Archive for September, 2011

A Sept. 11, 2001 Memory

Posted: September 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

Hard to believe that 10 years have past since Sept. 11, 2001. I have a lot of memories of that day starting with the first news bulletin I heard on WBEZ. But I want to share a memory that has quietly haunted me ever since that day.

Still in shock from the horrors of the pictures that I’d seen and the news that the President had been in Omaha (a nightmare scenario for a Nebraska kid growing up in the 1980’s who was often reminded that Omaha was command center of our nuclear arsenal) – I went to church with my roommate. It was his church. Mine was far away in the city. During the service that night we gathered to pray with other members of the congregation. One of the lay people in my circle prayed that God would teach us to love our enemies. As I remember it now, I remember resisting this prayer. I didn’t want to love the people who attacked our country. I also remember thinking that now we had enemies. I had always struggled to identify the enemy I was commanded to love. Finally, I remember thinking this prayer, though hard, was right.

I’ve been haunted by this memory b/c I believe that has been the only time in the last 10 years when I’ve heard a person in church talk about the command to love our enemies. I feel confident that I haven’t heard anyone talk about it in the context of the war on terrorism or Al Quaeda. I think this is a real missed opportunity by the American church to explore counter cultural commandKingdom of Christ during a time when many have been lusting for vengeance.

As I talked this over with my wife, I became persuaded that maybe Sunday, 9/11/11 was not the time to preach on loving our enemies. It is a time to grieve with those who grieve and lament with those who lament. And indeed, that was not the text this last Sunday. Still, I’m hoping that the next time I hear reference to that verse isn’t when another city is covered in smoke and ashes.

Turtles

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Maybe it is just a fall thing but I’m getting the blogging itch again. I thought I would start yet another re-launch of this project with a note that I wrote to my niece on her 12th birthday. My brother asked several adults who know Emily to write letters for her as she enters adolescence. They compiled the letters for her into a book. It was a fun project to think of what advice to write a 12 year old. Here was what I came up with.

Emily,
It has been a pleasure to watch you grow into a young woman and I’m very excited to be able to celebrate your baptism with you. I’m very proud that you are my niece.

I’ve been asked to share something I’ve learned in life with you, so I want you to know that there are turtles in the water. There are probably a lot of them.

For awhile I ate lunch each day by a pond in a little woods not far from where I worked. It was a pretty ordinary pond with some tall grass and lily pads and probably some liter along the bank. It was kind of boring. At first I would turn to look at the people in the park, or the clouds, or the trees as I ate my lunch. But I learned something by that pond. If I kept looking at the water and the lily pads my eyes would slowly adjust. I would start to see different shades of green and little bumps in the water. Eventually I would see a turtle sticking his head up watching me, and then I would see a bullfrog sitting in the grass. If I kept looking I would be able to make out many turtles, frogs, and sometimes fish in the weeds and water of that pond. It was full of life. The animals were there the whole time; it just took me awhile to adjust to their camouflage.

I share this not so you can spot more turtles this summer (though I hope you do) but because I think this is an important lesson. As most people get older they get busier. There will be work to do for school and at home, music and sports to practice, church activities to attend. There will be people to talk to and you will want to spend some time listening to music, watching TV or being on the computer. These are all good things but in the business of life it is easy to miss some of the most interesting, some of the most beautiful things in the world. It is also really easy to miss God.

Ugly things in life, like brightly colored litter in a pond are usually easy to see. Some people only see the ugly things and end up bored, angry, and bitter. To see the beautiful things, such as great sunsets, or people who do kind things for others, or the ways God loves us, you usually have to stop being busy for a while and watch, ask questions, and quietly think.

I hope as you enter this next phase of life you find time to stop and daydream, write or draw, walk in the woods, and look at the stars. As we do these types of things we give our minds time to adjust to see all the interesting and beautiful things that are all around us. As you do this in the years ahead you may find that you have a lot of questions, questions without easy answers. That is ok. Don’t be afraid of questions they are an important part of how we grow. Just keep watching and listening.

You may not see it right away but there are turtles in the water. There are probably a lot of them.

Love,
Uncle Matt