Monday, October 09, 2017

#thoughtsandprayers


i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are: 

It has been a season of terrible tragedy.  And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers.  It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way.  People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement.  The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer.  We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all.  But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an empty ritual.  Prayer connects us with God and, when we pray for others in ways that are honest and intentional, it gives us the space to move beyond the quick statement, and into a place where we can truly feel another’s pain, and imagine new ways of meeting people in the midst of that pain, and offering hope.  Prayer is neither a magic wand we wave to try and fix something, nor a kind of spiritual medication we take to make ourselves feel better.  It is a connection with the living God, who calls us to acknowledge our pain, our questions, our anxieties, and our helplessness, while also recognizing God’s love, power, and invitation to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world.  And so we do more than simply offer #thoughtsandprayers, as some might do: we actually pause to pray; to suffer with; to lift another up; to ask how we might be a part of the healing.  So let us pray:

God of life and death and resurrection and hope and victory,

We come to you now, even as the storms once again rage against the shores of our country.  Even as the echoes of gunfire from above ring in our ears.  Even as the cries of our neighbors in Puerto Rico and Mexico, and other places around the world sound in our hearts.  Even now, O Lord, we come before you confessing that at times we feel overwhelmed and overcome.  Even though the earth hasn’t quaked in our corner of the world; even though our streets haven’t flooded in these days; even though the tragedy hasn’t been attached to the name of our town, we still carry this pain, and we don’t know what to do. 

Show us, Lord, first of all, that you are indeed God.  Remind us again that you are our creator, and our redeemer, the healer of all brokenness and the very hope of the world. Rekindle that fire within us, that we might be able to nurture its small light and cause it to shine right where we are.  In all that we say and do, in our work and in our play and in our homes and in the marketplace, and wherever we are, help us to be a people who are constantly shining your light, trusting that you can cause that light to spread from State College to San Juan, from here to wherever it is that is shrouded in darkness.  And then, Lord, open us to your possibilities.  As we meet new people with real pain and real struggles, help us to see how you might be calling us to something more; something active.  If we need to listen, help us to listen.  If we need to work together, help us to build bridges that enable us to do so.  If we need to get busy, show us the ways in which we can begin to make a difference.  We long to live with an urgent focus on your great love, which has saved us and changed us, and which we believe will redeem every broken nook and cranny of this amazing and beautiful and broken world.  So hear our prayer, O Lord, for our own pain, for the pain of our neighbors here in our own places; and for the pain of our neighbors around the world.  Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Lord have mercy.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

charlottesville, houston, and the sun


lord, we are divided.  if the images on your tv screen of angry white men carrying tiki torches in charlottesville didn't demonstrate that to you, then the polarized response to it certainly did. not that this should come as a big surprise. after the election, we knew that there was a chasm between blue and red states and their corresponding voters. and while no oversimplified binary expression of extremes can ever fully paint the picture of who we are as individuals or groups, the way the extremes continue to attract movement to the polar caps of opinion shows just how divided we have become.  of course it doesn't help that we hear what we want to hear in news, social media, and even the marketplace (personalized ads online try to only show me what they know think i am already interested in).  further wedging the divide is the increasing inability to have civil discourse with those who believe/feel/live/love/look/vote differently than us.  when these factors converge we have a "perfect storm" of division. 

 but sometimes in the midst of arguing our positions about healthcare or fake news, something happens that reminds us that we are not as far away from one another as we thought we were. at the very least, they remind us that we are all human beings.  i can't help but think that the flooding in the houston area reminds us of this unifying truth.  the rain falls on republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives, old and young, male and female, native, white, black, latino, and asian (and everyone else) alike.  no one is right or wrong.  the flood rises without discrimination.  there are certainly ways in which some areas will be less likely to receive rescue or aid, and those systemic failures reveal our own racism and classism, but the weather does not discriminate.  everyone is impacted.  And all of us outside of east texas are unified in feeling for our neighbors.  we wish we could help.  whether we are watching the images of overturned trailers and flooded living rooms on fox news or msnbc or cnn or something else altogether, we all feel something: helplessness, empathy, compassion, or a desire to get involved.  


it reminds me of the eclipse last week.  i was at work on monday, armed with a pair of eclipse glasses, staring up at the partly cloudy sky hoping that i could see something.  the experience was remarkable.  here on my corner of planet earth, it looked like pretty much any other monday afternoon in happy valley.  without those magic glasses, i would have had no idea what kind of celestial kaleidoscope was turning in the sky above me.  without those particular lenses, i would have continued on through my monday, doing what was on my agenda, hearing the usual voices and making my routine choices.  but when i put on those glasses, i saw something far bigger than i, bigger than the news and the polls and even bigger than the grief and anger i was feeling since charlottesville.  as i stood there with my glasses, i looked around and saw dozens of students walking by, headed to or from class, or lunch, or whatever, and none of them were aware of what was going on above them.  and i couldn't keep it to myself.  so i started speaking to one particular student as he walked by, "hey, would you want to use my glasses to see the eclipse?"  pretty soon there was a crowd gathering around as everyone wanted  a chance.  and it was my delight, even more than my awe at the eclipse, to watch the response of every person as they put on the glasses: joy, surprise, awe, wonder, excitement, and so much more.  every time someone put on the glasses, i smiled at their experience of what they saw.  one guy's knees nearly gave way as he exclaimed, "no way!  no way!  that is awesome!"  in the half an hour i spent sharing my glasses, they were worn by people of many different races, nationalities, backgrounds, languages, opinions, and political affiliations.  that didn't matter.  this was the sun and the moon which we all share, regardless.  this was our experience, not as those who are divided, but as human beings who are all together on this crazy spinning orb.



