Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places".
Ephesians 6:12

This Scripture came alive for me as I attended the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City on Saturday, September 17.  It was my first protest ever, but I can easily say I will never be the same.  I went with a group of 9 other Christians as the Protest Chaplains.  We were there to be a specifically Christian witness against corporate greed and excess and the exploitation of the poor.  It was absolutely wonderful to stand in solidarity with the protesters!  We sang, we prayed, we gave out about 500 granola bars and we had many conversations with many wonderful people.

One of the things I remember most is seeing the bronze statue of the bull for the first time.  It was barricaded and there were police standing around it to protect it from protesters.  I was disgusted!  Seeing police officers defend this idol, this symbol of the false god of money devouring human lives in order to make a profit, made me want to vomit.  It was then that I became aware that we were confronting evil.  This protest wasn't just a social battle it was a spiritual one.  We joined the people and we marched around the bull several times holding up a cross and I felt God marching with us.  My eyes are tearing up just thinking about it.  The atmosphere was intensely charged.  I felt this surge of energy and the conviction that darkness cannot overcome the light.  Evil will never conquer good.  Justice can be delayed but it cannot be stopped.  This bull and all who swear by it will fall.

This was the first time that I realized that being a follower of Jesus in this present time meant being an activist.  When huge banks and corporations seek to devour the soul of America, highjack our political and economic systems and reduce democracy to a historical artifact, Christians must not lock themselves in their churches.  We must follow Jesus out of our churches and into the streets to stand in solidarity with all who fight for justice, fairness and equality.  Our faith never tells us to run and hide from evil, but to confront it head on with the knowledge that evil shall not prevail.

It is not enough for the church to say "Blessed are the poor".  What are we doing to help them?  Do we dare speak the truth to power in love?  Are we willing to lay aside our comfort and complacency to be a voice for those who are trying to be silenced by systems of oppression and exploitation?   Let's not just say what Jesus said.  Let's do what Jesus did and is still doing today: setting the captives free.  Let us turn our prayers into action.  Let us follow Jesus, the Liberator; the Jesus who was never ok with anyone being mistreated and stepped on, especially the poor.  This protest gives me an opportunity to do just that and I am going to follow this Jesus with all that I have within me.  I hope you will join me.

Following the Way,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Giving God Thanks!

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For his mercy endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34

My sister was rear-ended by another car this week.  She was in a stopped position waiting to make a left turn when a car just plowed right into her.

When I look at this picture all I can say is THANK YOU JESUS!!!  My sister is still alive.  The accident could have been so much worse.  She could have been killed.  My nephew could have been in the back seat, but he wasn't.  My little nieces could have been in that back seat, but they were not.  I have to give God thanks for sparing my sister's life.  Even when all hell breaks loose God is still FAITHFUL!!!  God has proven this to me over and over again.

If you are in the habit of texting while driving I beg you, PLEASE STOP!!!  If not for the sake of your own life than for the sake of the lives of all the other drivers and passengers on the road.  But for the grace of God my family could be making funeral arrangements for my sister right now because of a negligent driver.  Don't let that negligent driver be you.  Please don't text and drive!  God's peace be with you all!

Following the Way,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Meeting God in the Storm

On Sunday, August 28 Boston got a taste of Tropical Storm Irene.  I had begun to move from one apartment to another the day before.  Yes I know, bad timing!  I was at my mom's, sitting in her bed upstairs, listening to the wind howl and the rain beat heavily against the window.  It's the same house I grew up in as a child and even in adulthood there is something so comforting about being in my mom's room, wrapped up in her blankets!  From time to time I have trouble sleeping.  There are some nights like last night when I just lay awake for hours, but EVERY time I visit my mom and sneak off into her room I fall asleep, EVERY single time.  I just can't explain it.

