Friday, September 23, 2011

Out of Tragedy Grows Hope

    It's been an emotional month. The IHOP shooting, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and the Air Race tragedy, not to mention the untimely deaths of a friend from high school and of a former co-worker, have shocked me, and many others, into various states of shock and bewilderment. I think that it's probably a part of human nature for each of us, when faced with death, to wonder "why", and when faced with senseless or untimely death we wonder it all the more. People aren't supposed to die when they are out to breakfast, or out for a day of fun with the family, or before they turn 40. But they do, and the reality of it is that the world we live in is broken. It's not meant to be this way, we aren't supposed to hurt like this, but things happen that even make God's heart break.
    It's a common belief that God is actively choosing who lives and who dies on a daily basis. And while that is sometimes comforting (because I am still alive), I don't believe it gives any help or comfort to the family and friends of someone who is no longer with us. Does God pick and choose? Or does he just "allow" bad things to happen to good people? Or is there another option? While I am no theological expert, there are a few things which I know based on my few years of experience: God loves the world. Our world is broken and bad things happen... a lot. God loves people and wants the best for them. God loves people enough to allow them to choose how they live. People make bad choices (myself included)... a lot.
     Hurt, abuse, racism, death (to name a few) happen because we as people choose them. And unfortunately our choices have ramifications which affect the people around us  whether we know them or not. I can't say why God doesn't step in and protect innocent people from our bad choices, but I can say that God has (and is) stepping in to redeem our bad choices. In fact, I believe that redemption is a lens that best defines how God interacts with people. God is a redeemer. He enters a situation that is hopeless and offers hope. Since the beginning (whenever that was) God has been in the business of fixing (redeeming) our mistakes and bad choices and bringing hope. And according to Scripture, that will be a huge part of the culmination of history. There will be no more hurt, or crying, or death, or sickness, or cancer, or war, or natural disasters, or selfishness, or envy, or greed, or (fill in your least favorite bad thing here). God will dwell with people and people will be in relationship with God in a world that exists how it was originally created to be. Unfortunately, we aren't there yet, and we are left to deal with tragedy.
     The beauty of who God is though, is that even in the aftermath of tragedy He is drawing people to hope. God can supernaturally bring peace and comfort in the midst of tragedy  Supernaturally people heal and move forward from hurts so deep they feel like dying as well. But God also works in stranger ways, through other people. A hug, a smile, a heart-felt "I'm sorry", or just simply being there without saying anything brings God's presence into a situation (whether you want Him there or not), and brings hope. Then we join with people in the process of picking up the pieces, redemption.
     As a follower of Jesus, I am an agent of redemption. Sometimes I'm not very good at it, but God can redeem that too. Yes, bad things happen, to everyone. Yes, our world is broken. Thankfully there is a God who loves us, and understands our hurt and doubt. Out of loss comes victory, out of hurt comes healing, and out of tragedy comes hope. As a Jesus-follower, I just have to be present and look for ways to love those around me.

   There's the root of our ancestor Jesse,
      breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
   Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
         Romans 15:12-13

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life begins anew...

     This past Sunday we spoke a little bit about seeds and yeast from our reading in Luke. The funny thing is that yeast has been on my brain for the last few months since my friend Andy and I have started brewing beer. I've fed it, nurtured it, listened to it, saved it, poured it, and tasted it. Our yeast has yet to do us wrong. It has consistently done it's job, consume sugar and produce CO2 and alcohol. Yeast is an amazing creature. In fact, one of the crazy things about yeast is that unless you try really hard (extreme heat or environments) it's hard to kill. It might produce some funky flavors that you don't want to drink, but it keeps doing its job, consuming sugar and reproducing. In fact even when the sugar is gone, yeast just goes dormant and sleeps until more sugar appears.
     That's a little like how I feel about this blog. Fresh Breath has had it's ups and downs. When I was able to devote serious time to it (without having to work 50 hours a week), I really felt it was doing something. Promoting discussion, encouraging people, and giving me an outlet for all the random thoughts which went through my brain. Once I started managing at BJ's, Mike White graciously stepped in and continued the conversation for more then a year, with my posts coming less and less often. However, due to a variety of issues, both Mike and I have allowed the blog to go dormant. Perhaps there just wasn't enough sugar around for us to consume... 
     But now, with the launch of a new website, some new stirrings in my heart, and some serious considerations going on about the next steps for the Pneuma Project (Jr. High camp anyone?), I think the yeast is waking up, and when one yeast starts eating again, it gets busy fast. So, here is my initial attempt to throw some sugar in the water. To create a space ripe for consumption and reproduction of the Kingdom of God. To revive my brain (and maybe a bit of my heart). And hopefully to say something that creates some kind of emotion in those of you who read this, to inspire you, to encourage you, maybe even to piss you off. But most of all to help us all realize that there is a Creator out there that hasn't given up on the world or on You. That sometimes works through an institution that many have labeled as "church", but is present (and active) in each bit of grace, beauty, love, and/or truth that you give or receive each day. Pneuma is about looking for and celebrating those small breaths of the Spirit that beckon all of us into something more each day; that call us to partner with God no matter where our background or beliefs may lie, and that most of all following the wind that pushes us into all that we were created to be.

