God moves

I heard them before I saw them.

And I heard them for a long time.

I was hitchhiking across rural roads in Missouri and hadn’t seen much beyond abject poverty for what felt like most of my life.

The night before, I sat with my back against a tree in front of a church and watched the sun set — magnificent reds, oranges, purples and blues blended across the sky like chalk, from horizon to horizon.

That was the cool of the evening. In the stark, sun bleached heat of the day it was just miserable. Little shade and fewer businesses.

And then the fluttering sound — like flags or canvas sails. I walked alone slowly, steadily, my arm outstretched to the intermittent traffic.

Fluttering.

The road stretched into nowhere, cutting through empty fields. I looked in every direction for the source of the crazy flutter.

Nothing but the sound.

I kept walking.

Fluttering. But no flagpoles and certainly no sailboats.

Then I heard the voices.

Again I stopped and listened.

Emptiness all around. Several people talking, their words clear across the open expanse and amid the fluttering.

That’s when I looked up.

Skydivers.

Layers of parachutes filled the clear, blue sky. Colorful canopies bursting open, so high that I couldn’t see the people wearing them. Little puffs of fluttering canvas, like tiny clouds of smoke.

People hundreds of yards in the sky talking like they were sitting on a bench.

Then I saw the plane, lifting off from the small airfield. Minutes later, a stream of dots falling from the plane.

God works the same way. In your wildernesses day, alone or among strangers, God is there.

Even before you recognize it, God is already there.

Be still and listen.

You can literally look up and see the wonders of God written across the sky.

Leaning against that tree in Missouri, watching the wide, wide sky, I had no idea who God was.

The boy who gave me a ride, who was not much older than myself, had gone into the church. I suppose he invited me in, but I couldn’t see God working. Not even when I watched God’s magnificence painted across the sky.

Like admiring music with no idea who plays it, I could see the effects, but not the cause.

God vibrates in the softest notes.

God is the gentle breeze in the heat of the day.

God is in the connections between people.

God moves, in the world, in our lives, in the endless pulse of the ocean waves.

God moves.

God moves.

Advertisements
Posted in Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

50

I turned 50 recently.

The age where we realize there are more yesterdays than tomorrows.

Half a century.

All the coins in my pocket are younger than I.

The most recent Supreme Court Justice is younger than I am.

At 20, I was months away from being arrested and more than 15 years away from recognizing God working in my life.

By age 36 I published two books.

June 17, 2003, I was baptized.

At age 42 I earned my Master of Divinity degree.

And at age 47 I became a father for the first time.

In 30 years I’ve experienced more shifts in my view of the world than I would have imagined possible.

I once supported capital punishment in the case of cop killers and terrorism — attacks against society. As a Christian I oppose all executions because Jesus was executed. Despite how some people behave, I believe God can help anyone be redeemed, and executions prevent redemption.

Redemption is possible daily for each of us. (Redemption.)

At 20, I was progressive politically and enjoyed the Grateful Dead. At 50, the teaching of Jesus has made me even more progressive and accepting of others. (But I no longer enjoy sweaty, dirty arena concerts and the hours it take to get to and from them. Jerry is gone and so too is my desire to follow the Dead on the road.)

God knows who we are, and loves us unconditionally. When we allow ourselves to feel the unconditional love of God we are able to extend that love to others. I didn’t know this at 20. I try to live it at 50.

At 20, like most 20 year-olds, I thought I had things figured out.

In seminary I worked at a retirement community where I talked with very elderly people who felt they didn’t have anything figured out. Their long lives left them with more questions than answers.

At 50 I accept the fact that I will never figure things out. I try not to waste energy looking for answers that don’t exist.

In the past 30 years I’ve tried to accept myself and others and each day as we are, not as I want them to be.

When I consider the past 30 years and the 30 years to come, I suspect my views will shift even more in ways I haven’t imagined.

As you look back and look ahead, considering the significant events that comprise your life, I wish you equanimity to accept the past and courage to face the future. May you have the strength of Muhammad Ali to stand up for what you believe, to take risks and to try new things.

