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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

I was a pawnbroker for a while. It was a career choice that I honestly do not regret one bit, even as I moved further away from the ethicalness of that particular industry. The job provided me with amazing benefits, I was compensated fairly for my work, and I got to help people every day (albeit in a limited manner).

The job also gave me a lot of stories about folks. I’ve had times when people came into the pawn shop with tears literally streaming down their faces, trying to pay the light bill – or buy formula for their baby. There was an opportunity to help meet a lot of needs for folks. That’s one of the reasons I stuck with it for as long as I did. However, you also become a bit jaded.

I’m reminded of a particular time when these two young (and not unattractive) ladies came into the shop. They were looking at our selection of James Avery jewelry (faith-inspired silver and gold jewelry which is popular in Texas). One of the ladies picked out a ring, but wanted to sell another piece of jewelry to pay for it.

Now, that is not normally an issue. But to sell something to a pawn shop, you have to provide identification so that if it comes up as stolen, the police know who last had it in their possession. When I informed the young lady that I needed her state identification or driver’s license, she responded: “You see, ummm, I’m a prostitute, and I have warrants out for my arrest, and I don’t want the cops getting my information.”

The poor girl was probably only eighteen or nineteen years old, and she was already selling her body on the streets of San Antonio, Texas. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the police already had her address – it was already on their system via the Texas State Department of Motor Vehicles. Instead, her friend (also a prostitute) gave me her identification to use, and so we completed the process and they walked out with a James Avery silver ring.

At the time, I couldn’t help but think of the irony of a hooker buying a piece of jewelry inspired by Christianity. But looking back, I’m a bit more thoughtful about the encounter. She bought a silver ring with a heart on it, inspired by God’s everlasting love for humanity. There are so many things I wish I had done differently with that encounter. So many things I wish I had thought instead of the self-righteousness that was in my head.

In the Scriptures, Jesus has an encounter with a woman caught up in adultery. The religious teachers and Pharisees wanted to stone her, but Jesus stops them saying, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” The men all begin to leave, until it is only Jesus and the woman. Jesus asked her if anyone had condemned her. She replied to Jesus, “No one, Lord.” And with that, Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8)

I think that day, in that pawn shop in San Antonio, that prostitute knew more about the grace of God than I did. At least, in her heart of hearts. I missed a chance to evidence that love with flesh and blood. In my head, I was condemning her, even though I was not without sin myself. Looking back, I can see that even though she was in a bad place in her life, she had hope in something greater.

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I remember the first time I was introduced to Christian Pacifism. It made literally, no sense to me whatsoever. As an eighteen year old kid (saying that as a twenty-six year old kid), the thought of Christian Pacifism was anathema. The very idea made me sick to my stomach. Pacifism wasn’t Christian in my eyes, it stood in direct contrast to everything I had been taught to believe by my culture.

My parents didn’t raise someone who was so easily turned away from differing viewpoints, however. The more the idea of pacifism disgusted me, the greater I wanted to delve into it and see why someone would commit to such lunacy. It also required me to confront head-on passages of Scripture that not only went against my worldview, but against the very god I believed in.

Having a crisis of faith is never fun. People don’t do this for kicks and giggles. The very bedrock of your faith is shaken to its core, because it was built on something that you’re not sure will withstand the test of time. Jesus gives a parable about this in the Scriptures. Everyone who builds the foundation of their faith upon the teachings and actions of Jesus will be able to withstand all the winds and rains and storms that may come. But those who do not build their faith upon the example of Jesus, will be like a man who builds his house on sand, and the first storm that comes will knock it down. And great will be its fall. (Matthew 7 & Luke 6)

The more I dug into Scripture, and the more I read the words of Jesus, the more my foundation began to crumble. My faith, my house, was built on sand. And the fall was great indeed. I became confronted with the very same question that plagued C.S. Lewis during his own crisis of faith. Either Jesus was a madman, or he was the Son of God.

Fortunately beneath my sand, was a bit of bedrock. That happens sometimes. My house fell, but I was able to clear away the sand, and begin building anew. It took some time, but I knew the foundation was firm (although I do still find granules here and there). My neighbors and friends and family laughed at me. I probably felt a bit like Noah, my faith being mocked. Yet I knew that somehow everything would be alright, because my new faith was built upon a Gospel that was solid. A Gospel of Love.

There have been some bumps along the way. Faith journeys are never easy. And there have been storms, Lord have there been storms. I’ve had hurricane winds blow against my heart and soul, and there have been times when it was all I could do to not give in. But our God is a mighty fortress, and happy are those who put their trust in Him.

The journey isn’t over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me. I’m still learning this path of love and peace, trying to show mercy and grace. (It’s been eight years since I started on this road, and you’d be surprised how little you actually learn in that time). A little something that helps me along in this regard is a quote by Stanley Hauerwas: “I say I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch. I’m a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I’ve got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it’s too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what is true. But that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all.”

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I’m still trying to figure out how to define my experience watching “Selma”, last night. The closest I can come to, is that it was a spiritual experience. “Selma” is heart-wrenching, and beautiful.

The entire film, I could not help but think, “My God, what have we (white Americans) done?”. The answer to my question came in the movie itself. When any white person stands by, and does not speak out against racism when it rears its ugly head, we have implicitly condoned it. It is our sin of omission.

