#SilentDay

#silentday

I would like to propose a challenge of sorts for those of you on social media … especially those who are politically or socially minded.  This is not an effort to change views, but to help us consider how we might better communicate.

Here is the challenge:

  • #silentday
    • Set aside one day to go silent on social media during the week.
    • This is not a day of silence in memorial of anything or anybody
    • This is not a day to stay away from social media.
    • Spend time on social media, but do not post anything except to explain your participation. You can share this page or write your own. (include the #silentday)
  • Browse
    • Immerse yourself in opposing views
    • Read only posts, tweets, blogs, articles of those you disagree with
    • You may have to unblock or re-follow some people.
  • Empathize
    • Try to silence your own arguments.
    • Try to consider why they may hold that view. Don’t give in to the easy answer. Assume that they are intelligent. Dispose of labels.
    • Think about the emotions that these views evoke.  Does it make you angry? Sad? Frustrated? Defensive? Consider why you might feel that way.
  • Consider
    • Do you feel like you understand the other view better?
    • Have your views been modified? How?
    • What labels are used to represent your viewpoint?
    • What labels are used by your side to describe the opposition’s viewpoint?
    • Consider the tone of posts from both sides of the issue.  Are they persuasive, argumentative, inflammatory, sarcastic, degrading, or belittling?  Does the tone divide or reconcile?
    • How could you use social media to build bridges for reconciliation?
  • Action
    • Continue to listen even after your #silentday
    • Post any discoveries you have made (use #silentday)
    • Begin to build bridges of reconciliation.
    • Reach out to someone with whom you disagree and offer to listen without argument.

Why a #silentday?

Our world has become a place of noise

I have posted a page dedicated to silence.  Silence, Please to stress how important silence and stillness is to our ability to foster peace. It includes a selection from Brian Zahnd’s recent book Water to Wine: Some of My Story This

Listening requires us to develop quiet and respectful relationships

We live in one side of a small duplex next to Lynn’s mother and brother. This works pretty well most of the time. Usually it is Lynn and I, (even when Josiah is home from college he is usually cloistered in his cave in the basement). Oh … and our two dogs and Mother’s two dogs.  It works pretty well.  It is a nice quiet routine and life is pretty peaceful (other than barking and whining dogs).

There was a time when all seven of the children were all at home. One might think that there could be no peace and quiet, but that was not the case. Yes, there were those times when chaos overwhelmed our small living room. (University of Kentucky basketball brings out our wild side) Somehow our children learned that peace could only be maintained in our household, if everyone respected each other.  We learned to keep our voices down, wait our turn to speak, learned each others “buttons”, and tried to not take advantage of those buttons.  We also learned that we needed times of quiet and found ways to find it.  This is not to say that the family always got along, but we figured out that relationship requires sacrifice.Family

So how does it work, when all seven children, their spouses, their children, and their dogs all descend on the house at once?  Is just like old times? NO IT IS NOT! Each nuclear family has its own routine, their own agendas, their own way of doing things.  It requires great restraint to hold it together, to remember that relationship is more important than our individual agendas, and that we are much stronger when we stay together as a family.  Be quiet and listen to each other because relationships matter

We are screaming and no one is listening

#blacklivesmatter has shined a light into the darkest recesses of our nations soul.  We cannot continue to fool ourselves into believing that the consequences our nation’s original sin has been expunged.  The greed that enslaved an entire race, displaced the native Peoples, manipulated the masses into accepting that human beings are naturally “branded” as beasts by the color of their skin, and deceived “even the Elect” into contributing to the lie  … that same greed is still actively dividing the masses.

Angry Christians
Even the Elect

This past week, a friend of mine posted a meme from Huffington Post that said simply BLACK LIVES MATTER … 75 times and IT MUST BE SAID UNTIL IT’S HEARD.  Trust me … everyone has heard it. Saying it more is not going to bring understanding to those who hear the words but do not hear the message they convey?

BLM

Jesus and the Apostle Paul both quoted the Prophet Isaiah when the people who should know better refused to hear.

For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
(Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27)

As I considered this post and the many others like it, it occurred to me that we conversing with swords and we respond with shields & swords of our own.  Our desire is healing and we are utilizing instruments of war.

Unfortunately, those who are taking the brunt of the blame, the lower and middle class white population, don’t understand why this responsibility is falling on them. We have labeled the first generation whose children are worse off than their parents as white supremacists.  These are people who do not really feel supreme and find themselves the politically acceptable butt of jokes. (rednecks, hillbillies, etc)

So how does this naturally play out?

  • My black brother & sister become more frustrated and justifiably angry
  • My racist white brother becomes more defensive & enraged …
  • My police officer son becomes more fearful and more likely to make a poor decision which could cost him his life or the life of another
  • My liberal friends fill social media with rants and incendiary language which swells the rage
  • My conservative friends tighten their grasp on their guns, and fill their social media with their own poisonous memes
  • Violence escalates proportionally to the level of anger & fear generated.

Change does not come about without a voice, but neither does it come without pain and loss. As people of privilege, we are in a unique position to extend grace to the oppressed and the oppressor. Both are important.

