Archives For July 2012

Let’s face it. It was a bad week.

If you are an American, you must be sleeping under a rock to miss the fact that this past week a gunman marched into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater to shoot and kill 12 people while wounding 58. I left my phone on by my side that night and the news alerts started beeping at 2:30 am. The emotions I felt after hearing the news was probably most like you. Sadness. Confusion. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Hopelessness. Add to it the news of key leaders within Penn State University covering up child sexual abuse for almost 13 years, I had enough. My emotion became rage.

I pay pretty close attention to the news and you might have missed a few other tragedies this past week. I can understand why the media focuses so much on the most dramatic stories like Aurora but when we identify with the tragedy in a closer way and perhaps even know the lost, it hits harder. Here is some of what happened.

  • 103 people were killed in one single day in Iraq
  • A typhoon hit Hong Kong
  • 15 people in southeastern Texas were killed in a tragic truck accident
  • 3 dead in Chicago in gang fights with 17 injured
  • 2 little girls were abducted in Iowa
  • Famed first female American astronaut Sally Ride passed away
  • I met a friend this week whose young son passed away in December
  • My friend’s friend committed suicide

The classic line in the outlandish comedy, Airplane (1980) sums it up,

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Joking aside, these are the reminders that it is not supposed to be this way. We live in a fallen world. It’s not the way God intended it to be but we have to live with it. Death is a reality and it’s just a matter of how, when, and why. You can’t escape it. Years ago when I made a decision to follow Christ, it didn’t take long to recognize that my decision would not necessarily solve all my problems. I probably feel more attacked as a Christian than I did not really understanding Jesus. It’s a journey and a process and everyday I learn something new. I also have plenty of questions, especially in weeks like these. God points me to scripture.

Isaiah 65:17 (NIV)

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

God knows our pain and weeps with us. I don’t want to give up on this world and God sure doesn’t either. He never has and never will until it is his time. The pain on earth always points me back to the first Bible verse I learned after accepting Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

That is exactly why he sent Jesus to die for us. So that we may be in him knowing that in the end there is place where these tears will never appear again.

This tragedy also guides me to the honest, courageous and confident words from Cassie Bernall, a student who was killed at Columbine High School in 1998.

P.S. Honestly, I want to live completely for God. It’s hard and scary. but totally worth it.

See you in heaven, Cassie. I hope to see all of you.

Recently I was deep in a conversation about church with two friends. I don’t even remember what we were talking about and it was probably something trivial. My friend was Catholic and I go to an Episcopal/Anglican church. In response to one of the items discussed the other person said,

You guys don’t go to a real church.

My friend and I were awestruck that he had the audacity make that judgment even though he was semi-joking. For proper context, this person went to a very impressive and cool multi-site/online church. (Yep, I just caught myself judging him right back) I know his church well and I hope you understand this clearly from me – I really love the work that they do. I think God is doing some amazing work through multi-site churches but unfortunately in what I observe among these cutting edge churches is a sense of arrogance that they are the only ones doing God’s work. Too often I see churches acting alone when they could together in unity do so much more. I have obviously contributed to this problem and if I as a follower of Christ do not embrace Ephesians 4:3, then I am a fraud.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Courtesy of Reverendfun.com

What is the call of the church, though?

We need to fish better, together.

After I became a Christian in 1994 through people who cared deeply about me in Young Life, I attended several very conservative churches and really enjoyed them. As I grew as a Christian, I became more aware of the complicated intricacies of “the church.” These nuances have not been something very attractive to me. Maybe Young Life prepared me to keep things simple? Jesus loved me so much that he died for me and by that love I am supposed to love others. That is a strong enough challenge in a cynical world. I love churches full of people doing something. Sign me up now.

Bob Goff said in his latest book Loves Does (Thomas Nelson, 2012),
Secretly incredible people keep what they do one of God’s best-kept secrets because the only one who needs to know, the God of the universe, already knows.
 Bob goes on,
Secretly incredible people just do things.

My church is not perfect and it sure isn’t full of perfect people either. It is part of a denomination that is full of controversy and struggling to grow and find its identify in this changing world. Coming from my background, It has been difficult to find my way in how I can serve well within it. As I attempt to uncover layers of the larger church, I’ve learned about people at my parish church, St. Bartholomew’s Church, who behind the scenes are part of a great caper to serve and love others. These people come from various backgrounds seeking the church as a haven, love Jesus, and are doing incredible things in his name. The genius thing about it is that I don’t hear them bragging about it. These people have embraced their role humbly and are loving others in Jesus’ name the way he calls us. I know of plenty of people at the multi-site church mentioned above who are doing great things as well and that is what inspires me to act.

