It’s okay….

What’s okay? The news?

Nope

The crime figures?

Nope

The fact checker results when politicians give speeches?

Nope

The most recent Covid statistics and the grief and pain that they represent?

Not a chance

The anxiety ridden discussions that take place on places like Facebook as parents wrestle with big questions about this school year. At home? Online? What about work? My career? My high school and college aged kids – what will this do to their plans?

Last week I had a relative whose job changed drastically, a friend who had to go back to college to bring her daughter home – because she’ll be doing college from the basement rather than at college. Oh, and two families who decided that they were going to home school this coming year rather than send their kids to the local private school. That reduced the number of students at the school by 4.

One of the difficult things about churches, private schools, orphanages, missions is that often you are forced to make business-like decisions in the middle of a charity run organization – and often in very desperate times. So, that school I mentioned above, they removed 4 kids from the local private school – I don’t know, but I would be surprised if that didn’t cost the school $25,000 or more this year. How do they make that up?

And this week, one of the major political parties held their “virtual” convention. I know it’s necessary to finalize the candidate the delegates are supporting, but let’s be real…..

If you watched the speeches and listened to the talking heads analyzing it all 6 ways from everywhere, how much of it can you really believe it is true? I’m working on a very personal piece about that which I promise will be out before the election. It is hard to write because basically, I’m…….. (sorry, not going to give you a sneak peek.)

I’ve had conversations with some of you about the whole concept of righteous anger. If something truly crosses that “line in the sand” for you, then it is okay to be mad about it. It’s okay to be angry that _______ is happening. It’s okay to be upset that the President said _________. It’s okay to be angry at what those who are not following Covid guidelines are doing to the health of so many and frankly the health of our nation.

It’s okay to be angry.

It’s okay to be angry at God because He didn’t give you what you wanted.

It’s okay to be angry at politicians who you feel betrayed their word.

It’s okay to be angry about children who are caught in immigration struggles that POWs shouldn’t even have to face.

Get angry. But then don’t stop there. Don’t just walk around being angry.

It reminds me of the song by the Christian Music Artist, “Mike’s Chair.” It goes something like this:

“Then I shook my fist at heaven and I hollered, ‘God, why don’t you do something?”

And then God said, “I did……I CREATED YOU!!!!!”

We’re going to be talking a lot more about the “do something” part of it, for a number of reasons, but for now, just think about this thought…..

The world is messed up.

God’s okay with us being mad about it.

But he wants us to not be satisfied with being angry but to do something about it.

More to come,

Tom

A Voice

I just heard it said on TV (so you know its true) that these last 70 days – with the pandemic, multiple high profile black murders…… These last 70 days make one of the most turbulent times we’ve been through since the Civil War.

The Civil War – think about it. That’s like 165 years ago.

We’ve seen riots breaking out all over.

I turned on Jimmy Fallon (Tonight Show) and he went through his entire show sharing his feelings on learning that he as a white man was making the world a more difficult place for those who aren’t white.

There have been a lot of people talking about whether rioting was appropriate and whether going to another town to protest was appropriate.

I’m going to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from “Letters from the Birmingham Jail.” This wont be the last time that I’ll be talking about what Dr. King says. For now……

“The riot is the voice of the unhearded.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letters from a Burlington Jail) is saying that what you need to do is look at people who make their voice heard in a protest, well the majority of them at least, are rioting because they feel that is the only way they will be heard.

So, when you see a news report about a riot, look at it from the standpoint of the protestors doing that so they can have a voice.

It changes your perspective.

TJV

The Jamaican Water Truck Lady

The Jamaican Water Truck Lady

I wish I had had a chance to talk to her more, but I didn’t. You remember that Saturday night where things were kind of crazy at my house? There were people bringing stuff for my wife to take to Haiti (she flew out at 6:00 Sunday morning). One of my kids (who was already a relative veteran at flying to Haiti) came home from college to help Mom pack. Phone was ringing off the hook, lots of details, lots of people wanting to know…. wanting to know anything.

And the phone kept ringing and I was using the voice mail to screen the ones that needed attention now and keeping a list to get to eventually. And the lists kept getting longer – the “adoptive parent” list, the “been there want to help list” and then the “who knows” list.

To add to the chaos, the orphanage director was going to be on Larry King Live that night. So everyone was making sure they could record it and when it came on, we all stopped and watched and listened. We heard stories from other people in Haiti, we heard stories about “our kids.” We heard a rational and logical assessment of the needs and the orphanage director said, “Larry, I worry about water. If they can’t get another water truck up the mountain by Monday morning, we aren’t going to have enough to keep the kids healthy.” Ouch

Their part of the show was done and we all got busy again. My youngest two (adopted from Haiti when they were really little) were feeling a lot of anxiety and wondering about their birth families. So, I decided to take some time and provide some calm in their rooms before they went to sleep.

And then it happened. A phone call where the caller ID had too many digits. Sent it to voice mail. Repeat process 3 more times in the next 10 minutes. So finally I said to my kids, “I have to answer this, it might be someone who wants to help. I stepped out of their rooms and answered the phone.

“Hello, you are with orphanage?” (Said in English with a Haitian/Jamaican accent)

“Yes I am.” “Oh good, I want to help you.” She then told me part of an amazing story. She grew up in Haiti, not only in Haiti but just a small amount up the mountains from where the orphanage is and she is very familiar with that area.

“Your boss lady, she says you need water?” “Yes we do, it’s Saturday night and even skipping the Saturday evening bath routine, we will run out on Monday.” “Yeah, I know that, I watch Larry King too!” Chuckles

“Give me your address. My brother lives near there and he has water trucks. I will get you water, tomorrow, yes?”

