When Another Legend Dies

kobe bryant and daughterIt was just two weeks ago that I was writing about the loss of drum legend, Neil Peart, from the rock band Rush. This morning, the news has spread rapidly since yesterday afternoon about the loss of Kobe Bryant, basketball legend.

Unlike Peart, Bryant’s reputation was far more widespread. It wasn’t limited to fans of the Lakers or even fans of the sport of basketball. It’s hard to believe that anyone didn’t know Kobe. Heck, it wasn’t unusual for me to hear my 11 year old shout out, “Kobe” when playing NBA Live on Playstation 4 with his friends. Like so many other celebrities, Kobe Bryant could easily drop the last name and be known by just that single moniker, Kobe.

I was stunned to get the news of Bryant right before a church service that I was leading. I was actually more concerned for my son and how he would react. My heart sank when I heard that his daughter was on the helicopter with him and then that there were other fathers and daughters with them. What a terrible tragedy.

In the wake of the tragedy, I started going through my own mind of what I knew about Bryant. I seemed to have remembered a scandal in the early 2000s about him and looked up the information. What’s a celebrity without a scandal, right? But since that scandal, it seems that Kobe was really a family man. While he may have had his struggles, it seems he had made things right since.

It’s interesting that I had been speaking about the celebrity culture in which we live just hours after this news broke. As I got up to give a message last evening about being a compelling community, I spoke of ordinary people who God used to do extraordinary things. Most of those ordinary people are overlooked because of how obsessed our culture has become with celebrities.

In our celebrity obsessed culture, it seems that we know so much about celebrities so that when a tragedy like this takes place, we feel it more deeply. While most of us didn’t know Bryant personally, we knew so much about him and it feels a little like we actually knew him. The pain hits us deeply and we grieve. We grieve for the tragedy. We grieve for the family. We grieve at the senselessness of it all.

Bryant’s daughter aspired to one day play basketball for the University of Connecticut. My wife and her siblings all went to UCONN, so the news hit them deeply as well, having been Lady Huskies fans for years.

All I know is that tragedy continues to strike our world. Sometimes it hits us close, other times far away. Whether close or far, it always seems to have a deeply penetrating impact on me, reminding me of the brevity of life, the importance of family, and the need to do my best to keep my relationships free from the things that would cause conflict and division.

My heart breaks for Bryant’s family, not just grieving a father and husband, but a daughter and sister as well. That hurts no matter what.

It’s interesting too, as I opened up Facebook after I got the news, I saw post after post about the tragedy. It didn’t matter what people believed, who they voted for, what their stances were, somehow, tragedy was bipartisan and everyone could set aside their differences to agree on this one thing, tragedy had struck.

As I thought about that, I wondered to myself, isn’t there something easier that could happen that could bring us all together other than tragedy?

The State of Things

I woke up this morning, in the wee small hours of the morning, and found my mind racing as it does often when this scenario plays out. If I’ve got a lot going on, it’s not unusual for me to find myself preoccupied by deep thoughts about what’s been happening during my days.

It’s been a strange week for me and there have been a number of things consuming my thoughts. One of my closest cousins lost her mother-in-law in a tragic accident. The details around the accident and some of the back story have caused me pause even more and I’ve spent more than a few minutes not just thinking but praying on it since I got the news.

The governor of my great state declared a state of emergency leading up to a rally causing the extremes on both sides of the political arena to react. Reactions had me scratching my head because it may have been the first time that people very close to me were getting caught up in the fray and getting hyped up about something that seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

This week, I got back to one of my loves: StrengthsFinders. Years ago, I went through training as a Strengths Communicator and I enjoy having one on one conversations with those who go through the assessment. In the busyness of life, I haven’t had as many opportunities to spend in conversations with others about it, but this week I was privileged to do it once again. It’s inspired me to schedule a seminar where I can present an overview to those who are interested along with some of the ministry partners that I work with.

