In Order to (Re)Form a More Perfect Union

I don’t know about you, but my heart can’t take much more. It’s battered and bruised… And bracing for worse.

It feels like 2020 could be the year of our undoing.

Collectively, we were already reeling from the deadly destruction/ ecomomic devastation/overwhelming despair of COVID…

104,000 dead.

Millions unemployed.

Suicide attempts.

Overdoses.

Isolation.

Burnout.

And then came three consecutive stories of black Americans killed… for no apparent reason.

Amaud Arbery… out for a run.

Breonna Taylor… in her own home.

George Floyd… pinned to the street, gasping for air.

Three human beings created in God’s image… beautiful and beloved, all.

I haven’t seen the video of George Floyd’s last minutes. I cannot bring myself to watch it. (Because just reading about it nearly gutted me.)

A Gospel-sharing, bridge-building, neighbor-loving “gentle giant,” George Floyd took his last breath on earth Monday. Now he’s safely home in heaven with Jesus… and his mama.

But his death begs the question:

How are we still here? In America? In 2020?!

Stuck in this cesspool of racism, injustice and needless violence?

I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to stay afloat. The flood of emotions is coming fast and furious. I’m grappling/praying/hurting/ fuming/crying/pleading/grieving. Deeply. Sometimes all in the space of five minutes.  But the deepest, darkest valley I keep finding myself in is… fear.

I’m afraid for the people I love whose skin just happens to be darker than mine.

Afraid they will encounter the wrong person at the wrong time… and wind up injured.

Or jailed.

Or dead.

And that’s why I can’t just sign a petition or post a meme and move on. I know I need to ask God’s Spirit to search me and uproot my own prejudices and pre-judgments. I need to confess my own predisposition to dismiss or devalue some of my neighbors. I need to pray against my tendency toward complacency-by-comfortableness.

I need to listen more, learn more, do more. Where I can, when I can, however I can. Because…

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu)

A couple days ago, I re-read Reverend King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to some of his fellow clergymen. His words are haunting:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…

He goes on to write:

In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

Oh LORD, help me be bold for you. Because…

Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne. ~ Psalm 89:14 (NET)

Help me be brave for my neighbor. Because…

No life is more “valuable” than another. (No life is more “disposable” either.) Our immeasurable worth is God-given and intrinsic (because we were made in His brilliant, beautiful image.)

Help me live and love like Jesus.

Genuinely.

Generously.

Help me do the right thing. Even when it makes me – or someone else – uncomfortable.

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives…
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

“Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

~ Isaiah 58:1-8, The Message

Let’s be justice-seekers and bridge-builders and hope-givers. Right where we are. However we can. 

Let’s be humble repenters… and revolutionaries for love. Lavish, lifesaving love.

Right in our own little corner of the world.

Maybe that won’t be the catalyst for sweeping change… but it will make a difference.

One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.

Approaching the boy he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”

The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The man laughed and said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then smiling at the man, he said …

“I made a difference to that one.”

2020 could be the year of our re-making.

Let’s get started.

Wendy

P.S. Condemning oppression and police brutality doesn’t make me anti-law enforcement. I am praying fervently for our police officers, firefighters and National Guard tonight too. Calling for an end to violent, destructive rioting doesn’t mean I don’t support the protestors or understand (that I don’t understand) their outrage and grief. I’m praying for peace… and change. Join me?

When There’s No Easy Way Out

In the midst of this pandemic, I have a question for you. Bold and uncensored.

A somber, blunt, bare-your-soul kind of question.

What’s your worst fear?

Is it this virus?

This plague that violently attacks some… and leaves them gasping for breath… fighting for dear life?

Is that the vexing thing that looms low and dark, ominous and unsettling? The thing that instantly evokes foreboding… or sheer terror? The invisible enemy that creeps close, no matter which way you turn. The threat that slinks and slithers into every quiet moment and leaves you rattled, reeling.

Maybe COVID-19 isn’t the thing. Sure, it’s taken center stage… but behind the curtain lurks another assailant, taunting you with terrifying “what ifs” or “what nows” or grim predictions or false accusations. Threats of inescapable heartbreak or inevitable failure: infertility, arrest, abuse, bankruptcy, betrayal.

Perhaps it’s something even worse. Maybe you’re terrified of watching someone you love… leave.

Or suffer.

Or self-destruct.

