The Ten Year Itch. Part One.

Army, Chaplaincy

In which I ask the question, “should I stay or should I go now?” And for introducing that ear-worm of a song into your head, you’re welcome.

When I started blogging… ten years ago… I did so with the intent of extroverting the new, exciting adventure I was undertaking – becoming an Army Chaplain.

The journey took many forms and at one point, I stopped blogging for 4 years while I figured out who I was theologically. I’ve been committed to saying out loud things that are often just questions asked internally. I’ve discovered, by extroverting those thoughts, that others are feeling them, experiencing them, asking them. I’ve enjoyed the community of questioning.

Side note: I don’t have all my blog posts any more so I am not sure if I ever told this story – the time I quit blogging was because after that second deployment, I knew that I wasn’t an evangelical anymore. I had stopped calling myself a fundamentalist years before but was holding out on the notion of being an “evangelical.” I explored some of my questioning internally and was reading a great deal at the time. I posted how I was more “ecumenical and open” than I had ever been before and how central the Lord’s Table had become to my expression of Christianity. My endorser at the time was a fundamentalist group who had endorsed me since coming into the Army (they charged me $160 a month for the privilege – but that’s another story). This group had not interacted with me at all. They didn’t call, they didn’t write – as long as I submitted my monthly report of numbers saved, baptized, coming to church, Bible study etc. I was good.

Until I posted that on my blog.

Two weeks. That’s all it took. Two weeks later, I sat in a Golden Coral in Savannah, GA convincing them that I had not strayed from the fold and was a good chaplain still. I knew then that I needed to get out and into something that was a better expression of who I was. After moving to Huntsville, AL and meeting the wonderful folks at First Christian Church, Huntsville and Pastor Guy McCombs, I knew I was home.

That’s why I needed to stop blogging for awhile. I knew that if they pulled my endorsement, I’d have to leave the Army and I was not ready to do that at the time.

I was thinking about that story this morning while reading this post on becoming a disciple. Or at least why you should think about becoming one… we’d never just ask you to be one or certainly tell you that it’s better than anyone else. We’re a bit too polite for all that…

I love being in the Disciples because there is room for me and there is room for everyone else at the Table. There are room for the questions. Isn’t community like that what Christianity is at it’s best?

This post is part one of a series I’m going to do on midlife career changes.

Yup, you heard that correctly, I’m thinking of a career change.

Not too drastic but certainly not Active Duty Army any more.

Or, maybe I’ll stay. That’s the thing, over the years, I’ve wanted to shine a light on the journey of a chaplain and these questions are a part of that journey.

Questions:

  1. What is a calling and does that calling change as we change?
  2. What role should finances play in pursuing a call?
  3. Is personal happiness and fulfillment more important that taking care of your family as best you can?
  4. What about suffering in the now to reap the greater reward in the future?
  5. How does a couple, who both are pursuing careers, balance all of the above and still develop those careers? What responsibility do I have to my wife’s career?
  6. Where does serving God and making good money intersect?
  7. What would God have me do?

The answers might end up being that I need to stay in the Active rolls, continue my journey and end in 10-20 more years.

The answer might be that it’s time to take my talents/abilities/calling to another field and work there.

Either way, I want to be certain that I am leaving to pursue a calling deeper and fuller than the one that brought me into the Corps in the first place.

Speaking out.

Army, Chaplaincy

All this talk of torture has reminded me of a memory I have from my first deployment in Iraq, 2005.

The battalion had just experienced a tragic death. The third vehicle in a patrol of four had been hit by a bomb buried under a road. The vehicle, an armored HUMVEE was totally destroyed. It had been turned inside out like a cracked egg. All four Soldiers and NCOs inside the vehicle were killed.

I walked through the tactical operations center in a fog. I was 26, a 1LT, been in the Army for all of a few months, and overwhelmed. I walked from person to person praying, encouraging, crying – I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.

Then I saw a patrol getting ready to go out to the scene. I don’t remember what it was they were planning to do but I do remember that they were angry. The talk was of vengeance and death. I grabbed my gear to go with them. Before we left, I looked into the eyes of each Soldier and NCO and said something like, “Remember who we are. Don’t forget the flag you wear on your shoulder. Remember who you are.”