To the oppressed, we must learn to listen, to love and to place our privilege at their disposal to allow them to positively impact society (not for us to define for them … btw)

To the supporters oppressor, we must find ways to abate the fear & anger and persuade them to see that although laws have changed, that generations of oppression and economic / political manipulation have divided us to prevent us from working together.

I don’t know how we do this, but I know that helping the élite power structures to divide us is not helping matters. I wonder if we are just playing into their hands.

Active vs Passive Silence

I can’t advocate silence. That would be the sin of the “white moderates” addressed by Dr. King in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. But speech does not need to inflammatory.

We must be wise (not slow) in our efforts to forward the cause of justice to minimize the escalation of violence. Poorly chosen or timed words can have quite adverse consequences (probably not from those of us who no one knows). I say this in the belief and hope that violence is not the answer. I am not sure that everyone holds this belief.

So I advocate a #silentday … be silent, listen, empathize and then act with grace and wisdom. I hope you will join me.

 

 

Unexpected Journey

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

“then you must take up your well-shaped oar and go on a journey until you come where there are men living who know nothing of the sea, and who eat food that is not mixed with salt, who never have known ships whose cheeks are painted purple, who never have known-well-shaped oars, which act for ships as wings do.” The Odyssey – Homer

By any measure Odysseus had a tough life.  His original journey tore him away from his beloved wife and into a bloody war. His return journey was fraught with so much adversity that most back home figured he must dead, but he made it home (just in time to fight off a horde suitors vying for his wife). Time for a rest … nope … he had one more unexpected journey. Peace could not come until he could let go of his past. (adapted thought from Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life )

You might be thinking that this is another attempt at explaining my continuing spiritual reconstruction project.  While that was an unexpected journey, that is not the one I want to talk about.  A new path is revealed due to the lifting of the haze that has obscured my vision for most of my life. As the years have passed the fog thickened along my path.  It was not until my friend Anne blogged about her experience with the “Brain Fog“, which, she thought was due to an early “change of life”.  I chalked mine up to a midlife kind of thing.  Both of us found out later that our bodies were playing tricks on us.

Check out Anne‘s blog to follow her unexpected journey as she learns to cling to the Savior and trust him as she battles her own monster named Fibromyalgia.  If you suffer from chronic pain or deteriorating health issues, take some time and be encouraged by her journey.

Journey in the Mist

My original murky journey led me down a path of uncompleted tasks, failed attempts, and unfulfilled dreams.  Although my life was full of love and joy, there was always a sense that my I had been squandering my gifts.  I knew that I had so much more to give, but it seemed that I was running into walls of my own creation.

As long as I can remember I believed I could do just about anything. My parents always believed in me, so it is natural that I would believe in myself.  I was moderately successful at most things I attempted with very little effort.

In middle school I was first chair trumpet player, started every inning of every baseball game and maintained a high batting average, started both ways in football, maintained high grades in school, and advanced rapidly in Boy Scouts; all with very little sustained effort.  I worked hard in spurts … until the newness and praise dwindled.

High school came along just in time to give me some new challenges and a new burst of energy.  As a small person, maximum effort would be the only way I could be successful in sports. Football … that was not going to happen, baseball … I was catcher and size and strength are pretty important (not to mention my eye sight was deteriorating) I let band take a bake seat and I gave up Boy Scouts.  Academics would have been fine if I did not have to read and turn in homework so I squeaked through. I took up 2 new sports; track and my real love … wrestling. Four years was just about my limit.

Off to college.  No really new challenges to sustain my effort and didn’t even make it a full semester. Most of my adult life I have claimed that it was the injury that killed my college career … that is a lie. It was my inability to maintain a consistent work ethic and accompanying embarrassment that finished my college career. It was not that I was lazy and did not want to work hard. I actually loved working hard. I just could not maintain focus for any length of time. I can only see that now, back then I just made excuses.

Onward to adulthood which brought many an unexpected journey. Worked jobs that I were “beneath” my abilities … failed. Started a family (and then got married), not the ideal start.  Joined the Navy … mostly because I knew that I could not just quit and my family needed me to provide.  It was new and challenging so I did pretty well for the first 5 or six years, but nuclear power requires one to “study unceasingly”.  That was a skill that was not in my tool bag.  Fortunately, I an a gifted encourager, teacher, and coach so I developed outstanding sailors that were under my charge.  Since leaving the Navy many of you have heard me say that I got out because I had three girls entering their teenage years and they needed me home  … that is a lie (well at least a half truth)My inability to advance made continuing my career difficult, so I served out my time and moved on to civilian life hoping a new challenge would bring about a change in fortune.

Since leaving the Navy 19 years ago, life has brought much of the same. I took up many hobbies and activities, but even these were only short-term successes and ran the same course as my professional life. I Running a marathon was a temporary relief, but it did not fill the void.  All of my jobs, hobbies, and projects that started out like gangbusters and ended in failure or at least an incomplete.  In a last-ditch effort to arrest the death that was occurring within, I trained for and completed a marathon. I had finally completed something, but it was not enough to rekindle the fire.

Bend in the Road

About 8 years ago, overcome by embarrassment, disappointment, and a longing for a clear success, the haze of depression fell heavily on my heart.  Moving forward seemed pointless, so I began to shut it down and rolled to a halt. Despair took root.

