Thursday, October 19, 2017

When Good Times Come

Big night.

A Time to Rejoice

It's not every year your team is going to the World Series!

Whether your celebration comes after decades of waiting, or whether the dry spell hasn't been quite so long, or even if the fireworks are for a first-time achievement, savor it. You never know whether a moment like this will come again.

Moments of rejoicing tell us a lot:

*Did we have faith through the famine, that a feast would eventually return?

*How low did we allow our spirits to fall when times were bleak?

*Are we honest enough to acknowledge the times when we lost hope, or interest?

*Are we appreciative enough to enjoy the moment without thinking too far ahead, borrowing anxiety about how long we will be able to remain on the mountaintop?

*Are we disciplined enough to enjoy the feast without becoming greedy?

*Do we have grace for those who do not share our joy, or those for whom our celebration is their disappointment?

*Are we joyful enough to celebrate with others when they celebrate, even if it isn't our party?

*Are we happy enough to rejoice in this moment, right in the midst of a world full of sorrow and sin?

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Oh, when good times come, rejoice! In Jesus' name, rejoice!

And...Go, Dodgers!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#MeToo

#MeToo sprang up quickly, but not out of nowhere.


It came from lots of people's pain, and deserves everyone's respect, especially when we consider there are many people who have #MeToo stories, but haven't shared them publicly.

Whether or not we have a #MeToo story, there is something this hashtag can teach us about the conversations we have, especially our humor.

When was the last time you cringed at someone's wisecrack or opinionated statement, because you knew there was someone else within earshot who had to be hurt by it?

When was the last time you were the offending wisecracker?

So, what then? We just can't joke about anything anymore? When did everyone get so sensitive?

Oh, it's doubtful everyone just now became sensitive.

More likely lots of folks have been hurt by many conversations, comments, and jokes, as far back as there have been people.

More likely there are plenty of #MeToo's out there for almost any hurt we could imagine.

So often, we have no idea what someone has been through. We don't have the luxury of seeing people's hurts dragged around like luggage, like in that episode of How I Met Your Mother.

Rather than relishing the right to say whatever pops into our heads, at unknown expense, shouldn't we rather relish the discipline of guarding our tongues, and checking our words, against the potential for unknown offense?

No, this isn't about times when iron sharpens iron, when a true friend speaks hard truth in private with love, hits a sensitive nerve for our own good, but inspires Godly repentance within a safe relationship.

No, not that.

This is the needless reference, the off-hand joke, the ignorant one-liner, the glib opinion that would be far less likely shared out loud if the speaker knew the pain in the life of the #MeToo who happens to be within earshot, or happens to be in the conversation.

The foot-in-mouth moment we've all been on both sides of, that leaves a #MeToo hurting again, and feeling unsafe about sharing the pain.

Lord, why can't we remember this?

Why can't we see every single person as a #MeToo who has been hurt in some way, and could be hurt by a careless word?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Harvey Weinstein

We all saw a powerful man go down this week.

And we all agree that he deserved it, and that it was long overdue.

Who else did he victimize? Who was too afraid to come forward? Who knew about this behavior, but never reported it? Who knew, and actively covered for this man? Who suspected, but never spoke up? Who had tried before to get this creep to stop doing this? What about this story that his contract specifically protected him from losing his job for this behavior? Who else has been victimized by some other person, and is now courageous enough to come forward? Who else has a history of victimizing people this way?

Seems like all of Hollywood is scrambling in the sudden light of this scandal.

Next time you want to gripe about "the media", remember it was news reporters who broke this story, not a police department, or a victim, or a witness. Women will be spared this man's humiliating and criminal treatment because of the hard work of journalists who kept after the story and didn't give up.

But, before the story of an icon's abuse drifts away from our immediate attention, it's worth asking what we can take from this story:

*Another reminder that victims of abuse often face frightening obstacles against outcry, and can pay an enormous price for reporting, even if only within their own families or personal/professional circles. It's not always just a simple matter of speaking up.

