A Pondering On Injustice…

You know what I have trouble with?
injusticeInjustices.

Those moments in life when,
both big and small injustices take place.
It is mind boggling that there are people in our world who
truly do not care about other people at all.
It goes far beyond being inconsiderate.
It’s about self-preservation over anyone else’s needs.
These injustices are fueled by greed.
These injustices are fueled by selfishness, power, anger, covetousness…evilSometimes I get so angry at these injustices…
If I were truly honest
I get more angry at the people who perpetrate these injustices.  revenge
much so that I want to exact my own kind of justice.

So much so that I sometimes imagine watching them regret their decisions
fighting fire with fire
a tooth for a tooth.

Sometimes, in my mind
I take on this role of judge, jury and executioner.
sometimes, I let this fantasy taint how I see other people…
And within that lens
I am better than them.
I am the pious one.
I am the perfect one.
Then I realize that I am a
hypo

I have become a  ——pharisee

So busy looking for
the flaws in others
that I have neglected
to look at my own Heart.

How dare I do such a thing…and yet it’s done every day.
Am I the only one in this —-
boatAm I the only one?
I don’t think so.
Are there injustices in this world?  absolutely_whiteShould we fight against these?
Yes.
but then I am reminded of another verse:
sin

And I am reminded how lost some people are.
I am reminded that despite our hopeless situations
Christ STILL died for us.
Despite our evil ways.
Despite our ignorance and selfishness
He still died for us.

Then another thing strikes me
like being struck across the face.
I.  am. not. the judge.
I am. not. the. one. who. exacts. ultimate. justices.

Can I fight against injustices in this world?
Yes.
But first…I must contend with my own heart.
But first…I must pluck out the board in my own eye.
But first…I must practice sacrificial, Christ-like love for my enemies.

It is here at this cross roads that I continue my journey…journey

How about you?

Dear Salvation Army, Nativity or Negativity?

It is easy to do.
To dwell upon negative comments.
To feast upon the criticism.
Somethings are just not good enough for anyone.
Let’s face it, you just cannot please everyone all of the time.

But…
why do we allow the negativity of others to penetrate our defenses?
why do we have to have defenses in the first place?
why do we have to constantly be on guard?

In this season of joyful anticipation and as we reflect upon Christ’s birth once more, chances are we will face negativity, harsh comments and barbed words.  It is easy to become jaded during a very arduous season!
Even though this season has been conveniently coined “the season of giving”, sometimes what people give is pain, words that are sharpened to a point, and sadness.  Many times, dear soldier, we work and work and work to help people in need only to face a moment of criticism by someone and it all seems to crash to ground like a house of cards.  Do you know what I’m talking about today?  Have you experienced this?  Perhaps this negativity comes in the form of one we are trying to give generously to who spurns our efforts because it doesn’t meet their standards. Perhaps it comes in the form of a volunteer who criticizes the way that you have organized and led this ragtag group of ‘do-gooders’.   In one fell swoop your anticipation for that ‘warm fuzzies’ in the stomach while helping those in need is left dangling upon an open pit of flames as you utter sarcastically under your breath “thanks a lot!

I hope I’m not painting a scene of hopelessness here today for you.  That is not my purpose in writing this, dear soldier.
My purpose for writing this is to remind us all that we aren’t working for the ‘chin nods‘ and approval of people, we are working (because of faith) in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are attempting to emulate His selflessness in our sometimes feeble attempts.   That doesn’t mean that we don’t keep the standards high in our preparations and organization, but it does mean that our attempts at helping those in need; our attempts at raising funds and giving love and hope to those without love and hope should be impervious to destructive criticism and harsh judgments upon us.  The reality is that because we have invested and given ourselves completely over to these tasks, we will take these slings and arrows very personally.

A reminder:
Man isn’t your judge in terms of the service that you give to God.
You serve a higher calling.  You are set apart.  You matter.  You have value!
Negativity will come.  Destructive criticism (not to be confused with constructive God-honoring accountability) will come.
We will not please everyone in these efforts of mercy, hope and love.  Some will come to us to rage just because they enjoy raging.

