Yes I Am

White and privileged, that is.

And frankly I’m dismayed that some attempt to deny it. They fuss and carry on, claiming “white privilege” doesn’t exist.

“White privilege” is a lot like it sounds:

Being white and being privileged. I am what I am. And denying it is absurd. (And bordering on delusional.)

White.

Lily white. That’s me.

To quote Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”

Fair-skinned with a smattering of freckles and a tendency to burn in direct sunlight.

Privileged.

Yep, that too. I grew up and got my degree in the comfort and security of upper-middle-class suburbia. Intact family. Good education. Quality healthcare. Resources galore.

The fact is, so many of us in this nation are privileged. In some cases (to some degree) because of whiteness; in other cases, perhaps not.

Let me be clear.

Being white and privileged doesn’t mean your life is perfect. It doesn’t mean you never had to strive/strain/struggle. It doesn’t mean you didn’t have to make tough decisions or be resilient/relentless to attain certain things. It doesn’t mean you haven’t had to work hard/smart/long to pay your bills or sacrifice mightily to get where you wanted to go. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve never been a victim of misjudgment, mistreatment, crime or calamity. It simply means ethnicity hasn’t been one of your hurdles.

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard; it means that your skin color isn’t one of the things making it harder.” (Not sure who said this, but… #realitycheck.)

My whiteness automatically places me in the majority in the U.S. And in many cases, it identifies me with the “people in charge” around here. Can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure my whiteness makes me less likely to be viewed with discomfort, fear, or suspicion, at least by the rest of the majority. (I daresay there’s less presumption when you walk around being white… than any other color. Safety in numbers.)

And while pride and prejudice aren’t strictly white “diseases,” they still run rampant in some circles.

Ugh.

No one is better than anyone else, period. (Let alone because of color.)

For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

Sadly though, there’s a lingering air of superiority in a few of the wealthy, mostly-white neighborhoods I’ve visited. I know I’m not the only one that can smell that stale stink… Can we open the proverbial windows and let in some fresh air, for heaven’s sake?

Because a superiority complex is ugly… and ungodly.

As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

See?

And on the heels of superiority come its partners in crime and co-conspirators:

Suppression. Oppression. Hate.

(And when hate happens, things get ugly… quickly.)

As far as I can tell we’re all descended from the same original bloodline. So in essence, that means there’s only one race:

The human one.

img_2449

(And btw, can we please try to keep the “kind” in humankind?)

How about we start here? Take a few steps outside our comfort zone. Befriend someone outside our demographic. Listen, if my only friends were white, middle-aged, married, Midwestern, mom-types (the list could go on, narrowing my circle based on identity politics and personal preferences)… my life would be so sad and small. And frankly, the more I spend time with people who – at first glance – seem vastly different from me, the more I realize how much we have in common. (When I make a frittata, it doesn’t matter whether I use brown eggs or white ones. Breakfast is fantastic either way. Because what’s inside the shell is… the same.)

So, what if we just quit labelling our neighbors and start loving them?

For real.

Instead of pot-stirrers, let’s be peacemakers.

Listening to each others’ stories and learning from them. Welcoming our neighbors – black and white and every color in between – into our lives, homes, hearts.

Instead of “us” and “them” – let’s be… we.

Collectively, we’ve got to resist the temptation (however weak or strong) to  judge/label/belittle/demean someone simply because their complexion (or community) is a shade different than our own.

I think Benjamin Watson said it best: “Racism is not a skin problem. It’s a sin problem.”

Discrimination = sin. Disdain = sin. Divisiveness = sin.

Yes, we’re all sinners. You, me, every human being that’s ever been born. But you know what I want to be when I grow up?

Revolutionary.

A revolutionary for love.

*Full disclosure: In a previous draft, I used the word “colorblind.” My intent was to convey impartiality, fairness, justice… but instead, I unknowingly “erased” the uniqueness and value of all of our God-given beauty and diversity. My sincerest apologies to those whom I offended. (And many thanks to a dear friend who turned me on to the phrase “revolutionary for love.” I dig it. And I’m aiming for just that.)

I think that was Dr. King’s dream for all of us. To be love revolutionaries. To look at character instead of color. To see aspirations not appearances. To treat people with kindness and respect, regardless of skin tone or eye color or body type. Regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic or immigration status, sexual orientation, genetic differentiation, diagnosis or disability.

