Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thank You, Dr. Olney

Through the years, CBS Sunday Morning has been one of my favorite television shows. I say that even though I rarely watch it. The program airs Sunday mornings (obviously), and because I habitually attend church Sunday mornings, I hardly ever see it.

(I know, I could have recorded it, but that would have required me to be organized. However, I recently discovered I can watch it online. Sweet!;snav)

What I love about this show is that it tells human interest stories. It’s not “hard news”; it’s people. It may inform, it may inspire, but it does so by telling someone’s story.

I recently watched a story about a doctor, Richard Olney, who spent decades treating and researching ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) only to be stricken with the disease himself in his late fifties. (;contentBody)

As his speech faculties began to fail, he recorded his voice on his laptop saying phrases that he thought would be useful to him. He could click a button on his computer and it would broadcast his voice saying, “Good morning,” “Thanks for stopping by,” or “I have a speech problem.”

He also recorded a message for his wife: “I love you, Paula.” The same for his son and daughter.

It prompted me to wonder, “What phrases would I record if I knew I would lose the ability to speak?”

“I love you” is a good start.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“Please and thank you.”

“I understand.”

“Sing me a song, please.”

“See ya later.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“How may I pray for you?”

“Tell me more.”

On the heels of this mental exercise I read Luke 6:45: The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

The words I speak are formed in my heart. So I’d better be sure my heart is filled with good things. Things like gratitude, kindness, compassion . . . Philippians 4:8 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Dr. Olney passed away recently. I hope I can learn from his story and chose my words carefully while I still can. Better yet, make right, excellent, and admirable words a natural overflow of what is in my heart.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yep, That Sounds Like Me

My name is Becky, and I’m a Pharisee.

They say admitting your problem is the first step to recovery, right? So I admit it. I’m a Pharisee.

I credit my pastor with bringing me to this confession. In his sermon Sunday, he suggested we all might have a little Pharisee in us. I had to admit, I have more than a little.

Pharisees were a group of religious leaders in Jesus’ day who were known for their legalistic adherence to Jewish law. As my pastor said, “The Pharisees focused on externals. Pleasing God meant following a list of do’s and don’ts.”

Yeah, that sounds like me.

He went on to say, “The Pharisees viewed themselves as the standard of spirituality. They were spiritually proud.”

The more Pastor talked, the more I heard myself in his words.

I was very “Pharisee” when it came to my reaction to the death of Whitney Houston. I heard people refer to her as a follower of Jesus and I thought, “Really? A drug abuser?”

I did catch myself—“Yes, Becky, Jesus followers can make mistakes and fall victim to addictions.”

But that didn’t stop my self-righteous, legalistic, internal tirade. As images and interviews of Ms. Houston flooded the television I’d think, “Did you see that dress? Did you hear the words of that song? How can she be a Christian and use that language?”

Growing up, I learned to define Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts. I understood that my relationship with God was based on my faith in Jesus, but from there I added things like--

  • “Good Christians don’t go to movies.”
  • “Good Christians don’t play cards.”
  • “Good Christians don’t dance.”
  • “Good Christians don’t swear.”

And the list could go on and on. And so, my friends, that makes me a Pharisee.

But I want to change. I want to stop expecting people to live up to my vain standards. Stop expecting Christians to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, live a certain way. I want to invite the possibility that people like Whitney Houston may know more about faith and the grace of God than I ever will.