Anything To Celebrate

Somewhere around 9:30 last night I was hanging out with some family when some fireworks started going up a few blocks away. Quizzical eyebrows raised and someone commented, “Oh. It’s Memorial Day.”

And someone else proceeded to make the most memorable remark of the evening:
“Isn’t that like setting off fireworks at a funeral?”

Through the course of last night and today, I watched the atmosphere around me and analyzed my attitude toward this holiday. As of late last week, it was the first holiday of the summer, a day off to spend time with family, and excuse to cook out (or barbeque, depending upon your geographic vernacular), and celebrate. Many used today to go to the local pool, drink a couple too many, and relax. Three day weekend! We all love those.

As I’ve thought about this, however, it seems that we have mixed up our holidays. Were the July 4th, I would be in more of a festive cookout mood. Were this labor day, I would be in more of a celebratory mindset. Those days are set aside to reflect and celebrate our independence, and a well-earned time off for hard work.

Memorial Day, however, isn’t that.

My father served in Vietnam. He was hated by his own countrymen when he returned. Some of his friends didn’t make it home. I never truly appreciated (and still cannot truly understand) what he had experienced until several years ago, the last time I was in D.C., when I walked the length of the Vietnam Memorial. If you’ve ever done that, you can relate to the fact that my mind could not truly comprehend the number of names of the dead. I remember thanking him the next time I saw him.

The war in Iraq had cost, the last time I counted, the lives of 3,000 American troops. That’s more, if memory serves, than we lost on September 11th. While I initially agreed with the war, I personally think it’s time to get out now. We’ve done the good we’re going to do. However, whether or not you support the war in it’s current state, our liberty to express our disagreements are defended with the life of those brave enough (braver than I) to travel across the world and die for America. Every one of those 3,000 lives, and the millions from previous wars and conflicts, meant something to someone. They were a father, a mother, a daughter, a son, a brother, a sister, a companion, a friend. Many lives were left void for each death. Many dreams were left unrealized, many lips left un-kissed, many secrets left un-whispered.

Those lives are what we commemorate today, those brave souls who we honor. Yet we have turned it into one more reason to have a party, reduced it to one more long weekend, and began celebrating it as a “Beginning of Summer Day” instead of what it truly means. We live it up in a luxury that these men and women have died to defend. Whether or not you agree with this war or any other, we must respect those who sacrifice all for our country. Sadly, we disrespect them when we twist this holiday into what we have.

I guess we’ll do anything to celebrate.

Here We Go Again

I just read an article on about a “pilot program” to observe airline passengers for signs of stress and fear in order to pick out potential threats to air safety (i.e.: potential hijackers). The news isn’t new to me…I remember the program being announced several months ago, a hotly debated topic at the time by privacy experts. As I understand it, the system kind of works like this:

A passenger with the intention of doing something malicious once on board an aircraft will display signs of fear, anticipation, or anxiety that, even though well-hidden to the casual observer such as you or I, will be noticeable to a behavioral specialist. As I understand the system, that individual is then most likely flagged for “secondary screening” (translation: we’re going to pull you out of line, go through all of your stuff, shake you down, run metal detector wands around you, and when you arrive at your destination you will discover that we have rummaged through your luggage with absolutely no respect for your personal belongings after picking your lock…but we’ve left you a courtesty card explaining the process and a number to call with any concerns, not that it will do you any good).

But see, this also means that a passenger who is on his way to see his girlfriend after being away for a summer, or to ask her father for permission to marry, and is anxious with anticipation will show similar symptoms and be pulled out of line, etc.

Or a passenger who is going to a huge job interview and is nervous about the next few hours of her life will be pulled out of line, etc.

I think America’s catch-phrase should be, “Please protect us! Here’s our freedom!” Because somehow we think it is an even exchange. Our freedom is what we’re trying to protect here, what our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are dying heroically in other parts of the world for us to have. And we give it away, again and again, in the interest of “security.” Less and less is needed for someone to be treated as though they are an enemy when in fact they are only a citizen, for someone to be harassed in the name of “security.” Even less is needed for them to monitor our telephone conversations and, who knows, probably this blog post. And, as I watch the reports, I really don’t feel as though we’re all that “secure.”

And one day (very soon I fear), we will awake to an Orwellian world that spiraled out of control from the best of intentions, discovering that only those behind the cameras are truly “secure.”

My Soon-To-Be Big Crazy Wedding

I had a weekend getaway without ever leaving town this weekend. More relaxing than I can relate! My fiance graduated with her master’s degree this weekend (she is now offically more educated than I am…c’mon, Dave, just three more classes…), and her family was in town for the event and for Mother’s Day.