Fair and impartial treatment. Common decency.

That’s what I understand social justice to mean.

Dr. King was a preacher and an activist. The Bible was his instruction manual. (Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.) He believed it and taught it and lived it. He wasn’t flawless, but he was forgiven. He wasn’t perfect… but he was prophetic. He wasn’t fearless… but he was free.

Free at last. 

The night before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave a speech at a church in Memphis, and he talked about things that would/could/should change the world right before his – and our – eyes. He taught scripture. He preached fairness and forgiveness. He promoted radical humility:

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness, he said.

He spent a good deal of time that evening re-telling Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan – who risked life and limb to aid a stranger in need, when others (“religious men”) would not. He talked about sacrificial kindness and compassion and what might hinder it.

Busyness, bigotry, “blindness” to the victim’s plight.

Or perhaps…

Fear.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about… 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight.

And that’s the question before us still.

Are we willing to show sacrificial kindness and compassion to others – black, brown, fair or freckled? Or are we going to let our own fears or busyness or bigotry or “blindness” to others’ needs get in the way of love and mercy?

We were put here to help. Not simply help ourselves to whatever we can grab. But how willing are we to use whatever resources (and yes, privileges) we possess for the good of others? Even if it’s inconvenient. Or costly. Or difficult. Or downright dangerous.

Dr. King didn’t hesitate. He just did what God told him to do:

Justice.

Mercy.

Humility.

( ^ See Micah 6:8.)

Because he knew the eventual (eternal) outcome:

Glory.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the LORD!

The man who spoke those words the night before he was murdered knew that his dream and his mission could cost him his life. But he was undeterred and unafraid. This was a man willing to practice what he preached. And what Jesus lived (and died) to demonstrate…

Dangerous unselfishness.

Hello, my name is Wendy. I’m white and privileged and determined to live dangerously. (Honoring Dr. King… by following his King.)

Chasing the dream,

Wendy

P.S. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 90th birthday, and I have no doubt the celebration is heavenly. (Jesus prepared the place.) The Promised Land has plenty of room… and everyone’s welcome. Join us?

 

Advertisements

What’s Brewing

It’s trick-or-treat time again. And you know what that means…

Temperatures are falling, leaves are falling, and leaflets from politicians are dropping into mailboxes day after day. (Please recycle… and pray the negativity isn’t catching.)

Halloween is here. (Pumpkins on porches. Check. Parties in preschools. Check. “Thriller,” “Monster Mash,” and “Werewolves of London” on playlists. Check. Check. Check.) But all the fun-size candy in Kroger can’t counteract the increasing bitterness in our world. All the cute kiddie costumes can’t mask the ugly, grisly and grotesque coming into plain view everywhere from a synagogue in Pittsburgh to a kindergarten class in Chongqing.

Evil is real.

And it’s always brewing.

A few weeks ago, I stood on the beach with a friend and watched the sun set over the water.

It was a dark and stormy night… (It really was.)

IMG_1288.JPG

As we stood at the water’s edge, huge thunderheads rolled in, and the sky slowly faded to black. Lightning flashed in the distance, and the sea graced us with a dazzling reflection. We knew it was risky to stand there, unprotected, on the shore… but we couldn’t pull ourselves away. The lightning was wild and beautiful, streaking across the night sky in staccato bursts. We were captivated.

IMG_2358

The rumbling and cracking crept closer, more frequent and fierce. And finally, as the storm front overtook us, we ran for cover.

Because it was the only wise thing to do.

So many storms battering our neighborhoods and the nations. Political firestorms, natural disasters, bomb threats, hate crimes, racial tension, religious persecution, and global unrest… from north to south, east to west.

And then there are the internal tempests. Dread, distress, dis-ease. Gripping fear, crippling depression, simmering rage… raging psychosis.

(Some troubled souls battle their demons a long, long, long time… and then succumb.)

The truth is, sometimes we see a storm brewing… and we can’t or don’t take cover. Because we’re paralyzed with fear. Or too busy storm-tracking. Or focused on fault-finding. Or foolish enough to think we can brave the elements alone.

And sometimes the storms blindside us.

