SADNESS FOR HAITI ….AND AMERICA

I have been involved with Haiti for over 35 years and have become good friends with many people there, most of them brothers and sisters in Christ. Others and myself have witnessed love, faith, great works and ministry in the country and through the churches there. And now once more we have seen devastation, not from an earthquake but at our border.

Today a very good friend wrote me and I will let his words speak for themselves. There is nothing I can add that would do justice to the words that come from the heart, and the pain of this man I love like a brother. He is broken and his people are broken.

“My brother,

I gat tear when I saw what  happen to the Haitian people, I was really disappointed 

That situation remind me slavery period

Haitian are very angry, I know two Haitians who destroy their passport with American visas.

we all know ,Haitians helped America to fight  in order  to get his freedom , so we are part of America.

it’s inhuman when you hear testimony from people they send back to Haiti. 

We know that, American people are not happy with what’s happening at the border.

But , why Haitians ? 

Haitians love Haiti, they run away from Haiti because of kidnaping , killing, insecurity , violence and misery , we are not safe. ( nobody)

Haiti is one hour from America,  why America does not come to help with the gangs , insecurity and so one .

Today , I hear   Daniel Foot the  special ambassador for Haiti is resigned  because of what’ happening at the border and Haiti,

Past George, when you hear and see what is Happening in Haiti right  now is two different things. Haiti looks like hell, no body wants to stay.

Last week only at least 4 ships leave La Gonave Island.

George, 50 American  soldiers are good enough to help us with the gangs , we are at 1hre 30 minutes  from America.

Let ‘ us pray for Haiti.

God bless.”

The question for us is ‘What can and will we do?’ That is the question asked by our Lord, I believe.

I will write more but for today, let us pray for Haiti and ask wisdom for the leaders of our nation and world.

george

THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG

I’m reading “Open and Relational Theology” by Thomas Oord in which he asks the age-old question which is the title for today. But he asks it with regard to faith and love. Which comes first? I began to think that I am no longer attracted to the Evangelical notion about faith. It’s like a formula or a barcode stamped on our hands to secure our entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God.

Oord directs our attention to Paul writing to the Galatians,

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love”. (Amplified Bible)5:6

When I was a young pastor an older teen told me that he had ‘backslidden’ in his faith (a term meaning that he was probably into something bad) but then he said it didn’t matter because he was ‘saved’ and once you are saved you are always saved. Now, there’s a testimony that I will preach. NOT.

The church at Corinth always had problems of pride and greed. Paul wrote to them that without love even a faith that moves mountains is of no use. (See I Cor. 13.) Isn’t that something? Who would guess that such a faith without love is useless? Anybody with an intuitive mind would. Faith is trusting God in Christ. Love is God. Some see faith as simply an assent to doctrines. Love is the expressing of God’s life in ours and in others. And yes, sometimes non-believers live love better than those of us who have the ‘correct’ belief.

In Jesus’ day, people had their lives changed because they were touched by God’s love in Christ, through healing and hearing the Good News that God’s Kingdom had arrived for them. He invites them into God’s love before they can trust him. Think how often Jesus says, ‘Go, your faith has made you well.’ His love and their acceptance gave them new life.

When Jesus met with his disciples to wash their feet he said he was giving them a new commandment: “Love one another.” (John 13:34) He said it was the same kind of love with which he loved them.

So, the chicken or the egg? In my mind they are an organic whole. They are a unity in Christ. They are like the two wings on an airplane. We can’t trust or live without both of them together. But I will say this: The virtue of love expresses a whole lot more in this creation than believing. Sometimes I have to believe and trust in order to have love. But love is the thing.

When I go to a doctor my first concern is not if they are a Christian. Rather I want to know that this person is skilled in the art of medicine and care. All their hard work finds it’s greatest expression in love (deeds of love). Thankfully I have a doctor who has connected both. Or consider marriage. I believe in the covenant. I believe in my wife. But if I don’t love her with more than words, then I’m ‘toast’.

Finally, it’s rather easy to declare faith or belief. Love is the thing. We can’t counterfeit it. It’s relational and it changes the world.

