Terror, fear, and faith. Part 2

fear_and_faith

here are some more thoughts on living in a dark world…

when there is danger…whether it’s the presence of potential harm…or a frontal assault on our personal safety…we always have options for our responses.  there is no script.  it’s entirely ad-lib for all of us.

some buy an extra box of ammo.  some move to the suburbs.  some turn into doomsday preppers.  some become political activists.  others join the army.  some join the neighborhood watch.  some simply cower in fear and paranoia.  like i said yesterday,  it’s personal.

here’s my reality… as a follower of christ, i am bound by his word and his lifestyle.  for me, there is no legit wiggle room.

no matter what my “practical response” to violence and terror may be (and i have never really been confronted by either),  first and foremost, my response must always be controlled by what  god commands me to do.  and in those cases where god’s word has not spoken, my actions must conform to how i think jesus would act if he were in my shoes.

here’s what it looks like…and don’t mistake this for some kind of rant on gun control!  even though i’m not a gun guy, some of my best friends and some of the finest followers of christ i have ever met are gun owners!  so check it out:

i am to pray for victims.  it is truly the very least…and the very best…that i can do.

i am to pray for my enemies.  i don’t get it, most of the time.  sometimes this feels like an impossible task.  but i am commanded to do this.   But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

i am to help those in need.  money, blood, supplies, relief, food, comfort…whatever i can reasonably and practically give.  both near and far.  i don’t believe that jesus puts border restrictions on compassion.   Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.  Matthew 25:40

i am to grieve for the loss and suffering of others.  acts of terror and violence need to remind me of how sacred life really is.  when i cease to feel for the pain of others,  i am no longer walking in the footsteps of jesus.  and it should not take a bomb or a tornado to awaken this “pain” in me.  it needs to be present all the time.

i am to forgive.  when innocent people are subjected to tragedy, our “natural” response is to boil with anger, harden our hearts, or even seek revenge.  but even though it goes against everything i think or feel, i must do what jesus would do.  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

i cannot let anger or fear control me or my decisions.  saying i trust god has to mean something.  it is not just a spiritual platitude.  “trusting god” does not cancel out my responsibility to be wise and safe…but it does mean there are things i cannot, and will not, take into my own hands.  Vengeance is mine; I will repay”, says the Lord.  Romans 12:19.  do i really believe that?

images of violence, chaos, hate, blood, retaliation and panic explode on our computer and television screens every day.  it’s easy for fear to strangle confidence.  it’s understandable why, to me,  people are reduced to paranoia.  but i either need to believe the word of god, or not.  i do.  For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.  1 Timothy 1:7

i am a peacemaker.  when the angry crowd came to take jesus away by force, peter raised his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest…in an act of defiance, to protect what was his.   Jesus said, “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Matthew 26:52  

now i know people interpret this teaching in different ways.   i am not ignorant of the sociopolitical issues.  (the role of the military and the police for our protection is clearly set out in scripture.)   but i am consumed with the awareness that jesus has called me to be a peacemaker.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9   it would have been easy, and vastly preferred by his disciples, for jesus to take his kingdom by force.   but no matter how hard i look, i just can’t see defending and defeating evil through physical violence being the way of jesus.  his way was different.  he was different. i must be different.

 like i said yesterday, coexisting in a world of darkness…as people of light…is no simple task.

love is the better way.  to be honest, in a world of brokenness, sin, perversion, evil and fear…this is a totally ridiculous statement.  it goes against my nature.  at my core, i am self-centered.  treating others the way they deserve to be treated just makes more sense.  and it’s easier.  it takes no discipline.  it satisfies my basic craving.

terror and fear can turn to hate and anger in a heartbeat.  and they can make us do some crazy things.

faith…trust…belief…hope…obedience…love?

yeah.  a much better way.

