Monthly Archives: November 2015

Jesus wept

As a cradle Catholic, this was my favorite Bible verse, because it was easiest to memorize. It’s been on my mind a lot lately.

When I was impatient and dismissive recently to people for whom his love was so deep, he came and died for them, Jesus wept.

When abortion was considered a necessity in the world, Jesus wept.

When one of his people, a man whose brokenness ran so deep, he took a gun and killed three people and injured more, Jesus wept.

When he did it, at least in part because of abortion, Jesus wept.

When people used Jesus’s name to mitigate the horror that occurred, Jesus wept.

When other people on another continent decided to kill a lot of his children because God, Jesus wept.

When the country that was attacked decided it was necessary to protect its people by retaliating, Jesus wept.

When people decided some of his people shouldn’t be allowed to flee to other places because of their place or origin, Jesus wept.

When peoples’ concerns of security and safety were dismissed as impossibly racist and those people were determined to be not worthy of listening to, Jesus wept.

When a group of people was so hurt by certain ideas that they felt the need to purge all contending ideas from their presence, Jesus wept.

When a girl gave herself to a boy she didn’t really like just to feel a measure of validation and he saw her as a sex organ with legs, Jesus wept.

When that boy’s father beat him for spilling milk on the floor as a boy, Jesus wept.

When people shouted at each other on Facebook many, many times while people were still dying, Jesus wept.

When I shouted at my wife because I couldn’t manage things any more, Jesus wept.

The things that make this world broken aren’t solved by yelling, shooting, or war. When those things have to occur, and sometimes they have to, they’re not a cause for celebration or moral assurance. If you buy the concept that God loves the world enough to send Jesus, then you understand that our stupid little–and big–aggressions toward each other are the reason that Jesus gave himself to be killed.

I have no moral authority. I make Jesus weep a lot.

All we can do is try to accept grace, however that looks to us, and then extend it.

Nothing else will fix the broken things that’ll lead the news tonight.


One good thing, #24

Thanksgiving weekend, it seems, is the time for memories. So on the day after Thanksgiving weekend, the good thing is today. If you’re reading this, that’s a good thing. You’re on the right side of the grass, as they say.

Sure, you could have a day of crap ahead of you. You could be facing things that would melt the heart and resolve of the bravest Marine. Today could break your heart.

But you’re here and even if you have to go through those things, you also get to respond to them.

So today’s good thing is today.

One good thing, #23

I’m a cat guy, more than dogs. It’s not that I dislike dogs. I mean, our dog is literate. Look at the message he left on the closet door that one time…

But when I was a boy, we had a cat named Pixie. Pixie was my cat, more than anyone else’s. When I took a bath, I’m told that Pixie would sit in the driveway below the bathroom window until I was done. it seemed to me that she was a near-permanent fixture at the foot of my bed.

Our current cat is mean and evil, but I still like her.

So today’s one good thing is that special childhood pet, if you had one.

It’s terrorism

If you aren’t on the same page with Planned Parenthood, pretend for a moment that you are. Pretend you work there today. Pretend that your son or daughter works there. How do you feel about that?

Robert Lewis Dear said after he was arrested that there would be no more baby parts. That statement, of itself, doesn’t mean he was part of a planned, thought-out operation to cause Planned Parenthood to operate in fear or even shut down.

The facts would seem to indicate otherwise. Dear was not stable. He was a lone gunman. His history shows that he didn’t interact well with other people. He abused animals. This is not media spin aimed at somehow justifying the shooting. These are facts reported multiple times from multiple sources. isn’t exactly World Net Daily.

And while the number of rabid Christian idiots with Twitter accounts praising this guy was minimal, the fact remains that this particular Planned Parenthood location had a security room stocked with bulletproof vests.

It turned out to be a wise investment.

It isn’t wrong to oppose abortion. It isn’t wrong to stand outside a family-planning clinic and peacefully protest. I know some very good people who have done just that. (People who even voted for Obama twice.)

But if your construct starts with Jesus, it is wrong to scream at the people entering. It is wrong to publish the names and addresses of the people who work there; that in itself is a terrorist act. It’s the same as the guy who says, “Wow you have a nice house and family here. A real nice house and family. It would be a terrible shame if something were to happen to it, you know?”

