Archive of ‘Suffering’ category

Selma and the Cross

Photo by Spider Martin

Last night I had the privilege of seeing the movie Selma for the second time, generic and today is the 50 year anniversary of Bloody Sunday, discount rx when over 600 marchers were brutally attacked on the Edmund Petus Bridge in their attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery.

It’s incredible to think that 50 years ago, generic Black women and men were fighting to gain the right to vote and today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, our African-American president addresses the nation from the Edmund Petus Bridge.

It is also striking to watch the movie to realize how true it is that Selma is now, and to sit with the realization that Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, delivered from Alabama’s capital 50 years ago, is just as poignant and relevant today.

A few weeks before the march from Selma, Alabama, black activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot and killed by a state trooper. And today, young black men and women continue to be shot and killed without consequences for those who kill them. While watching Selma, the absolute disregard for the value of black lives by the police force, government officials, and white U.S. citizens becomes apparent. And yet today we still have to continuously proclaim Black Lives Matter because it is still clear that they don’t to many policemen, government officials, and white U.S. citizens.

In the movie, Dr. King speaks with Cager Lee, Jimmie’s grandfather, after the death of his grandson. Dr. King says to him, “There are no words to soothe you. But I know one thing for certain: God was the first to cry.” Mr. Lee responds, “I believe that,” and as followers of Jesus, we need to believe that, too.

The Cross is the most horrible, powerful, and beautiful moment of history and cannot be contained within a single meaning. The significance of Jesus’ crucifixion is deeper and more beautiful and mysterious than we can ever know, but I am confident that a part of its significance is to show that the Lord Jesus suffered and died in solidarity with the countless women and men who have, throughout history, been strung up on trees, been beaten and mocked, been scorned and objectified, been made to feel as though they are forsaken by God.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split…When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” -Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51, 54

The darkness, the tearing of the temple, the earthquake…I believe that is how God cried, how He mourned the loss of His son who had died feeling utterly forsaken by his Father. And I believe He still responds this way when His sons and daughters are murdered and beaten. We have a Savior who joins us in suffering and sides with those who are persecuted. While the Cross gives us the comfort that Jesus is not outside of our suffering but that he suffered in solidarity with those, like Jimmie Lee Jackson, who are abused and killed, the Resurrection gives us the hope that restoration is coming because no lie can live forever.

Dr. King knew that the Cross is the most powerful moment of history where love for enemies and non-violence converged to utterly destroy evil. He knew that hate and fear are agents of destruction and that love has the power to overcome both.

And so as we go away this afternoon, let us go away more than ever before committed to this struggle and committed to nonviolence. I must admit to you that there are still some difficult days ahead. We are still in for a season of suffering in many of the black belt counties of Alabama, many areas of Mississippi, many areas of Louisiana. I must admit to you that there are still jail cells waiting for us, and dark and difficult moments. But if we will go on with the faith that nonviolence and its power can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, we will be able to change all of these conditions.

And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.

Today as we remember Selma and the countless Black and White lives that were lost in the struggle for civil rights and human dignity, let us also remember that our fight is not over. As followers of Christ it is our responsibility to continue with this struggle, to continue loving our enemies, to continue calling out the image of God in everyone we encounter, and to continue to fight for race-equality in our nations.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! Our God is marching on! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!

What Frozen Teaches Us About Abuse and Domestic Violence

Warning: Frozen Spoilers!

Ok, sale ok I know you’re probably sick of me talking about Frozen but I really think this movie is special in many ways. Not only is it really funny and filled with awesome music, adiposity but I think it teaches us a lot of valuable lessons, one of which is really helpful in understanding abuse and domestic violence. Towards the end of the movie, we experience the biggest plot twist of all time! Well maybe not that extreme but I’m telling you, I didn’t see it coming. (My roommate, however, saw all of 5 seconds of “Love is an Open Door” and guessed that Hans turns out bad. What the heck?).

But anyway…I’ve talked with people who have seen the movie and they felt that the whole Hans-turning-evil-thing wasn’t realistic because he was so genuine throughout the whole movie until the very end. At first I agreed–it just really came out of nowhere–but then I realized that’s exactly the point!

What Frozen Teaches Us About Abuse and Domestic Violence | He is Making Everything New Often times people have a really hard time believing women who say they’re in an abusive relationship or kids who say that someone is abusing them because the abuser is just so nice. The brilliance of Frozen is that the abusive, manipulative, murderous, power-hungry man is also handsome, a great singer, and outwardly very kind and polite. And I would suggest that, in reality, abusers are not creepy, unwashed men who are violent and rude in all areas of their lives–they’re often very normal people and even fun to be around. And so when our friend, daughter, or sister comes to us and tells us that they are in an abusive relationship (which is so hard and painful for a victim of abuse to actually do), all too often the response is confusion and disbelief. That’s another thing I love about Olaf–Anna tells him that Hans isn’t who she thought he was and Olaf accepts what she says and believes her. He doesn’t ask her what she did wrong or say that it’s probably her fault or assume that she’s just being overdramatic.