50 Life-changers…#2

2this is the weekly installment of fifty life-changing events in my life…fifty different situations i found myself in, that helped shape the person i’ve become, for better or worse.  i am certainly more than the sum total of these events, but there is no doubt i would be significantly different without them!

i’ve been around boys all my life.

my career goal out of high school, until i started doing church youth ministry in my mid twenties, was to be national director of boys and girls clubs.  my first real job in college was a gym and playfield director at my local boy’s club down the street from the house i grew up in.

i know boys.  and one characteristic of little boys…and most of them as they grow up into big boys…is fighting.  boys love to wrestle.  boys love to compete.  boys love to stand their ground.  and those boys who aren’t really that way have to live in the same world boys who are.

and fighting happens.

part of life is learning to live with bullies.  today, bullying is well-known.  everybody knows it is wrong.  kids are educated about it from the time they start school.  but in my day, bullies ruled the school playground and you just had to learn how to navigate the choppy waters.

i have been in one fist fight in my life.  one.  and i’ll never forget it.  i was eight years old and in the second grade.  i was at my friend’s house, when one of the neighborhood bullies walked by.  i was younger than most of my friends, but i was pretty athletic and i was always picked for the kickball team, because i could kick the ball father than all of the older boys.

sometimes, that didn’t set too well with the older guys.

anyway, the bully started to poke at me and make fun of me and talk all kinds of trash about me, so i did what i had seen other boys do:  i stood up for myself.  it seemed like the right thing to do.  words escalated to face to face.  face to face turned to chest to chest.  chest to chest turned to shoving.

and the next thing i knew, the bully had me pinned to the ground with his knees on my shoulders and he was pummeling my face with his fists.

as best as i can remember, my friends must have pulled him off and i have this vague memory of him walking away laughing as i drug my bloodied, embarrassed face home to mommy.  oh, the shame.

i have been a peacemaker ever since.  i’m a lover, not a fighter.  i use my words, not my fists.

so when jesus talked, turning the other cheek has never been a hard command for me to follow.

it beats getting the crap beat out of you.

A Facebook thought…

i spent some time on facebook this afternoon.

i never write on my wall…and seldom on anybody else’s.   my twitter , instagram,  and blog are all linked to FB and just show up there automatically when i post something on those other accounts.

most of the time,  whenever i go to FB, i am usually just checking group pages that i am connected to.

if you’re a facebooker,  you know i don’t comment very much,  either…and that’s because i don’t read my news feed very often,  at all.   sorry.   but i did today.   and here are a few things i’m thinking…

my FB friends span 47 years.  

i have a lot of really funny friends.   i mean a bunch of ROTFLOL kinds of friends.

there’s a reason why i choose twitter and blogging over facebook as my social medias of choice.   i tweet because i can only use 140 characters and it keeps me from saying too much.   i blog because i can take the time to explain myself,  when necessary.

suspect i have a number of FB friends who are not particularly interested in what i think…about anything.   i’m cool with that.  wanda’s always interested.

on the other hand, people who read my blog are,  more than likely,  interested in my take on things.  i hope.  that’s why i work really hard to say something worth reading.   the way i look at it,  people really need to be educated on the greatness of the padres and the chargers.

finally,  i’m pretty overwhelmed by the friends i see represented on facebook.

so many people who have helped shape me and mold me.   people who challenge my thinking and force me out of my comfort zones.   people who represent the very best of who god has brought into my life.

when i scroll down through my friends,  i see unbelievable diversity…theological…geographical…political…and cultural.   i have friends of radically different socio-economic status…education…life experience.   i have friends who will probably never see eye-to-eye on really important issues.

but they are all my friends.  and today,  i am really grateful for all of them (you).

i love having a huge table of fellowship.   it’s not always easy.   but i am better for it.   i am deeper,  wiser,  more compassionate,  more understanding,  more patient…and significantly better equipped to live in a world of immense diversity…because all of my friends are not like me.   and i am not totally like them,  either.

the apostle paul would have never commanded us “…to live at peace with everybody, as far as it depends on us…”,  if it was something that we would naturally be inclined to do (romans 12:14-21).

hey.  if it was easy,  we wouldn’t need jesus.