My family saw it. They knew something was wrong, but could do nothing but love me.  When you have failed to follow through with promises and commitments, friends are hard to come by.  I had no outlet for my grief. Grief?  Yes … I grieved for the loss of my dreams, I grieved for the end of hope, and I grieved for death of the Chuck that I thought was inside.  I only went on because of my family. Going through the motions was all I muster.

My annual physical went pretty well other than a minor adjustment to my thyroid medication. As got up to leave the doctor asked if I had any other concerns. I stopped told my emotional atmospheric condition. After another half an hour of questions, she was concerned enough to prescribe me an anti-depressant.  Within a couple of weeks, I was moving again.  I don’t know if it was forward motion, but it was motion.

I don’t hate my job, but I struggle to stay engaged. This is nothing new, it is my MO.  Start something new … throw myself headlong into it, advance, get bored, lose focus, disengage, performance drops off.  Here we go again! I see it happening and yet feel powerless to stop it. No process or practice seems to phase my ability to re-engage my job.

So I am discussing this with my daughter Dorothy and she mentions that her husband was struggling as well and he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD).

hmmm … interesting.

Unexpected Journey

This was never something I imagined. It never occurred to me that I suffered from mental illness.  Healthy and intelligent there was no way that my brain chemistry could be jacked!  Through the years my health has slowly deteriorated (Asthma, thyroid, cholesterol).  The symptom that was there all along went undiagnosed for 54 years.

I don’t know if things would have been, but that journey is over. I am grateful for the opportunity to start this new an unexpected journey. Even if the changes are minor, for the first time in a long time I feel like I can “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”

Not the way I would have chosen
Not the way I would have chosen

Today was my first day on medication.  I have sat for three hours reading, researching and writing.  Yesterday, I would not have thought this possible.

If you are struggling … talk to someone. Pray that God will send the right person. Maybe all you need is friend, but maybe your struggle deeper than a friend can touch.  Whether it is physical or emotional, don’t go it alone and don’t turn down help.

Remember there are many more like me out there.  Look along the side of the road, they are there I assure you.  Please don’t pass by on the other side of the road.  Don’t fail to carry your oil and wine.  You are the one who can bind up wounds and care for the broken and oppressed.

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. – Luke 10:34

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

The Call of Death – A Warrior’s Road

I am posting this after Memorial Day because I do not want to take away from the honor due to those who we traditionally honor at this time of year.  However, maybe glorifying war is not the best way to honor them.  Maybe this is a good time to consider the cost and think about how we think about the institution of war.

As time goes by and I experience more of God’s grace, I continue to gain new perspectives on life. Fr Richard Rohr in his Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life calls this gaining second-half-of life-language.  As I reflect on those who have given their lives in military service, I hope use some of that second half language to bring some fresh perspective to the human sacrifice that we call war.  

Previously I posted a tribute to a shipmate Remembering the Sacrifice -ETC(SS) Hill who succumbed to the call of death that lurks at the door of everyone who takes up arms against another.  In his case, death came at his own hand.  This year I want to expand that to others.

As I ponder the loss of lives offered upon the altar of battle, I find it necessary to consider the process of death on the battlefield. Death comes to us all in stages, but war hastens the process exponentially.

We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier’s supposed to function. Without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends on it.” – Capt Ronald Speir – HBO’s Band of Brothers

The death of the Warrior begins the moment the hand is raised and an oath is taken. oath_of_enlistmentWe begin to talk about virtues like honor, duty and courage. Yes these are virtues, but they begin prioritized in such a way that we begin to forget the higher virtues like love, grace, and mercy. By tapping the violent nature fear is overcome. Actions and thoughts that just months before would have been considered abhorrent have now become justified.  The child that entered into military training rarely survives.

I honor all who raised the hand and sacrificed the innocence of childhood in defense of this nation.

“Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” – George S. Patton

Since training is often viewed as a game for many, the child sometimes survives the first onslaught, but death is relentless. Death continues to take prisoners when the instruments of training become instruments of war. That moment when the object of war becomes real.  

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. “ – George S. Patton

In an earlier post I Am Not Proud That I Am a Veteran I describe the struggle that may occur when confronted with reality of duty.  When one realizes that the game is us vs them with lives are on the scoreboard.  If training has been effective, death has claimed the conscience of the child, cowardice defeated, and our higher cause justified.  On the other hand, training that has not accomplished complete death, must complete it on the field of battle.

“He felt that in this crisis his laws of life were useless. Whatever Soldierhe had learned of himself was here of no avail. He was an unknown quantity. He saw that he would again be obliged to experiment as he had in early youth. He must accumulate information of himself, and meanwhile he resolved to remain close upon his guard lest those qualities of which he knew nothing should everlastingly disgrace him.” The Red Badge of Courage (S. Crane)


In Stephen Crane’s classic novel, The Red Badge of Courage we are witness to Henry Crane’s  struggle against his former life. Everything that he believed true must be left behind forever if he would survive this new reality.

