Monthly Archives: February 2016

A Prince, The Pope and The King

For those of us who claim Paseo Del Norte as our home this has been quite a week on both sides of the Rio Grande River twisting its way through our metropolitan village. On the El Paso side of the divide, we had the much anticipated visit of Prince George, my grandson, who arrived via his regional jet service. On the other side of the river, we had the historic visit of Pope Francis, the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church who made the first visit of a Pope to our community.

Needless to say, one visit received much more media coverage than the other, but at least at my house the visit of Prince George rocked my world in more ways than one. As you may know, my grandson will turn two years old in less than three weeks, so he has entered that wonderful phrase parent’s lovingly call the “terrible twos” because of the mobility, curiosity, and speed by which two year-olds investigate and attempt to rule and reign over their kingdoms. Prince George could also go by the nickname the “Texas Tornado” because he loves to pick up things and whirl them across the room, and he literally leaves a trail of destruction in his path. I love it!

In preparation for our “Texas Tornado” let’s just say Robyn and I had to batten down the hatches in preparation of his royal visit. We gathered the breakable items and hid them from his touch. We established borders and barricades to direct his path. We went to the story to storm up food for the siege. We swept, mopped, vacuumed so he would have a clean canvas to work with as he painted his masterpiece of demolition. Let’s face it when royal comes to visit serfs must go to work preparing the way for the king.

Meanwhile, the cities of El Paso and Cuidad Juarez prepared for the momentous visit of Pope Francis. On both sides of the river civic and law enforcement leaders laid the groundwork for his much anticipated arrival. On the El Paso side highways and schools closed offering the children and residents of the city a “holy holiday” while on the other side of the river, city officials and leaders of the diocese prepared the path for the Pope’s pilgrimage to the border symbolically tracing the path countless immigrants have traveled in search for a better life.

I must confess I had a wide variety of emotions as I personally prepared for the Pope’s visit. As a prominent Protestant leader in our city I felt a bit conflicted about how to respond, but as a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven I readily acknowledge his visit moved me.

I commend the local television stations for their live coverage of the Pope’s visit. I don’t know if ever in my lifetime I have witnessed secular media outlets freely offering their services to the faith community. By broadcasting live the words and actions of Pope Francis our two cities had the opportunity to experience the pageantry, passion, and preaching of the gospel of Jesus from sun up to sundown.

Pope Francis’ messages and symbolic actions spoke to the great challenges and injustices faced by countless thousands who live along the border. During the Mass late on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of over 200,000 of the faithful standing in his presence and another 28,000 joining in by the marvels of technology in the Sun Bowl, he declared: “Let us together ask God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts—open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. There is still time to change. There is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God….”

In response I can practically hear King Jesus saying:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)  Pope Francis and Prince George will head home this week, but King Jesus still reigns over our valley. He longs to reign over our hearts and lives. He has always been here. He never left.

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Be Mine

When it comes to “conversation hearts” often exchanged in celebration of Valentine’s Day between lovers, I must acknowledge my favorite simple sentiment has to be “be mine.” I suspect the creation of “conversation hearts” can be traced by at an introverted, shy guy who had a hard time putting into words how he felt so he created a candy that did the talking for him. Recently Robyn and I shared a large bag of “conversation hearts” with our Marriage 101 class and enjoyed the updates which include “text me—friend me—e-mail me—tweet me.” I must confess I was quite surprised to find one that said, “Call me” since most “brave” teenage boys these dates text their beloved to ask them out on a date, and the girls break up across the same digital medium of communication.

On a personal note: “Come on, boys, man up, ask the girls out in person, or at least call them! Don’t make it so easy on them to say no!”

 Of course, if I had created “conversation hearts” I would have used chocolate. Let’s face it; I hope true love doesn’t taste like a chalky tiny heart. Fun fact: did you know that over Valentine’s week over 58 million pounds of chocolate is purchased, and if you are wondering February 15 has been declared a chocolate lovers national holiday because so much of it goes on sale at half price.

Believe it or not, the chocolate industry did not dream up Valentine’s Day, nor can you trace its origin back to florists or the greeting card industry. No, the official declaration of Valentine’s Day dates back to Pope Gelasius, who in approximately 498 A.D. sanctified a pagan Roman holiday called the ‘Feast of Lupercalia’—a fertility feast in celebration of women held on February 15 into St. Valentine’s Day named after a legendary Catholic Priest by the name of Valentine or Valentinus. Historians have discovered conflicting stories about this hero of love whether he married Roman soldiers in defiance of Emperor Claudius II who outlawed marriage to increase his recruitment of young men to serve in his army or the story of a priest who fell in love with the jailer’s daughter during his imprisonment before his execution and penned a note to her saying “Be my Valentine.” Either way, you have to congratulate the Pope for declaring a holiday around love. I suspect he knew husbands and boyfriends needed all they help they could get to keep the spark in their relationships by saying “I love you” in tangible and romantic ways.

Bible trivia: Who spoke the following romantic words, and to whom were they spoken?

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Was it Rebekah to Isaac, or Rachel to Jacob, or Ruth to Boaz? If you guessed Ruth you nailed it but she did not speak these words to Boaz her beloved, but rather to her mother-in-law Naomi. So the next time you hear these words in a wedding, I suspect a smile will cross your face because you know the “rest of the story” like old Paul Harvey used to say.

Without doubt one of the powerful descriptions of love has to be the words of Paul to his friends in Corinth when he poetically wrote:   Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends….” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV)

As you can vividly see, real love reaches far beyond fickle feelings and romantic emotions. Real love shapes our character so that we touch and hold each other like Jesus holds us. Don’t miss the opportunity this weekend to say “I love you” and if you must used chocolate!

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