What Frozen Teaches Us About Abuse and Domestic Violence | He is Making Everything NewHere’s the thing–there are usually hints that someone is abusive. The first time someone pointed out that Hans reveals the entire plot of Frozen the first line he sings (see picture above) I was floored! It’s often really hard for victims of abuse and those looking in on the relationships to identity these warning signs because they’re often subtle–maybe he’s just a little too overprotective or gets jealous easily or he jumps into the relationships a little too enthusiastically and proposes after knowing you for 3 hours (hem hem Hans)…Or maybe people just don’t want to recognize the warning signs–you don’t want to believe that your trusted and loved husband or relative could possibly have abused your child or that the nice man who volunteers at all the youth group events could actually be emotionally and verbally abusing his kids at home.

So what do we do?

I think the first thing is to start talking about the reality of abuse and domestic violence. Don’t live your life pretending as if these things no longer happen or couldn’t possibly happen to you or people around you. I’m very confident that, whether you know it or not, you have a friend or family member who has been abused in some way.

The second thing we need to do is listen. Listen to other people’s stories and learn from them. If you’ve never been abused there’s really no way for you to understand what it’s like. And even if you have, your story is not identical to those around you. To give someone who is suffering or who has experienced tremendous pain the gift of listening is a really profound and important thing. Listening means not interrupting, not judging their experience, and learning from them as much as you can.

And Church, we need to step it up. We need to stop ignoring victims of abuse and domestic violence. We need to stop telling them that its their fault or that Jesus requires that they stay in their abusive relationship. We need to proactively be a refuge for victims of abuse, lifting them up, protecting them, and loving them in a way that transforms their identity from victim to daughter or son of God.

Be Kind for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Be Kind--He is Making Everything NewA year ago today one of my high school classmates took his life.

I didn’t know him incredibly well–we had classes together all throughout high school but we weren’t in the same friend group.

The thing I most remember about him is that he was always making people laugh. He was really funny–voted most humorous in our senior class.

If you had asked me what I thought about him in high school I would have said he was goofy and didn’t take anything seriously.

I think that’s why hearing that he had committed suicide was not only incredibly sad but was also shocking. I had written him off as this silly guy without realizing that he was facing a very real fight.

He wasn’t funny because he was incapable of being serious or facing the dark parts of life. He was funny despite his battle because he desired to bring joy and light into other people’s lives.

His suicide was a wake-up call for me to extend more grace and more kindness to those around me because the reality is that we never know the extent of the battle they’re facing.

So today I think about my classmate and the many lives he touched and I pray that his memory continues to bring light to people even though he is gone.

If you are struggling, visit web please know that you’re not alone, thumb even if you feel profoundly lonely. Calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number can be a good first step: 1-800-273-8255

Remember Who the Real Enemy Is–Processing World Vision with the Hunger Games

Spoiler Alert: Catching Fire spoilers

I love how deeply God knows me and I love the creative ways He speaks to me. I love how He knows just exactly how to point out my sin in a loving way. I love that He knows that in the past few weeks I’ve watched Catching Fire about a billion times and I love that He’s connected and involved enough in my life to use Catching Fire to speak to me, advice teach me, overweight convict me, and help me process every heartbreaking detail of the World Vision story.

The Hunger Games trilogy is a dystopian story in which the Capital, the center of power, greed, and corruption, orchestrates a yearly event called the Hunger Games. What they do is go around to the 12 districts of Panem (North America) and randomly select a girl and boy tribute from each district who will be forced to participate in the hunger games, which is a fight-to-the-death battle in which one boy or girl comes out as the winning victor. Basically it’s a way to keep all these people, many of whom live in horrible poverty, hopeless, depressed, and compliant.

In Catching Fire, we see Katniss Everdeen, one of the victors of last year’s hunger games, being forced to participate in the hunger games again. An incredibly important scene is one that takes place right as Katniss is about to be sent back in to the hunger games. Her mentor, Haymitch, gives her a last piece of advice with these words: “Katniss, when you’re in the arena, remember who the real enemy is.” 

Later, at the climax of the game, it seems as though everyone has turned against Katniss–the tributes who were her supposed allies have acted in ways that, to Katniss, make clear that they are her enemies. One of these tributes, Finnick, finds Katniss and Katniss raises her bow and arrow and is ready to shoot him. The movie then cuts to the President, named President Snow, who has orchestrated this game and represents the entire corrupt and evil society. He is watching Katniss getting ready to shoot Finnick and he says, “Let it fly, Miss Everdeen. Let. It. Fly.”

When Finnick finally sees Katniss, who is about to shoot him, he yells out these words: “Remember who the real enemy is.” 

And Katniss stops and doesn’t shoot him. Instead, she takes her arrow and shoots the arena, destroying the literal structure that has trapped them in the games and with that, symbolically destroying the structural systems of corruption and opening the way for revolution. And the look on President Snow’s face is one of utter bewilderment and fear.

Katniss believed, up until the moment Finnick said those words, that her enemies were the tributes that were with her in the arena. But the reality is that those tributes are victims of evil, just as she is. She was able to see this bigger picture and turn and fight against the real enemy.

