Friday, July 28, 2006

Lebanon, Israel and Gandhi

No one seems to want to mention WWIII (World War III) when it comes to the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Who would want to think that "it" is a possibility? No one. Instead, we might find it easier to keep the TV off and ignore the day to day concern of this distant mini-war.

I have been unable to keep from praying about the conflict because of friends in Beirut. An outstanding family who became our friends and followers of Jesus several years ago. They moved to teach in Beirut. They are not Americans (so they are probably more safe). We were relieved that the wife and children were not around for the beginning of the bombing, yet the husband left for his homeland several days after heavy bombing. The conflict is a little more real for me and very, very real for them.

The problem with wanting to ignore this 'mini-war' is that the world powers are involved. North Korea is trying to pretend they have something more than firecrackers to shoot at their neighbors, Iran probably does possess (or will soon possess) some deadly nuclear warheads, American troops are strung out in Iraq, Afghanistan and the world. Each country is carefully weighing their words and their involvement in light of their own interests. It would not take too much to force the countries of the world to choose sides to defend their own interests with wartime force (God forbid!).

I am not chicken little. I do not believe the sky is falling. I do not have some silly theory of Armageddon nor of the end of times or the apocalypse to scare people. These anxiety provoking theories about the end of the world create unnecessary fear about the future. Often, it leads to half-wit preachers predicting the end of the world to scare people into the pews or into giving.

It seems that their is a better way to live than fear. Living life based upon fear is missing something about what God intended. Recently I saw the movie Gandhi again. I remember seeing it when it came out decades ago, but it did not mean as much as it did this time.

A young lawyer in Africa (who looks white) is thrown off a train for being colored. It turns out he is Indian. His name is Gandhi and he changed the world and the way people practice their faith and followed the words of Jesus. Gandhi was a Hindu who had a deep understanding of Muslims and a great respect for the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.

Gandhi's first act of non-violent resistance was to level the world by burning a passport that Indians had to carry in their own country (then a British colony). He was beaten to a bloody pulp by British guards. He chosen not to return the violence. He chose to turn the other check until he had no check to turn. From that moment until now, people read and practice Jesus word's differently. Is it not a little bit amazing that a Hindu practices Jesus' word's more seriously than most any Christian?!

No longer can Jesus' words be 'spiritualized' and explained away in war time or in self defense. Literally practicing Jesus' words 'if someone strikes you on your right cheek turn the other cheek also' becomes an option. Cheek turning becomes a practice that exposes violence and the violent person as a violator. Refusing to return violence is so stunning that it is shocking.

How these words get applied in my life today is up to me. I do not have easy answers. There are not easy answers. If someone bombs your capital turn to him your ____ . If you love only your allies what reward do you have? If someone poor takes your social security, then what?

Living without fear does not mean denial nor that life will be easy. Following Jesus is never easy. So, without coming up with a wartime response to submit to the U.S. President or the UN or any world leader, I do have something I am doing and I invite you to join me. I am practicing these words from Jesus:
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Side Comment about Clerks

A funny thing happened on the way to work . . . I heard an National Public Radio interview about the upcoming movie Clerks. During the interview, Kevin Smith (Filmmaker-director) took NPR interviewer Steve Inskeep's innocent 'side comment' and made a major point about life. Listen here to how a meaningless jab at minimum wage workers ended up being opportunity for a lesson about the meaning of life.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith is someone who uses his movies to shock the culture with truth about God (and shock/abhor Christians with pop culture). Most Christians receive a stunning jolt from all his disgusting portrayals of life and most do not see God. Seating in the theater seat next to them are those people who live a secular earthy every day life, who also are shocked by truths about God.

While I cannot say that I have seen these 'Clerk' movies, this particular interview with Kevin Smith had me cheering. The interviewer (ancitipating yet another movie maybe Clerks III) said something like 'you would have to be sad if these guys are still working dead in burger jobs when they are forty.' Smith responds in a heart beat that life is about much more than titles, important jobs or making money. There is much more to life like family and God.