Release the past to fully embrace the present and view the world differently, from this moment on.

Posted in culture, Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus had two dads

When I adopted our daughter, Joseph became my new favorite Biblical character.

Posted in culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Save the People

This song comes into my head often…

So I thought I’d post it here, to make it easy to return to.

And when I’m in the mood for the original…

… and the movie…

Shall crime bring crime forever
Strength aiding still as strong?
Is it thy will, O Father
That men shall toil
For wrong?
Oh, no, say thy mountains
No, say thy skies
Man’s clouded sun shall brightly rise
And songs be heard, instead of sighs
God save the people!

When wilt thou save the people!?
Oh God of mercy when!?
The people, Lord! The people!!
Not thrones and crowns,
But Men!

Posted in culture, Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

He Was My Brother

On June 21, 1964, in Neshoba County, Mississippi, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner were assassinated as they worked for civil rights.

A deputy sheriff assisted in their murders.

They died so others could be free.

He was my brother
Five years older than I
He was my brother
Twenty-three years-old the day he died
Freedom rider
They cursed my brother to his face
“Go home, outsider,
This town is gonna be your buryin’ place
He was singin’ on his knees
An angry mob trailed along
They shot my brother dead
Because he hated what was wrong
He was my brother
Tears can’t bring him back to me
He was my brother
And he died so his brothers could be free
He died so his brothers could be free

© 1963 Words and Music by Paul Simon

Posted in Civil Rights, in the news, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude

“Thank you,” I said as calmly and sincerely as I could. “Thank you very much.”

I have a problem with my tone. For as long as I can remember. My voice doesn’t always communicate emotions I try to convey.

I sound sarcastic or angry or frustrated when I don’t intend to.

The upside is, with my quick wit and sarcastic tone, I’m very funny. The downside is I often sound sarcastic when I’m sincere.

(This was particularly unfortunate when I served in congregational ministry. But that’s a story for another time.)

Last month we returned home to find several cars in front of the house. I hadn’t properly closed the gate, and our year-old puppy had gotten out of the fenced-in backyard and ran around the neighborhood like a year-old puppy.

A neighbor we didn’t know already had our dog in his car and was preparing to leave a note.

When I thanked the neighbor, i didn’t properly demonstrate my gratitude to him and the others who helped keep our dog safe. I was angry with myself for not closing the gate securely. I was frustrated with our goofball dog for running around foolishly. My tone didn’t properly communicate my appreciation.

Almost immediately, I realized my tone of voice, but I was trying to wrangle the dog by his collar while the neighbors moved towards their cars. Did I mention he’s a purebred Chocolate Lab who weighs nearly 80 pounds?

I thought a lot about my voice that day. I even thought about calling the neighbor and thanking him again, but I didn’t.

A month later, our three year-old was eager to get to daycare. While I was in the kitchen, she opened the door to look outside — no shoes, no socks, no coat. I wasn’t worried, we were talking the whole time and I knew she wasn’t going outside.

I got her dressed without any toddler incidents and as we cheerfully gathered our things to leave I asked her to put the dog out.

“Oshie,” she called in her little voice, sliding open the patio door. He’d gone upstairs while we were getting our shoes on.

“Oshie, outside,” I hollered.

“Where is he?” I asked, looking in the bathroom.

“Where is he?” she repeated. She rushed from room to room, calling his name.

“Did he go out when you had the door open?”

“Yeah,” she said, her eye wide with the realization.

I grabbed his leash and went to the door.

We’re six houses away from the main road — about six seconds for a year-old puppy running at full speed.

“Stand on the porch and call him,” I said as we went outside. “Stay right there and keep calling him. If he comes home, go inside with him and close the door behind you. Do you understand?” She nodded. “Let me hear you call him,” I said as I crossed to the neighbor’s yard.

Her little voice carried as I walked across the yard next door. I kept her in sight as I circled towards the road.

