"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Franklin Regional....

My son has friends at Franklin Regional High School, were a student armed with two knives stabbed 22 people yesterday.

It could happen anywhere. Its not about keeping schools safe from whatever may happen, the best safety a school can provide is a sense of community and character. We can't keep our kids safe "from"... we are tasked to prepare them to be safe people themselves.

My son has to be a safe person for his friends.

Several students proved to be safe people in caring for the wounded when their school became a battleground.

There are no safe places, only safe people.

The child who did this is everyone's son. The news reports that his was a "normal" and "good" family in a "good" neighborhood. They were engaged with their kid, he was a "good" kid until yesterday. If you have a son, weep for this lost son.

The child who is fighting for his life in the hospital is everyone's son. He is the same age as my oldest. In any time, any place, he could be any seventeen year old. If you have a son, pray for this person's son.

Parents and kids are frightened. They go back to school on Monday with no new dangers, no new threats, only wider open eyes that makes the nerves sing. Perfect love casts out fear... pray for perfect love to enter this school.

What is right in this is the people, connected to people, having already woven a web, a safety net of relationships, who grieve when others grieve. I'm honored to be, in a small way, through a chain of relationships, in that web.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kids at the funeral....

My middle child is the "new kid" at his school. Longtime readers of this blog know that we've homeschooled the kids until the middle one went to school for the first time this year. So he's the new kid, new to schooling in general, making his way through sixth grade. It has its ups and downs.

One of the downs early on was a seventh grader who seemed early on to be a good candidate for "nemesis"... I pictured him as big and bully-ish the way Middle Boy described him. Or perhaps just insecure, as the year wore on. Certainly Middle Boy's early close-calls with school discipline tended to involve this kid. They had two classes together; it was two too many.

Oddly enough, Middle Boy became friends with this "other kid"... kind of tentatively at first and in the way of middle school boys not always on solid footing but not shaky ground exactly either. Fine. Live and let live, maybe even have a little fun along the way. No problem.

Ex-Nemesis's grandfather passed away this week. When the announcement came through the school's email list, I figured it would be good for Middle Boy to go to the funeral home calling hours, sign the book, say something nice, offer a prayer. In and out, ten minutes. And learn a little bit about caring for others, pastoral graces, life and death. It was actually on Ash Wednesday. A fitting time.

So off we went to the funeral home. Middle Boy was not entirely sure about this plan, which took us a whopping two minutes out of the way on the commute home from school. I reminded him that this was a pretty lousy-minimal offering we could make, all the while squelching my own introverted dislike for the fact that I hadn't even met Ex-Nemesis, let alone any other living (or otherwise) soul I would see at this event. Also squelching, as life and ministry often call me to do, my innate dislike of the awkwardness of funeral home calling hour pleasantries. I admitted to the boy that this is an awkward thing to do, but we do it for others. Noble. Yea.

I reminded The Boy how kids he didn't know eased his experience when his grandmother passed away. It was a rainy day for a funeral and a friend's kids (who had never met my kids, etc.) took it into their heads, or maybe my kids thought of it first, that it would be a good idea to run outside in the rain in the church parking lot while the unsuspecting adults were at the reception. The well dressed grandsons of the deceased returned a half an hour later, dripping, soaked. Frankly, their grandmother would have been delighted by the antics, and the kids were glad of the break. Maybe we all should have run in the rain.

But I digress. On this note, we meandered into the funeral home. Ten minutes, in and out. We can do this. He signed the book. He scanned the room for his friend. He went awkward up to him and I have no idea what he said. They chatted for a while. I, sensitive to the needs of middle schoolers to occasionally appear to be self-sufficient orphans, made myself scarce. Ten minutes went by, twenty. Ex-Nemesis apparently showed The Boy where the cookies were kept. They made plans to rule the world. They took a walk into an unused chapel. My son was the break from all the boring adults.

