Rise Again—An Easter Lament

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He is risen! He is risen indeed! And yet….

Death rains and reigns.
Evil dances.
Lies cry out.
And still He waits.

Your time is perfect,
Your grace severe,
Your patience intolerable

As children die
Women raped
Men slaughtered

A bike lies fallen
Bodies draped with sheets
Cars become tombs

How many more will die
Before one more is saved for eternity?

And where are Your people?
Who will cry out “PEACE! STOP!”?
Who will sacrifice for war to end?
When will the world arise?

Are we so terrified of the killing machines we ourselves have created that we will allow thousands more to die, to be raped, maimed, orphaned, before we will say with our lives, “ENOUGH!”?

And what of my own hypocrisy?

Yes, I care more for the thousands in Ukraine
than the thousands in Syria.

Forgive me, Gracious Father.

Aleppo broke your heart as much as Mariupol.
Or more, for its forgottenness in the world.

Let my heart break for
the widows
the orphans
the immigrants and refugees
the poor
wherever they are
whatever their skin or homeland or language or faith

Rise again, LORD Jesus
On this Easter morning.
Won’t you rise and bring death to its end

Judge the world
Strike down the brute
In the palace or the tent … or my own heart

LORD Sabaoth, LORD of Hosts
Bring an end to the reign of terror
Let the generals rise up against their commander
Let the privates lay down their arms
Let the officers and the sergeants end the atrocities

Reveal yourself as God of justice and wrath
…and grace

Rise again, my Lord and my God.

Ukraine

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A storm of thoughts and emotions is swirling inside me as I take in the news from Ukraine. Somewhere in my family history, on my mom’s side, we have roots in Ukraine—not a strong or deep connection, but it’s there.

Stronger is the pull from the four years I invested in the U.S. Air Force, fighting the Cold War that helped buy Ukraine’s freedom and independence from the oppression of the Soviet Union. Stationed in England, I took the Soviet threat seriously: we knew their missiles were pointed at us; a U.S. missile base was both built and decommissioned in the space of those four years, just eight miles from where I was stationed; F-5E fighter jets, painted and trained as Soviet fighters, were among the aircraft assigned to my base, flying to train western air forces in air-to-air combat. (The 527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron was the Air Force’s version of the Navy’s better-known Top Gun Fighter Weapons School.)

Some say the Cold War was a war of words—but they were words backed up by very real weapons, many of them nuclear. Those were scary times. Between the rhetoric and the propaganda (on both sides) and the missiles, life—particularly in Europe—was lived under a threatening cloud known as MAD: “mutually-assured destruction.” Our hope was vested in leaders on both sides who were reasonable enough to long for, and work for, a greater peace.

We won that war, that Cold War. Reason prevailed. Treaties were signed. Missiles dismantled. Oppressed citizens were empowered to rise against their oppressors to demand freedoms they’d never known. It wasn’t easy; change … transformation … never is. The pull back to what is known, what is comfortable—even oppression—is great. (I think of the ancient Israelites who, in the heat of the wilderness, yearned to go back to the familiar slavery in Egypt.) But the pull to something better won out, and throughout Eastern Europe, men and women endured the discomfort of change for the sake of their children and grandchildren.

Yet always there is someone who wants to go back, who misses the power that would have been, could have been, theirs under the old regime. They proclaim strength and freedom and prosperity. They decry the hard work of real freedom, they bemoan the discomfort of real transformation, they blame the present sufferings on the future hope. And their sweet words entice even reasonable men and women to offer up even their own power and freedom on an altar to evil.

History is repeating itself. Again. At what cost? Will Ukraine become the first casualty of a war for a new Soviet Union or will the invasion be crushed by a global coalition as happened in Kuwait in 1991? Will the world be drawn into a third Great War or is this, as some suggest, the biblical Armageddon—truly the War to end all wars?

Pray for peace. Fight for freedom. Silence the evil

No Shave November

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It’s been more than thirty years since I’ve had a beard. Eiley doesn’t care for them and, well, that pretty much seals the deal. This year, though, she graciously (though also rather reluctantly) allowed me to participate in #NoShaveNovember along with others at the Sonora Police Department, which I serve as a chaplain.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the goal of No Shave November is to raise funds and awareness for cancer prevention and treatment, particularly for men. (Sonora Police raised $525—which was matched by another donor—for the Cancer Patient Support Fund at Adventist Health Sonora). I love the fact that the day we presented the donation, one of our dispatchers joined the fun by giving herself a beard!

