What Choice do they have? – Letting the children come

teens

Today’s Scripture – Matthew 19:14 – Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

This morning, I read an article from the Washington Post about children being recruited to the battlefield in Yemen. Again, the growing stench of poverty is being quoted by the article. As I continued to read I was shocked that people would choose this life to escape their circumstance. It reminded me of when I was younger.

When I was growing up, I remember hearing conversation about the impact of drugs and “drug culture” on our cities. We were told that young people, like ourselves, were being enticed to go into drug selling because of growing poverty. “What choice do they have?” was a question that we heard. How could a minimum wage job compete with that? What were the kids to do? But I wonder…What choice do they have?

Today we read in the news of the pain of poverty for so many in our culture and especially for children of single parents in the inner city. We wonder why our cities are in disarray. We struggle to make sense of anything we see on the news. But I wonder…What choice do they have?

I blame us. Sorry, I don’t want to but I feel as if I must. See, I read this article this morning on the Pew study of religion. It spoke about the millennial exodus from the church. In response to that article, I have read lots of opinions about why this is. What can we do? But I wonder…What choice do they have?

Over the years, the church has had the opportunity to do something. The church has had the ability to stem the tide. We have been placed here for moments like these and we…what exactly did we do? I think in many ways we have chosen to mirror the culture. We have made half-hearted attempts to be present in the cities. We have made half hearted attempts to bring change.

Yet while the cities are burning and our children are going off to war we wonder why young people are leaving the church? We aren’t any different from the world? We talk a good game but too often we fall short where it matters the most…when church is supposed to be a verb. We let it stay a noun, where the action (verb) happens to us. People LEAVE the church. Young people are too BUSY for the church. Or even worse many people I have talked to feel as if the church has been a verb but a bad one.. The Church LEFT the people. THE church is too BUSY for the young people..

To all my liturgical friends, liturgy won’t save us. To all my let’s be relevant friend. Relevance won’t save us. Jesus will save us. The church needs to be a beacon. The church needs to open its damn doors and not only let people in but get people out of the pews and into the world. The world needs more Jesus and a lot less whimpering. Let’s go be the church.

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Making money…Where’s the Love?

money-bag-filled-with-money

Today’s Scripture

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Where is the love? Our world is filled with so much pain, chaos, and hate. It is a cycle becomes self-feeding. We all know we need people to rise above the moment and help lead us to a different place. A place where real conversation can happen. It is in the conversation and the sharing of ourselves that we can begin to bridge the divide.

I read a phrase this morning that has stuck with me…we are in the chasm between fear and hope. The question for us is, how will we respond. Which direction will be go? As I look around, I am disheartened to see too many people are choosing fear. It is becoming big business in fact.

An article this morning on The Daily Beat spoke about this fear. He listed quite a few people who are not only choosing fear but are making fear a very profitable business. These people are making hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by marketing in fear and hate of Muslims. He mentioned people like Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, and Frank Gaffney. They are fueling the fire of fear. They are making the chasm between fear and hope even bigger for so many people.

This is just one sign of what is going on in our country. Our political process is wrapped in fear and hate. We no longer vote for someone we vote against people. Our religious life can often be just as driven by fear, hate, and distrust if we are not careful.

Jesus had a different view. Let’s lead with love. We do not have to market in fear. This love should be focused in on God. We live out that love by how we love others. How can you say you love God and at the same time hate a group of people because of the color of their skin or how they choose to worship? How are we living out our love of God by demonizing the “other”?

This morning as our nation is still reeling from the recent violence and turmoil, I am choosing love.

How about you?

Thoughts on Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, Brian Moore, and us

brian moore

Today’s Scripture

Genesis 1:27 (NIV) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.

She is so beautiful, there is no doubt. Just looking at her face, we are reminded of the potential and hope that is present in each person. The birth of any baby, let alone the royal baby, reminds us all of the power and potential of life. There is an overwhelming sense of excitement when we look at a newborn face.

