The Path of Suffering and Beyond

“God’s ways are at times like heavy wagon tracks that cut deep into our souls, yet all of them are merciful.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Grace God’s Unmerited Favor*
Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. Something bad happens. And the landscape of our story changes completely. We have a new perspective, a new direction. A bad thing works for good that we did not foresee.
I have a friend who worked in an ice cream truck when he was 17 years old. That seems like a job that would have few challenges. But one day, he was robbed and beaten. The event changed the trajectory of his life.
He became a career prosecutor. He devotes his life’s work to pursuing justice for those who are robbed, beaten, cheated, or worse.
A neighbor’s grandchild was born with serious handicaps. He and his parents faced challenges most of us cannot imagine. But two of his aunts found inspiration and, because of him, became therapists.
A former student’s younger sibling was born with a genetic disorder. This student is in medical school studying to become a geneticist. She may change the life trajectory of others who suffer from similar conditions.
We Christians love to quote Romans 8:28–“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
But we sometimes neglect the following verse: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
We are creations still in the shaping process–being conformed to the image of Christ.
Most of us can look back and clearly see our turning points. We can realize now that we found a life path because life changed one day. Unexpected. Unpredictable. Even unpleasant and painful.
But never, ever without purpose.

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Clinton, Trump and the Curse of the Cubs

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox broke the curse of 86 consecutive years without winning the World Series and George W. Bush won reelection.
The Friday after Election Day, I was a guest co-host on a local political television show. A caller suggested that since the Redskins had won their football game the previous Sunday, a recount would show that John Kerry had actually prevailed.
I replied that it didn’t matter what the Redskins had done. The Red Sox had won the Series. We now occupied a parallel universe.
The next year, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series ending their curse, also of 86 years.
That leaves Chicago’s Cubs with the last curse of baseball. And it’s been a whopper–making Cubbie fans wait 108 years since their last championship. Continue reading “Clinton, Trump and the Curse of the Cubs”

Imago Dei or Spare Parts?

“Man does not exist to serve the economy, but the economy exists to serve man” (49). Rod Dreher
It’s the stuff of sci-fi movies. The Matrix, Soylent Green, and Coma all depict people as resources–energy, food, or replaceable body parts.
In 1979, the sci-fi film Parts: The Clonus Horror depicted young people cloned from the rich and famous. The clones served as spare body parts to give their “parents” immortality.
Many today have concluded that humans are the result of chemicals actions and reactions. There’s nothing more to us. Therefore, there are no moral parameters, no absolute rules. And that view is coming into clearer focus around the world as a market grows for human body parts. Continue reading “Imago Dei or Spare Parts?”

A Good Tip for Sunday Diners

“Christians, you know who needs Jesus on Sunday’s? The people you encounter outside of the church. I’ve had tons of conversations with people who genuinely didn’t know what an appropriate tip amount was (it’s 20% of the original bill), and I totally understand that…but everyone knows the Golden Rule.”  Aubrey Dale
Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back DeAngelo Williams ate at a restaurant recently and left a bad tip–75 cents. His server posted what happened on social media. Williams replied, also via social media, that his service had been terrible. He had hoped to send a message through the bad tip rather than speaking to the server’s supervisor.
Because of the publicity, the server lost her job.
He was trying to send a silent message. She was trying to spark a public outcry.  Continue reading “A Good Tip for Sunday Diners”

The Life-Saving Fragrance

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?  II Corinthians 2: 15-16 .
The aroma of jasmine and lavender candles filled my house as I stepped outside to taste bitter smoke. A mild wind had dispersed the fumes from a fire about five miles away.
Two sources of flame, one pleasing, the other a devastation.
As I came upon a late blooming rose, I bent to find its scent. But smoke overwhelmed air.
I live at the top of a hill in my city in a middle-of-the-middle-class kind of neighborhood. In some places down the hill, several schools participate in a backpack program that sends food home every Friday so kids don’t go hungry over the weekend.
America is supposedly in the midst of an economic recovery, yet one out of every seven people receives food stamps.
In cities where some people experience prosperity beyond the imagination of previous generations, there is a third world desperation also previously unimaginable. Even with all available aid and in the richest country in the world, some American kids are trading sex for food.   Continue reading “The Life-Saving Fragrance”

BLOGPOST: Fighting Fiends, Loving Beauty

“Notwithstanding the beauty of this country of Faerie . . . there is much that is wrong in it. If there are great splendours, there are corresponding horrors; heights and depths, beautiful women and awful fiends; noble men and weaklings. All a man has to do is to better what he can.”
George MacDonald, from Phantastes.
Horrors and splendor. That’s what we find in life. The horrors, what we do to each other and things that happen by chance.
Still, there are splendors of God’s expression of beauty, His beauty within our hearts that sometimes comes out through our hands. Splendor is often our response to horror.
On Sunday, we marked 15 years since 9/11. Terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives in Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and New York City.
In my third year of teaching, I was overseeing a class of seventh and eighth-graders when the plane hit the first tower in New York City. The moment marked us all. Continue reading “BLOGPOST: Fighting Fiends, Loving Beauty”

Blot and Beauty of the Human Spirit

A few years ago, a video showing a woman stealing a baseball from a young girl went viral.
It seems a small thing, given all the horror of the world today. Except that this child indelibly learned how selfish people can be. One act paints two souls, the one who acted and the one acted upon. A blot on two hearts.
That is no small thing.
But sometimes people step up. Even when they don’t have to. Even when no camera, no one else, is looking. Continue reading “Blot and Beauty of the Human Spirit”

Mother Teresa and the Hunger for More than Food

Repost from October 2015–a tribute to Mother Teresa.
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. Ezekiel 16: 49-50.
When I teach students to write, I always tell them to save the most important point for last. In Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness, Eric Metaxas saved the most profound story for the end of his book, the story of Mother Teresa.
I don’t remember where I was when I learned about the death of Mother Teresa even though she died on the same day in 1997 that Princess Diana died. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember. It seems odd now because Mother Teresa was one of the most iconic figures of the second half of the twentieth century.
I knew that she ministered in Calcutta, India, that she lived a modest life of self-sacrifice. That’s who she was in a nutshell, but she was so much more as Metaxas points out. Continue reading “Mother Teresa and the Hunger for More than Food”

Silence about Rape and Torture

Some scandals are so massive that they’re simply hard to believe. But this one is true.  As many as one million white, English children may have been the victims of Muslim rape gangs, better known as grooming gangs, in towns up and down Great Britain.”
Abuse of war victims is as old as war itself. The conquering army claimed the lives, land, and goods of the conquered. And then raped the women and children of the defeated. Rape and horror were part of war.
And then we became more civilized.
But then there was the Holocaust. Nazi Germany exterminated 12 million people, six million Jews, six million people of ethnicities the Nazis deemed unworthy of life. Captive women were also subject to rape.
Many Germans and much of the world stood by, silent. As if what happened was too massive, too horrible to be real. Continue reading “Silence about Rape and Torture”