Good morning.

With much sadness, I write tonight, hoping to share my heart with you. I don’t have wisdom to share beyond my own experiences and the faith that I have learned and gained.

I don’t know why people die.
I don’t know why bad things happen.
I don’t like death. Ever.
I don’t like sadness.

Yet today, today is a day full of much sadness. Today is a day that I write through teary eyes. A man from my church passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was a good man. His family is so precious. I can’t say that I knew all things about him, but I can attest to the legacy he left behind. In the year I have been at my church, I have seen the impact he has made on those around him: A loving husband, loving father, generous boss and owner, and passionate worshipper. As I sat in church today on this somber, rainy and icy Sunday, I could hear the cries of those in church. I could see the worship team singing through tears and cracking voices. I could see brokenness and loss that brought such heartache.

Where do go from here? Where do we go when bad things happen…when things take place that are out of our control? What do we do? What can we do? It is so easy for us to become bitter, angry, resentful, and even turn our hearts from God. When tragedy strikes, when sadness happens, when the tears coming rolling down your cheeks, and when the crying hurts so much…we can easily be filled with emotion. And that is okay. But know that in the midst of your pain and struggle, in the midst of your suffering, in the midst of what looks like your darkest hour, God is there. He is present. He is steadfast. He is unwavering.  I don’t have the answers as to why God doesn’t stop things from happening. I don’t understand why some things happen, but I do believe in a greater, bigger story taking place. I believe that God is not a God that is watching on the sidelines of our lives. I do not believe that he is just sitting there without feeling for us. He loves us tremendously. He does have a plan, even if we cannot see the full picture. He is working out his goodness.

This morning, as I greeted the church, I said “Good Morning”…then I paused to realize that it was indeed a good morning. It wasn’t good because of the weather. It wasn’t good because of the circumstances of loss. It wasn’t good because of so many things. It was good simply because God IS GOOD. When we go through our lives, we can choose to go through tragedy, brokenness, sadness, pain, and anything else by ourselves. Or when we go through life, we can choose to let him be a part of the story. He can give us strength, courage, perseverance, peace, comfort, and complete joy. Despite everything, each day is good, each night is good because HE IS GOOD. His goodness is what has gotten me through every battle, struggle, and difficult time in my life. He surely is good.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, 
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!

For the LORD is good!
His steadfast love endures forever, 
and his faithfulness to all generations. 
[Psalm 100]

Vengeance is not mine.

My heart is saddened again tonight as I hear more of the brokenness and loss that happens in our world. Even more, I am angry. I do not even think angry is a sufficient word for how I am feeling. I could think of a hundred words to describe my feelings tonight and I still believe it would be lacking. I am angry because of entitlement. I am angry because of hate. I am infuriated by the self-righteous, bigoted, racist, hateful things I am witnessing in the news. Let’s get one thing clear right here, right now. I am white. I am blonde. I am female. I am a Christian. I am straight. Your skin color, hair color, gender, orientation, religion or anything else will not change my opinion of you. Your behavior and attitude will change my opinion of you. The opinions I form about others are based on character, integrity, and heart of the individual. Just because I disagree with you does not mean I hate you.

That being said, tonight, I am angry. I saw on the news about a shooting that took place in NYC in retaliation of those who bear the color blue- specifically the NYPD. Regardless of your opinion on what has taken place regarding the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, the death of Eric Garner in NYC, or anything else in relationship to these, I still maintain that the solution starts with me and you. I wrote just a few weeks ago on this subject and that still will be the bulk of my opinion. Read it here. In the meantime, I beg of you, for the love of God, to stop.

Stop the quick judgments.
Stop the hate.
Stop the racism.
Stop the unforgiveness.
Stop the vengeful attitude.

These things will not get you anywhere. The shooting of the NYC police is outright ridiculous. That is not justice. That is furthered hate. The looting in Ferguson and violent protesting are furthered hate. Not justice. Not peace. More hate. Revenge is something that will destroy. It does not bring wholeness. It is poison that will inevitably bring destruction. When injustice happens, we cannot let an attitude of revenge be our fuel. Vengeance is not mine to bring. It is not yours. When we retaliate, we irrationally respond, when we violently act on our emotions, when we let the cancer of unforgiveness continue, we will bring our own destruction. Even more, we will further the problem.

