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What’s Done In The Dark

It is quite difficult to watch the news anymore.  You can’t even read did anymore either.  Everywhere we look there is a vast amount of opinion floating around exposing what is said to be story.  It doesn’t matter what veracity the moment has.  If someone deems that it fits their own political or social agenda then it is wrapped up nicely, packaged in shiny trappings, place conveniently on the storefront of the world scene and sold as truth.  The problem is that many times, none of what we are getting is truth.  facts are presented in such a way as to be absolute and unquestionable.  Yet at the heart of what we have is merely sensationalism.

Several years ago there was a coal mine tragedy.  Like many people i got caught up in it and was very concerned with what was happening.  It was awful.  Families lost loved ones, their daily lives interrupted by the ripping and tearing of ground burying hopes and dreams in an instant.  The media was all over it.  There was 24 hour coverage from the 24 hour news networks.  Many reporters interviewing family members as they waited for news of their loved ones and clung to to tiny threads of hope.  The talking heads talked on screen about how they felt for these people, and how they knew the terror they felt.  One of these reporters in particular picked up on a rumor.  He announced for the world to hear that all of the miners were safe and they would be joining their loved ones at a nearby church in a few short minutes.  There was joy, relief and happiness everywhere on the scene.  I turned the TV off and went to bed.  The morning revealed an entirely different scene.  The rumor was simply that, a rumor.  The miners had not been reunited with their families.  The news had reported a lie.  Where once was joy now there was shame and sorrow and tragedy.

Why revisit this awful narrative?  Because those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined and doomed to repeat it.  Our media is a fascinating beast in America.  It is hungry to devour anything and everything it can, and it will tolerate no accountability.  It is quick to shout and scream at the slightest social injustice, but will not easily be cowed into responsibility.  Today you can turn on just about any news service and witness this first hand.  There will be reports that quote statistics from five years ago in order to prove a point today.  There is no mention of other data that may have proved contrary to whatever opinion is being sold as fact.  In terms of social justice, and lets be honest there cannot be such a thing in this day and age, the media does not report the full story.  No, what we get is the scintillating bits and pieces that enrage and enflame emotions.  All the while the reporters and networks walk a tightrope of grey in order to remain unbiased.  It is a lie, and it is every bit as harmful as what was told all those years ago.  The airwaves, digital and print media are flooded with shame, sorrow, and tragedy.

Elections years glow with this sort of behavior.  Networks line up and choose sides like children picking for a school yard ball game.  One side says one thing about their candidate, the other rebuttals quickly.  Yet in the exchange we are all left with nothing of substance.  We stand there, like the last kid picked and feel neglected completely.  Worse in the event someone says anything on the contrary to popular opinion they are shouted down and dismissed as ignorant and savage.  The media, either side, would love nothing more than to crucify someone just to prove a point.  And here is the swerve.

Jesus was arrested…illegally.

Jesus was tried…illegally.

Jesus was convicted…by a court that had no real power of its own.

Jesus was found faultless…by the government in power.

Jesus was punished…simply to silence a mob.

Jesus was executed…simply to appease a mob.

The problems in this country are many and extremely complex.  This is not a happy time in the United States.  We are all running around in the dark seeking to blame someone for the discontent.  Those in power would cover their deeds with flowery words, all the while moving in the shadows to maintain power.  When we look at the arrest, trial and execution of Christ we notice something rather glaring.  It was what was done in the dark that was the injustice.  He was betrayed in the dark.  He was tried in the dark.  He was convicted in the dark.  When things were brought to the light of day, no fault could be found.  But because of what was done in the dark the people would not listen.

It is time in this country when we ceased to be swayed by a lying media, a dishonest government, and a body of people who will not allow truth to be known.  Our Constitution demands that we have better than what we are being allowed.  It is time that journalistic integrity meant something.  The light of day needs to be allowed to shine on the truth.  It doesn’t matter what political or social agenda you are a part of, if you do not allow truth to be the foundation of it, then you are serving a lie.  I think you deserve more as a human being than to be stuck serving a lie.  And I think regardless of where you live you have a God given right to demand truth.  Here is what that looks like.