Before I left, I met the other boy's mom. She thanked me for coming and said my son had given hers a much needed break. It was nice to meet another middle school mom, even under the circumstances. The boys have a lot in common and had some quality time together. Middle kid got a cookie in the deal, even though it was Ash Wednesday. And I hope he did learn a little about caring for others.

So much for ten minutes, we were there most of an hour. I'm glad we went. Even to embrace the awkward.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Am I a Hypocrite for Loving Google Earth?

Let me be clear, I've ranted for years about Google's invasions of privacy. Google has spied on our houses, mined our internet data, linked accounts we've never known we had, and eroded our privacy step by step. I've been quoted as saying Google is evil. I hate Google. Really.

Until the whole NSA data mining scandal broke and Google managed to walk above it all.

And frankly, I have a weakness in my argument.

I love Google Earth.

Really, I do.

I use it to scope out vacations before I take them. Today I took an skyview of the Wigwam Motel, a politically incorrect little collection of concrete cones on Route 66 where I hope to stay on a family vacation this summer just because we can. I used it last year to scope out Seoul. I use it to revisit Ganghwa (my most favorite spot in Korea) and Greece and other places I'd love to go back. I didn't finish with them, I want more.

I use it to snoop North Korea and parts of Africa and Russia and Europe and Israel and other places I would love to go, but for whatever reasons money or politics or religion, right now I can't.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not spending huge amounts of time on Google Earth, though the thought is tempting. I discovered recently that there's even a setting where you can look at some cities (Rome, Athens) with a historical view and see the reconstructed monuments. But its a great tool, when I'm reading about a place, to see what it looks like to walk those streets.

So I wonder, am I a hypocrite for loving Google Earth? Which value do I hold more dear, information or privacy? I'm honestly not sure. Or maybe like the peeping tom of the internet age, I value my privacy and your information... who wouldn't?

Maybe I should give up Google for Lent... or maybe I should give up hating Google for Lent... I guess I have three days to decide.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Christmas in January?

Remember being a kid waiting for Christmas?

How a year would go by at such a pace that 365 days may well have been 365 years?

A year is a long time to wait, for a kid.

Right now on Compassion.com there are almost 200 kids who have been waiting over 500 days for a sponsor. That's a super long time to wait, indeed. Most of them are about the age of my youngest child, eight or nine years old. They're mostly in Africa: Rwanda, Ghana... And they're really super cute. Seriously.

We all know God made kids cute as a defense mechanism. Everyone who has parented knows that.

But here is a good place to give in to the cute.

Sponsorship keeps families together. Corruption in the adoption "industry," loss and grief children experience in the adoption process, cultural problems in international adoption... sponsorship prevents all of this. And while I am a big fan of the beauty of adoption as God's own love language, everyone knows that adoption has to happen because something else, somewhere along the line, has failed. Sponsorship is being part of the solution before the problem is terminal.

So I asked last year for 40 new sponsorships for my 40th birthday. And my birthday is past, but its not like I waited 500 days... so I guess its not too late.

On Community

Yesterday, at a clergy gathering, I ended up seated next to a good friend who has very different tastes in music than I have. At Eucharist, we sang a hymn which is firmly on my top ten list of widely used hymns that I hate.

I mean really hate.

I grew up with this one, its an oldie, but not a goodie.

And I know I shouldn't hate such things, but and I guess hate is too strong a word, but it makes me think "yuck" every time I hear it. I find it narcissistic and pedantic and overall utterly lame.

And apparently my friend loves it.

So there we sat. Sharing a service book because she came late and didn't get one. And she began to sing. And some folks stood up, and she sort of started to, but I didn't and so she stayed where the booklet was. I would have gladly handed the booklet to her, but she wasn't forward enough to take it.

She sang, as in full throttle, hands in the air, head tossed back, eyes closed, loving Jesus for all she's worth, singing.

I waited for it to end. The music itself, her singing was fine.

And then it happened.

I looked over at her and couldn't help but smile.

