Tag Archives: Grace

How To Remember Well- Thoughts on 9-11 & Fear Vs. Hope

11 Sep


Ten years ago I sat in Junior English class and heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. To be honest, I vaguely knew what the World Trade Center was. At sixteen, I wasn’t really into New York architecture. I knew about the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, but that was about it.  My world was all about the here and now, the drama of every day life. I lived in fear, but that fear was that I wasn’t as pretty as the girls in my new school, that I would never be good enough, that I was still too awkward and shy. I didn’t fear terrorists, I feared I would end up alone, that I would never accomplish my dream of being a writer.

Tragedy has a way of changing the priorities of our fears.

We gathered in the history room of my small Christian private school and watched in terror as the events unfolded. I remember feeling sorry for my History teacher, a darling woman who was the most patriotic person I knew. I watched tears openly flow down her face, her eyes red with shock. I don’t think I cried, I was too numb. Although New York was less then 300 miles away, it felt like a different planet, and seeing explosions on the TV seemed like good special effects in a summer blockbuster.

Fear has a way of causing us to live in denial and hope to God that reality isn’t what it seems.

Ten years later, and we’ve finally found the man believed to be solely behind these attacks. While it would seem that would alleviate our fear, it just doesn’t seem to have let up any.

Many say our threat of terrorism is just as strong, or worse. Even if the threat was gone, there will always be something else to fear.

Fear has a way of multiplying like a cancer and taking over. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, it is all destructive.

We fear unemployment, the economy crashing, government control, everything we know and love in this country ceasing to be.

We long for some political savior to ride in on his white horse and rescue us from our nightmares.

But this will never be.

As this peculiar group who claims faith in God as their way of life, we have another fear- the devil.

We haven’t met him, necessarily, but we’ve seen his attempt to mess with our “God-fearing” nation.

We fear evil taking over our country more then anything.

We fear our morals being pushed aside and “secularization” becoming the norm.

So we do what any Jesus-loving patriot would do- we fight it.

We picket. We protest. We preach against it. We speak against it. We try to pinpoint what went wrong, to find a source to blame.

And all the while fear breeds, takes over our consciousness, becomes our drug of choice.

Fear leads to more fear. Blame leads to more Blame. Hate leads to more hate.

Whether fear of Al-Qaeda, or conservatives fearing liberals pushing their “godless agenda,” it always leads to bondage and hate.

“There is no fear in love, perfect love cast out all fear.” (1 John 4:18)

 

The good news is: we don’t have to live like this.

(Breathe deep sigh of relief)

Whoever you blame for the state of our country, know that blame will always lead to bitterness, and bitterness will always lead to cynicism and the death of joy.

Even as I am writing this, I become face to face with my own hypocrisy because my own blame points to The Church. I get angry at our reputation to instill fear and hopelessness while we should be the last group on the earth to do so, yet I cannot allow this the lead to bitterness.

(I am part of the problem.)

Every fatal word spoken, every anti-people statement, ever finger pointed in blame, is all part of the problem.

Ten years later, I want to remember the sacrifice made by the heroes who responded immediately to the tragedy in New York, those who daily sacrifice in order to keep us safe, I want to honor those 3,000 who died. Yet, I completely miss the point if I let that negate remembering the sacrifice made by Jesus in order that we may walk in peace, freedom, love and LIFE.

The other night I went to a comedy show. My boyfriend made fun of me, because out of all the hilarious things Michael Jr. said, the thing that stuck with was the one serious thing he said. He shared how his goal in comedy used to be to get people to laugh. It is a normal goal to have as a comedian, and you wouldn’t think of it as selfish until you realized that the reason he wanted people to laugh was to validate his career. At a popular club in Los Angeles, he saw a homeless man hanging out outside and something in him shifted.

It was then he realized, God didn’t want him to get people to laugh, but to give them a reason to laugh.

As People of Hope, it is not our job to get people to change, to believe, to try to be like Jesus. It is simply our job to live love and that will give them a reason to laugh. To hope. To love.

I believe that the best way to honor this day is cut out the nay-saying and begin to speak words of hope over our world.

Our country.
Our church.
Our family.
Our neighbors.
Ourselves.

In order to speak hope, we must first open our eyes to see it- everywhere, all around us.