Put down your phone, get off of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and whatever else.  Stop videoing everything you see and making a stink about no one doing anything when you were just standing there filming the event happen.  You want social justice, flee from social media like the plague it is.  Stop trusting everything you see on TV, do some research yourself and sort out the facts like the intelligent person you are.  We have worked too hard as a society to be led astray shiny flashing lights.  You want social justice, first learn about what you are upset about and be a solution, not a problem.  Screaming through a bullhorn, or the modern day equivalent, using a hashtag does nothing.  Go be a solution.  Stop being outraged, be compassionate and really understand what that word means(it means that you feel it physically while not being a direct part).  Get rid of the apathy you feel, and allow empathy top move you to action.  Raging against the machine only puts a spotlight on the machine and its broken pieces.  Working to fix the machine benefits everyone.  Understand that complaining about a situation without offering a solution is just whining.  Its time we started asking questions that caused forward momentum(questions like, “why is this news”, “what is the other side”, “is this the full story” etc.).

Why do I rail so hard against Social Media?  It causes too many people to become apoplectic.  Moreover, it feeds the ignorance that so very much pervades every avenue of our society.  It was fun for a while to catch up, but then somehow we all became fearless from behind a keyboard, and any and all accountability was shunned.  Now we have a major problem dividing this country because social media has become a trusted news source.  Social media is great when its puppies and vacation photos and laughing babies.  It is a cancer when it is a vehicle for political and social agenda.  So post pictures of your dinner, but preach your sermons with you life and save the hashtag justice system for the middle schoolers who haven’t learned any better. (and before you troll me in the comments, yes I am well aware that I am just as guilty about that as everyone else).

What’s done in the dark is done there to hide it.  We need to be working in the light, showing the world exactly what we know to be true, and good, and right.  But we need to be DOING it.  And we need to be demanding it from those who would be in charge.

 

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Long Division

 

I have stared at the flashing line on the blank space of the word processing software for four days thinking about how to go about putting my thoughts down in a succinct way.  I do not wish to be misunderstood or judged incorrectly for saying what I am going to say.  So reader beware, if you begin reading this piece you must read the entire thing.  You cannot skim it.  Within may be some heavy hitting stuff that will likely inflame your conservative and or liberal sensibilities.  And therein lies the first instance of the problem that is slowly eating this country alive.

Abraham Lincoln once surmised an ancient biblical perspective with his quote, “A house divided cannot stand.”  He’s actually quoting Jesus from Mark 3:25, you know when everyone was telling Jesus He was actually the devil (in my opinion its one of the more humorous examples of human ignorance when it comes to change).  Lincoln definitely knew a thing or two about division, he was dealing with a seceded south and a country torn apart by war and greed and every manner of human indecency.  2016 find us very close to the same point, perhaps with even more variables to deal with.  The fact is that this country is as divided now as it has ever been in its history.

We are a people who love to group up and see enemies everywhere.  We divide on political lines, we divide on religious lines, on sexual orientation lines, and on where we can go to the bathroom.  We divide over and over and over again until all we are left with is ourselves.  We have ceased to be a country united, and a nation of individuals all selfishly seeking to be heard and recognized for our perceived unique individuality.  Yet, reality is that we are born just as broken and alone as the next person.

We have forgotten something along the way as Americans.  Maybe it was our arrogance that really ramped up in the 80’s.  Maybe it was the withdrawn cynicism of the 90’s.  Perhaps it happened before that, I can’t really speak to decade that I was not witness to.  Somewhere along the way we decided that our opinion equalled fact, and that our our view point was the only viewpoint acceptable.  Thus we divide ourselves and lay claim to anything and everything that we may perceive as helpful and or harmful to our particular group.  Its a terrible way to live and its how people get hurt.  Its how hate is bred and nurtured and cultivated.  It is how race is made evident and xenophobia pervades a culture.  If you build enough walls around yourself you will eventually grow to fear and hate everything outside of those walls.  That is America.   A country of walls and terrified hateful people constantly hurling things over their walls seeing if they will strike the imagined enemy outside.

