Archive | July 2016

Jesus vs. Christ

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I visited a temple once where people burnt incense to create positive energy between them and the universe.

I’ve seen shrines meant to honor, worship and appeal to some higher power.

I’ve known people who consult horoscopes for a glimpse into their future and people who collect trinkets meant to bring good luck from above.

I’ve met some who offer prayers to the sky, not knowing what might be up there but hoping something is.

All these things have led me to change the way I refer to a particular person in my life.

Over the past few years, I’ve started using the name Jesus more. I used to stick with “Christ,” but as I’ve been exposed to other faiths, I’ve become more and more grateful that He and I can be on a first-name basis.

Jesus isn’t some unreachable, unrelatable being, but a person. Someone who understands me. Someone to talk to. Someone who listens and cares and is involved with my life.

Yes, He’s God, too, but He’s also a person.

During His 33 years on earth, Jesus was seen and touched. He traveled, cried, formed friendships, ate, prayed for people, attended weddings, occupied a fishing boat, taught, worked, healed and felt pain.

Of course it wasn’t just those 33 years.

While He may not walk around in sandals and robes anymore, He’s as present as ever. And I’m not just saying that because the Bible says so (although I think that’s a good reason); I know it for a fact because of the impact He’s had on my life.

It’s the way He’s transformed my thoughts and actions—how He’s made me more hopeful, more compassionate and, little by little, less selfish. It’s the way He’s been there when no one else is and how He’s always faithful even when others aren’t. It’s how He knows my name and makes me feel valued and cherished with all my many, many flaws.

I know there’s nothing wrong with calling Him “Christ” or even “Jesus Christ,” but when I know people well or have a personal relationship with them, I tend to use their first names.

And I gotta say that being on a first-name basis with the Savior of the world is pretty darn cool.

After a week of shootings, finding a place for compassion

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Dallas Police Chief David Brown pauses at a prayer vigil following the deaths of five police officers. Source: NPR.org

I remember as a kid seeing my parents walk away from the TV, shaking their heads in disgust as the news droned on in the background. Now I find myself in their shoes, fed up with one tragedy after another, wanting to change the radio station or stop scrolling my news feed but unable to escape the constant feeling that we’re all waiting for the next kill.

Here’s my reaction to the past week, plus a challenge to us all.

Heartbreak

It started Tuesday morning, July 5, in Louisiana. Alton Sterling.

It continued Wednesday night in Minnesota. Philando Castile.

The next night, five Dallas police officers and a Bristol, Tennessee, mail carrier.

With one shooting after another—plus recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and France just today—my heart literally hurts.

Another vigil. More tears. Another protest. More outcry. Another picture of the deceased on a happier day. … When does the madness end?

I know the Bible verses. I know Jesus has overcome the world. I know one day every knee will bow. I know He’s for us so who can be against us? I know He wins and good triumphs in the end.

But until then, I struggle with my own emotions over it all. I’m angry. And heartbroken. And about 10% afraid I’ll go to the grocery store one day and never come back.

It’s also getting closer and closer to home. The Minnesota shooting wasn’t far from my in-laws. The one in Tennessee is near my family. I’m beginning to feel like no one is safe, no matter how you live your life.

And that’s where I think there’s something deeper to learn here.

Compassion

I don’t know what it’s like to be a black man pulled over for a traffic stop. I don’t know what it’s like to be targeted for the uniform I wear. I don’t know what it’s like to have a gun in my face because someone feels threatened.

So how can I say what I would or wouldn’t do in those situations?

I learned years ago in journalism class that we all have our biases. Our race, gender, how and where we grew up all shape our thoughts and actions.

Even so, one thing we can all do is show compassion.

I know it’s hard to sort through the noise as the media pieces together this seemingly endless, jumbled chaos, but at the most basic level, people lost their lives. Today, dozens around the country are coping with the loss of a husband or wife, son or daughter, parent or friend.

It could have been your spouse or your child or your friend.

And while it’s tempting, I don’t think this is the time to shake your head and walk away. Talking about it with people who don’t look or think like you can get you out of your own bubble and help you see more than one side. (I’ve actually done that and it’s been enlightening.)

It may be touchy at first, but if we’re too afraid to talk about these things, we certainly can’t expect them to get better.

Whatever other emotions are coursing through our veins right now, now isn’t the time to set compassion aside.

I hate politics

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Politico.com

I hate politics. At least during election season.

I hate how politicians constantly bicker, throwing insults across the aisle like middle schoolers playing dodge ball. I’m sick of the fliers I get in the mail, advertising how great this candidate is and what a jerk the opponent is. I’m tired of hearing about the latest unveiled scandals from 10 years ago. I find it exhausting trying to keep up with who said what and why they did such and such. I hate how sound bites are played over and over as political analysts draw varying theories about what the politician said.

And if I see one more ad showing a candidate frolicking through sunlit wheat fields and lunching with guys in hard hats, I might just gag. Too bad the opponent always seems to be photographed in the worst lighting possible for those things.

I know there are good politicians out there—I’ve met some of them—but it seems so many get sidetracked fending off the opponent and sidestepping controversy that I give up trying to understand their position and stop caring. Or maybe that’s the strategy.

This month alone, I’ve heard just as many attacks on the presidential campaign trail as I have explanations for each presumptive candidate’s platform.

In one corner, you’ve got Hillary complaining about Trump’s response to Brexit and calling him out on selling furniture made in Turkey instead of America. In the other corner, Trump still says Hillary should go to jail for using a private email server as secretary of state and blames her for supporting trade deals that caused manufacturing jobs to plummet.

Then there are the Trump scandals dealing with everything from bankruptcy to beauty pageants. And the Hillary scandals regarding conflicts of interest and those blasted emails again.

Just hearing the word “politics” this time of year makes me want to plug my ears and run away.

The problem, of course, is that ignoring it would be stupid. Why? Because no matter who you are or where you live, politics impact you in immeasurable ways.

While the race for president may be the most talked about political movement this year, there are all kinds of campaigns being run, petitions being signed, bills being passed and decisions being made at any given time. Some are at the town or county level; others influence the whole state or nation.

These decisions affect schools, water supply, marriage, transportation, businesses, churches, war, health care, wages and human life itself.

Are those enough reasons to care?

Here’s one more if you’re a Christian: We’re supposed to do all we can to make the world a better place—care for the needy, seek peace, be good stewards of the earth, protect people—and politics has a lot to do with that.

So next time you’re tempted to change the station, ignore your news feed or shy away from friendly debate on political matters, reconsider. Do your research and think about the chance you have to impact what goes on around you.