Prayer

Prayer is a funny thing. My daughter prays. She’s 4. Sometimes her prayers are very sweet. Praying for the sick kids and teachers from her school. Sometimes, she just prays that’s she going to get to meet the characters at Disney World or that she got a new book. Which, the gratitude is great and talking to Jesus is awesome but… doesn’t really get at the heart of prayer.

Anyway, I have stated previously that since moving to Philly, my prayer life has been others focused. I prayed for so long for the same thing that I gave up. It was time to move on. Refocus and not stress about what had not happened for me. Yes, prayer isn’t about getting anything and it’s not about answers, but I still had to take a step back. I went liturgical and read from the Book of Common Prayers. I lit a prayer candle and paced silently. It was different and resetting.

Now, if a family member needs prayer, boom. If a friend is struggling, I’m on it. I light a candle and ask God to help them. But prayer isn’t about me or my ambitions or goals or dreams. And that’s fine. My prayers would be selfish and self defeating. So I focus on others. My life is pretty great already.

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Sharing the Bad

Yesterday when I picked Emily up from school she told me her teacher gave her something and she wanted to show me. It was from the ocean and I had to smell it. It was a piece of coral reef and man oh man, it stank. When I smelled it and recoiled, Emily said “yeah, it smells bad.”

Why is it our instinct to share bad things with other people? It starts young (apparently) and doesn’t change. I was at lunch with some friends a few years back and one friend got some milk for his son. He took a sip and said “this milk is bad.” And then he looked at his sister and said “you try it.” The milk wasn’t good and they both knew it and yet he wanted to share the badness and she took a sip.

Why the need to share awful experiences? Even these minors ones? Why do we want people to share in our pain or discomfort? Is it just to have someone to share an experience with? Someone who can commiserate in our pain? Even if it’s just sour milk?

Words

So when did the word for the year trend blow up? Every person I know has their own personal word for the year. Their life motto for 2019. I’m not trying to shit on it. My wife and I always write down a few words that correspond with our goals for the year (although this year she personalized the word(s) for herself).

If you’re curious, my word for the year would be emo. I mean new music from Mineral, American Football, Pedro the Lion, (probably) Jimmy Eat World, etc… Of course it’s emo (again).

Anyway, words. The trend is interesting to me. Pick a focus word and try to build a year around it? Or be a motto to live by? An ideal to uphold? I’m not a trends guy. Probably the punk side of me. I don’t know my enneagram number (I tried to take the test but found the questions stupid and not this or that enough to factually answer). I really have no problem with people doing it. It’s a way to try and better ones self and that’s just fine. What am I trying to say? I dunno. Just that I don’t get why it exploded this year.

More Love, Less Moral Policing

By now, everyone has seen or heard about or read think pieces on the Jerry Falwell Jr interview with the Washington Post. Welcome to my think piece. Ha. Ok not really. This is personal.

The comments made by Jr reflect comments I see from people all the time on social media. Comments like the one Falwell made make me feel lied to and are why I can’t call myself a Christian. Just take a couple of quotes from Jerry:

“There’s two kingdoms. There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country… it’s a distortion to imagine that the country as a whole should love its neighbors and help the poor just because Jesus told individuals to do so.”

This argument comes up frequently. They want “christian” policy in place when it comes to abortion, marriage, sexual education, and other moral policies. Religious freedom has become a buzzword but it only applies to christians in their viewpoint. But it when it comes to helping people, feeding the poor, offering refuge for the stranger and refugee, well that’s the churches and individuals responsibility and shouldn’t be something the government legislates. When it comes to helping people, when it comes to loving people, christians in politics shouldn’t use the bible as their measuring stick for legislation. Every time this argument comes up I want to rip my hair out. I’ve had people use this argument, but they’re also people using the bible to tell me my tattoos are sinful.

It’s frustrating that there is such a concern for morality in our country but not people. When I read the bible, morality isn’t the driving message. It’s about people. The great commandment is love God and love people and if you don’t love people, you aren’t loving God. That is my belief. The moral majority missed that message and so many of us grew up with a distorted view of the bible and christianity and are trying to right the ship and fight for a better understanding.