If anyone is interested in reading the book I mentioned, it’s “Open and Relational Theology” subtitled ‘an introduction to life-changing ideas’ by Dr. Thomas Jay Oord published in 2021

DARKNESS

Is it not possible that we as Christians are subject to the groaning of this world just as anyone else? While we may not fear evil, the ultimate loss of faith, we do need to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

There is, in all of this, a type of abandonment. Some feel abandoned by God whose oft-repeated promises seem to insulate believers from earthly trials. But the God we have come know and trust in Christ subjected himself to the worst the world would offer, to the point of crucifixion. The true sign of the faith is trusting the crucified Christ – the pioneer of our faith and our own journeys. Pioneers lead the way through the worst to discover the best. Even those travellers in long ago America had their share of fear, anxiety, and doubt but they knew to keep their eyes on their leader. (See Hebrews 12:2)

Sometimes even the firmest of believers have to experience what the ancient writer called the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ As we walk blindly through this, God extends his hand to guide us beyond the grave circumstances of earth’s bounds. It is only through this ‘dying’ that we truly encounter Christ. The disciples discovered that truth.

In 1939 amidst the Nazi rise to power, King George VI of England, gave a speech in which he quoted the poet Minnie Haskins, entitled “The Gate of the Year” (1908):

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied, ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God – that shall be better than light and safer haven than a known way.’

GRACE AND PEACE UPON ALL

 

CRACKS IN THE WALL

Well, NFL play is upon us. I am not a fan of football and in fact am reading a Christian doctor’s opinion that children should never play football again. But that’s for another time.

There is uproar coming in the days ahead, I suppose, over the ‘kneeling’ issue as pertains to players making their protest about injustice towards African-Americans

I have heard from many how this is most disrespectful to the country, the flag and our military. In light of the death of a great servant of our country, John McCain, I share his thoughts on the subject, “’That’s their right to do what they want as citizens,’ McCain told TMZ Sports when asked about the Dallas Cowboy players who took a knee then locked arms in solidarity before playing the Arizona Cardinals ..” Perhaps I digress. Probably it would be most respectful for people to shut off their cellphones, stop talking, eating and drinking and give their full attention to the honor of our nation.

This all begs the question. Is there, in any way, a problem in our nation with criminal justice bias towards African-American people?

I am writing as a white pastor who wants to address the cries of those in our community who feel that Jim Crow is still alive. The below reference is from Wikipedia:

In the early 1830s, the white actor Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice was propelled to stardom for performing minstrel routines as the fictional “Jim Crow,” a caricature of a clumsy, dimwitted black slave.

Now I want to share an illustration. That’s what pastors do.

A man hires a worker to repair some cracks in the wall of his home. Later he hires the same worker to come and repair more cracks that have appeared. Finally, and I am making this short, the worker says, ‘Sir, I can keep coming back and taking your money but the real problem here is your FOUNDATION. It needs repair. The cracks in your walls are due to ‘structural’ damage.’ (The end)

Some folks say there is no more racial oppression in our country. OK- let’s assume that in the worst sense that might be true. However let’s go back in time even as recently as 1981. The KKK lynched a black man. And most people are aware of times before that with issues of slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.

Our current walls that appear to some to have cracks are built upon a damaged foundation. Trust me. It’s all recorded in history. And while the cracks may have been patched here and there they are still going to appear because the foundation, which is many hundreds of years old, is damaged. That may not be the fault of the current homeowner but it is nevertheless true.

We current owners of this home, and now stay with me, this household of faith, to which we all belong, need to walk around the foundation and check this out for ourselves. We need to admit there are problems that go deep.

Yes, in 2008 there was a congressional apology for the 246 years of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow era but with repentance there is always action to be taken; changing how to live now. We are still working on that by the grace of God. God’s forgiveness always leads to better lives.

I have been attentive to the words of the Pope recently who is receiving much negative sentiment because the church is not suggesting ways to stop the evil of child abuse. Now there is a foundation that needs to be repaired.

But back to my reason for writing this. Better lives, more loving lives, neighbor loving neighbor in tangible ways. Jesus told us many times that the strongest foundation for a good life was to listen to him and then PUT HIS WORDS INTO PRACTICE. You can find this in the Sermon on the Mount.

And please know that my writing and intention is all about JESUS, how to respect and honor him in all I do. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not judge another person, and to look deeply into our human heart. There’s that foundation again. According to Jesus we are to address the disparities in life and make sure that those who know and feel themselves to be marginalized are brought back into the household. (Ok…I admit that there is a sermon in here somewhere).

If Americans, especially us Christians, are going to build a better foundation we need to address what is termed ‘racial bias’ which simply and profoundly means attitudes within us that perhaps are reactions or beliefs we grew up with, about African-American intelligence, ambition, honesty, violence, aggression, etc.