Anyway, I was in bed watching TV, so glad to be completely sheltered from the storm when I began to feel the presence of God slip into the room.  It was unexpected, but it should not have been.  I allowed myself to be still for a moment and became aware of the Presence that had always been there.  It happens every time I allow myself to be still.  I thought to myself isn't it just like God to show up in the middle of a storm?  The wind is raging outside, knocking down tree branches and power lines.  The rain is beating against the window as if it really wants to come in and here comes God, quietly, but so surely stepping into the room and meeting me in the middle of the storm.  I began to pray and I began to feel that every single storm I've ever experienced in my life would be used by God to bring out something good, that all of the things I've thought of as burdens God would use them to become sources of blessing for me and for others.

This is the God that I know, the God who is not deterred by raging winds and relentless rain.  The God who is not deterred by your past.  The God who is not deterred by your rage.  The God who is not deterred by your unbelief.  This God will meet you in the storm, whatever storm you may be experiencing in your life right now.  God will meet you there and God will use the very things that came into your life to hurt you to bless you.  The God who turns burdens into blessings will meet you in the storm.

And so I say thank you, even for the winds and the rain, even for the challenges and the obstacles, even for the disappointments and the pain.  If I had never shed a tear than I would have never discovered the God who turns tears into dancing.  And so I say thank you, even for the storm, but most of all for the God who's not afraid to meet me there.

Following the Way,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


My best friend wrote this song years ago and it is still a source of encouragement to me to this very day.  For anyone experiencing pain, difficulty, loss or just the twists and turns of life, may this song encourage you as well.  

Following The Way,

By Lois Commodore

In the good times it’s so easy to smile.  It’s so easy to pray when there are sunny days.
But when the bad times come and my tears block the sun, I’ll still praise the Lord anyway.

The Lord gives and He takes away.  I will praise his name anyway.
The Lord gives and He takes away and I will praise his name anyway.

I don’t know if tomorrow will bring me joy or sorrow.  Sometimes uncertainty gets the best of me.  But in God my future is sure.  I know I am secure so I will praise the Lord anyway.

The Lord gives and He takes away.  I will praise his name anyway.
The Lord gives and He takes away and I will praise his name anyway.

Persecuted but not forgotten; cast down but never broken.  When loved ones leave and friends turn away, I can still find the peace to lift my voice and say.

He gives, He gives and He takes away.  I will praise his name anyway.
The Lord gives and He takes away and I will praise his name anyway.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When God Disappoints

I have to admit I do not handle disappointment well.  When people disappointment me there's an automatic response in me to withdraw.  I don't even realize I'm doing it most times and many times it's a subtle withdrawal: a facial expression, the absence of a smile, a polite coldness.  I'm often not aware that I am subtly withdrawing until someone points it out to me.  It's something I have struggled with for a very long time, but I need to learn to make peace with disappointment because it's a guarantee that people will disappoint you from time to time.  Disappointment from people is inevitable, but what do you do when you feel disappointed by God?  I don't know.  I'm working through this right now.

Anyone who walks with God long enough will experience disappointment with God.  It's a part of the authentic journey with God.  Walk with God long enough and God will disappoint you.  Not because God wants to hurt your feelings, not because God ceases to be faithful; God never ceases to be faithful, but because God often does the unexpected and often leaves the expected undone.  Our disappointment stems from our expectations of God and sometimes, as in any relationship, our expectations need to be adjusted.

I am disappointed with God right now regarding a major area of my life.  I have asked for God's help with something that I cannot make happen on my own and it hasn't happened yet.  I feel like it's been a long time.  I have watched many other people in my life have what I am still praying for and there are times when I can't help but ask,  "God where are you?  Do you see me?  Can't you see that I'm hurting?  Do you care?  When are you going to do something?  I can't make this happen on my own and I don't think I can wait much longer."  It's hard.  It's frustrating.  I feel it's unfair.  I don't know what to do.

I withdrew from God in prayer because I couldn't help but feel that God was responsible for my pain in some way.  Has anyone else ever felt that way?  I felt that God was just watching me go through life with a broken heart and not doing anything so I withdrew.  I stopped talking to God in prayer and in doing so I cut myself off from a major source of strength in my life.  Big mistake!