I don’t really have time for wrapped up theology and endless debates about what so-and-so preacher said in response to what another said. I want genuine people who act. I have no one to blame but myself for taking part in this church madness overtaken by pride. I want what Bob Goff describes. Who’s in?

Can you imagine each church today joining together as clans united in love?

I’m ready to act. I am ready to love the way Christ called me to.

What does church unity look like for you? 

Tell me about some of the unsung heroes of your church who are behind the scenes making a difference and changing the world? 

My Brothers in Arms

July 9, 2012 — 6 Comments

This past week my men’s group had an emotion-filled time spending our last night together at our friend’s house. We have been meeting at his house, primarily his porch, for the past two and a half years. My friend is getting married, moving and off on a new adventure so we can only be happy for him. There is a little sadness in leaving his porch for it has been a place full of great memories, some of joy, some sad but ultimately it was a place of encouragement. It is a place where you are reminded that you never have to walk alone. Our group is moving to a new house with a new story to be told and I’m excited to see what God will do through it. These past years have been special and I’ll never forget them.

My wife knows I need other men like those in my group and I’m thankful she can see how beneficial it is to have these friendships. In my life experience, every man needs a fighting friend or more to navigate life.

The famed Sergeant Bill Guarnere in the book and HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers said it best,

Once we get into combat, they only people you can trust is yourself and the fella next to you.

I don’t have a natural brother so God has instilled something special in me that helps me grab tightly to those like in my men’s group. Throughout the pages in my life story, I have been blessed to have many great friends whom I call brothers. The life chapters have been wonderful with my friends growing up in Kansas City, my Young Life brothers in Christ in St. Louis, my brothers in college in Evansville and this group now. We are brothers in arms, united always fighting through life, celebrating our successes and failures, joy and pain, adversity and adventures.

My brothers, I thank you for fighting with me. As it says in Hebrews 13:1 (ESV), “Let brotherly love continue.” My feelings for you can only be expressed through the Dire Straits song, Brothers in Arms,

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher

And though we were hurt so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

Across The United States this week we are celebrating many things. There is clear political division by health care, an upcoming Presidential election, international conflict, and more. If you watch the news, it is easy to get cynical about America these days.

This past week I met a very nice lady named Hong who has lived in America for twenty years. Hong is a wife, a mother, and a daughter and in her early 40s. She escaped her country for various reasons from what I picked up in conversation. As I listened to her, it was obvious that she came to our country for freedom when she said she was from Saigon. She did not call Saigon “Ho Chi Minh City,” renamed that after the Communist North Vietnam took over in 1975. I did not ask but Hong’s parents could have been those who didn’t get out when our embassy was dramatically evacuated in advance of invading North Vietnamese forces in 1975. It was clear that Hong escaped Vietnam to seek freedom with her family from communism. She and her family came here for a better life.

Hong is Catholic now and has a 10 and 12-year-old son and daughter. She came to the United States as a refugee with her parents, whom when working with a refugee group were able to select Nashville as a home where there were others in her family settling. I am always curious about why people select certain cities when they immigrate because in my ancestry research it was because one family member seemed to find it best and liked it. Soon after the rest followed just like Hong. Many of my ancestors came from Europe and continued to move from the east cost of the United States until eventually setting across the midwest, especially St. Louis on my father’s side. Like Hong’s family, for us in the midwest seemed to be work and family there.

What I appreciated in my interaction with Hong is that she is an entrepreneur trying to make her way and didn’t seem to expect anyone to help her. She was a proud and thankful American even though her accent was incredibly thick. Since moving here in 1992 she took the intentional steps to becoming a citizen. I can imagine Hong this week celebrating Independence Day in a way more meaningful way than most of us eating hot dogs, shooting fireworks, and watching parades. She is living a great story.

I am about 3 or 4 generations removed from when some of my ancestors came to the United States. How quickly I forget how many of my own ancestors escaped to America in such a similar way as Hong. The next time I catch myself complaining about my country, I will think of Hong. Our country is far from perfect but there is a reason people are trying to climb over the fence for a good and honest life here.

Hong will always be my reminder of freedom. 

This Independence Day, take a chance to listen to those who intentionally (especially as a refugee) came to the United States like Hong. You’ll be a better American because of it. 

Happy Independence Day my fellow Americans!

P.S. Truth be told and don’t judge me. I got to know Hong while getting a pedicure with my wife. Okay maybe I deserve to be judged.