Thursday, February 4, 2021

what then shall we do?

 There is no doubt that the world is going crazy. People seem to have collectively lost their ever-lovin' minds and are running toward a future that is full of broken hearts, shattered dreams, and days of darkness that we can't even imagine. Those who see the direction the world is headed are called bigots and conspiracy nuts and enemies of the state.

And honestly? We should take that as a blessing.

Jesus was despised by the world. Isaiah wrote,
 

"Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,

    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him."
~Isaiah 53:2-3

If we are truly His followers the world should despise us, too. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have lived this truth for generations, but most in the United States haven't ever truly tasted the meaning of Jesus's words: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10) We've lived in peace and comfort, which has overwhelmingly led to complacency. As a result, we are fearful of the future that so many of us see coming so quickly. We are afraid of the cliff we see everyone running toward.

As so many before us, we ask Jesus, "What then shall we do?"

1. Rest in the knowledge that God isn't surprised by what's ahead of us.

"Remember the old days. For I am God; there is no other.
        I am God; there are no other gods like Me.
From the beginning I declare how things will end;

        from times long past, I tell what is yet to be, saying:
    'My intentions will come to pass.
        I will make things happen as I determine they should.'”
~Isaiah 46:9-10

Look at that again-- He alone is God. He knew how things would end before they even began, and He determines how things happen.

All this mess and chaos that somehow has caught us off guard? He's not surprised by any of it. And here's the kicker that we seem to forget--His will is still happening. The stuff we're seeing in the world around us didn't throw off his plans or make Him have to rethink things.

2. "Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope." (1 Peter 3:15)

In this time of confusion, people are searching for hope. We're told in Ecclesiastes that God put eternity in our hearts, but without Him that sense of eternity is disquieting. It's that sense of eternity that has people searching and striving, but He's the only One that can satisfy that longing. When people see us, they should see that we are different--that we aren't searching for a way to be filled. They should see that we have a "peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), that we aren't filled with stress and anxiety about the future. It should be so obvious to them that something's different that they ask why. And when they ask, we have to be able to give an answer. We have to be able to tell them that we know God is in control and that He is able to keep us through anything and everything that comes our way.

I have to be honest, I don't live that way. I tend to dwell in a place of stress and anxiety instead of resting in the unexplainable peace of God. Instead of relying on Him to give me what I need for today, I work and plan and stress over trying to make sure I have everything I need for the future. Oh, I'm ready to give an answer (I'm good at answers), but I don't live in such a way that people want to know what makes me different.

3. Remember that we aren't promised ease and comfort.

Sometimes we seem to cling to the idea that once we have made the decision to follow Christ, life will turn into smooth sailing. I can't count how many times I've heard people say, "Just love Jesus; He wants to make you happy." The thing is, we aren't promised happiness. In fact, we're promised exactly the opposite: In John 16 Jesus told His disciples that in this world they would have tribulation. What was translated as "tribulation" is the Greek "thlipsis," which more literally means a pressure that constricts or constricts. Jesus wasn't telling His followers that things would be easy. Instead, He told them that they would face times that would put them in a tight spot, times of pressure and friction.

As He so often does, though, He followed the warning up with a promise: "you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order." (John 16:33, Voice)

4. Take refuge in God.

I'm glad that Jesus has overcome the world, don't get me wrong. Without that promise, the others wouldn't do a whole lot of good. What I'm most thankful for, though, is the promise that we aren't left to fend for ourselves. Yes, we will face hard times. For those of in the United States, I think we're tumbling towards a time when we will get a taste of what our brothers and sisters around the world have experienced for a long time. Here's the thing, though--God could have given us salvation and the promise of eternal life, then stepped back and told us we were on our own to get through this life. But that's not the way He chooses to operate. Instead, He makes us these promises:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  ~Joshua 1:9

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ~Matthew 28:20b

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

And like David wrote after God saved him from Saul, may we always say, 

"I love You, Eternal One, source of my power. The Eternal is my rock, my fortress, and my salvation; He is my True God, the stronghold in which I hide, my strong shield, the horn that calls forth help, and my tall-walled tower." ~Psalm 18:1-2


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

"Ascendant" Christianity?

Recently, the New York Times published an article singing the praises of President Biden's Catholicism, saying that he is "perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century." The mention how his life has been "steeped in Christian rituals and practices" and talk about how his Catholicism directs his life and his policies. They cheer about how his faith doesn't focus on all the divisive aspects of Christianity like abortion and sexuality, but instead focuses on climate change and racial equity. They hold him up as a bastion of what truly tolerant, liberal Christianity should look like--someone who doesn't do the bidding of the horrible Conservative Christians who have been in power for way too long. Like so many are so quick to do, they praised liberal Christianity for being quick to unite in love and quick to ignore all those "hateful" aspects of the Bible that point out sin. One of the things the writer of the article seemed most proud of was that "There is a sense of moral synergy on the left, among not only progressive Christians but also humanists, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and the spectrum of faith traditions."

Just as a reminder, when Justice Amy Coney Barrett was facing her confirmation hearing for the Federal Circuit Court in 2017, Senator Feinstein told her, "“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for years in this country." The same people who are praising Biden's Catholic faith were attacking Barrett for hers.

The argument, however, is that Biden's religion is different. They say he embraces a new version of Christianity, "a Christian moral vision that makes room for a pluralistic society." To a follower of Christ, nothing should tell you to run away quicker than someone talking about changing theology. That, however, is exactly what is being lauded in this article.

The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), but it doesn't change. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." As followers of Christ, we don't change His teachings in order to make them fit with society today. In fact, Christians who find themselves in agreement with the world should take the time to truly examine their beliefs. James 4:4 puts it pretty bluntly: "Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God." A true follower of Christ isn't going to fit in with the world. Jesus Himself said, "If you find that the world despises you, remember that before it despised you, it first despised Me. If you were a product of the world order, then it would love you. But you are not a product of the world because I have taken you out of it, and it despises you for that very reason." (John 15:18-19)

https://i1.wp.com/pastordawn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/image4.jpg


Too often, people confuse religion and faith. Christian religion is one thing. It is full of rituals and observances. It is on display in mega churches who fill their buildings with laser shows and giant productions. It is posted all over social media with things like #blessed and people using the name of Jesus to promote social justice. It is made evident in the "name it and claim it" mentality that turns God into some kind of cosmic genie there to fulfill wishes.

 


It's that kind of religion that I believe God had in mind when He told Israel,
"I hate—I totally reject—your religious ceremonies
        and have nothing to do with your solemn gatherings.
You can offer Me whole burnt offerings and grain offerings,

        but I will not accept them.
    You can sacrifice your finest, fattest young animals as a peace offering,
        but I will not even look up.
And stop making that music for Me—it’s just noise.

        I will not listen to the melodies you play on the harp." (Amos 5:21-23)

God obviously isn't a big fan of religion. He isn't fooled by the pomp and circumstance. He doesn't revel in the lights and get fooled by fancy words. He doesn't care how "devout" we appear to the world. In fact, when Jesus walked the earth His harshest words were reserved for those considered by society to be the most devout--the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 In the eyes of God, it doesn't matter how devoted I am to a belief if that belief is false. And God's word is very clear on what is considered a false belief: anything that goes against the gospel of the perfect Son of God made flesh, then sacrificed on the cross for our sins and raised again to give us eternal life if we believe He is the only way, truth, and life. No matter who is preaching it or where they are preaching from, anything that says differently is false.

Christianity doesn't leave room for other beliefs. By very definition, it can't--as followers of Christ we are called to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them what Jesus taught, and showing them how to follow His commands (Matthew 28:18-20). Our faith isn't one of concessions and caveats, solely a "moral vision that makes room for a pluralistic society." If I truly believe that Jesus meant it when He said He was the only way to the Father, the only truth, the only source of life, then it makes me incredibly unloving to tell people it's okay if they don't believe in Him.

How horrible would it be to know the only way out of a burning building, but sit back and tell people that they can go whichever direction they want? How much worse is it, then, to know the only way to eternal life, yet let people believe whatever they want?

