Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Waiting for morning . . . is that hope shining?

The past 10 days have been a bit of a blur. I've been a bit overwhelmed in my mind and heart by circumstances and events, some of which are quite beyond my control. I haven't quite been sure how to put things into perspective lately. Part of it is the busyness of my job and the constant pressure to produce something that will win the approval of others, but that isn't all. My heart still hurts for the Virginia Tech community, my mind swirls with a hundred possible scenarios to make that hurt go away, and yet I know that sometimes life just has pain. The hope that comes to me first looks a bit like the sun at dawn. It peeks over the fog and the dark clouds of the night. It seems almost timid, not sure whether or not to make its presence known. Then, the bright light pierces some part of the darkness. That little bit of light brightens the space, makes it seem lighter, more accessible.

Hope has been like that to me the past few days. By God's grace I see hope peeking into a dark time of life. The sun has not fully risen to its zenith, but there is a shaft of light shining into a dark place, making it livable and alive. In the midst of this darkness, I have taken solace in some music. One song that has encouraged me is "Take Me Away" by Sarah Kelly. It can be found on her album by the same name. Here are the lyrics:

no more weary teary eyes
just sunny skies
never have I felt so alone my how I've grown
maybe that's the way it's supposed to be as I'm walking down this
maybe if it's just you and me we'll never even miss a beat

Take me away
Take me away
All that I love is you, is you

captured by your love I'm such a fool for you
the day you laid your hand upon my heart tore my world apart
there's been so many times that I have prayed to hear you speak my
and though I've never seen you face to face I search for you everyday

Take me away
Take me away
All that I love is you, is you

come what will and come what may
I know your love will remain through the joy and through all the pain
I surrender and it makes me want to fly

Take me away
Take me away
All that I love is you, is you

I have this sense that God is there. He cares. I want to run away to him, to be in his lap for a few minutes. I want the ugliness of this fallen world to disappear, just for a minute. I want to experience the joy of Narnia without any evil.

I know that a day will come, a day unlike any other, a day when we can tread the streets with no names and find what we are looking for. That hope is what drives me today. I'm not depressed, I'm sad that the ugliness of this world necessitates the death of so many who are too young to die. This tragedy has touched many of us because of our human condition. We are finite. We are fallible. We are lost without hope and without peace. Tragedy reminds us that we are breakable. It reminds us that we are not in control. Tragedy treads upon our chosen utopias and reminds us that this isn't Eden anymore.

God has known tragedy. The day his Son Jesus died as an innocent for our guilt was a tragedy to him. He understands unspeakable loss. God through Christ experienced with and for us the tragic consequences of sin, of our utter sinfulness as humans. As the inhumanity of the snarling crowd tortured and put to death Jesus, God stood and watched. He accepted the wounds of that very personal tragedy so that he can offer us the comfort and joy of his presence and grace. Jesus made a way through tragedy for us to come freely and without payment to receive God's kindness. Yes, God understands tragedy.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has left scars. It has left grief. It has left sorrow.

But God is beyond that tragedy. He is there. I turn to him, he is my hope. Without him, it just isn't worth the work, it isn't worth the effort, I'd just stay in bed. He cares. He loves. He gives me fresh mercy like the dew every morning. He will see us through even the hurts and wounds of life. He will give comfort. Jesus waits for us to come, to receive his embrace, to cry in his arms. He is ready to take us into the comfort of his presence.

No, the circumstances will not disappear, the hurt will not "magically" go away. Our circumstances may not change dramatically, but in his presence, in the arms of Jesus we will see our worth in his eyes, we will receive his love, his hope. God is in charge! He is not asleep at the wheel.

Thanks to God for this hope, thanks to God for his inexpressible gift!

The sun will rise, life will continue, good will happen. Joy comes in the morning. I look forward to joy.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A Response to Tragedy and Grief

I sit here in my comfortable office and realize that my almost 3 years in Virginia have been at times chaotic. The month before I moved here, my father passed away after an extended illness.

Ten months after moving here my cousin (about 40) passed away unexpectedly. He wasn't sick, it just happened. He left a wife and kids.

Then in October 2005, a pastor friend in Waco passed away unexpectedly. He was electrocuted during a baptism. He was 33, had a wife and children. More grief!

In December 2005, a very dear friend died in Waco. He was 44, healthy, and died in his sleep. They still don't know what happened.

In the Spring of 2006, my aunt (the mother of the cousin above) passed away after a time in the hospital.