And then I looked again and almost had a little fun.

And at the next verse it seemed appropriate to join the standing, for her sake, not mine.

And I looked over again and she was having a blast, so I guess so was I.

And that is what worship in community looks like. It's about sharing the things we love (and keeping our unlove quiet enough to be shared with) so that you don't have to love every song, you can just enjoy it vicariously with the person next to you. And I had fun. And so did she. And worship happened. And community happened.

And next time that song comes up, I'll still hate it. But for yesterday, it was fun.

And no, I'm not going to tell you what song it was.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Every Christian Should Read....

Tears of My Soul.

I just finished reading this book.  Literally, I could not put it down.  It is hard to believe that it has been twenty years since this biography was published.

Now when I say biography and "Every Christian should read..." don't roll your eyes at me.  This is not the standard schmaltzy Christian biography where Jesus loves me this I know and maybe I was a little naughty but he used me to reach the godless masses because cuddle cuddle love love.  No, this is the unlikeliest of stories, the unlikeliest of people. 

This is the biography of the North Korean terrorist who bombed a South Korean jetliner in hopes of creating chaos around the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul.  This was a woman trained to kill or be killed, for the sake of the Dear Leader who she openly admits was revered as a god.  This was a woman who took 115 lives, attempted to take her own, and found herself under a death sentence in South Korea.

This is the biography of a woman unexpectedly pardoned, granted freedom and a new life, and saw Jesus as the ultimate guarantor of real pardon, freedom and new life.

And knows what we mean when we say that while we were still sinners, while we were still entrenched in our terrorist ways, God loved us.  God sought us out in the darkest corners.  God saved us. 

And knows what it means to repent anew every day, turn around and follow him. 

What she does not know, is what happened to her family in the North.  She is a walking testimony to the God who snatches us up into his family, regardless of where we start out. 

Tears of My Soul.  Go read it. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On Being 40.

Last year, my motto became "Embrace the 40."  Too many people freak out about turning 40, when really its just a day older than 39.  We age one day at a time, whether we like it, notice it, try to hide from it, or not. 

So I embraced the 40.  I rounded my age up for the most of the year, if only in my head.  Calling myself 40 before I really was disarmed the label. 

And having visited Korea last year, I was, briefly (by Korean reckoning) 41.  Why should 40 be a big deal this year if only last year I was 41?  (Koreans reckon age starting at 1 and adding a year for each Korean new year you've lived through, so technically I turned two (Korean) when I was just a few days (American) old. So there!)

And so I woke up on the morning of my rather bland birthday feeling boringly the same as I'd felt the night before.  Significantly older than fifteen, not much older than thirtysomething.  Fine.  I'd rather not be fifteen again anyway.  I can drive a car now and have visited a handful of foreign countries and can enjoy an occasional glass of wine and have these neat kids in my life.  Much better than fifteen when I was the kid.  Also fine.

And I went to bed that night feeling the same but with one blessed change.  I no longer had to worry about someone doing something mortifyingly embarrassing to my introverted self in attempt to "celebrate" my supposed milestone birthday.  I find the birthday song embarrassing, God knows I'd curl up and die if someone took out one of those idiotic billboards.  Now I no longer have to look forward to what idiocy my fortieth birthday may bring.  Bullet dodged.  Very fine.

So I'm now 40.  No I won't tell you when that happened.  I still have a bullet to dodge at fifty and I'll keep my cards close while I can.  I have a few grey hairs, well more like white, but I prefer to call them sliver.  My skin gets drier in the winter.  I can't eat just anything like I used to (although remarkably I'm not interested in eating some of the things I used to... a whole pizza? Yuck.  Cake? no thanks, I don't care for that much any more.  Soda?  Kind of tickles my throat now that I don't drink it regularly any more.)  But to those of you who haven't tried it yet, 40 isn't so bad.

Embrace it. 

And if all else fails, go to Korea when you're 39.  Worked for me.