How Long, O Lord?

Today our community has been rocked by yet another teenage suicide. I find myself utterly heart broken for this little boy and for his family.

I find myself wondering where God is when a little boy is crying out, and becomes desperate enough to end his own life.

And so, I write this lament as a means of expressing my own grief and despair (even though the youngster is not known to me personally):

How Long, O Lord?

How long, O Lord?

How long?

How long until we stop hearing about young lives lost to hopelessness?
How long until despair and disappointment is a thing reserved until much later in life, when we can perhaps deal with it a little better?
These kids are too young, too energetic, too talented, and too brilliant for us to lose.

How long?

How long will loved ones continue to walk into a room and find their little ones dead?
How long will the hearts of whole communities be ripped apart by tragic premature death?

How long?

You promise to be with us.
You promise to never leave us, nor forsake us.

You assure us that your “yolk is easy and your burden is light”
We are told to cast our burdens upon you because you care for us.

Since the beginning, you have made yourself known to mankind,
So why are you hiding yourself from these young people?
Why do you hide yourself from their understanding; from their experience of life;
Why do you hold back your hope?

I have experienced that hope.

I know your “Good News!”
I know that hope always pervades and cannot be diminished.

I know that light always shines in the darkness, and that darkness cannot ever overcome it.
I know that you are good all the time, and that all the time you are good.

I know this.

But I am nearly 40 years old.

So tell me…
How can you reveal yourself to me, but you do not seem to be able to reveal yourself to the young one getting ready to end his or her life?

I know you are love.
I know you are love and that your love will continue with the grief stricken, broken family of that little boy.

But why was your love not made real for him before he ended his own life?
Why was his wee heart not healed and transformed?
Why was your hope hidden?

You loved that boy enough to die for him,

But you could not show yourself to him in the most desperate of moments, when he needed hope most.
I’m astounded by that.
Your apparent absence is staggering.

How long, O Lord!

How long will we wait for you to revive us?
How long will we have to wait for hope?
How long will the young continue to despair?

I’m hurt as I write this.
I’m angry at you, God.
I’m angry and disappointed.

And yet…

…there is nowhere else to turn.
There is no other place to find hope and healing.
There is no other place to find unconditional, life transforming acceptance and love.

My faith hangs on by a thread right now, God.

Show yourself.
Show yourself.
Keep your promise and show yourself!

We need you to show yourself.

How long, O Lord, until you do?

Advertisements

On the Sudden Passing of a Saint…

She was here last week, as she had been every other week before that.

She was old school in that way.
Church wasn’t a side show in her life – it was her family away from family, her community, her tribe.
That’s why she lived here alone with no blood relatives near by.

She loved us.
And we loved her.

“Didn’t your heart burn within you when the preacher preached today?”
Those were the words she would say to me on her way out of church on the days when her heart had been stirred by the words I had preached.
They were the words she had heard within her own family of origin.
I can’t remember whether it was her father, her grandfather or an uncle in her family…
…but those were the words she had heard when she was young; the words she would use to affirm a good sermon.

She loved us.
And we loved her.

And she could sing. Good Lord, but she could sing!
Each word, each note ringing out from somewhere deep.
Each word, each note telling some of the story of her people.
Each word, each note singing out in praise to God.

She loved God.
And God loved her.

She could sing on her own and lead the church in song:
“His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
“Glory, glory, hallelujah! Since I laid my burdens down.”
Each time she stepped up we knew we were in for a treat; a holy moment.

She loved us.
And we loved her.

She could sing in the choir too.
Our choir. Her choir.
That special group of people committed to each other;
Meeting, praying, and singing together every single week.

She loved them.
And they loved her.

And she could sing in the congregation.
She raised her voice alongside the people of her tribe.
And so many times, at just the right moment,
When the tribe needed to know that the words they were singing were deep, and meaningful and true…
*CLAP, CLAP, CLAP*
She would clap her hands in praise.
She would clap her hands to tell her people to sing louder; to lift their praise higher.

And we would.

She loved us.
And we loved her.

She was a lady among ladies.
Well spoken.
Well dressed. Always immaculately dressed.
Assured in her identity as a daughter of the King of kings.

Faith ran deep within her. So deep.
If you had poked a hole anywhere in her, I am sure that Jesus would have oozed out.

She loved him.
And he loved her.

__________

She is gone from us now.
Such shocking news to hear and share with her tribe in church yesterday.
She is gone from us and will not be coming back.
And that makes us sad. Deeply sad.

__________

But even in the sadness we rejoice.

“To live is Christ and to die is gain!”

That’s the faith story of this tribe.

That was her story.
That was the song she sang among us.
It’s the faith story that gives us such hope.

She is no longer with us, but she is dancing with God now.
She is no longer with us, but she is embracing her beloved daughter who went on ahead of her.
She is no longer with us, but she is clapping her hands and leading the choirs of Heaven
Oh yes! The angels and archangels are singing louder today than they were last week. That’s for sure.
She is no longer with us, but she is in a place where there are no more tears; where there is no more grief and no more broken hearts.
She is no longer with us, but she is with her savior.
In this we rejoice.

And in faith we declare that we will see her and sing with her again. Some day.

Rest in peace, dear, beloved sister in Christ.
We love you and we will miss you.

Shrimping in the rain…

I have the immense privilege and pleasure of living on the east coast of Florida in a little city called Titusville. Aside of being a community of great people there really is not much to this place, unless you count the fact that we overlook Kennedy Space Centre and get a front row seat for every single rocket launch that goes from this next of the woods.

The other thing that we have is a pretty cool bridge.