Part of my motivation this year was to honor my brother, who spent his last two years of high school—and life—battling cancer. Rick was eighteen months older than me and had already fought off a kidney disease before he turned eight. The summer before our family moved to Germany, in our physicals prior to the move, Rick was found to have testicular cancer. (I learned only in the last few years that the cancer was likely the result of an experimental treatment for the earlier kidney disease.) Rick spent his 16th birthday in the hospital recovering from surgery, and over the next two years would spend as much as three weeks at a time in the hospital receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Those treatments, of course, took Rick’s hair, meaning that over his last two years of high school, he had at least three different heads of hair: the straight, auburn hair he grew up with, a sandy-brown wig, and finally the dark red, wavy hair that grew back after chemo. Rick never had a chance to grow a beard. On March 26, 1980—an official high school graduate three months shy of his 18th birthday—Rick passed into eternity.

Rick, this beard’s for you.

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 25 :: Think

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“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing much.”

It was a lie—a big, bald-faced lie. In truth, he was thinking thoughts so weighty they almost terrified him. How could he possibly put that burden on her? Not now—already there was too much fear, too much insecurity, too much uncertainty … too much of too little.

Besides, the thoughts weren’t even formed in his own mind; words to express them would certainly fail. The thoughts were mere wisps of cloud; speaking them would be a breeze distorting their already-shapeless being. In the very act of speaking, the thoughts would dissipate into nothingness.

(It’s funny how that works, isn’t it—how we think in words, but verbalizing our thoughts fundamentally alters them?)

“You look deep in thought.”

“Sort of,” he lied again.

“So what are you thinking about?,” she pressed.

(Does it always have to be about something? Can’t we just think? To think about reduces the transcendent firmament of thought to a single, inconsequential subject line.)

“I don’t know—random thoughts. Nothing in particular.” At last, truth. (“Clouds” wouldn’t have been incorrect.)

“Well, can’t you think out loud? I want to know what’s going on inside you.”

(Be careful what you ask for.)

So slowly, haltingly, the words blew out. Wisps of ideas scattered. Unformed thoughts took shape. Fears peeked out as if from behind night-darkened trees. The words were, as expected, insufficient, inexact, incorrect. They described ideas he hadn’t had, distorted images that had been crystal clear before being breathed out. He wanted to retreat again, into the quiet refuge of thought.

(How is it that words can so befuddle a wordsmith’s thoughts?)

And as the words spilled out haphazardly, confusing and distorting the very thoughts she’d asked to know, her own thoughts joined with his, creating new thoughts, new life … and, yes, new fears.

“What if …? What about …? Could we …? What do you think about …?”

In the precise imprecision of language, thoughts give way to ideas, possibilities, hopes, dreams.

“So what have you been thinking about?,” he asked.

It’s her turn now.

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.

31-Day Writing Challenge—Day 22 :: Still

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[I’ve missed a few!]

Shhh…. Be still, my child. Abba’s here. Abba’s got you.

I know it hurts. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. But I’m holding you. I love you, and nothing can ever change that. I will never let you go. I will never stop loving you. No matter what anyone else says, no matter what anyone else thinks or does … I love you.

(But you have to love me—you’re my Abba.)

Yes, I have to love you … because I’m yours, because you’re mine … because I AM … I have to love you. I want to love you. I do love you. I love you because I love. I love you because I am love.

(That doesn’t count. I want to be loved for me.)

Yes, I understand—I want to be loved for me, too. And I know how it feels to not be loved for me. It’s hard. It hurts. So much, in fact, that I could just die. But—oh wait, I did die. I loved and loved and loved so much that it killed me. (Literally!)

My child, you will never be enough for others to love you for you. After all, if I’m not enough …. But you’ll never have to be enough for me—just let me be enough for you.

(I’ll try, Abba. I love you.)

I love you, too, my son. Now hush … be still … and know … that I am God. And I love you.

This entry is part of the 31-Day Writing Challenge 2021 from Five Minute Friday.