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.

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The Three Longest Nights

March 25, 2016

In our day of binge-watching entire seasons of our favorite tv shows and virtually limitless on-demand entertainment options, three days and three nights of silence and fear and hiding is next to impossible to really comprehend. But I suggest to you that, even in a starkly slower time, the followers of Jesus found those three days and nights between Jesus’ burial and resurrection to last for what seemed like years.

[Side note: I realize that our tradition is to observe Good Friday as the day of the week of Jesus’ crucifixion and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I also recognize that Jesus said that it would be three days and three nights. The whole discussion is a matter for another context.]

For three days and nights the disciples were trying to wrap their heads and hearts around the notion that Jesus simply was not who they thought him to be. No doubt they lay sleepless in the dark night wonder how they could misunderstand, why things had gone the way they had, and were the soldiers coming for them next?

The fear and uncertainty mingled powerfully with the pure grief that came with the loss of this man who was a friend like none they had ever known – the One who had fed thousands through the very hands of these who now stayed hidden behind locked doors. The hope that less than a week before had moved them to spread their cloaks on the ground as a makeshift carpet and shout with the joyous, “Hosanna,” had vanished.

But, come Sunday morning, everything was seen to be different than it seemed.

In these hard days and gut-wrenching nights, could we have the spiritual gumption to step back and look beyond our heartache to see the certainty of what is surely to be? Can we, through the eyes of faith embrace the hope built entirely on the very nature of the One who proved His love and faithfulness through the cross and the empty tomb?

In the assurance of His promise, even the longest nights are a temporary trouble.

But Still…I’m Sorry

June 24, 2015

I’ve never considered myself a racist.

I could give you the list of evidences of my lack of racism…but the very fact that I could construct a list would probably be more of an indictment than an exoneration. And the evidence of racism in me would probably be much more about what I have not done rather than what I have done.

I haven’t gone out of my way to get acquainted with and learn from people of different heritage than mine. I haven’t cultivated relationships with people that have a vastly different American experience than my own. It’s not that I have avoided them…I just haven’t pursued them.

I haven’t made Sunday mornings the most segregated moments in our society. But still…I’m sorry.

I have been involved in a conversation today that has stirred up some things in me – mostly sorrow over the ways I have failed my neighbors by failing to take steps to make things better. Read the rest of this entry »