I had dinner last night with some old friends. They’re friends that I still see separately, but it was the first time that we had all been together in a long time. One of those friends felt a burning desire to “get the band back together” and scheduled this dinner. It was great to catch up, to share about life, and to laugh a lot about some of the things that we all experienced together.

Funny thing is, this week seems fairly normal to me. My weeks are generally full of highs and lows, of both the heavy and the fun. I don’t know if it’s just me and life as a pastor or if this is pretty typical of everyone, but it can honestly get exhausting. The emotional toll that this kind of roller coaster can take on a person if they don’t find time to step away is excessive.

So what do I do? I choose to spend the day subbing for my middle child’s fifth grade class. Not exactly relaxing, but it’s an opportunity that I won’t always have, and one that I definitely want to seize.

Through it all, I’m reminded of the tagline of the faith community that I lead: where life and faith meet. Through the ups and downs, the highs and lows, one of the most important question that people ask is, “How do I get by?” Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t make me exempt from that question. The juxtaposition of life and faith is where I live and while it can feel like a jolt to the system and somewhat harsh at times, I don’t think there’s any other place that I would rather be.


A Craning of the Neck

The last few days have been kind of rough. It hasn’t had anything to do with my immediate family, but rather my church family. Deaths, both expected and unexpected. Sickness. Diagnoses. In a season of the church where hope is among the four major values focused upon (along with peace, love, and joy), it has seemed somewhat elusive.

When my mom was sick and eventually succumbed to cancer, the words of Romans 8 were powerfully meaningful to me. In the original Greek language of the text, the word translated in English as “eager expectation” had a particular meaning that stood out to me. It literally means to crane the neck and look around a corner.

I love word pictures and the picture that emerged in my mind was one of hope and expectation, something that marks the Advent season of the church. It’s a season of waiting. We sing songs of waiting like “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

Multiple times in the last few days, I have reminded myself and others that what we are experiencing is not the way things were intended to be. Having to break hard news to someone and watch as a family experiences one blow after another of tragedy is just not the way it’s supposed to be.

Still, there is hope. God’s promises are true. I believe it, but like the father in Mark 9 who desperately hopes that Jesus will heal his son, I need to be helped in my unbelief. Knowing and believing without seeing is where faith comes in.

Fielding the questions of my ten year old son about belief, and heaven, and the difficulty of believing has been sobering as well. I refuse to give him pat answers to questions that plagued me for years because the church was never willing to be honest with them.

As I feel like I’ve said so many times, there is nothing wrong with doubt, it’s what you do with it that matters most. My doubt leads me back to God’s promises. There were periods of the silence of God, hundreds of years. And now, it seems, we are faced with thousands of years of the silence of God. Does that mean he has abandoned us? No, I don’t think so.

Instead, we wait in anticipation, craning our necks around the corner to see if we can just catch a glimpse of what is ahead, what wonder might be waiting around that corner. Any little glimpse will reignite that hope in our hearts.

Surprisingly, in a cramped hospital family waiting room, stuffed with people who had only known each other for a short period of time, I sensed that hope and expectation. In the midst of tragedy, I heard stories of hope. I saw images of hope. I could almost feel the sense of hope palpably.

Don’t get me wrong, tragedy, grief, hurt and pain still suck. I’m not going to sugarcoat that, but I see in the darkness that there is a light, no matter how small. In the Apostle Paul’s words, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all.”

As far away as God might seem, I am comforted by the words that end Romans chapter 8. These words are the words that I choose to propel me forward during times like this.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Cutting Deep

A little more than four years ago, my community was rocked when a local police officer and his wife were out for a run and the wife was hit by a car and killed. The running community reacted. A memorial run was set up. A memorial license plate was created. An organization began. A legacy was left.

Now, a little more than four years later, tragedy has struck my community again. A beloved preschool teacher was walking in her neighborhood and was hit by a car. Although she initially survived the accident, she eventually succumbed to her injuries.