If you really care about this race war, stop being a racist. Stop referring to people by ill-conceived judgments, the color of their skin or the history of their people. Don’t refer to Germans as Nazis. Don’t refer to Russians as Commies. Don’t refer to Middle Easterners [of any nation] as terrorists or Al Qaeda. If you really care about bringing unity to Mankind- to all people- than treat every person…as a person. Everyone matters. Again…black lives matter. So do white lives. So does every race in the world, regardless of skin color, religion, nationality, or lifestyle. People always matter.

If you really care about peace, then try to bring peace…in your home, in your job, in your family, in your marriage. Bring peace on earth by how you act in your everyday life. In your speech, let it reflect a heart of someone who wants to bring peace, not destruction.

“Sick to my stomach about the killing of these NYPD officers. More people dead, more families hurting, more division. A foolish act of vengeance is not Justice. This doesn’t help the cause of equality or unity. It drives a wedge of hatred deeper. All these deaths show very clearly we have work to do.” (Lecrae)
…We have all been hurt by someone. We have been betrayed. Beaten. Some killed. Some tortured. Some raped. Some molested. People are bullied and people are bullies. Murderers. Bad things happen and often there is someone to blame. But friend, it is not your job to bring your own form of justice on those who have harmed you. I urge you, from the depth of my being, to realize that justice is more than a quick or emotional response. It has to be more. It just has to be more. We have so much to work on…there just has to be more than vengeance. If we foolishly take vengeance and “justice” in our own hands…we only perpetuate the same crap we are trying to stop.

I posted something [read here] about a POW who survived a WWII Japanese imprisonment only to return to Japan 4 years after he was rescued all to show that restoration, forgiveness, and redemption are possible. If he, a man who endured more pain and suffering than I can imagine can forgive those who hurt him, why can’t we at least try? Why not try to love…I mean really really love your enemy? Why not try to forgive instead of plan your revenge? Justice will be served to each of us, I believe, in eternity. There will be justice for you, for me, for them. Can’t we at least try to do something greater than our own sense of justice? Vengeance was never for us to bring. Vengeance is not justice. It only equates to more evil, more pain, more hate, and far less actual justice and peace.

This…this is how we should live.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I AM the LORD.” Lev. 19:18

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…'” (Romans 12:17-20a)

This all starts with me.

I have to say, I have thought and prayed long and hard about writing this and expressing the brokenness upon my heart tonight. Like anything I post, I want to post my thoughts, convictions and opinions but with grace, love and compassion. But tonight, I find it so very difficult to do just that…write my thoughts and opinions without the risk of being judged, condemned, or considered hateful. Please know, as you read this, I am broken as I write and all I ask is that you offer me grace and love and I try to offer.

Ferguson. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Those are just a few of the names being mentioned in the news and all forms of social media. You probably know them. If you don’t, you should probably get informed on what is happening. My heart is so deeply broken tonight by the news, social media, protests, killings, deaths, and looting. This is not right. All of it, its just not right. Ferguson matters. The people of Ferguson matters. Women and men in uniform matter. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Every ethnicity in the world matters. The deaths of both Mike Brown and Eric Garner matter. The protests and the looting matter. None of this started at Ferguson. None of this started during the Civil Right’s movement with Dr. King. None of this started during slavery.

It started a very long time ago when Man decided to do their own thing. Sin…the very thing that is innate in each of us. Sin is the thing that creates entitlement. It births prides and raises hate. Judgment. Anger. Hate. Rape. Murder. Racism. Prejudices. Biogtry. Adultery. Lying. Gossip. It all comes from the same place. In our core, we can be very bad people simple because we are people. But at the same time we are offered something so incredibly beautiful and challenging through Jesus Christ. Without his love transforming our hearts and minds, we can and will hurt others by our sin. We just might sin differently than others. We may wound or injure others differently than someone else. But we will inevitably hurt, wound, injure someone. That’s why this news about Ferguson and NYC and the deaths of two black men just breaks my heart. It breaks the heart of Jesus.

He lets us CHOOSE to love him which means we can choose to hate him and live opposing to his love.

