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Which direction are you looking?

I cannot even imagine.

restareashade 2On our way home from a vacation week in Galveston, we stopped at a Chick-fil-a.  Unsure what the muzak was that I was hearing in the background, I listened more closely than is probably ever intended by the purveyors of such.

It was “I Can Only Imagine,” the slowed down, instrumental version.  Felt odd to hear this song muzakked (is that a verb? Did I spell it right?)

I can only imagine.

Later today, I got stuck on “I cannot begin to imagine.”

This second phrase is what I’ve been thinking since hearing of the overnight death of a 3 year old grandson of one of my parish.

Yes, I hugged my own kids more often and more tightly the rest of today.  I likely will again tomorrow as well.

I cannot imagine.

Yet, as people who follow a God who refuses to be distant, even when we don’t understand, we know that we must move closer rather than further away in such times.

Some of the best, and most regularly used pastoral advice I received in seminary was this: “If you don’t know what to say, don’t force words; just be present.”

I cannot imagine. I don’t have words that work.  I will be turning to the Psalms deeply the next couple of days.  The Psalms are full of words and phrases and images that come along side us as we feel whatever we feel as humans.

Please hold this family in prayer.  Even if you cannot put words into the prayers, please pray.



Thank you, Robin Williams!

20140721_100448This won’t be the blog from which you learn that Robin Williams has died.

This may or may not be a blog on which you read anything you haven’t already read somewhere else. Or everywhere else.

As I was in a Finance Committee meeting last night when I got the news.  Shocking as it was, this news didn’t justify excusing myself from a meeting to rush something out into the blogosphere.

Now that you have read everything else about William’s life and death; now that you’ve searched for, found, and shared your own collections of quotes and clips, I offer you this.

Everyone wants a new angle.  Everyone wants to say or write or share the perfectly unique perspective on the fact that Robin Williams’ life and work.

I am not alone in this.

I am, however, one who has reminded a few hundred people that “there is nothing new under the sun” rather frequently here recently.

Yet I want, I almost crave to say something different.  I want – do I need? – to share something you hadn’t already thought of?

All these thoughts marinated in me last night and again this morning.  As I sat down with the intent to blog, I realized something about all the reflection – reflection about myself, and Robin Williams, and life and depression and death and shared experience.

What I realized is this: part of the reason news of Williams’ death has so shaken so many of us is exactly because he managed – for over thirty years – to say and do things that struck us as both unique and new, but also as familiar and comfortable.  He made us laugh to the point of drooling and snorting. He brought us to tears with moving moments of humanity.

Did Robin Williams disprove that there is nothing new under the sun?  No, but I think he drew us together in ways and with methods that were, at least, out of the norm.

So, instead of trying to share something about Robin Williams’ life that is new, unique, or out of the norm, I’ll just share with you my thanks for his ability to draw us past the weight of our lives into the experience of joy and sadness that connected and connects us with each other.

And… about that…

No doubt some of his comedic genius and some of the source from which he was able to draw his acting ability came from the same deep well as the depression and addiction issues.  He struggled with and against these, I suppose, all his life.  He ultimately fell victim to them.

His death saddens us both because we won’t have another Robin Williams movie or series or stand up routine, and because we don’t want lives to be taken from us by such insidious means.

Death touches us all – this time a single death has touched a great many people.

Yet this singular death of an individual suffering from – perhaps tortured by – demons of depression and addiction serves us.  It reminds us that we are people who, to a variety of degrees, know the power of depression and addiction.  Some of us know it from the inside.  Some only from the outside.

It is my prayer for you today, in memory of Robin Williams, that you will check in with those close enough to you for you to know the power of depression and addiction in their lives.  Let them know they are not alone.  May doing so remind you that you, too, are not alone.

Thank you, Robin Williams!

Which part of the bible is your favorite?

For Whom?

A woman whose book I just started identified herself, years ago as the wife of a successful pastor, as someone “too busy blessing the blessed” to spend time on the needy.

Got in my car this morning to hear the very end of a report about, I deduced, paying college athletes (football players, anyway). The president of a university that is not in one of the “big 5″ athletic conferences opined that this would create a plutocracy.  The concern was valid, to a degree.  If schools pay players, richer schools will be able to pay players more, thus funneling even more of the most talented players into fewer schools.

Then I read a piece about the NBA’s being hurt by the FIBA.  Paul George, a star for the Indiana Pacers, was severely injured playing for Team USA.  As a result of this loss, some even question the financial drain the NCAA makes on the NBA. (Players are required to play at least a year of college basketball before being eligible for the NBA draft and the millions of dollars that follow from it.)

I suppose I shouldn’t be bothered or offended that the interests of the NBA and colleges large and small, and even congregations of established churches have people looking out for them.  But what about “the least, the last, and the lost”?

Who is looking out for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison?

These clearly do not demand the economic attention of major colleges or their football programs, or of the NBA.

For whom ought we be looking out?

One Day

This picture shouted at me, “How can this kind of thing happen?!”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Gaza

My next thought was something like this: The last time the US saw that much smoke, fire, explosion, devastation all on one day, we grounded ALL air traffic for several days. We mourned as a nation – mourned seriously enough that Republicans and Democrats actually stopped hitting each other for a few months.

They stopping hitting each other long enough, in fact, to pass the Patriot Act, which, in my opinion, bargained away individual privacy for the promise never to let this kind of thing happen again.

In Gaza, on the other hand, they apparently call such devastation ‘Tuesday.’

Why can we care so deeply about this kind of thing when it affects, or threatens to affect us, but move on glibly from day to day when it happens on the other side of the globe.

My heart is heavy today for the Israelis and Palestinians who are caught in the middle of a fight between people in power.

It shouldn’t matter whether this kind of thing happens to us or near us or 10,000 miles away.

One day, we believe, God will indeed sort all these things out.  Jesus taught us to pray, among other things, for “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  One day we will reach this.

Since we pray this, some of us every day, let’s consider what we might do to hasten that day. I believe we move in the direction of that one day as you and I start to live as though we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

One day.


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