Tuesday, April 28, 2015

For the Love of God....No, Seriously, for the Love of God

A simple look across the news landscape today and one could conclude that the world is indeed on fire.  And if you're watching the news today most likely it is from a conduit designed to fan the flames of the lesser angels of your nature.  Have you ever wondered how much of your anger about a thing is in direct proportion to how much of it has been stoked by talking heads?  Oh...by the way, they're laughing all the way to the bank as they do that.

There are real issues of justice and mercy afoot around questions of race, the role of government, equality in marriage, income disparity, immigration, a Church claiming the desire to be relevant but not willing see itself as part of the problem about why it isn't...

Meanwhile, Baltimore burns.  Baltimore, the place where Methodism became a Church in 1784, needs our prayers for its leaders who can lead well through chaos.  And as a country we need to be honest about what drives people to such reactions.  MLK called rioting "the language of the unheard."  I suspect that's right.

For faith leaders in the midst of it all...especially our sister and brother United Methodists, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As I heard of what was transpiring in Baltimore through the postings of a childhood friend who lives there, I kept asking myself, "what would it take for that to happen in Memphis."  My answer came swiftly, "not much, I suspect."

Yeah, we need leaders who can lead through chaos in all sorts of avenues of our lives.  I look at those elected to office under the auspices of representing people, and I want to puke.

And while there's much to complain about in Washington, I don't need to leave The Volunteer State to see ineptitude and ignorance at the highest level.

What's that quote about "we get the government we deserve?"  Lord, have mercy.
Here's a clue, if you're more interested in making the Bible your "state" book than you are living into the instructions contained therein about tending to the least among us, you're an idiot at best or an idolater at worst.

And then there's the Church.

Some claim the Church and its institutions are under attack and must be protected at all costs.
I keep looking for Jesus in that notion, and I'm not finding him.  In fact, I think I'm more likely to find him keeping company with those who cause the Church to grumble and conspire all kinds of things to justify why we can't/mustn't change the ways we do things.

Thurgood Marshall said, "What we owe to ourselves and everyone around is to examine the reasons for our true intent.  My intent will be evident in the results."

And it is here I find myself returning to words that have become mantra for my ministry, my journey:
Jesus doesn't need you to defend him.  He's just fine.  You know that whole rose on the third day thing?  Rather, he needs you to follow him and his words, most notable among them are "Love God with all you have and are, and love what God loves."

Our true intent here is evidenced in whether our love for God's people is greater than the institutions invoking God's name.  Do we love our position on an issue, any issue/any side of it, more than the One we claim to follow?

If we love God and all God loves first and most, seems to me we hear the cries of the weary and downcast over the bloviating "shout fire in a crowded theater" opinion makers.  By the way, you know what opinions are like, right?  Everybody has one, and some of these folks are.

If we love God and all God loves first and most then in the face of systemic injustice (be it religious or governmental, but especially religious) our voices begin to sound a helluva lot like Jeremiah's:

"For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain; 
and from prophet to priest, 
everyone deals falsely. 
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, 
saying, “Peace, peace,” 
when there is no peace.  
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; 
yet they were not ashamed, 
they did not know how to blush."

And while I have no answer to the complexities of all the problems of this world, the life of Jesus points me in the direction where I need to advocate, agitate, embrace and empower.  My greatest struggle in moments such as these is not whether I take a position, it's being clear about my intent in doing so.   My prayer is that in every moment, especially the hard ones, it is "for the love of God...no, seriously, for the love of God."

Friday, April 17, 2015


Today's a hard day for my family.

All of us suffer loss. It is among the things humanity has in common. Sometimes loss is sudden, tragic. 

Sometimes it's gradual. 

The memories of all that occurred the day Jimmy died are seared. Can't be undone nor can a recitation of the pain be unfelt. 

This year it feels different. Maybe it's because most of my family was together with our new family only days ago celebrating the love of God alive in Mia. 

Maybe it's because I see Jimmy's son becoming such an impressive young man.

Maybe it's that I'm different. I'm told I am. Self awareness is a gift to be sure--I'm aware enough to know it's true. 

Whatever it is, while today I may not be on top of the mountain, I do know that I am "Closer to Fine."

Love you, brother. 

"I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shore.
I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine."