Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Classic: Shaky Line Falling Away

a version of this classic post originally appeared on September 11, 2007 - 5 years ago...

6 years ago today, Shari & I woke up to the phone ringing... a friend called to tell us that planes had slammed into the World Trade Center. 

Honestly, my response was to dismiss this as rumor & hype - but we went downstairs & turned the TV on... just a few minutes after the 2nd plane hit the WTC. For the next 16-18 hours, we left the TV on, keeping Braeden (who was just a few months old) in another room so we wouldn't feed those images of horror to him. 

Today, I read a blog post from a reporter (which I found, thanks to GetReligion) that captures so much of what that day felt like:
I went on, stopping along the way to get quotes. Then I reached the last pillar of the bridge before descending into Manhattan. There I ran into Jessie Graham, my NYPost colleague. She was out riding her bike, as she didn’t come to work till later. We talked for a short while, and stared gape-mouthed at the smoking towers. Finally I said to her, “Come on, let’s get down there.”

No, she said. “Those things are going to come down.”

I looked at her like she was crazy. “They’re not going to fall down,” I said. “They’re the Twin Towers.”

Then, seconds later, the crown of the south tower did a little twist, and there was that horrible, horrible roar, which I can hear inside my head as I type this, as the south tower collapsed. You can see on the image below the precise moment this happened, because I had my pen to my paper. At the top of the page were quotes from bystanders gathered just before the tower went down (“This is Tom Clancy. This is unbelievable.” “Plain and simple and act of war.” “This isn’t a pizzeria w/10 employees.”) But look under the line I drew — you’ll see a shaky line falling away toward the bottom of the page. That’s where my pen was on the paper as my knees went weak and I literally began to fall down. I reached out and grabbed Jessie to keep from going down.

Then I wrote, in a crazy scrawl:

explosion, fell to ground people on bridge sobbing,
one woman
It’s not there anymore!
It collapsed!
A prayer for today:  

Jesus, it still brings tears to my eyes to think about the suffering & horror of that day... watching bodies fall, then the towers themselves. Waiting & hoping for people to be found alive - and so few stories like that. God, I know You were there and that You are here - but that's more intellectual than emotional.  

And yet, as I look back, I see Your reflection in people who gave their lives, their bodies, their time & their energy to rescue, to search, to comfort & to support. I am amazed that the casualty counts were wrong by so much - that so many people didn't end up in the smoking piles of rubble. Help me never forget so short life can be... and how good You are, even in the midst of tragedy. 

in Your Holy name, Amen

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Lots of Catan games played at the house lately... Collin has fallen in love with Klaus Teuber designs, so we've played:
  • Starfarers of Catan
  • Settlers of Catan: Seafarers (with the Das Buch expansion set)
  • Settlers of Catan: the Chocolate Market (a nifty German-only expansion from RitterSport)
  • Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel

And Braeden & I just started a game of Elasund: The First City of Catan this morning...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Religion & Politics: Oil & Water (Classic)

The following post is the first in a series of "classic" aka pastor guy posts that I'm reposting - in some cases slightly edited. This one originally appeared in January 2008.

As a follower of Jesus and as a minister, I've been warned numerous times that "religion & politics don't mix" - and they've been variously compared to oil & water or Michigan & Ohio State football fans. (OK, nobody's ever said the football fan thing to me - I've just been thinking about how great the Capital One Bowl was on Tuesday.) I'm going to argue a bit with that premise, so hang on to your proverbial hats. 

First, I'll agree that religion shouldn't mix with politics, if by "religion" what you mean is "religious observance" or "government support for a particular religion." While I don't want to do the whole "separation of church & state" debate here (except to say that the phrase, "separation of church & state", does not appear anywhere in the Constitution), I believe that the quest for governmental recognition or sanction almost always hurts the religions who receive it, whether they be Christian or Buddhist or Mormon or whatever. Short-term gains in temporal (earthly) power lead to compromises in belief & practice that wreak havoc in a religion for years to come. 

On the other hand, I will argue that religion & politics SHOULD mix, if by "religion" what you mean is "belief" or "faithfulness to a set of beliefs." Every one of has ideas & practices that we cherish for a variety of reasons - whether we are followers of Jesus Christ or ardent atheists. To ask any candidate or political office holder to abandon their beliefs in order to govern well is a violation of their unique personhood - it's asking them to not be themselves. When we desire people of integrity to lead us, it seems foolhardy to request that they saw off one of their ethical/moral limbs in order to get elected. 

In fact, I think we all are kidding ourselves if we think that what someone believes about the nature of the world and the existence of God can be turned on & off like a light switch. What someone believes will affect their decisions - their values will help (or hinder) them from certain courses of action. This is not to say that we are consistent in living out what we believe - far from it! But if our beliefs are deeply held, if they are more than darkening the doors of a church in order to appease a portion of the electorate, they will bubble up in what we say and do. 

I want leaders in this country who believe in something more than getting elected or gaining power. I'm praying for it. And I don't want any of the candidates, whether I like 'em or not, pretending to be something that they're not. 

So, I close this with two requests: 

1. To the candidates (ha - like they're ever going to read this - still, I can dream, can't I?!): Tell us what you believe. I'd love to hear about your faith decisions - since so many of you claim an "important" relationship with your God, let us know what that means specifically. Stop trying to use "code words" to appeal to one faith segment or another and simply tell us the truth. Give us the opportunity to make an informed decision about who will be the next president of the United States. 

2. To the rest of us: Stop pretending that religious faith doesn't matter in politics - it does. It's OK to be concerned or moved by a candidate's beliefs. By the same token, if it matters to the way the candidates conduct their campaigns & (eventually) lead as they hold office, then it also matters to each of us. We "Average Joe's" (or, in my case, "Average Mark's") have the same responsibility that they do - to live out our lives based on our beliefs - to attempt to live consistently & with integrity. 

As a follower of Jesus Christ, that means I need to pray for the candidates - all of 'em, not just the ones I'd like to see on the ballot in November - and ask God to work in their lives and the lives of those around them. I need to participate in the political process in a way that brings honor to God (speech seasoned with grace, standing for truth). I need to use the brain God has given me (quote from my dad - "God didn't call you to be stupid.") as I decide who to support.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Why, Yes, I Have Been Gone A While

This may well be my longest period of silence on the blog. I wish I could tell you that I was on some kind of spiritual retreat - that I'd planned a blog fast that I'd forgot to tell you guys about. 

But it wasn't that. The debris of life & ministry piled up against my metaphorical door and rendered me unable to post, as if I had duct-taped to the wall and have only now pulled myself loose. (I am imagining me covered in sticky residue, unable to type correctly due to the keys bonding with my fingertips.)

So, to recap:
  • long period of silence
  • not spiritual "blog fast"
  • not actually stuck to a wall with duct tape
I don't know how quickly I'll get back up to speed, but I'll try to touch base with y'all at least once a week.