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...