The Parable of the Enlightened Christian

leap of faith

Her most treasured photo, Dana calls this, “Leap of Faith.” I call it, “Enlightened Man.” Near Casablanca, Morocco.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation.” ~ Romans 10:9-10

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All photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins

Two men.

Aydin, at 71, rests in a hospital bed. He’s just come to terms with an incurable diagnosis. It will take his life in days, if not, weeks.

Nabal is a Christian pastor, who for the last 40 years dedicated his life in service to the Lord. He’s led many flocks, built many churches. He updates his resume twice a year with an endless list of accomplishments for which he’s tirelessly worked. There’s a kingdom to build out there, and it requires a lot of work.

Circumstances prompt a meeting between the two men in Hospital Room 2008, and they form a kinship.

In the precious days to follow, Aydin opens up to Nabal. He describes a life of regret. Booze. Women. Foul language, and everything else you can throw into the kitchen sink. Aydin wishes his time had been more well spent.

But Nabal replies with a message of hope.

“What’s important is this moment,” the spiritual veteran says. “Have you made the decision to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? We can say a prayer right now and your scarlet sins will become white as snow.”

“I’m not ready, but maybe I will be soon,” Aydin replies. “I just need to think on things some more.”

Good News: Aydin now owns his sins and shortcomings.

No-So-Good-News: He’s still got baggage, and he’s carrying it around. Everywhere. And it’s heavy.

sunset near casablanca, morocco

Sunset near Casablanca, Morocco.

And so Nabal plants a seed. In the waning hours, the seed takes root, and grows in Aydin’s heart.

Days pass. Friends and family come to Aydin’s bedside for what everybody knows may be their final visit. The times are pleasant, good memories shared. There’s even laughter, and everyone who leaves Hospital Room 2008 senses something different. Something they can’t quite comprehend.

Despite the dire circumstances, Aydin seems relaxed, peaceful, happy, and not quite his former self. There’s a newness about him. Transparency. Freedom, if you will.

Three days later, something rouses in Aydin’s spirit. His new-found freedom stirs thoughts to acknowledgement, and acknowledgement, to action.

Aydin tells his faithful wife of 47 years he wants to be baptized.

And so Aydin’s wife, beside herself with joy, calls Nabal requesting that he come to the hospital right quick. No explanation of why. Just come, Nabal. Please come.

Nabal puts it on his list of priorities, but first preaches his Sunday sermon because he carries an obligation to his flock. He’s been charged with a duty he takes most seriously, and first things first.

He rushes through the normally relaxed three-point message, shakes a few hands on the way out and heads directly to Hospital Room 2008 where Aydin awaits.

Aydin’s faithful wife, meets Nabal outside the door.

over the skies of Greece

Somewhere over the skies of Greece.

“He wants to be baptized,” she says, smiling, knowing nothing else to say beyond just that.

“That’s wonderful. Praise the Lord,” Nabal replies, all the while, Aydin awaits anxiously in the bed inside Hospital Room 2008. “We’ll make the arrangements.”

“No, you don’t understand,” she says. “He wants to do it right now. He’s asked the entire family to come and witness, and everyone’s on the way.”

And Nabal goes silent. It’s a long silence before he offers a reply.

A baptism’s not possible in Hospital Room 2008, he says, because the Bible specifies the proper procedure, and it includes a “full-immersion.”

Aydin’s wife looks confused.

“We don’t care about the full immersion,” she says. “A sprinkling will be fine. He just wants to make the public profession of faith, and everyone’s on the way.”

“But he can’t be fully immersed,” Nabal responds. “I don’t conduct baptism with a sprinkling, or anything short of full immersion. It’s our doctrine.”

“But this is just for him,” she says. “It’s what he wants, and we don’t know how much longer he has left. It’s time.”

“I can’t do it,” he said. “He can’t be fully immersed.”

And Nabal returns to his home, and his flock. And he never sees Aydin’s family again.

Four days later, Aydin died, but he’s never been more alive.

TOMORROW: “The Parable of the Enlightened Church.”

For related posts see:

Days and My Dad

Forty Things You Feel 40 Days After Your Dad Dies

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Blogging Outside Your Comfort Zone: 7 Tips

(Blogger’s Note: If you’re a blogger or writer, I’d love to hear your own experiences about writing outside your comfort zone. Please share away!)

Traditional tips you’ll read about effective blogging will typically tell you to write about the things you know, choose a niche and pitch yourself as an expert and an authority.

It’s good advice. Everyone’s an expert in something, and there’s definitely something to be said for consistency in your blogging topics. It’s the best way to build a strong platform and a loyal audience. Your readers should come to expect a certain style in your work.

But the adventuresome blogger, will, from time to time, will make a gutsy move and go outside his comfort zone for the sake of curiosity, and just to see what happens. That’s exactly what I did yesterday.

