In Chains For Christ

Two months ago, I posted about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian man who has been detained in an Iranian prison while his wife and two children continue to plead for his release. When I last posted about this situation, Abedini’s wife and young son had spoken directly with President Obama, in hopes Abedini could be home in time to celebrate the boy’s birthday. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.Saeed 1

This week, the United States Senate took up the banner, calling for the immediate release of American detainees including Pastor Abedini. The 90-0 Senate vote reflected a firm resolve to keep this matter in the forefront during nuclear negotiations with Iran. Continue reading “In Chains For Christ”

Life In A Meat-grinder

With ABC’s Dianne Sawyer conducting a two-hour interview scheduled to air tomorrow night, stories and pictures of Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner are everywhere online as well as on the front pages of various tabloids. Jenner reached the pinnacle of success, snagging two Gold Medals in the grueling decathlon. Esquire described him as “the greatest athlete of his time.”bruce-jenner-olympics-590rr020410-e1340118588112The picture above shows the young athlete I remember admiring, proudly holding one of his medals. I can’t deny my amazement that this man – and he is a man, no matter what extent his body is or will be mutilated – could be the same individual the news outlets are now covering.

Forty years separated from his last Gold Medal achievement, the recent picture below makes me think of a tortured and lost child, someone so despondent he’s chosen an extraordinary (some would say irrational) path in hopes it will bring him some measure of peace. I look at this second picture and it breaks my heart. How does an individual arrive at this point of utter desperation?Screenshot 2015-04-23 18.26.14Yes, life can be a meat-grinder … even for someone who is perceived to have success, all the perks of a fine life and seemingly not a care in the world. With three marriages and three divorces, Jenner fathered six children but did not (apparently) find the transformative experiences of family suited his neediness.

Continue reading “Life In A Meat-grinder”

The Just and the Unjust

There’s an innate desire in our psyche when it comes to knowing an evildoer has been quickly and properly punished. Take the recent guilty verdict rendered in the trial of the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber. As soon as the verdict came down last week, Twitter came alive with condemnations about the still-living perpetrator, stating it would be good for him to get “a taste of his own medicine” or “will he lose his head?” Others emphatically demanded the death penalty.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

The biblical patriarch Job expresses similar inclinations in Job chapter 24. The chapter begins with Job asking another penetrating question:  why doesn’t the Almighty set certain specific days for judgment? I think he asks this question in part because he believes people want to know and be assured that evil actors are receiving retribution for their wickedness! If God would set aside the first day of each month to mete out judgment on evildoers, the rest of us could at least have satisfaction knowing it’s been done. Continue reading “The Just and the Unjust”

Where Is God?

Job didn’t gloss over things. As Chapter 23 in The Book of Job opens, Job readily admits:  “I am still complaining today. I groan because God is still making me suffer.” Instead of addressing the observations made by Eliphaz in the previous chapter, Job simply states the facts:  I’m complaining, I’m groaning, all this suffering is causing me to act like a grumpy old man.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Complainers don’t win a lot of fans. When friend go through hard times, we want to give them leeway, permit some grousing, just enough to communicate our willingness to sympathize with their situations. But for the friend who builds a reputation as a perpetual complainer, we’re not quite as sympathetic or patient. More often than not, we’re repelled. We have nicknames for them:  Debbie Downer … Negative Nancy … wet blanket … buzzkill. Continue reading “Where Is God?”

Beauty In The Last Breath

Kara Tippetts died yesterday. She was 38, the mother of four and wife of 17 years to Jason. Though I never had the pleasure to meet her, like scores of others, I “knew” her through a blog, Mundane Faithfulness, where she shared the story of her short life with grace and authenticity.Kara

My first acquaintance with Tippetts came last fall thanks to an open letter she’d written to another woman also suffering from cancer. That woman had decided to proactively end her own life before the cancer could kill her. In November, after that woman died (by her own hand), I posted my thoughts here. Again in January, I posted a second time (with a sonnet) when Kara’s blog announced she’d begun to receive hospice care. Continue reading “Beauty In The Last Breath”

Toothless and Useless?