“That would be great!” “Hang on a minute,” I ran downstairs and handed my phone to my daughter, “Hey Kristin, this lady is from Jamaica and is going to get the orphanage water, can you give her directions?” “Sure!”

She steps out where it is quieter and about 5 minutes later, she came back in and said, “That was simple – she knew the town square in Petionville and I got her directions to where we turn off the main road. Then I told her to tell the driver to roll down the window and ask where “Madam John’s house” was.”

Did she give you any names or anything? “Nope,” she said, “it’s not about me, it’s about your kids.” We then resumed some semblance of life and packing and disaster relief and wondered if what we had heard and talked to was real or was a prank or what……

Sunday, my wife is traveling so I kept my phone on and with me while at church. I’ll tell you more about Sunday morning later.

Sunday night, some of us were too strung out from only a few hours of sleep, but me and one of my girls were at church. Normally, if my phone buzzes while in church, I will ignore it. I didn’t that night.

About, I don’t know, maybe 15 minutes into church, my phone buzzed. I pulled my phone out of my pocket. A simple message on it that rocked my world.

“Water is here.”

At my current church, I think I would have interrupted church to tell the story, but I didn’t do it at our former church.

Water is here, music to many ears.

God is good.

TV

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay–and The Church Should Welcome That

Continuing our discussion and building on Jason Johnson’s blog (you can read his here).

You can read my thoughts here and here and here.

And you can read what Carissa Woodwyk wrote right here.

Today, I want to take it one step further.

A quick review:

First we talked about how it’s okay to not be okay.   Our society has made it seem like we are a complete and abject failure if everything isn’t perfect.

Secondly, we talked about the relationship between not being okay and National Adoption month.   How it’s possible to be both okay and not okay at the same time.

Third, we talked about how not only is it okay to not be okay, it’s okay to admit it.   Our society has a really big problem with admitting struggles and our churches are quite often the worst places for that.

Fourth – we talked about how it’s okay to not be okay and not know what to do about it.

Today, I want to take it to another level….

Not only is it okay to not be okay and okay to admit it, but the church should welcome that.   The church should welcome that we are screwed up?   Absolutely.   For a couple of reasons:

  • If we don’t admit our struggles, then we are depriving our fellow church members of the ability to step up beside us and help and love on us in our need.   That deprives the church of a major reason for it’s existence.    Jesus said, “I didn’t come to heal the healthy, I came to heal the sick.”   Well if everyone pretends they are healthy, then we miss that opportunity.
  • Not only are we depriving people of the ability to be the hands and feet of Christ, but we’re depriving ourselves of the health and help and support that we need.   If we don’t tell anyone that we are struggling, they can’t help us.
  • If we don’t admit our struggles and admit that things are not okay, we are going to drive the hurt and the struggling away from the church.   They are going to say, “I can’t hang out with these people, they are a bunch of perfect Mr. and Mrs. Jones type.”   That’s not true but if we don’t make sure people know it’s not true, they are going to assume it is and stay away.

But in order to foster a spirit of honesty and openness, the church needs to do a couple of things:

  • It needs to encourage and foster a spirit of openness in its leadership to be open about their own personal struggles and pains.
  • The leadership of the church needs to educate the church on how to respond when people  are not okay and admit it.   If someone has the guts to admit their struggles and the fellow church member they share it with says something like,  “Chin up, God does everything for a reason,” then the church has done more  to hurt the cause of Christ.

The church needs to welcome the “not okay” part of life and do it in a way that makes people feel comfortable sharing their pain and their sorrow – that’s when real Christian growth can help.

I’m curious, how does your church do with that?

Tom

Forward to the Past?

So, as I’ve been reading and talking to people this past week, a couple of themes keep showing up in a lot of it……

I think in many ways, the main theme could be described as the need to move forward to the past.

That’s right move ahead to get back to where we need to be.

Move ahead to get back to caring about our neighbors.

Move ahead to caring about people on the other side of the world – even if they don’t believe the same as we do or look the same as we do.

Move ahead to caring about our church and being a member not an audience.

Move ahead to caring about the balance that we expect from our religious leaders – and do we set them up to fail?

Move ahead to helping in ways that really help.  Not by causing problems for businesses in the country by granting trade subsidies, not by sending donations that could best be purchased in the country.   Not by teaching kids that a white person from “America” is the one who can provide for them what their parents can’t.   Not by giving the kids at an orphanage the “picture” that the “white people” from “America” are the ones who have all of the money and once they get adopted, they will be able to get anything they want. 

Move ahead to providing a healthy dose of respect and appreciation for others in the music and movies of today.

Move ahead by respecting and loving all people – no matter how they might differ from you.

Move ahead by revamping our view of government.   As John F. Kennedy said,  “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”   Move ahead by moving back to a sense of self sufficiency and not a sense of governmental dependence.

Move ahead by thinking of social media as today’s front porch.   “Back when” people used to sit on their front porches and chat with their neighbors.   Now people use social media to insult their neighbors and to proclaim that they know everything.    What if we all used social media like a front porch.    It’s a way for us to keep in touch with people and to share ideas, to talk about topics, to discuss things – but in the kind of civil tone that you’d have if sitting on the front porch drinking lemonade.

Move ahead by adopting the Amish Barn Raising mindset.    Not the “do it all by hand” part but the “our neighbor has a need so we help” portion.

What would happen if we moved ahead this way?

What would the world look like?

What would people think about the church?

Hmmmmm……

Tom