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As WBC members protest in Kansas City, opponents meet them with condolences.

Of course you probably know that Fred Phelps died last week.

The event was a bit more significant here in my neck of the woods, with Westboro being just about 90 minutes away.  That’s close enough that there have been plenty of Westboro Baptist Church pickets here in Kansas City.

Just about anyone would consider Westboro Baptist Church a hate group. Just about anyone would consider the life of it’s founder, Fred Phelps, to have been wasted.  His legacy has been a waste.

He was a frustrated, angry man on the fringes, who as a lawyer used to work civil rights cases, then was defeated for political office seven times, and then built a church as a platform for his frustrations.

And even though he is gone, WBC lives on, with enough energy to even protest the Lourde concert here in town, for no apparent reason.

I have spent the last few days thinking about what the death of this man means, a man so famous for being so hateful.  

And the thing is, perhaps quite by accident, the life of Fred Phelps quite plainly confronts many of the truths that you and I hold to be absolute. Continue Reading…

Last Friday, I referenced a poem.

A poem by Joyce Kilman, written very nearly a century ago.

In the poem, Kilman contemplates the work of men and women.

We labor and toil and think about how to solve problems.  We build great towers and craft fine products.  We write books and songs that we hope will lift the spirits of other people.  We cook meals to share and wrap gifts to give.

But all of the work of our hands is no match for the creative genius of God.  All of our accomplishments pale in comparison.  You could say that no matter how grand a wonder we humans can build, it doesn’t match the complexity and majestic mystery of even one tree that God has made.

So what are we to do?  Are we to despair that all of our creative energy is for nothing?

No.

Instead we take heart.

We take heart knowing that God delights in our silly poems and drawings and inventions, the way a parent delights in a child’s painting and hangs it on the fridge.

We take heart, knowing that the creative energy in us is the same energy that did create those trees.

We take heart knowing that no matter how “self-sufficient” we become through our invention and innovation, it all still rests in the hands of the first Creator.

And we take heart knowing that the mind behind all things is very, very good.

tree

Create something good today, and share it with the One who made you.

He will like it.

Spring is in the air.

The trees are budding.

The grass is greening.

And Fred Phelps has departed.  Circle of life.

Seriously, between Fred Phelps’ death and Mark Driscoll’s apology, that was pretty much the bulk of my blog reader this week.  I will be commenting next week on one of those events (I don’t like to shoot my mouth off in the thick of it, you know.)  It was a big week for two guys who a lot of people would label “enemies,” but with this week being my Spring break, I just couldn’t get too caught up in all the hooplah.

When the sun is shining, life is too good to stay angry.  At least, that’s what I think.

There were several good blogs on both subjects this week.  Here’s a bit of what fueled me.

Leaving Westboro

You don’t have to go far to find people basically saying “Good riddance” or “may he burn in hell,” but I find it much more interesting to read the other reactions to Phelps’ death.  Caleb Wilde, my favorite blog-writing funeral director wrote what was by far my favorite piece on the whole subject.  Leave it to a guy who spends his life around death to write the best death-related blogs.  Leaving Westboro Baptist Church.

Mark Driscoll Is Not My Pastor

The other biggest story of the week was Mark Driscoll’s public apology, listing a litany of past wrongs.  It wasn’t an open letter, which means he wasn’t apologizing to you and me or people who just don’t like him, but people he has personally wronged.  On the one side, I don’t quite get the breathless enthusiasm so many people showed (except that they were probably already Driscoll fans), but I also don’t buy this idea that he owes all of us something.  People on the other side of the fence will never be satisfied.  Lore Ferguson had the best analysis of the ongoing Driscoll saga: Mark Driscoll is Not My Pastor, But I Have One (And Other Uncool Things to Say Online.

What Do We Do With Enemies?

When it comes to stories like these in which the protagonist is seen as an antagonist, these posts by Michael Perkins and Jeremy Statton are extremely timely.