Remember:
It’s sounds cliche’, tired and old, but remember Christ this Christmas.
Don’t get dragged down into the pits of negativity.
Don’t wallow in these places.
They will never make you into the person God has called you to be.
These places will only serve to make you bitter and burned out.
Take time to get away for even a few minutes.
Catch your breath.
Pray.
Feast on His promises.
Remember the birth of Christ.
Read it again.  Chew on the lessons within the text.  Apply humility and love in your responses when all you want to do is rage back.

Dear Soldier, remember 
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

All my work is for the Master,
He is all my heart’s desire;
O that he may count me faithful
In the day that tries by fire!
(SASB 522, chorus)

Something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Something to be thankful for? Let’s change that!

What if
life
is less about thismoney

and
more about this –
Family-450x280

what if we actually

LIVED

Like it?

What if this –buy

Became less important…

and this….mom

Became one of our priorities…

became, not something
world

“over there”…

but instead,
something right here….

street

Could we actually

live

this out loud?

could we actually

love

In this way?

I wish I could stop being so

cynical_logo

But I keep seeing the way

that we treat one another

hate

And I wonder
will it ever end?

i-don_t-know

But I hope it ends soon…

How about this….
Let’s  – love1
-Not hate-image

Let’s stop the
selfish

And turn it into this….feet

Just something else to ponder.
Do YOU have something to be
Thankful for?

Dear Salvation Army, Supercharge Your Ministry With Just One Word!

I once had an Officer, whom I greatly admire, tell me the secret to a successful, healthy corps.  Do you wanna know what he said?  Let’s see how long I can prolong the suspense…  okay, suspense over: He told me that there is one crucial ingredient in any ministry that will either make or break you.  That one crucial ingredient is this:  Love.

(Someone cue the Beatles singing “All you need is love”)

Okay, that felt better!

Question:
Do we love those with whom we have been placed to lead?
This is important…pay attention!
(this may be the only question to truly consider today)

The Dilemma:
The Salvation Army ministry as a whole is an often transitory process.  Officers come and go and this isn’t only difficult on the officers who are moved (sometimes faaaaaaaaaaar too quickly), but it is also difficult on the corps leadership as well as the soldiers and adherents.  I might even go out on a limb to say that it has some longer lasting impacts on the corps ministries than it does on the officers who were farewelled and/or recently appointed there.

The dilemma then becomes how can we love something or someone that is transitory?  How can love exist within this plain of ever shifting views, and an ever shifting leadership structure?  Even within divisions and territories when leaderships leave and a new one enters the fray, the vision and plan set forth changes.  So, that being said, how can we love within such an ever changing ministry dynamic?

I will be bold enough right here and now and say that we can’t.
We are not equipped to love so blindly at times, especially when we feel as if the last “move” was not God’s will but rather done politically or out of convenience sake for “the Army”.  Pardon my cynicism here.  Yes, we cannot love enough to replace the hurt and disappointment in our hearts sometimes.

We can’t love…by our own volition.  That being said, we CAN love by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our own love, at times, might take time to become whole again.  Our own love, might come along with us like our transported furniture does sometimes – bruised and broken (thanks movers!).  Our own love will sometimes leave us defeated and lacking enough in the reserves to give anything more to our families, let alone others.

To the counselors out there – don’t tell us to pray more.
don’t tell us that maybe we need to read the Bible
more.
don’t tell us that it’s just a “dry spell” spiritually
don’t tell us that we aren’t doing enough

Supercharge Your Ministry With Just One Word: LOVE…
No one ever said it was going to be easy.
In fact it may be the toughest thing you ever do.
It would be easier to operate from a place of “like” or even just “get the job done”, but it will never be as effective as it would if we fell in love with those we serve and lead.  I mean the kind of love Jesus had for His disciples.  I mean the kind of love the Apostle Paul writes about when he writes to Timothy and other leaders of the faith.