*Another reminder that colleagues, friends, and family members of abusers, as well as witnesses and bystanders, need to trust their instincts when they notice something awry, and say something, even if there isn't airtight proof, at least to raise concern and begin building a pattern of intervention.

*Another reminder of how power serves to heighten the traits a person already has, and can corrupt even the most well-intentioned of people, let alone someone who is already inclined to be abusive.

*Another reminder of why it is so vital that, in every interaction, the person with less power in the relationship must be protected against the advantages of the person with more power.

*And...yet another reminder that it is always wrong to use another person's body for your own gratification in a way that person does not consent to, or does not want.

But, we already know all of this.

Harvey Weinstein, at some point, surely, at the very least, heard all of this.

King David knew all of this when he saw Bathsheba on the rooftop and invoked executive privilege to change his nation's history, forever.

Most of us will never even think of committing sexual assault, or any actual crime against another person, but in our fallen human condition, we must acknowledge the power of the temptation to view other people primarily as tools for our desires.

How do we fundamentally view other people?

When we meet someone, are we quick to size up what that person can do for us, what resources that person has, or has access to, that could satisfy some need or want in our lives?

While most of us would never think of touching a person's body in a self-serving way, do we respect the same boundary around that person's mind, heart, time, work, attention, talent, patience, connections, expertise, possessions, money, experiences, fears, joys?

Of course, mutually beneficial connections happen spontaneously all the time, but isn't there a difference between celebrating those connections when they happen on their own, and deliberately scanning people for connections they may or may not have an interest in sharing?

When we meet someone, why can't we simply celebrate that person, and pray that God bless them on their journey, whether or not their life will ever bring any direct benefit to ours?

Why can't we view other people, every single person in the world, as God's own creation, a soul who owes us absolutely nothing, but like us, owes everything to Him?

If God has placed a person in your life to bless you in some way, God will work out the details.

Don't grab.

If God has placed you in another person's life to bless them in some way, God will work out the details.

Don't let them grab.

Let God work, and celebrate His work in the lives of others.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fixing Things

Had an amazing cup of coffee this evening.

Oh, it didn't taste any more amazing than any other cup of coffee any other time. What made it amazing is that it came out of a coffee maker that was broken this morning.

Early this morning, before sunrise, I found this coffee maker wouldn't work, had no idea why, and simply made other plans. Told my wife about it as I left for the day, and, honestly, forgot all about it.

This evening, I saw my wife do something I never would have tried to do:  She took that machine apart, washed out all the pieces, ran water through it, and somehow, I have no clue how, restored it to working order.

I mean, seriously.

It works again, like it did before.

And I made a cup of coffee that smelled and tasted just like it was supposed to, just like it always had before whatever went wrong, went wrong.

I would have simply thrown the machine away and bought a new one.

Probably wouldn't have thought much about it.

And I don't think that is a judgment on me in any way, though it makes me think maybe we can tell something about a person by what they are willing to try to fix, to repair, to save. What they still see potential in, what they believe is worth the effort to take apart, run water through, and put back together again. What they're willing to go to that kind of effort to make work again like it's supposed to. And, what they're not willing to try to fix.

Is there a point of no repair with some broken things?

Am I sometimes too quick to assume we're past that point?

Perhaps not just with things, but with people?

Lamentation, Repentance, & Resolve

One of my favorite quotes from The Shawshank Redemption comes when the old man, Brooks, struggling to adjust to life on the outside, writes back to his friends who are still in prison:

"The world went and got itself in a big, damn hurry."

I proved something in 2002.

Again in 2003.

Proved myself in 2007.

And against all odds, again in 2009.

Proved something to whom?

Who was this throng of doubters who believed I didn't have what it took, and were left with egg on their faces, time and again, never learning what I'm made of?

Nobody I know. No one at all. Maybe the throng of doubters was really just me, and I was proving something to myself.

But just as Paul challenges death to show where its victory is, there is a voice from somewhere that now challenges me to show where my victory is for all these muscle flexes over all these years.

No, it isn't that I don't appreciate what I've been blessed to do, nor that I doubt God's presence in these steps. These moments are good memories, and I think I am a better person for them.