Again, a community reacts and responds.

In the wake of the tragedy, I spoke to countless teachers who talked about the difficulties that have rippled through their school this year. Suicides. Attempted suicides. Sexual assaults. The list goes on. How much more could one community take, they asked?

This is what seems to happen in a tight-knit community, tragedy strikes and the impact runs deep. Part of it is because of how the various neighborhoods in the community are set up. People live there because they want to be connected to each other. People live there because they want to know their neighbors. But there’s risk in that. When we love deeply, we hurt deeply. When tragedy strikes, it cuts deep into our hearts.

This tragedy strikes my family harder than the last one. This woman was my oldest child’s preschool teacher years ago. For nine years, my three children went through that preschool. For nine years, although we didn’t have her more than one year, we were connected. She knew stories about me, from the mouth of my child, that others have probably never heard.

When news hit me about her death, I was numb. In the middle of the night following, I awoke and lay restless in my bed. Her husband. Her children. Her family. My heart ached. What more could I do other than feel their pain and pray?

In a day and age where we all seem connected yet aren’t always, the silver lining of the tragedy is that I see just how connected and tight-knit my community seems to be. I see people rallying around a family in need, a family who is hurting. I know that many people’s interest will wane as the headlines fade from the papers about the incident. Those closest to the family will journey with them for a time. The connections will remain.

My heart hurts today. Many are hurting in the aftermath of this. But I’d be hard-pressed to believe that any who are hurting regretted their connections. Tennyson said that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. We were made for connection, we were made for relationship, to avoid relationship for the sake of avoiding pain will only result in the deeper pain of loneliness.

I don’t know what more will come from this tragedy. I hope that there is more than the usual tears shed, meals delivered, flowers and cards sent, and then the resumption of normality for everyone not directly connected to the victim.

We’re going through a series during Lent at my church on slowing down. It seems incredibly relevant on so many levels as I sit here and type this. Slowing down physically. Slowing down mentally. Slowing down emotionally. We need to slow down. We move too fast, and we certainly move too fast to really grieve our losses. I know that one from experience.

Yes, pain cuts deep when we’re connected, but maybe we can slow down and ask ourselves just how this tragedy, and every tragedy that we face, experience, witness, or even hear about, will change the way that we live our lives. Will they make a difference or will we just return to the status quo as soon as the memories fade?

I choose change.

Just Watching

watchingOn my way to work this morning, I ran into a back-up on the highway. I could see the flashing lights ahead and realized that there were no lane closures and the accident that was causing the delay seemed to have been fairly minor. But everyone needed to stop and slow down. They needed to see what all the delay was about. It was almost as if they needed to be a part of it without really being a part of it.

I met someone for lunch yesterday at a fast food restaurant. As we walked in, the TV hanging on the wall was displaying the news of the tragedy in Las Vegas. As the latest statistics scrolled across the screen, the man with whom I was meeting said, “I think we’ve become calloused. I see stuff like this and it hardly phases me.” I couldn’t help but agree. If there is a normal, this may very well have become a part of ours. That’s not to say that I like it, but it seems that the frequency of these kinds of occurrences is too high.

It seems that we spend a good deal of our lives watching. We watch the cars go by and crane our necks to see why we had to slow down. We turn on the news on the TV or computer or device and we watch everything that’s happening. We might even attend a church on a Sunday morning and we take our seats and watch as everything plays out before us.

We’re really good at watching, but I wonder how good we are at doing. Does our watching ever result in us actually doing something? We can watch the world pass by and even feel the stirrings in our hearts that we should do something, but then life gets in the way and we forgot that feeling, the deep ache within us that was calling us to step out and make a difference. We can be lulled into a stupor and trance by the busyness that surrounds us and before we know it, the opportunities have passed us by.

