Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Communication that Changes the World

Now there’s a bold idea. What kind of communication can change the world? I know communication that can change my mood, and it doesn’t take much! I am familiar with communication that can quickly change a relationship by strengthening or destroying it. And, of course, there is non-verbal communication which can change all sorts of things, especially because it can be so easily misunderstood. High tech communication can change a person’s life in a matter of seconds as has been demonstrated on You Tube. But communication that changes the world?

In order for communication to change the whole world that communication would have to do one of two things. It would have to come from outside the world—a break through kind of communication for all the world to see. Or, it could start with just one person in the world but be communicated so deeply and widely that it could be described as having gone viral. Interesting, now that I think about it, there is one communication that I know of that has both of these characteristics—break through and grass roots viral. It is the incarnation. God becoming human flesh and living among us is exactly this kind of communication.

God, in Christ, came from outside our world. This was God communicating in living color! And, the message Christ brought both by his coming and in his teaching has changed the world, one person at a time—a tax collector, a prostitute, a shepherd, a fisherman, a leper. And it has spread so rapidly and so widely that, indeed, the whole world has been changed by what Christ communicated. The numerical denotation of history hinges on his arrival. The language of love he spoke transcends all languages. Christ’s message has reached the highest mountain and penetrated the deepest jungle. The desire to spread his message inspired great discoveries, spawned empires, inspired the printing press and gave birth to the world’s cutting edge linguistics. The message of Christ—for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son—has changed the world.

The power of this message is what keeps my communication focused on Christ. I can be a powerful storyteller and people will be spellbound…for awhile. I can construct and deliver a creative and compelling speech and people will be mesmerized…for awhile. I can make people laugh and cry and move them emotionally… but they will recover and forget. But when I communicate the love of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God can take that communication and use it whenever and wherever and however he chooses because it has eternal power. The word of God always accomplishes God's purposes (Isa. 55:11). Long after the image of my face and the sound of my voice and the passion of my heart fade in the memory of those who hear me, the world changing message of the love of God remains. The incarnational love of God communicated in Jesus Christ has changed the world and one day will change it for eternity.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals . . . he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.‘ “ Rev. 21:1-5

However, the power of the message does not relieve communicators of the responsibility for excellence in how we communicate. For over 25 years Dynamic Communicator’s Workshops has been helping me fine tune my skills in communicating this world changing message. The workshop’s emphasis on clarity, focus and creativity combined with the personal attention and coaching, make it a stand out in the field of communication seminars. The power of the love of God communicated in Jesus Christ in the hands of communicators committed to excellence is changing the world.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Power of Hatred and Forgiveness

I met Col. Glenn Frazier in June in Pittsburgh at the second annual Descendants of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (DADBC) Convention. Like my father, he was a WWII exPOW and survived to tell about it. Unlike my father, he hated the Japanese—all of them. He hated them so much that he could not even stand to be in relationship with anyone who did not hate them too. Though he had been very successful as a soldier and in business after he retired from the military, his hatred destroyed his first two marriages and left him estranged from four children. Colonel Glenn Frazier had reason to hate the Japanese. He had suffered torture and starvation, and witnessed unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the Japanese in World War II. Glenn is a member of the Battling Bastards of Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March, O’Donnell Death Camp, a Hell Ship, and forced labor in Japan. Glenn had suffered a lot for almost four years. And every day of those four years his hatred grew. Glenn Frazier is a member of the Greatest Generation who fought to secure freedoms every American enjoys. But as the Camp O’Donnell Memorial Cross on at Capas National Shrine in the Philippine Islands states clearly, “Freedom is not free.”

On July 4 we celebrate the birth of the United States of America. We celebrate it wildly with waving flags, fireworks and parades. And, of course, we eat sumptuously with family and friends! All this we are able to do because over the years men and women of the armed services have paid dearly. As the veterans like to say, “All gave some. Some gave all.” My father also was a prisoner of war of the Japanese for three and a half years. So were some 300,000 other men and women. One hundred thousand perished. These ex-POWs understood the cost of freedom and they appreciated every day thereafter and every meal they were able to eat after they returned home. But for Glenn, the survival and return was bittersweet. His hatred of the Japanese tainted every part of his life. He was a free man living in a free country but he was imprisoned by his hatred. His nights were sleepless, filled with horrific nightmares. His days were filled with arguments and tirades with anyone who dared to own a car or anything made by the Japanese. His health was failing and hatred was killing him.

Then along came a young Japanese student. You can read Glenn’s story in his book, Hell’s Guest. But the book does not tell about the young Japanese woman who was an angel sent from above. Glenn told me this story himself when I met him recently at the annual convention of the Descendants of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. Through an extraordinary act of grace and compassion this young Japanese student asked Glenn to forgive the Japanese who had caused his suffering. But she did not stop there. She asked permission to take off his socks and shoes. Then she took a basin filled with water and washed Glenn’s feet. When she was done, she prayed for Glenn to let go of his anger and forgive the Japanese for what they had done. She prayed that he would be freed from the hatred that had imprisoned him all these years. And he was! After this, within three weeks, Glenn’s nightmares ended and he was sleeping through the night. Hatred gone, he began to build relationships with people and to serve joyfully in his church. Glenn’s third marriage is holding strong, and he has reconciled with two of his four children. And Col. Glenn Frazier now takes every opportunity he has to tell people that freedom is not free. America’s freedoms have been won by the suffering and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of men and women. But more important, Glenn takes every opportunity to tell people that the ultimate freedom is the freedom from sin, like Glenn’s hatred and anger, and that freedom is only found in the grace and mercy of God. Spiritual freedom also is not free. But thank the Lord, someone else paid the price! Jesus Christ suffered and bled and died, so that we might be free from all that imprisons us. The love of Christ delivered a man named Glenn Frazier from fifty years of hatred and anger and the wake of destruction it left in his life. Freedom is not free. But Christ has paid the price.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love Hate Relationship with Technology

