Friday, August 31, 2018

Why Do They Have To Be The Enemy?

Ugh. Once again we are in the middle of a politically charged environment. Really, it never ended. Once the most recent presidential election unfolded, the storm was set on what seems to be a never ending, irreversible course. The recent primaries in Florida revealed more of the same. Whether the craziness is the result of the storm or an additional driver to the storm is hard to tell.

When did we lose statesmen? Why can't we have an intellectual exchange of ideas where we discuss ideology without hatred and racism coming into the conversation? When did people of faith lose their convictions? When did Jesus become a Republican? Or when did he become a Democrat? Why are we afraid to stand on our own and to speak out against the hate speech that destroys our sense of well being. My kids are growing up in a culture where to be a follower of Christ you first have to align with some political party. If you align with the wrong one, then you are demonized by the other side and often in the name of LOVE. What's love got to do with it? Thanks, Tina Turner. Love has nothing to do with the arguments that are being thrown around. It's all about power and control. It's about ME and what is best for MY TRIBE. Doesn't anyone care about the others? Is there some new sacred text out there that justifies destroying those who disagree with us for the sake of our tribe coming out on top?

I'm aware of the Old Testament, for sure. As a matter of fact, I would consider myself a student of the Old Testament. I would have to put forward, though, that the conquering of lands by Israel was with a specific intent to describe the character of God for those people and was not ever intended to become the mantra of the people of God today. Nowhere do we see in the teachings of Jesus or in the post-resurrection writings that we are to elevate ourselves by putting others down. Quite the contrary.

Unfortunately early in church history, the idea of introducing others to the real Jesus went out the window, and instead protecting the TRIBE became the norm. If you don't fit into our mold, then you are evil, regardless of whether or not the mold looked anything like Jesus. So much time has passed and so much TRIBALISM has taken over the church that many find it hard to even know what Jesus might have been like. Read a passage of scripture that contradicts your tribe's philosophies. Share it with members of the tribe. Begin to talk like you believe the passage and that you feel like it contradicts the norm of the group. Begin to behave in a manner consistent with what you believe. See how long it takes for you to be shamed into submission for going against the accepted platform.

What would happen if we all took a deep breath and went to a quiet place for a while? What if we saw those around us as people and not positions? What if we became less concerned about tribal bonds and more concerned about helping everyone find their way? No wonder the world - even the American world - wants very little to do with Jesus. Those who claim to follow Him have so demonized those who disagree with them there seems to be little to no hope for them anyway. If following Jesus means taking on the nature of some political candidate, then that doesn't interest me at all. If following Jesus means taking on the nature of Jesus, then let's talk. If your posts and actions say one thing but your Sunday talk says another .... well that's a problem for all of us isn't it?

I am just as much a hypocrite as the next person for sure. I will say, though, that I am trying to be open to what is happening and to see the world around me in a different light - one that isn't filled with hatred and disgust but instead is filled with compassion and understanding. Why do those who think differently than we do have to be the enemy?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


From 1972 to 1983 a 30 minute dark comedy aired that portrayed the personal cost of war on individuals, families, and societies. MASH was not a show we watched as a family, and I never really questioned why. Perhaps it just came on at an inconvenient time or during another show that took priority in the family. While I never knew much about the show's content, the theme song caught my ear during college. Each week the music minus lyrics filtrated the homes of American families, many who never knew the meaning behind the tune playing over and over as a soundtrack that carried throughout the week. Did you know that the title to the song is "Suicide is Painless"? Here are the lyrics for your interest.

While many would argue that the song is depressing and should be stripped from the musical libraries of our world, the words are so real that they frighten those who choose to live in a world that does not exist. You see, fear is the great maker behind all masks. Our society thrives on hiding from all that scares us. We hide our feelings and our failures. We hide behind masks of power and prestige. We throw out words that spread the lie that everything is okay when the broken pieces of our lives are cutting gashes into our hearts because no one wants to know. No one wants to see. No one wants to hear. No one wants to feel. Stay hidden on the journey that will eventually end in death.

Death happens in so many different ways. My dad died from pancreatic cancer. We thought it would be from heart disease or from smoking. A friend's mom died after being struck by a car while crossing the street. We thought she would live forever. A student was struck by lighting, and another was killed in a drunk driving accident. A cousin died by suicide. An uncle died by drinking himself to death. Another uncle - stabbed by his girlfriend. A close family friend died from natural causes late in her 80's while the son of a family friend died in his 30's from an aneurysm. No one really knows how or when. No one knows if death will come suddenly or over time.

Robin Williams was an amazing actor and comic. He could make people laugh just by looking a certain way. He made movies that made us think about how we were living our own lives. His heart was large for those around him. We all allowed him the pleasure of helping us escape for a few moments or a few hours as he created a life that made us smile and cry all at the same time. I won't pretend to know what was happening in his life. I just know that the news reported he died - by suicide.

What makes someone who seems to be full of life find the answer in a sudden, self inflicted death? Could the song be right? Is suicide really painless? I suppose not for those who are left behind to figure out what happened or for those who are trying to put the pieces back together. What about for the person who sees this option as the only one? Do the ravages of personal war plague our lives so strongly that the only way to be free is to commit death - emotional or physical - by suicide?

The answer to that question should be a resounding "no." My friends associated with the church would say that there is another way. Those with families near them would also cry out in rejection of the notion that death by suicide is the best answer. Personally, I cannot imagine that death by suicide is the best answer either. I can, however, see why some would find this path the most obvious path for the moment. Without someone to help guide us through, we all get to places where we think there is no future. The dead ends are surrounded by impenetrable boulders and vines. What is the other way? Most people don't suggest anything that is tangible. Lots of ideas and meditative prayers rise to the surface. Does anyone have an answer that someone can really cling to and use to find a way to shore? Can the church perhaps decide to dive into the water and pull someone to safety rather than just cheering him on from the shore?

In later years, spinoffs of MASH surfaced helping us to see that there is life after war. How did they survive? They looked within themselves, focused on what they could affect, and decided to make a new life that mattered - at least for the moment. In essence, they committed a different form of death by suicide - bury the past by creating the future. Unfortunately, suicide is not painless. Suicide does not remove the pain. Somehow we have to find a way to embrace what the future holds and use the past to keep us from making the same mistakes again. Make the future what you need it to be to survive. War stinks. Survival stings. Life ....

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Road To Nowhere

Sometimes the most difficult part of a journey is getting lost along the way. At time getting lost can be an adventure, if you are the adventurous type and if no one else is depending on you to stay found. Mostly, though, others are looking for us to know where we are going and to know when we will get there. They don’t much care what happened along the way. Just show up on time with everything in order.

I haven’t lost my way often, primarily because I’ve not taken many journeys. Kelly Clarkson sings a song about being trained as a child to play it safe. Through that experience she ended up living in a world of fear and distrust. She was taught, like many of us, that the safe way is the best way. Stay close to home and fall in line. Everything else will be okay.

While I haven’t lost my way often, I have found myself lost along the journey here lately. I venture out a little thinking that I am healing from some brokenness only to find that the brokenness travels with me and haunts me into confusion. I try to be real and to let others see the me I know. It’s too much. I’m like a child learning to interact in a society that has always rejected the me I have kept buried for so long. I think maybe someone might want to know the real me, but then the past tells me I’m wrong. My introductory efforts come across as if I am a weak, emotional basket case who needs to be handled with kid gloves. When I try to pull back the reins, my heart leaves the path and hides in the darkness searching for a way to another place - not back to where I came from but also not where I was going.

Some say the journey is best travelled with someone. That saying is only true if you are worthy of someone traveling with you. Some journeys are best taken alone with friends and family who love waiting patiently at the end of the path. Perhaps they will be able to wait without a time frame or an expectation of what you will look like upon your arrival. On the other hand, perhaps they will not. Either way, you will end up somewhere. Even the road to no where ends up somewhere.

Friday, August 3, 2018


Childhood memories are the best memories for many people. For others, these memories bring grief and heartache. Loss of family, friends, and innocence plagues the hearts of those from many walks of life. We learn to live with the pain and the regret hoping to discover ways to make the most out of our brokenness. Everyone has brokenness of some kind, I suppose. We live in an imperfect world so the best we can do is to take each day one day at a time and live that day to the fullest.

As children, we had the luxury of escaping into enchanted worlds of make believe. For some the enchanted world provided a place to play for a time, but for others the enchanted world provided a break from the harsh realities of living. The most difficult times, then, would be those where you would have to leave the enchantment and come into the circle of life others were a part of each day.