And then I saw him. He was on the other side of the busy main road; being held by a woman who had stopped her car. Several others were with her, a string of parked cars on the side of the road.

With two lanes of cars passing between us, the dog struggling to pull away from the woman holding his collar, I called out, “Oshie, sit.”

Thankfully, he did. I focused my attention not on the dog or the situation, but on the people.

“Thank you,” I said as sincerely as I could as I crossed the street. “Thank you very much.”

I attached the leash to his collar while I commanded him to stay.

“Thank you all for stopping,” I said. I looked at each of them and smiled. “My three-year-old opened the back door and let him out.”

For some of us, gratitude comes naturally and easily, born from a willingness to be vulnerable and transparent. For others it’s difficult to offer thanks because it means admitting our need for help.

I am in desperate need of help every time our dog runs blindly in the road. (He did it again while I was writing this. Twice. The second time, he managed to unlock the gate with his paw. Animal control has my number on speed dial.)

I tried to respond to strangers with a level of gratitude equal to the fear I felt when he was running away.

I hope I succeed. I hope people understood how grateful I was for their help. I hope they felt appreciated and important because they were very important.

Every person is important, in someway. Even the worst, most difficult people can helpfully remind us that not everyone is like them.

Everyone deserves the best I can give at any moment.

And so I will continue to be intentional in my gratitude and strive to give to others the grace that is given to me.

Posted in Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

One of my proudest moment’s online

One of my proudest moment’s online.

This literally brought a tear to my eye.

His Empire-based version of Christianity has nothing in common with the teaching of Jesus.

If he dislikes my comments so much that he blocks me, that means I must be doing something right.

Posted in culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God and climate change

This understanding of God …

… is a problematic understanding.

God will take care of climate change, but Rep. Walberg took things into his own hands when it came time to help 20 million people lose their health insurance.

Walberg will put his faith in God when it applies to the environment, but he’ll rely on his own judgment in regards to cutting much needed services for the poor to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.

I don’t understand the type of Christian that Walberg claims to be. I do understand it… he’s the sort of Christian who misrepresents God and Jesus and as a result drives people away from the true God who created the Earth and everything that’s in it.

How can you call yourself a Christian, and not strive to be a responsible steward of God’s creation? It’s easy, if you worship a god of money and power and not a God of love and humility.

His nonsensical view of the most important environmental issue of the Century reminds me of an old joke.

Officials warned residents that a terrible storm would soon flood the town and that  everyone should evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian decided to stay, saying, “I pray that God will save me.”

As the Christian stood on his porch watching the rain and the flood, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Get in my boat, the water is rising!”

“No thanks,” the man said, “I’ve prayed the Lord will save me.”

The floodwaters rose, and he ran to the second floor, where he saw a police motorboat.

“Get ready,” they shouted, “We’ll come rescue you!”

The man waving them off.

“I’m okay,” he said. “Go help someone else. I’m a Christian, and I trust God will save me.”

The flood rose higher and the man found himself on his rooftop.

A helicopter hovered overhead and the officer called out, “hold on, we’ll lower a rope to you!”

“Don’t bother,” the Christian said. “I’ve prayed, and God will save me.”

Minutes later, the house was washed away and the man carried to his death.

When he arrived in Heaven, the confused Christian stood before God, and said, “I’m a Christian. I prayed for your help. Why didn’t you save me?”

The Lord said, “I sent a canoe. I sent a motorboat and the helicopter. What else did you expect me to do?”

The Earth is giving humanity warnings.

The Lord is giving us help. God has given us knowledge and experts and ways to solve climate problems, but Christians are steadfastly refusing God’s help.

What more do we expect God to do?

Posted in culture, Faith, in the news, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John Muir

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Liberty

Trump is giving the graduation address at Liberty University, which claims to be the largest Christian college.

Are those who accommodate, accept or ignore evil any better than the evil doer? I don’t think so.

Trump is a liar, an adultery, a bigot, a racist, a misogynist and everything Jesus was against.

To accept Trump is to reject everything Jesus taught and everything the Jewish prophets proclaimed.