That’s where I am right now. I’ve been watching, trying to put some skin in the game. I’ve been on a fact finding mission, trying to see where I need to be and what I need to be doing. The fact is, it seems like there are a billion places to start and a trillion things to do, if we take it at face value, it’s all a bit overwhelming. But if we look around to right where we are, do we see the possibilities to affect change right there?

I am tired. I am tired of death and tragedy. I am tired of the constant politicization of tragedies for our own preferences. I am tired of people thinking that change can happen just by being more restrictive. If change doesn’t happen deep within, then the change will only be temporary at best, fake and superficial at worst.

When tragedy strikes, we always want to find who is to blame. Many people would dare to blame gun lobbyists, the president, the NRA, and others. I don’t think that all of these are without blame, but the problem is, some of us just aren’t self-aware enough to realize that while there may be blaming lying outside of us, there may actually be blame deep within us as well. We are not without blame, yet we have no problem casting the first stones.

Could it be that our problem isn’t a law or legal thing and that it’s really a heart thing? Could it be that maybe there is more to morality and ethics than a secular humanistic view would admit? Could it be that the heart of the problem may actually lie closer to home and within me than I am willing to admit?

My heart is broken that there are lives which have been senselessly snuffed out and for the families of those whose lives are over. My heart is broken that tragedy continues to divide us rather than unite us. My heart is broken that we are too busy casting blame to take any responsibility or ownership ourselves.

I’m not sure what the next steps are, but I’m pretty sure politicization, blaming, and lobbying are not among them. I can make a difference, but the question is whether or not I’ll just sit back and keep watching or if I’ll get some skin in the game and actually do something.

God Is Still There

As I drove home from spending the day with good friends yesterday, my phone began buzzing, indicating that there was a message for me. Someone wanted to get in touch with me.

I checked the message to find that tragedy had struck my community in the loss of a young man. A message had gone out from the principal of the school alerting parents of the situation and letting them know that the school would do whatever they could in the midst of this tragedy to accommodate and care for students.

I looked in the rearview mirror at my three kids. These situations always feel close to home when I look into their eyes. My wife and I carried on our conversation, injecting questions and thoughts as we went. It was hard to wrap my head around this kind of news. When tragic news strikes, I’ve always felt like there are more questions than answers. Who? What? Where? Why?


Three simple letters that seem to be as invasive as the surgeon’s scalpel. They cut deep but unlike the scalpel, they don’t always get to the heart of the issue. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is anger. The emotions run rampant and wild as we wrestle with a new reality as it begins to set in.

Late last night, I got a text from someone struggling with the news. Words of comfort seem trite to me in times like this. Even as a man of deep faith who has experienced his own losses, the freshness and newness of loss demands something so much more than words can offer.

This morning, I was reminded of the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” The context is important here. Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, has died. His sisters insist that if Jesus had been there, he would not have died. Jesus comforts Mary and Martha with words. He tells them that their brother will rise again and reminds them that he (Jesus) is the resurrection and the life, that whoever believes in him, even though they die, will live. Then Jesus asks where his friend has been laid. When he reaches the tomb, he is greatly moved by the mourners and by the heartfelt pain of these sisters, and Jesus weeps himself.

Jesus’ response in the midst of this tragedy speaks deeply to me. He knew that he was going to heal Lazarus and raise him from the dead. He knew that death would be averted for a little while. Yet he still wept.

Sure, Jesus pointed them towards truth in the beginning, but then he simply wept with his friends. Jesus didn’t get on his soapbox and begin to preach. He said what he needed to say and then he got onto the task at hand: mourning and weeping.

To be honest, I don’t really think that we do that well. I’ve experienced it on both ends of the situation, as the one who is seeking to comfort another and as the one who is seeking to be comforted.

On the day that my father died, I had two friends with me. As I loved on my father and spoke gentle words to him, one of my friends began to weep. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t offer any words. He simply wept.

Sometimes the best thing for us to do is to simply come alongside those who are suffering and experiencing loss and not provide answers, but weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. There will be a time for asking questions and a time for seeking answers.  

