Je Suis Nice

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Nice, France June 2013

It should be pretty clear by now, nobody knows what to do.

And I find myself asking, “Is this our new normal?” But I keep rejecting that, because God forbid I ever accept as normal, one suffering human taking down hundreds of strangers.

But how do I respond?

Author Anne Lamott has some pretty good thoughts here.  She says Cain is still killing Abel, just as he always has, but grace still bats last.

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Taken from the Promenade des Anglais Nice, France August 2011

My sister lives in Nice.

She was having dinner five blocks from the truck massacre. She and her friends were swept into waves of people running from what they didn’t know. They just knew they should run. The friend she was dining with wrote this in the Huff Post about the experience.

It prompted someone to say on her Facebook page, “that was a little too close.”

Let us not delude ourselves. We are all a little too close now. The idea that anyone can “keep us safe” from a guy driving a truck into a crowd, or the other terrors we imagine but don’t speak, is just foolish.

Unfortunately, this rage, this sickness, this despair is alive to some degree in all of us, and only in that space can a meaningful response begin.

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Castel Plage. Promenade des Anglais. Nice France. June 2013

Don’t believe me?

Pick a tragedy. Ataturk Airport Istanbul. Dallas PD. Bangladesh. Iraq. Orlando. Nice. Did you know there are pages-long lists of terrorist attacks organized by month on Wikipedia?

How did you react to the news of each? Rage? Invective? I alternate between that and sighing defeat, but what does that accomplish? Nothing. It just releases more anger, fear and despair in my orbit.

Maybe you’re not enraged by the carnage.

But how do you react when you see a Black Lives Matter rally? Do you murmur and grumble? Make surly comments? What about Trump and Hillary? I. Can’t. Even.

What comes out of your mouth then? What do you release into your orbit? Certainly, (hopefully) it’s different by degree, but not in nature.

It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, Jesus said. It’s what comes out.

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Vieux Ville, Nice France. June 2013

Someone told me once, the key to victory in spiritual warfare (and don’t kid yourself, that is happening) is entering the battle bearing the opposite spirit. St. Francis explained it like this:

Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me sow pardon, where there is despair, let me bring hope. We saw that this week in Dallas. Thank God.

But after Bastille Day, with our Nicoise brothers and sisters lying dead in the street, nothing could be more irrational and impossible. Nothing. Yet, Jesus said to do it, so it must be possible. But He never said it would be easy or cheap.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ He said.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

To do such an impossible thing, we have to believe that Jesus is the God of impossible redemptions. Which I do.

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Overlooking the Promenade des Anglais

Kindness is the fruit of the spirit I most want to cultivate right now.  So when I find myself shouting expletives at my tv, I try to catch it and consider how unkind that is. It only poisons Sam and me and our home.

What I’m trying to do instead is stay within my circle of influence – controlling the things I can – like my mouth, my interaction with people I love, and my service to people around me.

So I’m choosing kindness when what I want to do is scream. I’m choosing quiet, unseen service to other humans when I want to be selfish and angry. I’m choosing to slow it down and respond carefully in conflict, rather than just reacting in my same old ways.

And I’m choosing to pray and fill this space with beautiful images from one of my favorite cities on earth. Nice. Mon coeur est brise´.

What else can I do?

Maybe this sounds naive in light of the shocking and seemingly relentless terror that plagues the world now. If I could do something about all that rage and violence, I would.

Maybe what I can do is deal with my own.

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#PrayingforNice

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Meet The God of Water.

Pouring Water

(Photo credit: peterjroberts)

You are the glass – God, the water.

Fill up daily.

Your glass is more useful than special.

Use it. Fill it. Empty it on

a thirsty, beaten world.

What else would you do with it?

Bedazzle and shelve it with the other pretty vessels?

Fill it with poison and sell it?

Smash and shatter it into angry little bullets?

Why, when you can water God’s flowers?

Douse their drooping heads

with a cool drink from the eternal spring.

Your glass can hold only so much privilege.

Welcome Atheists.

Lately, I’ve been reading atheist blogs because I am fascinated by faith in all its forms.

I’m not interested in shouting over who’s right or wrong – there are enough people doing that. Rather, I’m interested in how people decide what to believe.

An avid rejection of church behavior (Christian in particular) seems to fuel many of the blogs. The Crusades, the antics of Westboro Baptist Church, the flaming mess that is the homosexuality debate in America, all seem foremost in the minds of a lot of bloggers.

I get it. My conscience recoils at that behavior too, and for years, it helped me rationalize my rejection of God. But had I shut out the noise and read what Jesus and his disciples actually said, I might have seen things like this:

You my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:13-14

The Bible has a lot to say about love, but I’m not sure you’d know that by casually observing the church. Where in scripture does it say, Christians must deliver a constant public service announcement about the justice of God?

Yes, I believe in the God of justice before whom we will all stand and explain ourselves, but I also believe in the God of love and mercy. And if, as the Apostle Paul says, it’s the kindness of God that leads men to repent, and we’re so concerned about the repentance of others,

why aren’t we kinder?

So, my intention with this space is to highlight people living the freedom, kindness and love of God, whether they call it that or not – the sort of love that makes the world more fragrant and beautiful, like orange blossoms do in spring.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Foster

Look at this cop giving socks and shoes to a homeless guy. Is he a Christian? I don’t know, but he is doing what Jesus said: Love your brother. Clothe him.

Yes, the Bible is controversial and demanding, it always has been. Of course there are things in it I wish were not, but conventional wisdom is overrated. I love that Jesus is still defying conventional wisdom:

  • Stop grumbling.
  • Forgive your enemies.
  • Don’t be proud.
  • Pray for people who persecute you.
  • Trust Me.
  • Give money away.
  • Feed the poor.
  • Worship God.
  • Serve one another.

It could take the rest of my life just to get that right, so I really don’t have time to get that splinter out of your eye. I’ve got a big log in my own.

Ultimately, holiness is always an inside job, and when it’s done well, it’s illuminating. God willing, those are the people you’ll find here.

So welcome to a conversation about freedom and love. I follow Jesus Christ but I welcome atheists, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims to the conversation. Welcome gays and lesbians. Welcome hunters and PETA activists, left-wing, right-wing and whatever the Tea Party is. Welcome all you who are heavy laden and weary.

Let’s go find some rest.