  You can read more about the film and the role it played in my life here.

When I watched this scene, “Everything’s Alright,” again, after many years of just singing the song to sooth myself or some one else, it was different from what I remembered. I had not remembered how much tension the scene contained. Tension between Jesus and Judas which then turns into all those other feelings of love, and fear, and foreshadowing of something really big, and terrible, and amazing on the horizon.

Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed by the world, I try to tell myself, “everything’s alright.” But it’s not all right. The world’s got huge messes that desperately need cleaning up.

Yet, as Mary Magdalene reminds us, we all need to take a break now and then, to rest up for the work ahead of us.  And so we don’t go crazy.


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Jesus Christ Superstar: Palm Sunday

Palm crosses

Yesterday I shared about not being good at knot tying. So I was pleased to remember the steps to making palm crosses for Palm Sunday service. I had to find an old dried up palm cross and unwrap it to get one of the final steps. Once I get something, I keep practicing to use it or lose it, so I made lots of palm crosses yesterday afternoon.

In my early twenties, I was staunchly agnostic, valuing science much more than religion. During that time, I saw the musical film, Jesus Christ Superstar.

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_Superstar_%28film%29)

I fell in love with music of the film which had the feel of a hippie rock opera. I bought the album and listened to it over and over, singing along. I watched the movie on TV a couple times over the years. It told the story of Jesus and his friends during the days leading up to his crucifixion. Though some may say the movie/play does not follow the Bible accurately, it told the story in a way that appealed to me, in a way I could relate to.

The music of Jesus Christ Superstar softened my heart to the story of the man called Jesus. My journey back to him picked up speed after the birth of my son when I was 29, followed by a short lived but challenging job with the Department of Social Services. I’ll always be thankful to that job for driving me back to church. I’m also thankful to the open minded  Episcopal priest who accepted my questions and hesitations with reason and understanding. Many years later, I took my daughter to see the musical performed live by a local theater company. I sang the songs softly, so as not to embarrass her too much.

This week being holy week, I thought I’d share with you video clips of songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.

This clip, depicting Jesus being praised by a crowd waving palm branches, has the best sound, though the video quality is a bit compromised, so I hope you enjoy the music.