Before the tragedy of 9/11 we were very much divided as well, yet for a short time after we banded together as Americans.  We proudly held hands and sang about our country, we even tried to listen to God together.  We sought healing.  It took very little time to divide again, and this time we divided further on every issue.  We blamed a president, we blamed a party, then we blamed another president and another party.  We listened to talk radio and watched talking heads on biased networks and were lead by every other agenda until we cannot go out in public without glancing sideways at our neighbors wondering secretly if they are out to get us.  And the cycle repeats, each time we claim solidarity after a tragedy only to divide further along some line.  As we do our country falls further away.

When was the last time we really listened to another opinion?  When was the last time stopped listening to our own voice and really tried to hear someone else?  It seems to me that no matter where we turn we do not see people seeking a solution to anything, rather we seek for a place to lay blame.  If we could just figure out who to blame then that would make it all better, we would be able to put an end to the awful things that happen.  That is just not true.  Oh sure, people need to be held responsible.  But there are always scars.  When we look at our scars the pain will always be remembered, and blame will never take away that sickening memory.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is that we have forgotten as a people how to heal and how to forgive.  For the past 15 years allow have known is self righteous anger and indignation.  We have not had a moment to sit and reflect and move forward.  24 hour news media needs to be turned off, it has done nothing but breed a generation of paranoia.  How can you possibly allow yourself time to process when the talking heads are spewing another negative story about how bad the world is.  Social media is no better.  The “headlines” of every story contain explosive language meant to bring about an emotional response from readers.  And as such we are left raw nerved and red eyed to the point of madness and insomnia.  It has to stop.

If you have come to this country and are a part of its citizenship I am begging you to read these words below and truly think about what it means.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.-US Constitution

We are Americans, we are not caucasian Americans, or african americans, or latino americans, or gay americans, or transgender americans.  We are Americans.  We are unified by the belief that those that came before established something better than what the rest of the world offered.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  -Declaration of Independence

Our forefathers risked their lives and everything about their legacy so that we would have a country where we could be free.  Where we could be unified together regardless of where we came from.  Whether or not you believe in God Almighty as your creator or biological science as your progenitor you are free in this country to seek out certain unalienable rights, and that makes us unified.  If we are to continue as a country we must stop this ceaseless division over every little thing.  We must learn to listen to each other.  We have to stop the unadulterated arrogance and feeling that our way is the only way and that if your opinion is different than mine then you are the enemy.  We have to heal, and we have to forgive each other.  Failure to do so is a death sentence for this country.

I will close with this, and I’m sure some people will read this and roll their eyes that I am going to talk about God and Jesus.  You are more than welcome to roll away, I can acknowledge your opinion, and your disagreement with mine without casting judgement on you.  Judgement has never actually been my job, but thats another piece to write later.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not something that belongs on another plane of existence.  In fact Jesus was ushering in that Kingdom with His ministry and it is the job of the Church to further such a Kingdom.  It is not a kingdom of riches and conquest and self righteous indignation at the rest of the world around it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of rest, of peace, of unity, and of healing.  It is a kingdom where God is recognized as sovereign and where His will is sought above all else.  Selfish ambition is abandoned and service to Christ and to others is taken up.  You can disagree with my belief system all you want.  But you cannot deny that seeking to serve other people instead of yourself is more beneficial to mankind.  You cannot tell me that healing an peace are bad things and should be shunned.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a dream in every person ever born.  Jesus says that doesn’t have to be a dream.  But its takes something on our part.  It takes surrender.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Perhaps you are like me and are tired of this long division.  Perhaps you will join me in seeking the kingdom of Heaven.

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Ruff Season (or I’m just not feeling it and need to ramble on about it for a bit…)

tumblr_lwf5nxSuGP1r0k32bo1_500It could be the fact that I’m getting older.  It could be  the fact that this time of year is just extremely busy and filled with lots of last minute things to do.  Maybe it was the migraine I had yesterday that is still lingering behind my eyes.  Or, perhaps it is the never ending rush of hate filled diatribe on the internet.  I just do not feel very Christmassy this year.  Something feels off.  Maybes its my focus, maybe its my heart, honestly I wish I knew.  Oh sure the lights are up, the classics are playing on TV and radio.  We’ve preached messages about God coming to us, and sung Christmas carols.  Yet, there is this fog of yuck that is just floating over everything.

