Tag Archives: hope

How to Fight Brokenness, Do Good

The world hurts. All around I see things that are broken, divorces, yelling matches, ongoing jaded arguments, affairs, violence, controlling behavior, bigotry etc. I see things that are not necessarily broken but just ugly, a mean word, negative assumptions, miscommunication, obsession, unhealthy habits, pushing work on to others and more. It all comes down to relationships. Broken and ugly relationships between family members, among friends, students and teachers, politicians and their constituents.

I know friends struggling with a divorce, another an eating disorder, another that feels lonely and neglected, another wasting their life on a career they don’t love. People matter a great deal to me and all of these hurts and pain can be overwhelming. I immaturely can default to just keeping busy in my own world to distract from everything I see. Not only those people I know personally but the eyes and weary faces of those at the grocery store can weigh on my heart.

Even more so I am burdened when it is through my hand that the ugliness comes. From obvious things like saying unkind things to those that are close, being mean to my mother, failing to respect boundaries, or most recently the subtlety of planning to be able to deal with a bad marriage rather than working towards being ready for a great one.

That last one, that subtle move from focusing on negative to positive is very helpful. In a world with the media spewing all of the things gone wrong with the world from violence, to political systems, to laws, child kidnappings, sex trade, etc. Where can we even begin? What really helps? There are those that have a voice and an audience with several million views. Me? I had seven views of my blog yesterday. Mostly from Canada. Where I am pretty sure even thieves say they are sorry.

Do good. Do right. Have compassion. When someone is posting inflammatory language on Facebook, siding with one person or another, listen to their heart. They are probably hurting. Coming back with the other extreme probably won’t help. Even if kind words won’t change their view, they will contribute to beauty in the world and not an ugly argument.

Do good for the world in front of you. You may be able to go out and serve at a homeless shelter or spend hours a week mentoring children at risk. But if you don’t, then simply do good to all of those around you and what touches your heart. Do at risk youth touch your heart? Then play with kids you know. Share words of advice. Encourage them and tell them nice things. Share stories of your life that teach a lesson.

Do divorces pain your heart? Then listen to those struggling in their marriage. Have compassion on the divorced, and do good in your own relationships. Listen, understand, communicate, encourage, write letters, leave notes for others, especially a significant other. Kindly speak up when you see ugly behavior in others that are single or taken.

For me, most of all, I just feel for those that are sad, stressed, burdened or confused. So, I smile. I smile in public, I smile at the gym. I may not change their life, but for a moment I share something meaningful. I am trying to add being as encouraging and uplifting as possible. I believe in the potential of all my friends whether they see it or not. I want to remind them of who they are, because we all forget who we are at times.

The best way to combat wrong is to do right. Actively. That may be actively targeting a specific wrong, or it may just be doing the right thing in your own life. Spread beauty.

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Muslims, Fear, and the Church

My passion is helping to connect the church to the world. Unfortunately the church has stood with many parts of culture that are fundamentally against Christ. These are often subtle and we miss them. I am thankful for several of my good friends outside of the Church to remind me of how we are, or are not, portraying Christ.

The gospel and Christ’ calling is more about what we are supposed to ‘do’ than it is about what we are ‘not to do’. My next several postings will be on the church as they can more effectively live out the gospel as a positive endeavor, rather than a negative calling out against something.

I was outside of a church recently when I was approached by a young-ish man. He loudly pronounced that he was not a threat and he dramatically emptied his pockets of his cell phone, wallet, and keys. Threw off what could be called a jacket and tossed down his hat and proclaimed that he was harmless to everyone minus an upside down cross tattooed on his neck. I ignored the gesture, ended my phone call and introduced myself. His name is Jason. He was drunk and coming off of a meth high.

He felt the need to proclaim that he was not a threat because he had been called an ‘Arab’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘Muslim’ before. Normally I would have glossed over this. But recently I read an article by Aziz Ansari giving a brief overview of his experience with racial and religious tensions. Although he himself is often greeted in the street by individuals wanting an autograph (he plays tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation). His immediate family on the other hand has experienced a much different response. They are often called terrorists, immigrants, told to go ‘home’ and other rude or fear inducing public remarks. Specifically he details the fear he had for his mother’s safety just after the attacks in Miami.

He specifically details in his article that Donald Trump’s campaign has increased the fear and tensions he has perceived. Whether it has increased or just brought to the surface what is already there is irrelevant. There is a systemic problem as it relates to the church. This hyped up fear of terrorism and Muslim extremists is pushed mostly by right wing conservatives. A vast majority of whom are Christians. What I want to focus on, and I pray that my reader can readily listen, is the Churches response to Muslims and Arabs in our country.

Here is my central point: Christians should never in any form be a part of spreading fear. There is no Scriptural basis for fear within ourselves or spreading fear to others. Specifically, we are called to only fear God, and to be a neighbor to all we come across.

Muslims should never reasonably fear for their safety from Christians. Even if a terrorist is a terrorist that claims to be a Muslim, what have we to fear? We have Christ who conquered death. Should we spread the fear of God? No. We preach Christ, him crucified and risen again. Fear is not of faith. Christians live by faith. If we perish in the process of spreading Christ’ love, then so be it.