Like stray lightning bolts or bullets – unpredictable and deadly. Something – or someone – gets struck in an instant. Stricken by catastrophe… meteorologic or manmade.

Some storms are self-inflicted. Imprudent decisions, impulsive actions, stoking conflict, fueling hate.

Like a tornado tearing up a town.

A rampage about to erupt.

A bomb set to detonate.

Whether we realize it or not, most of life’s storms brew in an unseen realm. Two powerful fronts collide…

Good vs. Evil.

Ultimately, that’s what all the world is. A storm front. A battleground. Because that’s what we are. Good and evil. Divine and despicable. Made in God’s beautiful image… and inclined to turn ugly.

All of us.

And the reality of that can be heartbreaking. Or horrific.

How is it possible that in this country – the land of the free and the home of the brave – even a synagogue isn’t safe anymore?

I cannot explain away all the evil in the world, except to say that God – out of His goodness – gives us the freedom to do as we please.

Some do good. (And some don’t.)

But I am absolutely certain of this:

When broken, tormented people choose to break and torment… God isn’t MIA.

He is Savior.

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. ~ Zephaniah 3:17a (NLT)

Ultimately and eternally, Jesus saves.

But sometimes we don’t get to see the rescue on planet earth. That alone can be a terrifying thought. Traveling through an entire lifetime without a real sense of security. Without knowing that we can find refuge and relief. Someplace. Any place.

That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Where do we turn? When all hell breaks loose, we need a safe place to hide out – and ride out – the storm.

A bunker. A shelter. A stronghold.

Where’s your safeguard? Or more pointedly, who?

Who do you turn to when it seems disaster’s about to strike? Who cares deeply enough and is capable of offering protection and imparting peace?

“Help us, Almighty One. You’re our only hope.”

(I know I sound like a lot like Princess Leia here, but the line – the plea – rings true.)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LordHe alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. ~ Psalm 91:1-2

But what about those precious people who were slaughtered in their place of worship on Saturday? Where was God when that shooter opened fire?

Where He always is.

Near.

Just as God promised Joshua once upon a time, He promises us. (And them…)

I will always be with you. I will never abandon you.

When we cry out to Him, He hears… cares… comes.

Always.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.” ~ Isaiah 58:9 (CEB)

God’s presence is ever present.

Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean— even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:7-10 (CEB)

Yes, storms are brewing. And some will wreak havoc.

So, please… please don’t delay. Seek shelter immediately.

Godspeed.

Wendy

P.S. One more thought on the evil in the world…

“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Charles Baudelaire

Confessions of an Impatient, Imperfect, Nit-Picking Parent

(This one’s for all the mommas who reached the end of their patience before the end of the summer.)

Anyone who’s been a parent for more than 72 hours knows this…

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

You’ve got to be tough and tender, flexible and firm, instantly responsive and exceedingly patient. And that’s just for starters.

Last week was one of the worst in my parenting career. And I’ve had some doozies, believe me. After 28 and a half years on the job, I still haven’t mastered it. Not even close. (To be fair, though, the job description has changed… weekly.)

Recently – regrettably – I stooped to a new low. I did the underhanded interrogator/ overbearing drill sergeant/uppity church lady routine. And my 20-something was having none of it. So I let it go.

(In my dreams.)

No, the truth is… I didn’t let it go. I dug in deeper. I scoffed, scowled, and scolded. Meddled, muddled, manipulated, and just generally made a mess of things. Thankfully, my kid is the forgiving type. (If he were a grudge-holder, I’d be toast.)

The devil didn’t make me do it. It was all me.

Yeah, sometimes you just fall flat on your face… and suck mud.

I sucked.

I’ve always wanted to be the mom who’s willing to play the game, read the story, stack the blocks again (for the eleventh time in a row). The one who starts the ticklefest, the water war, the pillow fight. The one who throws impromptu cupcake/fingerpaint/Play-Doh parties for the littles and French press/film fest/Fortnite parties for the bigs. The mom who’s attentive and affectionate, wise and witty, playful and prayerful, faithful and FUN. I want to be the welcoming committee, sounding board, prayer team, and biggest fan.

And on my best days, I am.

