“Go Ahead….Make My Day”

This quote is familiar to many of us….from the 1983 movie Sudden Impact, starring Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan.  ‘Dirty Harry,’ as he’s called, is issuing it as a challenge.

I received another challenge today from one of my favorite authors:  Andy Andrews.

In his blog post today, Andrews shares his thoughts on those special people who ‘make our day,’ just by doing the small things in a joyful way.  The person who shines your shoes, the clerk at the grocery counter, the receptionist at your client’s office….or us, as we answer the phone.  I remember a sign that was posted over a clerk’s head in a city office where I was meeting one day;  “Be Nice, Because Nice is Important.”

The Epistle of Ephesians speaks to this in Eph 6:7 (The Message): “And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God.”

Here’s Andy’s story: http://bit.ly/1dXRnds

Hope you accept the challenge and recognize a joyful person in a surprising way today!

What IS a Christian to do with Harry Potter? (a reprise)

(Note:  this blog was originally published in the Methodist Reporter, c. summer 2009.  It has been updated to clarify certain points)

I recently read an essay by Jeorg Rieger, professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology.  Professor Rieger’s commentary posed an interesting discussion on where Christians are most likely to broaden their understanding of God, and under what circumstances we are most likely to be drawn into a more meaningful relationship with God.  I read this commentary, and found its conclusions to be particularly applicable to this summer’s educational series titled, ‘What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter?”.

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Part of our challenge as Christians is to step out of our comfort zone and force ourselves to experience life from a different perspective.  Our youth do this every year, by participating in mission trips; sometimes our youth are sent to participate in urban ministry, sometimes in disaster relief.  But always, the youth find themselves drawn closer to God, simply because they committed to learning about new and different things.

Members of Arapaho UMC can see this summer’s lessons from Harry Potter in much the same light.  Believe me, I heard many comments from our members when the class was announced:  “We are not supposed to practice witchcraft as Christians.”  “Harry Potter, at CHURCH?”  “What could Harry Potter books possibly teach me about theology?”  “Hey, that sounds neat, I think that might even get me to come to Sunday School.”  And my personal favorite, “Mom, just because you can find lessons that are similar to the Bible in Harry Potter, that doesn’t mean JK Rowling INTENDED to make the comparison!”

And so we moved forward with the class, knowing that there were as many differing opinions about the appropriateness of the class as there were members in the church.  Some even stepped outside their comfort zone to participate.  And, just as Professor Rieger discussed, those who did participate came to learn more about our role as Christians, as viewed from a different medium.   We learned a lot about literary symbolism in traditional Christian literature.  We discussed prejudice, and the effects of personal choice, and the battle between Good and Evil.  We discussed how we are made in God’s image, as spiritual people; and because of this, we cheer Harry on in his quest to make the right choices.  We compared Harry’s challenges to the letters of Paul.  We reviewed the hero’s journey (thanks to Joseph Campbell), and applauded how Harry was aided in each victory by a Christ like symbol.  Finally, my personal favorite, we discussed the ‘perfect soul,’ the Dream Team, and how we are to love God with all our heart, and with all our mind and with all our soul…..and that we function best, either individually or as a team, when we are led by the Spirit, not by our mind or our will.   We learned how to build our relationship with God, “Spirit side up.” (John Granger, “How Harry Cast His Spell”)

Yes, broadening our perspectives will draw us closer to God.  It is through these new perspectives that God shows us ALL of the people He created in His image.  It is through these new perspectives that we are able to see how God loves every man and woman.    We can find new perspectives in so many places – some of us just happened to find them in a series of books about a young wizard and his challenges to make good choices, no matter what the consequences.

Stephen Colbert Debunks McDonald’s Budget

http://bit.ly/1bJmA7B

I am a big fan of ‘The Colbert Report,’ a tongue-in-cheek ‘news’ show aired nightly on The Comedy Channel.  Colbert has a way of sharing the ridiculousness of our nation’s news, in a very humorous way.

Last night’s monologue focused on the minimum wage and a recent online educational tool that McDonald’s corporate office created for its part time employees.  McD’s objective, it appears, is to educate the poor on their unreasonable request to raise minimum wage.  Clearly, under the hypothetical budget discussed in this clip, anyone can survive on minimum wage, right?.  I’ll let Colbert do the talking for me; he easily debunks the assumptions in the budget.

As for some of the commentary that proclaims minimum wage workers as “irresponsible with their money,” I say – let’s see you try it, Mr. O’Reilly.  I’ll bet we don’t get the opportunity to see O’Reilly try.  It’s a whole lot easier to point fingers and assume we would act differently in the same situation.  I don’t think I’d fare any better than most.

Documentary director Morgan Spurlock put it to the test.  In the introductory episode of his TV series, “30 Days,” Spurlock and his wife spent 30 days living on two minimum wage earnings.  [I can’t bring myself to call the earnings ‘salaries’.]  The challenge was much more difficult and enlightening than either spouse realized.  I encourage you to watch it on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.  The challenges they faced ended in 30 days; for others, they must find ways to end the cycle themselves.

How can we help them?  Will we answer as Christ asks us, in Matthew 25:35-40?