“Selma” also illuminates the activities of Dr. King in Selma, Alabama. His leadership of a non-violent protest against those who sought to harm and kill him. How disappointed I was to learn that while “Selma” had a full audience, a film that glorifies the life of a military assassin was sold out.

This is the sin of the Church in America – we have failed to speak out against the violence of this nation. We have implicitly stood by as our government systematically oppresses and murders its enemies – at home and abroad. Many in our churches have even explicitly supported or participated in such efforts.

We have glorified the military industrial complex as our savior and have placed our hope in our elected officials. Yet the Scriptures speak out, and proclaim a new way of life. That in the Kingdom of God, swords are beat into plowshares. That those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword. The Gospel of Christ is this: Love thy God, love thy neighbor, love thy enemy, love thine own self. Love.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Which then is the love of Christ? The killing of enemies for national pride? Or the sacrifice of one’s life for the freedom of others?

Skip “American Sniper”, Church. Go see “Selma”.

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With the Texas elections, there was an overwhelming victory by Republicans across the board. Many view the officials who have been elected to be valiant defenders of life. And perhaps these men are valiant protectors of the unborn (though I may disagree with their methods). I believe abortion to be a difficult decision, but one that is bereft of any moral or spiritual goodness.

That being said – being a champion of life extends to far more than simply ensuring fewer abortions. With fewer abortions come children who are born into unwanted and possibly dangerous situations. These children have an increased risk to grow up in a situation of generational poverty, and become victims of societal ills. With an alarming population of Texas’ children already going to bed hungry, and with Republicans fighting tooth and nail to cut funding for schools and welfare programs, are these officials really defenders of life?

Children who grow up in these scenarios have a higher likelihood to become juvenile offenders, and many end up in a cyclical pattern – repeating mistake after mistake because society did not offer them the same privilege given to children with better resources at hand. These juveniles grow into adults who cycle in and out of prison, many of those die on the streets, or are sentenced to death in the prisons that many of them have called home for the majority of their adult (and possibly adolescent) lives.

Does a champion of life only care about ensuring that a fetus is born into a human being? Does a champion of life care about ensuring that everyone has enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over their head, and adequate medical care? Does a champion of life seize every possible chance to execute someone whom they deem to be past redemption?

No, a champion of life is a champion for all those who live. A champion of life fights not only for those who have yet to be born – but also those that have been born already. Especially those who have been outcast by society and have either by circumstance or by choice been relegated to lives lead in the dark. A champion of life champions not only his friends, and those who think as he does – but also his enemies.

A champion of life recognizes that all are made in the image of God. That all life is sacred. That all of us are broken – and that all of us are in need of redemption.

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For my brothers and sisters in Ferguson – the Lord is with you.

While I know of your tears and your pain, I cannot say I understand it. I sympathize with your plight, but I have no firsthand experience with which to compare. I am a white man living in the United States. I have more privilege than I am even aware of. I do not know what it means to lose a loved one to violence. Much less by someone who was supposed to serve and protect the citizens of your community.

But we do have a common bond. Your God, is my God. And in Christ we are one. Therefore, as you mourn the loss of your son – I mourn the loss of my brother. And whilst you cry out to God for answers, I join in your lament. Never fear, where two or three are gathered together, there the Lord is also. And rest assured that the Lord is with you.

There are many of us joining our voices with yours tonight, all across the nation. We lift up our prayers as incense to the Lord of All Creation. Our voices are joined by all the Host of Heaven, and the Saints who have gone on before. The Great God of Israel hears your prayers, and He loves you.

But now is also a time for action. We are looking to you for answers on how to proceed forward. It is my prayer that we can find a loving, non-violent way to solve the problem we now so obviously face. Once upon a time we had bold men who could show us a way forward to lovingly face a society that was so corrupt. We need men and women like that now.

Please show the rest of the nation an example that we can be proud of for future generations. Show us that Ferguson 2014 will not be Los Angeles 1992. You have called on us to support you, as Dr. King called upon our fathers for Selma in 1965. The nation is watching – lead us to freedom.

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God Bless the Refugees

To this land they have traversed,
From dangers only God can tell.
Chancing life and limb and sanity;
Daring climate extremes, and living hell.
For a chance at freedom, it was worth it all.
Some lost friends along the way,
They were herded like cattle,
Once reaching Freedom’s shore.
Their entire lives they dreamed,
Of a land that accepted the poor.
The hungry, and the weak they are;
The huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
And what has America,
The haven of hope, decreed?
No asylum! No mercy!
Send back the refugees!
Yet I cannot help but wonder,
If it is they who should be deported.
Or perhaps those who believe freedom is a birthright
To only we few fortunate.
America could learn a thing,
Or two, from folks such as these,
For the very rocks and I cry out:
“God bless the refugees!”

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I cry out to you O Lord, in the depths of my despair. My cries for help have fallen on deaf ears, and those who could help cannot be found. My God the fear that wells up within my soul! Shall Hades continue to reap his wealth from my Tartarean sorrow? Only you can save me, my God! Are you not my shepherd? Hear me O God of Job; He who has crafted the universe! Release me of this I beg of you! You are the Father who gives only good gifts; the God who hands not over death to His child who asks for bread. Grant your Holy Spirit to comfort me! By the power and the passion of the Cross, free me from these chains!

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