Sometimes I love technology. Sometime I hate it. It is a love hate relationship. I cannot live without it and yet, at times, I would like to try! This week my computer decided to shut me out of the network in my office. I cannot access files. I cannot do a lot of thing necessary for performing the responsibilities of my job. Our computer tech person took one look at my computer and said, "I have no idea what happened." At times like this I hate technology. Especially when even highly technical people cannot figure out what it is doing or why.

I am a moderately educated user. I get by. But frequently my computer does things and I have no idea why. I assumed that was because of my relative idiocy when it comes to all things computer technical. But if even our tech guy is stumped, what's a person to do? I also hate computers when I encounter people who have become trapped in the vices it provides. And I encounter a lot of these people. Pornography, sites that prey on people, online affairs and addictions of all shapes and sizes make the computer and the internet high on the list of potential evils.

And yet, I do love the technology as well. Especially this last week. Last Thursday my first grandchild was born in San Diego, California. Laurel Ana was safely delivered at 9 p.m. on the 7th of July, screaming her healthy lungs out! For a variety of reasons, I could not be there. But my son sent me the audio of her birth. On my Iphone I have the recorded sound of my granddaughter announcing her arrival. It is amazing--both her lung capacity and the fact that I was able to hear it (and have the sound to play over and over again)! I love this technology! We live in Los Angeles about two hours away from my son and daughter-in-law and new baby. With Southern California traffic it can take four hour to travel the 100 miles to San Diego! So I cannot run by their home every day or even every other day to see this sweet baby. But thanks to technology we can Skype and see this little family in living color, live anytime they allow us. Two nights ago I watched as my son held Laurel and explained how sweet she was. He said, "She is so cute I just want to squeeze her really tight! But she is so tiny I know I have to be careful." How wonderful is that? Because of this technology that I cannot begin to understand, I can literally see and hear my little Laurel Ana and her wonderful parents every day! I love this technology.

And because of this technology I can also share some of these sacred moments with my extended family and friends. The beautiful picture in this blog of my son hanging over the basinette adoring his little daughter says so much. His wife Jackie sent this picture to me this morning from her Iphone and I was able to share it with all my siblings waiting til the next family reunion to share pictures.

Wow! Its a rough call. Technology can be horrible and it can be wonderful, but because it can enhance connection between us when we are separated from those we love, I think I will go with the, "I love it!"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Of Thee I Sing

My father was a WWII POW. He was in the US Army just 19 months when he became a prisoner of the Japanese during WWII. He was starved and often brutalized and suffered for three and one half years until Japan surrendered in August of 1945. He was liberated about a month later. He did not re-enlist. But he often said, “If my country needed me and I could serve, I would go again.” He was very patriotic. And one of the signs of his patriotism was evident whenever the national anthem was played the tears would roll down his cheeks. Whenever the flag was raised or any patriotic songs were sung or played my father would silently cry. These symbols of our country moved him deeply. He lived to be 85 and I don’t think the emotion ever subsided. I have witnessed this over and over again with the American people, and veterans in particular, in a variety of contexts. Patriotic music moves people—especially people who understand the cost of our freedom.

As a pastor and worship leader it makes me wonder. So often I sit in worship and observe people singing songs about the love of God, the sacrifice of Christ, the price he paid for our sins, the grace and mercy and forgiveness of the Lord, the new life we are given, and yet I would dare to say the majority of people sitting in worship are at least visibly unaffected by what they are singing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not believe that tears are the primary or necessary evidence of heartfelt worship. I am just saying that the contrast between what I see when veterans sing the national anthem and what I see when many Christians sing in worship makes me wonder. It makes me wonder if we understand the cost of our spiritual freedom? I do not see the same level of engagement with the lyrics of the words of worship music as I do with patriotic songs. Animated and enthusiastic is how I would describe patriotic singing followed by clapping and whistling and cheering. Not so in worship in many churches I preach and worship in. And heaven forbid, if someone actually moves or raises their hands during the singing! Even when the song’s lyric’s say “we lift up our hands” few venture to actually do such a demonstrative thing.

The important question for person to ask is, of whom or what do I sing? What makes my heart sing? What gives me goose bumps? What makes me want to shout for joy? What causes me to silently be in awe? These are questions especially important for people claiming to be set free by the blood of the Lamb. Tears will not reveal the answer to all of these questions but they do indicate some level of deeper engagement in the music and its words. The question for me is clear, no matter what the visible signs, who is the “thee” of whom I sing?!