Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas in a Box

I watch my kids play and sit in bewilderment at the things they do when they think no one is watching. Every Christmas when the tree comes out, my son grabs his action figures and plays on the branches with them like it was the only thing he desired to do in his entire life. I used to do strange things like that too. I still do sometimes. I still lay in front of a small heater with the window open, freezing my wife into frustration. I do it because it helps me fall into sleep, which is something I have always had trouble doing.

When I was a kid, I would lay in front of the heat register when everyone was sleeping and just stare at the tree twinkling despite anyone but me being awake. I would wait for the clanking sounds that the furnace would give off minutes before it would push hot air into the house. I remember the smell of the heat as it hit my face. If I didn't fall asleep by the time it gradually produced cooler air and turned off, I would wait for those noises again and feel real peace when I heard them. Those moments were mine. I would get up and play in the tree just like my son would. We had these little elves that we would put on the tree and I wanted nothing more every year than to play with them. All year, they would wait in that box until late November when they would become my muse. I like to think they are still on some tree right now and not in a box waiting for eternity. My mother bought me similar ones off of Ebay a few years ago when we couldn't figure out where the elves had gone. At Christmas, in my mind everything was crystal and the heat vent was my closest friend.

I played a stuffed bear in my church Christmas pageant when I was a very small child. I had a handful of lines that were aimed at making people laugh just because I was cute. I remember watching all of the costumes and old people sewing together last minute mistakes by the children. I remember the crowd smiling as if there was no violence going on in the world. There were little old ladies in grey and red blazers with poinsettia lapel pins and old men with pinstriped tweed slacks. They all called each other brother and sister and greeted with a hug for the women and a handshake for the men. After the play, we would all go deliver groceries with the Goodfellows of River Rouge to people that needed food on their doorsteps.

Christmas is one of those things that science cannot explain. It is every much an emotion as it is a calender holiday. Those emotions are driven mostly by our memories of the way we experienced this holiday as kids. I think that is why it is so perfect. As kids, most of us can only see the light, where no violence happens to us. So these memories bring back this feeling that is stored in a box all year and brought out just as strong as it ever was in us. Everything becomes crystal and beautiful again. It makes us remember that we are all the same and yet have such different experiences. No wonder why Christmas is the holiday that people most donate their time, money, and services to give to someone else. The absolute spirit of Jesus.

I hope that Heaven is a child's choir singing peace into the world, and recreating every precious memory we have ever had of something beautiful.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Great Grizzly Brown

"I didn't know I wasn't dead until I walked right out of hell." -The Great Grizzly Brown

The television flickered and flashed across the screen as people waited for the static to clear and the picture to return. One moment they were watching a large man hold a very primitive but effective looking ax over the seizing body of The Great Grizzly Brown. This was one of the New York coliseum's most hyped duels. The Grizzly had taken down 9 straight opponents bringing him to the tenth. The tenth had never been achieved. When you take down ten, you earn your freedom. No one had ever earned their freedom. The large man standing over him was this monster the media named "Samson." He was on his fifth straight victory, which means, he had taken the lives of five men that also shared his captivity. There was a very dreadful way in which he won his battles. Never by accident, and never without screaming. This one had been in lights for months.

Grizzly Brown was not a crowd favorite as he never addressed the media or spoke after he took another man's life. He would make the fatal move and lean down to the man losing life's blood and whisper into his ear and deliver a finishing blow to the head. It drove people crazy to not know what he was saying. Was he taunting them? Was he telling them he was sorry for what he was about to do? Either way, he never told the crowd what they wanted to hear.

Samson didn't speak much either. He was a school teacher before his sentencing. "Hard to imagine him in front of a desk," the newsmen would say as they flashed replays of him stabbing a man in the jugular over and over, holding his head up by the hair, letting his blood drain all over his feet. When he was sentenced, he was originally sent to the boiler room. This was a death sentence for most as they would drop you into a pool of boiling water. They got him to the edge and kicked him in. He fell in and went under causing a wave of water to rush over the edge from his large frame. He began thrashing around and flinging boiling water over the edge to the faces of the executioners, scalding them. He screamed in a rage of pain and anger and pulled himself out of the water and onto the side of the pool where the executioners lay buried in their faces. He snapped the neck of the first and threw the second into the pool. He was almost impossible to subdue. He made such a fantastic show that the president chose to enter him into Death Valley, the tournament in which he was at the time the static came, about to win.

