Category Archives: God stuff

I want me some peace that surpasses all understanding

Warning: This is directed at me, as a reminder. If you’re Christian, it’s not the worst thing to read. If not, take a read anyway.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. — Philippians 4:5-6

The Washington Post published a column (reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle) that said Americans are living in an anger incubator. I’ve had my moments in the past few months. If you’re breathing, you probably have, too.

A few social media friends–generally reasonable people–have posted that they’re having an increasingly difficult time being decent human beings. If I’m honest, there are days when it’s all too much, when I want to roar at 10 billion decibels to just knock it frigging off.

That’s reasonable. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic wrapped in an economic crash inside social unrest we haven’t seen in 50 years. It’s hard not to have those times.

This is where it gets dicey. As a Christian, my people are called out for not loving as we should. And often we don’t. Typically, it calls use out for not showing love, or even baseline decency, to the marginalized.

But what about these guys?

In my opinion, this isn’t a Second Amendment issue. They should be in jail. There was no clear threat that required pointing a loaded weapon (all guns are loaded) at someone with your finger on the trigger. They’re lucky they–and maybe others–aren’t dead.

But I’m called to love then, too. Because God who loved me when I was a schmuck and he asked me to love them.

It’s not the same as pointing a loaded gun at people, but Leonard Pitts said that as a white man, I am by definition racist and misogynist. That pissed me off. But I’m called to love him, too.

I can still disagree with Leonard Pitts. I can still vehemently oppose the actions of the people who aimed firearms at people walking along a street. I can denounce Donald Trump’s actions. I can grow angry at the increasingly trivial list of things that have to be abolished.

To quote the great David LoPan (movie character), “Now this really pisses me off to no end.”

I have to love all of those people.

Love doesn’t mean you can’t be angry. Love isn’t like. I don’t have to be best buds with these people. I do have to hold back from indulging myself, from using them as a release valve for unresolved angst that comes with 2020.

I can let go of it and understand that I, too, did racist things earlier in my life. I, too, have been a raging asshole. Any blanket condemnation issued by me boomerangs and hits me first.

There’s a little selfishness involved, too. I want that peace the surpasses all understanding. I’m tired of constantly being on edge. When you’re on edge, you can’t think straight. And when you can’t think straight, you can’t be effective. More to the point, I’m just tired of being tired.

Peace be with you.

Maybe Christians shouldn’t be comfortable right now

CS Lewis

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” — CS Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

The New York Times published an article this week about how even the walls of church aren’t thick enough to repel the divisions in society. The article pins the blame on Donald Trump’s divisive stances and rhetoric. Trump hasn’t just stoked the fires, he’s dumped as much gasoline as possible on them.

But he’s hardly alone in divisiveness. Matters of racial justice can make a lot of people uncomfortable. And purity tests can be as pervasive Sunday mornings as any other time of the week.

I was recently called out as racist over my lack of support for socialism by a member of a men’s group I’ve been in for most of the last twenty years. It made me damn uncomfortable and I didn’t respond as gracefully as I’d like. If I am racist, it’s not because I didn’t support Bernie Sanders. And a purity test like that is out of place in a Christian setting.

Yeah, yeah, Jewish socialists, blah blah blah

But to be honest, the purity test isn’t what pissed me off. I think it’s Jesus pissing me off.

I don’t remember the exact day Jesus first made me deeply uncomfortable, but I remember where I was and who I was talking to. A Director at work, letting me know that my head was up my butt when it came to interpersonal relationships and it was damaging my career, as well as making other peoples’ job more difficult than it needed to be.

I’ve been told that most people don’t look in the mirror when they get that kind of feedback. But how could I not? I’m the guy who stopped wearing the WWJD bracelets because I knew how I acted sometimes and I didn’t want other Christians associated with my actions.

The guy who talked to me that day probably walked away from the discussion a little worn out, maybe a little frazzled. He probably shook his head. I firmly believe he was doing God’s work, because he changed me.