Or die.

(Does it matter the culprit? COVID, cancer, cardiac failure… they’re are all merciless killers.)

Whatever it is, I’m guessing it’s heavy. And hard. And hurts like hell.

Fear and dread drag us to the shadowlands and abandon us there. They make us scratch/claw/cower/sob. They predict defeat and suggest surrender. Or lay blame and offer ammo.

They whisper doom.

So we seek scapegoats and stockpile munitions (masks/gloves/groceries/guns) and sometimes we make human shields of the people we hold dearest. (Because they’re near.)

Fear convinces us that we are utterly alone. That we have to walk the proverbial plank (or lie in the ICU bed) unaccompanied and unprotected, bound and bare.

Dread persuades us that no one has the faintest clue what we’re going through… or what peril awaits.

No one.

Not a single soul.

But it isn’t true.  

Because…

Jesus.

He walked away, perhaps a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed this prayer: “Father, if you are willing, please take away this cup of horror from me. But I want your will, not mine.”Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him, for he was in such agony of spirit that he broke into a sweat of blood, with great drops falling to the ground as he prayed more and more earnestly. (Luke 22:41-44, TLB)

Jesus was no stranger to dread.

He felt its stranglehold. Knew its instinct to devour.

He begged release. But it was denied him.

There simply was no easy way out.

So He bore the anguish through tears… and beads of sweat… and drops of blood.

He faced the worst horror of all, knowing full well what heinous injustice, vicious brutality and unbridled evil would be unleashed against him.

He was not spared the brunt of the (real) Avenger’s wrath. He wasn’t delivered from one millisecond of hissing mockery or bloody torture or wrongful conviction. Nor the spitting or scourging or spikes or…

Suffocating.

Jesus drank the cup of suffering… and poured out his lifeblood.

Alone.

His followers distanced themselves.

His friends freaked… and fled. In fact, one of his closest companions outright denied even knowing him. (Not once or twice. Three times.) Another turned traitor.

Even his own Father deserted him in his darkest hour.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.  Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” …Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-34, 37-39, NLT)

Jesus – the Son of Almighty God – despaired… and died. Unaccompanied and unprotected, bound and bare.

Utterly, indecently, disgracefully – and yes, dreadfully – alone.

Why? So we never have to be. Not in a pandemic. Not on our deathbed. Never.

Jesus died alone so we don’t have to.

His name is Immanuel…

God with us.

He is Love. And love never leaves.

Oh how he loves us.   

Crazy as it may sound, his love was deeper and wider and higher than his sweating-blood dread. Braver than the savagery inflicted on him. More ferocious than all the foes and forces amassed against him. His love fueled him through forsakenness.

Jesus’ steadfast, staggering love compelled him – held him – to the cross.

He suffered alone, so we could come near.

Near to the holy.

Near to the heavenly.

Near to hope.

He drank the cup of crucifixion, so we could could come close – commune – with him.

Our Helper, our Healer, our High Priest.

We have a great high priest. He has gone up into heaven. He is Jesus the Son of God. So let us hold firmly to what we say we believe.  We have a high priest who can feel it when we are weak and hurting. We have a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. But he did not sin. So let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace. Then we will receive mercy. We will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIRV)

There’s no easy way out of this pandemic. And ultimately, there’s no escaping death. It comes to all… eventually.

If there’s ever a time to face your worst fear, it’s now.

Whatever it is that you dread… draw near to the throne of grace.

Receive mercy.

Find grace.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take this, and eat it. This is my body.” Then he took a cup and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood, the blood of the promise. It is poured out for many people so that sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 26:26-28, GW)

The One ~ God’s own Son, the perfect Passover Lamb ~ who faced the dread, drank the cup, spilled his blood and bore the cross…

He won.

He rose.

He forgives. (Yes, even that.)

He lives!    

He defeated sin and darkness and death. Once and for all.

For all.  

Believe and receive.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Ephesians 3:20, TLB)

Praying for (another) Easter miracle.

Wendy

P.S. When it looks like there’s no easy way out, remember what Jesus said: I am the Way.

 

Spread This

I hope by now everyone is following directions. (Meaning… doctors’ orders.)

If you’re not working on the front lines fighting this pandemic, kindly imitate your dog.

Sit.

Stay.

Good boy.