This country is suffering from a severe lack of accountability in its dealings with others.  You see videos of people being abused, animals being treated cruelly for no reason, children being abandoned only find follow up comments with the likes of “LOL” or “ROFL”.  Follow those nonsense letters with a profanity laced rant of ignorance and you get my drift.  People simply do not know how to people anymore.  We cannot blame a political candidate, or leader for this problem.  We have allowed it.  We have allowed it with our social media “freedom” and our lack of compassion and empathy for any one other than ourselves.  Possibly the worst thing that has happened to our culture is the ability to comment on anyone’s picture, post, or article without accountability has torn a whole in our moral fabric.

So what?!

I was teaching last night, and some of it made sense at least.  The birth of Christ occurred at a rather rough time in History.  Governments were shaken outside of Rome, and even within Rome they were pretty unstable and definitely not beneficial to the vast majority of the populace.  There was ,in fact, a massive lack of accountability to one’s fellow man.  And so Jesus is born.  He isn’t born in grand hall, or golden room, or any of the opulence that He deserved.  He is born, in the open air, or a cave (sorry, but the idea of an inn is a not really a fitting part of history, and is most likely a poor translation or scribes addendum).  His birth is announced to a group of shepherds.  The lowly, not well thought of part of society that was untrusted to the point of being barred from testimony in court.  Why?  Because God is beginning breaking down boundaries between the mighty and lowly.

It is amazing to me that this time of year we see so many barriers get put up.  This “War On Christmas” nonsense pops up and we go to our corners, and other sides go to their corners and as Ben Carson says we “Just hate”.  If Christmas really means that much to you, then why does your life outside of this season not reflect it?  I have a few thoughts on that.

It is easy to care about people this time of year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas usher in this season of looking out for those less fortunate.  We have created a slot of time to think about it.  We have sales, and food drives, and meals, and all of these things that makes empathy easy and non threatening.  Just like the Nativity Jesus is non threatening.  There is nothing threatening about an infant.  An infant is cute and adorable, and cuddly and all those things that make us feel good inside.  The lifestyle that infant calls you to however is not such a simple thing.

You see that infant grew up.  He ushered in God’s Kingdom on earth and called al who would to come follow Him and live in that Kingdom here, now, and then on the other side in the perfection of creation.   But it isn’t pretty.  It requires us to do more than be dismissive of others in a comment box.  It requires more than 25 days of giving a rip about your neighbor.  It requires a death to self, a death to what you understand as freedom, and rebirth into something much grander, and yet far more humble.  That my friends is a threatening thing.  The cross of Christ is not a pretty sight.  It is a deep contrast to the manger.  Yet we cannot have one without the other.  Beauty, I suppose can only be magnified but its opposite.  Christmas is easier than Easter.  Giving a present is easier than giving your life, your self.

So what?!  What is my point?

The beauty of Christmas, the feeling I should have is not based on an evergreen tree with shiny wrapped gifts under it.  It is not in the “magic” of the season.  The beauty of Christmas is the leveling of the field.  The birth of Christ announced the change of the world from a place of desperate hopelessness to a world filled with hope because it’s creator was setting about redeeming it and making it new.  He was announcing that each and every person born, was going to have the ability to be made whole.

So as we wander around (anti) social media, and we read the news, and listen to the reports of the nastiness of the world.  Know this and be comforted, God is still in control.  There is nothing that has or will occur that He does not know about.  Do not despair and do not fear, for the Angel announced it to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

People will continue to be a source of disappointment and discouragement.  Trolls will always be in the comment section waiting to drag you down to their level.  But Jesus was still born for them as well.  Christmas is about recognizing that we are all equally in need of grace.  If you can give a measure of grace to your fellow human, do so all year, not just when Coca Cola puts Santa Claus on a can (did they even do that tis year).