“He saw his vivid error, and he was afraid that it would stand before him all his life. He took no share in the chatter of his comrades, nor did he look at them or know them, save when he felt sudden suspicion that they were seeing his thoughts and scrutinizing each detail of the scene with the tattered soldier. Yet gradually he mustered force to put the sin at a distance. And at last his eyes seemed to open to some new ways. He found that he could look back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly. He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them. With the conviction came a store of assurance. He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.” The Red Badge of Courage (S. Crane)

Fear and horror sear the conscience; necessity drives out the individual; and he becomes  “not a man but a member.” We are left to believe that Henry has won the battle with the “red sickness” and can rest in peace as a man of honor and duty.  Death has completed its task.

I honor and mourn the loss of every life lost in the cause of war.  I honor those whose lives were lost heroically in battle. We will never truly know their stories. We will never know when Death first began to claim these lives as his own.  I believe that much of the warrior was lost well before last breath was taken.

I also would like to honor who have answered the call of death.  

  • Those who like Chief Hill could not endure death’s process and took their own lives.
  • Those who could not make the transition to warrior and must live the life of a coward. (Many were executed in the field in past wars)
  • Those whose life has been altered beyond recognition and walk the streets as the walking dead
  • And those who were killed in training.

My hope is that we consider not only our decisions about the act of war, but also the process by which we prepare warriors.  Is it imperative that we limit the number of young people required to answer this Death’s call.

For those who have answered the call of death but still walk among us, there is hope.  It is not an easy road, but you can answer a new call of life.  Resurrection is available for all who will answer that new call.

“But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”  1 Cor 15:51-58 – The Message

 

How do you determine who to vote for or do you not vote at all?


My friend Anne posted a heartfelt question on Facebook today and instead of writing a simple comment, I figured I would vomit out my answer on my much neglected blog.

“Let’s say you vote for your convictions, principles, and values when it comes to your President, your Senators, etc. Let’s just say that no candidate truly expresses your values, but they do profess (and who knows what is just talk and what is true) some things that you do agree with. They just may not be of the character you would hope for – they may not be the perfect expression of all that you hold as valuable and dear.

Let’s just say that NONE of them do so.

How do you determine who to vote for or do you not vote at all?”

Most people I know are struggling with this decision just like Annie!  To me it is not an option to not vote so … how do I decide when no candidate fits the perfect ideal?

Here is the process that I am trying to sort through.

Primary Considerations

  • Is the candidate trustworthy? The rest of this is moot since we cannot honestly answer the rest of these questions.
  • What key issues and challenges will the next chief executive face?
  • What is the candidate’s view on those issues AND would they have the authority to execute or influence the government regarding those issues? (If a candidate has an off-the-wall idea that could never be enacted, it is not an issue)
  • How does the candidate’s views on those issues line up with the things I feel are core values for a “just” society?
  • Is the candidate an effective leader and manager? Can he/she get things done?
  • Would the candidate be a respected leader on the world stage?

Secondary Considerations (What if they fail the primary considerations)

  • Is there an issue that is a game changer for me? (for many, a pro-life/pro-choice stance or their stand on same sex marriage is a game changer)
  • Is the candidate even keeled and reasonable? (Not a hot-head or mean) (Unfortunately, the only even keeled guy I have seen probably won’t make it through the primaries)
  • This will sound awful, but if I can find no good characteristics in the candidates, then maybe I should vote for the one that is least likely to bring about change. This puts the onus on Congress (which might be even scarier).

I have tried to wean out my opinions in my little checklist.   I don’t intend on publically backing a candidate because quite honestly, I am not as certain of anything once was.  There is a tremendous freedom in uncertainty.  Releasing faith from that box is quite empowering and allows me to see a God that is much bigger than I ever imagined.  In the case of politics, it allows me to be able to see past candidates and look instead to the mission set before me.

“I look to the hills! Where will I find help? It will come from the Lord, who created heaven and earth”. (Psalm 121:1,2 CEV)

The anger and bitterness that prevails in our nation is reflected in the candidates that appear to be succeeding.  What is the driving force of this anger? I have some ideas…

A portion of our population is dropping farther and farther behind. There are many reasons for this (not just laziness and victim mentality).  Generational poverty caused by centuries of racism, rapidly changing economic structures that have left working class people without societal worth, and the resulting quick fix programs, have left them slaves to government programs, addictions, or crime.

What about the middle class? Why are they so angry?  In our arrogance we bought into the consumerism peddled to us and became slaves to our jobs, our credit rating, and our material possessions.  (We bought into the American Dream)  We became intoxicated with a false sense of security.  Cast as superior to the victim class we were empowered and felt like the movers and shakers of society.  Unfortunately this left us vulnerable to the puppet strings of the drivers of the economy.  What happens when the puppet master revokes power and it all comes toppling down?  Suddenly your values are no longer the mainstream of society and your social standing begins to slide. White, middle class, Christians unexpectedly have lost their grip on the reigns of society resulting in confusion, depression, defensiveness, anger and bitterness.

The oppressor has worked a masterful plan to divide and conquer.  We are goaded into battle against the powerless and become a part of a plan to enslave an entire society.   As long as we refuse to lock arms with the weak and continue to side with the power brokers, we will continue to find ourselves powerless to take dominion over the Kingdom.