Grizzly Brown was a Scotsman who's infant baby was thrown into his own fire place and wife shot in front of him. Grizzly Brown was said to have killed the machine gun clad soldiers with their own rifles and bayonets. The story was legend, but a photo was leaked of one of the soldiers being removed from the home with a bayonet protruding from his ear. It took 2 weeks before the authorities located him, which incidentally happened when Grizzly Brown actually made it into the president's house with a cleaver and kicked open his bedroom door. He was shot in the back and dropped. A mere two days later he was sentenced to Death Valley and locked in a small stone cell with a dirty bandage covering his wound. 9 lives later. Gallons of blood later. 9 souls released from their prison cells. Whatever he whispered into their ears gave them a sense of calm, that was clear. They would go from screaming and twisting about, to lying still, until they saw darkness.

This was freedom standing over him with an ax. One more and he would be free. The ax comes down and static. The entire world sat on the edge of their seats for the cloud of chaos to end and sanity to return to their eyes.

10 minutes later, the cameras returned the viewers were shocked to see Grizzly Brown walking out of the arena to his holding cell as bagpipes roared his theme song..."Lay me down, in the cold cold ground...." People were cheering and shocked and some were just holding their mouths in bewilderment. The body of Samson lay in the middle of the arena face down with his skull chopped in half.

The president outlawed any speech of the battle and immediately begun promoting the next big fight. No one attending said a word and The Great Grizzly Brown's freedom he had earned was stripped of him due to a guard's report that he had murdered one of their own, found dead in the recreational area. For now, The Great Grizzly Brown would have to continue the fight.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Even The Bad Guys

Things matter until they don't anymore. There are these undefined moments that no one warns you about where you forget about every little thing that once festered in you. These moments where all you can do is wander your own mind for an answer that seldom comes. Times like these when your brother dies and you answer the phone to your other brother in a panic with a voice so other worldly. Times when you are at home and the phone rings and your child has been in a car accident. Times like when the soldiers ring your doorbell with a flag in hand. You forget everything you have ever cared about except the one person you would melt through a wall for. These moments, no matter how terrible and traumatizing they may be, are what make life beautiful. The very reality that we can love so much and work so hard for something we consider better than ourselves, makes all of life's toils seem trivial.

I ask myself this question...Who could stop me if you placed my brother in front of me? Who could keep him from my embrace? Most importantly, who could keep me from my God? It is important for the ones who believe that Jesus rides with you, to remember that one day when our eyes close and the little ticking in our chest subsides, we will be standing before the very God that allowed His flesh to be ripped from His body and thrown to the ground like and animal hide. To stand face to face with Him. To remember the way the cold steel felt beneath your neck. To taste the carpet again as you remember the hours on your face. There is nothing that could keep me from my God. Nothing.

So easy to forget what we are working for. So easy to forget that life isn't about punching a clock and hoping for a good day. Life is so much more. Life is sharing in the lives of others. Life is listening beyond what someone is saying and hearing what they are really saying. Life begins with Christ and thrives in the restoration of humanity. As ugly as we may be sometimes, we are bigger than we look. We are more than our appearance, even the bad guys.

Photo credit to: http://intao.deviantart.com


Thanks for reading...Z

The Church In Peril

As a pastor for over 12 years, I have hesitation when writing this
blog and I will choose my words very carefully. Some of what I write
may sound inflammatory or cynical against the church or it's
inhabitants but this is not the intent. The intent is to speak about
what I think is clearly happening the the United States church.
I will begin with what I don't mean.

*I don't mean to disrespect any church or it's leaders.
*I don't mean to sound as if I know it all or have figured anything out fully.
*I don't mean to be too harsh or allow my pride to make me unteachable
to criticism.
*I don't mean to open my mouth and allow the words of the devil to
come out of it.

