A Widow Step In Healing

Isaac is fascinated with the wet dish towel and cleaning motion.  It’s a simple – and fairly odd – fascination.  Each time he eats I get a dish towel, wipe him, and then he proceeds to take the towel from my hand in order to wipe whatever is nearest to him.  Today, after his lunch, he found the wet towel I had used and picked it up.  As he is just starting to take his first steps, I quietly watched him from the background.  He very carefully stood up, bobbling back and forth, dish towel tightly griped.  He began wiping his high chair … okay, makes sense.  After he was satisfied, he turned to the love seat chair in the living room … not quite right, but the effort was adorable.  The entertainment center was next, followed by the sliding glass door, and finally he sits down.  Looking around, finding nothing else, he lifts up his shirt and starts wiping his belly.

I immediately started laughing, trying to hold back as to not draw his attention.  Then, I sighed.  “Oh, how I wish you could see him.”  In that playful moment, I imagined how in love Matt would have been with his son, how proud he would of been of him, and how much they were both missing out on.  I felt sad, but not plowed over with grief.  I recognized the pain in his absence, but the pain was stripped of hopelessness.  It felt almost like a memory, as strange as that sounds.  Or maybe it felt as though he was right there with me, enjoying Isaac’s self administered sponge bath with me.  I’m not positive, but it felt like a little step in healing.

The Ugly Spring

Minnesota, March, and 70 degree weather are not usually found in the same sentence.  Tomorrow the forecast is predicted at 78.  Today the ugly spring crushed me with it’s full power.  It felt great.

I lost spring last year to grief.  I don’t recall one memory of the overwhelming joy or hope that spring usually holds.  I think this lack of last year’s season is what made today so intense.  It was this intensity which brought to my attention the ugliness in spring.  Spring, in the very beginning moments, isn’t beautiful through sight.  Dog messes hidden by snow are now beginning to beg attention.  Trees still completely bare, without the frost of winter to give them sparkle.  Lawns are brown and matted down.  Yards are littered.  Roads are covered with sand and salt.  Today didn’t look beautiful … today felt beautiful.

The beauty of Spring is the power it holds in our experience of it, and it is not all found through the lens of our vision.  I praise a God who can make ugly and create one of the most treasured experiences of living on Earth.  The cycle of new life.  Now that is a reason to be thankful.

The beauty is in the smell of spring.  It’s in the hope it congers up inside us.  It’s the sounds of kids playing in their driveways.  The chatter of the neighbors who haven’t seen one another in months.  The birds returning to their nests.  It is the wind and the sun beckoning us with their warmth and playfulness.  It’s all of these things that call to us; they tell us that we have survived.  Survived another cycle of death and rebirth.  We have done it and summer is going to return.

Beauty isn’t just about what we see, it is about what we experience.  God doesn’t only give us hope in the expected, but in the unexpected.  Spring is proof that childlike joy still exists in every heart.  Beauty, hope, and joy … all found at the beginning of the ugly spring.

Kony 2012: Conversation, Concern, and Controversy

So it is the question of the week … do you now know who Joesph Kony is? I’m sad to admit that I did not before this week.  If you have not taken the thirty minutes to watch the video I would strongly encourage you to do so; if not to learn about Kony, to learn about the campaign.  I was in bed sick this week, for a solid 48 hours, so I suppose I’m a little behind on the initial wave of conversation.  Being a little late to the game, however, puts me right alongside the controversy that has welled up in the aftermath of the storm.

I cannot explain the amount of disgust I have in my core for those people looking to disarm Invisible Children through criticism and controversy.  It doesn’t bring me disgust because I don’t think charities shouldn’t have to answer to those people who have given to the cause.  It doesn’t bring me disgust because each claim brought to the surface of the Kony ‘controversy’ is utterly without some nugget of truth.  It brings me disgust because we have taken our deep seeded need to bring the negative and are trying to slow down this revolution.  This youthful revolution; with the ability to teach humans about atrocities happening around the world.  A campaign that uses social media for good.  A chance to give our youth a feeling that they MAY actually be able to DO something in this God forsaken place in which we brought them to.