In my opinion, this is shocking good news for a culture bent on consuming itself into debt, anxiety and depression in order to "HAVE" something. When they 'have' it, they end up actually 'having' nothing of substance. Give me a burger job with God over a million dollar job on Wall Street without God any day. Thanks Kevin for being quick on your feet to show the emptiness of those things we exalt and the value of those things we ignore.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stoned by a Sermon

Vacation is a time that typically I like to escape sermons (at least the ones that I preach). For me, when I am listening for words from God (rather than trying to speak them), I am much more changed.

The words of a couple thousand year old sermon still intrigue me. Yeah, I know that is a little strange in a world of high-tech movies with computer graphics and best-selling, page-turning novels. This sermon was spoken on a mountain in Israel by Jesus and it was preserved on 4-5 pages by Matthew. He was a follower of Jesus who spent all his time with Jesus during his three year ministry.

The words of the Sermon on the Mount have haunted my soul all my life and now they really seem to fill my mind. I memorized the entire sermon. Ok, now I have lost you. Too much work. Too weird. I have been practicing on my wife and kids and whoever would sit still long enough to listen. My kids are actually the best targets. When we are in the car, they are strapped in with five point harnesses. I control the wheel and the stereo. Needless to say the family has heard this sermon many times.

Well, here is the story. Last night I was putting a very tired kid into bed. We had done literally a million things together all day: fishing at a pond, Independence Day parade, swimming, eating and playing at McDonalds, a long nap (for the others in my family), changing the oil in the Camry, shooting fireworks, playing games and running through the house playing shoot the rabbit. It was a full, full final day of vacation.

When I put this tired kid in bed after a "great, great, great day" he asked for a drink of ice water because he was thirsty. Initially I tried to brush it off and say that it was time for bed, yet even I was thirsty from all of that running and hiding all over the house. Nathan was insistent to get ice water. I told him that I would get water in a cup from the bathroom, but he wanted ice water. I gave him a 'love and logic' choice. Either you get no water or water from the bathroom. He reluctantly chose water from the bathroom.

When I brought it to him, he said "Daddy, do you want to hear something funny?" I nodded. So, Nathan says, "If your son asks for ice water would you give him a stone?"

Nathan has heard me do the sermon on the mount so many times that he used Jesus' words on me! He adapted this line from the Sermon on the Mount "if your child asks for bread will you give a stone?" (Matthew's gospel 7)

We laughed and laughed. What can you do? I told Nathan that he is a smart boy. I went and got the stone (I mean ice cube), told Donna that I had a story for her and gave him the ice. Then, he told me another joke. "If your child asks for pizza will you give a door?" And then on and on it went. He really cracks me up.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


While on vacation we had a rare shot at grandparent baby sitters. Donna and I decided to catch a movie called Click. It had a huge quantity of poor and grotesque humor. Plus, I felt like the previews had given away the entire movie away.

However, enduring to the very end brought a moving conclusion and life message that was good. It basically was about a man who was able to TiVo his life (pause, fast forward, reverse, etc. using a truly universal remote control). But, using this remote control was not without permanent consequences. The universal remote control used to control his universe had a memory and learned to function based upon his past actions. So, he winds up at the end of his life having lost his life.

One lasting metaphor was the leprechaun on the cereal box. He was always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But when you get to the end of the rainbow all you had was a box of cereal. A great metaphor for the life of a gold digger. He gets to the end of his life and has wasted it away. He does muster enough strength to tell his son "family first" as he lay dying, which is a huge leap from the way he lived life as "work first." However, this 'good' message is still far short of a "God first" or the selfless way of life that was shown by Jesus.

This was a movie that brought me to tears (in a corny way). Especially tough for me was the part about the daughter who grows up before his very eyes quickly. It is a frightening thing for me to think about my daughter growing up and dating guys, and being attractive, etc. The time we have with our kids will be over before we can stop that sticking the fast forward button. Note to self: Take life in slow motion when it comes to the people you love.