On A Lighter Note…

And finally, because it is Spring (finally), I think this is appropriate to share.  Short stories are one of my favorite things in the whole world.  I have, however, never been interested in poetry.  Until just lately.  I don’t like many poems, just a very specific kind of poem that I have yet to nail down.  This week, I really enjoyed Trees by Joyce Kilmer, written almost a century ago:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

 

That’s what fueled me this week.  What about you?

Son of God…11174993_det

Noah…

Exodus…

Mary, Mother of Christ…

Resurrection…

It has been almost six decades since The Ten Commandments arrived in theaters.  Today, the film is considered to be one of Hollywood’s last great biblical epics.  In the history of Hollywood, The Passion of the Christ is exactly canon by most insiders’ standards.

Now, seemingly out of the blue, Hollywood is taking a page Passion’s script, and we are experiencing a rash…er…renaissance of biblical movies.  Son of God provides the theater counterpart to The Bible.  And along with the aforementioned films, there are others.  Will Smith is rumored to be making a movie based on the story of Cain and Abel.  Brad Pitt is said to be playing Pontius Pilate in another film.

All of these films promise that we will “believe,” that these will build our faith, et cetera, et cetera.  And you know that plenty of these films will have lots of support from the most influential pastors.

But I’m just going to say this.  I’m not judging anyone who wants to see these movies.  But I’m not going to see Son of God, Noah or any of the rest of these.  And I’m not holding my breath for a true Hollywood biblical renaissance.

Continue Reading…

In school, we learned about facts:

We memorized math facts.

We contemplated laws of nature in science class.

We considered the facts of history.

Our parents taught us what was reasonable and sensible when it came to living.

Yet…

As much as we base our everyday lives on facts, on evidence, on good sense, we know that when it comes to the greatest things in life, facts and good sense have very little bearing.

The audacity of a great inventor is that he believes he can build something which up to this point is impossible to create.  The audacity of great writers is that they believe they can write an original idea (something that the more sensible among us would say is impossible, for there is nothing new under the sun.)  The audacity of every great love story is that the couple can make their love work even against impossible odds.

Yes, even our faith, for all of the evidence and logic and reasonableness underneath it, at it’s very core, is quite impossible.  Are not miracles by their very nature, impossible?  

When things are impossible, there is no amount of good sense, logic or evidence that makes them possible, except for the audacious belief that the impossible can be made into the possible.

All great things that we create start with impossible.

impossible

Yes, most people will say that believing the impossible will make you quite “mad.”  But maybe the best place to start today would be to believe something impossible,

to contradict some logic,

to dispose of some good sense.

And make the impossible possible.

It’s been a good week for me.

I worked hard at school, which was good.

I got revenge on a cocky high schooler.  Apparently, everyone thinks my reaction was appropriate, judging by the responses to this Facebook post.

And this photo here, one of my shots from Africa got liked a whole bunch.loveworld

Like, seven-thousand times.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a personal best for me…by about 6,910.

I don’t even remember if it’s actually my photo, since my shots got all mixed up with our real photographer’s shots.  But I added the words to it and posted it a few weeks ago.

And this week it got reposted. It always helps when you get a repost from an Instagram account with a couple hundred-thousand more followers than you.

And sure, the little surge of instant internet gratification felt good.

But I’ll tell you something…

I got another photo in the mail yesterday afternoon that blows that one away.

I sat down at my dining table, having tossed out all the junk mail.  I get a lot of junk and very little that is of value. I have to look carefully between the advertisements and the coupons to make sure I don’t toss anything important. And among all the trash, inside one precious envelope was this picture.

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This is Mugisha.  He is nine years old. He lives in Rwanda.  My wife and I just started sponsoring him through World Help.

I visited his school in January.  I have seen where he lives, where he collects his drinking water.

He likes playing games.  And playing songs.  He has talent for music.  And he doesn’t know about silly things like “Likes” and “Retweets” and getting a bunch of people to tap on a photo so a little heart pops up and makes you feel good.  Mugisha knows about important things, like Jesus.

Getting his photo in the mail blows away any little drip of instant gratification I may want.

Have a happy weekend, friends.