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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.

Why, God? Why?

Devotional thought of the Day:

 1  At that time some people were there who told Jesus about the Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were offering sacrifices to God. 2  Jesus answered them, “Because those Galileans were killed in that way, do you think it proves that they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3  No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did. 4  What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5  No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.”   Luke 13:1-5 (TEV)

A lot of people are writing today about 9-11, the memories, the pain, the “we will never forget” type statements that are true on such anniversaries, but aren’t always remembered 4 months and 13 days from now.

We remember where we were, I was at a Del Taco in Yucca Valley, grabbing a quick breakfast before heading to play golf at a Marine base.  We remember the shock and hurt and pain. I remember calling the radio station in town and telling them my church would be open for anyone to come and pray.. or to come and talk.  Many did, then other churches did the same…

But I don’t think about that every day.  There have been other tragedies Katrina and Sandie, other traumas (wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, other events like closing our school), other deaths (over 100 friends since then… including close close friends like Clyde and Warren and Joseph).

And in each rtauma –  I want to hear the same answer – the question that everyone wants to ask, and some do.

Why, God?  Why?

There are the cliche’d answers, Some are true – but empty sounding at the time.

There are the answers given in ignorance, that simply ingore the pain, the hurt, the anxiety.

There are hard sermons and message and blogs – some even using the passage above – that basically say, “before another trauma hits – you better get your act straight with your God.” and  “repent – for death can come in the twinkling of an eye.”

And they miss the point.

Repentance is not something we come to naturally, it is not something we can “will” when our hearts our tugged and made to feel guilt and shame.  In Acts 5 and 11 it says it is granted by the Holy Spirit, it is a gift.  It is the changing, not just of behaviors, but of minds and hearts, things promised to us when Christ is revealed, when God cleanses us of all unrighteousness – to be honest – something we struggle with at the best of times.

But repentance brings us to a place where we can deal with life – even with the traumas and trageides of life.  It’s not something we do, it’s something we become.  It’s that place of peace, that only comes from trusting in God’s faithfulness, in God love.  It’s a place where we know God is God.  Not just academically, but with our spiritu, our heart, our soul.  Repentance, this amazing transformation is the place martyrs find, when they like Stephen cry out those those killing them be forgiven.  It’s the place where we find God so present, that we fall in awe, crying even as His relief sweeps over us.

It is where we realize we may not in this life ever understand the “why?”, that the answer given may evade us… and we are okay with that.. because we know God is with us.

It is the place where hope conquers despair, where trust overcomes our doubts…. where life conquers death.

12 years ago, as planes crashed, as towers fell, people who hadn’t stepped in a church for decades… came… they came two weeks later to Desert Christ Park, where hundreds gathered to worship and pray.  Despite our pain, despite our anxiety…. from the hearts of people a song rose out – and after the verses finished, the chorus seemed to just keep going – even without us musicians playing….

Hear these words we sang… and let them help you realize… the answer you need..

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

May the Lord’s mercy be so evident, may His faithfulness be so revealed to you… that even on these days where sorrow again tears at our heart… that you know it is well with your soul!

Anymore time for games?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

There is a game that we play, that came to an abrupt end last Friday.

I call the game, “Utopia”, and I think we get addicted to playing it.

The premise of the game is to see how well we can pretend the world is “perfect”, that there are no problems, or that the solution to them is as easy as whose name we check on a ballot.  Or what we will unwrap on Christmas day will finally put us in the winner’s circle of the game.  Or perhaps getting that new job, or being able to retire.  Or if we find the right partner, (and if they aren’t perfect, we toss them away and try again). Even our schools prefer to have perfect images, and sometimes ignore the kids with serious issues, until it is too late.  In churches as well, we often fail to see our own heresies, our own legalism, our own devotion to our culture more than our devotion to our community. Our empty sanctuaries are too hard too fill – with 100 times more people in our community than when they were built, so let’s close their doors and turn them into a starbucks, or a museum

We like perfection, and we avoid those things that would call us to admit there is work to be done.  If things are perfect, if we are not in control, anxiety looms, more powerful and stronger than our wills.  Often, in defense, we project the problem a distance away, its someone else’s fault, their problems, their issues, their weaknesses are now affecting us!   If only they would pull their weight, if they only followed our wisdom,

There is a very subtle evil, a very determined narcissistic nature, a very powerful form of self-idolatry, that is alive and well as we play such a game as Utopia.

And one of the reasons we all take tragedies, whether natural ones like a hurricane or earthquake, or man-made ones like 9/11, Columbine, Paducah, Va Tech, or now NewTown, so hard, is that they stop our games.  We can’t pretend our world is perfect anymore, we can’t play the game… it just seems…vain.

Which the game always was… vain.

We are free of the vanity now… but will we embrace it again?

There is an option to Utopia – it is reality.

A reality not of blind optimism, or some kind of hopeless fatalism.  There is God’s reality.  There is His work in our lives, there are His promises.

