For the last two weeks I have been meditating/memorizing Isaiah 53:2-6 and the spirituality of descent of Jesus. Out of a desire to offer a “sincere gift of Himself,” Jesus chose a downward journey of ordinariness, obscurity, rejection and powerlessness. He chose crucifixion. It preaches well but my resistance to death (and thus resurrection) is deep. Contemplating the cross, however, has made me sensitive, at least recently, about the choices I make each day to follow, or not follow, the crucified Jesus. The following are three simple gifts God gave me this past week: 1. I visited one of our core church family members this past week. Their child has Lennox Gestaut Syndrome –www.lgsfoundation.org, a severe type of epilepsy. For the past four years, they have been in and out of hospitals, working with countless doctors and specialists to control their son’s seizures, and carrying full time jobs in the NYC school system. Their son, once perfectly healthy, has now formally been diagosed as “mentally retarded” and they are wrestling with his future due to the enormous care he needs. During our visit, he had about numerous seizures. As Geri said so well,” What good is all our Christianity if we do not have the time and energy to simply be with this family – long term- in their painful journey?” The parents and their children gave us a gift in their lives. 2. This past week our pastoral staff team discussed the question of what it will mean for NLF to take the next steps that we might be faithful to the part of our mission statement that reads: “We are a community that …… bridges racial, cultural, economic and gender barriers.” The group in the room was very diverse and the discussion “emotionally healthy” I was humbled, however, by the suffering involved in seriously applying the power of the gospel to issues around race and color. Again, it preaches easy. Living it out practically is another matter all together. I left the room excited and enthused. I have been involved in reconciliation efforts now for more than 30 years – sometimes quite reluctantly. I left the room pondering Isaiah 53, saying, “Ok, Lord, grounded and descending. Yes.” I realized what a privilege and gift God has given me in that NLF has such a commitment. It keeps all of us quite grounded. 3. Finally, I watched twice the powerful documentary Flesh and Blood. Itdocuments one year in the life of divorced, 53-year-old California mother, Susan Tom, and her 11 adopted children–ten of which are physically or mentally disabled. The family includes Xenia, 13, and Hannah, 11, who were both born with no legs, eight-year-old Faith, whose face was severly burned in an accident when she was two, and Anthony, 19, who suffers from a rare disease which prevents the skin from properly adhering to the body. The majority of the stress in the house, however, originates with, Joe, 15, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and a problem controlling his anger. Able-bodied college student Margaret, meanwhile, is crumbling under the pressure of helping her mother care for her siblings. Real, raw, and sure to keep us grounded in our spirituality. The documentary is a gift. How much do you think our culture’s preoccupation with success, power, impressing others, accumulating, being noticed, being secure and living comfortably impacts our spirituality?