What would it take for us to love those we lead?
What would it take for our hurts to be replaced with healing?
For the broken pieces of our hearts to be put back together?  (The cracks might still be visible for years to come)   What would it take for our wounds to be transformed into healing scars?  You see, these bruises might take time to fade.  What would it take to supercharge our ministry?  Perhaps even that word “supercharge” implies something that we’re not even comfortable with.  Would it take a miracle of the heart?  Would it take a transformational power only the Lord could provide?

Don’t Be Jaded!
It might be easy to become calloused, hardened and cynical.
No one human leadership entity is perfect.  Things will be done to you that were not done with the “Lord’s will” in mind…But at the same time can we still be effective?  Can we still lead with that one word – Love?

Can I be honest?
There are days when I simply don’t know.
There are days when I shake my head at decisions that have been made and can’t help but feel betrayed.  That’s raw, but genuine.

The Truth Is: 
I will never let the Army define who I am.
I serve the Lord first.
I know in whom I have believed!
The things of this world, even the systems in which we serve in are imperfect and sometimes people make mistakes.  But you know what?  I won’t let those mistakes, those “political” decisions, those wrongs that were never reconciled define who I am as a child of the King.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very wonderful blessings along the way as well that we cannot over look either!  Sometimes there are blessings in disguise and in order to discover them we have to place our all on the altar again and live by faith.  (I know that this is very hard to do)

Can I supercharge my ministry with this one word – Love?
Not by own volition.
But I will through the power that strengthens me, which is the Holy Spirit.

Words of Wisdom Passed Down To Me: 
*  Don’t let anyone, other than the Lord, define who you are or give you a sense of self-worth.
*  Be strong in your convictions and yet, don’t be so convinced of your own self-righteous need to be right all the time.
*  Take time to listen and not just talk.
*  Love those that God has given to you to lead…and when your love isn’t enough, ask for more love that can only be provided through His supernatural power!
*  There is love in healing.
*  Relationships are important crucial to cultivate in a lifetime of ministry.

Something more for this army to ponder today…To God Be The Glory!

Personalizing Homelessness

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Can we identify with those who live on the streets?  I don’t mean hopeless conversations and pre-judgement calls such as “Well, they’re drunks and if I give them money they will just spent it on more booze…” That isn’t identifying with homelessness, that’s passing judgement on them.  Yes, something needs to be done, but casting blame, brow beating and ugly talk will not restore lives.  

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Just this past week, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson called for the removal of the “ugly, stupid anti-homeless spikes” in a modern upscale neighborhood after many took to social media sites to decry this horrific practice and homeless deterrent.  (source: http://rt.com/news/164952-anti-homeless-spikes-remove/) 

Although we can see this as a success in “spreading the word”, we shouldn’t just stop here to rest on our laurels, much work still remains to be done.  

Personalizing Homelessness – breaking the prejudgements:

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Some have argued that these protests against anti-homeless constructions infringe on the rights of the landowners or landlords.  Understandably, this is a concern.  Certainly those who are good stewards of their property wish to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for their tenants, but at what cost?  

How are we to care for others while taking care of the properties around us?  This is a troubling issue, and both sides of this argument require consideration.  Yet many times the campaign of driving homelessness from the streets of our cities is something done quietly. Why would it be done quietly? Some may wonder.  The reason is because of fear of public repercussions.  There are times when law enforcement officials are encouraged to drive homeless individuals to locations outside of town and drop them off.  When this type of practice happens we begin to dehumanize people. What is the value of a life today?  Even if that life is smelly, dirty and unhealthy, that person is still human.  

