Monday, April 24, 2017

We Need a Few More Optimists

Like you, I did a lot of traveling over Easter break.

They call it “rubbernecking.” That’s what we instinctually do when we’re driving in a car and pass by an accident. We strain our necks trying to peer out and catch sight of the victims of the crash.

I think we see many analogous versions of rubbernecking all around us. What is the attraction of so many of the “reality shows” that are on TV today? Why does the Jerry Springer show get good ratings? I went on line to see the story line of some recent Springer episodes: “Lipstick Lesbians,” “I Slept with your Brother’s Boyfriend,” “Your Husband Knocked Me Up,” and “Out of Control Catfights.” Why do we watch these shows? Why do we care about the lives of pathetic people living wrecked lives? Psychologists say it’s partly because we enjoy feeling superior to others. When we watch “humilitainment,” as one person called it, we feel better about ourselves at the expense of someone else.

The problem is when there’s a car accident, and when drivers-by rubberneck, the police will tell you that there are often more wrecks, as people aren’t paying attention to where they are driving.

And there’s a parable in there somewhere, I think. When we become fascinated by the misery of others, when we focus on what is wrong about someone else’s life, it’s easy to lose sight of where we are going. And when we are swamped by the wreckage of other people’s lives, when we become accustomed to what is twisted and sad, it’s too easy for us to define deviancy down, too easy to set low bars for ourselves about what is right and good.

In contrast, Scripture tells us that “ whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Phillipians 4:8)

I will be honest with you. I find that verse challenging. I have a tendency to go right to the negative. My kids will tell you if we’re watching TV, I often make cutting remarks about people, disputing the claims they’re making, ridiculing their motives. I need-all of us, I think, need—to be in the presence of optimists, people that see the good in others despite their flaws, people who help us focus on what is beautiful and not what is ugly.

Our world needs a few more optimists. I think that’s true of high schools, too, especially at this time of year as we become stressed about A.P exams, final exams, failing, or making a team. When we’re too busy or tired, it’s easy to become cranky, self-centered, mean-spirited, ugly with each other. Let’s work to be the opposite. Let’s go out of way to compliment, to thank, to congratulate, to become people that dwell on what's honorable, pure or excellent in others.

I'll be praying for you these next couple of weeks. The year is almost over. Work hard.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

He is Alive!

Happy Easter, 2017!

Growing up in our house, music was always an important way we celebrated Easter. My father would wake us up with "He is alive!" from the album "Celebrate Life," and for the rest of the day, the music would be blaring an eclectic mix of music both contemporary and ancient, reminding us of the joy of Christ's resurrection. Both as a way of remembering Dad and celebrating Easter, I've compiled a list of some of his favorites for Easter--and truth be told, some of my favorites as well.

 So here's what we woke up to every Easter morning as kids:


This next glorious hymn, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling", written by Charles Wesley in 1747, makes me choke up every time we sing the last stanza in Church.

The last verse reads: "Finish, then, Thy new creation; Pure and spotless let us be. Let us see Thy great salvation, Perfectly restored in Thee; Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place, Till we cast our crowns before Thee, Lost in wonder, love, and praise."


When I was younger, I played in a contemporary Christian music group called "Canticle". This version of "He is Alive" by Don Francisco was one we played frequently during Easter time:


Rather simply play the near entirety of Handel's Messiah, here's two pieces that are "must listen to" pieces every Easter:

First, "The Trumpet Shall Sound," beginning with the magnificent proclamation "Behold, I shall tell you a mystery!"

And of course, the Hallelujah Chorus:

If we don't sing "Jesus Christ has Risen Today!" at Mass every Sunday during the Easter season, I feel cheated:


And finally, this beautiful song, recorded at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on the Mobile Bay as part of the "Vigil Project." The song is called "I Have Seen the Lord."

He is risen up again!