I think that’s what the protests are about and folks are asking how we are going to address that. In the town I grew up in there was an ‘anti-bias task force’ and I am sure we weren’t the only town to realize that bias exists. Perhaps there are injustices that need to be attended to. (And yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition.) I am not an expert in these areas but I am alive and well aware that this goes on in our society. In fact my own foundation could use some repair. I can be faulted for my own silence in addressing the foundation and the cracks.

So I am hopeful that the Evangelical community of Christians as well as our government can hear from the Black community and implement changes whether it be in our criminal justice system, our educational system or generally how we relate to our brothers and sisters of another color within our community.

I heard the President say that he would meet with leaders to consider pardons from prison. But I have not heard anything since that statement. I am sure there will be more ‘kneeling’. I don’t have a personal opinion about the ‘disrespect’ part but I know about protest. I protested the Vietnam War back in the day.

Anyway, the white folks need to invite the black folks to walk together through the house and see how best to repair the foundation. This is a wonderful country and part of what makes it so is that we can listen to and love one another and work together and live together. So in that spirit while conversations are going and injustices are corrected we can ask for a ‘moratorium’ on ‘kneeling’. Except in cases of prayer.

SPIRITUAL DOLDRUMS

It’s been a hard couple of days for me as has been the last month or so. I’m the spiritual doldrums. In nautical terms that the place near the equator where the winds are really too calm to fill the sails of a ship. For me it’s where I am not ‘feeling’ the wind of God’s Spirit. Cranky, tired, prayer-less, and sometimes just want to quit the whole faith thing.

Then I feel guilty as though I am not pleasing God by faith and actions. I want to crawl up with a good book, not necessarily the Bible, and just hide. Maybe you have known that feeling. Oh, I have a few good friends who are supportive, even loving me unconditionally but sometimes it’s not enough.

So I think, ‘what’s God’s take on me at the moment?’ That’s where Grace comes in. And by grace in these circumstances I don’t mean that I win the lottery or that things change a whole lot for me. Grace is something different.

Grace is God’s love for me when I was spiritually dead, lost, and out of touch with God. Jesus didn’t wait for me to ‘get it together’ before he went to the cross. I read in the Bible that Christ is even at this moment praying for me before God. (Romans 8) “Father,” I can just hear him, “here goes Gaffga again.” Then God’s loving action kicks in to remind me I am loved even when I am lost.

It’s like Mackenzie in THE SHACK saying to Jesus, “I feel so lost” and Jesus answers, “Don’t worry. I’m not lost.”

So today I am trusting Jesus to be the pioneer of faith. Yeah, I am way back in the procession following him but he won’t let me go. As people say, ‘it’s not my faith that saves me. It’s the faithfulness of Jesus.’ I remember that and I am held in hopefulness.

Listen, you don’t have to be an ‘on top of the world’ person to be a believer. Lots of people who follow Christ are depressed and even despondent at times. Like Job they don’t necessarily blame God but they don’t like life either. It’s good then when a friend comes along side to just ‘be’ there. Sometimes the silence is good. It’s in that silence that God can speak. Sometimes we just wait for a gentle wind to inflate our sails. That’s where we trust the faithfulness and love of Christ for us. It’s not a happy go lucky trust but rather a calm inner sense that God is ‘for us’. That God will work things to the good.

I was reading Charles Spurgeon the other day. Let me quote him here:

“May I therefore urge upon any who have no good thing about them- who fear that they have not even a good feeling, or anything whatever that can recommend them to God- that they will firmly believe that our gracious God is able and willing to take them without anything good to recommend them and to forgive them spontaneously, not because they are good, but because HE is good.”

So today I trust in the goodness of God. My trust is small but the faithfulness and love of God are great.

But that’s all I can write today. “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” That’s grace.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

I lead a men’s Bible Study at our Church in Colorado. The other night we were discussion the 23rd Psalm and how God provides for us as our shepherd. The question arose concerning places in the world where it does not seem that God is providing the same way for them as for us in this first world country.

We wondered aloud why that is, and talked some about human responsibility, one for the other. And then I came across a piece in this month’s Sojourner’s Magazine, a Christian monthly about Christian responsibility with regards to justice issues. Anyway, here’s the quote:

“We live in a country where 250,000 people die from poverty each year. According to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, more that 45% of black children are poor; 54% of African Americans make less than a living wage. Here we are, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and we have 400 families in this country that make $95,000 an hour while we are locking people up who simply want $15 an hour and a union.” P.19 (Rev. Dr. William Barber II)*

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t make money if they can. I am addressing the concern in our group wondering how it is that we are being good stewards of God’s provisions when there is much poverty in this first world nation of ours.

