21 January 2013

the one where i ramble and end up at God...

what i really want to say, a lot these days, is how can you be a Christ-follower and talk that way, think that way, believe that way, act that way? but then those questions should really be asked of myself first, shouldn't they?

as angry as i get at what has become of the evangelical movement in our country; as confused and as frustrated and as sad as the facebook posts and comments about our president and about guns and about immigrants and about insurance and about the poor and about homosexuals and about marriage and about love make me, i can't bring myself to say much about any of it.

i drive an hour each day to work, and every day on the way in i think about all the things i'd like to say to the church in america in 2013, and every night on the way home i say something else.  i do this every day, in an attempt to exorcise the demons of my frustration, to calm my jangled nerves, to at least make things right in my head.

i'm so angry sometimes that i want to argue, and in arguing i want to be right, but more than that, i want them all to be wrong.  but then, quickly and quietly, the spirit of God tells me that being right and others being wrong isn't what i'm called to.

why do you call anyone good, why do we call anyone right?

what does being right do for the hungry and the cold and the naked and the oppressed and the attacked and the forgotten? how many bullets won't be fired because i was right on facebook?

yet aren't we called to speak truth to power, aren't we called to raise our voices for those that can't, or in the place of those that won't, or to be heard above the din of the voices raised out of fear or hate or confusion or a thirst for power or money or control?

i know less today than i did yesterday, and less more than i did one, two, five, twenty years ago.

but this i know, this i know still: we aren't called to bear arms so much as we are called to bear each other; we are not a people of rights and freedoms, we are a people who are bound to the law of love; we are not our own, we are not self-sufficient, and we are not as strong or right or wise or powerful or successful or happy or limitless as we think we are. we are people who were dead, lost and alone and (seemingly, anyway) irrevocably without hope. we have been brought to life, not by the amassed, deployed forces of heaven, but by the death of the only One who could have genuinely and literally and rightfully killed them all and let God sort them out. we are a people who have been called to forsake whatever rights man's government may seek to apportion and to instead bind ourselves to the simple notion that the other is more important than the self.

the best thing i know: he is right, and he is making all things right. it hurts, yes, and he is not working in this world the way i think he should, but he is right, and it will all be well.

all manner of things will be well...

11 January 2013

trifecta weekend challenge: new beginnings

linking up with the folks at trifecta for their weekend challenge. this time around its 33 words about a new beginning...
When he left I was glad, because at least now he'd know.
He wouldn't think I was dead, or in China.
Now he knows I'm okay;
He knows he's free.
Happy Birthday, dad. 

09 January 2013

imperfect prose: if i stand...

i actually shared this on a friend's site a few weeks ago, but i think (i hope) that it fits with the prompt over at emily w's place for imperfect prose, so i'm sharing it again. enjoy...


the thing is, nothing has turned out like i thought it would. it took me the better part of two decades to finish my college degree, i spent ten years in ministry and when i left i had exactly nothing to show for it, and after leaving the ministry the best job i could get (at first, anyway) was setting appointments for dishwasher repairs across the southeast. i had given God a third of my life and what he gave me in return was a two bedroom apartment next to some college kids and a frequent wheeler and dealer card at the local pawn shop.

and so i began to think that God was testing me, purifying me, disciplining me, maybe even flat out punishing me.  over the past four years my views on some things have begun to evolve, and it occurred to me one day that maybe i was becoming a heretic, and maybe God was allowing me to experience hell on earth to help me avoid experiencing hell in, well, hell. and so i prayed.

and i prayed some more.  and i cried, and yelled at God, and berated myself for my inability to see things through, to believe for something better, to obey his call and command.  i pleaded with my wife to forgive me for being a bad husband, a bad provider, a failure. i would look at my kids and weep for what i had robbed from them by not being able, better, smarter, tougher.

after a couple years i got a job that was (way) better and i started making a little more money, and i began to think that maybe this was my time. God had, for whatever reason, allowed me to walk through the desert, but in so doing, had brought me to the sea, and now i could rest and revive and renew myself in the lush waves of better paychecks and health benefits.  it was great, really. we moved to a bigger place, we went out to eat every once in a while, and the wife was able to go to the doctor and not the local health clinic.  it was great.  it was hopeful. it was fun.  

it was over in eleven months.

i got laid off, and wallowed in unemployment for eight months.  when i finally found steady work, it was in a warehouse making sure people who had ordered a mixer online got it in time for the wedding shower or the church bake sale.  i started out scheduling appliance repairs, and now i had come full circle and was shipping the appliances new and in the box. i worked ten hours a shift, moving, sorting, lifting, sweating, despairing, questioning, cursing.

and then it happened again.  a few weeks ago i got a call about a job opportunity with better pay and the promise (please, God, please!) of a raise and benefits and security.  dare i hope? do i have the strength to believe something good might happen?

ultimately, though, what choice do i have? i will believe, because that is who i am, who we are.  we are people who endure, and having endured, we believe, and having believed, we persevere, and having persevered, we again find it is time to endure, and then to believe, and so on and so on, until...

we are all too often made to believe that the rewards for surviving difficult times all wait for us here, on this side of glory, as it were. i no longer believe that. at all. what i do believe is all at once much simpler and much more complicated than that.

i believe that tough times are simply part of our journey.  i also believe that as Christ-followers, it is not for us to attempt to divine when these times will come, or even - and this is absolutely, positively, the hardest bit - why, but rather it is for us to simply join mary, the mother of Christ herself, as she turns to the angel and says, “be it unto me according to your will”. did she know what all that meant? i think not.  could she have foreseen the murder of the innocents, the flight to egypt and back again, the agony of the garden, the abandonment of the cross, the empty hopelessness of the tomb? no.  nor, however, could she have seen it all come into focus in the cool of the morning that seemed like the start of the rest of her empty life.  

i don’t have all the answers.  sometimes it feels like i don’t have any answers.  with all that is in me, i hope and pray that God is bringing me and my family into a season of blessing and ease and rest and restoration.  beyond this, though, it is my eternal prayer that i will walk with him through whatever he has for me.  

and this is my prayer for you, too, that in days of sun or rain, hope or despair, rest or strife, you will know not only that you are not alone, but that the one who accompanies you has seen the pain you see, has known the sting of betrayal you may feel, has been abandoned and lonely and poor and broken. he has been all of these things, and so much more, and in all of this, he has overcome.

he stands today, he stands yesterday, and he stands tomorrow.  and because he stands, we will, too.

you. will. stand.

as will i.