death

Today (Like Everyday), We Pray For Our Enemies

It is in times and tragedies like those that happened in Boston that our call to pray for our enemies is most difficult.  May we be faithful to pray for them despite our circumstances.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, on all of us, sinners.

Father, we don’t know who was behind the tragedies in Boston, but we do know that they were human.  And we know we are to pray for our enemies.

In Jesus we see humanities true identity as ones who are to be agents of life, not death. Jesus, as first of New Creation, invites all humanity to reflect and participate in New Creation. 

Despite humanities sacred identity, evil often reveals itself through humanity. We must return to what we were created to be. May those behind this event return to who they were created to be. 

We pray specifically that those involved in this violence return to their shared humanity as they confront the violence brought on fellow humans as a result of their actions.  We pray that we don’t lose ours in the midst of it all.

May we embrace our vocation as peacemakers who are to be agents of restoration and reconciliation rather than divisiveness, enmity and violence. 

We pray for a collective grieving that fuels our ability to live with compassion, generosity and wholeness.

We plead for your justice to reign as we announce and promote your Kingdom reign through our words and deeds.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen. 

 

Why I Went To A Sikh Temple Last Night

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we pulled into the parking lot of a local Sikh Temple (known as a gurudwara) last night, but I assumed it would be culturally enlightening and offer a glimpse into a worldview and religious tradition I have only sparingly engaged.  While yesterday was the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity for the victims and mourners of the temple shooting in Wisconsin, I felt deeply compelled to stand with them in their pain as a follower of the Prince of Peace.

Walking into the gurudwara’a courtyard holding my two-year-old daughter’s hand, my wife and two friends were immediately greeted by the priest with a handshake and smile.  He thanked us for coming and invited us into the experience that included a short service in the gurudwara and vigil outside to remember the six worshipers who were shot by a man that had never met them.  I can only speculate, but if this man would have engaged these people on a relational level at any point, he certainly would have reconsidered his actions.  

Much like the response of the Amish after the horrific schoolhouse massacre in ’06, the Sikh community has intentionally chosen to respond to by offering radical love and forgiveness.  Although somber, they carried a deep conviction to embrace the way of peace as retaliation for the death of these innocent victims.  

Having been handed a head covering and a candle, we slowly walked by the pictures of the victims and read their stories.  One, a women who had come to the United State only five years ago, worked 11 hours a day in a factory to raise enough money to support her family.  She was known for staying late at the Temple to make food for those in need and regularly sat at the bed of the ill in a local hospital.  Another was an 84-year-old man who had recently lost his wife and would walk two miles each day to pray at the Temple and serve food to the hungry.  The stories went on and on…

As we read and looked into the eyes of these victims, our hearts broke and we were transported into the life of those who often are stereotyped, persecuted and isolated because of their adherence to a faith tradition that isn’t “normal” to many of us in the West.  It was tragic, angering and painful.  

Gathering to start the vigil, one of the congregants walked up to us and again thanked us for being there and invited us to stay after for a shared meal.  Lighting our candles, the vigil began with a prayer and was followed by six different children reading the story of each victim.  To close, the priest led us through one more prayer, and speaking against the blind stereotype and prejudice that is pervading our country, said, “As Americans, this is how we learn about each other.”

Friends, we don’t compromise the integrity of our faith and convictions by engaging and standing with those of other faiths.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  When we stand in solidarity with those of other faiths – especially in times of tragedy – we embody the very best of our faith, namely the pro-people heart of Jesus

So why did I go to a Sikh Temple last night?  Because as a follower of Jesus I am called to stand with the victimized, the oppressed and hurting.  It is what I’m here to do and the very essence of who I am as one “in Christ,” to quote the Apostle Paul.  The victims don’t have to fit into our box or adhere to the same belief system, faith or worldview.  No, those are not things we are to concern ourselves with, because in then end, we are all humans in need of community and love.  In standing with people in times like these we get a glimpse into the New Creation that was set forth in Jesus’ Resurrection.  We are to be Resurrection people who reflect what God has in mind of humanity.  These are opportunities for us to be fully human.   