The country is so big that I am not sure churches can by themselves make the appropriate assistance. So maybe it’s our responsibility as Christian citizens to elect people who can do more for the ‘least of these’. Just sayin’.

How do the little hungry children say the 23rd Psalm in the evening? I am not even answering the question I am posing. (Is that a rhetorical device?) I am just asking, ‘What can we do as God’s people?’ What can I do?

And, I am still waiting, as of this writing, for Nebuchadnezzar to say something of sympathy for women who are sexually abused. That’s just me, a Christian citizen, speaking for myself.

 

*Dr. Barber is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival.

THE BICYCLE LESSON. LOVE AND GRACE. A DISTINCTION.

In the Bible the words love and grace are perhaps used interchangeably as in 2Cor. 13:14 ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ Here we get the sense of the all-encompassing presence of God.

BUT in Biblical Theology grace and love are different. Here’s an example. I love my children very much and want the good for them in their lives. When they were little they wanted to learn how to ride their bikes without the training wheels. Now, I could express my love by saying to them, ‘Oh, I want very much for you to be able to ride your bike. And here, here is your new bike. I wish you well. Go for it.’ That’s love. On the other hand my best move would be to assist them in this training exercise. And so I did. I got them on their bikes, and held the bike for them and went even further by running along side of them as they got the hang of it. And there were times when I let them go that they fell. I was right there to pick them up, dry a couple of tears, maybe apply a band aid and sent them on their way again until they said to me, ‘You can go, dad.’ That is the meaning of grace; love in action, the influence of love, the direction and empowering of love.

In Biblical Theology the grace of God is God’s action. The trinity of God doesn’t need to express grace among themselves. Grace is for those who have fallen from God and who don’t have the ability to get up and get back to God. Grace is God’s moving in their lives to give them that ability.

In the example of the bike lesson my children, by their very connection to me, somehow merited my helping them. But with God, humanity was dead to God until God, by God’s own love, decided to do something to help the creation and us. See, the Bible tells us that while we were sinners and helpless Christ died for us to fulfill the covenant promise of God to bless the whole creation.

I hope this helps to distinguish between love and grace because for a long time I have misused the terms and thus loss much of the meaning of how God in God’s loving character relates to God’s world.

Finally, take a look at this verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (good to read the whole chapter for the best context).

Chapter 2:

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (NRSV)-Bold and underlines are mine.

 

 

 

 

WAKE ME WHEN WE GET THERE

Hope, as translated in the Message version of the Bible, is ‘keeping alert to what God will do next’. (Romans 5:5) We know that God is involved in our lives. Jesus was and is God’s loving presence making his home among us (John 1:14) He came to prove that God is ‘for us’ and not against us. (Romans 8:31). He came find those of us who have been ‘lost’ and bring us home. He comes not to judge but so save. (John 3:17)

All this and much more leads to ‘hope’ because the same God who was in Christ is in us by his Spirit (Romans 5). It is an organic and intimate hope. It’s in our DNA as believers and those yet to be.

Sometimes when we were kids our families would go on car trips with my parents, dad being the designated driver. And as could happen we’d get a bit lost but dad always said that he knew or could find the way. And it’s because we trusted him that we knew everything would be okay. But, as I still felt a tad uneasy with these ‘strange’ journeys, I would decide to go to sleep in the back seat trusting that when I awoke all would be well. Our dad was good to us. He could be trusted. Even asleep I was alert to the good that would eventually happen. HOPE.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” And every day is a journey with God. Hope is keeping alert to where God is taking us even in the most daily routines and into the darkest of nights. And it is only God’s goodness to us, his children, that gives us any certainly even in uncertainty, that the journey will be blessed.

Bonhoeffer being in a prison cell had hope that he would be released. But as time went on he began to realize that his death was inevitable. But even in that realization he did not lose hope. His last words were hope-laden. “This is the end but for me it is the beginning.” These words are a mirror of Jesus’ prayer on the cross, ‘Father into thy hands I give myself.” Paul reflecting on his dark days wrote, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gaining even more.”

These are all statements of hope, not naïve positive thinking. They have a foundation in the promise and person of God. They are borne of experience with God and through redemption by Christ.

So we never give up. But if you have to for a while (like falling asleep on a trip) know that ‘while scary uncertain stuff comes at night, joy always comes in the morning.’ (From Psalm 30:5)

Remember this. Hope always contains a bit of uncertainty because we still live earthbound and in the flesh. See faith is saying yes to following Christ- hope is the anticipation of the good in the journey.