The same is true of homosexuals, transgendered, hippies, pot heads, metal heads, nymphomaniacs, strippers, gang members, prostitutes, pimps, etc.

The Church as God’s voice to the world needs to be a place of safety for all others, with self-sacrificing reasonable caution. Should a twelve year old girl have spoken with Jason? Of course not. But any other college or high school male could have. If I become a victim of a very small pool of people intending violence at a church, then so be it. Christ calls us to fear him alone, so let it be far from the church to cause people to fear anyone but God.


When Friendships in Christ Fail

I have this almost constant battle in my mind of what should happen, and what actually does. One of the most difficult for me is relationships with Christians that fall apart. Everything in me screams that we are supposed to love each other and that Christ at the center can fix it. I hate saying goodbye to anyone. And even years after I lose contact with a friend, I still think of them fondly, regardless of what brought about that change.

He came to set us free from our sins, and really it is our sins that break relationships because if we were all perfect, we would all get along. Even within the broken world I so desperately want my relationships with my fellow followers of Christ to be different. So at the recent loss of yet another close friend (I remember each and every close friend I have ‘lost’ to a relationship breakdown, and I think of them throughout the year) I must ask myself, what am I to do? I cannot make others happy. I cannot control their actions, so when they wish to leave, I must let them leave and live in peace. But how shall I respond.

At this moment, I cry. I cry because I see that is what Christ did. When I read the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, I don’t believe that he was crying because his friend died. Christ new that he would raise Lazarus. Crying over his death doesn’t make sense.

Christ tells them that he is glad that he was not there in order that they may believe, and that his sickness would not end in death, but was for God’s Son to be glorified through it. Christ tells them that he is the resurrection and the life, and not that he is the life that will bring Lazarus back from the grave then, but eternal life for, “they will live even though they die.”

When he saw them weeping, even after he explained this, he began to weep. Not because he was sad for his friend, but because his dear children did not believe. They did not see the truth of life that he had brought. In a sense he is crying because his relationship with them was broken, or at least very childish. Rather than having belief in who he is, which is required of eternal life. So he weeps.

I may be stretching this exact passage a bit, but if we look at a lack of faith as being a broken, or at least immature relationship with Christ, and that is what Christ weeps over, then we to in being like God are to cry over broken relationships.

So, as I continue to wish that Christ would return and make all things right so that I can have wonderful perfect relationships with my friends, I do what I must now, which is cry my temporary loss of relationship with them.


A Moment of Courage, I don’t usually have: Open

I used to think that close friendship with another person meant that I knew everything about them. I asked them questions. I feel their pain. I tell them what I am excited about for the future. That is it. The closeness meter is determined by how much I see them cry.

It finally occurred to me that being close to someone means that they need to see you to. As you are. Hurts, pains, and failings. It can’t be them finding out, it needs to be you telling them. Otherwise, when the dark days come, and they do come, you won’t have anyone that knows how to help you, and you won’t tell anyone.

I am deciding that the, “others need to see you” is going to become, “I am going to show myself to others.” Unfortunately the timing of it goes that when I am ready to share something, something interrupts. Or I mentally just tell them as though I am teaching a lecture. More emotionally draining is the realization that I may not be around my most committed friends, whom I believe deserve to see me, when I am ready to share. This is usually why I refrain from sharing in these moments when I so desire to be known, “This should wait for my best friend.” So I bottle it up and forget.

Today, I decide that I must speak.

I must be found.

And I pray to God that it goes well, because my other fear is that talking about my mental demons will open up for others the same chasm I fall into.


