Saturday, April 21, 2007

Where Are We, Lord?

"Where are You, Lord?"
A question I think many of us have asked at one point in time.
Probably more often than once.
Perhaps a question that came up in the last number of days.

The events at Virginia Tech this past week have hit me in a lot of different ways; a few that I'll keep to myself, but a few that I think are worth sharing.

I was reading in Luke today - the story where Jesus drives out Legion into the herd of pigs and they run off the cliff and die.

We hear in the news that the shooter had a history of mental illness and police had been called because of unsettling encounters others had with him in the past. And I can't help but think about how quick we are to want to throw blame at someone and ask why people didn't respond differently to the "warning signs." His professor described him as "extraordinarily lonely - the loneliest person I have ever met in my life."

My question instead, is, "Where are we, Lord?"

When I read the story of the man who had Legion living in him, we are told that the man had gone crazy, we also read that he was tied up in chains.
I wonder where we were.
Did he have family who visited him in the hillside tombs where he lived?
Did he have friends that checked in on him every few days to see how he was doing?
Were their people in his life that continued to love him even though Legion often took total control of him?

What happened in Virginia this week was horrific.
Don't get me wrong.
I can't imagine,
and don't even want to,
what it was like to be held at gunpoint
or to block a doorway to save the lives of my students
or to try to escape, only to find the doors chained shut.
I can't imagine what it would take to walk back into those buildings
to go back to class and not be afraid that it will happen again.
I can't imagine losing a friend or sibling in circumstances like this.

But I think we're missing a piece.

I'm not saying that reporting this man to police on prior occasions was wrong.
I'm not saying that professor who saw the signs and tried to raise flags and spent one on one time tutoring him didn't do her best...because I really think she did.

But it spurred me to ask what Jesus would have done.
And then to ask what difference it makes that I am called to be like Him.

Jesus greets the demon possessed man.
In fact, He greets the demon.

The townspeople had locked him up.
"We" called the police.
"We" let him be the "loner".
Did "we" also love him?
Did "we" let him know that he was a valued person, created in the image of God?

Did the man who suffered from mental illness,
the man whose family "never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence,"
the man who was described as quiet, withdrawn, "the question mark kid",
a man who was obviously hurting,
did he have friends who checked in on him?
Did he have people in his life who knew how much he hurt?
What made him feel so incredibly lost and alone?
What a miserable and sad life he endured if it brought him to a point of feeling like killing those around him and finally killing himself was the only way.

I'm not trying to blame anyone.
Or take the responsibility of what happened away from the man who has left many hurting people behind.

What I really hope and pray
is that instead of turning around
and telling his family that their apology means nothing
instead of second guessing his peers,
the police,
the higher ups at the university,
let's recognize that we live in a broken world.
Let's recognize the hurt that he felt.
Let's recognize that there are people who tried to reach out to him.
Let's recognize that Jesus greeted the demon.

And let us pray for his family.
Yes, for the families of the victims.
But for his family, too.
The hurt inside their brother and son
was very probably something that they were helpless to understand.

May they come to know and understand God's grace.
May we be the hands and feet of Jesus.
May they experience God's grace as we extend it to them.
May we live the difference that it makes that we are called to be like Christ.
Who also gave his life for the criminal on the cross beside Him.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thomas The Twin

Have you ever thought that we're pretty hard on Thomas?
He has gone down in history as the doubter.
That's how he is remembered.
No one speaks about him as the guy who wanted to be sure of the truth.
Nobody tells stories about how he was speared to death in the interest of spreading the Gospel.

Think about it a minute.
One of his best friends had gone from being welcomed into Jerusalem with Hosannas
to being arrested and crucified
in a matter of a week.
You want to talk about an emotional roller coaster?
Up, down -
confusion, sadness, helplessness, guilt for leaving Him with the guards -
He knew how Jesus had died.
I'm not sure if he watched the crucifixion or not,
but it doesn't really matter.
It was the talk of the town, I'm sure.

Either way, if I put myself into his sandals for just a short moment
and imagine where I would have been at
I can't come up with much more than
"emotional wreck".

I'm a skeptic with simple things
like if Grenadine syrup is really made from pomegranates.
And that won't really affect my life.
It won't change my emotions
or put into question what I have devoted my life to for the last 3 years.
I didn't leave my job
to walk the country side
learning the truth
and then sharing the Good News of what I had learned.