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Infinitely More

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Infinitely More

I have sat, I have paced.  I have read, scoffed, laughed, shrugged, rolled my eyes more than a Robert Downey Jr. meme. and felt a general sense of nausea.  There have been feelings of rage, sadness, fear, helplessness, and so many more mixes of feelings that quite frankly I cannot process them all at once.  People say, oh you’re just being dramatic, you’re just being this or that, or you’re being bigoted, racist, insensitive, disagreeable, the list just goes on continually.  The reason the list just continues to grow is that no one else knows how to feel either.  We want to be upset, we want to feel better, we want to feel vindicated.  Fact is we want all of these things and we want what we want, the way we want it, and yet we will never have it.

This country is divided, more so now than ever.  Christians cannot agree on how to deal with a red cup, let alone how to answer the problem of refugees.  It is a disease of ignorance, where one side wants to blindly obey everything leadership hands out as long as it makes them feel good, and the other side rages against the machine.  It is an election year and as Americans we throw away our unity for the cause of one party or another, or the ever present middle ground where no one yells at you.

It’s time to stop.  It’s time to step back and look around, grasp the bigger picture of what is happening in the world.  It’s time to read the news, to really examine what is being told and what is really happening.  This cycle of panic and outrage is doing nothing for us as a people.  What are the facts that we know?

We know that there are nasty individuals who want nothing more than to kill and destroy.  there is nothing more to it than that.  They are not trying to usher in any new world order, they see chaos and destruction.  This is not some vague James Bond villain seeking a model utopia.  This is an enemy that desires death in the name of fanatic hatred.  If we cannot recognize that as a fact, then there is little hope in the face of this evil.  We cannot be delusional and try to classify and declassify and divide along lines of race, class, and religion.  This enemy does not care what you call it, because this enemy only wants you dead.  There is no such thing as a one sided diplomatic solution, there is only victory or defeat.

We also must realize that the right decisions are not the ones that are the most popular.  The happy feel good decision that makes you happy, is probably not the one that is best for everyone involved in the long run.  This idea that we have to make decisions based on what makes us feel good about ourselves is flawed and immature.  Eating donuts makes me feel good, but in the end if thats all I do it will kill me.  The same is true about decisions for our country.  It requires the ability to see a bigger more far reaching picture.  You can get mad, you can disagree, but in your disagreement do not act like a spoiled child and call everyone else names because you did not get your way.

You may be reading this a wondering why, why waste my time with this, this piece is probably just going to turn it in to some sort of Christianity based stance in favor of Islamaphobia, or racism, or GOP support.  Or you may call me a liberal, unpatriotic, bleeding heart, and weak.  Label it whatever you wish to label it.  Disagree with me, I do not care, and your disagreement with me does not offend me.  I think we’ve forgotten how to disagree with one another in this country.  Anytime some one doesn’t think the way we do we want to call them names and become offended in our deepest being because someone else did not see life the way we do.  I see things the way I see them based on my own understanding of the world.  That is based on 35 years of experience, years of college and study, and my own research and observation.  My thoughts are my own, your agreement with them does nothing to change them.

I do not have an answer to the problems facing this world.  I don’t, and really, telling you my thoughts and opinions on what we should do will do nothing in the end.  Yet, I know what we cannot do as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to become divided over the issues and forget our mission.  You can post all the scripture out of context that you want and claim that it speaks directly to the problems, yet your mission is not that.  We are not called to throw truth bombs and shame other Christians because we disagree. If you don’t like what your government has done, tell them that in a calm and articulate letter.  But for these so called “Christian leaders” to cast about words such as “shame” and “disgust” is quite frankly what makes them unfit leaders.  The amount of church members you have at your church does not make you a leader, nor does your book sales, or your twitter follower count.  Your ability to speak life in to the hearts and minds of people makes you a leader.

I do not think God cares about your blog readership.  Nor do I believe God cares about whether or not you held a political line with your social media profile.  It is unfathomable for me to think that God is watching to see if you said the snarkiest response to the other side of the issue, or reposted the correct feel good message on social media.  God is infinitely more invested in whether or not you pointed people to His glory, to His Son, to His grace, to His love with your life.  If you want to argue that , “well, I use my social media to do that”.  Then I would ask you this, when did your social media feed a refugee, or clothe the homeless, or care for a foster child?

