Knowing Who Gets Your Bombas Socks

If you have ever bought a pair of Bombas socks I want to say thanks. These were being spread around the Place of Peace Meal last night. Just in case you have bought Bombas socks and wondered where the extra pair of socks went, some of them went to some of my friends last night.

I am pretty partial to Darn Tough Vermont socks but seeing these passed around last night has me thinking the world of Bombas at the moment.

Which reminds me of a quote from Stevenson’s book (actually from his grand mother) that I took a photo of to remember. Here it is:

"You can't understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close"
“You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close

His grandmother’s statement “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close” is profound truth. Reminds me of Shane Claiborne saying ‚ÄúI had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”

Most of us seem to self-segregate ourselves into groups who are almost exactly like us, or t least we pretend to be exactly like each other. Then we view (or again we at least pretended that) these problems as(are) outside ourselves and not affecting those we love. When we think of poverty, mental illness, addiction, incarceration, or any number of other non-related and related issues, we think in abstractions, rather than thinking of people we already love. I believe such self-segregation also leads to us and our friends feeling that we must hide our weaknesses and struggles, lest we be slowly be segregated out of our group.

If we would get up close and personal we would realize that when we talk about so many issues we are actually talking about our friends. We may, and probably will, still disagree on the solutions to such issues but we will at least be focused on trying to best help those we love, rather than just making sure our team wins an argument.

SIDE NOTE – Eric Glaze just got me. I am presently at Ruby Coffee reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson and sent a photo to him mocking him a little bit. He responded by sending me a photo of myself at sitting at Ruby. Really freaked me out since I couldn’t see him anywhere. Turns out some friends of his are sitting across from me and they sent him the photo.

I’m just glad I wasn’t doing something stupid or obnoxious.

Well played sir.

Where is God’s Grace in this Moment?

I just started reading Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy” and the opening chapter reinforced a theme that I have been experiencing a good bit recently. It involves asking where is God’s grace in this moment (or the correlated question of “where is God’s grace absent in this moment?”). One of the podcasts that I really like right now is primarily based around this question (thanks Conor for introducing me to the Mockingcast). It is also the question that directs Tapestry’s book group and movie group – in each we ask this question concerning the book we just read or the movie we just watched – we’re going to do this again when we watch “A League of Their Own”, there may not be crying in baseball but there is grace ūüėĀ) . Part of the beauty of this question is that whenever we actually encounter God’s grace it calls for us to respond. I’ll use a puppy from the Minnesota Basset Rescue to explain what I mean here.

Willie the basset hound
Look at this face and tell me you don’t suddenly want to rescue a basset hound?!?!?!? Whose the best boy – besides Clive?!?!?

Pam and I are obsessed with basset hound rescues. Two of the three basset hounds that have been a part of our lives have come from the Loozianna Basset Rescue and we are so thankful for these amazing people who care for these lovely dogs who have often been put through hell on earth. So we get our dogs through basset rescues (seriously who could have mistreated Clive, the greatest of all dogs), go to basset hound events that are sponsored by these basset rescues, and we subscribe and interact with their social media accounts to enjoy and encourage the great stories of recuses that happen through these agencies. This past week the Minnesota Basset Rescue saved 4 puppies from two different bad situations. The photo to the right is of Willie one of the three 4 month old bassets that the MBR rescued. Don’t you just want to say “Ahhhhhhh!”. It is hard not to respond to his cuteness … even for cat people. So let’s use Willie as an example of what recognizing God’s grace in a moment is like.

Lots of people will see Willie and think “how cute” and then go on with eating whatever pastry they are eating. It is a nice moment in their day but it changes nothing. It is a brief warm, fuzzy feeling, but at the end of it Willie stays in his horrific situation – and others might be put into similar circumstances because more puppy mills will develop to produce more consumable cuteness. The wonderful people at the basset rescues see such cuteness and think “Such cuteness cannot be allowed to stay in a horrific situation. THIS CANNOT STAND!” and then they work to change the status quo that would allow Willie to be in dangerous and uncaring circumstances. They see the grace of cuteness in horror and believe that such grace can be expanded to overcome the horror. Seeing such grace changes the status quo.

Let’s take a moment to enjoy Willie’s cuteness again – he’s the one in front.

Seeing God’s grace in a moment calls for gratitude for the grace in the moment and action to expand or continue such grace through other moments and in other lives.

So back to Stevenson’s book. In his first interaction with Henry, his client, Bryan Stevenson is very concerned that he doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to help Henry. Bryan isn’t a lawyer yet, he’s only a student. In fact, the only info he has for Henry at the moment is that they are looking for a lawyer for him, even though he has been on death row for two years, and that he will certainly not be executed in the next year. Not a lot of hope in such statements. Stevenson practices what he is going to say but the second he sees Henry he breaks down and begins repeating over and over “I’m really sorry”, “I’m just a law student, not a real lawyer”, and barely gets out “you’re not at risk of an execution anytime in the next year.”