The risen Christ, Christ in glory, has divested himself of the things of this earth, so that we men, his brothers, should ask ourselves what things we need to get rid of.

Part of me wants to rebel against this – to dismiss it as some sort of fanaticism, some form of Amish like pietism.

But when trauma robs us of everything on earth – even the lives of those we love, we have something.  We have Christ.  We have His glory, we have His love and the promises that all is not lost, all is not vain and empty.

For what becomes the center of our life is a relationship, with our Mentor, our Guide, our Master, our Protector, our Healer, our Advocate, our Righteousness, our Lord, our Comforter, our Brother, our Father….our God,

The One who loves us.

The One we don’t see when we play Utopia…

So live in the reality of His love, look to Him every day, ask Him to cleanse you of your idols, ask Him to strengthen your trust, your love, ask Him to remind you that you dwell in His peace…..

Ask Him,  Lord have mercy!

And rejoice, in knowing He has promised, and His is doing this very thing – even now.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1990-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. 526

The Answer to that question

The Answer to “That” Question

Isaiah 63: 15

 

 † In His Name

As we ask the questions, we cannot find the answers to, may become aware of God’s richest grace and mercy and love enfolding us, allowing us to poor out our pain, our grief, our anger… on the One who came to take it away…

 

It is a movie I watch a few times a year – one of those favorites, that even though you know the lines, the plot – and in this case – the incredible martial arts… you love to sink yourself into.

As a kid, I loved it because of the martial arts, and the hero taking on odds of 20, 50 even 100 to one.   As an adult – as an one studies mankind, the movie is fascinating in a different way – as there are different reactions to injustice, to hatred, to evil.

There are the bad guys, who do whatever they want – and do not care about the victims.  The ones we love to hate, yet in the end, find ourselves pitying, even as they get what they ask for.

There was the sheriff and the doctor – who though on the side of good, restrained their public speech against those who “controlled the town.

There was the pacifists – who took action by doing their own thing – trying to protect everyone – even at the cost of their own suffering, even hiding that suffering in a supposedly noble desire to avoid further violence, further pain, further sin.

Then there was Billy, the one who could spin and kick and whose presence could intimidate and cause people to behave for the moment… but who couldn’t be everywhere at once.   Over the movie, he would transform – from a man focused on retribution to one who would publicly submit – that there could be some hope for reconciliation, some hope for peace… some hope for a future.

As the credits role at the end, as the hero is taken away in police cars, as the people honor him, the trauma is still left behind, and while there is some hope for the future… there is also a past to heal from.  I look at that… and it is…right.

For none of those involved in the story have the answer… and in this world, it seems like all we can do some time is try to project how to prevent such trauma in the future.  And maybe that should be enough – but for me it is far from it.

There is a verse that expresses what my heart cries out to :

Isaiah 63:15 (MSG) 15 Look down from heaven, look at us! Look out the window of your holy and magnificent house! Whatever happened to your passion, your famous mighty acts, Your heartfelt pity, your compassion? Why are you holding back?

Today, in light of Robert’s funeral, in light of the massacres in China and Connecticut on Friday, in light of all the trauma – the question has been asked to me multiple times – where is God?  Where is He? Has He abandoned us?

Advent of all times in the year – perhaps gives us the best answer…

One that wasn’t heard in the movie, which is why, it left me with questions, with just a momentary hope, and no peace in the present.

The Pain –

In the movie – all the reactions to something so horrible, so incredibly unjust, are our normal reactions.  Even if we are only witnesses from a distance, we almost adopt the people involved – as we are grateful the incident wasn’t here, or across the street.   The sorrow and grief grows – especially if we have been in a situation similar, or cared for those who were. If we’ve seen the life-less eyes, robbed of joy.   The pain grows as we hear things, some true, some not so true.

With the pain, there often comes frustration – we can’t even begin to conceive  a logical explanation for these times of suffering – and that frustration turns quickly into anger.  Anger at the perpetrator, anger at the evilness of society, anger that something wasn’t done, anger that we can’t do anything to help.. anger at God for even allowing such evil to exist.

That anger soon turns on those who allow it to ferment – and we saw that in the last two days, as people tried to diagnose what caused the young man in Connecticut and the man in China.  Such anger also occurs, when rather than praying, we find ourselves engaged in debates on how to prevent further incidents such as there.   We try to work everything out while we are still pained, stressed, grieving, remembering… and we end up, in our pain, not seeing, or caring for those who are likewise trying to grieve and process the news and emotions.

Heck – I find myself incredibly pained and frustrated and angry at how my friends treated each other, as they tried to make the case for their positions, when instead we should have all been on our knees, praying for the comfort of those directly affected, and those whose scars from prior tragedies have those scars ripped open again….

We might even find ourselves, internalizing all of this or trying this time – to ignore the pain, the grief, or trying to find someone to vent upon – or pour out our wrath upon…and then the guilt is added to the scenario – if we realize we too…have our victims.