At a memorial a few weeks later for another four Soldiers killed from the same platoon, same squad, in the same way, I heard an officer who outranked me telling some Soldiers with tears streaming down his face and anger in his voice to “do what you have to do. Kill the bastards.” Later I would tell him that by telling some privates to “do what they have to do,” he was giving them permission to follow their emotions rather than their training.

As Soldiers, we do our duty. We do not “do what we have to do.” And we certainly do not do what we feel.

Soldiers follow standard operating procedure. We follow Field Manuals, Regulations, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

I remember a pit stop during a patrol I was on at the “safe house.” We had stopped to refit, drop off some supplies and continue. During the smoke break, sitting in the shade of a fig tree, several Soldiers asked me why we couldn’t just give our detainees to the Iraqi army since they didn’t have the rules that we did. In other words, they were frustrated that we took detainees into custody and gave them food and water. The Iraqi Army was brutal with them. (My commander once confiscated a stick that had a ball on one end of melted plastic. Into that plastic was embedded all sorts of sharp objects. The stick had been taken from the Iraqi Army.) I replied to the question that the rules governing our conduct was an extension of our constitution. That our code of justice was an extension of US Law. US Law forbade torture and torture was counterproductive anyway. Of course the Iraqis wanted to be detained by us rather than their Iraqi brethren. At that time, Iraq was in the midst of ethnic cleansing. At least Americans were governed by something other than brutality and cold pragmatism. We talked about ethics and morality in the heat of an Iraqi afternoon.

Then, this week, I heard the former Vice President talk about doing what we “had to do” after 9/11 to keep the country safe. Apparently that included feeding an untried, uncharged inmate (detainee) through his rectum. Apparently that included paying contractors to do it for us. Apparently, it included keeping people, uncharged and untried, locked in boxes shaped like coffins. I could go on but you get the point.

Bottom line: it would seem, what I told those Soldiers, what I encouraged leaders to think about, what I taught young Soldiers about the American ethic and law – was wrong.

From what I am hearing from our former vice president, religious leadership, political leadership in this country is that our ethic should be based on:

1. Effectiveness – if it works we should do it.
2. Legality – if a lawyer will write a memorandum detailing how its legal, we should do it.
3. Retribution – if 3,000 people were killed, then we should do it.
4. Punishment – if a person is thought to be guilty, there is no mercy, we should do it.
5. Semantics – if we can call it something other than torture (such a negative word), we should do it.

By it, I mean torture.

But is it torture?

Ask this question: if an American Soldier, held by the Taliban, Al Qaida, or ISIL had the following done to them, would it be torture?

Detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding,” a process by which food or nutrients are pumped in through the anus…
Detainees were told they would never leave these “black sites” and that their families would be sexually assaulted or murdered.
Detainee died from hypothermia after being chained to a floor and left there.
Detainees were waterboarded until they turned blue… and were on the verge of drowning.
Sleep deprivation, nudity, dietary manipulation, facial holds, abdominal slaps, facial slaps, and “walling” – being thrown against a wall.
Confined for 11 days in a coffin-sized box.
At one black site, groups of detainees were regularly stripped, beaten, hooded and bound with tape.
Detainees were also refused access to toilets, put in diapers and left hanging by their wrists in cells for extended periods of time.
Others were forced to maintain “stress positions” even on broken limbs and though medical personnel had advised against it.
Not everyone was guilty – Some mistakenly held detainees were subjected to prolonged periods of torture before being released.

If it was your son or your daughter – would it be torture then? Or would it be acceptable since we’re at war and they are just “doing what they have to do” to protect their homeland?

I’m certain that if it was me locked in a coffin shaped box, I would think it torture.

If I was getting fed through my rectum, I would think it torture.

If I was being forcibly drowned, I would think it torture.

As a US Army chaplain, I am obligated by AR 165-1 to speak to ethical and moral issues. The chaplain is to be the moral and ethical voice in the Army.

Torture, effective or not, legal or not, is wrong. It is immoral. It is unethical. It violates our constitution and collective conscience.

It is not for the operator, the corrections officer, the Soldier, the policemen to punish the offender. Retribution comes through the legal process by which a person is tried under US Law and an open, transparent penal system doles out said punishment. No single person can be judge, jury and executioner – not in America and not by Americans.

I worry that we too easily accept the notion of effectiveness. I mean, after all, if Jack Bauer gets it done through torture, why not us?