If however, you can’t stay home because your work is essential (s/o to all the brave, beautiful souls working in healthcare, pharmacy, scientific research, food prep/packaging/transport/stocking, medical equipment manufacturing, warehouse distribution, supply chain)…

Godspeed.

We can’t thank you enough. (Because no amount of gratitude is sufficient right now.) Please know that we are with you, for you, behind you.

Every day.

Every (double) shift.

Every step of the way.

As dark as these days have been, the past couple weeks have shed a lot of light. You can learn alot about people in times of crisis. Some freak out. Some shut down. Some bully. Some blame. Some wail about the seemingly insurmountable problem we’re facing. Others work around the clock trying to solve it. Some cower under the covers. Others run into burning buildings/emergency rooms/nursing homes/ICU units to rescue whomever they can.

It’s heartening to hear stories of devoted workers who – at great risk to themselves – continue to do their life-saving and life-sustaining jobs. They are real-life heroes, every single one of them.

(How beautiful would it be if each one of us found ways to “show and tell” the battle-weary pandemic warriors we know how much we love, admire and appreciate them?)

And then – sadly, always – there are the antiheroes.

For every inspiring story of tireless courage or tender care, there’s a disheartening one about some idiot/inciter/narcissist/nitwit making things worse for everyone.

(Don’t be that guy. ^)

We’ve got to stop the spread of this virus. Absolutely. As soon as possible. But can we stop spreading false information and unfounded rumors too? Can we quit the fearmongering and finger-pointing and foolishness?

Where can we get personal protective equipment to stop the spread of that s#*t?

Scare tactics and death counts and divisive politicizing – while plentiful – aren’t helpful. Ever.

But especially at a time like this.

Finger-pointing isn’t a cure. (I’m not a nurse, doctor or medical researcher, but as far as I know, assigning blame doesn’t alleviate a single symptom of any infectious disease.)

And fear?

It’s a killer.

In the past week, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been tested for COVID-19. We’ve all heard about the dire shortage of hospital beds and ventilators and PPE. But those aren’t the only things in short supply around here.

With a long way to go, we’re seeing an alarming increase in the number of patients… but very little…

Patience.

We have one job to do – #stayhome – and some folks just can’t seem to follow directions. People are getting antsy. And anxious. And agitated. And it isn’t helping our collective cause. When people freak out/flake out/go out… they put others at risk. And that isn’t OK. Being bored/restless/stressed is not an adequate defense for manslaughter.

(Read that again. If you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, your selfishness – venturing out unnecessarily, hosting a get-together, taking that trip – could kill somebody.)

We’ve got a whole lot of brain power and creativity and generosity and tenacity teaming up to tackle this runaway problem and arrest this pandemic.

But one by one, hour by hour, it seems…

We’re losing heart.

Despair is in the air.

Just like this virus, diminishing hope is contagious… and dangerous.

Yes, it’s ok to feel sad/scared/lonely right now. (Especially if someone you love is sick or dying. Or if you’ve lost your job… or your bearings.) But we’ve got to hang in there. We need to keep doing the hard thing that has to be done.

Stay home.

Stay hopeful.

And wait for the storm to pass.

It’s tough, I know. My crew is experiencing noticeable symptoms of stir crazy/cabin fever/delirium and all that.

Next to my grandmother’s Bible, my favorite book is an old-school, leather-bound weekly calendar. (I’m currently detoxing from my addiction to scheduling.) I’m a perpetual planner… and a girl on the go. And I currently have nothing to plan and nowhere to go, so…

(Solitaire?)

Nobody said it would be easy, this business of being still. It drags us straight into the face of our angst, fear and discontent. It forces us to confront our own dismay and dread. It’s an undeniable, unsettling reminder that we have very little control.

Virtually none.

But maybe that’ll turn out to be a good thing.

If we want protection, peace, patience, perseverance, we’re gonna have to look outside ourselves. (Because clearly, there’s a global shortage of that kind of PPE.)

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him. 

God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure. God saves me and honors me. He is that mighty rock where I find safety.

Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. 

God is our place of safety. (Psalm 62:5-8, CEV)

How about we spread this?

Peace that’s impenetrable.

Hope that’s unyielding.

Love that’s relentless.

When this is all behind us – and it will be one day – those rare, chronic conditions will remain. And we will be better, stronger, healthier because of it.

Please… don’t be an April fool.

Hold the line.