Maxbrewerbridgeandpier

The ‘A. Max Brewer Bridge’ runs from our quiet, somewhat sleepy little city over the Indian River Lagoon and down the other side to take you into the Canaveral National Seashore and Playalinda Beach. Just underneath the bridge is the Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier, known locally as ‘the worlds longest free fishing pier.’ I don’t know if it is or if it is not actually the worlds longest free fishing pier, but this I do know, every night of the week the pier attracts a crowd of fishers.

Tonight, I was down in that neck of the woods for a spot of exercise – the bridge is popular for runners and walkers (those who know me will know for sure which category I fall into). I crossed the bridge the for the first time and as I was doing so the rain started to come down pretty heavily. It was good rain – not heavy enough to put a body off, but enough for me to be soaked through fairly quickly. I made it over the bridge and started back across on the other side. As I neared the end of the bridge my eyes were diverted downwards to my right where a group of around a dozen fishermen had decided to stick out the shower and were casting their nets just as they would on any other night. I forgot to mention above, the night fishers are actually shrimpers. They come down and spend the night throwing nets over the side of the pier in the hope of catching fresh shrimp.

As I walked down the home straight of the bridge I believed I encountered a bunch of men who, regardless of the rain and the fact that they were soaked to the skin, were casting their nets into the Indian River with a persistent vision of hope – hope of a catch, which might in turn become dinner, or maybe even be turned in to a dollar or two.

Thinking of their hope, of course brought me back to Advent and in particular this idea of Advent hope – a hope which has us looking forward with great anticipation; great yearning for the breaking through of light into the darkness. Goodness knows the darkness of this last year could do with a dose of hope-filled light.

I wonder will I be willing to walk out the steps of my day tomorrow in the same way as those shrimpers were casting their nets – with a persistent sense of hope. It strikes me that maintaining a persistent vision of hope is one of the most important things that I can do in the world right now.

“In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind.” (John 1:4)

In all things…

Hope

In all things I have hope:

when sin seems stronger than my will;
when temptation defeats me;
when I am troubled by the world;
when I am hurt by friends;
when those I trust desert me;
when it feels like I am alone;
when it feels like I am not good enough;
when I just want it all to be over;
when grades aren’t as good as they could be;
when grades aren’t as good as I thought they would be;
when I fail;
when neighbors gossip;
when I gossip;

when schools are attacked;
when innocence is stolen;
when politics is dysfunctional at best, and broken at worst;
when war persists;
when cancer comes;
when Alzheimer’s arrives;
when death knocks on the door and bereavement batters;

when I feel stripped bare, naked and ashamed in the world;
when I have hurt someone;
when I speak inappropriately;
when I withhold my contribution to the world;
when I am have nothing;
when I am unemployed, laid aside, rejected;
when I make bad choices;

when my spirit is crushed.

Hope 2 570x379

In all things I have hope because i can call this to mind:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning.
GREAT is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him!’

American Experience…

I was surfing through social media today when i happened upon an article posted by my friend. The article was about President Obama and commended him for the personal touch that he has been able to bring to his Presidency. Posting the article was an act of appreciation of how the President has gone about his business. After my friend had posted the article it did not take long before someone came back at him for having posted. People are so sensitive about their politics!

The person said that my friend (a resident of Northern Ireland) might feel differently about President Obama’s administration if he lived in USA and experienced personally the decline that has happened in USA.

As one who is from Northern Ireland but lives in USA, I felt the need to respond. Once I got going I rambled on a bit. Below is the text of what I said:

I am one who was born and brought up in Northern Ireland but who now lives in America. I experience a country which has vastly changed in the last 15 years. I experience a country in which ordinary people seem to be very angry and somewhat hurt/let down by those who govern them at local, state and federal level. I also experience a country which is gripped by fear – a fear which is fed by media and the 24 hour news cycle, and which has led to a wide spread suspicion of ‘the other.’

I experience a country in which many people seem to blame President Obama for the failings which they perceive to be taking place. This blaming of the President fascinates me because USA is not governed by a single individual or office, it is governed by many elected and appointed individuals who, more often than not, appear en mass to behave like petulant children.

I experience a country where individuals run rampant with weapons of destruction in the most unlikely of places: schools, churches, public buildings.

But I also experience a great country which appears to have forgotten how good things actually are:

While many politicians do behave like petulant children, there are also others who are working tirelessly for the benefit of their constituents – I myself have experience amazing support from my local Congressman and Senator in the midst of an immigration issue.

People have the right to free speech.

A free press operates.

According to US Dept. of Health and Human Services, an estimated 20 million more people have health coverage in 2016 than did in 2010.

Americans are still the most hospitable and generous people I know – aside of the Northern Irish/Irish 😉

Everyone has the right to marry.

Teenage Pregnancy is at an all time low, according to CDC

I lived in USA from 2003 to 2006 in the Bush administration, and I have been back living there since 2013 in the Obama administration. I do see a great differences in how I experience things in the USA in those times. But in as much as there seems to be so much in decline, there is still so much that remains great about America.

I am a fan of President Obama. I think he set targets for his administration and despite much opposition has managed to see many of them come about. Is he perfect? No way. Has any president been perfect? Will the history books reflect well on his presidency? Time will tell.

In the mean time, I am going to enjoy the remainder of his presidency because I strongly believe that this time next year we will all be looking back and thinking that we did not know how good the thing we had was until it was gone.

Later that day, one of the members of my congregation got in touch to say that she had read what I wrote and enjoyed it. She asked if I would post it on my own Social Media feed. I refuse to do that because I do not feel it is the best place for a local pastor to air political thoughts – even though there is nothing controversial in the above.

So I decided to share it here.

I hope it helps!