The other day, on Facebook, I wrote the following as satire in response to the “effective” argument:

“If this ‘torture’ that you speak of is so ‘effective,’ then why do we relegate it to accused terrorists? Why don’t we apply it to domestic kidnapping cases? War on drugs? Traffic violations? Seems like if it’s not ‘torture’ and it ‘works’ to gain actionable intelligence, and it demonstrates the morals and ethical stance of this country, I just don’t see why we need to do it to do it overseas in private, secret prisons. Maybe if we made videos of this safe, effective, and moral non-torture, it would act as a detergent to all sorts of bad behavior. Maybe we could start using it to find out who sprayed that ugly bad word all over the town monument! This is awesome! By making this sort of behavior not-torture and legitimizing it, there is no end to how we could use it for good! After all, if our intentions are ‘right’ then the end justifies the means….”

It was sarcasm but my point is this – if we govern our ethic by pragmatism and effectiveness – it opens the door to everything. That is a world of which I am afraid.

What about the argument that the enemy does it to us??

We are not Al Qaida. We are not ISIL. We are not the Taliban. Our standard of behavior is US law not a terrorist. Full Stop.

But it was legal!

I understand. That does not make it right. Being angry, scared, and needing retribution does not make it right.

So where does that leave us?

Let us collectively decide that torture, by any name, is wrong. We will not do it no matter what is done to us. Let us be above the actions of our enemies and do what is just, regardless of what is done to us.

As a Christian, I am governed by the imperative to “do unto other as you would have done unto you.”

But when it comes to vengeance, retribution, and torture, there is no tension. Vengeance isn’t mine to give, retribution comes through the justice system, and torture is just not done.

We are Americans. Let us be great. Let us be shining lights on a hill. Let us be examples to the world of what it means to have power and wield it for good.

Epilogue – I was going to embed all kinds of links to back up my points but realized that most would not follow them anyway. A quick Google search of these terms will bring you loads of articles agreeing and disagreeing with my opinion:

“Christianity and torture,” “Torture in American history,” “Is torture right,” etc.

I speak for me. The above is my opinion and recommendation I would give anyone in this situation. I’m sure the operators and agents involved with this did so out of love for their country and in a desire to protect it. They also did so with the backing of a legal system that said it was ok. That should protect them. I believe we should search our souls, ask ourselves if this is who we are and examine our systems to see if this is where we should go. It is certainly not where I think we should. Please, for the love of that freedom we hold dear and all that is holy, let us not condone torture – for any reason.

A Prayer for Veteran’s Day 2014

Army, Chaplaincy, Citizen, Peace

This morning, I will be at First Christian, Columbia, SC. They have asked me to pray for veterans and their families.

Veteran’s day is a bit of a struggle for me. I want to acknowledge that not evey veteran is proud of their service, that often, families bear the brunt of the after effects of war, that suicide, homelessness, and joblessness are a reality of the veteran community.

I also want to acknowledge that many veterans struggle and many are doing fine, that the stereotype of the “crazy-eyed veteran” is exactly that.

Oh, and also the reality that the Kingdom of God has no borders. That service to Jesus Christ transcends all ideas of nationalistic sentiment.

And then there is the reality that war is the ultimate human tragedy, the failure of humans to work out their issues without killing one another.

Here is that humble attempt with thanks to Peter Marshall:

Prayer for Veteran’s Day 2014

First Christian Church, Columbia SC

Good morning. As an Active duty service member, I am honored to pray this morning for veterans and their families. Serving one’s country in the Armed Services is a challenge to anyone who also serves Jesus Christ. There is an inherent tension between Christ’s call to peace and the country’s call to arms. Those who have lived and served in that tension have done so at their own peril. They have offered their very lives to the service of others. They have done so not always agreeing with the action they were ordered to do, they have done so even when the result is death or serious harm, they have done so  even when they were not appreciated for that service, they have done so even when promises are not kept.

Some of our nation’s veterans this morning have served and have gone on to other work in the country having been able to work through the lasting vestiges of war in their lives. Other’s struggle with the memory of war and traumatic stress it brings. Veterans are turning to suicide as an answer to their pain. Some veterans this morning are feeling the benefit of living in this country, others are homeless, jobless, and wondering where to get care. This morning, I remember all veterans and their families. Those doing well and those doing poorly. Those who have been able to integrate their pain and those who struggle with their memories. Those enjoying the freedom of this land and those who are now behind bars. Those with homes and those homeless. Those who are still with the family of their youth and those who are now divorced and separated from those families because of the effects of war. Those who remember their service with fondness and those who daily grieve the pain of it. We remember them all and pray for them.