And hold onto hope.

Wendy

P.S. We can do this. We can. But we’ve got to stick together… and stay apart… and spread only the good stuff. #staystrong #stayhopeful #stayhome

 

How to Change the World in 14 Days

Right now. (< That’s when we need to get a grip.)

If we wait… or hesitate… it’ll be too little too late.

If you read my previous post about the Coronavirus pandemic (Hi, Dad!) you know my opinion that PANIC!!! is not helpful… or healthy. Not at all. But in the days since, I’ve seen another cultural trend emerging. And it goes like this:

Me first.

(Actually, I suppose that isn’t really a trend. It’s been the norm all along. It just hasn’t been quite as obvious.)

We’re all guilty of it sometimes. It’s hard-wired into us, self-preservation, survival-of-the-fittest and all that. But we don’t have to live by instinct. We can choose instead to live for the common good. Because I believe that’s instilled in us too. By someone who embodies goodness.

God.

(Believe it or not, you bear a striking resemblance. See?)

Frankly I’m a little stunned by the pushing and shoving and hoarding and hysteria. (Toilet paper? Can someone please explain this to me… Does panic cause diarrhea?)

And then there’s the devil-may-care, I’m-not-scared, social-distancing rebels. Who flip the bird at scientists and medical experts… and refuse to make even the slightest adjustments to their own plans for the greater good.

Seriously?

Stop.

Because here’s the thing. All these precautions and protocols and postponements might turn out to be an overreaction…

Or they might keep people alive who otherwise would have succumbed.

See if you’re pro-life, then you ought to be advocating for all lives. The very young/very old, rich/poor, healthy/strong/disabled/diseased, white/brown/black, housed/homeless, conservative/liberal/moderate, law-abiding citizen/convicted criminal, straight/LGBTQ, Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu/Wiccan/atheist/Universalist/secular humanist, homegrown American/refugee/undocumented worker, people you adore/people who make your blood boil… You get the idea.

Now would be a great time for us to start taking care of each other.

It’s great if you’re not afraid of COVID-19 (because living in fear is a killer too), but if you contract it – or asymptomatically carry it – and then share it… it could turn out that your nonchalance is deadly.

To someone’s grandmother or godfather or favorite aunt. To a beloved teacher or friendly cashier or war hero.

Let’s honor them by protecting them.

There’s a great line at the end of the movie A Few Good Men, when a dishonorably discharged Marine makes the realization that – in following orders – he actually failed to do his job.

We were supposed to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.

It’s not just our military or medical professionals that ought to be charged with the difficult task of fighting for the vulnerable. It’s all of us.

…If you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front… Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. ~ Philippians 2:1b-4 (The Message)

We’ve all read uplifting/inspiring/amazing stories about real-life heroes. Now’s the chance to be one.

Here’s 7 things we can do – right now – to change the world:

1. Keep our distance. (6 feet, give or take.)

2. Keep our composure. (For heaven’s sake, can we please stay calm.)

3. Keep our hands and households clean. (Don’t forget phones/remotes/keyboards/door knobs.)

4. Love our neighbors. (Look around. Who needs help? Lend a hand… or kick in a few bucks.)

5. Love our families. (Always lamenting that you don’t get enough time with the people you love? Me too. Here’s our chance.)

6. Love ourselves. (Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s smart. Take a walk. Take a nap. Read a book. Bake a cake. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to call. Start that project you’ve been planning to tackle. Breathe.)

7. Pray. (For the sick and those caring for them: doctors, nurses, lab techs, support staff. For our government leaders, local officials, community and school administrators. For first responders and 911 operators. For hourly-wage workers and small business owners. For food-insecure families and our homeless neighbors.)

We’re all in this together.

(HSM fans, I know you’re singing the chorus. The rest of you, I apologize for the ensuing earworm.)

The medical experts and healthcare officials all agree. We can do this. We can flatten the curve, lessen the impact, contain this virus and control the damage. We just need to do the hard thing.

Come together… by staying apart.

In so doing, we might just save a life.

(Or thousands.)

Wendy

P.S. While we’re fighting this battle on our own soil, let’s not forget everyone else. Let’s pray for the people of Syria, China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Spain, Japan, France, Venezuala… Prayer may turn out to be the most effective anti-viral treatment ever.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen. ~ James 5:16 (NCV)

Viral

There’s a very real problem plaguing the human race. And it isn’t Coronavirus.