But…

I can be lazy, short-sighted, selfish, impatient, presumptuous and downright b!#<%y too. (If not for coffee and Jesus, there’d be no survivors.)

When I feel stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, I get irritable, inflexible, unreasonable. And the more I say, the more I sin.

I overstate, exaggerate, manipulate. I assume, accuse, cajole and – (wince) – judge.

Thank God for this:

Love covers a multitude of sins.

(Can I get a “Hallelujah” from all the other humans with offspring?)

A mom friend once said to me: Little kids, little problems. Big kids, bigger problems. At the time, I remember thinking, Have you ever tried to extract a Polly Pocket playset piece from the itsy bitsy teeny tiny nasal cavity of a writhing, hysterical toddler? That’s a very small, VERY BIG problem.

But now I get it.

Instead of spilled milk, mysterious rashes and choking hazards… it’s speeding tickets, sexting and cyber bullies.

(It’s excruciating… waiting for the whole “cause and effect” concept to take hold.)

Lord, have mercy.

I do think it’s pretty great that God chose to make newborns stationary. You plop them down someplace and – miraculously – they stay right where you left them. I believe He did this to give new parents a chance to acclimate to having a very small, very needy human being in close proximity, one who’s incessantly hungry/thirsty/sleepy/poopy. At least they stay put. But not for long. Soon, they get rolling… and “sit, stay” rarely happens again. Their inclination is to scooch, crawl, walk, or ride their bikes as far from us as possible. Next thing you know, they’re 16, 17, 18, 19… and they’re asking for the keys so they can drive away. Far, far away. Into the big city. Or the mountains. (In Colorado.)

From the time they take their first steps, we encourage our kids to seek and savor independence. But what we don’t realize is that the more independent they become, the less control we have. And the more terrifying it is. And, well…

Desperate mommas do desperate things.

When it comes right down to it, most of my parenting failures are a direct result of my own anxiety and insecurities. Though it pains me to admit it, I often parent from a place of fear, pride, or a pretty anemic notion of love.

Let’s face it: parental fears are persistent… and plentiful. Injury, illness, insect bites and infestations. (If you’ve never had to wield a fine-toothed nit comb and lice-killing cream rinse, you should drop to your knees right now and give thanks with a grateful heart.)

The world is a perilous place to grow up. Not only do we have to worry about mean girls, bad boys, bullies and predators; we now need to issue urgent warnings about opiods, active shooters and texting/driving fatalities.

Worse yet, even when my kids manage to steer clear of the danger zone, I turn and fall headlong into another “parent trap.”

Pride.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made is parenting by popular opinion. (It’s a minefield, littered with high horses, haughtiness, blame and shame. Don’t go there.)

Another biggie was openly (and smugly) stating all the things I’d never do if my son _______________ or when my daughter ________________.

Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.

Yep.

Invariably, that very thing you swore you’d never do… you’ll do it. And discover you’ve tumbled headfirst into the pit of despair (with all the other demoralized, defeated, derelict parents). You’re facedown, eating crow. And there’s only one thing to do.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(He’s got strong arms.)

But the thing I most regret in all my years of parenting is this:

Conditional love.

I love you if you…

I love you when you…

I love you… but…

Not only am I guilty. I’m a repeat offender.

I dole out love in meager doses… or with a laundry list of prerequisites.

Why can’t I just love him freely and fully just the way he is? Why don’t I love her lavishly even when/if/though… Why can’t I just pour out love like there’s unlimited free refills? Splash it all around? Drench my kids in kindness and mercy and grace?

Maybe because I haven’t steeped long enough in Love and Living Water myself. Maybe because I don’t often enough go to my Father for advice. Maybe because I’m inclined to keep wandering far, far away. Which is pretty foolish… because I’m lost without Him.

The only perfect parent is the One enthroned above. His love never fails.

He’s a good, good Father.

And His mercies are new every morning… Before the alarm goes off and the lunches are made and the backpacks are loaded. (Even before the coffee is done brewing.)

What a relief!

Wendy

P.S. One last confession: I was not (and never have been) the momma who shed a few tears on the first day of school. I was the one doing the happy dance all the way home from the bus stop.

Scary as IT

My dear reader,

Happy Fall, y’all!