If we continue to buy into the narrative of anger and bitterness, we will continue to be rewarded with candidates that reflect our anger and bitterness.

It is up to us to make changes to society.  It is not going to be easy and it won’t happen overnight.

It may cost us:

  • We may have to give up liberties that we feel are our “rights.”
  • We may have to put away our sword.
  • We may have to grieve sin (ours and those of others) instead of hating it.
  • We may have to give up our status.
  • We may have to give up our right to be right.
  • We may have to place a priority on love in the face of hate.
  • We may have to pick up a cross and laydown our lives for our nation.
  • We may have to give up our nation for the sake of Christ.

Let love be your only debt! If you love others, you have done all that the Law demands.  In the Law there are many commands, such as, “Be faithful in marriage. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not want what belongs to others.” But all of these are summed up in the command that says, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” No one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands. (Rom 13:8-10)

I Am Not Proud That I Am a Veteran

I understand this is likely to be a very unpopular post, but I have to be honest. Veterans Day is not a day of celebration, pride, or flag waving to me. This is a day of sadness, regret, and dishonor.  And that is not a bad thing.

When I think of my service to my country, I am glad that I served. I am proud to be an American. We live in a world that is dangerous and riddled with violence and I did my job to as best I understood it. I would probably even do it again under certain circumstances. I support my sons decisions to serve, and I pray that will always remember that they serve a broken and hurting world.

EisenhowerChapterBut … I am not proud that I am a Veteran. I wish that no one had to serve. Our violent and vengeful natures are proof of our fear, despair and lack of love. I wish that my son did not need to strap on his firearm and don a bulletproof vest each day when he enters his police cruiser.

Last year I explained my feeling about the whole hero thing: You Keep Using That Word  Since then I have reflected even more about what really brings honor. Some questions have surfaced I have a hard time answering.

  • Are the sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen I served alongside the most honorable people I can imagine?
  • Should taking up arms against other human beings be a source of pride
  • Why do we place such high value on our ability to dominate in defense of our values?
  • How is it that despite our nation’s military superiority, we cannot achieve peace?
  • What does it say about us as a people who no matter how much we evolve as a civilization, we continue to regress back to violence as our measure of strength.

I served our nation for over 12 years. I was indoctrinated into the ways of the brotherhood of undersea warriors. I was enraged by the knowledge that a dirty “Commie” Soviet submarine had passed within our waters and felt the joy of chasing it out again. I slept between nuclear warheads with the capability to devastate large portions of the human race.

And …

I felt the fear and turmoil that surged through me when it occurred to me when during the simulation of a nuclear launch.  I with struggled with an anger that began to simmer within as I worked alongside shipmates and people of Kuwait recovering from the atrocities of the Iraqi invasion and subsequent withdrawal.

Five years later, that anger surface on Sept 11th, 2001. I supported our fear driven retaliation. I watched as that fear was covered in nationalistic pride and a resolve for vengeance.

Vengeance is not justice … Vengeance is action driven by fear and hate. I saw that desire for vengeance in the eyes of Kuwaiti children and parents. It is the evident in the desperation of people in our own society caused by perceived or real inequalities. Yes, it is even the same force driving the ISIS conspirators.

I am sad that we have failed to achieve relative peace in our world and that we are a world encompassed by fear.

I regret that I allowed that fear to override my faith and that I could not even effectively love my enemy or even my neighbor.

I find no honor in taking up arms to bring about peace. Although it may protect us for a while and may seem to be the best we can do at this point, I think it is ineffective and frankly the coward’s way.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 ESV

What is that more excellent way?

My son-in-law posted today every veteran signs a blank check. I have to disagree. Each of us signed up With the knowledge that we might die in the line of duty, but that is far from a blank check!

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 ESV

I did not sign up to die for my enemy.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:12-13 ESV

Laying one’s life down is much more honorable and difficult than dying. Each of us can live a life for others and possibly even defeat some fear and hate.

That not excellent way…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV

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A Different Justice System

Mark 2:23-29 – Sabbath Snacks

Ancient Fast FoodAnother few verses into the Gospel of Mark and yet another “I never noticed” moment.  In the previous verses, Jesus was asked about His disciples not fasting like John’s followers and the Pharisees.  He was being questioned about the actions of His disciples.  It was His disciples that were feasting when everyone else was fasting. Now he is answering for them again .. It was His followers that were plucking grain (reaping) on the Sabbath.  Two chapters in and already he shows His vocation as advocate for others, answering accusations made against apparent sinners.

And who were these guys following them around looking for ways to discredit the new teacher anyway? These guys were just a bunch of intellectuals with no authority, akin to many of the talking heads of today. Masters of the art of influence and persuasion, adept at swaying public opinion. Acting like the prosecuting attorney without any actual authority to render a judgement. (Rather Satanic actually). Were they actually intent on bringing about justice, or were they more interested in maintaining the power and status that comes from “winning?”

Jesus came to take on the accuser on our behalf. What an awesome way to begin defining His role as Messiah!   The Messiah is not an accuser. As a matter of fact, there is not an accuser in the Godhead.  Although God demands righteousness, He is not the prosecuting attorney, He is the judge.  He leaves the defense to Jesus.