Did I mention I hadn’t met her family yet?

So I spend literally the entire weekend with them, coming home only to sleep a bit, and it was great. Last night, to close our weekend, we watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” That movie is so applicable to us! She has this huge crazy family. Fortunately, I don’t have a stuffy one like the guy in the movie, but I do have a smaller one. My mind is spinning a bit by realizing how many people I’m going to be related to after this wedding.

I find myself thanking God for new family. New friends are incredible, new family is amazing. I mean, to have this whole new group of people in your life that are family…new aunts and uncles and cousins…and even moms and dads…it’s a little mind-boggling.

I think its the way our communities should look as Believers, though. I mean, all of the people there this weekend come with different preferences in the way they worship God. But we all do, and we’re all together in that, and the differences are accepted, and that’s really cool.

And a relief. Such a relief.

So was the fact that her parents approve of me. Such a relief….

Not Quite There…Ever

I know I blogged about this issue a little in the past, but this is a new spin on it…

I was at this banquet last night with my fiance, and I hated myself. That was mostly because I kept checking out all these girls who were walking by in really nice evening gowns. Now, I love my fiance, I think she’s the sexiest person in the world. But sometimes my eyes are just involuntary when it comes to sensory stimulation, if you know what I mean.

And I hate that, because that’s disrespectful to her. I mean, it’s not like I was staring and drooling and dropping my food or anything, but I was still disrespectful to her. And it’s not like she got upset with me or we argued…the topic never came up in our conversation. But I still was very displeased with myself.

Paul talks about our two natures competing with each other as Believers. I mean, what he calls “the flesh,” meaning what our bodies want to do (and with guys, that can always be narrowed down to one thing), and what the Spirit wants us to do. That’s the Spirit of God that’s with us as Believers, the One that Christ promised would be present with us. He manifests Himself in different ways…sometimes people experience visions, sometimes they speak in tongues, sometimes, as is the case with me, there’s usually just a “tug” deep inside that’s pulling me certain direction, and I know it’s Him. It’s always gentle with me, a “this is what you really need to look at doing” type of thing.

But last Sunday one of things that was spoken about, and that I’ve been kind of unpacking ever since, was this idea of the two natures competing with each other…our flesh, and His Spirit. Paul talks a lot about it in a lot of his letters, but one of the letters that always springs to mind for me is Galatians. In 5:18, he says that “But if you are lead by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (NASB). My pastor mentioned that one last weekend, and it’s kind of stayed with me. What he said, though, was that if you’re looking at this verse through the Law, you’re seeing it the wrong way. It’s talking about the Mosaic Law, that the people of that time were expected keep in a rigid way. After Christ, it remains with us an ethical guide, but not a law code. God frees us from that as Believers. The point: we don’t have to live with guilt any more. We can press onward to the future, under His power.

That’s really cool, because I know I can keep going, and try to do better at keeping my eyes in my head next time. Or keeping the language from getting too nasty next time. Or whatever the problem may be.

He’s a God of second, third, and many more chances. I’m so grateful for that, because I usually use all of them before I get it right. Typically, I don’t get it right, I just come closer.

Someone asked me once if its possible to be a Believer and still do things “wrong” in your life. I said absolutely. Being God’s child isn’t a checklist of things to do, it’s a heart attitude, a belief in Jesus that moves beyond the logical. That heart attitude will make you want to do things right. But He knows that we can’t, and He never expected us to be perfect.

Unfortunately, we still expect ourselves to be perfect. And frequently, we run away from God because all we can think about is what we have to give up and how perfect we’ll have to be.

We just keep expecting ourselves to be perfect.

We really should stop that.


The semester draws to an end, finally!!! Two finals and a term paper stand between me and my summer, not to mention my wedding which quickly approaches.

And in addition to that, they are all that stand between me and my inspiration. Or, more exactly, the time to take advantage of it. The words that God places in my head to flow through my keyboard are the heartbeat of my life. I really thought, especially at the beginning of my Seminary career, that I was destined for the role of a pastor. The concept of destiny has become a bit less static, though, and now I am beginning to see a future that truly makes my pulse race with the thought of pursuing it for God.

Not that I can truly articulate what that is, but I know it’s out there. I can’t wait to develop my craft, my art, the manner in which I want to be a tool in His toolbox to touch the hearts and lives of others. I hope that He will use me in this way.

As bright as the future is, I can hardly wait to get started. I feel almost like its a new beginning (which probably says something about how dark a tunnel this semester has been). But the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is in sight now.

And hopefully my posts (which have been, to say the least, sporadic), will become regular and much more in depth than they have been of late.