And it’s wrong to make excuses for a murderer who killed people at an abortion clinic because it’s an abortion clinic.

If my son or daughter worked at Planned Parenthood, while I disagree with their mission in life, I’d be a little afraid for them. That’s unacceptable in a free society.

In a free society, shutting down the other side of a political debate through violence and intimidation is unacceptable. There are no exceptions.

If you were outraged by a journalist being bullied at the University of Missouri, if you saw that as a danger to free society, you should be horrified at this.

And that’s before we bring religion into the discussion.

Your God should be powerful enough not to need petty christian soldiers killing or spreading terror in his name. Your God should powerful enough to be able to overlook any affront and love his creation anyway.

It’s something I personally fall short on, but it’s something we’re called to try to do. Every day. With people who support abortion, among others.

Jesus died for them, as much as for you. And you’re driving them away from his love and making it far less likely that they’ll ever listen about that. Better for you to tie a millstone around your neck and throw yourself into the ocean than to drive God’s children away from him.

Fond memories you don’t notice at the time

During Thanksgiving, it’s common to think about past years and what happened on Thanksgiving. For me, what resonates about Thanksgiving is more the combined experience than any individual years. (Though there was the one year everyone was so full from all the food before the meal that the meal was barely touched. I specifically remember the kielbasa from that year, which was as good as any sex I’ve ever had. [Sorry, Laura, but it was really, really good.])

It’s probably not a good statement about priorities, but as I watched a bit of the Cowboys game on Thursday, I reminisced about Pat Summerall and John Madden. I’m probably not alone in that. The people who give voice to the games we watch always have a soft spot in our hearts. Talk to Cubs fans about Harry Caray, or Yankees fans about Phil Rizzuto. Talk to current Bucs about Gene Deckerhoff. Or to Red Sox fans about a certain Vin Scully call.

The voice of the games becomes the games. And I miss those specific voices.

While Pat and John called games, you never thought much about it. They were just there, year after year, forever. Along with faint late-afternoon light (if you consider 4 pm late afternoon) and condensation on the insides of windows.

In the grand scheme of things, football games called by Pat Summerall and John Madden are not a large consideration. But taking time to recognize little things you enjoy–that become part of the fabric of your memories–that is a big thing.

So while it’s frivolous to be thankful for the guys who call your games, for the lady at the breakfast place who always smiles and makes you feel a bit better, or for the guys you listen to on the way to work every single morning–it is worth recognizing those things, too, when you’re having a spate of thankfulness.

One Good Thing, #22

The little things you don’t even thing about right now, but you will remember fondly in the coming years.

Don’t like the news? Change the conversation

Hoooooooooooly crap! The end of the world is upon us. And if it isn’t there’s a group of wackos working hard to make the world end. 

Starting with the guy in college who tried to drive his finger through my chest while telling me it was obvious that Reagan wanted nuclear war, I’ve been hearing this most of my adult life.

Right now, it seems as salient as ever, with Daesh (you may know them as ISIS, but Daesh annoys them, so…) mucking things up, Turkey shooting down Russian planes, and the possibility of a NATO-induced repeat of Archduke Franz Ferninand being assassinated for singing Take Me Out.

In short, the news sucks.

What’s a guy to do?

As the great philand….err, philosopher Don Draper once said, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

You and I don’t have the power to defeat Daesh. We can’t make Turkey stop being a giant hemorrhoid. We can’t make the 2016 Presidential election campaign go away. We can’t beat hunger.

But we can make a tiny difference to maybe on person someplace every day.

This year, I’ve learned the value of small, unexpected blessings. That tiny little special thing someone does just because it’d be nice. It could be a near-worthless gift that looked special. It could be just a change in the routine because it would be cool and neat. It could be as simple as an undeserved smile or bit of encouragement. It might even be something as simple as showing up with coffee, just to see them smile.

In short, if Russia and Turkey get into it and NATO requires us to help, if Daesh attacks, and if the jackhole in front of us won’t turn until there are no cars on the entire length of the road, there’s nothing you or I can do about that. So why worry about it?

What you and I can do is something small and simple, but powerful and profound (it’s alliteration day!). We can, as the great Ben Kingsley once said, be the change we want to see in the world.