It is time we as Christians stopped playing the world’s game of words.  It is time we stopped trying to make everything about how we can start a new movement.  It is time we started doing the mission we were called to do.  Right now nature is doing a far better job of crying out God’s glory than His people are.  The stars in the sky do not display the nature of a God who panics at the first sign of trouble.  Rather they steadily proclaim that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Times like these have been ordained.  It is for us to recognize that the urgency for us to show Jesus to others is all the more serious.

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Stretch

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I hate to stretch.  I do not like to stretch.  It hurts.  It hurts all over when I stretch.  It always has.  Even when I was younger and in far better shape.  Though, I do like power yoga, no idea why.  The pain is not such an unbearable thing.  It is extremely uncomfortable.  Stretching makes my brain question very seriously why I am doing this to myself.  Then usually my brain says stop.

They, that group of notoriously anonymous know-it-alls, say that stretching is good for you.  I have no doubt that it is.  It makes your muscles more supple.  It makes you less prone to injury when physically active.  I’m sure it does any number of other wonderful things for my body.  But it hurts.  No one likes to do things that hurt.  Wait, most normal sane human beings who are healthy and happy, do not like to do things that are painful with no hope of instant reward.  (Those of you who enjoy pain, there is another article for you coming one day.  It will probably be a short one.)

Physical improvement means pain and hard work.  The old muscle must be broken down and regrown and doubled.  With changes comes pain.  I always enjoy thinking about the Marine Corps Drill Instructor informing his recruits that pain is weakness leaving the body (though in some case its actually a serious injury).

Spiritual and life improvement will mean pain as well.  We are creatures of habit.  Breaking habits is a difficult thing.  Think about the statement, breaking habits.  Its actually a violent statement.  Something is going to be broken.  What that something is depends on the situation.  It could be a way of living.  It could be a way of reacting.  It could be a way of thinking.  Change will bring something we do not understand.  Newness is exactly what it is.  It is new, unknown.

The letter ,James, the Brother of Jesus, wrote to the church at Jerusalem had a lot of change and growth.  It called for a radical change of thinking in a very boot camp style.  The new Jewish-Christians were being persecuted in their own communities.  Not violently, but socially, and financially.  In many ways, that could be just terrible to live with.  Violence is quick, the social ostracism that these early Christians faced was much longer lasting and further reaching.  It caused a lot of them to fall into old habits, bad behavior, and incorrect thinking.  James’ response was to stretch them.  He called for change in the way of thinking.  He echoed his half brother.  He called for love on a level that had never been seen.  James called for people to act in a way that made no sense.  James told them to put themselves at the bottom of the list.  Not to be doormats mind you.  But to be servants.  To not consider what the world calls good a thing to be sought after.  Thats stretches the mind and spirit.  It stretches us socially.  It stretched us in our faith.

Yet, our spirit needs to be stretched.  It needs to be more flexible.  It needs to gain strength.  We should be in a place where we are in fantastic spiritual shape.  That way, when the real problems of life hit us, we have the strength to stand (notice I did not say fight, that is God’s job.)  If we are in good spiritual shape, nicely stretched and ready, we will be much more able to

move when God calls us to

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Silence

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graphic by Hillsong, edits by author.

There was nothing.  Tears had fallen, pain had been screamed.  Bargains had been offered.

Now only grief.

The numbness that consumes the empty place where joy once was.

Its not the memory that eats at the day.  It is silence.

The deafening sound of nothing.

It would be fine to think of the loudness of Friday.

Friday was full of noise.

Accusations

Betrayals

Lies

Political maneuvering

More lies

A people turning their face from the truth.

A people screaming for innocent blood.

The sounds of a whip.

Crack-crack-crack-crack-thirty times crack.  Each time the sound changes.  The crisp becomes the wet.

Then more cries for blood, blood and a tree;  a tree, an impromptu crown, and three nails.  Now the hammer rings.

Ping

Ping

Ping

A Savior cries, “It is Accomplished”.  The Earth shakes, barriers fall.

