I’m Still Here

I know that I haven’t been posting much these days. I can sit here and give many reasons (some good, some bad) for why I have been noticeably absent. The biggest reason is that I just don’t know what to say lately. There are MANY possible topics that I can address here but to be honest, I don’t know how I can add to the conversation. Anyone can get online and spout off his/her opinion. That’s easy. If/when I do comment I want to make a healthy contribution to whatever is being discussed. I don’t want to make the problem any larger than it needs to be. I want to help move toward a solution. Sometimes I just don’t know how to do that. Please don’t confuse my silence for apathy. I really do try to examine everything I might say and decide if it needs to be said. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I blow it. Please know that I am trying.

Grace and peace

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At A Loss For Words

I don’t know what to say. That’s rare for me. However, as I sit here in my office and read the news stories and responses that are trending today I just don’t know how to respond. It seems like there is a new shooting and a new protest every day. It is 2016 and the racial tension in our nation is just as strong today as it has been since the day I was born. As a white man who also happens to be a Christian minister I honestly do not know how to respond. I am still processing things and I have asked some of my African-American friends how they feel so that I have a better understanding of the situation. The truth is that I really cannot know what they are experiencing. I confess that I do not know what to say or do. I do want to share the thing that is on my mind at this very moment.

I don’t get afraid if I see a police car pull up behind me, even if the lights are flashing. I might get upset with myself for doing something to get pulled but I don’t question the officer’s motivation. I was actually stopped once because my car matched the description of a vehicle that the police were looking for. I wasn’t scared when I was stopped. I was confused and a little irritated but I didn’t worry. Not once did I think I was in danger. Even when I have had interactions with officers who weren’t very pleasant I never feared for my life.

Let me tell you who I do worry about. My brother-in-law is from Ghana. When he speaks it is obvious that he isn’t from this country. His skin is much darker than mine. He is a fine Christian man and I am honored to call him my brother. He loves my sister and my two nieces and works hard to take care of them. I worry that something could happen to him. I promise you that racism is alive and well in eastern North Carolina.

I worry about many of my African-American friends. I don’t know what it feels like to be automatically labeled a “thug” because my skin is dark or I have dreads or I’m listening to hip-hop in my car. I have seen young black men accosted at a mall when they were doing nothing but standing around and talking. I don’t believe that most white people (or police officers) are racist but we cannot sit here and say that it doesn’t happen.

I don’t have the answer. I don’t have the solution. What I do believe is that we need to stand up and acknowledge that there is a problem. Unless we are willing to be honest and really hear those who are scared and are angry we will never move forward. We will never see unity.

Grace and peace

A View From The Pit: Introduction

U2 are one of my favorite rock bands. I have always appreciated the spiritual content in most of their lyrics. The first time I heard them was when MTV played their Under A Blood Red Sky concert film. The concert was filmed at Colorado’s Red Rocks amphitheater just after a series of rain storms that almost cancelled the show.

I had heard of U2 but they didn’t play the kind of music that I listened to. I was more into hard rock bands like Def Leppard and Quiet Riot but I can remember being mesmerized as I watched them perform as rain fell, fog rolled across the stage, and fames leapt into the sky from torches strategically places on stage. It was magical. Some feel that it was the moment that forever changed their career and turned them into one of the biggest rock bands to ever exist.

What stuck out to me was the way in which Bono worked the crowd. The image of him waving a white flag during Sunday Bloody Sunday is one of the iconic images from their career. It was the lyrics to that song that grabbed my attention. I had been in church my entire life and had idea that member of U2 professed faith in Christ. Imagine my surprise when Bono crooned, “To claim the victory Jesus won,” in the final verse of that anthem.

I sat there pondering that lyric while the other songs played. Had I misheard or misunderstood the lyrics? Did this guy in a rock band just mention Jesus? It wasn’t until the band walked back out on the stage to do the encore that it hit home. Those who have seen the film know that the final number is 40, which also happens to be the final track on their 1983 album War.

