Dealing with ISIS & All Manner of Evil

we can only start with prayer

Funny, how things that are seemingly disconnected become joined by thoughts and ideas and hopes and dreams — and even nightmares. Yesterday, as I taught a Bible class I touched on the recent tragedies in Paris and Lebanon, and a little further back, in Kenya. And one of the finest men I know asked, “How do we deal with this sort of terrorism — this evil?”

Photo Credit: missiochurch

photo credit: MissioChurch

I have some ideas about that. Yet each one has problems and each one perplexes. And each one seems shallow and trivial next to the great problems we face.

And then, I received this gift. A friend of mine who I know, at this point, only through social media shared this prayer from Dr. Richard Beck, my friend and colleague at the university. I read it once. Then, went to my knees to pray it earnestly.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we tremble before this cup,
give us the strength to drink it,
this: our prayer for our enemies.
And we confess that we are but dust,
we do not have the strength to carry this burden.
So fill us with your Holy Spirit.
May your Spirit intercede for us in this moment.
For nothing draws us to this prayer.
And we confess that we kneel before you
more out of obedience than grace.
Obedience to the one who commanded us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies because the love of Christ compels us. Father, we pray for our enemies. We pray for ISIS.
And in doing so we face in this moment
the terrible mystery of our faith.
The stumbling block. The scandal of the cross.
Give us your Spirit, Father, so that we will not falter in this,
our great test, to carry the cross.
Give us the strength to carry the burden of this love.
We pray for our enemies. We pray for ISIS.
We pray for their repentance, their conversion and their salvation. We pray, dear Father, that you carry these words,
through your Spirit, to our enemies.
We pray that these words pierce their hearts and
trouble their souls.
Father, may your Spirit move in the hearts of our enemies to hear these words:

Dear brothers, hear the Word of the Lord.
No more. No more.
Dear brothers, repent.
Repent and believe the Good News that the
Kingdom of God is in your midst.
Dear brothers, the Kingdom of God is there
in the faces of those you kill and rape.
Dear brothers, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom you seek, is there
weeping, pleading in front of you.
Dear brothers, can you see it?
Can you see through the lies of the Evil One?
Dear brothers, my God, your God, the God of Abraham,
is a God of peace and love.
So no more, dear brothers, no more.
Do not do this terrible thing.
Repent, and believe the Good News.
We are all children of God.
We are all brothers and sisters.
For God is a God of love.

Father in Heaven, carry these words, by your Spirit  carry these words to our enemies.   Wound them with our love and yours.

Some may ask. Is this all we can do? Is this all we should do?

As painful and difficult as it is, praying for our enemies is what we must do.

Socially Medium

I have to admit that there are times that I would like to close down my social media accounts. To bend a phrase of Winston Churchill, “Never was so much bad said about so few by so many.” It is the ease and spontaneity of social media that makes it so great and so damaging — all at once. In fact, observing the rancor and the vile ideas that are often promoted, I have found myself becoming socially medium.

Photo on 7-13-14 at 7.39 AM


“Socially medium” is the online equivalent of the passive bystander — quietly observing the mayhem of a moment and then slipping unnoticed into the crowd.

I wonder how many of us are out there being socially medium.

Don’t hear this as a call to join the boisterous inanity of those who attribute evil to practically everything. And, you know who you are. Perhaps we all should be thinking about who we are and what we stand for and make sure that we are, indeed, standing.

I know. Being socially medium keeps us out of the controversy and safe from the attacks of others. But being socially medium also allows us to simply not think and never do if we let it become our standard.

A step away from being socially medium takes us to a place where we think, where we explore new ideas and perspectives, and where we become curious. Dialog builds relationships. Relationships build communities. Communities, when bonded over care and concern for others, become the birthing place of all manner of goodness.

Care to join me as I think more, explore more, and feed my curiosity?


the best option

The last few weeks have been difficult. Too much travel. The loss of someone special to our family. A bit of anxiety. A real desire to unplug and let life pass effortlessly for a while. Then, I received my gift. Newness.

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I fell asleep burdened, but woke with new hopes, plans, and goals. Indeed, one of the functions of sleep is to allow our brains to clean up the clutter, organize itself, and make connections that our forced consciousness can’t quite master.

And, so, I awoke . . . to newness.

If you’re struggling, look for that moment of newness. Call a friend. Get your name on a prayer list. Find one new thing to do today that brings you closer to who you want to be. You only have to find one. Other newness will pursue you.

Newness is a gift from God. Open your present now.

Surreptitious Sunrise

good times happen -- even when hidden

I seem to travel a lot these days. Unless I’m driving when the sun comes up, I often miss the sunrise. I suppose that’s why I take so much pleasure when the sun rises before me.

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Arriving at my office early in the morning, I often groan a bit as I leave my car — a combination of age and perhaps that last set at the gym. But, being in West Texas and having a full view of the eastern sky, my breath is often taken as I stand and my minor pains fade as I’m surprised by the sunrise that is unfolding.

Following yesterday’s magic moment (captured above), today’s display was a little plain. No clouds to the east. No special color. Just sunlight beginning to lighten the sky and brighten the earth beneath me. As I entered into the artificial light of the building, I suddenly realized the power of a new day and the certainty of a sunrise. I began to feel a great deal of gratitude that — whether I could see it or not, whether I fully appreciated it or not — this day was a gift.

For those of you whose sunrises seem hidden, may you feel peace and comfort knowing that the day is waiting for you. And though it may not bring dazzling panoramas and warmth to you immediately, this day is important. The sunrise may be plain or covered by clouds. But a day is coming when a glorious sunrise will be made just for you.


To the Africa Family

"I bless the rains down in Africa . . ."

This morning, I relived a special feeling when Toto’s “Africa” fed through my earphones. Its signature lines about the great continent bring fond memories. In just a couple of weeks, it will be one year from the date six incredible people allowed me to join them on an adventure to Rwanda and Kenya. And even though we spent many hours together preparing for our trip, it was the trip itself that set our relationships in a framework that can only be viewed as remarkable and led to our claim to be “the Africa family.”

Africa Team

In regard to the song, I should note that we never heard live drums echoing in the night, nor did we see Kilimanjaro. Our closest parallel to the imagined journey portrayed in the lyrics was our time on the Serengeti. Even those rains eluded us. We preceded the rainy season by a couple of weeks.

Still, as I listened to the melody cascade over the distinctive drum track, I came face-to-face with special moments. Quiet conversations were frequent. Laughter was a major feature of every single day. What I remember most deeply is the feeling of comfort I had when I was with my Africa family. Thousands of miles from home, that little group became my touchpoint.

When you experience a time of life with a close-knit group of friends, you encounter not only your own feelings, but are immersed in the perspectives and emotions of those around you. I believe that my memories of this particular group of people will always bring me comfort. Thanks Betty, Allison, Robyn, Aaron, Dan, and Malcolm! You changed me.

So, to my Africa family, I want to say “thank you” for sharing that incredible journey. But, more importantly, thanks for opening your lives to me. Over time and the separation of distance, our family will lose some of its familiarity. I hope that you will never lose the feeling of community that was created. I know I never will.