The great Scottish author George MacDonald wrote, “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” While we weep, we are not alone. In the pain, in the tragedy, in the heartbreak, God is still there. His voice might not always seem decipherable in the loudness of death, but his presence can be felt as he weeps with us. We are not alone.

 Yes, there will be a time for questions and answers, but in the freshness of loss, the best thing that we can do is to weep alongside those who are weeping. There may be a time when the answers that we’ve arrived at are appropriate to share, but that time is not now. May we practice the presence of Jesus alongside those who are grieving and mourning.

The Tragic Story of Bruce Jenner

I grew up in the 70s, and like any good, old American household, our pantry was stocked with the typical food staples found in American households: Kraft macaroni and cheese, Campbell’s soup, Wonder bread, and other items. When it came to breakfast, especially in the year when the United States of America celebrated its bicentennial, the only choice that was both American and remotely healthy was Wheaties.Bruce_Jenner_Wheaties_pole_vault

Back then, when there were special offers on the side, back, or bottom of cereal boxes, they were usually worthwhile. Sure, there were still those crummy, cheap plastic toys at the bottom that you ended up tearing open the box to find, but there were also the forms that you had to fill out. If you filled out the form, sent some postage and handling money, and were willing to wait eight to ten weeks, you would have a nice surprise waiting for you in the mailbox one day when you came home from school.

My reward came in a long cardboard cylinder. Feeling like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story,” I would rush home after school every day to find out whether or not that cylinder had arrived that day. They claimed it would only take eight to ten weeks, but in the mind of a young child, that seems like an eternity. But the day finally came, and it arrived!

When I opened it, there stood the picture of physique and fitness, the Adonis of America, the Champion: Bruce Jenner. There on a poster about 18 by 24 inches was this athlete poised with his javelin, not only making his mark on athletic history and in the process making a mark on the minds of every aspiring young athlete who dreamed of some day being an Olympian, just like Bruce.

Fast forward nearly forty years and that same Adonis is no longer gracing the cover of a box of Wheaties. Instead, he’s now on the cover of Vanity Fair. His name is no longer Bruce and, in fact, he is no longer a he but now a she. In this issue of the publication, she has announced that she will now be referred to as Caitlyn. It’s not the attire and outfit of an Olympian that he dons but rather a minimal corset which accentuates part of his body that didn’t look that way all those years ago.

But how did he get here? How did Bruce become Caitlyn? What’s the story that none of us knew?bruce-jenner-cover-vanity-fair

Leave it to Diane Sawyer to provide us with the answers in an exclusive interview. And answers were just what she was seeking to find when her exclusive interview aired on ABC on Friday, April 24th.

I missed the interview when it originally aired. I caught bits and pieces on the evening and morning news that weekend. It wasn’t until much later that I watched it. In fact, I thought that the hype that the media had made of Bruce Jenner and his gender transition had mostly blown over until I saw the cover of Vanity Fair and the Annie Leibovitz picture that graced its cover.

To be honest, I was hoping that it would all blow over. I still struggle with the fact that our country has such a warped sense of importance in that we make a bigger deal over celebrities and their personal lives than we do about the injustices that are happening around the world. I find myself caught up in this ALL. THE. TIME. I want to care more about stuff that’s important but I get sucked into reading the gossip rags while waiting in line at the grocery store.

But this wasn’t blowing over and in some ways, I felt like in much the same way that Jenner had been lauded as a hero back in the 1970s because of his Olympic feats, he was now being lauded as a hero once again because of the decision that he was making after what he described to Sawyer as a lifelong struggle. According to Jenner, he had been hiding what he was really feeling inside for the majority of his life.