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/biden-catholic-christian.html
  2. https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/liberal-christianity-ten-things-worth-knowing-about-this-third-way/
  3. https://www.gotquestions.org/liberal-Christian-theology.html
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Christianity

Thursday, January 21, 2021

defend the faith

I've been a bit quiet here lately. I think that's partly because I don't much enjoy being a voice of doom and gloom, and partly because to be quite honest, in the current political climate I'm afraid of the possible consequences of being outspoken.

"Political" probably isn't the right word, though. The issues we are facing right now aren't political, but spiritual. And it's for that reason and that reason alone that I have to put aside my fears and pray that God will give me the words I need, just like Jesus promised His disciples when He sent them out into the world.

We read from Jude at church on Sunday, and I've been pulled back to it over and over again since then. So much of what Jude wrote then is so fitting for today. He wrote to all those called by God the Father, starting by saying that he wanted to write to them about the amazing salvation they all shared. He doesn't say it, but I think that means he was wanting to focus on the beautiful aspects of salvation. It's kind of like what I would like to write about here--the amazing, unfathomable richness of God's love and mercy for us, His unending grace poured out over us, and our undeserved adoption into His kingdom.

Instead, like Jude, I feel like I instead need to share a warning. We are in a time when we are going to be called to be defenders of the faith. In Jude's words:

"I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. [...] But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction." v. 4 & 10

That is the case in American churches today. We have people who stand behind the pulpit and say that sin isn't an issue, that God just wants us to have "health, wealth, and happiness" and that we don't actually have to live according to His commands. They preach a gospel that includes all the happy parts like eternal life and forgiveness but leaves out the hard parts-- like repentance and correction and hating sin.

While it is true that God will forgive all our sins, the forgiveness of sins requires repentance. That doesn't mean just saying I'm sorry. Biblical repentance means turning away from the sin, not living in the middle of it and saying, "Oh well, God will forgive me so it doesn't really matter what I do."

As followers of Christ, we are so often told that we shouldn't be so judgmental. There's a sign I drive by that says, "Love everybody. I'll straighten them out later. ~Jesus" We are reminded time and time again that Jesus didn't stone the woman caught in adultery. That story--which conveniently leaves out the fact that Jesus told the woman to "go and sin no more"--is used to tell us that we shouldn't tell anyone that anything they are doing is wrong. If we are truly loving, we're told, then we should stop telling people that they are living in sin. We shouldn't judge people--we should just accept them for who they are.

There's a little bit of truth in that. That's the tricky thing Satan does--he puts enough truth in his lies to make them seem believable. It's true that there isn't any sin that should exclude someone from coming to Christ. As His followers, there shouldn't be some group of people we think aren't worthy of the good news that Christ died to take the punishment of their sins.

Once someone has become a follower of Christ, however, they are called to something different, something higher. We are called to be constantly becoming more like Christ, which means turning away from anything sinful. As fellow travelers on the narrow road, we are also called to hold each other to that higher standard. In Jude's words, 

"Keep being kind to those who waver in this faithPursue those who are singed by the flames of God’s wrath, and bring them safely to Him. Show mercy to others with fear, despising every garment soiled by the weakness of human flesh." (v. 22-23) 

Or as his brother James said, "Brothers and sisters, if someone you know loses his way and rebels against God, pursue him in love and bring him back to the truth." (James 5:19)

Or as Paul wrote to the Galatians: "My spiritual brothers and sisters, if one of our faithful has fallen into a trap and is snared by sin, don’t stand idle and watch his demise. Gently restore him, being careful not to step into your own snare. Shoulder each other’s burdens, and then you will live as the law of the Anointed teaches us. Don’t take this opportunity to think you are better than those who slip because you aren’t; then you become the fool and deceive even yourself. Examine your own works so that if you are proud, it will be because of your own accomplishments and not someone else’s. Each person has his or her own burden to bear and story to write." (Galatians 6:1-5)

We are often reminded that we shouldn't expect those who are not followers of Christ to operate according to God's standards. As such, when they are lost in sin we shouldn't be surprised. All of that changes, however, once someone comes to Christ. Then we are supposed to reach out to our brothers and sisters and help pull them up out of the trap of sin, keeping in mind that we may need them to do the same for us one day. We are to speak the truth in love, not "love" people so much that we hide the truth from them. Because the real truth is, if you let someone continue to do something that is hurting them, you don't truly love them.

