Monday Morning Musings for 07.17.16

  1. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give unto you, so let not your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27). PEACE is the deep reservoir of Christ's living water that flows as the undercurrent of life even when things on the surface – the exterior – are chaotic and roiling. However, it is not magic. It's not something we can reach for like a can of soup on a pantry shelf. It is something we nurture through what Eugene Peterson called "a long obedience in the same direction." The peace of Christ is experienced as one dwells in the presence of the One who gives it – by prayer and meditation and quiet. We do ourselves a disservice by wildly asking for peace in the midst of conflict when we have done nothing prior to build the fortified walls of faith in our hearts. The good news is that crisis and pain bring deep questions and consequently, opportunities for life transformation. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
  2. Finally, someone said it. Dallas Police Chief David Brown, echoed by President Obama in his remarks only moments later during the Memorial Service for the slain Dallas officers: "We ask too much of our police and too little of ourselves." In this day and age, we seem to have lost the concept of personal responsibility. Yes, there are large, systemic issues that need to be addressed, but those changes alone will never fix what is wrong. If all we do is write posts or attend protests declaring what is wrong, then attention is brought to bear, but no actual change is achieved. What is wrong begins in each human heart, and thus, we each bear responsibility in our personal lives – in our spheres of influence – to do all we can to love others well – to treat every person regardless of race or creed or social position – with dignity, respect and the inherent worth ascribed to them at God's Creation. Imagine what would happen if each one of us simply took personal responsibility for for loving our neighbor?
  3. POKEMON CRAZY: This thing is quite the phenomenon, and if you are having a blast with it, more power to you! However, please don't play while driving – or while having your kids playing while you are driving – and going 15 mph and holding up traffic! 
  4. James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" is one of the great songs of all time. Period.
  5. Basic conflict resolution skills tell you that the first thing you do is LOWER THE TENOR. Before we devolve into a nationwide civil war, we state the obvious: racial police need to be dealt with and removed, and our police need to be supported as they protect us. It's time to stop yelling and start listening. It's time to walk a mile in another man's shoes. I stopped a black policeman yesterday in my neighborhood and after shaking his hand said, "Thank you. I know your job must be incredibly hard right now and I want you to know how much I appreciate what you are doing." I thought he was going to cry. His head dropped and shook. The gesture meant something to him.
  6. THE GIFT OF MARRIAGE: I never cease to be amazed by what people will talk about in front of you at the gym. Two women, likely in their late 30's/early 40's, are on the treadmills immediatley next to mine. Obviously, they don't know me at all, and tney proceed to talk for 45 minutes about one's impending divorce. The other was already divorced, so together, they ripped their former husbands which perhaps is understandable. I have no idea. What made me so sad was that they also trashed the whole idea of marriage throughout the conversation. Yes, we fallen human beings can make of mess of things at times, but the gift of marriage created by God is one to be held sacred. It is intended to reflect to the world God's sacrificial love for us. The Bible begins with a marriage and it ends with a marriage – and throughout, marriage is the constant metaphor God uses to describe His love and fidelity to us. Thus, no matter how ours may be at any given time, I pray that we will never allow God's purpose for it to be lost in the haze of our current cultural practice.
  7. I must confess that I am holding my breath and praying as the two national party conventions take place in the next two weeks. This country does not need a repeat of Chicago's DNC '68 or any other violence/loss of life. No matter what you think of the politics, pray for the experience to be a peaceful one.
  8. I haven't read the same book twice in a month in a long, long time, but that is the impact of When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi) on me. As a neurosurgeon, Paul described what it was like to wrestle with the emotional realities of life and death, to live with them as companions on a daily basis, saving some and losing others in his role as a physician, but always moving in that space with family members either facing it or accepting it or crying out through it. It was Paul who then faced it, dying of lung cancer at 37. It is the space that pastors live in frequently. Last Monday, I spent three hours teaching the book of Jonah to our VBS children, I had a two hour lunch with a group of eight others to begin working on diversity and race issues which exist in our culture, and I finished by conducting the funeral for Danny Fulford, a man who was my friend. It was a tough day, but it was also a rich, good day. I felt fully alive, fully immersed in the purpose for which God made me. His wife, Lucy, wrote of Paul: "Even while terminally ill, Paul was fully alive despite physical collapse; he remained vigorous, open, full of hope not for an unlikely cure, but for days that were full of purpose and meaning." I pray I can learn to live more like that without needing a terminal illness to teach me.