Hope can be like the man who is asked by Jesus if he, the father, really believes that his son can be healed. The man responds ‘I believe, help my unbelief, my doubt.’ Sort of like saying, ‘Jesus I trust you and I know what you can do but there is reservation within me, a feeling of doubt about which I must be honest and even with that doubt I will trust you.’

That would be like my dad saying to me, ‘Son do you believe I can find the best route on this trip?’ ‘Sure dad, but would it be okay if I took a little nap back here and then you can wake me when we get there.’

RELIGIONLESS CHRISTIANITY

I have taken up readings by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) once again.

He was a Lutheran pastor who gave his life in resistance to the Nazi Reich of the 30’s and 40’s. And what he observed in Germany was a piety that pushed God away from the center of a person’s life. In this way God was safer.

This marginalization of God was done by language, ceremonies, and even church sacraments. One could be a Nazi and still give allegiance to God through the label of ‘Christian’ and even go so far from the center to have a ‘God blessed baptism’ without the effects. (It reminds me of a scene from ‘The Godfather’.) The same people who received the church sacraments could be the same persons who were anti-Semitic and executed their own citizens for the security of the Reich.

It’s hard to imagine how the German Nationalists could live with themselves. The reason perhaps is that they pushed God to the periphery of their lives, A God to whom they were only accountable for their religious observances and not their day to day lives.

We do and have done the same in America, myself included. We use our religious labels like ‘born again’ or ‘evangelical’ as ways of aligning ourselves with the God of religion. We get baptized, carry large study Bibles and join churches as a means of attaining an acceptable righteousness with God.

But what truly matters is very little of any of this. What matters is Christ, not religion. Christ is the understanding of Bonhoeffer was the epitome of ‘giving ones life for another’. In Philippians 2 Paul writes that we are to have the attitude, the mindset, the character of Jesus who ‘gave up power’ and his equality with God to become a servant to humanity even to the point of dying on the cross. That’s the center where Jesus lives and to where he calls us. In the vocation of salvation, to which we are called, we are to be a people who are for ‘all the others’ not just the few who belong to ‘our group’. Jesus didn’t die for only the Jews. He died for everyone, for all people. He was/is the Lamb of God who takes away ‘the sin of the world’. (John 1)

So if I am called to be Jesus’ disciples whom do I get to exclude in the name of nationalism, politics, the economy or even safety. Jesus did not call us to be ‘safe’ in this world. Rather he said we should carry a cross and deny ourselves, which is the only real way to discover who we really are.

‘Religion’ keeps us thinking that this is what we have really done. I Tithe. Wow, what a burden, a cross to bear. Jesus said that the very people who tithed were the same ones who neglected weightier matters of just and mercy.

Here’s the Message Version of Luke 11:42 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.

And now one of our states has a ‘good Christian’ man running for the U.S. Senate. His past is questionable with several allegations of sexual abuse. He has been compared with Joseph the carpenter who married a young virgin, Mary and bore a son, Jesus. So what’s the problem? And it was 40 years ago. It’s not relevant, some say. And he’s good for the country, a quality that outweighs any past behavior.

See what Bonhoeffer means by pushing God to the peripheral even while using God to condone our own character.

Remember Paul in 1Cor. 13 writing that we can ‘do’ or ‘perform’ all the right acceptable and seemingly moral behaviors but with love it counts, in the salvation vocation to which we are called, for nothing.

God did not send his Son to only save our personal souls to go to heaven when we die but to establish once and for certain His Kingdom, the beachhead for a reconciling of earth and heaven. In Luke 4 Jesus tells about his own presence on earth.

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”– Message Version

We are called to follow Jesus in the center of all life, loving others, those on the fringe of life, needing to know the love and blessing of God for everyone. We are called to be the light of the world- the whole world.

And as Jesus taught, ‘not even the powers of hell can stop that kind of church’.

We are the bride, getting ready for the Bridegroom to meet us, to feast with us and to restore this creation to a new heaven and new earth. That cannot happen with God on the periphery of our lives. We are not looking for a Christian State but rather the state of Christians to make Christ the center.

And listen- I’m no pillar of virtue when it comes to all the above. I have performed many religious acts and ceremonies that I have thought appeased God and even after 60 years of being ‘a Christian’ I need Christ more than ever at the CENTER, the center of all I am and do. Thanks be to God for his grace in all of that.

Maranatha

 

 

 

 

MY PRAYER

Lord Jesus I come to you because I need some good serious learning from my God.

