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Let go or be dragged

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

A friend who has some experience with rodeo horses sent me a most picturesque proverb: “Let go or be dragged.” Whether this phrase was first spoken by a Zen master who had achieved enlightenment, or by a battered cowboy pulling cacti from his backside, it is the unmistakable truth.

Take my friend’s horses as an example. Training such animals requires lassoing, roping, and haltering. Incredible strength, patience, and stamina are needed to match a horse. But sometimes, as the proverb goes, the breaker becomes the broken. A point is reached where the trainer must regroup, or risk being ground into the corral’s dust.

Think of the little one who refuses to leave the playground. Haven’t you seen mothers and fathers, quite literally, hauling the kicking and screaming child to the car? What about the dog that finally catches the school bus he has been chasing for years? Now what does he do? Victoriously sink his teeth into the bumper like it’s a chew toy?

This much is certain: We all will face situations, diseases, circumstances, relationships, people, challenges and conditions that are larger, stronger, and longer-lasting than we are. We have two options and only two options in such encounters. We can keep fighting an unwinnable war, and whatever we have dug our claws into will drag us into a bloody pulp.

Or, we can accept our limitations and admit that we are not omnipotent. We can accept life for how it is, even when life isn’t fair (when is it really fair, anyway?). We can let go. And in this surrender—this little act of dying—we stop our suffering. We get to live again. For this is the counterintuitive way of the cross; the paradoxical power of Christ: We only live once we have died. We only gain by giving up. We only win if we surrender—let go or be dragged.

At first blush this sounds something like “Christianity for Weaklings,” and some will find it intolerable. “Give up? Surrender is for cowards and quitters!” Such objections ignore the fact that there are some things that cannot be changed by brute strength.

Further, such objections belittle the way of the cross. Read again those familiar crucifixion accounts of Jesus, and there you will see that letting go requires more than a noble struggle, more than hanging on – infinitely more. It requires everything. Let go, or be dragged.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

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Thank You!

My sincere thanks to the Cedar Springs museum board for the honor they bestowed upon me at last week’s meeting.

It was a most touching moment when they unveiled a plaque with my name, that is to be hung in our library. A beautiful cake was served that topped off a memorable evening.

 

Betty L. Heiss

 

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JOHN M. CHUPP

Mr. John M. Chupp, age 61 of Cedar Springs, formerly of Grand Rapids, passed away Wednesday, July 16, 2014. surviving are his children; Atalie Chupp, John (Jennifer) Chupp and Derek Chupp; nine grand children; five great grandchildren; brothers Herb (Heidi) Connor and Mike (Patty) Stoken; relatives and friends. John was an employee of SpartanNash Distributing. He was a proud veteran of the U.S. Army serving in Vietnam.

 

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RAYMOND K. STARR

EPSON scanner imageRaymond K. Starr, 55 of Cedar Springs, died Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at his home. Ray was born May 15, 1959 in Grand Rapids, Michigan the son of Robert and Joyce (Francis) Starr. He worked as a supervisor in the foundry at Eagle Aluminum in Muskegon. He was very close to his brothers and sisters and in his retirement enjoyed being a grandfather. He also enjoyed tractor pulling. Surviving are his wife, Pamela (House); daughter, Sabrina (Jay) Rawson; stepsons, Dennis (Carrie) Bazzett, Brandon (Delnay) Elliott; grandchildren, Isis, Starlit, Hannah, Sam, Syrenn; brothers, Rodney (Katherine) Starr, Rusty (Brenda) Starr, Roy (Rebecca) Starr; sisters, Sandra (Edward) Kulak, Pamela (Tom) McNees. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Randy; and sister, Roberta. The family greeted friends Wednesday from 2-4 and 6-8 pm at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs where services will be held Thursday 11:00 am. Chaplain Eric Coulon officiating. Interment Sand Lake Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Faith Hospice, 2100 Raybrook SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs

 

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Something worth writing on our hearts

HolySpiritEpiscopalThe Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit 

Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

 

 

 

Stephanie Paulsell wrote  in the Christian Century, “We need places to pray as if someone were listening, to study as if we might learn something worth writing on our hearts, to join with others in service as if the world might be transformed.  Churches are places to learn to practice, with others, a continual conversion of life, a permanent openness to change.” I love this quote for all the powerful verbs Ms. Paulsell includes:  pray, listen, study, join, practice, converse, change, and transform. As a result, of those actions, there should be something life-changing in our faith communities, something worth writing on our hearts.

If that is not being experienced, those of us who have been given some kind of responsibility in the church need to assess what is happening. The Northern Kent County/Montcalm Yellow Pages lists over 175 churches. But those listings are only places—places needed to stage the real action of the Christian life. That action is ministry. In the Bible lessons for the first weeks after Pentecost, Jesus is continually giving his disciples his last minute instructions. He told them to do what he had told them to do, go into the world, teach as he had taught them, invite all people into the Kingdom of God, be one with the Father as He was with the Father. He did not tell them to go and erect buildings.

That concept came much later when groups needed more space to gather for their ministries. Recognition of that fact is a very important revelation. The church is not a place; it is a bunch of people doing what Jesus told them to do. Some people get confused on this point. They see their ministry to other people as a means of growing and supporting their individual church buildings. That type of effort leaves people hollow and spiritually starving. In reality, the buildings we call churches are only refueling stations. Their purpose is to support the workers for ministry.