May we be a people who repent from blind prejudice and stereotype by diving deep into relationships with people that are “different” than us.  May we humble ourselves to learn from those that teach us how to seek reconciliation and offer radical forgiveness.  And may we always choose to first see others through the eyes of a Jesus who invites all humanity to his Kingdom banquet. 

Travel as Pilgrimage #1: Costa Rica

Today I explore the first stop in a series I am calling “Travel as Pilgrimage.” Click here for an intro to the series.  My hope is that these experiences and stories will do two things: 1. Expand our worldviews to the extent that we realize God’s Kingdom is alive and advancing in people/regions of the world that we may not have otherwise considered, 2. Ignite our imagination and desire for travel as an act of personal and spiritual pilgrimage.

The first installment of this series takes us to the beautiful shores of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.  This was the first time Janny and I had ever done any extended time of travel in our marriage.  We had five weeks, two backpacks and zero reservations, so adventure was sure to ensue. Our goal was to relax, learn some Spanish and leave lots of time for me to write this book.

After traveling around for a week or so, we stumbled onto a little cottage on the beach in Mal Pais where we would stay for the rest of our time.  Surrounded by the crashing waves, 80 degree water, endless iguana’s, howler monkey’s and rain forest, it was a small slice of heaven on earth.  Little did we know that our greatest companion wouldn’t be the surrounding creatures and creation, but our Canadian neighbor named Mike (not real name).

We would see him leave his cottage every mid-morning to journey up and down the beach for most of the day.  He was about 50 years old, traveling alone and was very reserved.  We would say hello and smile, but didn’t interact to any extent until one evening when he walked to our place and asked for some salt.  In that moment, we began a friendship that would shape the rest of our time in Costa Rica.

Over coffee in the morning and a beer at night, we would play cribbage while overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  At first we would simply share stories from our day, but as the days passed we moved into conversations on politics, religion and family.  One evening I asked why he was down in Costa Rica by himself for 3+ months.  He first responded by saying that he needed to escape the dark, cold Canadian winter, but I could tell there was more to the story…and there was.

Mike was a really friendly guy, but he always had somber disposition about him.  After a few more games of late night cribbage, he looked at me as said, “My wife died three years ago.” I said I was sorry and we sat in silence looking out to sea.

The only voice was that of the wind, ocean waves and occasional monkey howl.

He continued, “After she died, all of my kids moved away to go to college and I stayed at home to continue my nearly 30 years working at the local newspaper printing press.  With the newspaper industry falling apart, I was forced to retire and I was left alone in a big house with way too much time on my hands.  I needed to get away, so here I am.”

I quickly realized that Mike was grieving and he needed a companion. Not someone to tell him all the answers, but someone to simply be present.  He was not only grieving the loss of his wife, he was grieving the departure of his kids…he felt extremely alone.

In the weeks that followed that conversation, our friendship deepened and Janny and I spent parts of every day with Mike.  We rode bikes through the jungle, we taught him to surf and we played A LOT of cribbage.

I’m not real sure how much Mike knew about Jesus or the reality of the God’s Kingdom, but I’m sure he experienced both as we laughed, cried and played as new found companions…I know I did.

Any stories/experiences of companionship coming out of an unexpected context?  Could those needing companionship be the ones closest to us (neighbors, acquaintances, barista’s in your local coffee shop)?

 

Turning the Page of a Generation

It’s been a week since my last post and it wouldn’t make sense for me to jump back in without processing a bit of the past week.  After all, blogging is as much a devotional time for me as it is a writing discipline.

My wife and I lost both of our last two remaining grandparents. After a last minute flight to Omaha and a 4 hour drive to the small farming town of Red Cloud, we made it to the bedside of Jan’s grandpa.  Although he was extremely weak, we trust that he heard our voices and little Ruby’s cry.  Jan’s mom (Char) told him that we had all made it to be with him and that he was free to finally let go.  The next morning, with Jan, Ruby and Char at his side, he took his last breath.

The night before we left for Kansas we spent an extended time with my 93 year old grandma who lives down here in San Diego.  Her health was also deteriorating quickly and in our goodbye’s that evening, we had a sense it would be our last time with her.  After all the family made it to her bedside, her son (my uncle) told her that we would be OK and she was free to finally let go.  A couple days later, while in the Omaha airport to fly back to San Diego, I got the call that she had taken her last breath.