It’s something more insidious. There’s no test for it. And no vaccine.

Fear.

(Which causes symptoms ranging from mild anxiety to sheer panic.)

So far this week, I’ve received a dozen emails with Coronavirus warnings, updates and “responses” – from city government and school officials, insurance companies, healthcare providers and financial planners. (And CostCo just sent a link to purchase “everyday essentials” like Lysol, SoftSoap and Kleenex… while supplies last. Coincidence?)

While there’s certainly cause for concern (and precautions – especially for the elderly and those with already compromised health), widespread fear seems to be the ailment that’s preceding all the other symptoms of COVID-19. The fear factor is growing and multiplying like bacteria in a petri dish. Fueled by the news media, the financial markets, doomsday prognosticators… and frantic parents.

(Who are currently suffering Daylight Savings sleep deprivation… and stockpiling nonperishables and Purell.)

The nonstop news cycle features sensationalized stories and unsettling images of hazmat suits and body bags. Schools are closing, markets are tanking, and businesses are bracing for the worst. The only ones profiting are the makers of protective masks. And hard liquor. (I know some of you DIY-ers are mixing up Tito’s Homemade Hand Sanitizer in your kitchen.)

Panic is… well… pandemic.

We’re easily unnerved by all the “what ifs” and the whens/whys/hows.

And we dread the inevitable:

Death.

Yes, Coronavirus can kill you. But so can lots of other things. Cars, cancer, heroin, venom, botulism, bees, bullets.

Not to mention tornadoes, like the one that just killed 24 people in Tennessee on Tuesday. And garden-variety flu, which claims the lives of roughly 25,000 Americans every year.

In the US, 21 people have died from Coronavirus. Meanwhile – daily – 6500 people die as a result of Alzheimers, heart disease, diabetes and depression. And you know what that means?

It’s not sinister-looking microorganisms killing people by the thousands every day.

It’s stress.

Otherwise known as dis-ease.

(You know… fear, anxiety, worry, panic, despair.)

Sometimes it’s sudden onset: crisis, catastrophe, terror, trauma. And sometimes it just infiltrates (and permeates) over time.

According to the American Psychological Association:

Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death… and more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Stress kills more people each year than MERS, SARS, Ebola and Coronavirus combined.

And most of the time it happens slowly… invisibly.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take preventative measures against Coronavirus. We absolutely need to. Deadly viruses need to be quarantined… and eradicated. But so does debilitating fear. (Which tends to spread further, faster.)

Thankfully, there are brilliant, tenacious scientists, physicians, psychologists and researchers working night and day (around the world) to treat these maladies. But there’s only one care provider with a 100% cure rate for both.

Jesus.

His antidote for the pandemic of panic is…

Peace.

(There’s no co-pay and no prescription necessary. And Jesus offers an endless supply.)

After Jesus died, was buried and then defeated death – and before He headed to heaven to get things ready for us – He said this:

I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace.

In the same breath, He quelled our fears and reassured all of us who are prone to worry.

So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. 

God knows we’ve got plenty to fear. We’re afraid for ourselves, our children, the planet and its people. Our only hope is a Heavenly Father who’s ready, willing and able to take care of us – every second, in every circumstance.

Jesus loves you/me/us… and He’s the greatest Physician. He doesn’t practice; He’s already perfect. And His treatment plan includes physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

For eternity.

The truth is, I could die from COVID-19. I have very little control over that. But if I do, I know where I’m going. I’m good… because God is.

(And He gave His Son to prove it.)

We’ve got to stop spreading germs… and fear… and start spreading the good news.

Prayer works. And so does soap.

So wash your hands.

And remember that you’re in God’s.

Wendy

P.S. I hope this goes viral.

 

Pacifists and Warmongers

The nations rage. Kingdoms totter. 

Sounds pretty accurate.

An engulfing fire. An erupting war. A trembling world. It’s like we’ve been holding our collective breath for days…

I feel faint.

And the background noise is deafening.

Moments like these beg for discernment, restraint, prayer.

Instead, provocation and contempt threaten to overthrow us. (If our socio-political divide grows any wider, we’ll likely do ourselves in. Our enemies need not exert any effort at all.)