which takes me back to charlottesville. maybe i should try to use those lenses more often.  when i'm reading yet another article on my go-to news source, what would it be like if my opinions were eclipsed by the awareness that those with whom i disagree are human beings, endowed by the same creator with the same rights?  we would do well to acknowledge that all of us are God's children - even those spewing the sinful poison of white supremacy - made in the image of God.  the same rain falls on us all.  we're in this together.  i think we tend to forget that.  so let's occasionally bust out whatever kind of eclipse glasses we can find, anything to remind us that we are all breathing the same air, spinning the same way, and bailing each other out of the floods that rise up.  let us look at the creative One who made us all beautifully unique and different until  we are weak in the knees, saying, "no way!  no way!  this is awesome!"  because it is.  we just get too blind to see it.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

happy birthday, Quin

this mad scientist turns six years old today.  he is a laugh-a-minute, dancing, quotable little Quinton, who alternately keeps us young and gives us gray hair.  he likes to cuddle, wear costumes, and dance dance dance.  the other day i watched him dancing to a piece of classical music and he was whispering to himself "focus...focus."  when he was done i asked him, "why were you saying 'focus' to yourself while you were dancing?"  his response?  with a childlike sincerity: "i didn't want to do anything the music didn't tell me to do."  

here's wishing for many years of following the music, and dancing through life with focus, laughter, and joy.  

happy birthday, Quin!

Monday, May 29, 2017

remember (memorial day, 2017)



remember.

today, of course, is memorial day, by definition a day of remembering.  and while i certainly hope that your day is happy and full of the best kinds of joys, i also hope that you find some way and time to remember how it is that these joys came to you.  yes, of course i am thinking about the sacrifices of women and men who served our country whose service included the hefty price of their lives.  even if you don't know any of them, i hope you find a way to remember them somehow, and those who grieve them still.

but i am also thinking of something even more poignant and powerful, at least for me.  when i think about remembering how it is that we have come to enjoy such blessedness, i am hoping you'll consider that every good and perfect gift comes from above (james 1:17).  i am hoping we might take a lesson from the poetry of the Hebrews, who never failed to take the time to remember what God had done for them (check out psalm 105, as one example).  i am hoping we can remember the charge Jesus gave his followers before he left, when he said, "you will be my witnesses."  i am hoping that we can remember that a witness is one who both sees, and then shares what has been seen.  on this memorial day - this day of remembering - i hope we can remember what we have seen, and then take the time to share it.

i remember that God used a move to a different state during my early adolescence, to save me from a path that i didn't even realize i was on, leading to a dark place.  i remember that God somehow got Shannon to say "yes" to me, in spite of all my failings and faults.  i remember countless moments of dealing with consequences of less-than-stellar decisions, and then discovering that i am somehow still loved.  i have seen the miracle of three human births, gifts beyond measure, beating hearts in rhythm with Love.  i have seen friends and laughter over a glass of wine, music that somehow pulled back the curtain on a deeper beauty beyond, and pain that pointed to the One whose heart was broken in love for all of it.  i have seen this.  i am a witness.  i remember.  i hope you will, too.

"remember the wonders God has done..." -psalm 105:6

Sunday, May 14, 2017

happy mother's day, 2017

 it's hard to believe it, but this is the 9th year that the boys and i have been making mother's day videos for Shannon.  Cade was only just a year old when we made our first, and he just turned 10 and will soon finish 4th grade!  we've done videos with a variety of themes: springsteen, athletics, wacky costumes, silent film, and moving, just to name some of them.  as we've gotten more familiar with the process, and as the boys get older, we have more fun planning the scenes, the locations, the costumes, the props, and even the camera work and "special effects."  still, it's a ton of work, and the reason we do it is because we know how blessed we are to have a wife and mother like Shannon, and we feel like these 9 music videos (so far) are all slices of time that she will cherish for the rest of her life.  it's about the best present we could think of, and now its a tradition.  we can only hope that she enjoys them as much as we enjoy making them for her!  

here is this year's video:





and here, in case you want to catch up, are the previous eight:

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Monday, May 08, 2017

gungor?


i just found out that we have the chance to bring Gungor to state college on july 29th of this year for part of their One Wild Life: Acoustic Tour.  we could host them right at St. Paul's!  all i need is $7,000.  no big deal.

seriously.  i need $7,000.  i almost sent them an email back to say we won't be able to do it (i mean, we didn't budget for this or anything, and i'm not sure i can convince my church to invest in something that many of them have never heard of), but then i thought, i'd better wait.  i mean, i have until wednesday to let them know for sure.

so, anyone in state college want to make this happen?  if so, message me.  call me.  just let me know.









Tuesday, April 25, 2017

double digits!



who's ten years old?  this guy!  this tasmanian devil-like bundle of energy and movement and activity. he will be trying to throw a ball over the house one minute, sweeping the garage while wearing roller blades the next, and then wrapping his arms around you in a solid embrace the next.  he is physical.  he is a collector (of anything he can get his hands on...sports cards, presidential antiques, key chains, circuit boards, etc.).  he is athletic.  and he is now ten! happy birthday to the only one of my children who's punctured his soft palate, scored 7 goals in one soccer game, wants to go to antique stores and yard sales, and watches sports with me!