Oliver Wendell Homes, himself a veteran of the American Civil War once said, “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war, we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top. In our youths, our hearts were touched with fire.” I know that fire. I know that it still burns.

From one veteran to another and their families – thank you for your service.

We approach the Throne of Grace:

Lord Jesus Christ, we are the children of God. Yet we would not be human if we were not sometimes fearful, if our hearts did not ache and harbor anxiety for those we love who wear and have worn our country’s uniform – here and in the far corners of the earth.

Yet, we also know that the Everlasting Arms reach out across the world. We know the shadow of your wing covers all your children.

We know that in this world there are troubles. Whether diseases in Africa, extremists in Iraq and other places, homelessness and poverty here in America, and a host of other ills, that nothing can separate us nor those we love from your love and watch care.

We know that the bonds of the fellowship of prayer are real. We know that at the throne of grace we are all united, that our souls can mingle with those we love on earth even though separated by tumbling sea and dreary miles. In that spirit we ask for our nation’s veterans that you:

              Support them in time of need,

              Give them strength beyond their own,

              Confidence that you are their shepherd and will never leave them nor forsake them,

              Strength in temptation that they may be kept clean,

              Give them the gift of inner peace, a serenity that no tragedy can destroy,

              Give peace to spouses wondering how much longer they can hang on to their marriage,

              Keep those veterans preparing for another winter without a home or job safe,

              Calm the dreams of those who struggle with sleeping at night,

              Encouragement to those who are thinking of suicide as a way out to know that they are loved, have value and are important,

              Give us the peace that passes all understanding that keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May Peace come to the world so that War can be no more. We look to the day when Soldiers are no longer needed with great anticipation. Until then, we serve.

May we feel your presence and see by faith that day when the love of Christ shall live in the hearts of all people everywhere. Amen.

Iraq Band of Brothers

 

 

 

An Ally Every. Single. Day.

Chaplaincy, Open and Affirming

Back in February, I “came out” as it were as an “open and affirming” chaplain. It’s had an interesting effect on my ministry. Over the last few months, after leaving the prison and going to my mid-career Army chaplain school, it’s been revealing just what that means for me.

1. It means being an ally every day – for example, yesterday, when I took this picture in front of the Circular Church in Charleston, SC, one chaplain made a comment about the “interesting colors.”

God is still speaking

I replied by saying how cool it was that when this church said they welcomed everyone, they meant it. Another chaplain made a comment about the size of the church, something like, “Well, no wonder they are dying since they left the truth” – or words to that effect. I gently questioned if he was saying that there were not conservative churches dying across the country? Then pointed out that this church, unlike many others, had been around since the 1600s.

 

Progressive Church

Conversation quickly moved on.

I’m not a quick-witted person; I wish I had zingers that I could throw out there, but I’ve realized that the best way to advocate for others is to simply tell the other story, counter the embedded narrative and to do it in love.

2. It means being gentle and allowing people to grow in their time. Not everyone is ready for their theology to be drastically confronted. To be clear, I am much harder on chaplains than any other group since they, of all people, should understand treating others with dignity and respect – and should be able to handle having their theology questioned. Sometimes, I’m gentle in poking holes in arguments or reflecting what a statement might sound like to an LGB* Soldier – other times, I just lay it out there and watch the sparks fly.

Either way, I try valiantly to couch all advocacy in love.

But bullying – that I confront. There is too much to loose.

3. It means saying it out loud. I’ve talked to more chaplains about this subject than any other. Saying, “Well, look. I’m open to everyone, if they would just talk to me, reach out to me, they would find that I’m a loving and caring individual.”

That’s not enough.

And it’s not going to happen.

Here’s the thing: when dealing with those who have been battered and bullied by theology and churches for this long – we need to be clear and direct about how we, as clergy, will interact with them. If you are truly welcoming, then say it and be specifically inclusive. Let people know who you are welcoming to, and how you will treat them when they come to you. Put up signs. Make statements.

