Made for Another World

Another mass shooting has occurred, unleashing unspeakable grief on the victims’ families, profound sadness for the rest of us, confusion and anger for our nation. Frustration, too. Why does this keep happening? There’s a quick answer, at least for Christians, though it’s not very emotionally satisfying: broken humanity, immersed in wickedness, does bad stuff. C.S. Lewis, in his classic book The Problem of Pain, makes this point when he writes,

When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.
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The Pain of it All from a Hip Hop Context

Theory Hazit is a profound rapper discussing some serious issues of pain. Hazit has been known to engage with controversial subjects, and the video below is nothing less than stellar.

What Hazit does is contextualize pain within a Hip Hop context. He grapples with the current issue of bullying and being GLBTQ through music. If you’re not familiar with Hip Hop’s deep connection with pain, check out this excerpt:

Hip Hop defines suffering in one of five ways. 1) Suffering because of circumstances that you cannot control (e.g. financial hardships, family drama, physical ailments, mental disabilities), 2) suffering for a cause in which you believe deeply in (e.g. socio-political issues, social justice concerns, racial matters), 3) suffering because of the individual personhood (e.g. people hate you because you have money, fame, prestige, or simply doing well in life), 4) suffering as a result of something you as a person have done in life and or something someone has done to you (e.g. past mistakes, current mistakes, life errors or for something good that you did but are now being persecuted for it, and or the good and bad within intimate relationships), and 5) suffering as a result of social, political, and or spiritual oppression (e.g. beginning a new mantra of belief or creating new paradigms for people to see the world differently and society not dealing well with that).

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What Death Taught Me Once Again

A friend I knew as Papa, Bob Moore, left a legacy today: God is big and suffering like Christ is how we show Him to others.

Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born, so Bob Moore was the closest thing to a local grandfather I ever knew. I don’t think he intended to become my grandfather, but he became it anyways. By the time he joined Christ in heaven, his body was badly beaten from disease and a few falls along the way. I mention this because it’s in his suffering that I learned the most from him.

People teach us in different ways: Bob Moore taught me what it meant to suffer like Christ. I never heard him complain as a disease moved like a freight train through his body. Instead, he embraced Jesus in it all. For all the study I did of God’s suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13–53:12), Papa Moore showed me what it meant to really embrace what that servant, being Jesus, requires of us.

Do You Flee From Pain or Face It?

Pain is something I work hard to avoid. It hurts and seem only a negative. A pain in my legs after exercise means an injury. A scratchy throat is the beginning of an illness. A broken heart represents losing at love.

Even though pain is not fun, there’s positive that can come out of it. The pain in my leg is my body adjusting to a new workout that’s making me stronger. The scratchy throat is due to long phone conversation with my loving mother. And the broken heart was God’s separating me from a bad choice until the right one came along.

My survival instinct many times causes me to flee pain.

Growing up adults repeatedly shared the famous quote, “When the going get tough, the tough get going.” However, the only “get going” I wanted to do was away from the pain.

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Positively Painful

My kids and I went grocery shopping this weekend, gathering food for their school lunches. We were seeking new foods, trying to escape the “lunch box rut” of sandwiches every day. Noah wanted to try some soups and granola bars. However, as we read the labels on each item, we found hidden sources of gluten.

Noah was diagnosed with Celiac Disease this past year, meaning he’s allergic to gluten and had to drastically change his diet. He looked defeated by the end of our shopping trip, “It’s not fair - I can’t eat anything I like any more!”

I knew this day was coming. He’s been a trooper the past year, accepting his new lifestyle with a positive attitude. Up to this point his desire to grow and get healthy overrode any frustration. But now he was feeling reality.

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Amy Winehouse: Toward A Theology of Suffering

Almost every great artist/ performer over the last 50 years has struggled with their demons. But their struggle has given us some of the best art, music, dance, poetry, books, and even theology. One of my favorite quotes is in the DVD extras of the film Bruce Almighty when Bruce is having a conversation with God (Morgan Freeman) and asking him why he didn’t save this young man when he was brutally picked on as a kid. God simply answers and says that if the kid had not gone through that pain and hurt, the poetry and literature he wrote about, which inspired many later in his life, would have never come to fruition.