I honestly can’t think of many scenarios, and I have been thinking, that would cause me to look down upon this campaign.  If the staff of Invisible Children are living well on their salaries, I extend nothing but grace and peace to each and every one of them.  I hope and pray after they see Kony put in jail they use the resources and blessings given to them by God to move on to someone else.  It says in the Bible eight times that we should pay a man his worth … has the term priceless ever seemed more appropriate than at this possible place of justice?  Because someone who is burnt out, worn out, and maxed out will not be able to continue to do their good works.  I know personally, the hope I see in this campaign, is a good work I could certainly stand to see more of.

Let this campaign thrive.  Let it breathe.  Get excited about it.  Share the hope surrounding it with others.  Do not let ugliness inside.  If there are people determined to expose ‘truths’, behind the masks of what we are shown, they have a sea of choices here in the United States; our politicians, our propaganda, our food, our farmers, our corporations, our stores, our consumerist greed, our materialism, our idolization, and on and on and on.  My gut tells me though, that the people ‘exposing’ Kony 2012 are doing so for the exact reasons they are using against the campaign … namely, greed.

Let the people without a voice make a difference.  My God, at least let them try.  Don’t be the reason justice isn’t brought … better yet, be part of the reason it is!

Earth … It’s Still Good!

This entire series of blog posts is indebted to Rob Bell, although I didn’t realize to  what extent until today.  I was thinking about a post on our calling to create (which will be coming in the next week) and remembered a quote, from a sermon a few years back, that has been etched in my heart ever since.  After searching, for quite some time, I thought I had found it.  I listened to the sermon series, a teaching about the Earth’s renewal, and found out my quote was nowhere to be found.  It wasn’t wasted time though.  I found something else.  I found the enthusiastic and hopeful look at the coming Earth 2.0 that I have been writing about.  I found my inspiration for this series.

Rob’s views, on what the new Earth may have in store and what our roles will be there, are breathtaking.  But believe me, you can’t pin this excitement down to just one sermon, because his vision is scattered throughout them all.  I wanted to attribute my desire to write about this topic to Rob, since after listening today I realized just how deeply embedded his hope in the new creation is set in my heart.  So, it was a different quote, one I heard today, that stirred me to write this post.  The quote was this …

“The new Earth is God’s way of saying, it’s still good!”

This place we live in was good when God created it in Genesis, it is still good today, and it will be good when God comes to renew it.  What God has created for us here is priceless, timeless, and everywhere we turn.  I think we lose site of this fact, because taking it for granted is just too easy.  I imagine that God’s creation will be an eternal place of enjoyment for us in the renewed Earth, and so as the theme of the series goes … that means it is worthy of our attention now.

What does God say about His ability to create?  What reaction does it arouse in Him?  There is no better place to look for this answer than in Job 38 …  “And the LORD speaks … “

It is in this chapter we get to glimpse, in amazement, into God’s description of His own creation.  Well, His description, along with a reminder of our finite ability to grasp it.  There is no way to summarize this chapter without losing it’s surprising and sometimes sarcastic tone … but some of my favorite parts are those reminders, posed as questions, of just how endless creation is and just how unaware of it we are.

The dumb ostrich who can run like the best of them, the mountain goats giving birth, the moving of the constellations, the depths of the ocean, the ends of the universe, the placement of the lightening and the winds, the power of the horse, and the protection over the lions.  It goes on for pages.

When I read these words I think I can take away from them three ideas: 1) God’s creation was good then and it is now, 2) If the Creator takes pleasure in creation, so should we and 3) Creation deserves our respect, our attention, and our care.

God uses colorful words to describe His creation, to remind us of details we so often miss, and to instill confidence that He takes joy in this creation … that it is still good!  The renewed Earth will be brighter, will be more colorful, and will be erased of the death that taints it now – but it will still be God’s good creation.  If we want to start living today, in order to prepare for renewal, we must take time to appreciate His creation.  We must take care of the Earth, because He has entrusted it to us.  We will not go live somewhere else … we will be here, forever.  It is our job to treat the world, the people in it, and all of creation as though we are seeing it through God’s eyes … as if it is still good!