And now this is going on. I grew up in a culture that’s whiter than a new baseball. The best way to win at hide and seek was to take your clothes off in a snowstorm.

I’ve done and said some really stupid things–even evil. I’d carelessly cut a person of color and laugh while they’re bleeding.

That was a long time ago, and that part of me has whithered away to almost nothing. But reading about Ahmaud Arbery getting ambushed during a run made me angry and uncomfortable. I can run and no one screws with me. I can run alone in the dark and nothing bad happens. That’s not true of everyone.

There’s nothing wrong with my being able to do that. It’s wrong that everyone can’t.

So when that guy called me racist, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I’m still not comfortable about it. To be honest, it pisses me off that I’m not wearing Hawaiian shirts or that I’ve chosen not to watch or read crime fiction. And I think renaming Eskimo Pies and the Texas Rangers baseball team is ridiculous. I think law enforcement needs to be better trained and their culture needs to allow for calling out bad apples without retaliation.

But I think abolishing law enforcement is foolhardy.

Those used to be comfortable positions for me, but I’m not sure any more. I think they’re right, but my certainty is gone–and that’s as it should be.

The parable where the slave is forgiven a lot of debt, more than he can possibly repay, then turns around and holds a fellow slave in bondage over a very small debt.

Jesus has me questioning whether I’m that guy. Over race.

And then Jesus said, “Dude. Really?”

In short, if you really believe in the Jesus that’s good, but not safe, you should be uncomfortable now. You should be wondering if you’re doing what he wants you to do.

Jesus didn’t die so we could be comfortable. The grace he dispenses isn’t free. It’s not cheap, either. It calls for discomfort. And not just about looking at women wearing yoga pants.

The Jesus that allows you to be comfortable while others are being crapped on isn’t a living God. He’s a statue on the bookcase, a figurine on the dashboard. The one who looked at the rich man and loved him, still challenged him.

Safe Jesus isn’t real Jesus

If we’re uncomfortable right now, we shouldn’t start by lashing out at the minister or small group member who makes us uncomfortable. We should go to the Master and ask if he’s trying to tell us something.

It’s not up to me to say whether God thinks you’re racist. I don’t have the tools and I don’t want the responsibility. I’m just saying it might be worthwhile to react to the discomfort by asking what he wants us to do with it.

The answer won’t be safe. But it will be good.

The only logical conclusion to this week

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

Me and Jesus and the riots

I was sitting on the rocker on the front porch, sweating profusely after my run when Jesus showed up.

“Hey,” he said.

I’d been sitting with my head in my hands, wasting time before I went in to shower so I’d smell okay and maybe stop sweating before church started. Online today for the hundred forty-third week in a row. Or so it seemed.

But at Jesus saying my name I jump.

“Holy hell, what that… Oh, it’s you.”

“I’m happy to see you, too.”

Normally Jesus is self-contained, almost bemused when he talks to me. As if I’m his precocious three-year-old telling me stories. He radiates calm and completeness. Then again, he’s Jesus. You’d expect that.

But today, he seemed preoccupied, distracted.

“What’s up?” I said.

He took in a long breath, fidgeting the fingers on his right hand. I thought for a moment that his Jesus clothes were uncomfortable in the summer Florida humidity, even in the morning.

“What do you think?”

I was reaching for my towel so I could wipe some sweat that was starting to invade my eyes, but his tone made me stop.

“You pissed at me?”

He sighed in a way that made me remember my mom when I stopped being precocious and started being a pain in the ass. But this wasn’t my mom. It was Jesus.

“You realize it’s not always about you.”

I waited for more, but he just stood there bouncing on the balls of his feet slightly.

“Okay.” Then I waited some more. Eventually he had to say something.

“Brad called you racist yesterday.”

I shrugged. Brad was part of my men’s small group, which was fraying a little under the strain of the Covid and the unemployment of a couple of the guys. Brad was one of them, and he differed politically. For some reason, he and I were getting into it lately.

“You didn’t shrug yesterday. You said you were done and were a bit of a drama queen about it. If you’re gonna leave a call, leave it.”