That being said ahead of time.... I love you. I love the church. I
love the United States. Most of all, I love God, which is why I write

The United States may just be the most impoverished country in the
world. We eat freely, we sleep freely, we assemble freely, and we
become habitually entertained. We still are the richest nation in the
world and it sounds arrogant to place us below countries without
drinking water. However, we are certainly teetering on being the most
spiritually barren. You can look around and see the way the world is
changing, especially the US and no one would argue that it seems to be
losing blood and weakening. So much of what our culture and society is
standing on is based on money. Our entertainment isn't following the
cultural norms, it is driving them. Our politics aren't based upon the
voice of the people, but the voice of the wealthy. Our morals and
ethics are not based upon our upbringing and homes, they are quickly
becoming driven by our media culture and ideals that don't really have
a base in any tested theory or doctrine. We are a country that has
lost value of life. We kill for many reasons, but here are a few that
don't match with the Bible.

*Revenge killing- One may have committed crimes against another, so it
becomes ok to commit the same crime to them. If you deserve it,
killing is ok. However, the Bible says we all deserve it.

*Convenience killing- If a life doesn't make sense for our plans and
goals, regardless of our actions to achieve that life, we have the
right to end the life. We can use our untested and untrue moral that
is based on the media all we want as justification, but there is no
science behind you.

*Pre-emptive killing- Made popular by politics, this one says, "Let's
look at our nation as the standard for everyone to live by and
eliminate those that don't subscribe." We have made ourselves the
Bible for the rest of the world. We will nuke you and have, but if you
mess with uranium, we will bomb your residents. We are the all
powerful dictators of the land. We have divorced our constitution.

What does this have to do with the church? Everything. We meet in
buildings made of beautiful stones and stain glass that presents our
suffering Christ. We sing together and hold hands. We listen to a
lesson on what God wants from us. We put our money in the plate. These
are all good things. But where is the follow through? Where are we
Monday through Saturday? Where is the fire and passion to make real
change in the world around us? Where is the Jesus ending up in our day
to day? I disgust myself often. I realize so many times that my words
are many and actions few. I speak of change and find myself changing
nothing. A very valid and applicable message can go in my ear and
register in my consciousness and leave out the other side moments
after the final prayer. All of our talking and holding hands mean
nothing without follow through. We have let our country go where it
has gone. It is the duty of the church to preserve the world. God said
we are the salt of the earth. We both preserve and flavor, yet the
church has become synonymous in our culture with mean spirited,
bigotted, political, and hypocritical. Much of what is said about us
is fabricated from this media again, however, not all of it. The
church needs to be seen as a healer and mender, not in groups of
whining people, shouting about our rights being imposed on. The church
is flourishing more in places you do not have the right to be a
church. They are sending missionaries here! We are flawed and broken,
but there is hope. God is good and faithful. God reigns still in us.
But God hates the lukewarm Christian. We are about to be vomitted!
What happens when the stones of our buildings get dismantled and

Doom and gloom. Nope. Hope. We pray and we listen for God. We shut our
mouths and get back to the basics of loving God and loving other
people. We love in a more practical way. Instead of raising awareness
for people in peril, go to them and help them in whatever way God lays
on your heart. For some, keep your money and use your hands. For
others, sell off all you have and give to the poor. Remember that true
religion is related to helping widows and those in prison, not holding
hands and singing through our tears. We need to worship, but we need
to stop crying and do something. Holding our hands outstretched to God
is only valid when paired with holding our hands outstretched to other
people. We don't fight an evil culture through our words, we fight
through our actions. If we all unify and shower this country with
love, those living in the dark will be able to finally see the hope we
profess. America is hiding it's light. The church in America needs to
be awakened, not by argument, but by example. This darkness in our
church must no longer be tolerated.

I write this out of a recognition of the darkness in me and my desire
to light up for all those around me. I am the worst offender, but
change comes with humility. Light will be found in Christ and our
obedience to following you He is.


Thanks for reading...Z