Ben Kingsley, in the upcoming reboot of Sanford and Son.

It doesn’t take a Herculean effort to do that one nice thing that might be the difference from someone else.

One good thing, #21

Think about the last time someone’s face lit up when they saw you. That’s a very good thing.

A mess of good things

It’s Thanksgiving. The day of parades, football, 97-pound newspapers full of ads, more food than you can shake a stick at, and carb-induced afternoon naps.

Holy crap, I have to be thankful for tofu turkey?

This year, Thanksgiving is different. We’re down a kid, though that’s happened before. We don’t have the rest of the family around. Money is a super-big issue, and could get a lot, lot bigger soon.

The traditional Thanksgiving food fight with loved ones. And Diane.

But there’s a lot we don’t even consider–things we typically roll our eyes about being thankful for, because we take them for granted. What a blessed life it is when you take things like this for granted. I hope you have all of these.

Say it with me: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

  • Sleeping inside a climate-controlled building on a comfortable bed with sufficient blankets.
  • Indoor plumbing.
  • Comfortable shoes.
  • Running potable water.
  • The ability to feast.
  • People to enjoy the day with.
  • The health to enjoy the day.
  • The ability to hop in a car and go see other people safely and pretty efficiently.
  • The ability to instantly communicate with the people who aren’t around via phone, video, or even just text.
  • The chance to spend the day with people who love you.

But that’s basic, and it always has the feel of feeling a little self-righteous and guilt inducing. So here are some other things to be thankful for, from my point of view:

  • The soft weight of a small person who trusts you enough to fall asleep while you’re carrying them, head on your shoulder.
  • The taste of a perfect cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Being with someone and knowing, to paraphrase the great Marv Levy, that there’s no other place you’d rather be than right here, right now.
  • Sitting on a porch swing on a comfortable summer afternoon and realizing that, for the moment, you have nothing else to do.
  • Holding hands.
  • The soft jolt of footfalls on a running trail.
  • Crisp fall mornings.
  • The overwhelming quiet of being outside when it’s snowing hard.
  • The gentle warmth of a summertime sun on your body.
  • Fitting into that piece of clothing you made a goal.
  • Laughing hysterically at something that isn’t that funny, but it’s just the mood you’re in.
  • Stepping into a warm shower on a cold day.
  • And, finally, four-day weekends. If you don’t have one this weekend, I hope you have one soon.

Getting a better Jesus

My Jesus is weak and ineffective. When I have problems, he’s not willing, interested, or able to anything to get me through my current struggles. He leaves it to me to figure everything out and doesn’t do anything to help me get through the storm.

My Jesus isn’t someone anyone else would follow, for I have made him impotent.

My Jesus can’t stand up as an antidote to the words of harsh judgement and intolerance spoken by other peoples’ Jesus, or he has no compelling voice.

My Jesus is a mystical rabbits foot, kept in the drawer until things get really, really bad. Then he taken out, rubbed vigorously, stared at, castigated for not making anything change, and then put back until the next time things get really bad. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My Jesus is better than those harsh, intolerant Jesuses, if only because it’s impotent, instead of harmful.

Follow me, you rotten sinful piece of crap!

No one is ever going to see the appeal in believing or following my Jesus. Why would they? I don’t.

My Jesus is a cross (see what I did there?) between Santa and Superman. He’s supposed to come when summoned, bail me out of trouble, and if he’s not too busy, deliver the winning Powerball numbers, if he would.

When he doesn’t deliver on those things, my Jesus is an object of wrath and scorn for not serving some very real and pressing needs on my schedule and in the way I want.

My Jesus is my servant, and sometimes I unshackle him for minutes at a time and let him serve. And then when he starts to do things that I, his god, don’t approve of, I reshackle him, for he needs to be closely controlled.

My Jesus is an idol of my own creation, someone I worship and control. Someone who can never take me someplace where I don’t feel securely on control. My Jesus isn’t good, but he’s safe.

My Jesus. A real lion.

My Jesus regularly lets me down and leaves me to deal with everything myself.

Maybe it’s time to get a Jesus with the power to touch my heart and dare me to trust Him as God, the one who does things I can’t even conceive. The one who might lead me to dangerous, scary places I don’t want to go, but won’t let me go there alone.