Then in the summer of 2006, one of my best friends died in a plane crash. More grief for a wife and children!

All of these tragedies and experiences of grief have been documented on my blog.

Then comes Monday, April 16. A sick person kills over 30 people on the campus of Virginia Tech, a school some 90 minutes from where I teach.

I'm numb again. I don't know how to respond. I mean, so many lives snuffed out in an instance, added to the pain I already felt in my own circle of friends.

How do you move on? What do you do?

I feel so (what's the word?) angry, upset, sad. . . . I'm not sure what to say.

The shock of hearing about these untimely deaths (is death ever timely?) is bad enough, but this sudden bit of bad news has hit me harder than I would have imagined. You see, grief came knocking on my door, and he was not expected. I wasn't prepared, I didn't know how to act or what to say. I'm experiencing grief again!

Grief often shows up at the most inopportune time. He is seldom a welcome guest and even more rarely an invited one. He walks in unannounced and tries to take over the household. Grief immobilizes you. It makes you stop and hurt. I guess grief is useful, but when you are experiencing it you just want it to stop. You want the uninvited pest to go away. A part of our lives were taken away without our permission!

Grief has come to us, he came uninvited. We will walk a while, probably in silence. At the end, we will still miss our friends, but hopefully we will cherish life more.

Grief is not my friend, but he helps in some ways, I guess. Grief came knocking on my door, and I didn't check to see who it was before I answered. Now Grief is a guest in my home again. How long he'll stay is anybody's guess. He'll leave quietly one day and the only evidence that he was there will be the memory of our missing friends and a few tear-filled tissues. Grief will go, but hopefully he will leave us wiser and more grateful.

Don't misunderstand me . . . I'm still confident in God's character.

I know God is faithful and good.

But this whole thing just seems so wrong.

I hate death.

Yes, I hate it.

On the day when Death and Hades are kicked into the bottomless pit, I will stand and cheer. I will dance about wildly, flinging my arms and body in all sorts of directions in praise of a great accomplishment--greater than any touchdown, homerun, or pay raise. I will celebrate madly the final death of Death. I long for the day.

Pray and grieve, that is the season for now.

Remember that your grief is not in vain. Let it work a good work in you. Don't use it as an excuse to turn to anger or bitterness, but rather use it as a reminder to cherish those around you more, to revel in the friendships, the relationships, the life you have today.

Let grief drive you to enjoy the good in life today! Let it push you to a kind and merciful God who knows how to see you through it.

Let grief be the tool that causes you to appreciate life.

Life is precious, God is reminding us to cherish it and nurture it.

I know, it is time to turn off the rant. You've heard enough. And besides, I'll probably revisit this topic later.

Remember to pray for the community of Virginia Tech and the friends and families who are hurting now. Remember to express your grief, to develop an appreciation for life.

You are precious. You matter. So does your grief!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Sounds of silence

Silence, cold eerie silence.

In this post-modern day and age, we rarely find ourselves in a place that is so utterly silent as to be practically without sound. We are surrounded by noise—the chattering of talk radio, the booming of the latest music craze, even in the shopping centers and elevators of life we encounter the ever-present reminder of Muzac to keep us company. At work we are assaulted with myriads of sounds, from the boss handing out assignments to the response of the secretary or the ringing of the phone. Even the internet is now wired for sound so that you can search for the latest piece of news or information with surround sound convenience. We return home from work only to turn on our cable TV to act as a kind of “white noise” in the background of our family lives. Some of us even go to sleep with the latest tunes playing on the radio to soothe our tired souls and “give us rest.” Today a human can actually go from womb to grave completely surrounded by the music of their personal soundtrack. Surely we are rarely without noise in our lives!

In this post-modern life we seem to have grown afraid of silence. We avoid it. We try to fill it with something that will give “meaning” to the emptiness. Why do we do that? Why do we fill our lives with sound?

Could it be that we are afraid of what we may actually hear if we are silent?

Could we be afraid that we may hear nothing? That we may be drowning in silence?

I believe we have grown accustomed to sound as a substitute for genuine communication with the transcendent. We have blocked out the very voice of the cosmos with our sound track so that we do not have to give our souls pause and just listen.

When was the last time you listened, really listened, to nature around you? I heard a cardinal this morning, the bark of a dog, the jingling of my cat’s tags as he walked up the walk. It was so quiet I swear I could hear the sun groaning as it rose from its sleep!

I sat there, in silence. I listened. After a few seconds I grew jittery, even panicky. I really should be doing something, listening to something, “accomplishing” something worthwhile with my time.