Jenner’s story is moving. Regardless of your viewpoint, it’s hard to hear someone talk about the struggles and discomfort that they’ve had for their lives. It’s hard to hear about the loneliness, the confusion, the brokenness, the struggle, and the general feeling that he was living a lie. No matter what you think about the issue, I don’t think anyone ever wants to hear someone talking about a point that they had come to when they thought that the best thing to do would be to walk into a room, grab a gun, and end the misery that they had been experiencing for a long time.

As one interviewee during the program said, “It’s impossible to hate anyone whose story you know.”


We are storied people and when we hear the stories of others, they move from being anonymous characters in a drama played out before us. They are no longer nameless, they are no longer faceless, they are no longer generic. When we know their story, we can’t so easily disassociate ourselves from them. No, we can’t hate anyone whose story we know, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will always agree with them simply because we’ve heard their stories. We might understand them better, we might know their hearts and their passions, but understanding and agreeing are not the same.

In the midst of hearing Jenner’s story, I have more questions than answers. I wonder what distinguishes an issue that if confronted and faced becomes a courageous act from an issue that if confronted and faced simply becomes just another issue. What is the determining factor for us in deciding where we draw the line on issues? How do we know whether we are being courageous or if we’re just going through the motions of following our heart? What determines when our response to an issue makes us pioneers and spokesmen for “millions living in the shadows” versus simply just standing up for what we believe?

I honestly struggle with the fact that the words of the Declaration of Independence have become distorted to us. The inalienable rights that we speak of, that the founding fathers wrote about, those rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they have been skewed. Is it possible that the order in which they are named were in order of importance as seen by our founding fathers? Somehow, it seems, we have elevated the pursuit of happiness to the highest order of the land and we are willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order that we can pursue that happiness. Jenner’s kids just want their father to be happy.

Jenner’s words seemed to parallel Lady Gaga’s when he said, “I was made this way.” At the heart of who he is, in his soul, as he states, he is a woman. Forget the fact that he has lived his life as a man, as an impostor of sorts. He even goes so far as saying that this is how God made him and that, “God put me on this earth to deal with this issue.” Jenner believes that God made him to have the body of a man and the soul of a woman.

Jenner said, “this is not an issue that you can just walk away from.” I agree with him. The world is changing and there is no longer an option of doing nothing, of sticking our heads in the sand and wishing that everything would go away. As those who follow Christ, we can no longer simply spout out rules and regulations, carefully choosing the ones that conveniently fit our comfortable ideologies and casting away the ones that don’t. We need consistency.

In the midst of it all, we can’t forget that things are not the way that they were intended to be. Yes, we may have been born this way, but the way that we have been born is not necessarily the way that God intended us to be. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, their decision was more far-reaching than they ever could have imagined.

Is it possible that our feelings can betray us and that our pursuit of happiness can actually run contrary to our pursuit of what God really wants for us? Is it possible that the idea of taking up our cross daily really means sacrificing our wills for the sake of following Christ? Is it possible that, like Paul, we all may have been born with a thorn in the flesh, something that we constantly struggle with that can never be quenched, with which we can never feel fully comfortable in our own skin?

My heart breaks for Bruce Jenner. He hopes that his transition will bring him peace. Some hope that his transition brings him happiness. But that peace and that happiness will never be fully realized, will never be fully felt unless it comes from an indestructible source, unless it’s a peace that surpasses all of our understanding. I hope that Jenner can find that peace, and more importantly, know the One who provides it.

The World Is Different

It was more than a year ago that a local husband and wife were out for a morning jog when a car hit and killed the wife. In the aftermath of the accident, the running world rallied around a cause to keep the memory of this young runner, mother, and wife alive with Meg’s miles (or Meg smiles).

The driver of the automobile that hit the woman was recently sentenced to four years in prison. The surviving husband, a local police officer, was interviewed after the verdict and he shared what his family has been going through in the year since they lost their wife and mother. His children haven’t been able to sleep and his 8 year old, in what he called a true moment, told his father that the reason that he hadn’t been able to sleep since he lost his mother was because, “the world is different.”