There are millions of Christians who follow Jesus and reject this worldly, twisted idea of Christianity.

We must be more vocal in our support of Jesus and repudiate the false teachings of those who claim to be Christian while they embrace hate.

 

Posted in culture, Faith, in the news, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Embracing evil

When some Christians talk about Jesus, they are simply wrong. Their politics are more important than the actual teaching of Jesus, and so they’ve twisted Jesus into something that’s not in the Bible and clearly not the message of Jesus.

Such is the case of the people around Trump.

http://time.com/4766485/national-day-prayer-white-house-dinner/

“Most of Trump’s evangelical advisory board flew in for the event, including Trump’s longtime spiritual advisor Paula White, Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, evangelist Franklin Graham, Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, South Carolina televangelist Mark Burns, Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed, and others. They were joined by top White House officials, including Vice President Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.

“Guests at Trump’s table included White, Jeffress and Marcus Lamb, CEO of the Christian television network Daystar….

“Acclaimed evangelical musician Steven Curtis Chapman performed his songs “Be Still and Know” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, gave a benediction, and Trump then invited everyone up to the residence for a brief after party, complete with a tour of the Lincoln bedroom and the Truman balcony, before shaking hands again….

“Tomorrow is going to be a really big day, sometime between 11 and 11:30 in the morning, the President will sign an executive order that will administratively repeal the Johnson amendment and repeal the Obamacare restrictions on conscience and religious freedom, and about 90 minutes to two hours later, the House of Representatives will repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood,” Reed says. “That’s about as big a day as the social conservative movement has had in its history.”

Followers of Jesus don’t celebrate poor people losing access to affordable healthcare.

I’m reminded of the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The leaders were on the outside, and then when they got inside, they were just as bad as the previous oppressors. Christians should not celebrate with the leaders of society as they strip poor people of their healthcare and discriminate against other religions.

Some Christian leaders today are so intent on power, they have given their loyalty to a lying, bigoted, racist, philandering, adulterous, serial sexual assaulter. And then claim he’s the Godly candidate. By their association, they have befouled themselves and the name of God.

Their version of Christianity is not the message of Jesus.

I can’t make it any more plain.

They are not following Jesus.

This is not of God.

They might be good people. I don’t know. But they are misleading good people.

The president they embrace and the policies they support are anti-Christian and not the teachings of Jesus. They have embraced evil and called it good.

“Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
    and clever in their own sight.” ~ Isaiah 5 : 20-21

 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

Posted in Civil Rights, culture, Faith, in the news, Prayer | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Where is decency?

How long would you permit someone to abuse another, before you step up?

How long would you stay around someone telling racist jokes, before you walk away?

How long do you let a man make derogatory and sexist comments about women, before you say something?

How long would you watch a bully harass and abuse others, before you intercede?

How long do you remain silent when the weak and powerless are attacked and victimized by the powerful?

Why would you associate with racist, sexist, bigoted people?

I’m not talking about politics. I’m asking about common decency.

Where is your decency?

Decent people don’t remain  silent when others lose their rights, their health insurance or their dignity.

Decent Christians don’t choose politics over people.

Decent Christians don’t support politicians who systematically promote policies that hurt the poor or dismantle programs that help the less fortunate.

When did partisan politics replace our decency?

Some want government to reflect a morality of violence, aggression, scarcity, and oppression.

Others want government to reflect a morality that embraces diversity, inclusion, abundance,  justice, and charity for all.

Only one view represents a Biblical, Christian worldview.

When you approve of racism, sexism, bigotry and bullying; if you accept the government limiting the rights of others; if you think taxes should be spent on tools of war and not health care, education, libraries, roads and bridges; then the message of Christ is so foreign that it’s meaningless.

When you approve of racism, sexism, bigotry and bullying; if you accept the government limiting the rights of others; if you think taxes should be spent on tools of war and not health care, education, libraries, roads and bridges; then the message of Christ is so foreign that it's meaningless.

Posted in culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment