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Make Us Peacemakers In a Violent Land

On Sunday morning, while I was singing with hot tears streaming down my face, moved by the conviction that I don't trust God's no and longing for Him to help my unbelief, some of my brothers and sisters in this faith were violently plunged into the presence of Jesus amidst the terror of bullets, blood and screams. While they worshipped the goodness of our God a man given over to the schemes of the devil filled the room with death.  My heart can hardly take it.

This shooting brought my fears to light.  I'm afraid I'll grow numb.  I'm afraid for my white male sons who statistically are more likely to commit such an atrocity.  I'm sickened by the violent culture in my country and I'm afraid I don't know what to do! I want things to change!  

I've been casting those anxieties on God all day.  As I've cried and groaned and listened I see how violent, divided and dark the time we live in as American Christians is.  And these dark times are in the hands of the One who suffered for us.  He has us in this time, and in this nation to be peacemakers and truth-sayers, by reconciling and resisting.  Reconciling in laying down our lives to bring the peace of God to relationships.  And resisting evil, even unto suffering.

Jesus said, "
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Matthew 5:9-12

In a heated discussion with my husband about guns and laws and what needs to be done I yelled, "Someone is going to have to give up some of their rights!"  

People want the right to bear arms.  OK.  Well, if we do anything to change the way guns are legally "born" in this country, someone is going to cry foul and feel like their rights have been violated.  If we restrict based on mental-illness someone will cry foul about discriminating against people with a disability or violating the rights to privacy.  If we restrict based on kind or amount of weapon someone will cry foul about the second amendment.  But if we do nothing this will only be one of a string of massacres with guns in the United States.  

As I passionately voiced my opinion, concerned for my sons and for my neighbors,  I realized none of my rights would be violated if gun laws were imposed in a different or more stringent way than they are now.  I'm not a gun owner.  I'm not a gun person.  It's not a hobby for me and I don't feel the need to carry a weapon for protection.  I know many people who do and I know them to be kind, moral people who I trust.  I know they would feel some sense of their rights being infringed on if gun laws changed.  I know this is not a black and white issue.  But my thought is, as Christians in America, we should be the last people crying rights when it comes to guns.  

I wonder what it would be like if Americans who love and trust the Jesus who bore violence to save them laid down their guns and said, "We will be a people of peace even if we have to suffer the loss of our American right to bear arms." But since I'm not one of the people who would have to say that I thought about Christ's call on me to humble myself because I know who I am in Christ.  And my prayer was, "How would you have me lay down my 'rights' Lord?" 

The Governor of Texas in updating the public about the massacre at the church in Sutherland Springs said, "Every mom and dad... put your arm around your kid and given them a big hug and let them know you love them..."  And he went on to say we should go to our neighbors and find ways to help them.  It struck me as subtle but powerful.  As a Christian, Jesus beckons me to get off my phone, my computer... my agenda and sit with my teenage sons and listen and give them a back rub and look them in the eyes and plant the gospel in their hearts.   Jesus also beckons me to leave my comfortable four walls and go outside and be a good neighbor, on my street and in my city.  It's messy out there.  People have messed-up lives.  But I will not be a peacemaker, as Christ compels me to be, by hiding in my home in the most violent, wealthy nation on earth.  Trying to hold onto my controllable, clean and tidy life (as if I had one) won't keep my sons from evil.  The Governor pointed to a profound truth: hugging our children and helping our neighbors is one of the most powerful things we can do in such a violent culture.  

I am a Christian.  I live in the U.S., a nation where rights are valued and defended.  And I enjoy the benefit of those rights being defended.  But rights shouldn't be an issue for me as a Christian.  I know I have no rights and yet have been given the right to be called a child of God and therefore have nothing to loose.  I don't have any guns to lay down.  But I do have a life and resources.  I can plant my life in Jesus' name in the lives of those around me with good news that brings lasting peace. I can pray for healing in my nation and a restraining of violence and evil, and trust my good God's no. And I can be willing to suffer, even the loss of rights, for what is right.  

Oh Lord God.  You who raise up nations and bring others to nothing.  You are the source of all that is good and right.  You give authority and take it away.  You hear the cries of your children and you sometimes say no when we cry.  You speak and nature gives way.   And you're silent and we ache and reel and wonder if you're hearing, all the while you're working your wonderful plans for our good and you're glory.  Help Lord!  Help me and us weak, wimpy American Christians who don't know how to suffer well.  Help us to lay down our phones and hug our kids.  Help us to leave our homes and help our neighbors.  Help us to resist evil and speak for those who can't speak for themselves.  Help us to rejoice if we suffer because Jesus is living in us!  Make us shine here Lord.  Make us peacemakers in such a violent place.    

No Bootstraps To Grab

I've been sitting in the library for the past couple hours trying hard to answer a discussion question for my online class.  Doesn't seem like a big deal.  It's not.  But what is is depression.  Depression is a big deal.  It's real.  Real as Oregon fog blocking the view of a breathtaking coast.  Maybe it's cause I'm an Oregonian.  Probably not.  More likely it's my genetic heritage and part of life in this broken world.  But it's a reality that I walk into somedays.  Unwillingly.  But nevertheless it's there.  