Here is the scene if you want to watch it:

God reminded me that I am often like Katniss–people around me do things that I perceive as threatening and hurtful and wrong and my automatic reaction is to think that they are my enemies and that my fight is against them.

I believe that when I do this, Satan, my actual Enemy, is standing there watching me, just like President Snow, saying, “Yes. Let it fly.” Satan loves for us to believe that people are our enemies and that our fight is against them, that our fight is against flesh and blood.

Last week I wrote, with a really broken heart, about the entire World Vision situation.

Today I found out that the number of kids who were dropped by their sponsors last week was 10,000.

Ten THOUSAND children lost emotional support and connections with their sponsors, financial support for their families and communities, and the sense of security that they are going to have food and medical care and access to education when they wake up tomorrow, all so a group of people could make a point.

Y’all, I feel the us versus them.

The gays against the Christians.

Us against the Evangelicals.

The Evangelicals against them.

God against gays.

Jesus against conservative Christians.

When I read the news about the ten thousand children, I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run in to the temple and flip tables and make everyone leave. I wanted to yell to all the non-believers witnessing this horror, “This isn’t who Jesus is! Don’t believe THEM! They’re clearly don’t know Jesus!”

And Satan looks on saying, “That’s right, Amilia. Let. It. Fly.”

The reality is, that Jesus’ enemies were never the Pharisees. In fact, the Pharisees were His precious children, His creation, and He loves them with just as much love as He has for me. Jesus’ enemy is Satan and I need to be reminded daily that the Enemy, the Accuser, the god of this age, the prince of this world, the father of lies, is my enemy, too. In fact, he is my ONLY enemy. The Enemy. And my battle is, and forever will be, against him until his final defeat at the end of this age.

Remembering that Satan is our real Enemy gives us the ability to truly love everyone. It gives me the strength to start dragging myself down the road of dying to myself and loving those who have so hurt me. It gives me the power to stop regarding people from a worldly point of view and see people as new creations in Christ, to see people as God sees them, with eyes that have the ability to call out their authentic identities, their true holy and precious selves. I believe the most terrifying thing for Satan to experience is what happens when we stop fighting against our own brothers and sisters, against God’s precious and dearly loved children, and start fighting him. This is look I want to put on Satan’s face every single day:

I know so many of us are hurt and broken and crying and angry at everything that has happened with World Vision. I mean, let’s be real, this is what I wrote in my previous post about this whole mess:

Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.

So yeah…it’s how I feel, but I have been convicted by the Lord that while my feelings are valid, my fight is not. You guys, Satan has already been defeated. His defeat was sealed on the Cross. Why are we letting him reign here on earth? My prayer is that we would be able to pick ourselves up, by God’s grace, dust ourselves off, and take up the weapons that have the power to demolish strongholds, the weapons that help us fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. We are supposed to hate the things that God hates, things like hatred, injustice, pain, suffering, starvation, disease, and death. We are supposed to long for justice and liberation for those who are oppressed and lonely and who feel unloved. But we are supposed to love people, and that includes the people that we don’t like. This is integral to what it means to follow Christ and it is such a hard and painful road. But it’s how we bring His Kingdom down, it’s how we bring His reign on earth, it’s how we become His hands and feet.

And so I sit here and say over and over again, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Where is God?

Where is God? Our response to suffering

It seems like this week has brought bad news to a lot of people. A few days ago, more about a well-loved Nashville photographer died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving behind his two young children. Another photographer I follow on facebook, a breast cancer survivor, is in the hospital right now waiting to have a biopsy to confirm what the scans are saying–that her cancer is back. Every day I feel like I see new facebook pages being created for kids in my town who have cancer. Or pages to support the families of those whose children didn’t make it. I get emails daily from activist groups asking me to sign petitions, often to support girls who have been raped and ignored, or young black men who have been murdered and their bodies forgotten.

As people of faith, it can be tempting to try to write off these tragedies with statements like, “God has a plan,” and “They’re in heaven now.” But somehow these sentences can’t meet the tremendous pain that we all feel in the face of tragedy. The only thing that truly brings me comfort in these times is the reality that God mourns with His children and that when we suffer, He suffers as well. He is the God of all compassion, a man of sorrow, familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3). He promises that He will be victorious in the end, that He will defeat all death and pain and sorrow. And yet He still mourns with us now. Jesus, upon hearing of the death of Lazarus, says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” And yet He still wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11). Let us not forget to mourn with our brothers and sisters in times of immense sorrow–we are called to come along side them and weep, for that is what our Father is doing. For even though we know with our being that the Lord is victorious in the end, and we should hold firmly to this, the pain of this moment, of this world, deserves to be recognized. Elie Wiesel says it better than I ever could, so I’ll end with an excerpt from his book Night.

The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The

men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour.

“Where is God? Where is he?” someone asked behind me. As the youth still

hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again,

“Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within myself answer, “Where is

he? He is here, he is hanging there on the gallows.” -Eli Wiesel, Night