Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tamir Rice

I wasn't going to say anything, because it has all been said. Because my news feed is bombarded with tragedy already and I sometime just feel too overwhelmed by the brokenness and sadness to engage. 

But then I realized, some of you might not know. 

You might not have heard that just over a year ago a 12 year old boy was killed in a park and that now his family has had two Christmases without their son. You might not know that he was just twelve years old, and that's just the same age as my baby brother, my little best friend. You might now know that he was playing with a toy gun, and that the officer who shot him took not even a second to evaluate that it was a child in the park, that the gun was not real, or to even tell the person he thought was an adult to drop the weapon. Window halfway down, less than two seconds, the 12 year old boy with a toy in a park is gone. 

You might not have heard that the state of Ohio is an open carry state, and since the officer claims to have perceived Tamir Rice to be an adult, it would have thus followed for it to be legal for him to have a gun. And you might not have heard that the police officer who shot the 12 year old boy had been deemed unfit for duty in the last police department he had worked at. 

And then two days ago, maybe you didn't hear, it was ruled that the police officer will not face charges for the killing of Tamir Rice. Not the killing, the murder.

He was 12 years old, playing in a park with a toy gun in an open carry state and killed by a police officer who was "recommended to be released" because he could not control himself or follow orders.

My brother is 12 years old. He's white. Tamir Rice was black. So my brother can play in a park with a toy gun and the officer won't shoot him on the spot. He'll probably ask him to drop the weapon and treat him like the human child he is. Because he's white, my brother would live.

Tell me again racism doesn't exist. Tell me again that our system isn't broken, systematically oppressive and racist and unjust. Tell me again, and I will keep telling you the stories.

From Martin Luther King Jr:

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

"The time is always right to do what is right."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Unexpected Prophets, Part 1

Some of the most influential and shaping things I have heard were not from well-known speakers on stages or platforms, but from passing comments made by unknown prophets - folks full of humble wisdom. 

It always seems to be the most unexpected moments and words that stick in your mind, resurfacing in at unlikeliest times, challenging you to reframe your perspective and move forward with a different understanding, perhaps a broader understanding that allows you more freedom to move and breathe and believe.  

I've found that happening to me, continually my worldview is challenged, my opinions shift, even if ever so slightly. These movements in a new direction are gradual, until one day someone tells you how much you have changed, and you pause to revisit all the moments that carried you this new way.

We all know life's a journey, there are however many thousands of inspirational quotes and pretty Pinterest-worthy text-images about life being about the adventure, the journey along the way, not the destination. It's a nice thought, that I wonder how many of us actually believe. 

I think faith is like that. That journey-thing.

People talk about how faith is just about the journey, not the final destination. But behind that quotable statement, the person behind the curtain is still trying to figure it all out, still trying to find all the answers, still trying to KNOW. 

But what if we can't know? What if God is unfathomable and the journey of faith is finding that you can never really understand, that there is nothing concrete to discover, and that all the things you think you know are part of a vast mystery? What if that is the beauty of God, that He cannot really be known? 

Christianity talks about knowing God, goodness I use that phrase all the time! And I believe God allows us to know Him in part, and I also believe part of that knowing is surrendering to the unknowability of God. 

“The argument is made that naming God is never really naming God 
but only naming our understanding of God. 
To take our ideas of the divine and hold them as if they correspond 
to the reality of God is thus to construct a conceptual idol 
built from the materials of our mind," 
says author and philosopher, Peter Rollins. 

What if God is a mystery and faith isn't about knowing more the older you get, but knowing less? What if wisdom isn't about possessing more knowledge, but developing the humility to acknowledge you don't know?

This was the idea presented to me through an offhand comment made by the husband of someone I know through mutual friends and the beauty of Denver's network of servant-hearted, Jesus-loving folks. 

It's so clear, sitting at a round table at a fundraiser. We were towards the back, a table half-filled with people, but full of depth in conversation. I don't remember his name, and I have no recollection of what our conversation was about, or what brought us to the topic of our journeys with Jesus. But I remember what he said. 

He said when he was younger he thought his faith was all about knowing more about God, and expected that as he grew older he would eventually know everything. "But the older I've gotten, the more I see how little I know, and the more God is a mystery to me." 

How beautiful. This being a child, simply in awe of the love and beauty of the Father/Motherliness of God and not feel the need to know everything to be safe in His love. 

God is with us. He is not for, He is not again, He is with. Can we allow that to be enough? 

He is unfathomable, He is not completely knowable. But like Mr. Beaver tells Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe"‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 

And again later, "“He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 

         He's a mystery,
         This wild, untamable God.
         He's safe, 
         This sacrificial, surrendering Lord.
         He's calling, 
         This mother waiting to hold her child.
         He's faithful, 
         This running, open-armed Father.
         He's near,
         This heartbroken, Friend.
         He's scary, 
         This unknown, unfathomable Spirit.
         He's good, 
         This merciful, steadfast King.
         He's kind,
         This God who sees and knows. 
         He's a refuge,
         This Spirit with sheltering wings.
         He's everywhere,
         This God whose name is Love.

         He's a mystery,
         This God inviting you to simply abide.
                        (Original poetry by Katy Owens)

Will you let go? Surrender to the mystery? It may be the only way we can ever "know" this crazy, loving, mystery of a God. 

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“Here God is not approached as an object that we must love, 
but as a mystery present in the very act of love itself.” - Peter Rollins