As a nation, especially as one that once claimed to be Christian, we have bought into that lie. We have decided that God's word is hopelessly outdated, so we need to take it on ourselves to figure out what He actually meant. We do that by convincing ourselves that the Scriptures are nothing more than a collection of writing by fallible men, so that means they are open to interpretation.

God in His ultimate wisdom, though, knew our hearts from the beginning. He knew we would be tempted to pick and choose which verses to follow based on the idea that we live in a "different time" (though when I read the Bible, I really don't think our time is all that different...) and therefore need to examine His words through the lens of our current understanding. That's why we have verses like the ones found in Paul's letter to Timothy:

"But as for the wicked and the imposters, they will keep leading and following each other further and further away from the truth. So surely you ought to stick to what you know is certain. All you have learned comes from people you know and trust because since childhood you have known the holy Scriptures, which enable you to be wise and lead to salvation through faith in Jesus the Anointed. All of Scripture is God-breathed; in its inspired voice, we hear useful teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction, and training for a life that is right so that God’s people may be up to the task ahead and have all they need to accomplish every good work." (2 Timothy 13-17)

So test everything you're hearing, whether it's from a friend, parent, spouse, or pastor. Anything that goes against the word of God is wrong, no matter who is saying it. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Do we really want justice?

The United States is headed down a very dark and dangerous path. It's nothing new--we've been moving that direction for decades--but it sure seems like we've gone into free fall with the things that are going on right now.

Though many would have us believe otherwise, the United States was founded as a nation whose goal was to please God. This was a country established on a declared dependence on God the Creator and on the idea that our rights are not dependent on something being granted by an earthly government, but instead they are granted solely by the One who created us. The Declaration of Independence states clearly that our pledge to each other is made possible only by "a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."

Let me be clear here--I fully believe that Israel is God's chosen nation. I don't pretend that the United States has taken that place; God made a promise to bless Abraham, and His promises are never broken.

However, I also fully believe that when we as a nation declared ourselves to be a nation relying on God's protection, we made ourselves representatives of Him. As such, we are called to uphold certain standards--and we have fallen woefully short of them for far too long.

God is merciful and slow to anger. To put it bluntly, He puts up with a whole lot of stuff before He takes action. At the same time, though, we are told time and time again that He disciplines His children. When we invoked His name in the founding of our country, I believe we entered into a covenant.

And we haven't upheld our end of the deal.

The thing is, God always upholds His end. And part of entering into a covenant with God is dealing with the consequences that come as a result of of our failures... and if recent and current events tell you nothing else, they should tell you that we have a whole lot of failures.

I've seen a couple of verses from Amos quoted lately:

"Search for good and not for evil
    so that you may live;
That way the Eternal God, the Commander of heavenly armies,
    will be at your side,

    as you yourselves have even said.
Hate what is evil, and love all that is good;

    apply His laws justly in the courts at the city gates,
And it may be that the Eternal God, the Commander of heavenly armies,
    will have mercy on those descendants of Joseph who survived."
~Amos 5:14-15

Any time I see a verse quoted, it makes me go and read it in context. All too often we see verses quoted that seem to say one thing but actually have a significantly different meaning when you look at the verse in context. While these two verses are pretty timely and significant on their own, it takes on a much deeper meaning when you read them in context.

This passage is in the middle of a much larger passage that talks about the failings of nations. Amos reveals God's judgment against Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Moab. That's not where it stops, though--His judgment for Judah and Israel follow closely behind.

Amos 4 ends with these verses:

"So this is what I am going to do to you, Israel.
        Because of what I am planning, prepare to meet your God, Israel!
Witness the One who shapes the mountains and fashions the wind,

    who reveals His thoughts to human beings,
Who changes dawn to darkness
    and treads upon the high places of the earth.
The Eternal God, Commander of heavenly armies, is His name."

 And what were Israel's crimes? Their leaders were silencing anyone who dared speak the truth. They were getting rich on the backs of the poor, from taxes imposed on them. God said He saw the depths of their sins, how they had turned away from what was right and gone so far as to persecute those who did right. They took bribes and abused the poor. That list of sins is what comes directly before verses 14 & 15, where God's people are commanded to hate evil and love good, to live justly.

