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How Do We Deal With All the Trauma?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our days
15  Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don’t become set in your own opinions. Romans 12:15-16 (Phillips NT)

15  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:15-17 (NLT)

When the news just makes us exclaim “What a disaster!” and, then, we turn the page immediately or change the channel, we have destroyed our “fellowship,” we have further widened the gap that separates us.

It seems so much of my email is filled with news of trauma, or shortly thereafter, with appeals for money to care for the victims.

Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Tennessee, now the victims of the California wildfires.  And that is only the events in the USA.  There were Typhoons hitting Macao and Hong Kong, earthquakes in Mexico, and other traumas caused by men in England and other places.

There there are the traumas that are even closer to home.  A friend’s daughter passes away, another friend is dealing with a spouse whose illness is beyond their ability to cope with, other friends are struggling with cancer or even a pinched nerve.

And like I said, I am then deluged with the requests to help.  Houston is a good example.  Four friends are working with different church groups – all affiliated together.  They each ask for money, as does the district of our denomination.  I even received a request from another district to support their work in arranging for help for the district affected!  This doesn’t include all the churches and para-church organizations that spammed my email, for surely a pastor would help them? 

Part of me wants to react as Pope Francis described, just turn the page, just delete the email. Part of me wants to write letters to each group that seems less than above board, or those that insist their group is more in need or more deserving of money and tries to manipulate using guilt or shame, or hyper-emotional appeal.

And then I wonder if I am becoming too hard, too cynical, to suspicious,  to callous. What is the reaction all this is causing in my heart? Am I allowing my fellowship with humanity to be destroyed?  Will i end up on an island, with a huge gaping hole separating me from the rest of the world?   Or us the only other option to burn out, emotionally, physically, financially?  Will my faith become dead, because I can no longer bring myself to act?  Will I try to justify that by simply saying the system is overloaded?

I think the answer comes from the passage in Romans, this idea of living in harmony with each other. The example being weeping with those who weep, laugh with those laughing.  To take the focus from just giving a donation, to actually being with those who are in need.  ( One might say that just dropping 50 or 1000 bucks into an envelope may not meet the help they really need)  To be compassionate, to love, for there we find ourselves helping. Not just within the circle of friends we have, but with people we encounter, every day.

And mostly, the answer comes from trusting God, knowing His presence, hearing His voice, following His lead. For as we walk with Him, as we depend upon Him, we find the needs, and the resources he would have us meet.  Often those far different than we would have thought of… and yet, the peace and joy, even amidst the tears, confirms the presence of God.  

Here is the point.  Too often we rely only on our own strength, our own wisdom, our won will, overlooking the obvious, the presence of God.  As we cry out, “Lord have mercy,” we need ot rely on that mercy, even as we help others see it.  That will eradicate the gap that separates us, as we fellowship together with Him. 

 

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Florida, An Elevator, and Peace….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 

1   On that day, you will say: I give you thanks, O LORD; though you have been angry with me, your anger has abated, and you have consoled me. 2  God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior. 3  With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation, 4  and say on that day: Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. 5  Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth. 6  Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!
Isaiah 12:1-6 (NAB)

The impression that people have today is that being a Christian is something irksome, a multiplicity of commands and prohibitions to which new prohibitions are added with every increase in knowledge and every new possibility that is opened to us. Little by little, it begins to seem impossible to live all that, to bear all that. Ultimately, faith seems to be just a burden. But when a person has once met Christ, when a person has once seen Jesus and really learned to know him, then everything is changed. Then everything else is comprehensible and life is renewed. And you priests have really only one task: to present Jesus to all people in such a way that they see him and learn to love him. Then everything that faith teaches will be self-evident.

I remember then that Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians, described his activity as apostle and priest in the following words: “I depicted Christ clearly before your eyes” (cf. Gal 3:1). Ultimately that is what the priesthood is all about: to have seen Jesus oneself, to have received with love him whom we have seen, to live in that seeing, and then to show him to others.  (1)

Yesterday, I awoke to the news that there was a tragedy, an act of terrorism by a man who was described by many as always angry, always wanting to strike out. A man who grew up here, in a land full of churches, in a land of freedom.

Today I woke up to a memory on Facebook, reminding me of another angry young man.  One who was specifically trained in the middle east to be a cold-blooded assassin.  He grew up in a nation torn by war, where both sides persecuted their enemies.  Where family members died, and where revenge was a way of life. It was tied to religion and culture, ethnicity and historic hatred.  A man who didn’t murder 49 people yesterday, but instead helped other know peace.  A year ago today he visited my church and shared about both his anger and brokenness, and how he now knew peace.

As I look at the star contrast, the difference between the two men, the difference comes down to a moment in an elevator.  AN elevator in a war-torn country that is still torn apart today.

Yeah, started in an elevator,  maybe the time it takes to travel 10-12 stories.  The man with the history, whose brother was killed, who family was torn apart by war, stepped into the elevator where another man was.  A man who could have represented everything the man was against.

And in those brief moments, everything changed.  In those moments, the brokenness of both men, and the fact that one found hope and healing, enabled the other man to do the same.

Peace became evident where it should not have had the slightest chance. Love made the difference, as an old man reached out to an angry young guy and who over time would depict Christ clearly to him, who would give him hope, who would see him come to know God’s love and praise the God, who saved him. The angry young guy is now a pastor, trying to reach out to others, and bring them peace.  The older man, simply took the time to listen, and talk, and share the peace he knew helped him in his brokenness.  The story of a man who loved his enemies enough to let them kill Him, so He could bring them peace, sanctuary, rest, and joy.

I am not sure if anyone ever tried to reach out to the man who terrorized a community as he killed people whose parents, siblings, friends who are traumatized and grieving this morning. I have heard that many recognized his brokenness and even lived in fear of him.

I don’t know about the past, save that we can learn from it.  We can reach out to those who are broken, who seem depressed, who are angry, hurt, even those who aren’t like “us.”  (Whatever that means)  We can make known His works to all the nations, doing so in a way that is loving and respectful.  We can love them, and pray for them, and see God work in their lives.

For in our brokenness, we have seen Christ, we have received Him and learned to love Him, and living in fellowship with Him.   We can show him to others….loving them,

even in an elevator…

Lord have mercy upon us ALL!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 
(1)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 191). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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