The one who helps me keep my heart and mind out of the manure that life sometimes tries to bury me in.

I need a better Jesus.

Prolly not him.

Or maybe I just need to let the Jesus I already have be unsafe and uncontrollable and scary and awesome.

I tried controlling everything and it’s not working.

If Shaun T isn’t involved, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is nuts. It’s insanity.

Maybe it’s time to try something different with Jesus.

One good thing, #19

The food we have to eat and the fact that we have the luxury for personal taste to be a factor in what we choose to eat.

Not contributing (but not in the way you think)

As I write this, a big change is coming to my status quo. At some point in the next two weeks, a decision will be made and things will change. It’s not a decision I can make. In this, I am perfectly powerless. What I do between now and that decision will not influence it.

We’ve been in this holding pattern for about three weeks now, and in that time, I’ve become more unpleasant (go figure, right?), less able to hold things together. Brittle and inflexible.

And for that, I am sorry.

I’m not sorry in a “I suck, I suck, I really, really suck” kind of way. It’s more like I know that most people are just trying to get to the end of the day and on some days, I’ve made that marginally more difficult for the people around me.

I’m not contributing. By that, I don’t mean in the work I do–that’s kind of capped for the time being. I mean more in the experience other people have as a result of me.

One of the changes to me as a result of this year is that’s increasingly unacceptable. It might be reasonable to get cranky. It might be understandable. But that doesn’t make my frustration add to the human condition.

I don’t want to be the guy who becomes understandably bitter and frustrated. I want to be the guy who people look at and say, “Wow, that happened to him? You’d never know it.” There are, I think, tricks to that, and I’ll write about them as time goes by.

But the bottom line is that I’m not the only one having going through a hard time and my hard time doesn’t give me license to impose a hard time on others.

It’s difficult, this demand on myself. But it’s not a guilt-ridden, self-flagellation. You can’t get to where I want to go if you take that path.

I just want to do better and I’m sorry that I haven’t.

And that’s enough for today.

One good thing, #18

The certain knowledge that you aren’t alone. And you aren’t. Sometimes you have to look pretty hard to prove it, but it’s true.

My own Christian hypocrisy

It’s not what you’d expect. When you hear the words Christian hypocrisy, you typically think about people angrily waving their Bibles, shouting curses at sexual sinners. (Why do we save our wrath only for sexual sinners?)

But there are a million flavors of hypocrisy. And I’ve been a hypocrite lately.

Though I’ve whined this year on this blog, I haven’t turned sullen and bitter about it until the last couple weeks. That, of itself, isn’t a terrible sin. It’s understandable, but not helpful, and God’s correction for it is probably a very gentle one.

And honestly, to expect a Christian to be Pollyanna because her or she says the prayers is naive. It’s also insulting to people who’ve known severe trauma (present company excluded).

My hypocrisy is deeper and more subtle than that. I know people going through mind-bending stuff right now. Stuff that makes my own load seem a little less crapnormous.

I’ve offered to pray for these people and I’ve done so, quite earnestly. I want their load lightened. I want them to emerge from the turbulence. I want them to know some peace.

I’ve prayed for Paris, for the people killed and the people directly and indirectly affected, even for the people doing the killing, that they might know a change of heart.

Except there’s one problem: I don’t believe it.

I mean, I guess I do, for them. I believe that they might know peace and that they might get a break from their struggles.

But I’ve prayed the same prayer for myself. And it’s that prayer I don’t believe is being answered. That’s what my thoughts and actions show, anyway.

For the record, I think that God’s response to this hypocrisy would be gentle, too. It would be like a parent picking up a bloody and scared child, soothing them, and saying “Of course, I’m here, silly.” And then there’s a hug.

If you aren’t a Christian, this hypocrisy probably doesn’t matter to you.

But all the other hypocrisies flow from this one. The testiness. The bitterness leaking through. The arrogant impatience on calls. But those things are symptoms.

How can I put aside my own issues and help people in their struggles when I don’t believe God is actively helping me? How can I offer to pray for others, to imply God answers those prayers, when I don’t believe in my own prayers?

One Good Thing, #17

Gently answered prayers that help you see the greater truths and ease into a greater peace–especially when those prayers shine a light on your own frailties and emotional and intellectual traps.