Why Superheroes Wear Masks…

Why Superheroes Wear Masks…

 

When I was a kid, I loved to watch Florida Federation Wrestling.  I know it was fake.  I knew, then, that it was fake.  But, I loved the action.  I loved the moves.  But, mostly, I loved the characters.

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In particular, I remember the “bad guy” wrestlers that wore masks.  There was always a lot of mystery about who was behind the mask.  Every time one of them wrestled, the hope was that they would lose, and that the victor would successfully pull off their mask and reveal who the mystery wrestler was – before being hit over the head with a folding chair by one of the masked wrestler’s friends.

When I was a kid, I was also a fan of the rock band KISS.  Their music was never really that great – but those costumes and that make-up was awesome!

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I still remember when they took off the make-up for a few years, revealing real faces.

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I was glad when they put the makeup back on!

I’m also a fan of comic book superheroes.  I was, when I was a kid.  And, I still am.

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Like masked wrestlers and KISS, many superheroes wear masks to conceal their true identity.

The primary reason that superheroes conceal their true identities is to protect the people the people they love.  After all, if the Joker found out the Batman is Bruce Wayne, he might blow-up Wayne Enterprises. If the Scorpion found out that Spiderman is Peter Parker, he might kidnap Aunt Jane.  And, so forth, and so on…

mascaras-de-superheroes-D_NQ_NP_20373-MLA20189128826_102014-FThe point is, even with their amazing super-powers, superheroes wear masks to protect their weaknesses and vulnerabilities – namely, the people they love.

Superheroes aren’t the only ones who wear masks.  We all do.  All of us wear some kind of mask to hide and protect our weaknesses, fears, and vulnerabilities.  Sometimes masks are pretending to be something we’re not.  Sometimes masks are hiding secrets we’re ashamed of.  Sometimes masks are presenting a better image than is actually true, like the fantastical/fictional lives portrayed by many of us on social media.

We wear masks to hide our shame.  Shame is a lie, whispered in our ears by our arch enemy…

  • I’m the only one.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • You won’t like me.
  • I’m all alone.
  • No one cares.

hiding

The first humans to attempt to hide their shame was a couple named Adam and Eve.  They did something they weren’t supposed to do, and were so ashamed of their mistake that they hid in the bushes – from God.  It’s really hard to hide from God.  God has x-ray vision.

Adam and Eve’s shame was revealed, and they paid the consequences for their mistake.  But, the consequences were pretty bad for them, and for everyone that has come after them.  One of the consequences is that we’re still ashamed and we think we still need to hide.

But, the Bible says, that when we hide in shame, that God comes looking for us.  When Jesus came, he was searching for people hiding from God.  The story is a bit complicated, but the Bible says that Jesus took our shame away from us when he died on the cross, and when he beat death by coming back to life.

Earlier, I mentioned superheroes wearing masks to conceal their true identity.  Most superheroes started life as average, normal people, only discovering later their superpowers.  But, there is an exception.

Superman.

Superman has always been Superman.  Actually, his real name is Kal-el.  He is a refugee from the planet Krypton.  On Krypton, Kal-el wouldn’t have had superpowers, because Krypton had a red sun.  But, under our sun, Kal-el has remarkable super-powers.  From an early age, Kal-el’s adopted parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, felt like they needed to protect Kal-el’s alien identity.  So, they named him Clark, and over time Clark Kent adopted a human identity to conceal that he is actually Superman.

Superman doesn’t wear a mask.  Clark Kent does – thick glasses, social awkwardness, and general nerdy-ness.

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Bruce Wayne puts on a mask to become Batman.  Superman puts on glasses and a business suit to become Clark Kent.  See the difference?

How many of us do the same?

You and I are more like Superman than Batman.  How cool is that?

We are sons and daughters of God, made in his image and likeness, invested with incredible abilities and potential.  But, because we feel insecure and ashamed, we put on masks to conceal who God created us to be.  By doing so, we hide from the world and ourselves who we really are.

There’s no more need for hiding in shame!

Romans 8: 1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

But, in spite of our new freedom in Christ to rip off our masks, most of us are still hiding.  Even though we have nothing to be ashamed of, because of Christ, most of us still FEEL pretty shameful.

Which leads me, at last, to one of my favorite quotes, by Marianne Williamson.  She writes, Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

So, take off your mask.  Lay down your shame.  Cast off your fear.  Come out of the bushes.  You are a child of God, with nothing to be ashamed of.  Let your light shine!  Be who you are!

Reflections on Forty Days of Blogging

Reflections on Forty Days of Blogging

For Lent, I committed to write a blog, everyday, for forty days, plus Sundays.  I did it!  But, now Lent is over…

What now?

I don’t plan to continue blogging daily – I think we would all get a little sick of that.  Instead, I’m thinking that I will continue to post my sermons/messages every Sunday, and write a blog about once-a-week.  Possibly more, if something really excites me. (And, you know how excited I can get!)