When I first read the article about the interview with Scott Menzies, that phrase haunted me. I turned it over and over in my head, thinking about what it meant and how true that it was….and is. I thought about the end of The Lord of the Rings when Frodo and his friends are sitting around a table in their local pub, hearing the familiar sounds that don’t feel so familiar anymore. They look at each other with acknowledging looks that tell each other that they understood what the others were thinking. The world was different.

When things change, there’s usually no way to get them to go back the way that they once were. I’m sure that’s the way that Scott Menzies and his family have felt. How painful for his three young children to have to come to that realization that the world is different and that it can never go back to what it once was for them.

I can understand a little of what they are feeling with the loss of my own parents. The world is different now, things have changed. Although I was much older when I lost my parents and the circumstances by which they died were not nearly as tragic as the Menzies family, for anyone who loses someone, there is a realization that they all must come to in facing the new world, in facing the fact that things are different and will never be like they once were….

Well, not on this side of eternity, at least.

Tolkien uses the phrase, “everything sad is coming untrue” to describe the vanquishing of evil. It’s a phrase that I replay in my mind over and over again, thinking about what is to come when I’ve found myself focusing far too much on what’s been lost.

The world is different now.

Every time that I drive by the memorial that has been set up at the site where Meg Menzies was killed, I feel as if I am on sacred ground. I say a prayer for Scott Menzies and his family. I don’t pray for the driver of the vehicle like I should, but that’s probably something that I need to start doing as well. His family has experienced a different world as well, nothing is the same for them either, and there is nothing that they can do to return things to the way that they once were.

The world is different, but different isn’t always bad, especially when there is hope beyond that difference. We can’t see things in full, but only in part. I equate it to trying to do a puzzle without the cover, we don’t really know what it is that we are building, we haven’t been given the whole picture, but do we trust that there is One who sees things in full, who knows all things, who is sovereign over it all?

Yes, the world is different now and it’s not always easy to take. Things will happen that will challenge our thinking that will disrupt the normality, simplicity, and comfort of our lives. Where do we find hope? It’s a question that I constantly return to and one that I think that we all ultimately need to answer.

Just for context’s sake, here is my original post about the tragedy that took place last January: http://wp.me/p3tHzf-cn

And here we are…

wtc-introSeptember 11th comes every year. There’s no stopping it. For me, it’s a dual edged sword. Not only does it remind me of that fateful day 13 years ago when terrorists hijacked 4 planes and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, but it also reminds me of my mom. September 11th was my mom’s birthday.

I could feel my anxiety rising within me a few days ago. No matter how much I tell myself not to get uptight about it as it approaches on the calendar, it’s easier said than done. I could feel the pit in my stomach, the tightening of my neck and back, and the long sighs that would somehow find their way out of my mouth.

Today is a somber day, a day to remember. When the United States first experienced the tragedy that happened 13 years ago, the tagline, “We will never forget” could be seen all over; coupling the tragedy with my mom’s birthday has assured that I would not forget either.

If you go to New York City, you will see the memorial where the towers once stood. Although I’ve not been there yet, I imagine that there is little indication (other than the memorial) that those events took place there. Things have been cleaned up and fixed. The memorial has been erected where there was once a gaping scar in the earth. While the visible evidence of the tragedy is no longer there, the mental and emotional evidence will always remain.

I can remember so much about that day as the news spread of what had happened. Living 50 miles outside New York City, it felt even closer to home. I knew people in the City, fortunately, they had not been physically injured in the midst of it all, but how many more lives were lost, families impacted, lives shattered and changed.

13 years later, are we any closer to peace in the Middle East? ISIS runs rampant, making the atrocious events and behavior seen in the past look like child’s play in some respects. Evil has not died, it still lives on. Hatred still fuels wars and disagreements. 13 years later, what have we REALLY learned?

