Saturday, August 6, 2016

Two Years Later

8.6.16 – An Open Letter to My Father (that some of you might even relate to)

Dear Dad,

It’s been two years since you suddenly left this earth, Dad, and I don’t miss you any less than I did when it was all happening. One would think it would be easier by now—“time heals all wounds,” right? But as a couple of understanding people have reminded me, grief is not linear, it waxes and wanes. You always told me not to sweat the small stuff because it’s the big stuff that would kill me. I thought that this day two years ago was surely the big stuff, I’d finally seen it… Yet, now, thinking of it in your terms (thanks to your unique brand of ludicrous and yet wise perspective—often more crude than “stuff,” let’s be honest here), your death and the process of grief itself just might be more like decidedly varying waves of “small” shit; nearly constant, often unreasonable, hardly predictable.  

I did not anticipate ever speaking from the podium of our church and giving a relatively (stress on relative) composed speech to a crowded room given my limited at the time experience in public speaking; I definitely didn’t want it to be your eulogy, which I cried while writing but not while reading. I never realized that listening to Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen or Frank Sinatra’s Main Event: Live on crackly vinyl would most often bring me joy and an urge to dance but sometimes, at random, lead to a breakdown (complete with ugly crying, is there any other way, really?). I did not anticipate family gatherings, holidays, and milestones like moving into college or getting my first semester of straight As to feel like cataclysmic betrayal in two ways. Me the betrayer doing these things without you (or so it felt) and you too for not being there to congratulate me, interrogate me about it, and immediately pick up the phone to brag about it to anyone who would listen to you (though you would have insisted you were “just sharing good news” with people). You told me if I ever got a nose piercing (like I wanted) it’d have to be over your dead body and that you’d surely roll in your grave. When I did it last January, I think I secretly yearned for the rumble of the earth (though I don’t actually believe in that… and you were cremated, which would also pose a practical problem, I suppose) indicating your disapproval and thus that you still had an opinion—if I didn’t like the nose stud so much, it might’ve been a disappointing experience as such. Ah, yes, these are the haphazard waves of small shit I suppose.

Although I have faith that you are in a better place now, I still miss you and I don’t understand why you had to go and I still find myself regretting all the time we didn’t spend together, things I didn’t ask you, things we didn’t do, things we’ll never do. I don’t mean to, but sometimes I still agonize over it. I yelled at God about it, but I realized that it didn’t do me any good until it turned to crying to Him. Other torturous phenomena include the fact that it’s only been about half a year since the last time I picked up my phone to call and ask you a question and got to my recent calls before I remembered that I couldn’t. Admittedly, though it’s so weird and painful to say and think it, there are even things I’m sort of glad you didn’t have to be here to see (this year’s presidential election; the closing of El Famous in Vernon Hills—home of the football sized burritos which you showed me after I tried to show you ‘how great Chipotle is’).  All this too thrown into the seemingly endless current of small stuff.

But even among all the fleeting small stuff, I’m endlessly grateful that I got to spend 18 years of my life with you as my father. We disagreed and we bickered way too much, but I realize now that it doesn’t change a thing. Despite the nose piercing, my occasional penchants for rap music, and withstanding vegetarianism—all of which we vehemently disagreed about—I inherited many of my core values and ideologies from you (and you+mom, of course, but she knows this). You valued humor in nearly all situations, even occasionally risking the inappropriate for the sake of raucous laughter because, Lord knows, we all need it. You put family first, and you taught me that even without a blood relation, some friends are family and need to be treasured as such. You taught me to keep the faith in the worst of situations (don’t sweat that small stuff, eh?). You showed me the importance of helping anyone who needed it however you could, no matter how little you had or how hard it could be. I fail at all of this regularly, but I strive to hold on to these things and much more that you taught me. There are so many things that I wish you could have taught me or that we could at least talk about, but as I think about it—these are so major and among the most important after all (I guess I’ll have to forgive you for the never teaching me how to buy a car or writing down your spaghetti sauce recipe… bah!).

So here’s to you Dad, the greatest man I’ve ever known, two years since I last saw you. I thank God for you. I haven’t forgotten about you, at all, I think about you every day. I know Heaven’s great; I can’t wait to see you there some day.  Still, meanwhile, we miss you here on earth.

Love always,

circa 2011, holy smokes

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Christian Problem in Light of the SCOTUS Decision

On June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. I found this out when I logged onto Facebook. As I scrolled through my news feed, I was admittedly disappointed and flustered. But this was not due to the plethora of rainbow profile picture changes beginning to clutter my screen, nor the links shared to articles detailing the decision. Rather, I was staggered primarily by many of the posts-- from quick remarks to lengthy diatribes of both support and dissension-- from fellow Christians.