Depression is real.  People don't like to talk about it.  I don't either.  But it needs to be talked about more and more.  As a Christian, I have no holy potion that keeps me from facing it's darkness.  But I do have a living God who has given me his precious word and shown me who he is in Christ.  This is the light I cry out for when depressions fog descends.  I can't pull myself up by the bootstraps and feel better or muster up enough faith.  But I can call on the same God the Psalmist called on when he cried, "My heart throbs!  My strength fails me and the light of my eyes- it also has gone from me." (Psalm 18)

As I was looking out at the nice sunny day with puffy eyes, a heavy body and burdened heart this poem came to me.  Maybe you can identify and cling to Jesus with me!

No Bootstraps To Grab
by Sheila Dougal

It's sunny outside
A record high
In the Valley of the Sun

But in my mind
It's foggy and dull
A familiar low
In the Valley of the Shadow

May look nice
Facebook smiles
Twitter likes

But when the fog rolls in
Circumstances grow dim
I need a light
My feet in sight

Word of God
Light to my path
Fog can't see in
Without faith solid

But faith is a gift
Can't muster it up
No bootstraps to grab
Abba I plead

I won't let up
It's messy!
Like Jacob
Won't let go till you bless me

But sunshine and rainbow
Aren't my request
Just give me faith
To endure Depression's test

Something real
A promise to hold
Shine light at my heels

Sunday summary

Every Sunday when I get to go to church I leave with something from God's word pressing on me.  Every time.  But I don't always sit down and spend some time chewing on what struck me.  Being involved in a community group helps cause every Thursday our group talks about how the sermon impacted each of us.  I don't want to wait till Thursday.

Today we heard from Psalm 32.  I've read this Psalm before but this time around I discovered treasure that's been right there all along.

If I had to summarize the Psalm in a 140 character or less tweet it would be:

"Godly people sin, run to Christ, confess it and rejoice in his forgiveness. The time between sin and confession crushes. - Click to TWEET

Listening to my pastor Jason preach the truth out of Psalm 32 had me marveling at how we miss the gospel of Jesus Christ with our attempts at covering our own sin.  I shouldn't say "we".  I do that.  My human, broken heart and mind keep trying to avoid the reality of my sin.  And not just mine, I want to avoid the reality of other people's sin too.  I don't want to take up my cross and follow Jesus and suffer because of other people's sins!  I mean, my natural self doesn't want to.  But Jesus is in me. And he's moving in me to will and to act like him.  God-like. Godly.  I'm one of his "godly" ones.  I had a hard time typing that.  But it's true.  I'm one of his godly ones, not because I don't sin, but because I do and I run to Jesus with it and call it what he calls it.  And when other people sin, I don't hold it against them.  That doesn't mean I don't believe in justice or laws.  It just means I don't make myself their personal judge.  I don't compare my sin to their sin and condemn them according to my self-made version of righteousness. And when I do, I feel the conviction of being unforgiving and I run to Jesus and confess it.

And that space between sinning and running to Christ to confess it is crushing!  The longer I wait and the more I try to hide and cover what I know is sin, the more I feel the crushing weight of the guilt and shame Christ bore for me.  I can't bear that.  And I can't hide from it.  The only way to escape is through the covering of Christ.  He bore my guilt and shame in his body so that I could bear his righteousness and joy in mine!  What love!

This is what the Psalm says godly people do.  It doesn't say they don't drink and don't smoke and don't go with girls who do.  It doesn't say they read their Bible a minimum of so many hours a day and wake up before dawn for "quiet time" with God.  Godly people run to Christ as the covering for their sin rather than trying to cover it themselves.

My pastor summed it up so well when he said, "We're not meant to hide our sins from God.  We're meant to hide ourselves in God."

The wonder of what the God of the Bible has done for those who love Christ is what makes me run to him.

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
-Psalm 32:1-7

we need to listen. and shut our mouths.

The other day while driving to my oldest son's baseball game, this story came on the radio.  It's about the producers memories of going on a tour of The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.  She recalls with audible disturbance, the traumatic memory she has from her school tours through the museum which depicts lynchings and a slave ship as well as segregation and slavery.  Its one of the few times everyone in the car was silent.  Three white males in the car 47, 14, and 12. And myself a white woman.  It really hit us all.  My pubescent sons' mouths were gaping and at one point my youngest announced, "This is horrible!  Why would people do that?"  I turned the volume down and asked the boys to imagine that they were born and raised in a country where in recent history white people were segregated, lynched, abused, treated like animals and made to be slaves?  That's the history that my black friends in the U.S. live with.

People like me and my husband and sons we have no idea what that feels like.  That's what "white privilege" means.  It doesn't me we get a hand out or hand up.  It means we don't live with a history of oppression against people who look like us in the country we call home.

I know folks are upset about NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.  And I know people are quick to defend police officers (so am I... I'm married to one).  But we white folks need to listen.  We need to listen to stories like this.  And to the stories of our black neighbors and co-workers and friends.  We need to listen.  And shut our mouths.  We may have good arguments.  But especially those of us who call ourselves Christians need to put our hands over our mouths and listen.

I have nothing but respect and prayers for our veterans and military servants.  I love my country.  But my country has a history of sinful oppression of people of color.  What we hear in the news and see on T.V. and post in our social media is not going to stop the blood of the slaves from crying out in their descendants. We need to lay down our lives and listen. We need to stop being Job's friends to those who are bearing a bitter burden.  We need to love our black neighbors.  And give our lives for their restoration to wholeness.

This is the way of Christ, our God and Savior who wasn't white.  This is the way of the God who calls peoples of every tribe, tongue and nation to be his children.  This is the way of Jesus, who drove out the proud money-changers and proclaimed, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations"? And you have turned it into house of robbers!"

 "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." -2 For. 5:18-19

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger... -James 1:19 

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