Making it personal: 

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What if that person on the street is your brother or sister?  What if that homeless person is a son or daughter?  Wouldn’t you want others to treat them fairly?  Would you want someone to help them?  There are many root causes of homelessness, drugs and alcohol are usually the first things we assume brought them to homelessness, but mental abuse and disabilities are also contributors.  These are the least of these in our communities.  These are people without voices.  What if we made homelessness personal.  What if we humanized these poor wretches for a moment.  I don’t use that term to make them seem “under” me by any means, but how much of a difference does it make to see them as equals to us?  Sure they may be without homes, incomes and families, but are they not still loved by an Almighty God who knows their names and loves them the same as He loves us?  

The difference between apathy and mercy:

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There’s a vast difference between these two words.  One speaks of indifference to others while the other speaks of compassion and love.  One is uncaring while the other cares.  Which are we?  Do we see people living on the streets…actually see them?  Is there something that WE can do?  I certainly don’t propose that we go and put ourselves in danger…but there is something we can do to avoid apathy in these situations.  Care.  Find places like The Salvation Army who can go in uniform with many hands to help clothe, feed and show love.  Become involved, volunteer in church groups who minister through soup kitchens and other feeding programs.  One such program is The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread club – http://www.usc.salvationarmy.org/usc/www_usc_detroithl.nsf/vw-text-index/9b2226ecdc63d0518025717f007045c7?opendocument

http://salvationarmynorth.org/community-pages/bed-and-bread-club/

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Contribute to authentic ministries and missions who actually go and help those living on the streets. Make homelessness personal. Each person who sleeps out there under bridges and in the nooks of buildings are still people.  Some of these homeless individuals have family members still looking for them.  We can either construct crude spikes on a street or park bench and drive them from our sight, or we can lend a helping hand without prejudging their motives or intentions.  

Homelessness should be personal to us.  We should care about others, and if we can help…we should. 

 

-Just another thought to ponder. 

Prayer: Lord help me to see others the way that You seen them.  Help me to be an instrument of Your peace.  Remove my prejudgments and prejudices.  Grant me wisdom and love, fill me with Your mercy, and may my hands become Yours.  -Amen.  

Perspectives Day 5.1 “Poetry” – Featuring Commissioner Harry Read “Heart-Talk”

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Heart-Talk

If I but give myself to thee, O Lord,
Roll over on to thee my life and way,
Acknowledge heavenly truth within thy word,
Believe thy love is constant every day

Then will I know the peace that trusting brings,
The power that issues freely from thy hand,
The joy which rises from eternal springs,
The quality of life which thou hast planned.

O grant me, Lord, the wisdom to believe
That life is only life when lived in thee;
Grant me the faith to ask and then receive
The promised life which Christ would live in me.

Shine thou through me thy love and righteousness –
A glow of hope in this world’s hopelessness.

Psalm 37: 5.6
‘Trust in him…he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.’

By Harry Read.
harry read

Is the traditional family close to death? 4 threats that will flatline the family.

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The divorce rate in the United States is at an all time high – 50% and climbing.  For married couples, the busy world around them and the drive to be successful can be both rewarding and detrimental to their relationship.  If that issue were not enough, children within the family structure are facing greater societal pressures and visual/auditory simulations than ever before.  From images and videos on the web to television and online streaming accounts, the standards of moral living and what accepted behavior is, which should be taught by the parents are being contradicted by these outside influences.  

The argument can be made (and rightly so) that it is the parent’s duty to monitor and regulate the “data” consumption of their children yet all too often parents are either too busy working or have little to no interest in correctly parenting their children.  This is just one danger that threatens families today.  A sociological description of this is summed up in the phrase: “if you want to change society tomorrow you must teach the children of today!” The question is, who is teaching our children if the parents are not?  

4 threats that will flatline the family:

1 Societal Pressures: As mentioned above, who is teaching our children and what sort of influences are we allowing to infiltrate our homes?  Sometimes these influences seem innocuous yet just beneath surface there looms a greater threat which could potentially disrupt the teachings of the parents.   I don’t wish to sound like an alarmist or fire the danger flares without a clear sign of danger but parents be aware of what you allow your children to see, hear and do while they live in your home.  You have the greatest power to mold and shape your children, don’t let these outside influences disrupt or distort the godly principles that you are displaying and teaching them!   