So what do I do now?  My back is against the wall.  I can't fall back on my default position: withdrawal; that's not working.  Giving God the silent treatment is accomplishing nothing!  I cannot deny that God is faithful.  Even in the midst of my disappointment I see God taking care of me in other ways.  I have no choice but to begin to make peace with my disappointment, to begin again with God, to try to have a different understanding of what it means to walk with God.  I don't quite know how to do that, but I am committed to staying on the journey.  I will share more about this in my next entry.  Thanks for walking alongside me on this journey so far.

Following the Way,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Still Say Thank You

Gratitude is something I try to weave into my everyday life. I usually do a pretty good job doing so, but sometimes I lose sight of all the reasons I have to be grateful.  Sometimes I focus too much on what I don't have.  Sometimes when I'm hurting, frustrated and disappointed I forget to say thank you.  And saying thank you is important because even when there's a lot of stuff in my life going wrong I still have to be grateful for all the stuff that's going right.  Even when I am angry at God I still have to say thank you to God for being the Source that sustains me, for being the Source of everything that is good in my life.

There's a song titled, "Still Say Thank You", and every time I hear it I am pulled back to that place of gratitude.  I'm reminded that weaving a posture of gratitude into your daily life is absolutely essential to living well no matter what life may throw at you.  I hope that listening to this song will do the same for you.

Following the Way,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Letting Others In

"It is not good for man to be alone." 
Genesis 2:18

This is the first social commentary on the human condition in the Bible and these ancient words are still so true in our modern world today.  Prolonged social isolation can have devastating effects on an individual and yet for many of us withdrawing is the first thing we do when we experience pain.  We run. We hide.  We lock ourselves in.  We lock others out, often the ones who love us the most.  We feel that we need to process the pain alone, but this is a very dangerous game we're playing.  Getting into the habit of shutting others out when in pain can lead us down a very dark road where we find ourselves unable to find the light again and too far gone for anyone to see us lost in the dark.  So why do we do it?  Why do so many of us shut others out when we need them the most?

I have my own reasons and maybe you'll be able to relate to some of them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Gift of Presence

I had dinner with a friend yesterday.  It had been a while since we had gotten together just the two of us and we finally got around to scheduling something and making it happen.  I can't tell you how much of a gift it was to have a simple dinner with a friend.  We took our time.  I got to her place at 6:30 and didn't leave to head home until 10.  In such a hurried world where everyone is in such a rush and everyone has so many things to do, it was such a blessing to feel the freedom to relax and enjoy the company of a friend without a strict time limit.

I went home feeling strengthened, unburdened and at peace.  Why? What caused that?  It wasn't the meal even though dinner was great.  It wasn't dessert.  Although I have to say that the frozen yogurt we picked up after dinner came close to changing my life!  It was the best frozen yogurt I had ever had.  I strongly recommend that you find your way to a Pinkberry in Cambridge or Boston if possible.  It will change your life or come pretty close :)  Anyway, as good as my mango frozen yogurt topped with fresh strawberries was (Thank you Jesus), that's not what made me feel better.  I felt better simply being in the presence of someone who cares for me.  It was the gift of her presence to me that made me feel better, made my problems feel more manageable, made me feel less alone.

The gift of presence.  There's really no substitute for it.  Especially when someone is hurting it's the best gift you can give.  Simply be present.  I know we're all very busy with so many things to do, but I would like to put forth a challenge.  Get better at responding to your emails.  Get better at returning your phone calls.  Get better at following up with a friend who wants to get together.  Give someone the gift of your presence.  It's more powerful than you probably realize.  Don't underestimate the difference it may make in someone's life.  Simply be present to those you say you care about.  You may change a life without ever knowing it.  Give someone the gift of your presence.  You are needed more than you realize.

Following the Way,

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where is God?