Now I was pissed at him. “I kept looking for the exit icon so I could get out of the call. It wasn’t for lack of effort, you know.”

“What do you think of what he said?”

Normally, I share with Jesus. When I don’t, it’s because I don’t want to acknowledge that part in front of him. This was the first time I was intimidated and afraid how he would react.

“I was trying to find the damn icon to exit the call. What do you think?”

“I think the people who’re getting their butts kicked have more a lot more cause to be angry than you do.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but couldn’t. Brad had pronounced my racism solely on my political stance, which isn’t pro-Trump, but that didn’t matter to him. I was the idiot who took the bait.

“You apologized, though. So there’s that.”

“And offered to not be part of the group.”

He nodded, not exactly looking me in the eye. “That’s not what I want.”

Again, I didn’t know what to say.

“You add to that group, and it upsets me that you might have to leave.”

“I’m the one who reacted.” Normally, I don’t get snippy with Jesus, but he was setting the tone today. And I didn’t like the unspoken part of his words. “You know, I realize that others have it worse, but frazzled is frazzled and that’s me.”

“I know.”

“And I didn’t kill that guy. Or cheer for it. Or make excuses. And I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of the people who were hurt by it, even if I don’t agree with the rioting and looting.”

“I read your blog posts.”

I almost asked Jesus if I could quote him on that, but he didn’t seem to be in the mood.

He walked away from me a few steps, then turned back.

“You seem a little…different today.”

“Ya think?” His voice echoed a little, which is scary because he’s Jesus.

My wife had used that tone with me during an argument the day before, but it didn’t stab at me the way this did.

“You think I like this?”

I said nothing, waiting to see exactly where he was going.

“You think I like watching everything unravel like this? This really hurts that community. You can’t understand their pain.”

Jesus was pissing me off to the point where I almost told him he made me white. But that seemed like a bad idea. There were supposed to be lightning storms later.

“Do you have any idea how much pain there is now? How much fear? Do you have any idea how many people were on the edge of suicide or assault yesterday? How many kids and spouses were abused? How many people wept quitely in the dark?”

I didn’t weep, but it had been a few weeks since I’d slept past four-thirty in the morning. And there’d been plenty of yelling.

“No,” I said.

Then I had to work to not look away. You’ve never felt naked the way you do when Jesus hits you full force. There aren’t enough hands to cover up the parts I don’t want him to see.

That’s when I noticed the sheen under his eyes, the glossiness in his eyes. And then the struggle for composure made sense.

“You’re crying.”

“It happens, you know. You can’t love people and see all this and not be affected by it.”

It felt odd, but I thought maybe Jesus could use an ear, so I did something out of character–I kept my mouth shut. The sun was high enough now to hit my on the porch, so I raised my hand to sheild my eyes.

“My heart’s breaking for you guys. All of you.”

“Pretty dark out.”


Neither of us spoke for a while, until he decided the silence had gone on long enough.

“You won’t ask why I don’t fix it.”

Another shrug from me. “We had that conversation before. The answer was intensely unsatisfying.”

He lot out a long breath and nodded, then stepped forward and put his hand on my shoulder. That was nice.

“I could stop it. But that’s not love. That’s force. Did you stop your kids when they picked stupid fights?”

I remembered the one time my son was little and doing something I didn’t want him to do. Given that he was maybe two or three at the time, I had the ability to literally force him to do what I wanted, so I did.

My looking down as my cheeks burned at being reminded of this almost twenty years later should tell you how that felt.

He nodded. “Yeah, you get it.” It sounded like an indictment.

“What are you gonna do?”

He shook his head. “Cry. It breaks my heart. Seeing people I love in so much unnecessary pain. What are you gonna do?”

Yet another shrug. “I dunno. Write a blog post that no one will read. Pop off on Facebook.”

“I could ask you why you write the blogs no one reads, but that’s not the point today.”

Nothing to say to that.

“You’re okay. And you did okay with Brad. Not awesome but okay.”