Dates are powerful, at least they are to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a “numbers” guy. Numbers stay with me and I can remember them randomly. I will always remember this day. Can we all? But beyond remembering, can we move closer to finding peace? Can we put an end to the strife, enmity, and bloodshed? I fear that we can make a lot of noise to say that we want to move towards peace, but we can never quite get there……..not if we do it on our own.

Take a minute today to remember.  How is your life different today than it was had the events of 9/11 never happened?  What are you doing to make a difference in the world where you are?  Where do you go to find peace?  Many places that offer peace are simply offering shallow substitutes that don’t last but promise the world.  May you find the peace that passes all understanding, the gift of life. and the living water that offers those who drink the chance to never thirst again.

Facing the Inevitable

Robin-WilliamsOver the last few days, I’ve read article after article, seen news story after news story, as people have remembered Robin Williams. Who was he? What were his struggles? What were his triumphs? How did he come to the point where he ended everything?

As I’ve read the articles, I’ve agreed with some, been encouraged by others, and downright objected to others. As someone who writes a lot, I kept asking myself whether or not I had anything to add to the conversation. I have vowed that I don’t want to be “that guy” who simply writes to jump on a bandwagon. I only like to write if I feel that I’m saying something different.

As I’ve waded through all of these stories, two things have stood out to me. The first had to do with all of the talk about whether or not suicide was a selfish choice. The other thing had to do with how suicide was being portrayed, how were people addressing this issue of someone ending their life?

There is so much stigma connected to the word “selfish,” that it’s hard to look at it with fresh eyes. I was doing what I could to try to understand exactly what someone would mean to say that suicide was NOT selfish. I had some conversations (1 live and 2 digital) with people who had been personally impacted by someone close to them committing suicide. I wanted to hear from them about something that was troubling me, because from my vantage point, suicide seemed selfish.

While every single case of suicide is different, it seems that those who take their lives may actually believe that their actions are unselfish. They may feel that they have been a burden to those whom they love and who are caring for them. They may feel as if the only way to find peace is to end it all. The notion of selfishness comes out more from the survivors than anything else. We ask ourselves, “how could they do this to us?” Didn’t they care? Yes…..they cared, sometimes too much.

This whole tragic end to the life of a loved and respected person has brought into the limelight the way that we handle depression. It has been becoming more acceptable to talk about it, to share your need for help, to find medication, and to just educate about depression overall. I have heard too many horror stories about how people in very visible positions have been treated with their own admission of depression, especially pastors. It’s a travesty to think that we fail to extend grace to those who brains are being affected by something. If those of us who follow Christ really believe that sin tainted the whole world, why should our brains be somehow resilient, resistant, or immune to the impact of sin?

A lot has been written about Robin Williams’ freedom, primarily with a Tweet that the “Genie” is now free (based upon the character he played in the Disney animated feature “Aladdin”). It’s true that he is free from the earthly demons that plagued him, from the depression that drove him down, from the addictions that constantly beckoned him back like the sirens to Ulysses, but it doesn’t negate the fact that there has been a tragic loss of life, that there is a family that is now short one family member, and there is one more statistic to show how deadly and dangerous depression and mental illness can be.

Personally, I have been grateful to see more discussions opening up to the severity of depression, primarily discussions among those within the church. Having had parents who struggled with depression and struggling with it myself, I am grateful that we can begin to talk about something rather than sweeping it under the rug or simply labeling whatever fits our comfortable world. Depression is easily overlooked and unseen, while it’s not any one person’s responsibility to see it in others, we all need to keep our eyes open to the people to whom we are the closest.

I mentioned the other day that a young woman shared her story in our corporate gathering time this past Sunday. She shared how she had hid what was going on inside of her from everyone around her. It’s not the hardest thing to do, especially when those around you aren’t really paying attention. We are a distracted and busy society that only slows down when we are forced to do so. May we take such a tragic situation and learn something from it, not that will keep for a day, a week, or a month, but that will sink in for a lifetime.