God is not mad at me and brings no accusation against me.  It is not that He does not care when I stumble, on the contrary.  He sent us an advocate to help turn things around; an advocate with a goal to restore us to His image so that I can take me rightful place in the society of His kingdom. He did not send the newbie public defender,  He deployed the best, His Son to defend not only us, but all of His creation.  He didn’t stop there, He sent His Spirit to walk us through rehab and to protect us from the Accuser. What an awesome model of justice!

Each of us has a role to play in this system, we also need to be like Jesus and defend the defenseless with compassion.  By modeling His empathy and mercy we help to disarm the prosecutor and establish a different justice system.

Our Friend Karen … Can’t Wait!

I am writing in this in the back seat of the car in route to Goose Creek, SC to say goodbye to one of our dearest friends, Karen. Not a road trip that we relish, but we are comforted that she is now beyond the pain and the struggle, and can enter into the peace and joy of her Savior.

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In October of 1993, I jumped in my little Subaru in Norfolk, VA and headed to my new duty station at Trident Refit Facility in Kingsbay, GA. I left my family behind and for the next two months. It was a time appointed for me to learn about relationship; first between me and God and then about loving others. I learned to be intentional about seeking friendships and I was led to Todd and Karen.

 

Over the next month or I horned in on their family life and tried to lay some groundwork so that Lynn would have a friend when she moved down in December. God knew what he was doing when he brought Karen into our lives.

 

After a 20 hour trek, our family arrived at housing on December 22nd. Todd & Karen helped us move and then 2 days later, we had Christmas dinner together. That would be the first of many holidays we would spend together over the next 4 years.

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Karen … Over those four years:

  • You were closer than a sister,

  • You kept my Lynnie sane during deployments,

  • You cried with us when we suffered loss,

  • You supported us when we struggled without a moment of judgement.

  • When we were in crisis, you always were there, you made all those Barbie birthday cakes and one memorable, “two mound cake”, which seemed to need a bra to maintain decency.

  • You and Lynnie sat for hours on the floor playing some weird Nintendo dictionary game with two animated crayons and some how we were entertained just watch you laugh at each other.

  • Covered each others heads when our children did ridiculous things in church plays. (Jeffery & Sam)

  • Took glee in embarrassing our children in public.

  • We raised our children together and shared our whole lives with each other.

  • We were family.

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Precious gifts like you only come along once or twice in a lifetime. Our lives have been forever changed because you were our friend.

It does not seem real that you are gone.  We long to play one more game, have one more laugh, to give you one last hug, and mostly to say all of this face to face. Fortunately, we know that we will have an eternity to spend in joy … Can’t wait!

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Vision / Course Correction

I have not written since November.  It is hard to write about transition and direction when you find yourself not exactly sure where you are going.  I think it is about time I discussed this Vision Correction / Course Correction, for both my old friends and those that are crossing my path.

 

“Be good to your servant so I can go on living
and keeping your word.
Open my eyes so I can examine
the wonders of your Instruction!” (Ps 119:17-18)
Open my eyes
Throughout my time in high school, something was just not right. I was just not comfortable.  I noticed it in the classroom … an inability to follow along with teachers.  It was evident on the athletic field, mostly baseball … I could not track the ball as well as I always hadl. Without ever  really noticing it, I found myself moving to the front half of the classroom. During my senior year it should have occurred to me when I could not see the numbers on the scoreboard from the wrestling mat, but like the proverbial frog in the pot (not familiar with this proverb?  Check it out here,)  I was oblivious to the change. (I am truly disturbed at how many people have set out to prove / disprove this boiling frog theory … people are really wack!) Myth or truth … you get the point … slow change is often imperceptible.

 

For whatever reason … I did not notice that my vision was deteriorating. In my last month of school a military physical indicated my substandard eye sight.  Two weeks later … I saw the individual leaves on the trees.
Clarity
It is unclear (see what I did there) when I began to experience spiritual squirminess.  One could argue that this was just a mid-life crisis since it started  around my 40th year and about the time the oldest of our seven offspring began to move on to bigger and better things. I was busy with work, church and had begun coaching regularly, but that notorious question began to roll around in my head … is this all there is? I began to believe that I had buried my talent in the ground: that God was about to take it away and give it to the one with ten.  When I voiced my own disappointment in myself, most people gave an answer that did not sit well with me; “there is no higher calling than being a father and a husband. You have raised great kids and that will have impacts way beyond your lifetime.”  Something about the self-centered nature of that statement just rubbed me wrong.