Jesus, redeeming the world. We are secure. Our future is certain. The war has been won.
For every judgmental blanket statement of blame made over a particular party, religion, or people group, let us be the ones who point out the loving individuals who break that break the stereotypes.

For every eye wide with fear after turning off the evening news, let us be the ones who soothe bristly souls with words of comfort and hope as Jesus did.

For every finger pointed in blame, every word written that stirs the need for revenge, let us be the ones who peacefully disarm, hand out grace like it’s bread for the starving, and live unconditional love until revenge loses its appeal.

This is how we remember well.

Men & Rocks (A Parable)

30 Aug

Two men were walking down an old dusty road called life carrying sacks.

One stopped along the way and picked up a stone called “Addiction,” and put it in his sack. The second man picked up a stone called “Evangelism.”

They walked a little further, when the first man found a rock called “Sexual Sin.” He put it in his sack. Nearby, the second man realized he must be missing something so he found a rock called “Feeding the Poor,” and did the same.

The two men walked on, a little slower this time because of the weight. The first man stopped by a tree and found a large boulder called “Self-Hatred” which he carefully squeezed into his bag. The second man found one just as big called “My Reputation,” and fit it in his bag.

They continued along the road. The first man acquired several more over the miles of travel: “Abuse,” “Dishonesty,” and “Drunkenness.”

The second man also picked up more to add to his load. They were big shiny rocks with long fancy names such as: “Memorizing Scripture,” “Attending Church,” and “Protesting Abortion.”

By this time, both men could barely walk under the load.

Out of nowhere, along came a man with a smile on his face. He stopped and looked at the men, both sweating and straining under their heavy sacks.

“Let me carry them.” He offered, firmly but gently. The first man put down his sack and looked inside. He recognized the rocks were no good. They were jagged and dirty and making his back ache. He closed the sack and handed it to the smiling man, grateful for the relief.

The second man put down his sack and looked in. All his rocks seemed were smooth and shiny, even though they were just as heavy.

“I can’t just let him carry them,” he thought to himself,  “They are my responsibility. Besides, they are not all dirty and jagged like the other man’s rocks.”

So the second man said “No thank you.” He closed his bag, and hoisted it back onto his own aching back. He continued to shuffle down the road, miserable and sweaty, but filled with a sense of self-pride.

The first man joyfully skipped down the road, following his savior, free from all things that had weighed him down.

 

The Tree Of Life

1 Aug

 

 

I saw The Tree of Life twice, and it really affected me. I’ve been wanting to write about it, but it’s been a little intimidating. I really am not sure to begin. I am not a film critic at all, so I am not going to critique it or tell you anything about the actors or elusive director, or even what the cinematography was like, I am simply going to share how it made me feel, ’cause that’s what I do best. 😉

Trying to write about The Tree of Life is like trying to sum up the enigma of life itself: joy and suffering, birth and death, creation and destruction.

If you are expecting a linear story that gives easy answers, you will be annoyed and angry. Watching The Tree of Life felt more like pausing in front of a waterfall or wandering in an art museum than being entertained in a movie theater. That being said, if you don’t really get what I am saying right now, don’t bother watching it. But if this resonates with you, read on and go see the movie when you are done. (I am not trying to be pretentious, I just recognize people relate to different types of art, and if you are more literal in you thinking you will most likely hate this movie.)

It’s better watched  as a poem than a novel. A glimpse of human existence through a single life beginning in happiness and pure joy, losing innocence and trying to get back to that place of grace.

I’ve never been more caught up in a film, like I completely forgot who I was and was literally seeing the world through new eyes.
It opens with this profound line, contrasting the two ways to move through the world, and continues to display these clashes personified through a father and mother.

 

The nuns taught us there were two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.

Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.

Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.

The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.

It is a prayer, literally and figuratively, ascending beyond the character’s recited prayers of “God bless this day ” to whispered honest questions everyone feels but many are afraid to ask:

Where were You? You let a boy die. You let anything happen.
Why should I be good When You aren’t?

Are You watching me? I want to know what You are. I want to see what You see.

The images feel abstract at times, the first time I watched it I was trying to figure them out too much, using my head instead of my heart, and I got frustrated towards the middle. The second time watching it I simply chose to be in the story, and I got the feeling like all the images were placed precisely to invoke deep longings, nostalgia, and emotional response.

The imagery and meaningful lines that were spoken found their way into my soul, and I know it will continue to speak to me for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.

%d bloggers like this: