Thursday, April 26, 2007

American Idol Gives Back

Love Your Neighbor
Jim Taylor

I don't normally watch pop T.V. shows. Not that they have nothing to offer, I just tend to get bored with them rather quickly. My routine of dismissal was interrupted, however, for the past two nights of American Idol ( When I found out that they were "giving back," I wanted to know more. I have to admit it was inspirational!

I'm sure you know, but just in case, American Idol decided to use the show's influence to raise awareness and money for people in need. The program did just that with tears, laughter, videos of the people in need, and remarkable live performances as "Idol Gives Back" raised over 30 million dollars during the 2 hour-long production (total raised 70 million & counting!).

Charity Projects Entertainment Fund (, a U.S. registered charity, partnered with American Idol for this two-night TV refreshing event. CPEF identifies themselves at their web-site as "a new charitable organization established to raise money and awareness to benefit children and young people in extreme poverty in the United States and throughout the world, particularly in Africa."

I was specially moved by Simon. I don't watch the show; so, I don't know much about him. But the little I have watched, he can come off a bit "removed." As Simon walked into the lives of these tormented souls, he was left almost speechless, uttering over and over, "this is just wrong." He was over-come by the seeing and smelling and sickness, and appalling situations that these forlorns must endure. I guess something tugs at my heart to see people, who I might assume are rather callused, softened by the human condition. He was a prime example of what exposure to the suffering of others produces in healthy people--compassion! Compassion, if it's real, leads to involvement!

It was wonderful to be a part of so much good gathering momentum from making us aware and inviting us to give. I can't imagine a heart so closed that it wouldn't break for these stricken, suffering, sickened, and starving people--especially the children. I believe that when our hearts are broken, our wallets will open … Jesus put it this way, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21). The inverse is implied, where your heart is, there will be your treasure!

For my family, this night around the TV was exceptional. We were all moved in our hearts and in our wallets. My three girls pulled out their piggy banks and started putting money on our coffee table--Mom & I did the same (only we finally used plastic since we wanted to give more than the cash in our wallets). Then, we all waited with baited breath to see how much money would be raised. I watched Comedy and TV star Ellen DeGeneres chip in 100K and challenge her buddies to do the same ... I'm sure some of her buddies did too. I decided to ask some of my buddies as well. How about it, do you want to chip in? Click here to donate or for more information on Idol Gives Back and the Charity Projects Entertainment Fund (CPEF).

This all reminds me of the relational connections that the Gospel assumes. I am connected to God, humanity, and Creation itself. I cannot divorce myself from any of these without doing violence to the vision of God. If I enter into His vision, I enter into solidarity with God, humanity, and Creation.

Perhaps, that's why Jesus summed up the most appropriate way to live as loving God and loving our neighbor. We already know that. Don't we? And we know that "christians" love their neighbors. Right?

We can give without loving, but we can't love without giving. "Love your neighbor …" (Jesus).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Good Friday Reflection

(I took this picture at the Grand Canyon in May 2006)


Scriptural Text: Luke 22:7-8, 14-23 (NLT)
A Reflection By Jim Taylor

7 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover Lambs were sacrificed. 8Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, "Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together."
14Then at the proper time Jesus and the twelve apostles sat down together at the table. 15Jesus said, "I have looked forward to this hour with deep longing, anxious to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16For I tell you now that I won’t eat it again until it comes to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God."
17Then he took a cup of wine, and when he had given thanks for it, he said, "Take this and share it among yourselves. 18For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come."
19Then he took a loaf of bread; and when he had thanked God for it, he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20After supper he took another cup of wine and said, "This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you—an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.
21"But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. 22For I, the Son of Man, must die since it is part of God’s plan. But how terrible it will be for my betrayer!" 23Then the disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing.

(Jesus Speaking) My final hours descend upon me. I crave to exhaust them with my friends—to be close to them, to hear their voices, to share one more meal. I need them with me before the suffering begins. Later, I’ll … pray.

I welcome John’s easy way of loving me. Delight! Unsolicited, Judas eyes me with impatience and displeasure—betrayal lurking in his glance. Grief! The contrast is stark and severe. Sorrow pierces my heart. Terror is contained in this moment. Doubts linger like shadows at the edges of my mind. Beneath the crust of my conviction, there is uncertainty.

I seize the symbols at hand (a cup of wine, some bread) and reveal the hope of a present-future of healing grace. My body will be broken; my blood poured out. My Father will unmask all the violence and injustice and hatred by a willing sacrifice—smothering evil by absorbing it with love! Remember this!

I must die. There is no surprise. I yearn to overcome the dread. My dearly cherished friends will abandon me. Alone! Judas is not the first to betray me—nor the last. I caution Peter in vain. Each must discern that mercy is the imperative in redemption, not righteousness. Have I made it obvious to them? Maybe, if I had more time …

I can feel the anguish, like a volcano of pain, expanding from somewhere deep within me. I can’t prevent myself, erupting, "One of you will betray me!" It’s one last chance for Judas. I wish he’d drop his guard and let me in. Why not?! My complete desire is to love him! It’s too late. My heart is ripping in two. If only there was another way. My body broken … my blood poured out.

Soothingly, I become aware of my Father’s heart in mine. I’ll try again, "I’m giving you a new command: As I have loved you, love each other. This will prove to the world that you are my disciples." An impression forms subconsciously: there is no greater love than to give your life for another …

Prayer: You were broken and poured out … for us … for me!—all our sin absorbed by Your love. Now, we are free! I’m on my knees because I thirst for Your holy presence living in me. You are my daily bread. You sustain me. Enlarge my heart that I may be broken and poured out for another.

Suggested Activity: Share in the Lord’s Supper with someone. Do this to remember Him.