And I feel like we have to fight. Because christianity that thinks separating families at the border is “tough love” has to die. And if that’s what christianity is, I want nothing to do with it.

Music Matters

It’s beyond cheesy but I love the scene in Garden State when Natalie Portman has Zach Braff listen to the Shins. “This song will change your life.” I love it because I get it. When you hear a kick ass song, you want to share it with every single person you know. Love this song like I love it. The current song that is rocking my world is Luxury’s Parallel Love. Just amazing.

Music makes you feel good. It can make you think or connect with God. It’s all spiritual. I believe this. I have seen people cry watching Sigur Ros play live. It was intense. From churches to basements, arenas and dive bars, people find communion and connection through music. There’s nothing better.

Hope

A new year. Where we all hope to that the coming 365 days will be better than the previous ones. Unless the previous the previous year was awesome. Then we hope the coming year will be equally as good for us, if not better. Hope is dangerous. We put our hope in a person, who fails us. We hope our prayers are answered and when they aren’t, well, sometimes it’s devastating. We hope for a great year but instead are handed divorce papers, or lose a job, or a child. We break an arm, get in an accident, the offer for a house doesn’t get accepted, you name it. Life happens and despite our hopes, we don’t have a lot of control over things.

In 2018 I had friends and family get divorced and lose a baby, a parent, pet, have surgery and cancer scares. And that shit sucks. For me, 2018 was a pretty great year. And I have hope for another great year. But life doesn’t care about my hope.

I don’t view the Bible like I used to, but I like where Paul says faith, hope, and love remain. Faith, hope, and love can all fail us. Be it people or systems, political parties and religious affiliations. But at the end of the day, faith, hope, and love will still be there. It’s still important.

So I hope this year is the best yet. And if it isn’t… I’ll hope the same thing next year.

Having Grace To Hear

Last summer I read a book about John F Kennedy’s assassination. The book was about how the false narrative around JFK’s death fueled the social and cultural change that happened after his death. The idea that JFK died fighting for civil rights changed liberalism in America. It was an interesting read. What bugged me about it was the not so subtle implication that social changes, like desegregation, should have never happened. The idea being that because these changes happened under false pretense that it was somehow bad for the country. Instead of seeing the good, all the author could focus on was how the changes happened on a lie.

I read this book as America was engaged in protests and riots over the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and countless others. And it was easy to see the correlation between the point the author of the JFK book was making and the way pundits and journalists were talking about Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Michael Brown. Yes, the initial accounts of what happened between Brown and Officer Wilson weren’t accurate. But the Justice Department still found racial biases in the Ferguson police department. And calling attention to that fact is important and needed to happen! If truth and awareness and (eventually) change come out of a situation where the initial reports might not have been fully accurate, that change and truth are still just as valid and as good as they would’ve been had the initial reports been more factually correct. Truth isn’t invalid if the situation where the truth was found is misrepresented. It’s still true.

And what I found bugging me most in conversations where I supported Black Lives Matter were comments that went like this.

“If they had only followed the law, they wouldn’t have been in trouble.” “Why are you supporting and protesting for criminal/thug?”

I keep coming back to simple phrase “Every number has a name. Every name has a story. And every story matters to God.”

I think about John 8 and the woman caught in adultery. “If only she had followed the law, she wouldn’t have been thrown before Jesus and the Pharisees wouldn’t have been ready to stone her.” “Why stick up for her? She’s just a whore.” Jesus didn’t just see her for her flaws and her sin. He saw her potential. He saw a person, created in God’s image, who just needed grace, mercy, and a second chance. From the shepherds in the Christmas story to tax collectors and prostitutes, the Gospel’s are full of stories where Jesus interacts with and shows love to people who most of us probably wouldn’t go to bat for.

We just finished a series on wisdom at church and the final week was about how Jesus is the ultimate display of God’s wisdom. I think about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians.

“Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class. But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. So no human being can brag in God’s presence. It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

Sometimes God calls us to love, stand up for, support, or forgive people who we may think are unlovable, unforgivable, too far gone, and not responsible enough. Sometimes God uses those people to help you see an injustice you never would’ve have noticed on your own. Sometimes you have to stand up and support a cause or person, even when it seems “unwise.” Because you never know what God might be up to.