(Sounds strange coming from a former Windy-City-slicker-turned-Indy-Hoosier, I know. But “Happy Fall, you guys!” just doesn’t have the same cheery ring to it. Besides, I did live in the Bluegrass State briefly back in grade school. I guess some of the southern stuck.)

Next to Christmastime, this season is my favorite. The autumnal equinox ushers in a brisk, beautiful prelude to the holidays: bonfires, blazing colors, crisp air, hot cider. I’m utterly and irreversibly smitten with all things autumn: the shimmer of the first frost, the smell of burning leaves, Friday night lights, playoff baseball, sweater weather, s’mores, and pumpkin spice everything. Autumn is a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, festivities and fun!

And scary stuff too.

Fall is chock-full of freaky.

Spiders, skulls, zombies and vampires, everywhere. I get a little creeped out in Target these days. The “seasonal aisle” is filled with cauldrons, hatchets, rubber bats, and (bloody) digits. Pretty sure the shelf-stockers and stockholders couldn’t give a rip about merchandising or marketing or “the-all-important-in-store-shopping-experience.” They’re just trying to scare the living daylights out of us. And sell some fake blood.

Which brings me to Halloween. As far as I’m concerned, Halloween is just a footnote (or perhaps more fittingly, an epitaph) in all of autumn’s glory. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the trick-or-treaters and porch pumpkins and glow sticks and fun-size Twix (or twelve) on All Hallow’s Eve, but I could do without the gory/grisly/gruesome/grim/grotesque.

I want nothing to do with it.

Or “It,” for that matter.

I plan to keep my distance from Stephen King and his creepy clown. I don’t care what Rotten Tomatoes or Rolling Stone has to say. I have no plans to see this movie. Not even the trailer, no. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not near a sewer. I won’t be a viewer.

(On a side note, I’m pretty sure this film is gonna run Ringling Brothers right out of town. And ruin it for Bozo… and balloon artists everywhere.)

Unlike my handful of Halloween-happy friends, I have zero interest in the October FearFest/Ghostober/Pee-Your-Pants programming on cable. Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Carrie, Rosemary (and her baby) are not welcome at my house. Ever. “Friday the 13th” or “The Shining?” Neither, thank you. “Amityville Horror” or “Halloween?” Nope. “The Exorcist” or “The Omen?” Not a chance. I don’t do horror movies.

Well, except for that one time I did.

Once upon a time, I was trying to be the Cool Mom. Before I determined it to be a hopeless cause. (Sweet Mom I can do. Snickerdoodles, anyone?) Zack was a freshman in high school, and he and I had planned a Mother*Son*Fun weekend. Which meant we were ordering lots of pizza and watching football day and night. I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to do together and offered a few ideas (bowling, batting cages, a bike ride. I know… lame.) Whatever he wanted to do – as long as it wasn’t crazy expensive or wildly dangerous – I was game, I said. He suggested a movie night.

“Let’s watch ‘The Ring,'” he said casually.

“Isn’t that a horror film?” I asked.

“I guess. But it’s really not that scary. I’ve seen it.”

“If you’ve already seen it, let’s watch something else.” Pretty sure I suggested the second installment of “Lord of the Rings,” hoping the Orcs would be ghastly enough to suffice.

“C’mon, Mom. You said whatever I want.” Ugh. Yes. Yes, I did.

“Ok, sure.” How bad could it be, really? I’m a mom. I’ve witnessed childbirth, treated pinkeye, plantar warts and toenail fungus, seen the ugly aftermath of a tonsillectomy, and performed multiple pore extractions (type “John Belushi and mashed potatoes” in your search bar and you’ll get a general idea of what I mean). I can brave blood and guts.

So we popped in the DVD… and I spent the next two hours fluctuating between panic-stricken, petrified, and traumatized. (Even with my eyes closed and my ears covered to muffle the eerie sound effects.) Sinister doesn’t begin to describe this movie. I think it may have been produced by Lucifer & Company in association with Torment Pictures.

Zack was greatly amused by my ongoing hysterics: wincing, wailing, gasping, praying. (Which meant our Mother*Son*Fun Weekend was a great success by his standards.) As soon as the credits started rolling, I grabbed that DVD and drove straight to Blockbuster (remember that place?) to return it. Why? Because Samara. Had. To. Go.