Doubt, and Faith

I doubt God. I have difficulty, very often, believing in his goodness. Although I know all of the theological answers, the sin in the world around me forces me to ask, why? What purpose? The sin that affects my heart causes me to ask, why? Where are you?
I don’t see him in events surrounding sin, and the ripple affect that it has on my life. MY LIFE. I have a hole in my heart from hurt and pain. I want it filled. I want it answered. Rather than see answers, I see more pain. I am too focused on that current pain to look forward to what God has. I want my answer now, I say as a true instant gratification American. Justice, now.
I want to see God. I want to see him act and change the world around me. Not just tell me in a book it will happen some day.
So I turn to people. They are here, they are present. But then, the hurt in my heart doesn’t just ask for a shoulder to lean on, or someone to walk with. It demands to be filled, and to have an answer. So rather than relate with another I find myself taking from them. Their energy, their emotional stability, just to satisfy my need. This obviously causes problems.
I blame myself for these problems. But I am God’s creation, and he has supposedly guided my life? So I ask why, and I do, as I have always done, the same thing to him as I do to everyone else. I demand an answer and I demand a healing to my soul. I don’t relate, I don’t listen. I don’t just tell him and watch.
Watching. Listening. Waiting. I do not do that very well. So I doubt. I don’t see God as present. He must be aloof. Watching from above. Waiting to see if I ask enough. Then, then he will come to me in a voice. Then I read a book, have a realization that I am not being grateful, so I begin thanking God for what I have. Of course, it wasn’t God who taught me that, I read it in a book. So I keep waiting for him to speak.
Of course, he doesn’t.
I get hurt.
I want healing.
The cycle continues.
My arguments get more and more idiotic. I remember telling a friend once, “The worst part about my argument with God, is that right now, I think I am winning”. Never a good place to be.
I even admit and often joke that it is hard to tell whether what I am feeling is something I ate, or the voice of God. I recently was at a bible study, left early because I get up for work early, but then went back for the prayer portion. When asked why I was back I said, “Well, I think that God told me to come back. That or I just wanted more attention. I really can’t tell which”
I don’t know what did it. What changed my thought. But I suddenly caught myself in this bitter trap of disrespect and ungratefulness. So I finally began to thank God for things. Then I had an emotionally devastating event occur. I called out to God. But for some unexplainable reason, it was different this time. It finally clicked, the connection between God and my world. I asked God, “Please refine me and purify me, guide me in your paths by any means necessary, people, nature, dogs” I was running, and passed a peacock. It was beautiful.
In asking this way, I am living in faith that God will answer. And I am removing from myself the excuse of, “that was just a coincidence” God can work through anything. I must be thankful to him for all good things, for his hand is in all things we do that are good, for that is part of his image.
In reality, I do know where this clarity came from. It was a gift, from God. And that is something that I do not doubt.


Brokeness from Lost Relationship

Though I have not written on this in depth, mostly because I am still figuring it out, one of the ways in which I cope with a belief that nothing is worth it, is relationships. My relationships with people make life worth it. They fill me with joy and love. (Though I have my own set of struggles when it comes to valuing people).
However, the more relationships I have, the more I see brokenness. As I watched The Croods tonight with my family, I was struck by one of the scenes. As the father was about to throw his daughter across a ravine to be safe, which would leave him behind unable to cross, the daughter resisted shouting about things left unsaid and a broken father daughter relationship she doesn’t have time to fix.
Time to fix. Words to say. I went to school in another state. Every single time I left from school, or left home I always had a deep feeling of having not said enough. I wanted to tell my friends how much I cared about them and how much they meant to me. But never could find the words. Eventually I came to not worry as much. After enough trips back and forward I realized that those relationships I really cared about were always there for me to pick up. Goodbye became, “see you later”
But this doesn’t apply when a relationship comes to an end or is broken. Even if you see some friends again, you may never be in a position to say what you wished you could have said. I can think of several friendships, where I will never be able to tell them how much they mean to me. I will never be able to apologize enough, or fix what I had left broken. I will never be able to share the dreams I had with them.
And this bothers me. It is a brokenness. And I want to fix it. I want to leave everything at peace and in good order. But I find, that at times I can’t. I know that I am trying to earn love. To earn their memory of me being one of a good friend and not one that ran out. But I cannot.
There is a way to respond to the darkness and brokenness in life, which I will write about next, but there are so many things that the solution moves outside of our grasp.


Light and Darkness

                I often like to think of life in poetic themes. One of the themes that I find myself coming back to is one of light and darkness. Light, is everything good and right in the world. Laughter, hugs, love, coffee, candy, sunshine, rain, swimming, and relationships. Darkness is everything wrong and broken in the world. Hunger, tears, pain, death, wrath, jealousy, and conflict.

                As often as I have moments of brilliant Dead Poets Society inspired expressions of good in the world, I have a love affair with the darkness. My sister and I both do. No one else in our family, does. Not our parents, grandparents, or any of our cousins. We love the macabre. Dark comedies, antiheroes and just plain dark material. Edgar Allen Poe, The Mysterious Geographical Explorations of Jasper Morello, and any number of other authors that kill their darlings.

                My sister and I have very different reasons for our love affair with the darkness (definitely an affair). I don’t entirely understand why for my sister, but for me it is because to ignore it, and not give voice to it is deafening to my soul. I am all too aware at every given moment of the sadness and despair that everyone carries with them. Hurts, betrayals, loss of loved ones, and all sorts of wickedness, all leave a mark people.

                I see these marks in their eyes. I see it in the way people walk, I hear it in cracks in voices, and I see the tears that it causes. I don’t forget it. I remember the hurt and pain I have seen in others. The only way I knew how to deal with this is to turn it into stories. Dark and macabre. To help people tell their painful stories. To listen to tails of darkness, and then share my own.

                Marvels Agent’s of Shield is the best show I have ever seen that shows us how we are supposed to react to evil. In the beginning of the series Colson follows faithfully with SHIELD’s modus operandi of keeping secrets and only telling what needs to be known, begins to change and has faith in people to handle secrets.

 Rather than hide the truth from Skye, Colson tells her of all the people who have died, and all the chaos that has happened around her. As we watch her respond, Colson narrates for us, “The world is full of evil, lies, pain, and death and you can’t hide from it. You can only face it. The question is when you do, how do you respond, who do you become?” How do you respond? Who do you become?