Bedtime was always the scariest time of day for me. All day long I could hide and pretend to be the person I wanted others to know. Bedtime, though, was different because as sleep encroached upon my private world, I knew I would lose the ability to be in control of my existence. I fought sleep with the strength of a warrior, but each night the power of nature overcame my senses. Each morning I woke with the burden of the life I so desperately wanted to leave. Each day I lived the life I created to keep others from knowing the real me hidden deep inside behind dark walls even I refused to go behind.

I don't remember when he joined me, but at some point Winnie the Pooh came into my world. I watched the shows on television and read the books. Mostly, though, I held onto this stuffed bear less than a foot tall. He rested on my bed each day waiting for my return from school. He watched me carefully as I engaged in activities that perpetuated my make believe world. He listened as I made up storylines where I was a flawed hero, and he heard me as I cried over the worthlessness I felt in my life. Pooh became a friend to me, and he proved to be the best childhood friend a boy could have. He was always there with me, but mostly, he was there with me at night. I remember heated arguments in our home at night. Holding Pooh tightly helped me make it through. I remember being afraid that I would dream about falling into the deep cavern yet again. Again, Pooh helped calm me. I remember being afraid of the Wicked Witch who threatened to boil me in her cauldron once she had put me to sleep. Through it all Pooh was there.

Tonight we are going as a family to see the new movie Christopher Robin. I have been rereading
some of the Pooh stories in anticipation of the movie. I don't know all that we will see as we experience Disney's creation of a grown up Christopher Robin and the impact of a bear and his friends on this matured life. Whatever we see, I am sure it will be amazing. He may be a stuffed bear, but the attachment remains - for scores of Christopher Robins around the world.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

God Has Left The Building

Several years ago I wrote a blog entitled "In Search of Church." Lately I have read back over several of the blog posts I wrote, and knowing what was stirring beneath the surface inside of me has made me realize that not only am I in search of something, but I have actually been in search of something for some time.

Here is the question that weighs heavily on my mind. Is God really still interacting with the world as we know it? Most who wear the Christian label would immediately say, "Why of course," without even thinking about it. When pressed further, most of these would point to evidences of circumstances or ministries that they believe point to the work of God among us. Interestingly enough, many of these circumstances and ministries are duplicated in the non Christian world.

Over the years I have taught about God's work through the church. I, like many others, have taken the position that the church is the chosen pathway through which God chooses to work and to display His glory. Take a pause and realize that growing up Baptist limited the work of God to some extent because Baptists are scared silly of the Holy Spirit. Put the Holy Spirit aside, and Baptists will fall in line. Church is the way to go. Along with church, Baptists will teach about tithing, missions, Sunday School, and other such things. They will speak against drinking, gambling, and pornography. Not so much smoking because the deacons out front might object as they are putting their cigarettes out. All in all, though, Baptists will agree with most other denominations that God is best expressed within the confines of the church.

Notice that I used the word confines. That word was intentional because over the years, the church has become, in many cases, like the legalistic structure of the Jewish religion of old. Follow these rules, and the church will embrace you. Step out of line, and the church will reject you. Somehow living for Jesus became less about Jesus and more about the institution that even he fought against.

So back to the question. Is God still interacting with the world as well know it? Well, if the position of most who call themselves Christian is true, then the answer is "no, He is not at work." If the church is the chosen means whereby God choses to work, then I have to conclude that God has left the building. The church in America has become, by and large, nothing more than a religious institution perpetuating the ego and power struggle of those who wish to be God. They want to be seen as the final authority on truth and to be held in such high esteem that it rivals worship. It reminds me of what I was taught in elementary Sunday School about the devil's downfall. Leaders of the church today want others to see them as God, which in reality means they have made themselves an idol.

Research emphasizes the decline of spiritual awareness among Christians. Maybe I'll post those results tomorrow. For now, suffice it to say that we are worse off now that ever. Even with the Republican "messiah" in the White House. Imagine that. The church has lost her voice and lost her influence. The Spirit of God has moved on, it seems. America has become what Europe became with one difference. In Europe there are large empty church buildings with no Spirit. In America there are large full buildings with no Spirit. The only difference is the number of deceived people in the building. Go figure.

If God isn't at work around us, then where does that leave us? Interesting question right? An even more interesting question is whether or not you have the energy or desire to investigate the answer. Join me on the journey if you dare.