Old Feelings from Newtown

On Newtown Memorialthe morning of Friday, December 14th, I dropped off my 6 year-old daughter at her kindergarten class for the day.

Just a little over an hour later, my perception of elementary schools as safe havens would irreparably violated. The tragedy at Newtown cuts deeper and lingers longer than other stories of shootings because of the age of the victims. The idea of terrorizing 6 and 7 year olds is seemingly inconceivable and unforgivable.

On Monday, Fort Lee residents and clergy gathered for a candlelight vigil in Monument Park (video). The passage I shared that night was from Habakkuk 1 and 3.

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.

~ Habakkuk 1:2-3

The prophet Habakkuk found himself amidst a society that had increasingly become rampant with violence and injustice. He called out to the Lord for salvation but felt that his cries went unanswered. Many hearts of the people in this nation today must be echoing the cry of Habakkuk.

Where are you, God? Why is there so much evil around us?

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Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

As you may have heard already, President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. That may have been a surprise to you and I think it was a surprise to him.

In large part, it seems, that the Prize was awarded to Obama because of what he represents to the citizens of Earth. Listen to what the Committee stated:

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future

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The critics of the choice (myself included) believe that the track record of Obama, a mere 8 months into his presidency, has not been established enough to award him with such an honor.

It seems clear to me that this award was given to him not because of achievements but because of hope. It seems Obama agrees with me. He stated in his acceptance speech:

I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments. But rather as an affirmation of American leadership. … I will accept this award as a call to action.

Much of the world was captivated by his election and his promises of diplomacy. In fact, the nominations for the award had to be postmarked by February 1st — a mere 12 days into his presidency.  In many ways, the hope of many people lie in this one man. So, whether you agree with the choice or not, I think it is a testament to Obama’s unique place in timeline of history.

It also made me think of the hope that the Jews must have had in Jesus when he arrived on the scene. Here was this guy who was going to make all things right. Here was their promised Messiah. I mean, just look what they did in John 6:14-15:

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

The hope that people felt for Jesus to bring salvation (at least their version of it…) probably outweighed the hope that people feel in Obama. Maybe Jesus wouldn’t have won any Nobel Peace Prizes in his day.

But either way, the hope they place in someone can misplaced. Sometimes it’s in the wrong person and sometimes it’s the wrong hope. In other words, sometimes we desire the wrong things… and sometimes we desire the right things in the wrong people. But when we turn to Jesus for our hope, we hope in the right person. And when we receive from him what he has for us, we hope for the right things.

I’ll conclude with a quote from I Peter 1:3:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

La Danse Macabre

Cemetery

I think I’ve only been in a cemetery once.

About a month after my friend from college passed away, I went to visit her grave. I remember standing over her plot (she didn’t have the gravestone yet) and having mixed feelings. She was a Christian and I wasn’t sure why I was visiting her grave. I was talking to the ground, but wasn’t she listening from above?

To give the others that were with me a moment to themselves, I took a short walk. I was staring at the various tombstones in just the surrounding area. There were some from that year, there were some from 100 years ago. One lasting thought that I had from that day was: Gosh, there are a lot of dead people.

And that was only 1 section of 1 cemetery of 1 town in 1 state in 1 country. There are indeed many countries with many states with many towns each with many cemeteries. Gosh, there are a lot of dead people.

I remember having a conversation with Theresa about how I want to be cremated. The amount of money it saves (possibly 10% of the cost of a ground burial) and the fact that I don’t believe my earthly body will house my soul for eternity lend me toward that conclusion. But another factor is that I don’t want people to associate my eternity with a fixed locale on earth. That’s not where I am, nor should that be where their thoughts of me are drawn.

I can’t drive by a cemetery and wonder that their very existence is society’s inability to deal with death. When someone dies, we don’t know how to deal their demise so we preserve their bodies. And we preserve them in a way that gives them a so-called peaceful eternity. (When, sadly, this is often far from the truth).  Ironically, how we deal with death often reveals our inability to deal with death.

People, let’s face it. We all die. You, me, and the old guy in Green Mile. But we’re not entirely prepared to deal with that.

Whether you get buried or not does not matter. That’s not my point. What I’m trying to say is that people are not proactive about their death thinking about their death. Death, by definition, is not something you are able to react to. Instead, anticipate death, embrace the inevitability of it, and react now.

We all need to deal with death right now. And cremation or burial is not the way we deal. That’s just a symptom of the fact that we are unable to deal appropriately. Jesus promises a way to God in heaven:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6

Deal with that.