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

These are not the words of a person who has no faith.  These are not the words of a person who doesn't know God.  These are the words of Jesus in the midst of agonizing pain on the cross in Matthew 27:46 and I'm so glad he said them!  Why?  Because knowing that even Jesus felt this way at least once enables us to be gentle with ourselves when we feel the same way.  Sometimes in the midst of great pain and difficulty we don't feel God around us at all.  We feel forgotten and forsaken.  We can't help but ask, "Where is God?"  Often we feel guilty or make others feel guilty for asking such a question, but this question is an authentic part of the journey with God.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus was not the first person to ever say this or feel this way.  He is quoting Psalm 22, written a thousand years before his time.  People on the journey have been wrestling with this for a very long time: the felt absence of God in the presence of real pain.  I don't believe that God disappears when we are hurting, but that sometimes the pain we experience in life is so great it becomes all that we can see, all that we can feel.  It can become so overwhelming and blind us to everything else.  When you have lost your mother to cancer and you're only a teenager, when you have had 3 miscarriages in a row but still no children, when the love of your life has left you and has shattered your heart to pieces, it is hard to feel God, hard to see God in your life, hard to believe that God is still there.

Feeling this way is ok.  Anyone on the journey will feel this way at one point or another.  Don't lie about it.  Don't pretend it's not there.  Don't feel guilty.  Feel what you're feeling and bring it all to God.  Your frustration, your disappointment, your anger, your rage, bring it all to God.  Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in feeling what you're feeling.  For thousands of years people on the journey have been struggling with the exact same feelings.  You are not alone.

I don't know why life can be so painful at times, but in moments when life has broken my heart and I can't see God and I can't hear God and I can't feel God, I sit and I wait.  I know that feeling forsaken is not the same as being forsaken.  I know that  I am surrounded by a God that I sometimes cannot feel because the pain gets in the way. And if knowing this isn't enough I sit and I wait until it is.

Following the Way,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When It Hurts

Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1

Has anyone else ever felt this way?  Are we willing to admit to ourselves that we have?  As believers far too often we get really fake with what we're feeling.  We're expected to smile and say, "All is well!" when all is not well.  Sometimes we think that faith requires us to actively deny the reality in front of us.  Ignore the pain; ignore the questions; ignore everything that doesn't fit into our neat and tidy, black and white theology.  That's not what faith requires and the result of hiding our pain is that others around us feel like they have to do the same thing.  Sometimes you end up with entire faith communities that are hurting, but everyone is suffering alone because no one feels safe enough to be honest about their pain, doubt and disappointment.

Let me be the one to say that this passage above echoes exactly what my heart is saying to God right now.  I take a look at some areas in my life and can't help but ask, "God, where are you"?

What do we do when it hurts?  I want to take a few weeks to talk about this.  Let's talk about all the things "good Christians" aren't supposed to talk about: our pain, our doubts, our disappointments.  Why?  Because we cannot say that we are in relationship with God without bringing our whole selves to God, everything: the good, bad and the ugly.  And we cannot say that we are in relationship with one another if we are not willing to be open and transparent with each other even when it gets uncomfortable. This is what it means to have authentic community.

To anyone who may be hurting right now please know that you are not alone.  Whatever you may be facing in life you are not alone.  We all have our pain, our struggles, our unanswered questions.  Let's walk out this faith journey together.

Following the Way,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Call From My Father

Yesterday was my birthday and thanks to the magic of Facebook I received SO many birthday wishes.  It was overwhelming.  Everybody and their momma were wishing me a happy birthday: friends I see all the time, friends who have moved away who I haven't seen in years, parents of friends, cousins, former grade school teachers, people I used to work with, I mean everybody!  It was nice.

I had a good day.  Some coworkers took me out to lunch and another one surprised me with a big piece of chocolate cake. Thank you Jesus!  Honestly though the day was a mix of joy and sorrow because I have been a mix of joy and sorrow for quite some time now.  There are things in my life that I am SO grateful for and other things that have caused me so much disappointment it hurts to even name them.