I know that sounds a little paranoid, but the truth is… that film was downright disturbing. It was steeped in darkness and dread and death and doom. Fiction or not, evil exists. Not just in nightmares and movies. In real life. Actual, palpable malevolence.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

(This means war.)

Wait… what? There’s a cosmic good vs. evil thing going on in an “unseen world” right now? Mighty powers? Evil spirits? Dark world? Maybe you think that doesn’t sound legit. It sounds like little-kid/scaredy-cat/monsters-in-my-closet kind of stuff. Your intellect scoffs. I get it. You’re understandably wary of anything beyond what your five senses can detect and your deductive reasoning can reconcile. But then, how do you explain the world’s worst atrocities? The Holocaust? Unit 731? The Killing Fields? How do you account for ongoing evil: human trafficking, gang rape, child abduction, death squads? It’s savagery. And whether you believe it or not, there are spiritual underpinnings.

I realize I may lose some of you here. But stick with me, just for a minute.

If there’s a threat, we expect emergency alerts and tracking systems and sirens, right? Well, God said we should consider ourselves forewarned: a battle’s raging. He urges us to armor up, and He promises to fight for us. But most people are incredulous. Or oblivious. (“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist,” wrote Charles Baudelaire. And he sure as heck ain’t a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork.)

I’m not arguing out of paranoia or fear-mongering. God knows we have a glut of both. The reality is, there’s plenty of terrifying and troubling in the world without crackpots, pundits and (self-proclaimed) prophets stoking the hysteria. The prevalence of anxiety diagnoses and serious psychological distress in the U.S. is startling. Fear slinks and skulks, crouches and creeps. Closer and closer, it seems. And it fuels itself. It boosts news ratings. And it sells stuff. (Security systems, insurance policies, pitbulls and pepper spray, to name a few.) But there’s a free, (super)natural antidote to all this rampant fear and trepidation, and it’s available to everyone, everywhere.

A safety net. A storm shelter. A hiding place.

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. (Psalm 46:1-3, The Message)

On this crazy, scary, spinning planet, God is rock solid… Rescuer. Shelter. Saferoom.

It’s true. Sometimes real life imitates horror movies. There are sickos, psychos, perverts and predators on the loose. Killer clowns, even. (John Wayne Gacy comes to mind.) And so… I have no inclination to seek them out in a dark theater. Even if there is popcorn.

God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout. (Psalm 18:1-2)

So, how do we get there? To that castle behind the boulders… that granite hideout?

It’s just a hop/skip/jump away, my friend. A leap… of faith.

Jump into the arms of Jesus. He’ll catch you. (Promise.)

One… two… FREE…

Free-falling,

Wendy

P.S. I hope I haven’t offended any of my horror film fan-friends. (You go right ahead and scare yourselves silly, you crazy kids!) To each his own… genre.  😉

IMG_7872

Aftermath: The Terrible Truth Every Parent Must Face

My dear reader,

Late Monday night as news of the Manchester attack was breaking and sirens and people were wailing and our hearts were ripping open again, I came to a sinking realization. One no parent ever wants to admit.

I have been – to varying degrees – lying to my children for a long time. At least since 9/11.

In the days and weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, I told my older boys (then 7 and 10 years old) that they were safe. That Mommy and Daddy would do everything we could to protect them. That they shouldn’t be afraid.

In hindsight, I see those statements for what they were: false, true (but not the whole truth), and ridiculous, respectively. (And yes, regrettably.)

It doesn’t matter whether we live in Manchester, Mosul or Mexico City, Stockholm or San Salvador, Paris or Pyongyang, Johannesburg, Brussels or Baltimore; we have to face the terrifying facts…

We aren’t safe.

We can’t always protect the people we love.

And there’s a million reasons to be afraid. Very, very afraid.

The world is dangerous. Sometimes, insanely so. There are no real “safe zones” anywhere. (Even inside the womb.) And despite our best efforts to protect our children – car seats and sunscreen and safety locks and antibiotics and airbags and bug spray and bike helmets and content filters and floatation devices – we cannot always, entirely, eliminate harm/hurt/heartache/horror.  A baby monitor doesn’t prevent SIDS. There’s no vaccination against diabetes. Or depression. Even the latest and best auto safety features can’t stop someone else from texting and T-boning your Taurus. Or driving drunk.