Since June 26th, 2015, I have read more posts than ever across social media from people I have known, liked, and respected that can all too easily be categorized as inconsiderate, judgmental, arrogant, uninformed, impersonal, rude, demonizing, and hateful. I have seen words like perverse, bad, evil, idiotic, moronic, immoral, ridiculous, horrible, and inhuman thrown around casually and publicly referring to other people. I have watched these words be flippantly used to refer to homosexuals as well as heterosexuals and to people both for and against the right of marriage for all citizens. While I may have personally observed more of these comments on one side of the issue than the other, I am trying to stress here that the massive virtual exchange of iniquity was not limited to any one viewpoint.

This post is not going to be about attempting to convince Christians or anyone else to support or to oppose same-sex marriage. In fact, I only write today because my heart broke as I began to see reactions, and I want to urge my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to potentially consider further their reactions to this and to any other past, present, or future developments of both political and personal varieties.

Following the SCOTUS decision, I have seen many Christians express something to the effect of America having a large problem indicated by legality and acceptance of marriage equality. In light of the SCOTUS decision, I was convicted of a separate and urgent problem plaguing Christians that we are not addressing by and large. I'm referring to the problem of our reactions to people and happenings that we disagree with and the issues within these reactions.

Throughout the reactions of fellow Christians to the SCOTUS decision, I see expressions riddled with careless words. I could not help but think of the death and life in the power of words (Proverbs 18:21) as that power is abused. Ephesians 4 details the the ways we are to live with our new lives in Christ and in one such way is to "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (v. 29). How do condemning words build others up? It may be easy to snap back a response that to rebuke in truth builds others up, but even if that is the case, that is not really what I have been personally seeing... In contrast, how do hurtful slurs and publicly aired bitterness give grace to those who hear it?

I am by no means excluding myself from the problem. While I hadn't the slightest inclination to lash out about the SCOTUS decision, I have certainly lashed out, even in small or internal ways, when confronted with people whom I disagree with or who are living in ways contrary to what I believe is right in my personal life-- I very much have made these same mistakes. But, I have realized that as a follower of Jesus, I want to reflect Him in my actions, and to treat others with anything less than love and kindness does not reflect Him at all. 

I too have been a Pharisee, I too have proverbially brought forward fellow sinners and cast stones (John 8). I am no better. And I have been sorry for that and will remain so, and throughout my life I have asked for forgiveness from the people I have wronged and from God. This repentance is what we must do as Christians. But that is not the end... after all, don't we believe that this where the Gospel comes in and covers these wrongs that we have all made? That's the best part. God loved us so that despite our wrongs-- our sin-- He sent His son to die the death that we deserved on the cross so that we would have the opportunity to live (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8). Many of the problematic reactions to the SCOTUS decision made "others" out of homosexual people and those who support them and/or their right to marry, casting them as sinners. However, as the Truth I just highlighted recognizes: we all sin. So, I believe that we need to remember the love and grace shown toward all of us in the gospel as we react to anything. Even if we fail sometimes, I volunteer that we must try anyway. We have no right to demonize people even if we believe they sin in any particular way, even if it is different than the way we do. Yet, I am reminded that it is through His grace that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Food for thought regarding "loving one another"...

If you encounter someone who is different (maybe they're from another country, maybe another culture. What the difference is doesn't really matter.) than you in some way or another, how do you interact with them? How do you see them? What do you think of them? What if someone has a different opinion that you on something (you appreciate Plato's Phaedo//they don't. You like oranges//they like apples. You're a liberal//they're a conservative. Whatever.)? Maybe they look just like you (or they don't), or maybe you know them well (or you don't).

I think it's beneficial to consider this-- to try to be conscious of how you treat people who are different than you-- regardless of who you are or what your beliefs are.

As for me personally? I'm a Christian. I think that if I call myself a Christian, my beliefs should vastly affect how I treat others-- those who are different than myself in any which way included. How so? My beliefs dictate that I should love them. I believe that if you're using following Christ as an excuse to do anything less, then you should verify that you're following the right guy. I fail sometimes, I know I do, but admit that and I'm trying. Christians talk about loving one another so often that it's commonplace. It should be; it's important. But we shouldn't let the frequency subdue the significance. It's imperative: Christ is love, and we are His ambassadors.

I leave you with better food for thought than I could ever produce:
"Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs."-Proverbs 10:12
"“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"-Matthew 5:43-47
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."-John 13:34
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."-Philippians 2:3-7 
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."-1 John 4:7-12