But Thomas had been in the inner circle.
Not only did Jesus know him,
but he knew Jesus.
He loved Jesus.
And, just like you or I would have,
he doubted the reality that Jesus could really be alive.
In fact, if anything,
I think we should commend him for his honesty.
He said what I'm sure some of the other disciples were thinking.

And that gets me to "Thomas the Twin".
I learned today that the name Thomas means twin.
And I think there is some incredible irony there.
Perhaps it is God quietly putting His sense of humour
into what He knows is generations of people who just don't get it.

We single Thomas out as someone different.
He is remembered all on his own
as the guy who didn't believe.

In truth, he is probably the disciple that many of us are like.
Our "twin", if you will.
If I am honest with myself,
there are a lot of things I doubt.
I know that God can heal cancer.
I know that God can bring reprieve to those who suffer from depression.
I know that God loves me even though I mess up over and over and over.
I know that life is better when God is control instead of me.
I know that God holds each one of us in His hands
even if it seems that He lets us go from time to time.
I know a lot of things.
But do I really live in a way that demonstrates that I believe them?
Or maybe the better question is,
"Do I really believe them?"
Because if I do,
there are parts of my life that should be different;
Parts of my life that should demonstrate this faith just on their own.
I shouldn't have to remind myself what I believe
if I really believe it.

Sometimes we say that we are the biggest critics of the characteristics of others that we hate in ourselves.
Thomas, I would like to say,
is my equal.
Instead of singling him out,
perhaps I should join him
and acknowledge my lack of faith.
He brings out that part of me that doubts;
the part of me that knows the answer
but doesn't act on it
because feeling it in my heart
and allowing it to transform me
takes more than just knowing.

It takes believing.
And it means surrendering myself to the Spirit of God.
I'm not really good at surrender.

Perhaps a good place to start
is with Thomas' words of greeting for Jesus
"My Lord and my God"...
humble me, that I may truly believe
and so live the joy of the resurrection.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Resurrection...

We read the resurrection story from Matthew on Sunday,
and I was struck by how the angel comes to roll away the stone
and then, it says, he sits on it.
The ground is quaking,
the guards shake and fall to the ground like dead men,
the women are afraid,
and the angel sits.
He is not surprised or afraid.
He knows what God has done and will continue to do.
There doesn't appear to be any part of him
that feels rattled by the situation,
rather there is a peace and relaxed strength about him.
He sits as if to say,
"My God keeps His promises.
I'm here as a messenger,
but I am at peace and confident that God is the victor
and I have nothing to fear."
He sits.
He knows and trusts in God's faithfulness
and in the promise of the resurrection.
He sits.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ahh, the Mountains...

I had the incredible privilege this past weekend
of being reminded of just how small and insignificant I am.
I need that.
Especially when it is coupled with the thought
that even though I am small and insignificant
I am loved
and given more grace than I could ever deserve.

It doesn't take much for me to be humbled when I'm in the mountains.
Almost nothing actually.

The first day we had incredibly clear views of the surrounding peaks.
"Stand in awe of God" seemed a simple task.
The second day it was cloudy.
Peaks covered with clouds.
Sun-rays peaking through.
And yesterday's "simple task"
seemed even simpler.

At one point, I found myself in the middle of a black diamond mogul hill.
(What I was doing there is a whole other story.)
I stopped and just started to laugh.
Looking around was incredible.
It was steep.
We were surround by evergreens
and mountains
and more mountains.
And all I could do
was be in awe.

For part of the afternoon
a friend and I took off our skis halfway down the mountain.
We carried them across the trail
and sat on the side slope that faced the surrounding mountains.
And just took it all in.

When I got up and continued skiing down the hill
I proceeded to sing.
Yeah, out loud.
And quite loud.
Going down the mountain with my arms out wide
(poles, too - don't worry, I did shoulder check to make sure I wasn't going to take anyone's eyes out...)
the way I used to walk on the sidewalk to Southview
and run around the soccer field
taking it all in
and offering it all up.

I got some strange looks,
but it didn't matter.

In the van on the way home,
we were listening to a CD that seemed to keep pumping out songs that hit my heart.
And there I was.
Small and insignificant indeed.
But listening to God instead of indirectly yet incessantly
telling Him that it's all about me.

"How refreshing to know You don't need me
How amazing to find that you want me." (Casting Crowns)

Ahh, the mountains.
And the One who carved them out...