     I'm looking forward to my next post, but most of all I'm looking forward to you comments and questions. So get excited, share this with those you know have given up on us in our dormancy, and join us as we seek to discover Jesus all around us. Until the next bit bubbles up, Cheers...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Line Has Been Crossed

Every aging generation seems to lament the passing of at least one aspect of what was considered the “good old days.” While I would never advocate going back to the time of no microwaves, flat-screen TVs, or Lipitor, there is one thing from the past that our society could certainly use these days. I’m old enough to remember a time in our nation’s history when we were more religious in a good way (not necessarily more Christian, which is a commonly held misunderstanding). On Sundays when I was a child, nothing was open. No stores, no gas stations, nothing except the local ER in case there was a real life-threatening emergency (as opposed to the drop-in clinic ERs have become nowadays). ATMs hadn’t been invented yet, but even if they had, you wouldn’t have needed cash on a Sunday--there just wasn’t anything open where you could spend money. If you forgot a key ingredient for Sunday dinner, for instance, you couldn’t head down to the local mini-mart, you’d have to borrow from your neighbor instead. Anyone born in the U.S. after 1970 probably can’t conceive of a world without Sunday commerce. While such a situation might seem horribly inconvenient by modern standards, when seemingly anything could be purchased at any time, there were some positive aspects that would bode well for our day and age.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yeah, You Are A Smart Ass!

I was taken aback recently by the unintended furor created over a Facebook post in which an attempt was made to provoke some thought about the wisdom of conducting a particular event sponsored by one of our local churches. Some of the reaction to the post was far from thoughtful and was extreme enough to be potentially hurtful, if not for the fact that, as a writer, I’ve learned not to take criticism too personally--especially knee-jerk criticism. Sifting through the charred remains of the aftermath, an attempt was made to evaluate how a Facebook interchange could go so wrong.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

I found an excellent article online regarding earth day, which is worth the time to read. 

For some bizarre reason, this link is not working, so go to and click on the article “On the 41st Earth Day, Let’s Go Shopping.”

Reno, Nevada

Monday, February 22, 2010

Got Shoes?

The Pneuma Project is partnering with Shoes 2 Share and BJ’s Restaurant-Reno for a shoe drive benefiting Haitian earthquake victims. Your donation of new or gently used shoes (work boots are the most needed) helps people in what is the poorest country in the Americas (even before the earthquake). Join us in helping tangibly with Haitian earthquake relief. 

BJ’s has also generously agreed to offer 10% an entree for each pair of shoes donated, so bring your shoes and share a meal! The shoe collection will go from now through March 15th. It’s fairly stunning to think that something so simple as shoes (which we all take for granted) can offer hope, safety, and opportunity to children and adults just a few 100 miles from our own country. If you have been looking for a way to help after the earthquake, this is another opportunity.  Do good. Bring the Kingdom.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Information Versus Transformation

A good friend was relating to me recently his frustration with some people in his circle who claimed to be Christians on the one hand but had an incongruous lifestyle on the other. They would rave to my friend about the latest teaching they listened to at the building and how much they were learning, and in the same breath talk about how much fun they had “hooking up” with their boyfriend or girlfriend the night before. The frustration my friend was feeling is identical to the frustration felt by most building leaders these days, a frustration born out of a disconnect between what congregants supposedly know in their head versus their day-to-day actions to the contrary.