I went to journalism school… and I can’t stomach the evening news. But I can’t bear not knowing what in the world is going on either. I find myself taking little sips of headlines and big gulps of scripture. (Which is where I read the line about nations raging and kingdoms tottering. Prophetic, don’t you think?)

Peace on earth ought to be the prayer on every tongue and the hope in every heart. (“Love your neighbor” leaves no room for the bloodthirsty as far as I can tell.)

But here’s what I don’t understand.

The pacifists.

Don’t get me wrong. With every fiber of my being, I long for peace. I pray for it. That peace would prevail on earth… as in heaven.

(Pretty sure that’s what God wants… His Hebrew name literally means Prince of Peace.)

But in case you haven’t noticed… this ain’t heaven. And there’s a whole lot of dark and ugly going on around here.

And while I ache for peace and global good will, it seems spotty at best. (Yes, a few bad apples can – and do – spoil the whole bunch. And the wormy, rancid, rotting remains are creating noxious fumes. *Insert poison warning here.)

Sometimes there’s good reason for anger.

Cruelty ought to invoke an outcry.

Atrocities ought to elicit outrage.

Evil ought to evoke opposition.

And while I’d love it if throwing up peace signs and sending good vibes and hashtagging #cooltobekind would solve those vexing problems, the reality is…

Sometimes we’ve got to fight.

Please understand, I’m not saying unequivocally that this is one of those times. I don’t know if it is. I’m not privy to all of the information… and I’m certainly not omniscient. (Nor are you, by the way.)

But I know this:

If no one will take up arms to serve, protect and defend… we leave ourselves vulnerable to any and every power that rises up against us.

And ultimately we will succumb to oppression.

Or annihilation.

(That’s the story where no one lives happily ever after… because no one lives.)

The end.

*******

Then there’s the warmongers.

Not only can I not understand them; I can’t conceive they’re anything other than stark raving mad.

War is horrific.

Those who’ve been there say it’s a living hell.

(You can take their word for it… Or you can Google PTSD and suicide rates among combat veterans. Both provide a pretty clear picture.)

Even for the “right reasons” (combatting genocide, for instance), war is ghastly and sickening and barbaric.

And anyone who thinks otherwise is certifiable.

And dangerous.

(Given my preference I like people who are serene… and sane.)

Our democracy (imperfect as it is) bestows on us vast freedom. Freedom to say and do and be who we want: pacifists… warmongers… or anything in between.

We can disagree about every topic under the sun. (And boy, do we.)

But can we please agree on this:

Common decency.

You know, good old-fashioned respectfulness… bestowed civilly on one and all. The people like us. The ones who aren’t. And the folks who afford us these freedoms…

Our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines.

They aren’t the ones starting the wars. They’re the ones trying (desperately) to finish them.

So they can return home.

And so home remains safe… secure… free.

JFK put it this way:

Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.

Well said, Mr. President.

The brave souls serving in the Middle East and around the world (and those ready to deploy) deserve nothing less than our deepest gratitude and our strongest support.

To those flesh-and-blood heroes, I simply say:

Godspeed.

And I cover them in prayer.

(My youngest son will soon be among them. I’m both proud… and petrified.)

When I was a young girl, I learned a beautiful song in church.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

If we truly wish for peace, we’d all do well to start there.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

And the peacekeepers.

Praying for their protection… and peace on earth.

Join me?

Wendy

P.S. For what avail the plough or sail, or land, or life, if freedom fail? ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bullet-Proofing

Another week in America. Another massacre.

(File that in the category of things I never – in my wildest and worst nightmares – imagined saying/thinking/writing.)

A deranged gunman opens fire in a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks.

Bullets fly.

People die.

And the attacker pauses to post on social media before killing himself. (More on that later.)

Our reactions are wide-ranging… and telling. From unmoved to outraged, heartsick to dumbstruck.

Here we go again.

Sudden death. And then a tidal wave of emotions: apathy (another mass shooting today… and… by the way, did you pick up the dry cleaning?) to anger… to anguish.

Who can answer the locked-and-loaded questions? Who can make sense of the senseless?

Who can stop the hell-bent?

Immediately following the bloodshed, the same refrain. Pundits pontificate. Politicians posture. Parents press for solutions… and scramble to protect their young.

Praying desperate prayers…

Deliver us from evil.

Taking necessary precautions…

Baby-proofing. Bullet-proofing.

How on God’s green earth did we get here?