The Communion of Believers must maintain its purpose as a mission and not a place. When that occurs, all sorts of good things happen. People understand the authenticity of faith, they are attracted to the God who wants all good things for them, and lives are transformed.

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Hitting the Road

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

 

Summer: Vacation days are being redeemed and picnic baskets are being packed. Barbecues are firing, pools are splashing, and ice cream trucks are rolling. Meanwhile, millions are taking to the great American highway.

We love to feel the breeze on our faces and the road beneath our wheels. We can’t stop ourselves from being a traveling people. We always have been. We keep moving, rolling, and running, so that the theme song of human history might well be Willie Nelson’s, “On the Road Again.”

True to form, Christianity is a fluid faith for a pilgrim people. It is a spirituality of movement. But we don’t always understand faith this way. Look at how we have structured it, however, and it is easy to see why we most often view Christianity as an incorrigible, fixated fortress rather than a living, dynamic journey.

Our doctrines, constructed and accumulated over thousands of years, stack up like immovable stones. The buildings that contain our worship services are almost always built of rock, granite, or the hardest and heaviest material we can find. Or try being an idealistic reformer who seeks to change a church’s policy or its strategy to meet the world where it now is. If you’re not taken out behind the vestry and quietly crucified, you will find that change in the church usually moves with all the terrifying speed of a melting glacier.

This betrays our roots and the trajectory set for our faith from its beginning. Before his death, Jesus described himself and faith in him like this: “I am the true and living way.” This had such a profound effect on the first followers of Jesus that the earliest self-description of Christianity was “The Way.” It was the Path. The Road. It was the constantly evolving, winding, opening arc that took this “band of gypsies down the highway.”

So it doesn’t appear that Jesus came to establish an inflexible, competitive religion that would be pitted against other belief systems. No, he came to show us how to live the life of redeeming love, love for God and for others. There’s nothing about love that should be turned into coldblooded institutionalism or be used to exclude, marginalize, or separate. This Way can only take us further down the road and deeper into the heart of God. And while love is often “a road less traveled,” it is the worthiest of journeys.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

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Fight like a Butterfly

 

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

 

Muhammad Ali once claimed he would “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Well, “The Greatest” did exactly that. And while I’m not one to tug on Superman’s cape, I’d like to slightly amend his most famous of phrases. I believe that before one can “float like a butterfly,” he or she must fight like one.

You might know the story of a boy who came upon a cocoon. He took it home and watched it carefully. One day a small tear in the chrysalis appeared, and the butterfly began to emerge. It was a struggle. The slit was tiny, the butterfly was big, and the boy was worried about his new little friend. So, he decided to help.

With scissors he carefully cut the cocoon open to rescue the beautiful butterfly. But it wasn’t beautiful; it was fat and swollen. Its wings were wilted. It never learned to fly. It could only crawl around in a shoebox, a jar, or wherever the boy placed it.

When the boy told his science teacher this tale, he was taught an invaluable lesson: The butterfly had to struggle. It had to face oppositional forces. The butterfly’s laborious effort to emerge was nature’s way of circulating dormant blood and strengthening new wings. The butterfly’s fight to get out of the cocoon was not an impediment, but preparation, and the boy’s “help” actually turned out to be hurtful.

What is true in nature is true of human nature: Some suffering is necessary. We have to struggle—we must—if we will ever gain the strength we need to fly. This is anathema to our North American ears, however, because we have constructed a society with a monumentally low threshold for pain. Pain-aversion is rampant, extending from playrooms and boardrooms to State Houses and fraternity houses, from helicopter-parenting to fiscal irresponsibility.

Yet, there is a consummate spiritual principle: There is no resurrection without a cross, no greatness without grief, and no strength apart from suffering. The struggle is a necessary process in maturation.

When we avoid suffering at all costs, we fail to see that such behavior will cost us everything, for if we cannot tolerate anything that hurts or discomforts us now, we will never become people of faith, character, or maturity later. With apologies to Ali, we will never “float like a butterfly” until we have learned to fight like one.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

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Happy 60th Anniversary

C-anniv-Sharp-2-webC-anniv-Sharp-1-webTOM & SHIRLEY SHARPE 

 

Tom and Shirley (Porter) Sharpe of Cedar Springs will celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary on July 10, 2014.  Tom and Shirley have lived on Algoma Avenue since 1987, when Tom retired from Peerless Cement Company, and the couple moved to the Cedar Springs area from River Rouge.  Their children are:  Sheila and Steve Mencerelli of Pierson, Rodney and Judy Sharpe of Newaygo, Lori and Michael Tichvon of Vicksburg, Patrice and Richard Wesche of Crestview, Florida, and Leisa Mahanic and Scott Knecht of Pierson.  They have 18 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild.  A family dinner is planned to celebrate the occasion.

 

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HAPPY 27TH BIRTHDAY

C-Birthday-Castine

 

JOE (JO JO) CASTINE

July 14, 2014

 

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MARK GRAVES

C-MEM-Graves-cmyk

 

In memory of Mark Graves

Who passed away 8 years ago on July 9.

He is gone, but never forgotten.

 

Sadly missed by wife Denise and his family

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