“He believes I’m racist. Part of me believes he’s right.”

I started to talk again, but Jesus raised his hand to me, palm and all.

“Don’t ask me about the future. You know I can’t tell you that.”

“Is it gonna be okay?”

Jesus rolled his eyes, but I hadn’t asked something specific this time. It was allowed.

“No. It won’t be. It’s never okay when this many people hurt. And yes, because everything’ll be set right.”

“How you gonna manage that?”

Jesus shook his head. “You can’t understand. Just accept that the best possible outcome will occur, but not in the way you expect it on the timeline you want.

“Don’t worry about Brad. Just be you. And maybe challenge yourself a bit.”

It was the first Jesus-like thing he’d said.

“I’m gonna go visit people, Maybe reach a couple people, sand off some of the jagged edges.”

And then he was gone.

It’s unsettling when God upset.

I mouthed a silence sorry and though Jesus wasn’t there, I felt his hand on my shoulder again and for the moment, I had peace, which seemed selfish and insufficient.

Pretending to lynch the governor isn’t American or Christian

As part of a protest outside the Governor’s mansion in Frankfort, Kentucky, several men pulled a stuffed dummy with Governor Andy Beshear’s face attached from a car, tied a rope around its neck, and hanged it from a tree. (Credit: Sarah Ladd)

It’s ironic that as these two fine patriots–guys I assume love the hell out of Jesus–pretended to murder a duly elected official, Lee Greenwood (recorded) sang about how he’s proud to be an American where at least he knows he’s free, in a song called God Bless the USA.

I’m an American and a Christian, too.

Plenty of damn Bibles. Both of us.

To quote the great theologian Frank Barone, I’ve read plenty of damn Bibles. My Bible includes 1 Peter 2:13, which says to submit to those in authority, whether a king or a head of state. Then there’s Romans 13:1, which says to submit to governing authorities, for all authority comes from God. And if you want to go there, my Bible also says to love one another, to bear each other’s burdens and all that.

There’s nothing in my Bible about arming up, driving to the place where the governor lives and metaphorically executing him.

Of course, I’ve only read the NIV, NRSV, and NLT versions, not the original King James Version*, so maybe it’s different in other Bibles.

No. The other King James.

Tying a rope around someone’s neck, tossing it over a tree limb, then pulling it until the person can’t touch the ground, then leaving him there to struggle until he’s dead is called lynching. It has a very specific history in the south, especially for a segment of voters who supported Beshear.

I’m certain the America-loving Christians in the video know that. I’m pretty sure they were counting on it.

A good deal of President Trump’s base is evangelical Christians, people who claim to have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the lamb. Who would have no standing in front of God, because of their sin, if not for the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on our behalf.

My Bible also has a story in Matthew 18 in which a debtor who owed his king a ton of money couldn’t pay and begged his master for forgiveness to prevent him, his wife, and his children to be sold into slavery to pay at least some of the debt. The king forgave the debt, leaving the man free and unencumbered, as the evangelicals claim to be.

To celebrate, the man went right out and found another guy who owed him a few thousand bucks–and had him imprisoned until he could pay the debt (because that’s how you get money to pay debts; you go to prison).

The king wasn’t pleased and there was wailing and gnashing of teeth and all that.

That story is featured in one of the for most important parts of the book these hypocrites claim to base their lives on.

People who do these things aren’t good Americans. They sure as hell aren’t good Christians.

They’re a stain on both groups and they need to be called out as such.

(* — I know it’s not. I’m making a point.)

A gentle and respectful way: it’s Biblical

There’s a guy named Ward Simpson, the CEO of something called GOD TV. He’s in the middle of a dust-up with Israel over the Christian TV network he created in Israel. The Israeli Communications Ministry is investigating GOD TV because of a video Simpson posted in which he suggested that his aim was to convert Jews to Christians.

The network is broadcast in Hebrew, which most Israeli Jews speak. Israeli Christians tend to speak Arabic.