A few weeks prior to the attack in England, a bus bombing outside Aleppo killed 126 people and injured hundreds more. It happened in a convoy that was transporting evacuees from a hot zone to a (possibly/hopefully/maybe/somewhat) safer zone. Among the dead were aid workers and refugees, at least 68 of them children. An explosion was their end.

Somewhere in Syria, there’s a mama like me. And she just buried her baby.

Oh God…

Bad things happen every day. Sometimes horrific, unthinkable things. Marathon runners and concert goers and bus riders are blown to bits. Whole, healthy bodies are broken in car crashes and burned in house fires. Teachers and students are shot at school. Gang violence mutates and spreads. Predators troll the internet. Vibrant, beautiful souls all over the world are struck by land mines and lightning and lashings and leukemia. The planet is tattered and battered by earthquakes and hurricanes and tornados and tsunamis. And the stark reality is there’s little we can do to prevent any of it.

In any given life at any given time, chaos or calamity can come crashing in. A grim diagnosis or catastrophic storm, a freak accident or planned attack, grievous trauma or ghastly terror. Even if we successfully avoided all hazards and havoc, if we somehow averted every disease and natural disaster, by now we should know that we can’t prevent the violence. One human being against another.

Hand-to-hand hatred.

I don’t understand all the psychology and neurology and environmental influences and developmental indicators. I am not a psychiatrist or sociologist or criminologist or counselor. I just know that somehow in some twisted, terrible way, people learn to bully and batter and brutalize. Simply because someone else is the “wrong” color or creed or sect or sex or race or religion or ________ (fill in the blank with any demographic we use to divide and conquer ourselves).

Whether or not we want to admit it, we are utterly incapable of eradicating every evil.

So what is a parent/protector/nurturer/news-interpreter-to-Paw-Patrol-viewers do? What do we tell our children? Or, more pointedly… what do we tell ourselves? How in the world do we make sense of senseless tragedy?

I don’t have all the answers, that’s for sure.

But I know I can’t hide the truth from my kids any more than I could keep them from growing (and outgrowing their clothes every time I turned around). I can’t explain away the ugly and angry and vile and venomous on the news or in the neighborhood. I can’t promise safe and sound and warm and fuzzy all the time.

‘Cause this ain’t heaven.

In fact, it’s a far cry.

Planet Earth can be pretty hellish. And to say otherwise is lying. Or certifiable delusion.

I don’t know why God allows it. The evil, I mean. I like my freedom, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes this whole “free will” thing goes awry. Heinously so.

I’ve heard the question a thousand times:

If God is good, why would He allow such savagery?

I could go on and on about the forces of evil and fall of the human race and God’s inexplicable capacity for both immeasurable mercy and exacting justice (which is not yet fully and finally accomplished). I could try to explain the dichotomy of God’s fervent hatred of evil and His fierce love for the evil-doer. A love that chases after and overtakes and overcomes and cries out that no one – regardless of the ferocity of their cruelty or the atrocities they commit or the blood they spill – is beyond redemption. (Because Jesus spilled His.)

But the simple answer to the question hanging in the air right now is…

I don’t know.

But I do know this.

Jesus wept.

God isn’t passive or stoic or distant. He comes near, crouches low, looks into the freshly dug grave… and looks into the anguished eyes of the grieving.

He sees. He knows. He empathizes, agonizes, embraces, consoles. And someday, somehow, He will make it better. Better than better.

New.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  (Revelation 21:1-5)

Despite popular/modern/twisted theology, Jesus didn’t promise health, wealth and prosperity on this planet. If He had, He’d have been proven a liar a long time ago. A perverse one at that.

Instead, He promised His presence. In the hardest, darkest, bleakest, bloodiest places. In concert venues and prisons and ERs and slums, on race routes and subway trains, in classrooms and convoys, at Christkindl markets… and gravesites.  He groans and grieves with us. He is near.

And one day, He will put an end to the terror and horror and hate.

Joy to the world… the LORD will come. And He will start fresh.

And we will fully – finally – know impenetrable Peace, unbridled Joy, untarnished Beauty.

Holding onto my only Hope,

Wendy

P.S. Love. Will. Win.