But the question that haunts me now is: What do I wish I could go back and change from this period of conquest?

*I wish we had taken a longer honeymoon, instead of hurrying back to work.

*I wish we had savored those early months, and delayed career advancement.

*I wish I could hold my infant sons again.

*I wish I had not rushed back to work after each of our sons was born.

*I wish my mind had not been clouded by career concerns while we were still in the hospital for our second son's birth.

*I wish I had found a way to see my grandfather in the five years before his death.

*I wish I had not believed so fervently that it mattered so much how fast I moved forward in my career. If anything, deeper roots at each stage would do me more good now than how proud I felt of my advancement at the time.

*I wish I had not gone and gotten myself in a big, damn hurry.

No more.

No more rushing, no more proving.

If I live as long as my grandparents did, I am at least halfway through my life. I will not create these same regrets again. I will seek to move from notoriety to anonymity, from a life of striving for milestones, to a life of creating beautiful moments and beautiful things.

I will slow down.

I will savor.

I will walk with Jesus, hold my wife's hand, be my sons' dearest guide, and, God willing, I will write.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Time to Kneel

They marched again.

Torches and all.

Right back in Charlottesville, right in everyone's face, deliberate and defiant.

And more is almost certain to come.

And we are more concerned about whether football players kneel during the anthem.

Protect your children.

If you were ever concerned about the influence of popular culture on your child's life, this is the time, and this is the issue. This particular poison, home-grown white supremacy, and the terrorism that goes along with it, will be the ruin of us, far more readily than all the ills and influences we have worried about all of our children's lives.

More than movies, TV shows, music lyrics, unbelieving teachers at school, unchurched kids in the neighborhood.

More than sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

More than anything any jihadi could ever do.

This idea, this resurrection, this insurrection, will be the ruin of us.

If you happen to be white, a Christian, straight, and a mourner of how things are not as they used to be, this is the time to protect your children, and yourself. White supremacy is an infection with the power to infiltrate your faith. Where do you think it will go next, after it has infiltrated your politics?

Remember their slogans:

"Blood and soil!"

"Jews will not replace us!"

"F*ck you, faggots!"

Remember the car plowing into the crowd, killing a young woman.

There is nothing of Jesus in white supremacy. The Holy Spirit's flame does not light those torches, and the Father is not well pleased.

Now is a time to spend time with your friends who are different from the torch-bearers. Your friends who are not white, who are immigrants, who are not English-speaking, who are gay, and your friends who are not disciples of Jesus. Your friends the white supremacists are trying to frighten, silence, and cause to flee.

And if you don't have any friends like these, now is a time to make some.

Once, a king learned he was sick and would soon die. Heartbroken and scared, he prayed, pleaded, and wept to God, who heard his pleas, extended his life, and held off destruction by an enemy. (Isaiah 38)

The second march on Charlottesville should leave us heartbroken and scared, and convinced that we will soon die.

Now is a time for God to hear our pleas and see our tears as we wonder how on earth we got here. 

Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Are we praying for these white supremacists who rally at night with their torches? 

If not, is it because we do not consider them our enemies?

Whether or not you believe that the one and only way to prove your love for your country is to stand before its flag and during its anthem, please know that the football players at least nailed the stance.

We should all be kneeling now.

Holy Spirit, change the hearts of the white supremacists, and protect the minds of those they seek to influence.

Father, we repent, and, as Hezekiah did, we ask for more time. 

And yet, we also pray, as John did, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

First Prayer

First prayer with a new friend.

A gravelly patch of parking lot pavement turned into a holy site for all time.

First friendship to begin this way. A new way of connecting, a fresh start at forming a bond. Why did it take 44 years to begin searching for camaraderie this way?

What might it mean five years from now that this friendship began with this moment, this act? That it didn't take months or years of superficial association to slowly, awkwardly, delve into the faith we both already knew we shared?

What challenges might be overcome because we already went there? What challenges might never appear because we already are there?

Looking forward to finding out.