As you might remember from history class in high school, Christians have a history of using things like torture to convert Jews to Christianity. After all, they did KILL Jesus. The fact that the Romans actually did it or that Jesus and the majority of his followers were also Jews doesn’t seem to matter much.

This follows close on the heels of the woman who was free to ignore social distancing requirements because she’s washed in the blood of Jesus, basically fillibustering the reporter who asked her about it with those words.

Granted, the media tends to seek these people out to make us all look bad, but it doesn’t have to look hard to find them. More to the point, they’re representing God, or trying to. Is this really their A game?

I probably cause this six times before breakfast, personally

For the record, I’m a Christian and a hypocrite. I’m not what I should be. If I were, Jesus wouldn’t have to come to give me right standing with God. But God, being the Magnificent, doesn’t need or want me to take care of his light work. If he did, I’d have to start by punching myself in the face.

God doesn’t want me, or others, punched in the face. He doesn’t want me to punch or be punched, literally or figuratively. That was the whole point of Jesus. We’re to love God and others. And while we’re also to go out and make disciples of the people, we can’t effectively do that by being jerks.

Put Biblically, 1 Peter 3:15-16 says to be ready to tell of our hope, but to do so in a gentle and respectful way.

I’m not perfect at this, but I’m trying. Maybe people wouldn’t be as antagonistic if more of us remembered the “gentle and respectful” part.

Me and Jesus at the association pond

I was feeling bad about myself, just coming down from one of those self-flagellation sessions I sometimes have when I’m aggressively told to do the impossible. I’d decided to take a walk.

It helps, taking a walk. And while it’s edging toward hot these days, we aren’t getting summertime humidity yet. And the sun’s good for you.

I noticed Jesus up ahead on the trail beside the lake. He was wearing off-white cargo pants and a Wings at the Speed of Sound album t-shirt.

“I look around me and I see, it isn’t so, oh no,” he sang. Then he smiled. “Chris. How are you?”

“Not great, Bob.”

Jesus chuckled. “It’s a good thing I’m God, or I’d get lost in the cultural references.”

I wanted to tell him to piss off, but he’s Jesus, so you shouldn’t do that.

“No you shouldn’t,” he said. “Not in a city whose hockey team is called the Lightning.”

Dammit. The mind-reading thing is super fun, too. For him.

I hate when Jesus does that. “What do you want?”

“I want to see how things are going with you.”

“Asked and answered.”

He fell in beside me. I was walking fast–that helps burn off the anger from the damn pandemic, the most recent demanding email I’d received, and the overall malaise of the day.

“Tough day,” Jesus said.

I nodded in agreement.

Jesus shrugged. “It certainly ranks. Though you’re doing okay. Still employed. Nice house. A development with a lake to walk around when things get to you too much.”

“It’s a pond.” Sometimes it feels good to be difficult with Jesus. “What do you want?”

“I dunno. You called me.”

“I didn’t ca–.” Except I did. Sort of. After answering the last email that demanded why I hadn’t fixed a longstanding problem I didn’t know existed until two hours ago. It was the sixteenth e-mail in the thread, not that I was counting.

I had said his name forcefully after clicking Send and before getting up to come on this walk.

“Okay, so I called you. But not so you could come tell me I shouldn’t bitch because I have it so good.”

Another chuckle. I should hate it when Jesus chuckles like that. He can’t sing old McCartney songs for crap, but when he chuckles, it’s musical. It warms my heart a little, even when I don’t want it warmed.

“I didn’t say you shouldn’t bitch. I just pointed out that you have it pretty good right now. Relatively speaking.”

That’s another thing with Jesus. He never takes you directly there. You always have to work at it. “Is there a point?”

“What do you think?”

I wanted to say his name again, but he was already here. He wouldn’t yell at me for doing it, but he would screw with me a little and give me that vaguely amused look he uses with me a lot. I hate that look. I’d have prayed for the lightning to take me, but then I’d be dead and Jesus could screw with me all the time.

“Why are you pissed off? And don’t tell me that I’m God and I know everything. I want to hear you tell it.”