There’s no denying that danger lurks… darkness lingers. In malls and movie theaters, neighborhoods and nightclubs.

We aren’t safe anywhere. Even in school. Even in synagogue. (Homeland security? Is there even such a thing?)

Maybe I’m an idealist (or a loon), but I think there’s a lot we can/should/must do.

NOW.

I’m no policy expert, but it seems fairly obvious that these things should top our “to do” list:

  • Ban manufacture and sale of assault weapons, bump stocks and extended magazines. Stat.
  • Require a waiting period prior to all gun purchases. Thirty days seems reasonable. Enough time for law enforcement to do background checks, hotheads to cool off, and suicidal/homicidal impulses to pass. (If it takes 6-8 weeks to get a passport, why should anybody complain about waiting 4 weeks for a weapon?)
  • Impose a minimum age requirement of 21 for gun ownership and possession (with exceptions for active duty military personnel).
  • Implement a more effective red-flagging system. Mental health professionals, physicians and educators – who are already “mandatory reporters” anyway – submit critical information directly to law enforcement when they suspect someone may have violent impulses or intent to harm. Immediate risk assessment follows.
  • Create a database to compile these and other “at-risk” reports. If someone appears to be mentally unstable and potentially violent, a concerned family member/ friend/neighbor can call a hotline or file an online report. (Similar to a DCFS report for child abuse.) If three such reports are received, law enforcement responds (computer search, mental-health assessment, weapons inventory, etc.).
  • Bolster investigative units specializing in online/social media threats. Develop algorithms for identifying cases of cyber-radicalization and home-grown terrorism.
  • Provide active shooter training for every professional currently required to be first aid/CPR certified. (School administrators, health care workers, etc.)

In this latest attack, the shooter (described by acquaintances as a “hothead” with an “explosive temper”) had been reported to police during a domestic disturbance last April. Finding him “somewhat irate” and “irrational,” law enforcement officials called in a crisis intervention team and mental health specialist. Despite concerns about his agitated behavior (and possible PTSD related to prior military service – including deployment to Afghanistan in 2011), the young man was cleared.

If he had been held on a 5150 order, he would have been taken into custody for 72 hours and – under California law – would have been prohibited from owning or possessing firearms thereafter.

And maybe, just maybe, a dozen people who were alive and well on Wednesday afternoon would still be living and breathing. At least a little longer.

I doubt any of the folks in the Borderline Bar and Grill Wednesday night thought it might be their last. Most of the victims were young, their whole lives ahead of them.

But the truth is – even with a vest, shield and tactical gear – the only part of us that’s bulletproof is our soul.

For man is but a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. ~ Psalm 144:4 

Our bodies break. Our minds fail. Our hearts stop. But our souls, they endure. Even when wildfires ravage and storms batter and bullets rain, our souls survive.

My great comfort in these trying and troubled times is this:

It is well with my soul. 

And my desperate prayer is that it be well with yours too. Because every SOS is ultimately… a plea to God.

Save Our Souls.

I don’t know when or where terror will strike next. Or whether I might soon be “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” unaware of someone armed-and-dangerous nearby. (Because as the gunman so eerily wrote in his mid-massacre social media post: “Yeah… I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ or ‘keep you in my thoughts…’ Every time… and wonder why these keep happening.”)

I understand the sheer exasperation and disgust of those who keep hearing “thoughts and prayers” but not a single solution.

(Or more importantly, action… protection… prevention.)

So to all the victims’ families and everyone who’s shell-shocked, grief-stricken, frightened or furious tonight, I offer not only my thoughts and prayers… but action points.

Because…

… With faith… If it doesn’t cause us to do something, it’s dead. ~ James 2:17

Please keep praying. (Frankly, I’m stunned by anyone – talking to you, Cuomo – who suggests prayer makes no difference. Without prayer Chris, things would be a HELL of a lot worse.)

And yes, let’s take action too.

Don’t let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good. ~ Romans 12:21

For God’s sake, let’s do something.

Call your elected officials, thank a first-responder, donate blood, hug your kid.

And never ever forget…

Love. Will. Win.

Wendy

P.S. On this Veteran’s Day (as we ponder how to best protect our people and our nation), a simple and sincere “thanks” to our vets seems woefully insufficient. But today and every day, I’m grateful to the brave men and women who’ve served in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. May God bless you and keep you. And may it be well with your soul.