 

 _sermon_on_the_mountYears of teaching the parables of Jesus and the sermon on the mount in children’s church just made me feel like I was missing something major. Jesus was pressed from every side by the consequences of a fallen creation – His creation.  He directed His anger at those who should have known His love for the down-trodden sinner and grieved along with Him; those who should have been first to jump in and work to restore a broken world.  About two years ago it occurred to me that I could be more closely identified with those Pharisees than with the crowds of sinners  to whom He poured out His grace. How could I so readily lose the big picture? Although I will get into that much more in detail in future posts, I am convinced that I allowed subtle (some not so subtle) influences to draw me away from the Kingdom work that was started by Jesus and concern myself with the work reserved for the one who sits on the throne.  False battle lines were drawn between “us” and “them” and the pride of a soldier just out of boot camp coursed through my being.  A spiritual equivalent of the “let’s go kill some Commies”  that I heard during my time, serving in the Cold War, poured across the conservative air waves and blanketed my Facebook newsfeed. (Note: the “other side” had their hate whisperers as well which of course justifies our own position advancement)

 

1Kings1912
Any of you who have followed my blog may have recognized when I began to hear that small still voice. I realized that I was not a sheep, but a goat.  The fire under the pot was lit and I either needed to jump out or become Frog Soup.  Since I have abused my body so badly over the years I determined I was not fit to become a meal so I jumped out With my vision clearing, it was obvious that a course correction was in order.

 

 It has been a process that included a great deal of study, observation and prayer.  I sought sources outside my comfort zone and ones that would have been considered blasphemous to me a few years ago.  I am learning to look past the behaviors and history of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26) and to look at her as Jesus did.  It is unnatural to picture a resurrected creation, but I believe that it is possible. I have a long way to go.

 

I left the tradition that I had been associated with for 30 years: not because of the people or the teaching. They have been a loving people who fed us, took care of us, and helped us raise a family of faith.  Through corporate worship and Spirit led preaching, I developed an unquenchable longing for God’s presence.  The power of the Holy Spirit worked in and through me.  I witnessed powerful miracles. Over 30 years, scripture has become a natural part of who I am. God has been sovereign through out and I was exactly were I need to be.

 

Compass ColorDespite all of that God has directed me in another direction and removed me from some life patterns that prevented me from maturing and moving on. I have developed a love for liturgy and many of the lessons-learned by the early church and throughout history. I have realized that even when I don’t agree with everything another tradition believes does not mean that I cannot worship alongside them and learn from them. Movements that have been scoffed at by traditional evangelicalism (Emergent, Progressive, Missional), main line “liberal” denominations, and Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches all offer insights and are a part of God’s plan to bring about restoration to His Kingdom.  At this point, Lynn and I have committed to worshiping as part of a “three streams” Anglican Church (ACNA).  We like it because we can grow and serve and not “sweat the small stuff”.

 

 Now that I have gotten this out of the way, hopefully I can start writing consistently about where I see God taking me now.

 

This was somewhat inspired by a Twitter buddy Chad West ( @MisterPreacher) (http://misterpreacher.com) I think I also can be labeled a “Recovering Pharisee” In light of this new found label, I would like to leave you with the story of a couple of accounts of some other “Recovering Pharisees” with whom you may be familiar.  Nicodemus – That creepy night stalker that sought out Jesus to avoid being called out by his “buds.” &  Gamaliel – Who utilized his wisdom and status to not only influence the counsel, but later on prepared Saul of Tarsus for ministry as the Apostle Paul. They were associated with exactly the people they needed to be around to be developed and utilized by God without becoming clanish and hardened.

 

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)

 

“When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:33-39)

You Keep Using That Word – Who is a Hero?

*Stink! Jamie the Very Worst Missionary stole my line before I could publish it. Great blog about the word #blessed read it here

In January 1991, I lay in hospital bed in Naval Medical Center Portsmouth recovering from a belly wound brought about by “friendly fire”.  My perfectly healthy gall bladder decided to go to war with the rest of my immune system.  Ultimately the immune system destroyed the rebelling organ which required an extraction by Naval Surgeons.  This unfortunate situation left me in a bed watching CNN as Coalition forces invaded Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.  Little did I know that just 7 months later, I would be joining them aboard the USS L.Y. Spear (AS-36) and would breathe the smoke tainted air that hung above the Persian Gulf .  In October, after a close call navigating heavily mined waters, the ship would drop anchor off Kuwait City and I would accompany my shipmates into the city to embark on several humanitarian rebuilding efforts. In November we would be deployed on a mission to recover sensitive equipment off the coast of Iraq before returning home.

Let Go the Anchor, Kuwait Harbor
Let Go the Anchor, Kuwait Harbor

I don’t let tell this story to bring any sort of glory to myself or to my shipmates.  On the contrary, few of us felt worthy of any such glory.  Most of the people I enlisted with entered Naval service during peace time or at worst, during the end of the Cold War.  We were looking for training, stability, and a paycheck.  Even though there was danger involved, it was just our job and in truth, the risk we were taking was less than it would have been during electrical switchboard testing back in Norfolk.  Sea stories sound really great, because not everyone gets to experience them, but they are nothing more than my perspective of a unique experience.  You have those in your life as-well.

Jump forward 20 years.  That battle crossed the ocean and first responders of the NYFD & NYPD were asked to run into danger to help innocent victims of senseless terrorism.  None of them ever anticipated facing this kind of catastrophe, but duty is a powerful motivator when the chips are down. We have little doubt that these are heroes.

What followed in response to this was a new military build up.  A military that was swelling with young men and women filled with national pride and to be honest … probably a good dose of vengeance as well.  The danger was now real. Not only from the weapons of war, but also from the unseen weapons that attack the mind and the soul.  Some would lose their lives and others would be physically broken beyond repair.  Still other, untouched by physical harm, would have their lives forever altered by the sights, sounds, and smells of war. There is no doubt that these  young men and women entered willingly and made great sacrifices.  But … does this make them heroes?