Deep, long sigh.

I closed my eyes for a second. This walk was intended to get away from what had happened, not to embrace it.

“You know how you used like five loaves and a couple fish and you fed a bunch of people?”

“It was easier then. We didn’t have to worry about social distancing protocols.”

I stopped. Dead. Well, not literally dead. You have to be careful about death metaphors in front of Jesus. “Could we focus here? Please.”

He laughed. It sounded melodious. I hated it.

“Okay, so you need to do the impossible.”

“Because those assho–“

Jesus held up his hand. “You know I died for assholes. Sometimes you should be happy about that.”

I hate when he does that. Mostly because he’s right.

“Because those beloved children of your Father are just playing a power game. Instead of asking for help on something, they’re making the problem mine–probably to cover the fact that they didn’t notice the issue and they need noise and a place for the blame to go.”

“What can you do about it?”

It really annoys me when Jesus decides to be thick-headed. “Nothing. Then again, you know that.”

We were walking again and he was quiet.

“So?” I said.

“So what?”

“No wisdom to impart?”

He turned to me, frowned, and spread his hands just below his waist, as Jesus does.

“Seems like you imparted it.”

“Do you have to make me work at everything?”

He smiled. “Naw. I just enjoy it.”

I turned and walked away from him. Serves him right.

“You know, it’s not lost on me that this is difficult.”

“Thank you.” Though not really, because I was still walking away from him.

“And you helped out those other people earlier. And you were very forthcoming about it. Made them feel like their problems mattered. They won’t tell you, but it made a difference.”

I shrugged.

“I suppose I shouldn’t tell you this, but one of the people on your horrible mail chain, Cheryl–“

“Cheryl started the damn thing.”

I was now facing him. And I’d been gone about ten minutes. Long enough for the next round of ass-kicking to ensue.

“Her sister got tested for Covid this morning. They’re waiting for the results. She just got over cancer, finished chemo anyway. Cheryl’s a mess.”

I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. The sun felt lovely. “Doesn’t give her license to crap all over me.”

“No, it sure doesn’t.”

“At least I direct all that crap inward.”

“Because that’s so much better.” You wouldn’t think it, but Jesus can be sarcastic sometimes.

I started walking again. Jesus walked with me, behind me a little bit. I needed to get back to work.

“What do you want from me? I’m trying. I really am. And then this shit happens, and I feel like I everyone else gets the joke and I’m the idiot who doesn’t.”

Jesus chuckled again, that knowing chuckle. Again, I hated it.

“Maybe I didn’t tell you about Cheryl’s sister to make you feel bad about it,” he said.

I kept walking.

“Maybe I told you that because I wanted you to know it’s impossible for you to fix her problem. Maybe I wanted you to know that you shouldn’t worry about that. That I understand you’re stressed. Everyone is. And that stress is feeding on itself.”

I stopped and turned back to him. He’s Jesus, so I didn’t need to tell him I was listening.

“You gonna heal her sister?”

He smiled again and it felt like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. “Not for you to know. Some things are private. Though I like that you’re concerned a little. Even if you are pissed off.”

“So what do I get?”

“I came to walk with you, right?”

It wasn’t nothing.

“Look, I can’t make you stop beating the hell out of yourself. Only you can do that. But I can tell you it’s hard everywhere and it’s not a great day for me, either. Bob.”

“So fix it.”

This time his smile was tinged with sadness. “I can’t do that.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Now who’s making it hard?”

I shrugged and started back home. It felt good for a minute until I ruined it.

“Chris, I set up a rule–well, my father did–that said you have free will. That means when stuff happens, I can’t just magic eraser it away. It’s more than that, but you can’t understand now. I promise you will. Even this internal battle you have will make sense.”

“After I die?”

Another smile. “Well, who’s to say? I am Jesus. I can make things happen that you don’t expect.”

There was that. I shifted my weight between my feet. Cheryl has a habit of using email as a cross between instant messaging and a machine gun.