Sign

4. It means being an ally for everyone. I have found that it’s not just LGB* Soldiers that need an ally – I try to use my limited status, power, and responsibility as an Army chaplain/officer to be an ally for all minority groups I come across. Minority faith groups need intentionality. Women, other ethnicities – it means separating from a joke, even the well meaning ones – because joking from a position of power and majority sounds an awful lot like bullying.

It means saying something.

And that is where it’s actually the hardest.

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned about being an O&A chaplain is this: being an advocate for others requires more than just big statements and signs on my door, it means taking the small opportunities to talk to others, challenging assumptions, and lovingly letting others know:

You are welcome here.

By the way, this blog inspired me to write this morning. Good thoughts.

*I say LGB since the Army has yet to allow Trans Soldiers to serve openly, though it’s looking at the problem.

Billy Graham Library, A Mechanical Cow, and what unintentional prejudice looks like

Army, Chaplaincy, Two Pastor Family

Facepalm.

It was a total facepalm moment.

There I was, staring at the silly mechanical talking cow that was introducing me to the farming history of Billy Graham. It was a protestant chaplain field trip to the Billy Graham Museum, Charlotte NC. The opening exhibit is a full size talking cow that praises God and Billy Graham. Its four minutes of “halleluah-indnt-God-great-praise-Jesus-this-is-where-Billy-was-born” talk.

In the best stereotypical “Aunt Jemima” black woman voice I’ve heard… ever…

It’s the only distinctively black voice in the entire museum. The only one. Every other voice I heard was distinctively Caucasian. Mostly, who you hear speak are narrators and Billy Graham but they are all serious and they are all white.

The only levity in the whole place is the silly praising talking cow, in the barn, behind the fence. It’s meant to be funny, bring a smile, and appeal to the kiddos.

And it’s the only black voice.

In 2014.

Celebrating a man who worked diligently (at least that is certainly what the museum said in its various exhibits) at working toward reconciliation and bringing diversity to the world.

For what it’s worth, I seek to understand Billy Graham in the world in which he was raised, I give him great credit as a person who worked for and actually achieved reconciliation and diversity across the American religious landscape.

It’s what makes the decision to make the only person of color voice the silly, talking cow even worse.

And then there was the prayer.

Before we went in, an older man who works for the library wanted to pray for the large group of Army chaplains who was about the tour the museum. In his prayer, he passionately prayed for male chaplains who bring the gospel to male Soldiers. I know he didn’t mean to exclude the female chaplain who was there, I’m certain that he didn’t intend to exclude all the female Soldiers in the US Army – but he did.

This is why we, as Christians and certainly as chaplains have GOT to be more intentional about inclusive language. We need to name everyone.

I’m certain that the library didn’t intend to be prejudicial when they chose the black voice for the talking cow, I’m sure that when they respond to the letter I’m sending them, that they’ll talk about Billy’s dedication to diversity and reconciliation.

It just highlights how blind we white men tend to be when it comes to minorities. We are just unaware of who we leave out and what prejudice looks like.

We’re better than this.

Why I use “they” when writing

General

The other day, I got a paper back in which I had been marked down for using the word “they” to speak of “Soldier” in the singular voice.

Here’s why – I am intentional about using gender neutral language when speaking about gender neutral things. If I am actually talking about a man – I’ll use masculine. If I’m talking about a female – I’ll use feminine.

However, when writing about commanders (CDRs), Soldiers, and Chaplains, I am inclusive about it. I’ve had female CDRs and certainly have experienced both male and female Soldiers and Chaplains. However, I consistently experience educated, thoughtful people referring to ALL CDRs, ALL Soldiers, and emphatically ALL Chaplains as… “He”.

The other day in class, I could barely suppress my annoyance when I pointed out, yet again, out loud and in class to the professor that not ALL my Soldiers were men.

And again, I say, “Really? You have to be reminded of that? In 2014??”

So here is a great video that highlights how the plural word “they” is increasingly being used as a gender neutral pronoun… even in the singular.

I’ll keep using it. Thank you very much.

Gender Neutral Pronouns …: http://youtu.be/46ehrFk-gLk

Google Glass in Law Enforcement

Citizen, Responsible Gun Ownership

When I worked in the prison, I was initially put off by the ever present camera. They are everywhere in a prison, always on, always recording.