2. Busyness: 
Parents, this is a warning to all of us.  Do not let your work and your job become all that you do!  Your first ministry and profession is to be a good parent!  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work, but rather prioritize your schedule where possible in order to be there for your children.  The threat of “busyness” can be translated by your children to mean that they don’t matter to you, they are less important than your work, and this is how they should in turn become parents to their children in the future.  

Do you remember the old song “Cats in the cradle”?  In the chorus there’s that haunting lyric:
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then

You know we’ll have a good time then.”

And the song goes on and the son becomes just like his Dad and never has enough time because he is always busy.  
Spend time with your children.  Don’t let this threat flatline your family and your relationships to your children!  Someday, if we allow the busyness to consume us, we will come to regret all of the broken promises and unfulfilled plans that never happened because we never took the time.  

3.  Materialism: 
This might get personal, am I stepping on anyone’s toes yet?  Good! 
This whole “keeping up with the Jones'” needs to end in our homes!  We run the risk of becoming so “stuff” focused that we lose sight of the precious relationships we have right in front of us.  God gave us these living and breathing miracles to watch over, to teach and to love, and if we are so consumed with “stuff” what will our children see and want to become as well?  There are some things we absolutely need in this life, but then there are those things that we crave and desire and even covet.  Has materialism become an obsession in your household?  There is no doubt that in our media saturated world the “tech craze” has perpetuated our wants over our needs.  It has driven people to spend beyond their means and even at the risk of their families and livelihoods.  If we have become obsessed with stuff, not only do we run the risk of our kids following close behind us in our footsteps but perhaps we have removed God from His rightful place as well.  Does materialism rule you?  Beware of this family threat that could flatline your family.  Perhaps this threat may not flatline you right away, but gradually over time it has the propensity to wreck havoc in your lives and the lives of your children. 

4.  Financial Pressures: 
money
One of the biggest threats to marriages today falls within the realms of finances.  Some of these financial pressures are interconnected with the third threat of materialism.  Families dream of buying that bigger or better house only to find that they have a bigger and harder mortgage to pay per month.  Financial pressures build and create fissures within the marriage relationship.  Married couples have to then work harder and slave over longer hours to help pay for the financial mess they find themselves in.  Along with the housing pressures come the credit card pressures (I’m beginning to sound like Dave Ramsey now).  Credit cards can be useful at times but it can also perpetuate this never ending cycle of debt in some and the dependence on borrowing money that we do not posses to pay off.  “At the end of the second quarter 2013, there was approximately $850 billion in outstanding revolving debt, mainly credit cards.” (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/five-shocking-credit-card-debt-statistics/) 

Here’s another credit card statistic: “the average credit card balance per consumer was recently reported to be $3,779″ (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/average-credit-card-debt/) 

Many families are living from pay check to pay check and at times have become enslaved to their credit card debts because they have overspent and lived without a backup plan and/or financial understanding of realistically “living within their means”.  This isn’t a discussion about poverty or the rich vs. the poor, this is a discussion about understanding how dangerous credit cards and debt in general can be on the family structure.  Financial pressures can be inherited and taught just as moral principles of living can be taught.  This doesn’t mean that all children will emulate their parents all the way into financial woes but certain habitual traits within finances can leave unhealthy blueprints for our children’s future.  

Get out the paddles and jump start the family heart: 

 

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Spend quality time with your family!  Regulate and filter what your children watch and hear in a media saturated world!  You are the parent so take the time, live like it and share your love and passions (those things that matter) with your family!  Don’t let these threats flatline your family, instead jump start your crew by intentional time and care!  Plan creative family events.  Do a family movie night.  Talk around the dinner table.  Invest in your children and in what they love to do.  Go to their school events when you are able!  Show up, don’t merely attend!  The family is your first ministry.  From your home stems all other avenues of God’s love for the world around you!  Don’t let your family flatline, it’s far too valuable to lose!  

