God Moments – Sometimes There is a Hole in the Ceiling

IMG_6908Barry L. Johnson was a junior in college when his short story professor put a title on the black board and instructed the students to write a story to fit it. The title was “Sometimes, There’s a Hole in the Ceiling.” The story was a real challenge for Barry – it took numerous drafts and different ideas before he finally came up with a story that he was satisfied with. He wrote about a ghetto family who was surprised by help from an unexpected source. He closed his story with these words, “Sometimes, There’s a hole in the ceiling; it was made for the hand of God.” Every now and then the story would come back to him. As the words trickled into his mind, it made sense of some mystical moment, when the unexplainable happened. There would be an insight, light or wisdom that plopped into his mind. A series of unexpected events solved a problem he’d been agonizing over. Then, the words would come to him again “Sometimes there’s a hole in the ceiling – it was made for the hand of God.” (Sometimes there’s a hole in the ceiling – 1975 by Barry Lee Johnson)

When I first read that story, I thought of moments, more spiritual than physical. Moments of God’s presence where one is touched in such a way, that there is an assurance that God is near . . . when you just know, not only that God is close, but you are being loved in a special way. I think of ideas that have slipped into my mind when I have been perplexed – struggling to find a solution. Then suddenly, the answer simply is there. They are God moments, because there can be no other way to explain a series of coincidences and decisions made which are exactly right at a given moment in time.

But, I think a person has to be ready to recognize those God moments. One has to see outside the spectrum and vision one usually views the world through. How else does a person describe meeting a friend at a place neither of you could have expected to meet the other, but doing so on a day, you really needed a person to talk to? Or the set of coincidences that puts you where it was crucial for you to be? The thoughts that allow you to think differently of a person – so you see with compassion instead of frustration.

Sometimes, comes a moment clarity. There is a Hole in the ceiling, made for the hand of God. A hand that touches us and in that touch we know we are loved by God.

The Power to Push Back the Darkness

CandleFlameOn Sunday’s when I’m home sick, I like to check out the online worship service at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City (www.cor.org). Adam Hamilton has been the lead pastor since the church began in 1990 around the idea that the church would be designed for “thinking people.” It was planned for people who are not shy about asking the questions of faith and willing to admit their doubts . . . People who sense that faith is more complex than the easy answers some would give us. A while back I was struck by Adam Hamilton’s comment, “You are God’s strategic plan to push back the darkness.” I have to admit, that I have never thought of myself in those terms. Yet, hearing the words and being reminded that we are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, got me to thinking – Just what does a Christian do, to push back the darkness in our world?

The present political climate in the United States is cause for many of us to search for a way to push back the darkness. Our inner demons have been set loose. The past year of campaign rhetoric has fueled attitudes of arrogance, racism, and fear. All of which lack the compassion of a Jesus. I find it hard to comprehend the attitude of people who claim the name of Christian and then proceed to do hate speech on social media. Christians are seeped in foundational stories which ground us. We remember Jesus telling us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters , it is as if we are doing it for him. (Matthew 25:31-46) I’m troubled by Christian friends who have missed this compelling message of Jesus.

We live in a world of deep challenges, in a nation so divided that we find it hard to even talk to each other about the issues that divide us, but matter to all of us. Likewise, we live in a time of immense possibilities in need of people who will direct those possibilities for good. It comes to me that each of us, does have the power to push back the darkness. Each of us has the power of words, where we live and work, in our families and in our homes. We have the power to influence through our own attitudes and actions. Especially, we can use our words on behalf of people who are targets of bigotry, injustice and callousness.

We have been born into this time and this era for a purpose. We are followers of Jesus who need to act in love and be God’s strategic plan to push back the darkness, We do that by being agents of God’s love and grace. Our part may seem very small. It may seem insignificant, but daily we have the power to use the influence we have to build bridges of understanding. We can influence through our generosity. We can give support and encouragement to people who need to know the gift of friendship and the power of God’s loving care through us. Today we can make another person’s life better, because of who we are and what we do and say. We really can be people who push against the darkness.

Jesus said it another way, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized (NRSVA)

A Visit to Paisley Park – Seeing Prince Through the Messages of Those Who Loved Him

IMG_7319I have driven past Paisley Park for years and never realized it was the home of Prince. It stands just a few miles from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, one of my favorite destinations. Which is how I found myself squeezing into one of the limited parking spots on May 2nd, to take a few pictures. The crowds continue to come and pay tribute to Prince. New bouquets of flowers replace those which have served their purpose and new balloons cover deflated purple ones. To walk there is to hear stories, see tears and recognize the need of people to express that in some visible way. It was a somber place to visit.

Tributes have come from many places lining the fences which surround Prince’s home and studio. Words from Germany, Holland, Australia, Tasmania along with several states are put together on one poster. A guitar is nestled in among the flowers. While I watch, a man makes a purple Prince sign out of balloons in a free spot along the extended fence. IMG_7315a Purple umbrellas are scattered among the balloons. Messages include those who knew Prince as a friend and neighbor. There are pictures from children with purple rain falling. People wrote of their love for him, his music and his talent. A ribbon is woven into the fence and shaped into a heart, with flowers at the center.
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Of the more personal and touching tributes are these:
“Thank you for the gift of your music. It was a refuge during the storms of my youth, and now as a nostalgic smile in my heart . . . You were a part of me, of so many of us, and we send a piece of our hearts with you.”
“Been in my life since I was Eleven, ”
“My dad worked for twelve years for you. He said it was the best job he ever had.”
“Thanks for your music. You helped me become who I am.”
“After rain, peaks a bright rainbow against the dark gray skies. For every struggle, challenge, heartache, loss difficulty, loneliness, sadness, tears . . . A rainbow will always appear. It’s a sign of hope . . . beauty. Promise . . . enlightenment . . . life. It’s a spiritual stairway that connects us with our creator. You are missed by so many. You are loved by so many. A piece of my childhood you took with you.” IMG_7318

I have to admit that I would never count myself among Prince’s fans. But, it is hard not to see the millions of lives his music touched. Stories of Prince have circulated in Minnesota for years. This very private man would slip into clubs and sometimes, suddenly appear on set for the briefest of moments. While an investigation continues into his death, an addiction to pain killers is increasingly being revealed as a contributing factor. Meanwhile, people continue to come to leave their messages, to bring their flowers and mourn a person who brought joy to so many. On the day of Prince’s death, a rainbow stretched over his home.