The spirituality of a jeep ride

yesterday,  i went for a drive in my jeep.   it was a perfect driving day.

blue skies.   no wind.   the smell of freshly cut grass was everywhere…along with the fragrance of bluebonnets beside the country roads.   it was late in the morning,  so it was still brisk…but perfect for shorts and a sweatshirt.

as i drove,  i was overwhelmed with peace.   and gratitude.   and the awareness that i was undeserving of the moment.

i wanted to make time stand still.   in those few minutes that i was driving,  it felt like everything was right and good and hopeful and full of the very best of life.

the irony was that my soul was hurting.   my world  (which is lives of people)  was filled with the chaos of messy lives.   not one or two,  but many.   some near.   some far away.   but each one close to my heart.

in spite of the beauty and serenity of my drive,  i was super aware there were  many of my friends who couldn’t enjoy the same moment i was having.   the darkness of their situations would rob them.   depression and anxiety has left them emotionally impotent.   fear and sadness overshadow the simple pleasures of smell and sight and touch.   joy…along with elvis…has left the building.

am i overstating?   perhaps.   but i don’t think so.

i’ve been there before.   there have been times my own poor life choices have rocked my world and stolen my peace.   there have been times that the stupidity and sinfulness of others has left me bitter and full of questions.   there have been plenty of other times that the unexplained has created such a mess of my emotions and my decision-making…well,  let’s just say i was paralyzed in mind and heart…and wasn’t much more than a spiritual cripple.

i don’t know what it’s going to take for you to taste grace.   i suspect it may be more than a jeep ride.

but it’s there for you to take back.

the mystic side of my makeup knows that the fruit of the spirit is real…and that love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and meekness and self-control are all evidence of a life filled with the reality and presence of jesus.   he produces those characteristics and graces in the lives of those that know him and who surrender by faith.

this is truth.

it is also true that disobedience to god’s commands and stubborn self-centeredness will shackle the power of god’s presence in our lives and leave us victims of the mess we created.

the road back is not an easy one.   but it’s not complicated.

then it can be time for a jeep ride.

Peace

*sorry for the dry stretch…been battling emptiness lately.

peace.

we all want it.   we all need it.   our lives are full of conflict and disappointments…turmoil and failures….controversy and misunderstanding.

it’s inevitable.   we’re imperfect.   we live in a world of sin.

but peace is available.   peace is possible.   peace is within our grasp.

i have a friend i have known for over 35 years.   we’ve only seen each other a couple of times since our move to texas.   he and his wife have moved on and live in a state of semi-retired bliss.   but his work is not finished.   he still has an effect on my life every now and then.

often…when i find myself in one of those moments when the chaos of conflict is forcing its way into my life,  i remember my friend.   because he knew peace….and taught me about it.   his example and teaching made a difference.

jesus said,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   John 1633

james said,  “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”   James 4:1

paul said,  “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice…”   Colossians 3:8

like i said,  the opposite of peace is everywhere.   its all around us.   squeezing us.   manipulating us.   conning us.   exerting it’s will on us.   creating havoc.   disrupting sacred tranquility.   robbing us of joy.   leaving us for dead.

but i choose to believe all of scripture,   and not just the parts that reinforce what i’m feeling or the journey i am on.

paul also said,  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:6-7

i choose to believe this is true.   i choose to believe that god is bigger.   i choose to believe that the presence and reality and genuineness of the almighty can bring peace to my heart.   anytime.   anywhere.   no matter what.

the peace of god…the absolute veracity of god’s truth and reality overshadowing the puniness of my situation at any moment in time…is mine for the taking.

in the face of horrific blunders and catastrophic failures and broken world messes…i can experience rest and confidence and hope.

peace.   it is that place where i know that god’s truth is always  better than my feelings and emotions.   where god’s wisdom is  always  better than my flawed perceptions of what would be best for my life.   where god’s good sense is vastly superior to my stupid,  selfish opinions.

i love peace.   when i am not there…when worry and anger and frustration and fear and judgment cloud my vision and self-centeredness steals my inner calm…i cannot act with prudence and sacred caution is thrown to the wind.

hey…i didn’t dream up peace.   but i will take it.

i am grateful that a friend of mine showed me that walking in peace…even in the most difficult of circumstances…was possible.

i hope my peaceful path will do the same for others.