-Just another thought to ponder.  

 

 

 

“Lord, I love you THIS much!”

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“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) 

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Hey Dad guess what“, my son Ethan said as he looked at me with his ocean blue eyes and mischievous smirk.   Okay, I’ll bite, I thought to myself as I smiled back at him.  “What Ethan?”  I asked.  Seeing I had taken the bait, Ethan’s eyes lit up and his smirk broke out into a full smile as he quickly replied rather loudly “I LOVE YOU!” 

It is a game that we like to play.  We attempt to catch each other off guard with a simple question like “Guess what?”  As far as I can remember my Grandfather started this game and it is still going on today.  Truth be told, Ethan is rather good at it and at times he blindsides me with his spontaneous expressions of love.  

-Expressions of love-

What do our expressions of love look like when it comes to our Heavenly Father?  Does He receive our “first fruits” of love or just the left-overs?  When asked about the commandments and which was the most important, Jesus said “The most important one is this:…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31) 

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Do we understand realistically how important our love for God truly is?  Without this “first love” as our reference point all other ‘loves’ (including people) cannot be fully realized!  Jesus doesn’t just say “love God” but He goes on to say “With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (it is known as the Shema or “hear”).  In other words our expressions of love to God and the way we express THAT love is to be all or nothing.  This love is to be complete or completely useless.  Jesus’ usage of the word “ALL” means we must employ EVERYTHING in order to express our love to God.  From that love relationship with and to God, we can then begin to love those around us even those who we have deemed ‘unlovable’.  

How much? 

How much do we love the Lord our God?  How much have we expressed that love to Him?
Are we holding anything back?  Are we giving Him our first fruits of love?  
Can we say to the Lord: “Guess what? Lord, I love you THIS much!” as our arms are outstretched as far as they can possibly go?  
The depth of our expressions of love to God will determine the depth of love that we are able to show to those around us.  How is your love today?  

-Just something more to ponder.  

My Tribute to Moms

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We shouldn’t need a “special” day to thank Mom.  Every day should be a “special” day.  Moms have a way of knowing just when to call or tell you something that no one else has the guts to say to you.  Moms have been with us through the good, the bad, and the ugly (sometimes there has been a lot of “ugly”).  

Moms Get it

It is more than just Mother’s “intuition”, Moms seem to have a supernatural/extra-sensory connection with their children.  I’m not some sort of crackpot here, it’s just that I’ve seen it in person and I know there is more to a Mother-child connection than meets the eye.  Moms know what to say and sometimes more importantly what not to say but just to provide a hug or an expression of compassion, love and support.  

Don’t Mess with Mama

As a kid I remember saying something I shouldn’t have.  My mouth ran briskly while my brain was too slow to catch it.  What happened next is still vivid in my mind.  I nearly lost my nose, because the words I had said were directed at my mother.  They were bad words.  Words I should never have said.  Hurtful, razor sharp daggers of lingo…and I was wrong.  My mother slapped me on my face and I thought my nose was going to fly off.  I deserved it – lesson learned. 

But watch out world…

If you ever mess with Mama’s kids…you’re going to get a smack down like no other.  Some say World War 3 will be caused by Superpowers and nuclear war.  I beg to differ.  If you mess with Mama’s kids, you might as well hang a sign around your neck that reads “I caused World War 3.”  Image

 

 

Not only does Mom know what to say to help her kids and how to correct her kids, but she will defend her kids at all cost.  You deserve to be warned should you pick a fight with her children…you might just have taken your life in your own hands.  

To My Mom –

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My Mom and Dad

I love you and I am so proud of you!  You have helped me through a lot of things.  You have always been there (I know I’m lucky, some never had it as good as we did growing up).  You sacrificed a lot for us kids.  There were times that I know you and Dad went without things just to make sure Sherry and I didn’t.  I can never repay that kind of love except to replicate that example in how I love my children and in how I love you.  

