What Shouldn’t Be

I shouldn’t be here!” my daughter cried out, both angry and devastated that her roller derby team was about to skate for a second time at a tournament she was missing.

My daughter, in black, at a bout earlier in the year.

And true.

She should not have been home.  My own grief and anger rose up as I recalled the event that led to this moment.

How could someone be so negligent?   That Sunday before, on our way home from practice, our car was struck at an intersection.  The young driver was attempting to make a u-turn from the right lane. She was outraged that we happened to be in the left lane at the time. The impact was on my daughter’s side of the car giving her whiplash that left her with a persistent headache.

And that is life. It changes in an instant.

Shortly after our accident it was reported that three men were attacked while standing up for two young women being harassed on a train. How could they have known the aggressive man calling out racial and anti-muslim slurs would turn on them, fatally stabbing two of them?

The lives of their loved ones were forever changed in an instant.  They shouldn’t be here in the shadow of their unspeakable loss.  They shouldn’t have been writing obituaries and speaking with news outlets or planning memorial services.  One of the victims was 23, just 3 years older than my son and the other man, barely into his 50’s.

Why did this happen? An ancient question still asked by so many.

As I consider the reasons, I am reminded Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Maybe there are things in life that will never make sense, that cannot be understood—the death of a child, a senseless murder, a cancer diagnosis, and yes, even a car accident that, if only temporarily, turns a few weeks up-side down.

Things may not always make sense, but with my faith and trust in God, I know that I will eventually make peace with all the changes life brings.

Praise God, I’m so grateful to be able to witness that same peace rising up in my daughter.

 

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Thy Kingdom Come; My Kingdom Go

There is something to be said about this self-imposed challenge of mine to write 40 blog posts before Easter.

 It has me more than ever delving into scripture and roaming about the internet for words on Christianity as I reflect on the world around me.

Today I found this:

Have you, as a Christian, surrendered your life to Christ? Have you said, “Lord, I want Your will more than I want my own will. I am willing to surrender to You now”? Because you cannot pray, “Your kingdom come” until you first pray, “My kingdom go.” Have you done that yet? (Greg Laurie)

Wow!  I love that image of first needing to let go of my kingdom before I can embrace God’s.  And so I must ask myself:

What do I allow to creep in and rule my life? Truthfully?

My condemnation of others.  The thrill of slander.  Pride.  Apathy.  Resentment.  Indifference.

When do I forget to let God control my words, decisions, and actions?

When I am driven by my anxiety.  When I forget to “pray without ceasing.” When I neglect to “be grateful in all times.” When I seek my will in life over God’s will. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

I cannot deny there is plenty of my kingdom of which I still need to prayerfully let go.  How about you? 

May these final weeks of Lent reveal the makings of our self-righteous kingdoms and bless us with the grace to seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness first. (Matt. 6:33)

 

 

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Bake Sales for Bombers

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.                                                                                                      

~Mahatma Gandhi

I was disheartened this week to hear about the new budget proposal out of the White House and the many possible cuts to our country’s social safety net.  “We’re not going to ask for your money anymore unless we can guarantee to you your money is used in a proper function.” These were the words from the Office of Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, when he spoke of the “compassionate” intentions of this budget.  The monies cut would be applied, of course, to more defense spending.

I appreciate this very much, Sir.  I love the idea of a properly functioning and compassionate-minded budget.

Image result for a bake sale

But truth be told, I would prefer to be a nation that is measured, as Mahatma Gandhi suggests, by our treatment of the most vulnerable in our society, not in how beefed up our military is or how tall our border wall will be.

This new budget has me recalling the bumper sticker from the 1980’s that dreamed of a world where the Air Force holds bake sales for bombers while schools receive all the funding they need.

I still have that dream.

And no matter what fear-based decisions are coming out of the White House, I will stand firm in the ancient teachings of Jesus and the prophets who came before him:

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after [says God]:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
.”

~Isaiah 58:6-9 (The Message)

This is the kind of compassion and generosity I desire for this nation and for the world!

So, you say you need more money for an even bigger military and your “great, great” wall? 

May I suggest a bake sale?

 

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Lenten Loopholes

We are two weeks into Lent.  How’s that sacrifice going?

Image result for loophole

Well, I’ve got some good news.