I heard a voice, quiet and still—“Hush, be quiet. Be still and know . . . .” I listened, and in that silence I found a reverence for life that I hope only grows throughout the day. The quiet voice didn’t offer any startling revelations, but my basking in silence lent a kind of sacred feel to my morning. God was there. We had coffee. We sat quietly like two old friends for whom words would be a waste of effort. We silently toasted the beginning of a new day, and I felt as though the Almighty smiled at me. That stillness of that moment had created an almost “holy” space for the two of us to share. I know he was there. I long for a few more quiet moments with my Friend.

Shhh . . .

Listen. . .

Was that the whisper of his voice?

Thursday, April 05, 2007


What's Love Got to Do with It?

In the spirit of Hebrews 10:24, I offer the following rant to incite others to love and good works. May we in this Easter season find ourselves like our Lord wrapping a towel of humility around our collective waists as we pursue the greatest job ever--loving those God has loved in a way that they do not expect.

Want more? Then read on brave soul!

Today as I was driving to work, I was listening to an old Dana Key CD (came out in 1995 with the title "Part of the Mystery"). Nothing to write home about, but he has one song on the album that really caught my attention. Let me share the lyrics of the song and a few thoughts with you all (if you don't mind). The song is "That's What Love is About." Here are the lyrics:

Kindra's bed is on the floor
Windows aren't safe
That's life in war

Sometimes through the night she counts
The times she hears the shots ring out
Kindra taught her self to steal
It's been three days since she's had a hot meal

Kindra's learning how to hate
Who'll save her life, before it's just too late
She's found an angel of mercy in her destiny
He said he came in the name of the Lord
Kindra don't pay me a thing

Pay with a smile or pay with a kiss
It's all a days work, that's what love is
Pay with a song or pay with a shout
It's part of my job cause
That's what love is about

Kindra's quite a lady now
Makes her home
In the south

Grateful for all that she's got
She's been blessed and owes a lot
She thinks back on her old life
Those tattered clothes, those tears at night

She hurts for that side of town
She's going back to lay her life down
They've got an angel of mercy in their destiny
She says she comes in the name of the Lord
Friend you don't owe me a thing (the girl said)

Pay with a smile or pay with a kiss
It's all a days work that's what love is
Pay with a song or pay with a shout
It's part of my job cause
That's what love is about

You really need to hear this song as it is played in all of its 90s glory, but I think that the basic ideas are obvious.

This song comes after a song entitled "Invisible Kingdom," a song that deals with the power of prayer and its seeming lack of prestige in today's society. Nonetheless, this song brings to mind certain things Jesus said about being a disciple of his.

Remember when Jesus took a child and set the child in the midst of his disciples? He encouraged his disciples to develop a child-like tendency to trust God (see Matthew 18:1-6). He says to them "Whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble . . ." Well, you probably remember the rest.

Earlier Jesus had told his disciples that to offer others even a "cup of cold water" in the name of Christ was considered a good thing to do.

Jesus also encouraged and admonished his followers to serve one another, to outdo one another in being kind and in service.

"The one who serves is the greatest" says Jesus.

Do we really believe it?

I don't think so.

The reason that this song got my attention (I think) is that it reminded me of my call as a Christ-follower--I am to offer debt-free love and service to others with no expectation of reward.

I am to love as Christ loves.

I am to lay down myself so that someone else may live.

I am to live simply so that others may simply live.

That isn't the American dream, now is it?

What person in your community has gone three days without a hot meal? Who are the "little ones" in your area who are wounded, hurt, dispossessed?

Will you love Jesus enough to love them?

Steve Camp used to sing a song that said something like "Can we taste the tears that they cried?" The song deals with loving the unloveable, embracing the unembraceable, touching the untouchable.

Jesus did that. He walked right up to people with leprosy. He put his clean hands on their decaying flesh. He touched them. He loved them.

Will we?

Who are our modern day lepers? Are they the drug addicts? The alcoholics? The divorcees? The liberal democrats? The conservative republicans? The victim of cancer, aids, etc.?

Are they the orphans of war? The ones left behind by our refusal to care?

Finding them isn't hard--they are out there.

Loving them is harder. They may even share a home with us.

May we learn today to offer debt-free love and service. Like Jesus may we learn to take joy in the smiles and laughter we receive. May we even be willing to be killed by those we love, even while we love them anyway.

I'm sorry this topic seems heavy. I didn't mean it to be so hard.

I'm under conviction.

Thanks for reading!

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