Why I am Not Praying For Brussels…

Brussels HeartI awoke this morning to the all too familiar tone of BBC’s Radio 5’s Adrain Chiles.  He has a familiar manner and accent on the radio and is easy to spot, but today as I awoke, there was that other tone in his voice.  It is a tone of lament and shock that is heard only when a radio news host is sharing something tragic over the airwaves.  Today, Chiles was describing the events that have taken place in Brussels, where two explosions have happened at an airport and on a train.  So far the death count stands at “at least 31.”  Who knows where it will end.

Awaking to such news and atrocity still bears a shock factor.  Even though I grew up in a country where people seemed happy to plant bombs and cause mayhem and chaos every day; where daily the radio and TV news seemed to tell the story of another explosion/shooting/loss of life, there is still a shock factor when news filters through that something has happened in the world.  I suppose that even though it keeps happening, there is still a disbelief, within me, that in this day and age people still think that this is an effective way to get your message across.  I know that evil exists, and that maniacs still do their thing…but in some way I still relentlessly hope that lessons might have been learned after the last time, and that such atrocious and horrendous violence might become no more…

So what do I do with it all?  What do we do with it all?

What are others doing?  In the Facebook age, the immediate response, which brings out the low level activist in us all, is to post a #PrayerforBrussels with an appropriate image like the one above. I have done this same thing on many occasions in the past, and I applaud it, but today I am hesitant to respond in that way.

Before you judge me and accuse me of godless heresy, hear me out.  The title of this post might lead you to think that I am simply not praying for the people of Brussels, but this is not the case. It is not that I am not praying for the peace and comfort of the people of Brussels who are experiencing the onset of the deepest pain and darkness that they will experience ever. I completely am in prayer for those people who have lost loved ones, or who are now having to consider what life will be like in the aftermath of an event like this.  I am praying that they will know the presence of the God of all comfort, and that through the dark clouds of grief, they will see and experience light and hope enough to bring them through.

When I say that I am not praying for Brussels, I am trying to say that “praying for Brussels” is not actually the answer.  For me, simply “praying for Brussels” (or Ankara, or Paris, or New York, or anywhere else that has been visited with the atrocity of terrorism) is to pray that the city and the community will merely recover and find its way back to the place that it was in immediately before explosions exploded and shots were fired.

But that is not my prayer for any of these places.

You see, I don’t think that merely praying for a restoration of things as they were is the answer.

My deep, honest to God prayer is that complete and utter transformation will take place in the hearts and minds of terrorists throughout the world, so that they will no longer see an enemy as one to be blown up or shot at, but rather as one who must be lived alongside in the world.  My prayer is that the people who have experienced the greatest of losses to acts of terror will also experience a complete transformation of heart and mind; a transformation that will heal them of the pain of their loss, lead them on a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation.  My prayer is that in the midst of the darkest times in the life of a city that God’s kingdom will come and that complete transformation will take place.  My prayer is that swords will be turned into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks.  

 

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not more destruction.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not revenge.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not the mere restoration of things as they were.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not more of the same.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is the way of Christ and the kingdom of God.  It is the way of love for enemies.  It is the way of turning the other cheek in the name of peace; in the name of saying to aggressors and terrorists that there is nothing that they can do, which can remove any of that which God has done; there is not act of violent tyranny or oppression of a people that can remove the hope and light of divine love.

So I am not praying for Brussels.  Rather, I am praying earnestly, and maybe even ferociously, that the Kingdom of God will be the present reality in Brussels, Ankara, Paris, New York, London, Belfast, Dublin, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino… in this world, and that the hearts of those who are hurting, and even those who brought about the hurting, would be completely turned over to the way of Divine love, where healing and restoration can flourish, and all fear can be diminished.

Shalom.

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“This Treadmill is Saving My Life…”

This post must start with a confession:

I am the most indisciplined, lazy person I know.

In stating this, I am not being self-critical for attention, and I am not exaggerating either.  I really am very poor at discipline in most areas of my life. I do not take a disciplined approach to physical exercise and movement.  Neither do I take a disciplined approach to reading and study  I try to remember every day to read from the Scripture, or to read an article in a journal or online – but most days I find something to do that seems more important at the time.  And my diet is full of indiscipline.  I eat and drink all the wrong things and I really, really enjoy them.