As we all grow older I am learning how to cherish and treasure you as my Mother.  I am so thankful to God for providing you to my life. The decisions I have made in this life were because I had the instruction of two godly people growing up – Mom and Dad.  This is worth so much more than earthly treasures and riches.  This, as I am slowly beginning to realize more and more, is what life is all about.  

To my Wife – Shanais Strissel

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My Mom and Shanais on our Wedding Day (September 12th, 1998)

I am the luckiest man alive!  I married my best friend and life long companion.  She is an amazing Mom, and she personifies Christ to our children!  I consider myself blessed because She said “Yes” almost 16 years ago when I proposed.  Since then, through the good, the bad and the ugly, She has been a rock and a light to me and these four crazy blessings we call kids.   Wow…I still can’t find the words to express how much I love her and what she means to me.  That being said, I plan on spending the rest of my life trying to collect those verbs, adjectives and everything in between to try and bring to light how important and loved she is to me.  

For You, the Reader – 

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Hug your Moms.  Cherish who they are.  Life, this temporal thing, is short.  Take time to appreciate all that your mother has taught you.  Make sure you take the time to tell her how much she has done to shape you as a person.  

Don’t lose any opportunity to appreciate your Mom.  She deserves your respect and love…so show it.

-Just something more to ponder on this Mother’s day weekend.

 

“Perspectives” – Day 6 Featuring Jared Collins (Lieutenant) “The Fickle Nature of Love”

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The Fickle Nature Of Love

 

            I found out early last week that a young man, Reggie, who was in our corps youth programs a few years ago was arrested for the murder of a 15 year old kid.  I found myself going through an interesting thought process as I sought to make sense of the needless act of violence.  My first thought was, “What could I have done better as a person who had influence on this young man’s life that may have changed where he is today.”  I then was immediately ashamed of the thought.  Because I, like so many of us, had made the whole situation about me instead of others.  So then I thought about Reggie.  And I thought about where he was at that particular moment.

 

            At the College for Officer Training we, as has been a long standing tradition, went to the Cook County Jail during Christmas time to sing some carols and do a little devotional for the occupants.  My small group had an interesting time as we were sent to a cell block that was much smaller than those visited by our other groups so we were finished much more quickly.  So they sent us to a group of individuals who were just finishing being processed and awaiting a more permanent cell assignment.  It was one of the more profound moments of my Training for me.

            These (mostly) young men were just then realizing the gravity of their situations.  Most of the others in the cell blocks we had already visited had been there for quite some time.  Even though it was a jail and not a prison some, we were told, had been there in the process of their trial and, therefore, in that jail for over 10 years.  But these young men we were sent to had just been arrested hours before.  We quickly realized this wasn’t the place for some flippant Christmas carols and a message that would, no doubt, fall on deaf ears.  So we put the music and message aside in favor of individually speaking with each person who wanted to talk.  Almost every one of them was in the same mindframe – shock at the prospect of where a good deal of their future may be taking place. 

 

            And I thought about Reggie in those young men’s shoes.  We had gone to Stateville Prison as well while at CFOT and had met all the men who had (mostly) come to accept their sentences.  But, if Reggie was like those young men who were just finishing processing, he was a long ways away from a peaceful frame of mind.

So I wrote Reggie a letter.  It wasn’t long or particularly articulate, but I really felt led to tell him two things: I love him and God loves him.  Nothing about the arrest or the trial, just a short message of love.  I don’t know if Reggie truly murdered that 15 year old boy, but I do know that I love him and that God loves him. 

 

Which led me to the shame I felt after mailing the letter.  Maybe shame isn’t the right word.  It was more a reflection on the fact that I had mailed that letter without much thought for the deceased 15 year old or his family and friends.