My brand of writing is designed to make people think. Not necessarily to change their minds, but to think differently with new perspectives about certain things. Mostly, I enjoy using Biblical metaphors and writing about the application they have in our present lives. But every so often, I’ll jump outside my writer’s comfort zone to experiment, and yesterday’s blog, titled Here in Arkansas – It’s the Perfect Storm http://wp.me/p2bjEC-8j …. was just that. An experiment that proved interesting.

The blog’s topic was the national attention that’s been drawn to the University of Arkansas’ football program and the subsequent firing of head coach Bobby Petrino. Moreover, it speculated the Razorbacks would attempt to lure Arkansas State University coach Gus Malzahn (just 300 miles down the road) as his replacement.

It’s a topic ripe for speculation and controversy, and so I ventured into the unknown to see what attention might be drawn to my theory of how the scenario might play over the next few days.

The results: A record number of hits for a single post with readers in seven countries.

In thinking about writing outside our comfort zones, I wanted to offer seven tips, lessons learned, if you will, for how this post generated record traffic. Consider these tips in a future venture outside your own blogging comfort zone.

  • LOOK FOR A HOT TOPIC – Even if you’re not an expert, it’s okay to jump in the middle of something. Sports, especially college football, is a big deal. In the SEC, some call it Saturday Down South. Take advantage of writing directly to a well-defined audience. SEC football fans are pretty well-defined.
  • SPECULATE – That you are not an expert – it matters not. Opinion piece writing generates more opinions, and more hits on your blog. It creates conversation and back-and-forth dialogue. Everyone has an opinion. Share yours.
  • TAG TAG TAGHere in Arkansas – It’s the Perfect Storm http://wp.me/p2bjEC-8j had some 50 tags attached, and the search engine results showed the tags worked.

  • USE POWERFUL VISUALS – It was an easy choice for this particular post. Choose an image of a Razorback and one of an Arkansas State University Redwolf, and the collective blood pressure of football fans across the state skyrockets.

  • GO PLACES YOU’VE NEVER GONE BEFORE – I placed this post on Facebook pages everywhere … official pages of both universities, football blogs across the South, media outlet blogs, and it worked.
  • USE POWERFUL METAPHORS – The Perfect Storm perfectly described the possible scenario for the outcome of this unique situation. All the elements are perfectly lined up for a monumental fight if UA even breathes on Malzahn.
  • BE INTENTIONAL IN LOOKING FOR RIVALRIES – For your post it may be politics, education, religion or whatever. College football in the South is ripe with rivalries and putting yesterday’s post in the middle of it all just added a small bit of flame to the fire. That’s what writers love, right?

Niche, consistency, expertise – yes – it’s the best way to blog. But stretch yourself sometimes and get in the thick of something wild.

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Is the Easter Bunny the Anti-Christ?

Last Christmas eve I attended a candlelight service where 50 or so people came together to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ‘s birth.

I’ve attended many of these services over the years at many different churches and I like them. I like that we sing the traditional Christmas songs; I like that kids come in their pajamas in anticipation of the wild morning ahead; and I like how it makes me think back to more than 2,000 years ago when the world received the miracle of miracles.

As I walked into the foyer for that particular service, one of the sweetest ladies I know was the first to greet me. I was prepared to give her a hug and wish her a warm Merry Christmas.

But before I could extend a hand and offer a warm greeting, she took the initiative with this:

“Don’t tell me Merry Christmas. Say happy birthday, Jesus.”

And she meant it.

I remember the strong movement a few years ago against the “Xmas” phrase. And for the record, it’s a movement I support. It does, in fact, take the Christ out of Christmas. But Santa Claus isn’t the devil, and neither is the Easter bunny.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Among many evangelical Christians, Easter has now become “Resurrection Sunday.”

It’s certainly true enough. Among all things, first and foremost, Easter is the time when we recognize the one aspect that makes Christianity unique among all other religions. We serve a living God, not one who is dead in the tomb, or worshiped as a stone carving. Christ is alive, and it’s a belief I hold to be as true as the air I breathe.

So Resurrection Sunday – it’s a good thing.

But what of the extremity of this … because I like Easter.

Ninety percent of the references I heard in my church yesterday were to Resurrection Sunday – not Easter. That’s fine, but when did Easter become such a bad thing that we go out of our way to avoid the word?

I don’t hate the Easter bunny…and I don’t believe Jesus would either.

He’s soft, cuddly and has that really cute cotton tail.

My grandmother loved flowers. She particularly loved the Easter lily. I wonder if it should now become the Resurrection Sunday lily?

I’m not anti-Resurrection Sunday.

But I am pro-Easter.

Hop on Peter Cottontail. Jesus loves you too.

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