It’s been a roller coaster of occasions over the last several weeks.

There have been so many things to celebrate.

I’ve had two kids finish degrees and I’ve passed another birthday. We’ve celebrated the baptisms and the growth of our faith family. There have been great blessings and sweet victories. I’ve seen relationships restored and new ministry projects succeed. I celebrated the passing of another year of life and yesterday marked twenty-six years of marriage with my favorite human.

What an array of occasions I’ve had the privilege to celebrate with people I love.

But…

I’ve sat with friends as they wrestled with the changes of parenthood and prayed with others for answers that have yet to come. I have prayed against the dreaded cancer and cried with the unwilling divorcée and struggled to make sense of the mind losing its grip.

I left a great ministry activity to drive a couple of hours to be with family in the turmoil, fear, and agony of a precious child that died before it had even taken a breath. I tried to speak words of comfort and hope amidst the indescribable sorrow of such a loss.

The celebrations and the sorrows seem unevenly commingled like a salad with way too much of that one vegetable you simply cannot stand to eat. The celebrations, rich with joy, are yet tainted by the inescapable brokenness of life. The sorrows, with all of their gut-churning sting, are still somehow endured by clinging to the promise that this brokenness is truly temporary.

It’s not supposed to be this way… but it’s broken.

It was all created and made very good… but it’s broken.

There shouldn’t be litter in the beauty of the Grand Canyon… but it’s broken.

We shouldn’t need nursing homes and hospitals… but this world is broken.

There shouldn’t be commercial demands that squelch the creation of art and we shouldn’t have to choose the lesser of evils… but it’s broken.

Love shouldn’t be so painful and marriage shouldn’t be so hard… but it’s broken.

Laughter ought not be tainted with tears and offenses should not wreck families… but the whole thing is broken.

We shouldn’t have to bury family pets or be laid off from long-held jobs… but it’s all just broken.

Babies shouldn’t die and young men shouldn’t get cancer… but it’s all broken.

This world is not what it was made to be.

But it’s also not what it one day will be.

But, in big and small ways, in beauties amid the tragedies, in pleasures among the pains, in the joys mixed in with the burdens, in the hope stirred through the despair, in the celebrations alongside the sorrows… there is an innate sense among us that there must be something more.

The beauty is so rich that we know there must be more.

But the brokenness is so profound that there simply has to be so much more.

He told us there is something far greater yet to come:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21.4)

A number of years ago a young songwriter expressed this idea beautifully in his song, “Beautiful, Broken World.” I encourage you to give it a listen and that you join me in looking for the beauty amid the mess, the joy amid the pain, the celebrations amid the sorrows.

Some Risky Business

June 22, 2016

I witnessed something powerful last night that I’m still trying to process.

I was attending a meeting of representatives of churches all over the world with which ours is associated where our president demonstrated a powerful example of genuine servant leadership and vulnerability.

As he confessed instances of ungodly attitudes – prejudices – so many emotions stirred through the room… and no small amount of tension.

I was moved and teary-eyed at the beauty of reconciliation demonstrated by this man. Read the rest of this entry »

Home, But Different

June 17, 2016

We rolled back into our own city, our home, a couple of hours ago. It was a welcome sight and, quite frankly, time to get out of that van seat. I spent a lot of hours there this week.

It’s our home, just the same one that we left several days ago… but it’s different.

While we were gone our small city of about 22,000 folks endured a couple more blows to our collective heart. Significant flooding caused some serious problems for some of our neighbors – many of whom were already staggering through job losses and the deeply depressed oil industry and the ramifications thereof.

But more significant has been the gut-wrenching reality of a missing young boy who still has not been found these almost six days later. It’s heart-breaking. As we drove into town I could just feel it well up in my heart.

This city that I love is wrestling with fear and uncertainty and a brokenness that seems a lot closer to the surface than before. It’s still my home, but it’s different.

But it’s not just this city that is different. We went off to the big city of Austin and were stretched and challenged and did things that some of us had never thought to do in serving that city. We saw God do amazing things and we were reminded that we are called to come back to our home and reach our city with the love of Jesus.

We left here eager and maybe a bit nervous. We came home, but different.

I came back home, but different.

As we approached our city from the south, I found myself reflecting on what was written of Jesus as he encountered throngs of people,

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9.36)

So many folks have spent so many hours searching and hoping and praying for that missing little boy and they feel helpless. So many people have had their lives turned upside down by round after round of layoffs and cut-backs and downturns and they feel harassed.

And because Jesus is at work in me, I feel compassion – which is really to feel deeply for someone. And I just want to go out and point these hurting, helpless, harassed sheep to the Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep.

Just like I would give anything to be able to bring that little boy back to his mother’s arms, shouldn’t I be just that willing to strive to bring people back to the Father that loves them so desperately that he gave the life of his firstborn to make a way for them to be reconciled to him?

My heart breaks for my city – perhaps more than ever before. For almost nine years it’s been my home, but today it’s different.

I came back home, but different.

May God take this difference in me to make a difference in this place.