“I know. You gotta go. But I’ll say this: Cheryl was wrong. But I love her. I understand why she did it and I hurt for her, but I hurt for you, too. I don’t see you the way you see yourself. And you need to chill out on the blame. All of you do. Especially now.”

I thought about an article I read about the President and how he’d screwed up th–

“Especially now.”

I started to walk away.

“You know that you please me?”

I turned. “What?”

He laughed, as if this truth were simple. “I am pleased with what I’m fond of.”

He started singing again. “I’d like to know. So here I go, again…”

The greatest of these is love (baby, that’s where it’s at)

Today is Easter, in a way we haven’t had Easter before.

Since I last wrote, I’ve read reports that a phalanx of volcanoes is getting ready to simultaneously make us group sing Bastille’s song Pompeii (How am I gonna be an optimist about this? HOW AM I GONNA BE AN OPTIMIST ABOUT THIS?!?!).

In the Christian faith, today is all about a restart. It’s about taking something horrible–in this case, being tortured to death in a particularly humiliating way–and making something amazing out of it. In Christian faith, we’re washed clean by the blood of the lamb.

It’s not that Jesus made forgiveness possible; God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It was always there for the asking. In my mind, in Jesus’s death, we murdered God and he forgave us. In fact, he told us that he forgave us because we had no clue what we’re doing.

In Christian faith, Jesus gave us the example by forgiving us as we collectively murdered him. Love, baby, that’s where it’s at.

Today, we have no clue what we’re doing. People like Dr. Fauci have an educated guess. But we’re reacting right now. Some of us are reacting to an opportunity to gain money and power. Some of us are reacting to get to the end as unscathed as possible. Some of us are charging into the fire, looking for a way to make it better.

Most of us are in the second group (though personally, I have a nagging conviction that I should be doing more).

I’m not digging this sitting at home crap. I expect you aren’t either. And I bet most of us would be staying home even if there weren’t laws in place demanding it. That, of itself, is an act of love.

The offers from neighbors to share what they have are acts of love. The Virtual Happy Hours springing up are acts of love. The little things some people are doing to responsibly help people keep their jobs are acts of love. Just working hard at your job in spite of the Giant Distraction can be an act of love.

We’re all going to die of something. Death is the constant–the end, or the gateway to the next amazing adventure.

If that’s a given, in some ways, it doesn’t matter if we die of old age, surrounded by loved ones, on a respirator in an overcrowded hospital, or as the walls come tumbling down in the city that we love.

What matters is what happens before that. Because the primary message of today, whether you’re Christian or not, is love.

The 1 Corinthians passage that’s used in every wedding that takes place in a church say that in the end, faith, hope, and love are what exist. And as precious as hope and faith are right now, the greatest of these is still love.

It’s there if you look for it, not in spite of horrible circumstances, but magnified by those experiences.

Victims in Pompeii, embracing each other

Coronavirus and God’s wrath

“Then God said, ‘Can you hear me now?'” — Someone on my Facebook feed.

In the Christian faith, this is Holy Week–the fulfillment of Jesus’s mission on earth. Jesus gave up his godhood to come be with us and experience life the way we did. But he did it out in the sticks when life was uncomfortable.

They didn’t have cushioned insoles and four different types of over-the-counter pain meds. There weren’t health codes to make sure your food didn’t give you a weekend from hell. You couldn’t adjust your sleep number for maximum comfort during slumber.

When we tortured him to death, his last words included a plea for forgiveness because we were misguided boneheads, rebels without a clue.

If you believe the Gospels, Jesus could’ve called down 12 legions of angels at that point to pour out his anger and get our attention. Except he didn’t.

If he didn’t do that then, he’s probably not doing it now.

Imagine your adult child going through this. Last time you talked to him, he some early symptoms, most likely from his wife. She’s somewhere in an ICU and no one can contact her. Her phone battery isn’t very good and when he took her to the hospital, he forgot the cord–something he keeps kicking himself about.