So last night, while I was hovering over this space between joy and sorrow I got a call from my father.  He called to wish me a happy birthday.  My father and I have never been close and I don't expect that we ever will be.  This used to bother me when I was younger, but I have come to accept it.  Just a week ago I was calling him to wish him a happy birthday and struggling to believe that my father is now 67 with many more years behind him than in front of him.  It's weird and scary.  Time is taking its toll.  The man who worked 2 jobs for years is now retired.

And yet time has made my father more human to me.  My father has never been able to love me as I needed to be loved.  He has never known how to give me what I needed.   I've known that for many years, but now as I look upon my aging father I also realize that he is just a man who loves me as best as he can.  Is it enough?  No it's not, but he's doing the best he can.  And that's probably the reason why out of all the phone calls, text messages and facebook posts I received for my birthday yesterday, a call from my father is what I'll remember most.

Following the Way,

Monday, February 28, 2011

Looking Ahead To The Season Of Lent

As an evangelical Lent is one of the only seasons of the liturgical year that holds particular meaning for me.  Lent is a gift to a frenzied world: an opportunity to stop and look within, a chance for every believer to ask, “What does this Christian faith really mean to me?  What am I willing to give for it?  Many progressive Christians seem to think that sin no longer exists, that we can live our lives in whatever fashion we choose and a warm and fuzzy Jesus will never require more of us than we are willing to give.  Yet Lent is a season that reminds us that indeed sin is real and costly.  It is costly to God, costly to others and costly to ourselves.  Jesus’ agonizing death on the cross is proof of this.  And we are not following a Jesus who has no requirements of us.  What is this crucified Savior asking of me?  What do I owe the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?  These are the questions I intentionally choose to wrestle with during the season of Lent.

So many of us have come from traditions that have beat us over the head with sin over and over again.  You couldn’t walk into church without feeling guilty and ashamed.  I grew up in an evangelical church and let me tell you the Catholics aren’t the only ones who know how to use shame!  Didn’t make it to Wednesday Night Bible Study?  Sin!  Forgot to say grace before lunch?  Sin!  Didn’t pay your tithes this week?  When Jesus comes back during the Rapture you’re going to be left behind!  And though the concept of sin has been terribly abused, the reality of sin does not disappear.  The acknowledgement of sin is not meant to be used as a tool to control, manipulate and shame others, but to provide an entrance for grace.  The acknowledgement of sin, the tendency in all of us to do harm to each other and ourselves creates a humility, a brokenness that leads us to discover the God who walks with us in broken places.  This is what comes to mind when I think of Lent: a Savior who came to earth to walk with us in our broken places, to save us from all the ways sin tries to rob us from truly living.

During the season of Lent what I find more important than giving something up although I will do that as well, is spending extra time in daily prayer examining myself in the sight of God.  It’s so easy to see the sin in others but can I see the sin lurking within my own heart?  What are the thoughts, attitudes and dispositions in me that separate me from God, from others and even my own soul?  “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).  This is the cry of my heart and the prayer I will pray over and over again during Lent.  Jesus live out your resurrected life in me.  Cleanse me, wash me, purge me.  Make me aware of the things in me that are preventing You from dwelling in me more fully.

Whenever I approach God with this kind of humility God shows up with his presence and answers my prayers.  My eyes are opened and I begin to be aware of ways in which I fail God and others and myself, and the result is not shame or condemnation.  The brokenness revealed by the awareness of sin creates an entrance for grace.  “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” (Romans 5:20). The brokenness creates more space in our hearts for God to dwell.  In the time I spend singing, praying and sitting quietly before God I feel washed over by waves of grace.  I feel that I am being carried by the Savior, the Lamb of God who has taken away my sin, is taking way my sin now and will continue to take away my sin in the future.  My response is love.  I fall in love all over again with this God, this Savior as gentle as a lamb, who walks with me in broken places and I commit myself again to following Jesus for the rest of my life.  Whatever it takes, whatever it may cost me my soul sings, “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee”.  I will die to my own will and agenda in order to allow Jesus to live out his resurrected life in me.  Lent’s greatest gift is the reminder that I am completely dependent upon this God and it is this dependence paradoxically that liberates my soul and makes a full authentic life possible.  And this whole process begins with the acknowledgement of my own sin.