Boxes

i’m not an angry guy.

somewhere along the line,  the words of scripture sank into my heart.   statements like,  “live at peace with everybody”  and  “don’t let the sun go down on your anger”  and  “make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace”  became more than religious platitude.

i took them seriously and made them my daily life goals.   i believe those statements to be more than lofty ideals.   i believe them to be absolute commands of the creator of the universe.

for real.

but that doesn’t mean i don’t struggle with a lot of stuff.    hey…if it wasn’t hard,  the apostle paul wouldn’t have had to tell people to make every effort!

here’s one of my biggest struggles:   i wish people wouldn’t assume that all people who call themselves “christians” are alike.

it seems like its so easy for people to make assumptions about christians…or “religious” people.   but its wrong to put everybody in the same box.   we may share common core beliefs…or even some similar behaviors and attitudes…but however much we hold in common is blown up by the depth of our diversity.

i don’t assume all women are lesbians…just because some are.

i don’t assume all teachers are lazy and uninspired…just because some are.

i don’t assume all coaches are bullies…just because some are.

i don’t assume everybody who rides a harley is a thug…just because some are.

i don’t assume all african-americans play basketball…just because some do.

i don’t assume all democrats are socialists and stupid…just because some are.

i don’t assume all republicans are arrogant and racist…just because some are.

i don’t assume all poor people are looking for a handout…just because some are.

i don’t assume all men are gay…just because some are.

i don’t assume everybody who drinks is an alcoholic…just because some are.

i don’t assume everyone who is homeless is uneducated…just because some are.

i don’t assume every texan is ignorant…just because some are.

i don’t assume every californian is a fruitcake…just because some are.

do you get my point?

just because i claim to be a follower of christ,  don’t put me in a box that you have created for me.

thank you.

Axioms…from my perspective

normally, i dedicate thursdays to giving some of my personal life axioms…truth that, from my perspective, is self-evident. sometimes practical. sometimes philosophical. sometimes whimsical. but truth, no less.

and i’m late, again.

“home is where peace resides”

the world is a crazy place!  there needs to be a space in our lives that is safe from all the attacks that chip away at our self worth and threaten our sensibilities.

there needs to be a retreat where we can wander any time, day or night, where we can be refreshed and be around genuine love and laughter…a place where we can breathe and think and play and relax and be accepted for exactly who we are…a place that affirms, protects, builds up, and makes life better, rather than tearing it down.  that is what my home is.  yours should be, also.

home should be a place where peace resides and unresolved conflict is not welcome.   a place of safety and an everyday “sanctuary” from fear and judgment and pressure and all the things that rob our joy and steal our confidence.

i realize that a lot people want their home to be the place where they don’t have to put on masks.  a place to be authentic and the people we really are.  unfortunately, for many that means a place where yelling is normal…walls are erected…silent treatments are given…doors are slammed…sarcasm is tolerated…rebellion is evident…forgiveness is absent…and power is reserved for those who can manipulate the best.

my house may not be the biggest or prettiest one on the block, but it will always be the one where peace resides.  it takes work.  it takes a commitment.   it takes compromise.  it takes a partner willing to make the same.

more than anything else, it takes surrender.  the surrender of rights and privileges and entitlement and the whole idea that i (we) am at the center of my world.  peace is worth it.  you see, peace is not the absence of turmoil.  it’s the presence of joy and purpose.

yup.  that’s my home.