Last thing he heard, they might be intubating her. And now that he’s feverish, he’s running the house remotely from the master bedroom. The older child, a brave fourteen-year-old who wants to be a doctor someday, tries to keep up a strong front, but she’s terrified. She told you so last night when she called because she couldn’t sleep. You wanted to take her into your lap and soothe her, even remotely. But you couldn’t because her brother was “being a butt” and she had to go.

The younger one, eight, is Dad’s boy. He’s old enough to understand, but he doesn’t want to. He’s fixated on what happens if Mommy and Daddy die. He hasn’t called them that in three years. He’s a really good kid, if a little rambunctious. But this is overwhelming him.

Your son is losing his mind as his health slips away. He knows there’s a good chance he’ll follow his wife. He’s trying his best not to beat himself up for not being there for the kids, or his wife. But he’s not succeeding. He’s begging you to come get the kids if he has to go to the hospital, blinking back tears as he does.

What parent in his right mind responds to that with “Do I have your attention now?”

If Jesus is what he says he is, then he’s not turning over our tables for performing commerce outside the temple. He’s more likely the Jesus of the Lazarus story, who looks around at all the pain and hopelessness and weeps.

God isn’t using this as an instrument of his divine wrath. If he wanted us dead, he’d have wiped us out for killing him.

Instead, he’s the parent on the phone watching broken-hearted as the world falls apart.

You may ask why he doesn’t act if he’s so damn broken-hearted. It’s a fair question, and one I don’t have the answer to.

But he’s damn sure not sitting on his heavenly throne with a knowing smile asking if he has our attention now.

Washed by the blood of arrogance

The Facebook post showed a man, sitting on the ground seven or eight feet from a fence. His wife hasn’t seen him in six days and he won’t get closer because he’s an emergency room doctor. He doesn’t want to infect her or their two children, who really just want to see Daddy.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to walk in her shoes these days. They’re unpacking from a move and there’s the home schooling and the constant nagging worry that she might never see her husband–their father–again.

It’s a common story as we live in StephenKingWorld. Other people living through unimaginably difficult circumstances to try to stem the tide and save us all.

If you’re a Christian, your first instinct might be to pray protection on those walking into this battle and peace to the families fighting by extension.

Or, you might attend a church near Cincinnati and get interviewed by CNN on your way to services.

As we enter Christian Holy Week, it’s clear that the Israelites had a far different expectation of the Messiah than God did. They expected a holy combination of General Patton and Rambo, restoring the Jewish state to its rightful power and, in so doing, honoring YHWH, their God in a way that forces their enemies to bow to him, and to them.

Instead, Jesus came in the form of a servant, which made it very difficult to recognize him. The Jews of the time certainly didn’t. I’m not sure I would if he came today.

Recognizing Jesus, recognizing God, means accepting Him in a form other that way you expect. It means He might ask you to reconsider some things you hold dear and holy. It means He might ask you to do things (or not do things) you don’t expect or want.

Love God and love your neighbor. All of the prophets and the law are summed up in these two commands.

If you love God, what better way to show it than planting your butt in a pew and publicly claiming His power poured out on you, his follower?

According to Paul, in the ultimate act of humility, Jesus set aside his Godhood out of love. According to today’s Palm Sunday Passion, Jesus could’ve called twelve legions of angels at any time during his crucifixion, showing his mighty power to a bunch of apostate idiots. Before his crucifixion, in another show of humility, he asked God that His will be done.

The people attending that service were absolutely convinced this was what God was commanding them to do. They were, at time, combative about it. They knew they were right.

Faith is the belief in what is unseen. With God, it’s the understanding that we don’t have the tools to think like he does.

My friend—the one with ER husband–doesn’t know how this will turn out. I imagine the urge to help people is part of what she loves about him. I also imagine she doesn’t see much of God in pronouncements from people arrogantly taking chances with their lives and the lives of those who might care for them.

I could be wrong. God never agrees with me. When we align, it’s because I’ve aligned with Him for a brief moment. That doubt is the strongest part of my faith.

It would be great if others would question whether God wants them to do what they want to do.