I am the most indisciplined, lazy person I know.

The result of the indiscipline plays out on many levels.  By lack of exercise, I am not physically fit in any way shape or form.  By lack of study discipline, I am living off of scraps in my spirituality.  And by eating and drinking all the wrong things, my body wobbles all over (which I really don’t like).

The lack of discipline is something that has irked me about myself for a long, long time.  This sense of discomfort with the lack of discipline has only been compounded by the fact that I live my life in a vocation which is in essence supposed to be the epitome of the disciplined life.

Lack of discipline is something that I have always, wanted to address in my life and ministry.  However, I have always found something else to occupy my mind or attention: a task of ministry, personal sense of guilt at having to take the time apart from family or church life to be able to order my life.  Seriously – I allow the guilt of not being at home with family to stop me from taking time to go to the gym.  I allow the guilt of taking more time away from the ones I love most stop me from going out on a walk.  Then I feel guilt for not doing the tasks I am paid to do if I am taking time away to study, read and reflect in life.  I know that seems silly, because it is actually my job to be the one that studies, reads, and reflects – but it is how I feel in those moments.  I do not know the reasoning behind it.  Perhaps I strive too much for human approval in ministry (if I do, I know I am not alone in that). Perhaps I am one who likes to talk the talk of intimacy, but really and truly is quite afraid of intimacy with God; perhaps I believe in my inner self that God will not like what I allow God to see if I enter into such intimacy.

So I find my life to be one of profound indiscipline, and I feel a deep sense of guilt in response to that.  I would also say that my experience of depression in recent years has been a result of this inner sense of failure.

So I want to read and study, but don’t. I want to exercise, but don’t. I want to eat better but don’t.

I alluded just above to my experience with depression.  in the last year this has been a particularly dark time in my journey.  I have spoken to my Dr.  I have done the anti-depressant thing.  I have suffered the side effects of the medication.  I have shared my journey with some friends.  All of this has been to very little effect in dealing with the depression.  Reading around depression, I knew that diet and exercise all play their part.  I also knew that spiritually, there was and is freedom to be found, but that it would take the hard and disciplined work of actually taking time and space to read, study, reflect and ingest God’s word of love for my soul.

How could I get myself moving without taking more time away from my loved ones?  How could I also get the time to feed my mind and soul without feeling guilt about ignoring other responsibilities in my life?

The answer came one night. A treadmill.

So I bought one.  I found a cracking treadmill on Craigslist, in my town, at a steal of a price.  I made the contact, struck the deal and set the beast up in our garage.

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I set about taking the time in the mornings to “walk before work.” I had set up the garage as a gym for Margaret to work out in, and for Christmas I installed a little Smart TV out there on the wall.  Thanks to this, I could have some music playing while I walked. Win win!

But even better than that, I was walking one morning and remembered that I have the Kindle app on my phone and could use that time to read as well as exercise.  Could it be that all my discipline hang ups could be taken care of in one place without even leaving my house?  I believe so.  The next day, I got set up and took my iPad out with me, thus enjoying the benefits of the bigger screen!

The book I chose to read was ‘Immortal Diamond’ by Richard Rohr.  102557It is quite brilliant, and to be honest, his words have been like a stream in the desert for me.  I found myself walking and reading, and having to stop for a moment to read again what Rohr had just said.  Then as I read it for the second time, I would find myself grabbing the handles of the treadmill, closing my eyes and just breathing in the moment; receiving, from God, the truth of what the author had just articulated.  This treadmill in my garage was becoming a holy and sacred place.

It is two weeks now since I got started on this leg of the journey.  I can confess that I have not felt better in a couple of years.  I am still eating all the wrong things (they taste so good!) but I am moving a lot more, and reading a lot more, and praying a lot more, and letting what I read and pray about impact my interactions with the people in my life.  I have finished Immortal Diamond and have read through Tim Keller’s “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness,” and am now in Brennan Manning’s memoir, “All Is Grace.”  This treadmill… It is re-shaping my life…  It is lifting me out of a hole I have been in for a long time…

This treadmill is saving my life.

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