The article that talked about Reggie’s arrest said that the arrest came with “the help of the community and social media.”  So I looked up Reggies facebook profile and saw that he had, indeed, posted something about the 15 year old’s death – expressing shock and dismay at the thought of losing someone whom he called a friend. 

His post was shared dozens of times, all from people who were outraged by his alleged audacity at posting something feigning innocence and ignorance when he may have pulled the trigger.  One comment was particularly interesting as it was filled with expletives and hate towards Reggie and ended with the innocent comment, “My prayers are with the [deceased’s] family.” 

Now I know that not all who use that last phrase are practicing Christians and it could just be a kind sentiment not meant to convey actual spiritual convictions, but I was struck by the seemingly two-faced nature of the comment.  On the one hand tearing apart and expressing hate while simultaneously expressing compassion.  I won’t say that it shocked me.  Nor will I say that I can’t imagine how someone could do that but, implicitly, I think my subconscious was saying to me that I would NEVER say something that duplicitous.

 

And yet…

 

I’m writing this right now as my wife is in the hospital with a beloved congregant because she was, just minutes ago, physically assaulted, maybe with a gun, and maybe raped.  And as a reasonably well balanced person I’m more than a little disturbed to have been sitting here contemplating going over to the residence of her attacker and sharing a piece of my mind and, perhaps, my fists.  This urge has been tempered by the understanding that the attacker has been taken into police custody but this understanding has NOT tempered my anger and maybe even hatred towards this man. 

            So now I ask myself, “What’s the difference between this attacker and Reggie?”  Should I not be just as outraged at Reggie for allegedly taking the life of a teenager?  Will I be writing a letter to this attacker telling him that God and I love him?  The obvious difference is in the knowledge and relationship that I have with the victim of tonight’s attack and with Reggie.  Because I know them and not the 15 year old boy or the attacker of my congregant, I am more prone to love and forgive them than I am those I don’t know.

            It’s a double standard, I know.  And it’s based on no rationality and I even acknowledge that it’s wrong and sinful for me to hate the attacker of my friend.  And I think, more than anything, it boggles my mind as I attempt to grasp the mind of God and the measure of his love and forgiveness. 

 

I think I finally understand where some of the 1st century Jews must have come from in their incredulity at the inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God.  How can God offer forgiveness and love towards them? 

I am a very loving person (though I don’t often express it in any grandiose way) and yet it is very difficult for me to find the love within myself for the attacker of my congregant because I know what he has done to my friend.  And to think that God, knowing the heart and actions of this man would still have love for Him makes no sense to me because I seem to be incapable of doing it myself. 

 

And so I know that this offers no new insight.  It’s almost a cliche to say that God loves you no matter what you’ve done.  He loves Reggie.  He loves the duplicitous writer of the facebook post.  He loves the family and friends of the 15 year old boy.  He loves my congregant.  He loves her attacker.  And he loves me, even though I struggle to always love them and myself for having conflicting thoughts. 

None of this is particularly revelatory except when I think that I, as a pastor, have the capability of harboring hatred in my heart.  It was naive of me to think that any massive change would happen to make me impervious to hatred or sin in general when the trim on my shoulders turned red.  But it scares me to think that these feelings may be in the hearts of my fellow pastors and officers.  And we may think little of these feelings because we implicitly believe they’re somehow outweighed by our “holiness” and righteous deeds. 

So it’s to us that Paul is writing the entirety of Romans 2.  But specifically verses 17-29. 

 

1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

 

12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

 

17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

 

25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

(NASB)

 

Thank you, God, for verse 11 – for showing no partiality towards or against us.  Forgive us for the times that we fail to feel and, even more, to show that impartiality to others. 

I want, dear Lord, a love that cares for all.  A deep strong love that answers every call.  A love like Thine, a love divine, a love to come or go.  On me, dear Lord, a love like this bestow1.

Create in me a loving heart, that people may see your impartial love through me. 

 

            In His Service,

            Jared Collins

 

1 George Galloway Jackson.  I want, dear Lord. SASB#426

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