Thanks to everyone who has been reading and sharing my blogs.  You have been very kind and encouraging, and affirming of my writing.

Now that Lent 20217 is finally over, I thought it might be appropriate to reflect on what I’ve learned from forty-plus days of writing…

  • It hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be.  I wondered if I would be able to think of something to write about – every day!  Surprise, surprise – the preacher never ran out of things to say!
  • Blogging made me more observant.  Needing something to write about – every day – made me more observant of life.  My eyes and ears were more open and receptive than usual, as I was always looking for inspiration.  I hope that continues.
  • Everything is theological.  Though I wrote about silly things – ranging from my motorcycle to bonsai trees to the Bible – I found that there are countless ways to reflect on who God is and what God does.  God isn’t just found in Scripture or theology books or sermons.  God is everywhere, at work in everything.
  • Blogging is cathartic.  As an introvert, and a fairly private person – in a very public profession – I have a tendency to bottle up my thoughts and feelings.  It was surprisingly easy to be surprisingly honest in this medium.  And, helpful.  And, healthy.  Sorry if you found out more about me than you really wanted to know.
  • I love to write.  Who knew?
  • I can be really, really long-winded.  Again, who knew?
  • Blogging forces me to think and reflect more deeply.  Frankly, it is pretty easy to be shallow.  But, putting your thoughts, theology, opinions, and the like, out for public consumption, requires a bit more care and attention – a bit more depth.  “Is this true?  Is this worth sharing?  Am I being clear?  Can I say this better?”
  • I have a fixation with “-“s, I can’t keep my verb tenses straight, and I’m a terrible proof-reader.  Shouldn’t I have acquired a mastery of basic English grammar by now?
  • Stats are a trap!  When you blog, you have access to stats regarding how many people have read your blog, and from what countries, and what days you have had the most hits, and which blogs have been most liked and shared, etc.  I wrote my blog for me, just hoping it my be helpful or interesting to others.  I didn’t write for the purpose of gaining a following.  But, I was seduced into looking at my stats every day!  My vanity soared on “good” days, and self-esteem plummeted on “bad” days.  How ironic – my Lenten discipline was an opportunity for my pride and vanity to raise their ugly, demonic heads!
  • “Snarky” is not a word in common parlance.  Apparently, some of you weren’t too sure what I meant when I said I was being “snarky.”  According to Miriam-Webster, “snarky” means,  “crotchity, snappish, impertinent or irreverent in tone.”   Who?  Me?
  • Restoration is a process.  As my sermons, and many of my blogs, were focused on the theme of “Restoration,” I’ve been reflecting on my own need for restoration.  More than anything else, I found myself asking, “Do I really believe this?  Do I really believe that God restores – me?”  Yes – I believe it.  But, I am painfully aware that restoration is a process – a painfully slow process.  Thankfully, God is not done with me yet.  But, I wish he would pick up the pace!

Whelp.  That’s about all I can think of, for now.  I’m currently on the road, riding my motorcycle, alone, northward-bound on A1A, along the Atlantic coast.  I’m sure I may have some things to share when I complete my journey.

(And, yes, the bike is running great!)

The Sin of Being Passive

The Sin of Being Passive

I can easily be accused of being passive.  I don’t move quickly.  I take my time making decisions.  I tend to be quiet – taking in more than I express.  I don’t get very excited very often.  I prefer peace and calm.  I don’t show much variation of facial expression.  I can watch grass grow or paint dry, and be perfectly content.

But, I wouldn’t say that I am mentally passive.  In fact, my mind is so active that I have trouble shutting my thoughts down.  But, externally, I realize that’s a different story.

During Lent, I’ve been reflecting on that line from a familiar prayer of confession, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done…”  We not only need to confess our sins of commission, but also our sins of omission – in other words, our sins of passivity.  While I may not be guilty of this or that particular action (though I likely am), I am very likely guilty of inaction.

It recently occurred to me that Adam was standing next to Eve – passively – while the snake tempted the two of them to eat the forbidden fruit.  Then Adam blamed God for making Eve.

When the angels told Lot’s family to leave Sodom, they dragged their feet.

When Dinah was raped (Genesis 34), her father, Jacob, did nothing.

Passive.

Isaiah 1:17 says, Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

That’s action.  That’s what it means to God’s people.

But, by verse 23, Isaiah says that, our rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  Their actions were evil – bribery, corruption, theft.  But, equally evil was their inaction – including the distinctive call to God’s people to love justice and do kindness – “they do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Oppression is not only the result of sinful action.  Oppression is also the result of passive inaction – MY passive inaction.  YOUR passive inaction?

Though I read and speak and write about justice, acting on behalf of the oppressed and the marginalized is another matter.  I cannot – we cannot – passively watch the injustice in our communities and broader world, and do nothing.  We are called to be people of action – to be a hand of mercy and a voice of prophecy.  We are called to act.  To do less, is nothing less than sin.