If you decided to give something up for Lent, on this Sunday and every Sunday to the end of Lent, you can actually partake in that chocolate, or alcohol, or whatever it was you decided to do without for 40 days.  See, this liturgical season is actually 46 days long, but Sundays don’t count.  I know, right?!

I can’t quite decide if the Sunday clause would be considered a Lenten loophole, but it definitely feels like you’re beating the system if you can break your fast on the Sabbath day, doesn’t it?

Lent isn’t the only time people take advantage of loopholes.  Anyone who is acquainted with preparing taxes could probably tell you about a few loopholes. Loopholes in general can be found everywhere.

Well…just about everywhere.

You might be able to cheat 6 days out of Lent or take advantage of an ambiguity in the IRS tax code, but any loopholes around death are non-existent.

The law of nature is set.

You might be able to cheat death a few times or delay the inevitable, but the truth is, you will die someday.

In my day-to-day work as a hospice chaplain, it continues to amaze me when I encounter elderly people who struggle to accept their mortality.  They have had decades and decades of living and still, they cannot comfortably face that ultimately they are dying as well.

From ashes you came, and ashes you will return.

 

Part of the purpose of Lent is to face this reality: Death awaits us all.  And in an age-fearing, death-denying culture, we need this liturgical season more than ever.

When we no longer pine for what we had or desperately cling to what we still possess;

when we can be grateful in all times, just living in the moment;

when we can accept that all of this is temporary, that what we call life will end as we know it;

that’s when living in the persistent shadow of death becomes rich beyond measure.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

–2 Corinthians 4:17-18

 

 

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Jesus, the Pajama Boy


 

The era of The Pajama Boy is over January 20th and the alpha males are back.

So gloated Sebastian Gorka, a top counterterrorism adviser to President Trump, in an interview with Sean Hannity as he explained why Barak Obama had not succeeded in foreign policy which he called a disaster. Presumably President Obama was too soft. That was in December of 2016.

From what I’ve seen since, being an alpha male appears to imply that decisions are made with minimal input from others, even if that means creating chaos, as was the case with the travel ban and immigration executive order. It means speaking one’s mind without caring if one’s words are hurtful or even true.  Twitter war, anyone?

Being an alpha male apparently demands his reputation always be defended and that he consistently comes out on top. Claiming millions of people voted illegally and that his inauguration had “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period” is an important narrative in maintaining the alpha image. Shaming men for crying, as the President did with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at the end of January, also fits the alpha stereotype.

Even Gorka strutted his alpha manliness in an interview with Marco Werman on Public Radio International (PRI) February 7th when asked about President Trump possibly modeling his leadership style after Vladimir Putin. “I’m not interested in the chattering classes, in the social justice warriors,” Gorka retorted. “If you’re really going to ask really churlish and childish questions like that, then there really is no point to the interview.”

Boom! The Alpha has spoken.

I could not uncover if Gorka is religious, however, after hearing his interview on PRI, I would surmise that he would not give my Lord the time of day.

Jesus, you see, was not an alpha male.

He did not call for an uprising of the Jews to wage war against the occupying Roman Empire nor did he jockey for any place of power, even when it was clear he was gaining a following.  The desert temptations alone from the devil screamed opportunity for instant alpha-male status, but Jesus flat out refused.

Instead, he chose to serve others, sought out and stood up for the most vulnerable, and openly affiliated with the outcasts, the foreigners, and the downtrodden. Jesus insisted that enemies should be loved and prayed for. He spoke out strongly against wealth and proclaimed that the first shall be last, and the last, first. And in the end, the man who wept sacrificed his life for the many, crucified on a cross that others might live.

I hadn’t heard of the phrase “pajama boy” until it was mentioned by Gorka. There was an ad circulating in December 2013 to generate interest in signing up for health insurance. A millennial, clad in a red and black checkered pajama onsie and sporting his black framed glasses holds a mug. The tagline reads: Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance.

It was immediately clowned across the internet, but especially by conservatives. The derisive term, “Pajama boy,” was coined soon after.

But you know what I think?

Jesus would have totally rocked that onsie!

 

He was not ashamed of his so-called softer side.  Nor did he see vulnerability or last place as a weakness.

Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, taught that strength and ultimately salvation come in admitting our wrongs, repenting, and lovingly serving others.

 And that’s who I follow, Jesus the Pajama Boy, and whom I joyfully serve!  Praise be to God!

 

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