Why Reality TV is Getting ‘Left Behind’

As I begin to dig into my study of what will be worthy of eternal continuation in the new Earth I have come to realize I’m likely going to ruffle some feathers in this series, possible even offend.  The things that, at their core, are the most detrimental to the way we are living are often the things that: 1) We don’t discuss at all, such as sex slavery and porn addiction, and 2) We discuss constantly without truly thinking about any subsequent ramifications.  I think today’s topic falls into the second category.

There is a theory of human communication labeled symbolic convergence.  This theory states that when a group of people share in some form of discourse a type of group fantasy emerges.  The theory goes much deeper into what symbols, of that fantasy, are then formed, but I think the theory can be useful when we take a look at our desire, as a nation, to be manipulated by reality TV.  What is it about reality TV that draws us in?  Why is it dangerous to our life?  And how are we victim’s to the propaganda machine that is mass media?

I have known the desire to be attracted to these shows.  I have been a faithful follower, in the past, of more then I would like to admit.  So I think I have a fair understanding of the appeal, as well as their the soul sucking capabilities.  If we look back fifteen or twenty years we can see where these shows took root: Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous, Cribs, and The Real World.  Although, not unheard of before 1990, they didn’t hold the same concept or appeal.  This monumental shift in what we view on TV is startling and worth some thought.

One of the most bothersome aspects for me is in the name itself …. “real”.  As viewers, we become involved in these ‘real’ peoples lives, we discuss the nature of their dramas and lifestyles, and we begin to view it as an actual part of society.  The problem is there is nothing ‘real’ about reality TV.  The people are want-to-be actors, or Hollywood nobodies looking to create a name for themselves.  The shows are scripted, far too much of what they ‘have’ is paid for, and the drama is caused by careful personality placement.  And even if that is all true what is the harm?  It is entertaining, after all.

When we begin to let the idea that these are real people, living in the same society as we are, we slowly start to undertake the notion that these fictions hold true in real life.

Peter Rollins is quoted as telling us that “Many of us would agree that having a better car, a nice home, or more possessions will not really make us happier. We are all able to concur that such things are not worth giving too much attention to and that we should not let our relationships suffer in order to achieve them. The problem, however, is that we often walk away from such conversations and act as if we do believe that they will make us happier and that making our relationships suffer in the pursuit of them is worth it. While we are very quick to say we do not believe, we continue to act as if we do.”

When we allow this into our lives, we are giving it permission to change our beliefs.  Your beliefs, after all, are only as good as the actions they live up to.  Watching reality TV which prides itself on fame, greed, casual sex, degrading women, stupidity for the sake of comedy, worth only through possessions, and self image we cannot expect that, after a given amount of time, these ‘values’ will impact who we are.  Add to that the conversations we have with our friends, family, and co-workers on the same subject and we find that those symbols I spoke of before will begin to form; we will let other’s reassurance of the worth and reality of these fictions to be our excuse to not look deeper.

There is so much more I could say on this, but I’m going to have to stop at some point.  I do think it is important to recognize the reasoning we continue to see these types of shows at such a fast rate.  Producers aren’t making these shows because, as a nation we like them more than any other given TV; rather, they produce them because the actors are paid next to nothing, no set is needed, and they cost little to make.

So am I suggesting we all turn off the TV, since that would be the only solution to rid ourselves of reality TV?  Do I think there are people that can’t watch a limited amount of these shows and still have a grasp on what is true and untrue?  Do I think they are all worthless and without morals? I don’t think there is one right answer for these questions that will make sense for every person.  What I do know is that reality TV won’t be part of this Earth 2.0 we are waiting on, the lies alone remove it from the running.  And if it won’t be part of what is to come, the chances are it isn’t a worthy of our time now.  At best we are missing something better, at worst we are contributing to something with the ability to create negative self-image, promote greed, and lift up those unworthy of the title role model.

There was a time in my life I found myself believing, and acting, as though the “reality” seen on certain shows were a standard worth striving for – when upon observation it should have been the exact opposite.  I know, for me, when I made the conscience decision to turn off these types of shows I felt freedom.  I felt more real.  I felt more grateful for what I had, and less envious of things I couldn’t attain.  I was given so much time to focus on more important things.  There was nothing I lost, nothing I missed, and nothing to regret.