The time to purge…

         

We can’t avoid dealing with these things… we can’t just bottle them up – we have to find a way to vent it all, and to vent in a way that doesn’t create other victims.  Things like this aren’t supposed to happen – we should never ever not be in pain when they do.
There is a key to this, that is in that verse….there – right in the middle –

Whatever happened to your passion?  Where is your pity?  Your Compassion?

You see, they knew of God’s love – even when they were in pain.  Isaiah described it a few verses before…

I’ll make a list of GOD’s gracious dealings, all the things GOD has done that need praising, All the generous bounties of GOD, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant. 8 He said, “Without question these are my people, children who would never betray me.” So he became their Savior. 9 In all their troubles, he was troubled, too. He didn’t send someone else to help them. He did it himself, in person. Out of his own love and pity he redeemed them. He rescued them and carried them along for a long, long time.

Isaiah 63:7-9 (MSG) 7

They knew His compassion, His love, that we indeed are His people – it isn’t his nature to leacev us alone – it never has been, from Adam and Eve, to Abraham and Lot, to Moses or Joshua or David… or Job.

I love it that it says –  in all their troubles, He was troubled too…

And it is incredible to realize – that God comes down, that He doesn’t leave these things up to others – but in these times – He is here…

And that is the message of advent.. He doesn’t leave us alone….. He never planned to, He never does, even when it seems that all is going to hell in the world…for that is what Mary had to treasure…the manger would lead to the cross, to the bearing of all sin, all pain, all anger.  Isaiah again says it well

1 Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought GOD’s saving power would look like this? 2

4 But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. 5 But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his stripes we get healed. Isaiah 53:1-5 (MSG

Can we lay our burdens on the crucified one?
I know we hurt, even those on the fringe, or who see the fears for their children lived out in the lives of others.  We in our anger and pain want to strigke out – want to rail against the evil – we want to take on something.  I understand that!  I know that desire – to somehow focus all of our rage, all of our pain on someone….

There is only one place to focus that rage – to focus that pain, to focus the anger…..the place that God focused it – along with all His wrath – not just for this massive evil example of sin, but all of the sin we deal with…

We have to go to the cross – to pour out our pain, our anguish, our anger on Jesus Christ – as He lies there  – a victim unlike any other – for He chose to be the victim – to take all of the wrath for such actions, to let such sin, and the grief it causes to be nailed with Him there to the cross.

It is there – that our reactions, which can in themselves be sinful and trauma causing and sinful.. can be poured out…. on Jesus, as the cross…

Empty of the pain, our eyes perhaps unable to cry anymore… we find at the cross peace…

Who are we to focus our anger and pain on?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

The cries of pain kept me up late into the night, as I remember the words on the radio, the comments on television, the wars of words that filled Facebook and twitter.Even as I struggle amid the realization that I cannot understand the evil that drove a man in Connecticut to act in such an.. evil.. way, the responses didn’t seem to want to diminish the evil but rather revel in hate.  Even as I was starting to get to the point where I could pray, the news of another massacre in an elementary school, this one in China, filled my screens…  Add to that the publicity-seekers, who rather then send their condolences private, but issued condolences via press releases, and those speculated on the why’s, and the how to prevent the next unpreventable tragedy.

For those who have been involved in such traumas, as I was in 2005*, the speculations and declarations are not something that is beneficial – the most hurtful are those that indicate God allowed such trauma because of this, or that.  Indeed, the pain is only increased, the questioning of God that is part of the process of grief made even more painful.   The people of God think that God is so petty that He would allow such trauma because we took prayer out of schools?  Or that because we didn’t confront one sin directly.  ANd then I realize – I am focusing my anger, as inappropriately as those I want to confront for their inappropriate focus….

I know we hurt, even those on the fringe, or who see the fears for their children lived out in the lives of others.  We in our anger and pain want to strigke out – want to rail against the evil – we want to take on something.  I understand that!  I know that desire – to somehow focus all of our rage, all of our pain on someone….

There is only one place to focus that rage – to focus that pain, to focus the anger…..the place that God focused it – along with all His wrath – not just for this massive evil example of sin, but all of the sin we deal with…

We have to go to the cross – to pour out our pain, our anguish, our anger on Jesus Christ – as He lies there  – a victim unlike any other – for He chose to be the victim – to take all of the wrath for such actions, to let such sin, and the grief it causes to be nailed with Him there to the cross.

It is there – that our reactions, which can in themselves be sinful and trauma causing and sinful.. can be poured out…. on Jesus, as the cross…

The prophet Isaiah put it this way…

 1 Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought GOD’s saving power would look like this? 2

4 But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. 5 But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.Isaiah 53:1-5 (MSG)

And as you pour out your pain, your grief, and yes, your anger on Him, know that He endures it, even as He despises the shame… for the joy of knowing your healing.

God’s peace flood you life.. this day… and each…..

 

 

*( I was part of a team that ministered and counseled students dealing with a murder/multiple homicide – an entire family wiped out)

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