What really constitutes a hero?  To one a hero may be a mother who sacrificed so her children could go to college, to another, it maybe the image of the father he never met who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  So what is it that makes a hero? … sacrifice? selflessness? commitment? honor and duty?

So who is a hero? I can’t really tell you how you should define a hero.  I do know that every Veterans Day I am very uncomfortable when I am lumped in with heroes just because I put on a uniform for many years.  On the one hand, I understand and appreciate that people feel honest gratitude for those that served their country to protect the freedoms that we hold dear. Still, there are those out there that spend their whole lives with their noses to the grind stone everyday that will never get even a pat on the back or a word of encouragement for the service to society that they provide …  I am in awe of those who faithfully execute the office of “human” with little acknowledgement from us.

Yes, the military has been instrumental in maintaining our safety and security, but it is not the military that has made it great and it is not the military will spell our demise.  It is the everyday people of our society that have made our nation great and it is the everyday people who will bring it to an end.

Everyone one of us has the opportunity to be a hero. All of us can faithfully answer the human call to be selfless in our dealings with others. There is not one of us that cannot make daily sacrifices that might just benefit someone else. Who among us will take our commitment to our neighbor as seriously as we do to our favorite sports teams?  Is it possible that we could look past the bottom line and honor the duty that God entrusted to us to care for the “least of these” and “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Who is a hero?

He is the one waiting to shed his light on those around him.

He is the one who does not care that there is no day set aside to honor him.

He loves unconditionally, it is what he was created to do.

He understands it is going to be a fight to get control.

He is powered by love and is undaunted by the task.

He is the image of the Creator.

He is within you.

The everyday hero is buried  deep within each of us. He may be covered by years of crap like bitterness, cynicism, pessimism, selfishness … you know life stains (use to be called sin). The fight is not hopeless though.  Although I seem to forget it now and then, Jesus gave us a way to find the hero and is standing by to help us become heroes.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev 3:17-21)

Do Election Results Really Matter?

Panties

Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I am not saying elections are not important or that we should not be involved in the political process.   In our country, that is a civic duty (Hee Hee … he said duty) and must be taken seriously. But … How much do the election results really matter? Are societal changes going to come through politics or through relationships?

My point is that I have a higher call than that, if I take seriously and pour my passion into, will make a bigger impact on society than anything that our government will be able to accomplish. I have a responsibility to my neighbor that is significantly more important and exponentially more effective than what happened in that voting booth yesterday.

  • I could get to know my neighbor. Yes, even if they are not like me #samaritans,  do not share my values #greeks, or are not even legal #aliens #mothman.
  • What could happen if I get to know my neighbor?
  • I might just start to like them or at least understand them. I might be able to meet a need or point them in the right direction.
  • They might even impact me and change me.
  • We might even have a relationship that could grow into a friendship.

And what if you did the same thing with your neighbor? Could it be more effective over the next and a better investment than $460 million dollars in attack ads?   What if our government reflected a nation of people who cared about each other instead of  a nation that is concerned about gaining and maintaining “my rights.?”

Some of you may be celebrating today the outcome of the elections and ecstatic that your guys are gaining power. “Finally, we can get something done and get this country moving in the right direction”

Some of you are angry, frustrated, or  saddened that those guys will stop all the progress that has been made.  “Can’t they see that we were on the brink of something great!”

There is no cause for celebrating.  The hearts that have brought us to this point have not been changed and an election is not going to suddenly make us a “moral” nation.  There is also no reason for anger, frustration, or even sadness.  The opportunity we had to touch the hearts of those around is the same today as it was yesterday.

Greed, bigotry, violence, family values, work ethic, fairness, equality, freedom, liberty … whatever you see as the foundational ills of our society are not going to be changed through legislation.

“Governments can do lots of things, but there are a lot of things they cannot do. A government can pass good laws, but no law can change a human heart. Only God can do that. A government can provide good housing, but folks can have a house without having a home. We can keep people breathing with good health care, but they still may not really be alive. The work of community, love, reconciliation, restoration is the work we cannot leave up to politicians. This is the work we are all called to do. We can’t wait on politicians to change the world. We can’t wait on governments to legislate love. And we don’t let policies define how we treat people; how we treat people shapes our policies.” – See more at: http://www.redletterchristians.org/election-day-dialog-political/#sthash.6EqxV5sr.dpuf

I will admit … I straddle the political line.  I know my heart and see how little I have done to change my world.  I am getting old, but it is not too late to make a difference. There is still hope, but that hope is not in political … it is personal.

Last night, a FB friend posted a picture with a question.  I will copy it here for you with my answer.

JFK Responsibility FB

Will you step up and be the great men and great women that will lead us to  something great or will you leave it to people who to others that you do not even really know?  Will you answer take up the responsibility that is yours to love your neighbor, or will you allow defeat to answer the call with cynicism and rob you of a victory and the joy that only comes through serving?

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give upSo then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal 6:7-10)

 

 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
 
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.
 Do not contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways,
for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence. (Prov 3:27-32)
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Prov 26:12)