What follows, though, is the consequence if His people refused to repent and run back to Him: 

"Get ready to hear wailing from every street,
    people crying out in pain and sorrow along every highway.
The farmers will be pulled away from their fields to mourn,
    and those who are trained to grieve will wail with them.
In every vineyard, there will be mourning
    because I will pass through the middle of you."

As an individual, I know that I am saved from God's wrath and judgment. It's not because I'm some amazing person who never messes up--it's simply due to the fact that I know just how utterly useless my own attempts to be "good enough" are and have accepted the amazing gift of God sacrificing His Son as a replacement for my punishment.

As a nation, though, I truly believe that we have finally pushed too far and that we are about to see what happens when God gives us what we've been demanding for so long--a society without Him. We're about to see what happens when God removes His hand of protection and instead turns us over to experience justice and righteousness.

"How horrible for you who look forward to the day of the Eternal One!
    Why do you want it to come?
For you, its arrival will mean darkness, not light.
It will be as if you were to escape from a lion

    only to run headlong into a bear,
As if you ran into a house to hide, leaned against the wall to rest,
    and a poisonous snake latched onto your hand.
Will not the day of the Eternal One be darkness instead of light,

    pitch black, without even a hint of brightness?
Eternal One:
I hate—I totally reject—your religious ceremonies

        and have nothing to do with your solemn gatherings.
You can offer Me whole burnt offerings and grain offerings,

        but I will not accept them.
You can sacrifice your finest, fattest young animals as a peace offering,

        but I will not even look up.
And stop making that music for Me—it’s just noise.

        I will not listen to the melodies you play on the harp.
Here’s what I want: Let justice thunder down like a waterfall;

        let righteousness flow like a mighty river that never runs dry."
Amos 5:18-24

The justice and righteousness of God are not things to be taken lightly. I'm afraid that we've been demanding them for so long, though, that God is about to give our nation exactly what we've been asking for.

All I can say is that I am thankful God's promises are eternal.
In the midst of the chaos and the confusion, He promises His presence.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

nuts in the family tree

 Most families have a few names they would prefer be left out of the family tree. You know the ones--the relatives who aren't really talked about without a knowing look and a slight disapproving shake of the head. When you talk about your ancestors, the people who have made your family what it is, these are the people you leave out of the story--the scoundrels, the trouble makers, the ones people aren't proud of.

But God.

There's a family tree in Matthew that doesn't look like we would expect it to. It's easy to skip over all the "begat"s in the Scriptures, but they're in there for a reason. In this case, the genealogy of Yeshua shows us a lot about God.

Lots of the names are ones you would expect in the lineage of the Jewish Messiah: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David. Some of them, though, are the names of people most of us would leave out when telling about our ancestors.

  • Tamar dressed up as a prostitute to trick her father-in-law into getting her pregnant
  • Rahab was an actual prostitute in Jericho. She doesn't just show up here in Matthew, though. She is also mentioned in Hebrews in the "Faith Hall of Fame" for the faith she showed when she hid the spies, an action that saved her family when Jericho fell.
  • Ruth was a Moabite, the people group that started out of the incest between Lot and his oldest daughter. She was from a pagan family and was a widow in a strange land.
  • Solomon was a great king of Israel, but he had some messy ancestry of his own. He was the son of David and Bathsheba. He was their second son; their first had been born out of a one night stand between the king and the beautiful woman he had decided he wanted, despite the fact that she was already married. David had Bathsheba's husband killed when his plan to cover up the pregnancy didn't work, and their first son died.
  • Amon of Judah was a king who was most remembered for his idolatry, a man who "did evil in the eyes of the Lord" and was assassinated after just 2 years on the throne. He was replaced by his 8-year-old son.
  • Jeconiah was the king who lost the kingdom of Israel to Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzer, which led to Israel's captivity.

So often, we think that God only uses the perfect. We focus on the stories of the mighty men in the Bible, looking at the amazing feats they accomplished, the great faith they demonstrated. I think this lineage is here to remind us of something different--God uses people and situations we as humans think are worthless and impossible. He works through even our worst experiences to further His kingdom. He works through the repentant prostitute or the humbled king. He works through those seen as untouchable or those held in high esteem. His hand is over everything, and what the world means for evil He can change for good.