A Mother cries as she holds her son one last time.

A stone is rolled…………Silence………Night………..Dark………………………….Nothing.

But…

It is a nothing…

So that there can be something.

Something greater.

Under the silence there is movement.

Under the silence there is battle…conquest and victory.

We hear nothing.

Eternity hears the voice of a King.

We hear weeping.

Heaven hears the joyous victory over sin.

We hear nothing…because death is nullified.

It cannot whisper to God’s children.  Its sting had been removed.  It has been beaten.

The world is silent, because it is waiting.

Anticipating

Hoping

…And Finally…Silence is broken.

What are you listening to?

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The Joy Thief

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Sunrise over Lake Lanier(photo by author)

One of the inevitable facts of life is that at some point you will find yourself in a position of feeling…well, bleh. I have no other words to sum up just what I mean. Say the word out loud, BLEH. Say it loud. There is meaning in that, the louder you say it the more bleh you will get. Its that sick feeling that something is just completely wrong and you cannot put your finger on it. Its just a nasty feeling that can only be summed up with a sound. Bleh! This week I found myself feeling that way. It has been a very eventful and tragic week since last Thursday. It seemed that for several days the world simply ceased to function properly in the small town where I serve. Near death experiences by some, death in other cases, misunderstanding, ignorance, closed mindedness, and just an overall sense of losing focus just fell upon us. And so I felt bleh. I’m sure others had a much more profound sense of something else deeper and more life changing. The feeling left me staggered, confused, empty almost. Like I had no direction in which to travel. I stared at the screen with no thoughts. I listened to music with deaf ears. I made plans without really knowing what was happening. It was as if I had walked too close to a speaker at a rock concert. I could feel nothing but a steady rumble of something other worldly and strikingly frightening, yet nothing was truly wrong.
There was a time in my life when I would spend a great deal of time deer hunting. I would wake up early in the morning ( who are we kidding if its dark, its night). I would go deep into the woods climb a tree in the inky blackness, and sit. The forest is silent when there is no light. Your ears become attuned to every little sound in the brush, yet there is nothing. Only the wind whispers of something. The animals are all asleep, bedded down, waiting for something. The longer you sit, the more you become aware of the still silence. Then it happens. In the east the black begins to become grey. Stars that were once the only pin pricks of light in the dark curtain of night fade. Sound returns to the world. Birds chirp softly, small rodents stir in the leaves. The dreams carried by the wind become the sound of life waking. And as the rest of the sky begins to fall in love with the light you begin to feel like life is coming back to you.
Sunrise is a wonderful thing. It is life returning to the world. Certainly there is life in the city at night. The lights never go out. Yet the light of the sun is simply different. It is far grander than anything electricity could create.
David, my favorite mistake make in the Bible, had an issue. He had caused some serious problems in his life. He had sinned greatly with infidelity, murder, and lies. He broke three commandments in one situation. Yet, he was convicted, he was moved, and he repented and was restored through forgiveness. He penned these words, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Psalm 51:12). And his prayer was answered.
It is amazing to me that these words are penned by David in his despair, because they speak beyond the times when we are being convicted. The world, and the devil, will do whatever can be done to steal your joy. God, in His infinite and wonderful wisdom does not stop such things from happening. Tragedy comes, troubles come, trials come. Not because God is mean, or angry with you personally. These things happen because they must. There is a purpose behind them. Also, if they did not come, then why would we feel the need to rely on God? Why would the Bible speak of a NEW Heaven and NEW Earth? The world is broken. And thus it will seek to break you. It will try to convince you that the black night is all that exists. It is a thief that revels in taking your joy from you. And yet, the sun rises.
The sunrise declares God’s power, God’s love, God’s care. Jesus spoke about the troubles of the world. The apostle John recounts His words in John 16:33. “In this world you will have trouble, but take comfort, I have overcome the world.” The sunrise declares that. Spring declares that. The cross declares that. Do not allow thieves convince you that they have taken from you that which cannot be taken. Salvation cannot be stolen. Be restored to joy. Step into the sun. Bask in the glow of a risen Savior.

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