Responding to Tragedy

12 dead, 50 wounded, all shot in a movie theater. No, this isn’t somewhere in the Middle East, it’s here in America. Not that that should matter, but to be honest, I guess it does to me. I suppose I’ve found some way to emotionally disconnect myself from the tragedies that occur in places where I’ve never been. So when I hear the news stories about 12 dead or even 12-hundred dead in places like Syria, or Iran, I just divert my attention to something more pleasant like, say, a snack maybe, or a “King of Queens” rerun. Surely it’s on somewhere.

But this tragedy hits closer to home. Just two states over, in Aurora, Colorado. I’ve been there or at least I’ve driven through there on my way to somewhere else. The point is, this affects me more personally and therefore I’m more willing to connect emotionally and allow myself to even grieve a little.

I realize this makes me sound like a narcissistic jerk, but I’m just trying to process this honestly. And honestly, I am very narcissistic in how I live my life and view the world around me. It’s pretty much all about me. I know it’s not supposed to be, but it is. I have sought to change this in my life and I have made some pretty good strides in this area, but I suppose it will be a lifelong struggle for me.

Anyway, the point of this blog was not supposed to be all about me. (See how sneaky narcissism is). But I guess I’ll just go with it since I don’t want this to be a real long blog.

Tragedies like these tend to change our perspective on our current reality. They mess with our priorities. Thinking about the families of the dead and injured victims has stopped me from obsessing over my sore toe, at least for now. It’s caused me to think more about my family. I want to talk to them… to hug them.

Just before Sally left for work this morning, she remembered that she needed to deliver a message from someone at church who had a minor complaint. It bugged me and made me grunt under my breath. About an hour after she left, I realized I didn’t kiss her goodbye. Today, of all days, as our nation grieves over the senseless loss of life, this is the day to remember to cherish those we love.

I’m stopping here, because I need to head to Sally’s work and make things right.



Has Paul’s Letters Become the Letter of the Law?

Facebook, like many other sources of media, can be used for good or evil. Having to endure the unending  requests to join FarmVille and MyCalendar has caused me to suspect that they might be the very spawn of Beelzebub himself.

Recently, I posted a somewhat controversial article on my Facebook page. Several of my friends “liked” it and even commented on it. As a matter of fact, one of my friends liked it so much she “shared” it on her Facebook page as well. But unfortunately she did not like what happened next. Within a matter of minutes she started receiving some harsh, and even snarky comments. Then some of her friends started sparring back and forth on her page arguing over theology and doctrinal issues that weren’t even related to the original intent of the post. It became so upsetting to her that she had to pull down her Facebook page so everyone could cool off. It was bizarre and pretty discouraging.

I say it was discouraging because, as a Christian, I want so much for my unbelieving friends to open up to the love of Christ. But I’m afraid when they see how his followers treat each other on Facebook or in person, all in the name of who’s got the best argument, they will reject what we stand for and want nothing to do with the church. Facebook, I think, feeds this problem because people tend to be bolder and less gracious when commenting on religion or politics online. There seems to be some false sense of anonymity, along with a lack of accountability that feeds this “lack of filter” problem.

When I read confrontational comments that are mixed with sarcasm and accusations of heresy, I wonder what is driving this person’s emotional reaction. Is it motivated out of love or anger? Is this person actually overreacting because maybe somewhere deep down inside they are trying to deny their own doubts or lack of faith? Or maybe it’s caused by fear that what they have believed all their lives might not be completely accurate. But then again, perhaps it is motivated out of love, tough love. I just wish they would consider adjusting the tone of their delivery.

Much of the controversy centers around various interpretations of scripture and/or how each person believes the Bible should be interpreted. Maybe I’m wrong here, but why does the Apostle Paul seem to be in the middle of many of these controversies today? We all tend to find direct quotes from his many letters to prove that our viewpoint or interpretation on scripture and doctrine is, in fact, the correct one.

Here’s what I find so fascinating and ironic about all this; most of what Paul was trying to do in his letters was to bring peace and reconciliation to believers who were in disagreement with one another. Many of these disagreements were over law or tradition versus faith and grace.

In Galatians 3:23-25, Paul explains, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

So here’s what I find so ironic; Paul spent his ministry guiding the new church into accepting freedom in Christ through faith. He strove to help free the new converts from being bound by the law. Yet today, it seems that many in the church have now turned Paul’s very words into a new law. And this new law must only be interpreted a certain way if the person wants to be considered a Christian in good standing. We must all believe everything with a uniformity of interpretation or we will be accused of being a heretic, the one word no Christian wants to be accused of.

So, my prayer is that the church will become a refuge of love and acceptance where every person can feel safe to grapple with their faith instead of an atmosphere of rules and suspicion where no one feels they can honestly admit they struggle with doubt or sin.

What do you think? Have we turned Paul’s letters into law that must be followed to the letter of the law?

This is America

The boat sends shivers of ripples along the surface of the calm waters. Everyone on board is quiet and reflective as we pass through the tropical lagoon. It’s hard to imagine this beautiful place being the scene of such violent devastation. But he doesn’t have to imagine. It’s as real to him today as it was seventy years ago.

The deep creases in his weathered and whiskered face tell only a hint of the old man’s story. Perhaps, many of his stories have never been told; stories too unbearable to share, yet too painful to forget. He has done his best to move forward; marrying his high school sweetheart, and going to work every day to provide a safe home for his growing family.

Everyone rises to their feet in honor of this old man as he disembarks the boat setting his weary feet on the hallowed ground of the USS Arizona Memorial. One of the last living survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack that occurred December 7, 1941, he represents what is best about America. He helps us remember the Day of Infamy.

The crowd respectfully follows this American hero on to the platform suspended over the sunken ship that entombs nine hundred of his fallen brothers. Flowers fall into the dark water of the harbor, floating on the blue surface stained with black tears bubbling from the watery grave.

But even in the somberness of this memorial scene, I am delightfully surprised to discover this ship graveyard has become a living reef for the beautiful schools of fish that swim here. Nature has turned that which was dead into a living sanctuary of new creation.

I am grateful for these heroes, both dead and alive, for the sacrifice they made for their country; for their courage to face the enemy and for their perseverance to rebuild and redeem the tragedy and devastation of war.

Yes, I am grateful. As I return home from my memorial experience, to reengage my everyday life of job and family, I reflect on this elder hero with deep appreciation. Because of him, I have the opportunity to pursue my personal happiness in a free and prosperous nation.

As I travel the well-paved highways of our country to celebrate our independence with other members of my family, I am grateful. Many American heroes made this possible with their sweat, their blood, their very lives.

As I gather with family and friends, enjoying the bounty of burgers and barbeque, I am satisfied far beyond my expanding waistline. Cold bottles and red cups filled with ice cold relief are raised in honor of the men and women throughout our country’s history who made each and every feast possible.

My heart explodes with every “oo” and “ah” as we sit under spacious skies illuminated with spectacular displays of color and sound. I delight in seeing the fireworks reflected in the eyes of my children and grandchildren as we gather together under the booming ballet of light. I am grateful.

This is America; generation after generation, inheriting the blessing of freedom and passing it on to the next.