Jesus

When Words Are Not Enough

When Words Are Not Enough

The words of Jesus carry power. They are not simply good words with the power to change lives if heard and applied; the words themselves are power. They are not just life-giving; they are life.

With nothing more than a word, Jesus had the power to heal. A centurion’s sick servant, a friend who was dead and buried, a demon-possessed man; all were brought to health and life at the sound of his voice. Even the winds and the waves obey his commands.

Yet as we often see with Jesus, he doesn’t stop there. Even when a good word, a powerful word, would do the trick, Jesus knows there is yet more. Some demons only come out by prayer; perhaps others only come out by presence. Touch. Skin on skin. Intimate proximity.

A leprous man in an ancient Jewish community would have been ostracized. Excluded. Uninvited. Alone. For the sake of public health as much as (or more than) reasons of religious purity, he would be kept on the outskirts of society, quarantined. Likely, it would have taken immense courage and desperation for such a man to enter back into the parts of the city where Jesus was speaking; the places where crowds were gathered; the spaces where religion was being taught. Rules and codes would have been broken for the leper to be nearby, but that didn’t matter. For the hopeless, the hope of healing will drive anyone to do reckless things.

And Jesus responds with even greater recklessness

Hurricane Hitler: Giving Our Best When the World Is At Its Worst

Hurricane Hitler: Giving Our Best When the World Is At Its Worst

The impact of Charlottesville felt like a hurricane. It sucked the breath and the hope right out of us, like the ocean waters in the Bahamas were sucked away from the shore by Irma. The chaos and violence were felt most intensely at ground zero in Virginia, but the winds of racism and fear blew to every corner of our country. Our dreams of progress were felled like giant trees, uprooted in the swirling gusts of disillusionment.

I wonder, then, if our response to storms of human origin could be informed by the way we respond to more natural disasters. Though some people may joke about firing a couple rounds into the wind to release some tension, few people actually and sincerely shake their fists at the sky when a hurricane passes through. Cursing Irma may let off some steam temporarily, but none of us hope to actually accomplish anything restorative by doing so. Yet, when these names belong to people and not to storms, cursing becomes the norm. When evil has a face we feel justified in throwing whatever stones or barbs we can at the perpetrators. I’m not suggesting that we should be silent when evil deeds and motives are present, but there is certainly a point where pointing fingers becomes a useless endeavor and we must look to other means to make things right. 

You Don't Have To Sit Alone

You Don't Have To Sit Alone

Some friends of mine recently experienced a horrific tragedy. On their way to the beach for a much needed family vacation, their car was t-boned at an intersection when another vehicle ran through a red light. Three-fourths of the family walked away from the crash relatively unscathed. Their eldest son, Ryan, was killed on impact.

I cannot fathom the anguish a parent goes through in losing a child, and I pray that I never have to. For my friends, though, this pain is all too real. A tragedy like this is so senseless, so violent, so abrupt that our minds just can't ever comprehend it. It has been almost two years since the accident (as of this writing), and at time I can still see that confusion and agony on their faces. Their son was here, and then he was gone. Just like that. 

This morning I visited Ryan's gravesite for the first time in a while. I'm not quite sure why I ended up walking over to his grave. It was a beautiful May morning: the sun was bright, the Boy Scouts were out placing flags on the graves of fallen soldiers, and the air felt like summertime on my skin. I think recognizing the beauty and peace of the day, something inside me was stirred to the places in this world that are broken, where the sun does not seem to be shining. I thought of my friends who lost so much, and who will probably never be able to enjoy a day like this in quite the same way. I was so thankful for it all - for everything - that I felt compelled to associate and, somehow, draw closer to the people and places where thankfulness did not abound quite so easily. However those thoughts processed in my subconscious, I just knew that I wanted to go to the place of someone else's grief and, through simple prayer and presence, lift them up.

The One Story You Need To Read On World Penguin Day

The One Story You Need To Read On World Penguin Day

The Internet has brought us nothing if not an overabundance of animal videos. 20 years ago you had to wait until Sunday night for Bob Saget to introduce a montage of cat clips on America's Funniest Videos; now cuteness overload is unavoidable as soon as you open Facebook.

I'm a believer in lifelong learning, and often some of life's greatest lessons can be found simply by looking to God's good creation. For example, I recently learned that some domesticated cats are terrified of cucumbers. Full disclosure, I loathe cats. I would sooner have a pet cucumber than a pet cat. But should I ever find myself the owner of a feline, this is the kind of information that would be incredibly useful. 

Still, as much as animals cause us to say, “Awwww,” they also teach us to say, “AHHHH!” Another lesson I have learned: it's unwise to make friends with a white tiger (thanks, Montecore) or let your kids play with a gorilla (RIP, Harambe). 

Yes, the animal kingdom has much to offer us if we only remain willing to learn. The latest inspiration I received from a non-human came from a penguin named Dindim. Seeing as today, April 25, 2017, is World Penguin Day, Dindim’s story is a fitting parable on which to reflect.

What's So Good About Good Friday?

What's So Good About Good Friday?

I write these words from my back deck overlooking the woods behind my house. The sun is shining, the temperature is a majestic 80º, the trees are budding, and the carpenter bees darting around my head are only slightly aggressive. It truly is a good Friday.

But why is this particular day, the Friday before Easter Sunday, formally dubbed Good Friday? This is the day we commemorate the brutal torture and execution of Jesus Christ. Historically and biblically, this is not the good day. Good is the resurrection. Good is life winning out over death. Good is an empty grave.

But good is not the pain, not the betrayal, not the loneliness, not the silence. Those are the things we push away, avoiding them at all costs. Such things cannot be good.

…unless…

The Second Time My Son Died

The Second Time My Son Died

When my son Evan was born he almost didn’t make it. His heart stopped. There was an emergency C-section. My wife was rushed from my presence, mid-delivery, by a whirlwind of white medical coats, the nurses’ panicked eyes refusing to look at me from above their surgical masks. For five horrifying and dizzying minutes, I sat alone in the delivery room, not knowing if I would see my son - or my wife - alive. The ordeal ended when a nurse walked in, informed me that both wife and baby were doing well, and handed me a juice box. The lead nurse from the neonatal unit later told us that Evan's delivery was the scariest she had experienced in 25 years of emergency deliveries. She had no idea why his heart stopped, nor how it managed to start back up again.

How Do We Explain Senseless Violence?

How Do We Explain Senseless Violence?

The sunrise this morning brought with it news of another tragedy: this time, a senseless act of violence at a concert in Las Vegas. At last count, 50 people are dead and more than 200 are injured. All at the hands of a lone gunman who perched himself high above a crowd and allowed sadness and anger to rain down in bullets. Though this is the most deadly mass shooting in our country's history, it was not certainly not the first, nor will it be the last. Whenever something like this happens, regardless of scale, we are left with questions that have no easy answers.

Taylor Swift and the Power of Versatility

Taylor Swift and the Power of Versatility

Last week my social media feeds were all abuzz with pictures and videos from Taylor Swift's concert in Lexington. I'll admit, I was a little jealous of all my friends who took their wives/daughters/selves out for what was undoubtedly a phenomenal show. And T-Swift does know how to put on a show.

My wife and I have a love/hate relationship with Taylor Swift: my wife hates her, and I love her. We have both agreed that Swift is a gifted songwriter, but Erica just can't get past her eccentricities. The red lipstick, the dancing all the time, the acting like she's still surprised - every time - when she wins an award...it's all just too much for my bride to handle.