Sing Along –
Earlier this week I had a song stuck in my head. It played over and over in my mind. It was from an artist I don’t like or dislike and was a song that was fine but not spectacular. These facts didn’t matter because the song was like an earworm which burrowed its way into my brain and wouldn’t stop. I found myself humming the tune, singing along, tapping my foot and fingers, when I was in meetings, classes, and other places.
It is hard to get a song out of your head sometimes. I usually try listening to it several times in a row which can dislodge it. Other times singing it out loud, all the way through, will do the trick. However, some songs refuse to let go and I just live with it until finally, another song, or silence if I’m lucky, takes it place.
I was speaking with someone this week about the causes of poverty, abuse, addiction, incarceration and the incredibly hard task it is to break free from these often generational, familial, cycles. Too often, people think the battles we face are won by acts of wills and choice. While these are important they are not the sum of all problems. When you have been surrounded with these ills of society and family you become used to a normal. You witness those you love and look up to make decisions that keep them trapped in the cycle. Growing up in these environments impact the way you think, your view of the world, and the hopelessness of being free. Who we are, what we are, are not only the choices we have made but from a myriad of choices which happen when we cannot decide for ourselves or even before we are born.
Understanding the truths about some of the people we meet each day will, hopefully, rewrite the judgmental and biased scripts we easily recite in our minds when we encounter the poor, drug addicted, alcoholic, homeless, ex-felons, and wonder; “Why can’t they do something about their lot in life?” Maybe, they need us to sing a new song to them.
Smell of Freedom –
The aroma of six pizza filled my truck cab today as I drove to the county jail. This is Celebration Week as we give certificates, serve pizza to the dads who have put up with me for the last 3 months and, hopefully, have learned to be better men and fathers. I arrived at the jail a few minutes early and began setting things up when I noticed a young man standing on the other side of a heavy steel door with a section of plexiglass in the upper middle. I raised my voice and asked him; “How are you today?” “Fine.” he responded, then added with a big grin; “I’m going home today!” “Congratulations!” I answered back. “I know you’re excited.” “Sure am!” I continued setting up the room and finally, the door buzzed opened and the man began to make his way across the room. As he reached for the door that would take him to freedom he said to me; “Hope you have a good day.” I smiled and replied back to him what the dads in my class have heard many times; “Make good choices! None that will bring you back here!” “I won’t,” he said and disappeared.
A few moments later the incarcerated fathers began to fill the room. They eyed the pizza sitting on a bench in the corner and smiled. “Good choices, make good men and good men make good fathers! Choice is destiny.” is how I begin every class. At the end, before we ate pizza and took pics of the men with their certificates I made them say it loudly! “Good choices make good men and good men make good fathers!” They nailed it and we enjoyed our final few moments together. When I got back to my office I bowed my head and prayed it would be more than words for them and me.
My wife was verbally assaulted last week. I’m not sure she’d use those words but someone certainly chewed her up one side and down the other. It was bad enough that when she finished telling me the story, I asked if she was okay and she began to cry. There’s nothing harder for a husband when the woman he loves is hurting and there’s nothing to do but hold her.
I won’t describe the whole situation but the most perplexing comments the woman made to Beth were; “are you a Christian?!?! You need to go to church! Aren’t you going to say; ‘you’re sorry?!?!’ You still haven’t apologized! You need to apologize to me!‘” The woman went on and on. Beth told me; “I couldn’t apologize because she wouldn’t stop berating me.”
I confess I was frustrated. As I reflected on my negative feelings three thoughts echoed in my mind and spirit…
The first was the way people treat each other; unaware or unconcerned with how their words and actions affect the feelings and well-being of others.
The second was the question; “Are you a Christian?” being asked by a belligerent, judgmental person who apparently goes to church and is a Christ follower. I can’t help but wonder how many believers present an un-Christ like image while holding others to a higher standard or worse, never realizing the distance between their lives and their testimony.
Lastly, when we expect, demand, try and force an apology it shows a lack of humility, empathy and understanding of grace.
Earlier this afternoon I took the dogs outside and noticed an elderly couple parked in a church parking lot that is adjacent to our house. The man was changing a tire while the woman stood over his shoulder watching, supervising (insert joke here). Several cars were leaving their church parking spaces at this time but none of the ones I saw stopped to offer help.
Once the pooches had done their thing we went back inside and I went out the front door to see if I could lend them a hand. However, by that time someone had already pulled over and was assisting them. The person helping looked as if they were headed to a lake or pool.
I was thankful for the good Samaritan but concerned by the perceived apathy of the “Sunday morning crowd.”
The last several weeks I’ve seen plenteous Facebook posts, listened to loud complaints, witnessed brothers and sisters in Christ speaking and acting in non-Christ like ways as they’ve lamented gay marriage, attacked Planned Parenthood, berated the Muslim faith and lambasted politicians on both sides.
Some of these issues are worth our concern, prayer and action to be sure but if we drive past folks who obviously need our help, without even a second glance, I just don’t understand what we’re doing or who we’re actually doing it for.