I am thinking about violence today, Lord. It’s overwhelming. It’s ubiquitous- in families, on the streets, in churches, at concerts and against all kinds of people. It’s on an international scale. We are fearful, anxious and angry.

I am thinking of you Lord who had every reason to be violent against your enemies, against those who were so set against you. Paul wrote somewhere that vengeance belongs to you but you never exercised it. Oh maybe against a few tables in the Temple but not against your adversaries. You wept over those who resisted you. You forgave a thief in his dying moments. You pardoned all your accusers and executioners. Somehow you are even going to restore your whole creation, the good, bad and ugly. Please give us some of your spirit to know how you are doing this.

When we consider your life it doesn’t seem that you were afraid. If anything, you looked evil in the eye and took it to the cross with you. You even let it take you to the cross. That was your own loving scheme to destroy the power of evil to hurt us. With just a word you drove the demonic powers to their ruin.

How is it that we have moved so far away from you? We’ve taken to protect our own little kingdoms instead of trusting yours first. Fear has caused us to amass more weapons of violence than ever. How did things get so bad?

Certainly there are ‘bad’ people out there but it seems that your goal was not to destroy them but to create a community that would be able to influence them, be agents of change for good in this world.

How often, Lord, did you tell us ‘fear not’ even for the people out to kill our bodies but couldn’t harm our souls. I’m not sure that assurance is planted in my own soul never mind taking it to the world. Have we gotten to the pointe of protecting ourselves so well that we think or act like we don’t need you?

And Lord, what about all this family abuse, sexual and otherwise. It’s rampant and now every day someone is being accused of assaulting others. Can we not find loving ways to combat this and other forms of evil? Is your church become impotent, prayer less, and loveless?

You know, Lord, that much of it starts with anger- plain ole simple egotistical anger. It’s in my own heart so I’m not judging others. Even conversations about violence bring anger to a boil in conversations that become heated arguments.

I feel like there are two kinds of people going into the Temple again to pray. One is standing and praying. Thank you Lord that I have this all figured out. Thank you for my righteous ways of violence against those who are my and your enemies. And the other person is simply praying, ‘Lord Jesus have mercy upon me, a sinner.’

Jesus, wasn’t there a time when you could have called 10,000 angels to come and rescue you and destroy your enemies but somehow you would rather trust you life to your Father. How did you do that? Can I do that?

Lord you could have come and taken the world by storm and simply destroyed your enemies but instead we are told you gave up all you power, your equal standing with God and humbled yourself to the point of becoming a servant and even further- to the place where you gave up your life. And in that same place we are told to have YOUR attitude, YOUR mind. Why does that make so many of us afraid? Why are we ruled by fear? Have we needed to replace the crucifix with some sort of gun or a tank or a nuclear bomb? That would look ridiculous and maybe that’s how it does look to you.

I fear Lord that you will leave us to ourselves with our greed, our boasts and guns and you will go to the poor, the vulnerable, the people who most trust you. Maybe you have already? Please don’t abandon us. There are many trusting people right here in our own nation, in our communities of faith who really want to know you and know your ways and know how you love so well. You are our fortress, our rock.

And Jesus, you tell us not to try to overcome evil with evil but rather with good. How can such good infiltrate the masses of terrorists seeking to destroy us? Maybe, just maybe we’ve not tried the good enough. The loving way seems weak and we have to entrust its results to you. Please help us towards that way, to beat our swords and egos into plowshares and instruments of peace and righteousness. It’s not about being strong is it? It’s about the power of love, isn’t it?

Jesus, I fear we have created a culture of violence that is hard to reverse and our little attempts seem so futile and risky. Violence seems to be our choice to resolve conflicts everywhere. Please help us all, perpetrators and victims to see this is not the way you set before us. We are to choose life, not death.

Lord, we need you grace to be sufficient in our weakness. I want to trust you more, be more expressive of your world conquering love, seek you more, plead with you more to be present to those involved in violence.

And all the while I want to pray for those who mourn, those who are too weak to even speak for themselves, like the little 18-month-old child and the unborn, those whose countries are on the brink of annihilation because the big nations are preparing for war.

And Lord please have mercy upon all your people in all your creation that they may have a resurrection to eternal peaceful life with you that they couldn’t have on this earth.

And Jesus, my own confession is that I am not all that peaceful. I think to live in your love but my first impulse at any kind of hurt is to be angry inside and on the outside. Please help me to establish your life in my life that I may speak and act as one who walks with the Prince of Peace.