 

 

Private Investigations in the Public Eye

Every morning, Twitter asks me what’s happening.

Our “United States” seem to be falling apart, that’s what.

(And a whole lot of Americans are at risk of being buried beneath the rubble.)

The past few weeks have served up an acrid mix of leaks, low blows, accusations and interrogations. With a heaping side of voyeurism and vitriol.

The folks in charge seem to be very busy playing their fame/shame/blame games. Preening, posing and pontificating. Politicizing… and demonizing. Ad nauseum.

(Anyone else feeling sick?)

As I observed bits and pieces of the congressional proceedings last week, I drew several obvious conclusions which I’ve listed in no particular order. I hope we can agree on this:

Sexual assault is heinous… and rampant. 

Binge drinking is an open invitation to disaster. (And frequently leads to despair… or rehab.)

People who leak private information suck.

Media – right, left or so-called-centrist – is making very little effort at producing unbiased, non-sensationalist news. (I hold a journalism degree, and this isn’t what we were taught. Not even close.)

Americans are gluttons for sordid details, dirty laundry, and sexploitation.

Accusations can do nearly as much damage as physical violence.

D.C. seems more like a circus these days than a capital.

Again and again, I’ve heard the same refrain with regard to allegations against the Supreme Court nominee:

It’s a “he-said, she-said” dispute. One of them is lying.

Perhaps.

Or maybe they both are, to some degree. We humans have a tendency to do that: deflect or mislead, hedge or hide, stretch or distort the truth, especially when we have a lot to gain… or lose. (I know I’m guilty.)

But there’s another (arguably remote) possibility here too. What if they are both telling the truth as they remember it? What if the disparity is entirely due to wildly divergent recollections of the events of 1982? (If someone asked me to reconstruct the summer of ’82, I can assure you I’d have a slew of gaps, gaffes and glaring oversights myself. Heck, I can’t even remember what I wore yesterday. I’ll have to check the laundry hamper.)

Memory isn’t always infallible. And perception isn’t always truth. But it is relevant… and real. Especially to the one who holds it.

I’m not an eyewitness, private investigator or forensic scientist in this matter. So I clearly can’t access and analyze all the pertinent information and evidence. (Though I hope the FBI does.) I’m not a prosecutor or public defender, so I need not argue on behalf of the accuser or the accused. (Why do people feel compelled to do that… like it’s their job?) I’m not a judge or jury member either, so my personal opinions have no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of these proceedings. (In fact there’s no judge or jury at all because this isn’t a trial… although I’m sure it feels like one to both the accused and the accuser.)

There was no verdict after Thursday’s hearing. But plenty of people passed judgment:

“The nominee is a drunk/mocker/predator.”

Or…

“The accuser is a liar/lackey/loon.”

You know what I think? I think every single person who says (s)he has been a victim of sexual violence ought to be heard. Allegations of sexual assault have to be taken very, very seriously and investigated thoroughly. Every. Single. Time.

And I think every person who believes (s)he has been falsely accused ought to be able to defend her/himself rigorously. Without exception.

Because everyone – every single soul in this embattled, beautiful country of ours – has a story, a voice, and a right to speak freely.

(But beware the backlash. It can be brutal… and cost plenty.)

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will get a justice (either this one or another). Some people will gloat because they got what they wanted. Others will grouse because they didn’t. And life… and politics… will go on.

What do I want?

Well, here’s what I don’t want. I don’t want politics to be the center of my life. I don’t want my political views or someone else’s to dictate who can and cannot be my friend. And I certainly don’t want politicans to do my thinking for me. No, thank you.

I want the truth.

“You can’t handle the truth.” 

You may be right, Jack. But it’s still what I want. It’s what we should all want.

More importantly, it’s what God wants.

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. (Luke 8:17, NLT)

And I want justice.

Like Father, like daughter:

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face. (Psalm 11:7, NIV)

Praying for truth, justice and a better (rather than bitter) American way.

Join me?

Wendy

P.S. If anyone in Washington is wondering what to do, here’s a hint:

The Lord has shown you what is good. He has told you what he requires of you. You must act with justice. You must love to show mercy. And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God. (Micah 6:8, NIRV)

Special acknowledgment: Accompanying artwork is courtesy of our artist-in-residence, Chloe Louise. (She has quite an eye for detail, don’t you think?  😉