I confess that sometimes my passivity is selfish – I just don’t want to do anything.

I confess that sometimes my passivity is selective blindness – if I don’t see it, it must not be happening (ostrich syndrome).

I confess that sometimes my passivity is rooted in busyness – I am so busy doing church work that I don’t have time to do Kingdom work (there is a difference).

I confess that sometimes my passivity is a result of cowardice – will I be criticized for this, and am I willing to pay the price?

I confess that sometimes I am passive because I don’t know what to do – ignorance becoming a convenient crutch.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther king wrote the following words from a Birmingham jail cell, largely to white passive pastors, who were discouraging his actions, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“The time is always ripe to do what is right.”

This week, chemical weapons were deployed in Syria, Isis killed over 50 people in Syria and Iraq, and – as is true every other week – multitudes of people are suffering and dying in countless ways, while I passively do nothing.

Forgive me, Lord, for what I have left undone, and those things which I ought to have done. 

What will we do?  What will I do?

 

30 years ago, tonight…

30 years ago, tonight…

At 9:00 pm, 30 years ago, tonight, we were lowering the gate to the entrance of Champs Sporting Goods, at the Fashion Square Mall, in Orlando, where I worked (primarily selling athletic shoes – selling shoes has always been my back-up profession, in case ministry doesn’t work out).  As I was checking off the list of my “closing” duties – before I could leave – a cute, young college student, named Kelly McFarlane, walked up to the store window, meeting me to go on our first date.

She was really cute.

We left the Fashion Square parking lot and started our date about 9:30 pm.  Nowadays, I’m thinking of heading to bed by about 9:30 pm!  We stopped at Wendy’s to get her something to eat.  I had a cup of coffee, because I’d been out until about 5:00 am the night before.  Now I wake up, some days, around 5:00 am!

We went dancing, at an Orlando nightclub called Rosie O’Grady’s, where she somehow managed to sneak both of us in (YES! – SHE sneaked us in) – we were only 19 years old!  We talked, and laughed, and danced.  She claims I even sang to her while we danced.

On the way back to her dorm room, at the University of Central Florida, we stopped at a 24-hour restaurant, called Wags, for pie and coffee (we would spend a lot more late nights at Wags “studying” over the next three years).  I finally dropped her off sometime around 3:00 am, give or take.  I could mention kissing her goodnight, but I’ll save that for another time.

The next morning, I told my dad that I was going to marry Kelly McFarlane.  He laughed.  But, three and a half years later, on August 18, 1990, Kelly McFarlane became Kelly McFarlane Rains.

Thirty years later, I’m still very thankful for that first date.  Little did we know, thirty years ago, what the future held for us….

  • College graduations, and then graduate school for me – twice!
  • A wedding
  • Numerous jobs
  • Ministry
  • Homes in eight different cities
  • Two children
  • So many holidays, so many new traditions, and so many memories
  • Friends and family – including some that are no longer with us
  • Good times and hard times, poor times and less poor times, times of health and times of sickness
  • Lots of arguments and lots of making up
  • empty nesting
  • and, so much love

So, tonight, as I write this at nearly 10:00 pm (yawn), thirty years ago seems like such a long time.  I’m not the night owl that I used to be.  I’m not a lot of things I used to be – good and bad.  In fact, it is hard to imagine now how that guy thirty years ago turned into this guy, and how she has loved both, and a few versions in between.

I guessed she’s changed too.  But, she is still the one who captured my heart thirty years ago, the one who holds it now, and the one I plan to spend the next thirty years with – making many more memories, and sharing a lot more love.

Happy First Date Anniversary, Kelly McFarlane Rains!  I love you!

 

 

I was wrong…

I was wrong…

I’ve been wrong.  I’ve been wrong a lot.

My parents, my wife, my friends, my coworkers and my children can all confirm that I’ve been wrong.

I’ve made wrong decisions and wrong choices.

I’ve been on the wrong side of arguments.

I’ve been wrong about people – sometimes trusting people I shouldn’t, and sometimes not trusting people I should,

I’ve done wrong.

I’ve allowed myself to be influenced wrongly.

I’ve gone the wrong way.

I’ve given wrong advice.

I’ve had wrong reactions.

When I was in school, my grades indicated that I was wrong – a lot!

I’ve gotten tickets for driving the wrong speed.

I’ve heard things wrong and said the wrong thing.

When I was a teen, I didn’t believe in God.  I was wrong.

I can’t even tell you how often I’ve wondered, “What’s wrong with me?”

Sometimes, I know something is wrong.  I just don’t know what it is.

Yep – I’ve been wrong, a lot.  I guess that’s why Jesus talks so much about repentance – which, basically, means admitting you are wrong and turning toward what is right.

Brian McLaren writes, “Repentance means rethink – to reconsider your direction and consider a new one, to admit that you might be wrong, to give your life a second thought, to think about your thinking.”  

What have you been wrong about?