American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Posted by on Feb 24, 2018 in Anger, Character, Community, Courage, Culture, Hope, Redemption, Venus and Vegas | 3 comments

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my option it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

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A Spirit of Sadness

Posted by on Oct 4, 2016 in Compassion, God, Hope, Redemption, Transcendence | 46 comments

img_3554Today I’m filled with sadness.

This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year.

I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror.

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Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Community, Compassion, Courage, Culture, Forgiveness, Hope, Redemption, Transcendence | 19 comments

Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
  • A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
  • A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
  • A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then response with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
  • A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others

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A Do-It-Yourself-Psalm

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in God, Hope, Redemption, Uncategorized | 0 comments

diyI’m not much of a poet, but Psalm 124 provides a template that even I can follow in writing a personal expression of praise.

If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
would have swept us away.

6 Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

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Shame Returns, The Sequel

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 in Character, Jesus, Redemption, Transformation | 5 comments

shameMan, am I vulnerable to Shame!

Those who know me, have heard me speak, or have read some of my blog posts, know I have a passion to see men (and women) freed from Shame. (I even capitalize the dang word because of its significance.)

I’m often reminded that the root of my passion about this subject is my own vulnerability to the message of self-condemnation, and disappointment in self, that rears its head on a regular basis.

Shame is the message that, not only did I do something wrong, but there is something wrong with who I am. Guilt is conviction about our behavior; Shame is condemnation about our identity. Conviction comes from the voice of the Holy Spirit. Shame is the condemning lie from the Enemy.

I know all of this. Yet I am still vulnerable. My guess is I’m not the only one. Because Shame returns.

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Glory and Ruin, Part II

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Character, Heroes, Redemption, Transformation, Uncategorized | 0 comments

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”   —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn As a survivor of the Gulag Archipelago, the massive Soviet system of prisons to which political and religious dissidents were abandoned from the 1940-80’s, Solzhenitsyn had an unusually awful exposure to mankind’s wickedness. Though he might have considered himself above those who committed such crimes, he was honest enough to admit his own flaws. I am convicted, and compelled, by the fact that men are capable of performing some of the most heroic of acts, as well as the most heinous of crimes. (I touched on this theme in a post a year ago, also entitled Glory and Ruin). Our daily headlines reveal stories of men engaged in life-risking bravery alongside depictions of men committing unspeakable brutality. Glory and Ruin. It would be nice, as Solzhenitsyn suggests, if we could just separate the wicked men of our world into a consolidated group and just get rid of them. The truth, as honest men will admit, is more complicated. Although there are without question, unusually evil men and unusually good men in the world, most of us know that, while we long to become men who others trust and admire, we also have the capacity for selfishness, betrayal and deceit. Glory and Ruin. I am convinced that, just as men carry the potential to inflict unusual harm, they carry equal potential to bestow unusual blessing. Glory and Ruin resides in all of us (women, too, by the way). Scripture urges us to  “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Heb. 3:13, 14. Men, let’s take an honest look in the mirror, and admit and repent of any selfish patterns of Ruin. And then, quickly, embrace the Glory present in all of us who claim the transforming power of the blood of Christ. Glory and Ruin. I see it in me; I see it in other men. You do, too. Believe in, and call out, the...

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