Utility knife. Utility tool-belt. Utility blanket. Utility bill. One of the foundational pillars of our culture is a focus on utility … on usefulness. We’re geared toward doing, making progress, accomplishing things. Take a look at the More Saving / More Doing folks of Home Depot commercials, some that employ the hashtag #LetsDoThis. They’ve captured the essence of our age. They understand we want the knowledge, the skills, the tools – sometimes even multi-purpose tools – to help us complete one task before moving onto the next.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

There’s a downside to this focus on usefulness though. If an object isn’t perceived as useful, we’re trained to think of it as worthless. On an even more disturbing level, aging individuals are sometimes viewed as useless. Retirees may feel useless because they’re no longer doing the things they once did. They feel unproductive. Continue reading “Toothless and Useless?”

Empty Words Are No Comfort

For someone in our world today, the depth of Job’s desperation is difficult to fathom. Oh, one might be able to name people (friends, acquaintances or relatives) who have endured terrible suffering. But in our day, we have doctors and medications fairly close at hand. There are resources from which to make a possible diagnosis. No such things for Job. He has three friends, comforters, counselors, but their ministrations can hardly be considered palliative!

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

In Chapter 21 of The Book of Job, we find Job once again responding to the bandaid-assurances of Zophar. Oh, Job, if only you’d get your life straight, confess your sins, God would forgive you and everything would be okay again. We could all go back to life as normal!

Continue reading “Empty Words Are No Comfort”

Naming the Name of Jesus

A little boy needs his daddy. When birthdays roll around, he feeds on his daddy’s presence … the grown man modeling for the young one how to navigate through the normal events of life. For a boy in primary school whose daddy is half a world away, an extended absence of more than thirty months represents a significant chunk of the child’s life. Knowing daddy is wrongly imprisoned causes a level of anxiety a little boy should never have to endure.abedini-pastor-saeed-abedini-and-their-two-young-children-in-this-undated-family-photoThe boy is Jacob Abedini whose father Pastor Saeed Abedini has been detained in an Iranian prison since 2012. Back in January, President Obama met with Abedini’s wife and two children; he assured them Saeed’s release was a “top priority” for him and his administration. Continue reading “Naming the Name of Jesus”

With Friends Like These . . .

In last week’s post about The Book of Job (chapter 19), I mentioned how Job claimed he’d been falsely accused. He expressed disappointment with his friends for their unfairness toward him. In the final verses of the chapter, he also warns them not to condemn him suggesting they may be caught one day in the same situation. His frustration and perceived unfriendliness isn’t going to bring out the best in his friends. Hurt feelings are increasing.

This week’s post won’t be an improvement from the last chapter’s angst, because Job’s friend, Zophar, isn’t likely to turn the other cheek. He’s aggravated now, upset by Job’s warning at the end of Job 19. The narrative in chapter 20 reflects this is no longer hey-I’m-your-friend, how-can-I-help. The discussion has turned into we-knew-all-along-you-were-wicked, now-we’re-going-to-tell-you-what-we-really-think!

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Zophar unloads! How dare Job accuse his friends of using pretext as the basis for accusation! What they perceive as Job’s holier-than-thou attitude is what has gotten him into this hot water with the Almighty, doncha’ know!

Continue reading “With Friends Like These . . .”

A Paleo-Innocence Project

Wrongfully accused … even for young children, this is an easily-understood expression. The concept of fairness seems inborn and children learn at an early age the power of a complaint “It’s not fair!” Job wasn’t a child, but he understood how it felt to be wrongfully accused.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

In studying The Book of Job, I’ve begun to understand how awful it is to be perceived as a wrongdoer … when you’re not! Every time Job proclaimed his innocence, his friends shook their heads and presumed Job was guilty and deserving of judgment. The “circumstantial evidence” confirmed their hasty judgment. Case closed! Continue reading “A Paleo-Innocence Project”