Guitarist Edge (his nickname) and bassist Adam Clayton swap instruments and Bono encourages the crowd to sing along with them. I had never heard the song before but I was immediately floored as the lyrics sprang from his lips.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined and heard my cry.

He lifted me up out of the pit, out of the miry clay.

I will sing a new song.

 

I could not believe this rock back was singing a Bible verse. What amazed me even more was that the crowd of over four thousand was singing along with him. I had been watching a rock concert and somehow it ended as a church service. That made an impact on me that I still feel to this day.

That was over thirty years ago but that performance touches me every time I see it. Personally, I think the ultimate version of the song is taken from their 2005 concert in Chicago when they paired it with another gripping song called Yahweh. That one literally brings tears to my eyes when the band drops out and the crowd continues to sing as they exit the stage.

I shared all of that because U2’s 40 is one of my favorite songs of all time and it is adapted from one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Psalm 40. The song and the psalm resonate with me deeply because they remind me that no matter how great my pain is God is still there with me. If I continue to put my trust in Him I will eventually be delivered. He will hear my cries and He will lift me up.

My purpose for writing this is to share my thoughts and feelings on this psalm of David. In these pages I will tell of various times in my life where I felt as if I was looking up from the bottomless pit and sinking in the muck and mire. All throughout my life this psalm has spoken peace to me and rekindled hope when I thought that I was alone in my trials. It is my prayer that it will do the same for you.

Grace and peace

40 lyrics by U2

 

A Prayer For All Of Us

LORD…it’s one of those days again. Help me stay focused on things I need to be. Help me resist the things that assail me through the course of this day.

I pray that You reach down and touch those in pain. Heal them. Grant them peace and mercy. Let them feel Your presence in a real and mighty way.

LORD…give me the hunger for Your word that I so desperately need. Lift me up out of the pit and miry clay and set my feet upon the Rock.

Let me love You. Help me to love You.

Have mercy on me…a sinner.

In Jesus’ name.

 

Grace and peace

A Quote From Kierkegaard

I ran across this in an old internet bulletin board exchange. Enjoy.

‘The Church has long needed a prophet who in fear and trembling had the courage to forbid people to read the Bible. I am tempted, therefore, to make the following proposal. Let us collect all the Bibles and bring them out to an open place or up on a mountain and then, while we all kneel, let someone talk to God in this manner: Take this book back again. We Christians, such as we are, are not fit to involve ourselves with such a thing; it only makes us proud and unhappy. We are not ready for it. In other words, I suggest that we, like those inhabitants whose herd of pigs plunged into the water and died, beg Christ “to leave the neighborhood” (Mt. 8:34). This would at least be honest talk – something very different from the nauseating, hypocritical, scholarship that is so prevalent today.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

I open the New Testament and read: “If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come follow me.” Good God, if we were to actually do this, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the entrepreneurs, the whole society in fact, would be almost beggars! We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose (that is, if Christian scholarship did not restrain it)’. – Søren Kierkegaard

Sixth Grade, Really?

This post will be short but I have to do it. The kids went back to school yesterday. Chris started ninth grade and Jamie started sixth. Wait. Hold on. How in the world can Jamie be in sixth grade? That just isn’t possible.

I can remember having similar feelings when Geoffry started sixth grade. The same feeling popped back up a few years ago when Chris reached that point. Jamie is my baby. She’s my last child. She is now in sixth grade. I have talked and written about my sixth grade so much that most people who know me can recite the important facts back to me. It is the first year of my life that I can vividly recall. It’s where the majority of my childhood memories begin. Jamie is there now.

Wow. It’s been thirty-five years since I was there. That’s hard to imagine but it’s true. So, in honor of that magical year I am listening to music from 1981 today. I’ll probably hook up the Atari Flashback tonight and play a game or two of Yar’s Revenge. I’ll probably send my buddy Paul a quick message on Facebook to lament our long gone youth. For now I’ll sing along with The Cars and The J. Geils Band.

Grace and peace