At first, I thought about them, found myself looking distractedly in the corner, and fascinated when in the control room looking at the live feeds.

Which is where I was the first time I witnessed and incident. I watched the inmate’s actions, the correctional specialists response and the resulting team effort calming the situation.

I was amazed.

The camera footage actually protected the inmate in that the cadre could not contradict video footage. It protected the correctional specialist in the same way. And, by reviewing the footage, all the Soldiers could benefit by using it as training. It is a mark of a profession that they self-evaluate, self-police, and train to a standard. The cameras were a vital part of that effort.

Turns out, cameras were good for everyone.

I thought about this after reading about Ferguson. If only there was some video footage of the incident. That got me wondering about cameras in regular policing. The dash camera has been in use for years but what about something like Google Glass?

Then I looked it up. Here, NYPD is considering using it; here, it is analyzed for use by police.

Technology never solves problems in of itself but why not use what we have to protect both law enforcement and citizenry?

First Day

General, Two Pastor Family

PhotoGrid_1408445260856

She was shaking her head, “no.” I really wanted her to say yes, so badly did I want her to say “yes.” But, she didn’t. She didn’t need me to stay. No matter how much I wanted to sit with her, hold her hand, keep her 6 forever, it was not going to happen. She was shaking her head and then said out loud, “no.”

It was time for me to go. It was time for her to grow.

This morning has been coming for months. She’ll be 7 in December. She had to start 1st grade sometime and sometime was this morning.

First grade is different somehow. Kindergarten is a separate issue altogether. When the numbered grades start, the clock starts. Today was 1. In twelve years, it’ll be done.

12 short years.

At breakfast, she was so excited. Anticipation was palpable. She had her new outfit, chosen for the first day of school, new backpack, new shoes, new everything. All I could see was my little one. My little girl I left as an infant on that second deployment. The little toddler I came home to. My oldest. My little that could now read and sing and reason. My pride.

We took pictures and off we went.

The process for this school is that everyone gathers in the school cafeteria and then the teachers take the students off to their assigned classroom. I walked her into the school, down the hallway and into a crowded cafeteria. I expected to hand her off to another adult but its 1st grade and she needed to do this on her own. I shook hands with a teacher who showed her where to sit.

We hugged. I saw a tear in her eye and that’s when mine started to get red. I asked her if she was ok and she said yes. Then I asked her if she wanted me to stay and she smiled, shook her head, and said, “no.”

She didn’t need me to stay.

Walking out, I’m reminded of Milne, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

 

It’s been a tough week…

Peace, Sermon

Ok. Take a deep breath.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Think about good things.

Really, I meant it, breathe out. Let it go…

Some really bad things happened this week. Really bad.

A general was laid to rest after giving his life in service to his country.

A Missouri town is in terrible upheaval.

A family is without their son.

Robin Williams. THE Robin Williams. The “Carpe Diem” said in a horse whisper, is dead.

And, of course, SFC Hairston died in Afghanistan this week. As have thousands.

And we should not forget those suffering in the hands of ISIS extremists.

And there is always Gaza.

It’s been a tough week.

Maybe, this night, as we prepare for tomorrow’s worship, we could all just remember that everyone is suffering their own hurt. That each person’s tragedy is their own, their pain is their own, and our pain is not their pain.

This is important. Grief is important.

This week, I’ve seen some “tragedy shaming” making its inevitable rounds. The memes showing images of graphic suffering with a “my tragedy is worse than your tragedy” theme. Hey everyone – its tough out there, people are hurting, you are hurting, I am hurting – shaming each other for not making your tragedy as important as their tragedy isn’t terribly helpful.

I’m sorry you are hurting. I am too. Each of the above events impact us in different ways. I’m not going to lie, there was a moment when I was about done hearing about the General, as great as I’m sure he is, thousands have died in the last decade – THOUSANDS. What makes his different? Rank?

But you see, that is exactly it – I am, in that moment, comparing my suffering and other’s suffering. A pointless and hurtful enterprise. Unhelpful at best. Painfully shaming at worst.

As we prepare our hearts for entering the Sacred Space tomorrow, may we focus on where we are grieving and think about how our fellow saints are grieving so that we might minister to them the healing Gospel.

Life is hard. We, as Christians, at our best, can make life easier by hearing the pain and offering the Grace needed for healing to begin.

“Bear you one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” 

Amen