It was a week where the Entangled Theology of life and death was made a present reality.

The Pain

It’s strange turning the page on a whole generation.  Our parents are now the grandparents and the page turns.  The lives of our grandparents connected us to our heritage.  With a combined 180 years of life, they were around when WWI was at its peak and the Model T had only recently hit the road.  Further, they not only symbolize our roots in Ireland (Jan) and Sweden (me), but our childhood.  Driving around the small farm town of Red Cloud, Janny reflected on all the summers she spent riding tractors, swimming in the community pool and running around her grandparent’s farmhouse.  I think back to playing Little League and looking in the stands to see my grandma dialed into the action or when she would wake me up in the middle of the night to eat ice cream and play cards.  It will be strange not having Ruby know these two like we did.

The Joy

These two lived relationally rich and long lives.  To be honest, in their suffering towards the end, we prayed for a peaceful release from this life.   While it hurts not to have them physically present, we have years of experiences to reflect on and share with our children.  Further, it was incredible to be present with them in these final days.  We have no regrets and are now realizing that one of the central purposes for our move to San Diego was to be able to spend so much time with my grandma in these final months as representatives of our whole family.  Finally, as followers of the resurrected Jesus, we can’t help but be stirred to joy as we anticipate a reunion at the culmination of God’s restoration project for humanity.

Although a whirlwind of experiences and emotions that we would rather not have to endure anytime soon, we are reminded of the value of being fully present with those we love.  May we represent and extend the legacy that our loved ones pass on to each of us.

Entangled Theology Part 3: Most Painful and Joyous Experiences of My Life

Post 1: After sharing the story of one friend who experienced the radical hope of life in the birth of twins, I also shared the story of another who experienced the radical pain of loss in the death of twins.  I asked the question; “Where is God in the midst of tragic death and enlivening hope?”

Post 2: Examining the characteristics of God through the narrative of Scripture (Covenant, Prophets, Jesus), I argued that suffering is central to the Story of God.  If we deny the reality of suffering, we deny the Story itself…such is the Entangled Theology we live in today.

Today I conclude by sharing what it means to live in the tension of an Entangled Theology in the everyday of my own life.

My wife and I lost our first child (who for a number of reasons we named Haven) just over 15 months ago.  It was the most painful experience of both of our lives.  Just over four months ago, we welcomed our daughter Ruby into our family.  It has been the most joyous experience of our lives.  Some may conclude (and even say this to us!), that the pain of losing Haven is lessened by welcoming the life of Ruby.  That simply hasn’t been the case.  I dedicated my recent book to Haven:

“I dedicate this book to my first child, Haven.  I never had the opportunity to meet you, but you allowed me to experience love in a way more profound than I had ever otherwise known.  Your mother and I are proud of you and look forward to the day we meet you when all is restored. ”

As parents, we will always feel the pain of losing Haven.  As each day passes, the pain shows itself in different ways, but it doesn’t magically go away.  We don’t know why it happened or why it happened to us.  But it did and that is the Story we trust to be true.

With all that said, Ruby does represent hope and restoration in our lives. She is the work of a God that not only acted in history, but who continues to act in the lives of his people today.  It is in her eyes that we see the lives of both of our children and we are filled with gratitude.

My grandma is 93 years old and her body has been breaking down for a couple years, but especially in the past couple months.  She loves Jesus and is self admittedly ready to be with him.  Her days are often depressing as she knows death is around the corner.  We (especially Janny and Ruby) have been trying to visit her as often as possible as she lies in a foreign hospital bed.  Often, we will look into the room before she sees us and see her visible distress and depression.  As she slowly looks up and catches eyes with Ruby, her whole disposition changes.  It is sacred ground.  We see two of God’s children; one who is soon to leave the earth and the other a new arrival.  My grandma recently said to Ruby, “You just came from heaven, please tell me about it because I’ll be there soon.”

On the eve of impending death, new life (in the form of Ruby) brings a transcendent hope.

In the Story of God, death/pain stand side by side with life/hope.  This in an Entangled Theology.

Thoughts?  Anyone else experience this dynamic of an Entangled Theology?


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