     Then there is Brian Moore, a 25-year-old police officer from New York. When I look at his face, I see the same hope and potential. I see the same promise and the same joy. Yet, for Brian Moore that hope can no longer be lived out. For in Brian Moore’s face, we are brutally reminded of the fragility of life as well.

I was reminded on Sunday when I spoke about these two people who sometimes the news can be so overwhelming. Miki told me that we can feel helpless because there is nothing that we can do. So we do focus on the baby. It is a happy time and a joyful thing to celebrate even if it is with people we do not know.

I agree with her. Yet, as I read that passage above from the book of Genesis, I can’t help but wonder what has happened. How do we go from us being created in the image of God to the world we live in? How do we go from sharing attributed with the almighty to a disposable society where all life isn’t valued?

I am sitting out on m deck this morning and enjoying a time of devotion. Each morning, when I am able to do this, I feel a sense of joy and purpose. Joy that God had provided so much and loves us all so much. The purpose comes from a sense of responsibility to share that joy with the world. All the world. Even the folks, I don’t like. Even Princess Charlotte and even the person who took the life of Brian Moore way too soon.

My purpose is being a storyteller for God…

What is your purpose?

With the first pick…

waiting

Thoughts on the NFL Draft, Baltimore, and Nepal

Today’s Verse: Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i]have been called according to his purpose.

Last night I waited with much of the Delaware Valley until the final seconds of the second pick of the 2015 NFL draft hoping for a miracle. We wanted Marcus Mariotta, but it did not happen. The Philadelphia Eagles were not able to draft him. The plans that many had did not come to fruition. What next?

People in Nepal are reporting that over 5,000 schools have been destroyed in the recent earthquake. The number is overwhelming. In addition to trying to recover from the tragic loss of life, the people of Nepal now are burdened with trying to make a future for their children. What next?

The state attorney for the city of Baltimore is now looking at the report complied on the death of Freddie Gray. A sit anxiously awaits the answers. Protests are continuing to happen as people respond to the events of the past week. All eyes remain on Baltimore. What next?

In every piece of our lives we are aware that things do not always go like we hope or plan. Plans are changed or altered or destroyed. It can happen because of our own choices, the actions of others, or nature itself. The question we struggle with is the same though…what next?

We can throw our hands to the heavens and scream, “why?”. We can spend our time blaming others and make no progress. We can dwell on the past and how things could have been if OUR plans had just been followed or come through. We can simply shut down and isolate ourselves. We can react with anger or we can react with hope.

     What does hope look like? 

In many ways it  looks like the scripture reading for today. It is understanding that in the midst and in the pain and in the trouble, God is working to make things good. It may not be apparent right away and it may not seem possible right away but it is true. When God is working and we are instruments of God, good will happen.

For some things it is easy. The NFL draft is interesting and fun but it is just a moment. You move on and enjoy the show. Some parts of our life are like that. We get caught up and worked up about things that ultimately are not that important. We invest our energy and spirit in things that are not of eternal worth.

Then we have situations like in Nepal, devastating pain, destruction, and death. Way too much for one person to impact on their own. So we come together. We pray. We raise money. We help find solutions. We send help. We walk with a nation and a people as they rebuild. Hope is alive.

There are also other situations that pop up like Baltimore. Baltimore is so close and yet so far away. Our heart cries out for the people. We listen to the wails of people who have felt abandoned and ignored and we stand with them. We honor, respect, and stand with those who are doing what they can to protect the citizens. We wonder where is the hope?

Our hope is always present. We know that Jesus is present even in the chaos and the noise. We know that even in the midst of pain and suffering. What good can God make from this? Only God knows. Yet, I think we see the glimmers. We see people really starting to understand what happens when people lose their voice. We see what happens when a system turns its back.

We see the hope in the people standing between police officers and potential trouble and saying, “not in my city”. This is the beginning of good things. It is going to take some time and some intentionality and woe to us if we go back to how things used to be.

Keep praying. Keep hoping. Good is coming.

Now about that Marcus Mariotta thing.