Most of us have a theology which takes us far from pain and suffering. We have tended to label being “Blessed” with affluence and wellbeing. We tend to see those who suffer as being “lost” or even worse, in “sin.” I remember spending almost an entire semester trying to convince a young college class of mine at a private Christian university that there were actually homeless people who were Christian and had a strong relationship with God.
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Power of Pain

Years ago our family lived in Munich, Germany and while there I ran my first marathon. Completing this distance was something I had dreamt about for a long time but always doubted my ability to run that far.

I had a love/hate relationship with the training. I enjoyed the challenge but often asked, “Why am I doing this to myself?”

Race day was no different. There were moments of highs and lows. One in particular was as I neared mile 18. My energy began to drop and I feared I was about to hit the infamous “wall” where the body threatens to shut down. My legs became heavy and it took more effort to move them.

As I came to the 18th mile marker the course tuned into a city park. It was there I saw a man holding a sign that read…

Where there is pain, there is life.

Christ's Love and the Blessing of Holy Saturday

Saturday in Holy Week – in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, it seems like just a placeholder. Why then does the Church call it Holy?

On the Friday we call Good, our Lord laid down his life for us; went to the Cross in love, and there took on all the weight of the world’s sin, and death too, all for us. He died. His heart was pierced by the centurion’s spear, and blood and water poured out. His lifeless body was taken down, covered in blood and sweat, cradled in his mother’s arms, and then, hastily, wrapped up and placed in the tomb.

And there in the tomb he lay.

Jesus had done his work on the Cross – redeeming the world that God had made and called good, but that we had broken; calling all humanity to him, his arms outstretched on the Cross to draw all to himself. In six days, God made all of creation; on the seventh day He rested. And the Son, having done his work on the Cross, rested too.

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but even if HE doesn't - faith in the face of failure

But even if He doesn’t…

Faith, trust, belief, reliance, hope. I have faith that God will. I trust that God will. I believe God is going to. As Christians today we are smitten with the thought that God will grant our prayers, fix our problems, heal our sickness, deliver us from struggle, and rescue us from tribulation. We claim it. We focus on it. We sing about it. We preach about it. We rely on it.

Perhaps He will and Perhaps He won’t. 

I live in San Diego and if you live here, you can't help but be impacted by the muder of Chelsea King. When she went missing, thousands began to pray for her return.  Thousands turned out to search for her.  Thousands now morn her savage murder.  Over the past week, probably because I am a lawyer that represents death row inmates, people have wanted to talk to me about the case.  Frequently the issue of God's role in all of this comes up and people will talk about it shaking their faith.

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Where Joy and Pain Collide

Tatyana lives in post communist Moldova, a country still experiencing the aftermath of the cruel regime,  twenty years later. Tatyana is a middle aged woman, although her rough hands and tight wrinkles lining her eyes and round face declare otherwise. Tatyana bears deep scars on the palms of her tiny hands. She always carries with her, kind eyes; the kind of eyes that reveal that she holds within her many layers of experiences and wisdom. Tatyana is a member of the persecuted church. The scars from her hands were caused by smoothing cement barehanded while communist soldiers looked on in mockery. Tatyana and her friends were building a church in 1985. They were given permission by the Soviets to build the church so long as they didn’t use any building equipment.

I had the privilege of being with Tatyana in 2005 on the 20th anniversary of the building of this church. It is a beautiful church. About 200 others were there that day. They were the people who had built that church alongside Tatyana and who bore scars of their own to prove it.

These people were heavily persecuted during this time. They were tortured, separated from loved ones and dispersed to foreign lands. Tatyana remained in Moldova during the heaviest times of persecution. What I saw in Tatyana and in her scars and what I saw in those who had gathered from near and far for the reunion, was not the pain that they had once endured, rather, I witnessed an overwhelming, incredible, indescribable joy.

I asked Tatyana about her regrets later that evening. She told me she had none. I asked her if communism were to re enter Moldova again would she flee. She smiled and told me the most joyful times in her life were also the most painful. She would endure the torture and the pain all over again if it meant bringing her that type of joy.

In my experiences traveling to developing countries and spending time with the oppressed, I have seen this joy despite age, culture and location. I do not seek to glamorize poverty in any way and yet, I cannot help but be intrigued by the fact that the most joyful people I have met are those who have experienced or are experiencing incredible amounts of pain and suffering. 

It’s as if those who have much are less satisfied than those who have little. The empty are filled. The weak are made strong. The poor become rich.  So what happens where joy and pain collide?

Consider John 16:20-22 for a moment.

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
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