 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

waiting for a savior

 Israel was in a dark place. They were 1,000 years removed from King David. They had seen their kingdom divided, then absolutely crushed by the Assyrians. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom had been scattered and sent out as exiles. Almost 600 years had passed since they saw Jerusalem captured and Solomon's Temple destroyed by Babylon. They had seen their best and brightest carried off to Babylon to serve in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.

They had been promised a savior, but instead they had seen one conqueror after another come in and crush Jerusalem under his heel. They had been mistreated and scattered. It had been centuries since they had been sent a prophet of God, and their last prophets--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel...--hadn't had a whole lot of happy news for them.

Through it all, though, they had Isaiah's words to cling to. It was a message of a Savior, the One who would be called Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. They were promised One who would rule a kingdom that would never end.

But He hadn't come.

For so long they had been waiting for someone to come and free them from oppression, someone to reestablish the throne of David in the land God had promised them. Instead, they found themselves in the dark, under Roman rule, with God silent. They found themselves questioning God's plan, wondering if He had forgotten His promises.

They were stuck in the waiting, lost in between the stories of a blessed nation in the past and the never-ending kingdom of the future.

But God...

Sometimes, I think God works most in the waiting. It's during the dark, hard times that He draws people to Himself, that He shows us just how much we need Him, just how little we can do on our own.

"Adonai, I call to you from the depths;
hear my cry, Adonai!
Let your ears pay attention
to the sound of my pleading.

Yah, if you kept a record of sins,
who, Adonai, could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,

so that you will be feared.

I wait longingly for Adonai;
I put my hope in his word.
Everything in me waits for Adonai

more than guards on watch wait for morning,
more than guards on watch wait for morning.

Isra’el, put your hope in Adonai!
For grace is found with Adonai,
and with him is unlimited redemption.
He will redeem Isra’el

from all their wrongdoings."
Psalm 130 (Complete Jewish Bible)

 

Monday, December 7, 2020

cherry cheesecake

 Grief is such a crazy, unexpected thing. It hit me Saturday while I was driving, headed into town. I was thinking of what I needed to pick up, wondering if I needed to take anything to church the next day for our annual Christmas decorating day. We stay after the service, put up decorations, and spend time hanging out together and eating. All of a sudden I realized what the date was--December 5th.

That meant the next day was the 6th, which meant it was my brother's birthday.

Not just any birthday, either. This year marked 40 years since the day my parents welcomed their first child into this world, a long and skinny baby boy.

In that moment, I realized that it was the day I should have been able to call my big brother and make fun of him for being "old" and turning 40. It was the day I should have been planning to make sure he got all sorts of "over the hill" memorabilia, the day I should have been poking fun at the fact that I still have a whopping 4 years before I hit that milestone myself.

Instead, the tears welled up so quickly in my eyes that I was afraid I might wreck.

I was almost to the cemetery, so I made the quick decision to stop. That's a really hard thing for me to do, and honestly I've only done it a handful of times in the 16 and a half years since Michael's been gone. My sister-in-law and I didn't see eye to eye on things, and seeing the headstone she chose stirs up a lot of stuff for me. It did this time, too, but I ignored the headstone and instead went to the foot of the grave, where the military stone is placed. I busied myself cleaning away the grass and leaves, trying to pull myself together, looking at his name and service record--oh, so short for the guy who was born to be a soldier--carved into the stone.

And then, I went to the grocery store and picked up the stuff to make a cheesecake to take to church the next day for dessert. I even picked up a can of that nasty goopy cherry stuff for people to put on top (not for me, though--can't do it), because that's always the dessert Michael asked for growing up.

It's okay for the tears to come. It's okay to grieve and mourn, even when it happens out of the blue almost 17 years later. But don't forget to remember the good stuff, too (like cheesecake, even with the nasty goopy cherry stuff), and live life.



what then shall we do?

 There is no doubt that the world is going crazy. People seem to have collectively lost their ever-lovin' minds and are running toward a...

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