“It is in descending again into the darkness and silence of the womb of God do we reemerge into a world of light ready to begin our journey afresh.”

Following the Way,

Monday, January 24, 2011

One Less Tear

These past couple of weeks have been trying for me.  I have felt beaten down by life, felt helpless to effect the kind of change I want, frustrated and tired of facing one struggle after another.  I need a break.  Can I get a time out?  I've been angry.  I'm tired of obstacles coming into my life that I have no control over.  I've put so much effort into guarding my heart and yet I find it broken again.  I find no humor in the irony.  I have reached my breaking point.  I don't understand what God is up to or why he has allowed such struggle in my life.  I am tired.  They say that trials come to make you strong.  Well if that's the case then people can stop calling me Kevin and start calling me the Incredible Hulk!  And I can't be the only one who has ever felt this way.  Sometimes you want to say, "Hey God, remember me?  I know you're busy and all, but a little help here would be nice.  Thanks!"

"Hold on.  Don't give up.  Hang in there."  Hearing these words are not very comforting when you are facing great difficulty, but what other option is there?  I'm hurting right now.  I'm angry right now.  I'm tired and frustrated right now,  but I'm not ready to give up.  I have to keep going.  I've experienced too many moments of joy to give up now.  And though I'm not particularly feeling this joy at this moment I know it will return, because the One who provides this joy is faithful.

Let's be honest, life can very quickly and unexpectedly become very difficult.  Sometimes success is crying one less tear than you did the day before.  You can't always fly.  You can't always run.  Sometimes you have to walk and when you don't have the strength for that sometimes you have to crawl.  The most important thing is that you keep moving.  What other option is there?

I trust God.  I often don't understand what He's up to, but I trust God and I am waiting patiently for joy to return because I know that it will.

Following the Way,

Monday, January 3, 2011

More Than Grateful

This Christmas I didn’t need anything waiting for me under the tree because I had already received so much.  I experienced the faithfulness of God in such a profound way in 2010.  I feel so full right now.  I’m so tempted to leap out of my chair and have a praise break right here in the office!  GOD IS GOOD!!!  This is the cry of my heart right now.  In the midst of transition and uncertainty God is good and has proven to me over and over again that He can be trusted.

I just need to publicly thank God for all that I have received in 2010.  It was a year of major transition for me and God was there to lead me every step of the way.  He never left me alone. When I couldn’t walk he carried me.  When I was weak his presence made me strong. When worry began to grip my heart he gave me peace.  When friends walked away he brought wonderful people into my life to fill the void.  When I needed a new church home he blessed me with an amazing community of faith I am honored to be a part of.  When I experienced lack he provided.  When I failed he showed me grace.  When I fell he showed mercy.  When I was hungry and thirsty for something more than this world could provide he filled me with himself and now I am satisfied. 

What did I ever do to deserve such love and what can I ever do to repay God for it?  I am overwhelmed and I must say thank you.  I am more than grateful for God’s abiding indwelling presence.  I am more than grateful for this strength and joy that leaps up out of my soul when I need it most.  I am more than grateful for this love that cannot be named, that cannot adequately be described or measured that I can feel deep within the marrow of my bones, coursing through my veins, echoing in even the darkest corners of my soul where no one else dare go.  I am more than grateful that I have fallen in love with a God who had already fallen in love with me from day one.

It’s too much to take in.  I am held by love.  I am carried by love.  I am drowning in love.  I can’t understand it.  I can’t explain it.  I can’t repay God for it.  All I can say is thank you!

Following the Way,