Henry suddenly gets super excited upon hearing this news. Bryan Stevenson was the first person from outside death row that Henry had seen in two years. In those past two years he hasn’t seen his wife and kids because he was sacred that they would schedule a trip a and he would then be given an execution date while they were there. He couldn’t do that to his family. The uncertainty had led to him asking them not to come, even though he desperately wanted to see them. Now with knowledge that the next year would be free from an execution date he could see his wife and kids. The statement seemed so small and insignificant to Stevenson, but it was the gift of seeing his family to Henry. Stevenson saw God’s grace in the moment, especially when Henry began to sing as he was taken back to his cell, and seeing God’s grace changed him. Henry would no longer be alone, Stevenson would work to make sure of this.

God’s grace wants to expand. We need to look for moments of God’s grace and then work to cultivate the soil of our lives and societies for the expansion of such grace.

Look for His grace in your life. Let it expand. Encourage its growth.

Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument - Reinhold Niebuhr

Love Your Enemies

The Terrell family has been, and still is, dealing with the sickness that has been going around Central Wisconsin. Last week it was me. This week it is Pam. Anyhow because of feeling cruddy I have been out of the loop a little bit. So it wasn’t until this weekend that I saw Arthur Brook’s wonderful speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. You can watch it in the video above. I would highly encourage you to watch it.

Jesus told His followers “love (our) enemies and pray for those who persecute (us)” (Matthew 5:44). Such action is subversive to the status quo and counter cultural. If anyone professing to be a follower of Jesus tells you not to love your enemies and not pray for those who persecute you, well, they are teaching the opposite of Jesus., and, therefore, in my humble opinion WRONG. Such a statement (don’t love those who are your enemy) has more in common with Sigmund Freud (it is impossible to love your enemy) and Friedrich Nietzsche (loving your neighbor is actually a form of contempt for them) than it does the way of Christ. Jesus literally prayed for His enemies as they were nailing Him to the cross. He loved the one who was betraying Him. Then He called His followers to behave in the same manner.

Since her beginning the church has faced the temptation to rely on the gods of power rather than the power of God. The gods of power call for us to hate those who are different from us or those with whom we disagree. The power of God calls on those of us who claim Jesus a our Lord to love them. The gods of power demand that we belittle those with whom we disagree. The power of God instructs us to stand up for those with whom we can’t see eye to eye. The gods of power lead us to view our enemies with contempt. The power of God begs us to reject contempt for our enemies.

Anyhow I would encourage you to watch Brook’s speech. I think he did a great job of convey what this looks like in our modern political atmosphere.

The President is WRONG

I try to avoid writing about specific politicians while not avoiding talking about political issues. I believe it is a Christian’s responsibility to try to speak, and live, the love of Jesus into the issues of their countries. I also believe it is my responsibility as a pastor to encourage the people who I am privileged to pastor to live out their faith in the way in which they are involved in politics. I don’t believe that I should specifically, publicly recommend or condemn politicians by name. I will gladly personally tell anyone who I am considering voting for or have voted for, but I don’t speak about or write about such things in what I consider public forums. As I have written above, I try to talk and write about political issues, not politicians.

But I am going to change this for a brief moment.

President Donald Trump began his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast by saying “And, Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you. (Laughter.) But I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say.” Arthur Brooks was the speaker before President Trump and the gist of Brooks’ eloquent message was that as a Christian he had been raised to love his enemies and not hold contempt for those with whom he disagrees. Here’s a quick snippet from Brook’s speech:

Trump did not expressly say “I disagree with loving your enemies and not holding in contempt those who disagree with you”, BUT I believe starting your remarks off with the statement “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you” seriously implies that you are disagreeing with the main point of the previous speaker. Especially if you then begin to attack your political enemies during your speech at a supposed prayer breakfast. You can also add to this that the only visible person not to raise their hand in response to Brook’s question, “How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically?” was the President. If it is the case that President Trump was disagreeing with Brook’s main point, and let me state clearly that I think it is, then as a Christian minister I feel that I must say HE IS WRONG!

Such a statement has more in common with Sigmund Freud (it is impossible to love your enemy) and Friedrich Nietzsche (loving your neighbor is actually a form of contempt for them) than it does the way of Christ. Jesus literally prayed for His enemies as they were nailing Him to the cross. Then He called His followers to behave in the same manner. If the President says the opposite of this he is WRONG.