I was not at Ferguson or NYC. I do not know any of the officers, Brown or Garner, but I know me. And in knowing me, I know I am flawed. I judge others. I criticize immensely. I hurt and deeply wound. I don’t always control my tongue and therefore gossip and maybe even slander. I make quick, often uneducated judgments of others. I don’t know what happened for real in either case therefore I will not make an opinion on the Grand Jury verdicts or state whether police were right and the victims were wrong. I will say that I understand how flawed and broken we all are and how if we have learned anything from the recent events in the news, we should be able to recognize this brokenness. Its not about being black or white. Its not about being from lower income or lacking education. Its not about coming from money. Its not about being a cop. Its not about guilt or innocence.

Simply put…we are all guilty…of something. And that is exactly why we need Jesus. It is why I desperately, earnestly know I need Jesus. Without him, I could very easily become victim to my own demise. Without him, I could very easily throw judgment at either party knowing for sure what really happened. Without him, I could sling hate toward one side over another. Without him, oh there are so many things I could do, be, say. But because I have him- Jesus Christ- as the redemption for my life, I choose recognize that what is happening regarding Ferguson and NYC are just part of a bigger story of the broken world we live in and a need for a savior. Because Jesus redeemed me from my sin, shame, and brokenness, I firmly believe Ferguson can be redeemed. Yes, things are lost, and some things won’t change. But I can try. You can try. We can together try to understand. To love. To stop hating. To stop looting. Stop judging. And if, only then, we can possibly see healing and restoration.

I challenge you, whatever side- if on a side- you find yourself tonight, I ask that you try, for a moment, to understand the perspective of the other. I ask that the looting and vandalism stops. I ask that both sides stop slandering, hating, judging, and start seeing how this all can be changed. It won’t be easy. It will take effort for all of us. Whites don’t understand the struggle  and history of the black community. Simply put…I really don’t understand but I want to. I want to try to understand, so be honest and talk to me. I want you to understand that not all whites are bad. I do not hate you, so please don’t hate me. I want the cops to understand that not every black person is a criminal- some are, but many are not. I want blacks to understand that most cops actually care about justice. If you haven’t been in a situation like these, please hold your judgments and outrage a little and instead pray to understand.

Pray that you might love others that you don’t understand. Pray that you might help those who can’t help you. Pray that you might love others who may never care about you. Pray that you might bridge this gap of brokenness. Pray for yourself, that you might be redeemed. All of this that is happening right now…its start with me. It starts with you. Until we can each work through out our own hate, prejudices, judgments, misunderstandings, and sin, we cannot and will not be able to really help others. Jesus, oh my sweet Jesus… he is the answer and he waiting for you to reach out to him. He knows this is a mess. He knows you and your struggle. And he wants to redeem.

Is there hope?

This week has been one of those exhausting, draining weeks that leave you aching for sleep yet knowing it won’t do anything. It has been a rough week, but not just for me. I am both blessed and cursed with having deep empathy for others, but when tragedy hits, I break with them. When others hurt, I want to cry. When I can do nothing about their situation, I feel helpless. That defines this week.

On Saturday last week, my uncle was free sky-diving, however he landed full impact to the ground after his parachute failed. He was in critical condition barely surviving through the surgeries, to which doctors had no idea how bad he really was. Almost a week later, he has been recovering much quicker than expected. He should be dead. If anything, he should at least be paralyzed. He is neither. Instead he is now a cripple with a crushed leg, possible brain damage, and will most likely never do what he loved ever again. My heart breaks for him. A freak accident changed his life forever. His scars all over his body will attest to his nearly fatal accident. They also bear the testimony to the sovereignty and the grace of God. By him alone, is my uncle alive. Even knowing this, my heart remains heavy.

Then today, I had another shocker. One of my best friend’s mom passed away today. Though she was sick and the family expected her death to be near, death is never desired. It is never something we want. We want to be selfish, keeping our loved ones here, even in their pain. Yet this morning, my friend had to say goodbye to her mom, her best friend all because she didn’t beat her sickness.

We can ask why tragedy happens. We can beg God for another day with those we love. But ultimately, each of us has no idea how much time we really have. It may be an accident or a sickness, but we each have a timeline. And my heart breaks for both my uncle and my friend. At the same time, I know that I am able to get through my own personal tragedies because I have a hope in Jesus Christ. He is what gets me through all things, good and bad. I have lost loved ones, have been ill, and faced things that I cannot explain. Yet I know it is only by Jesus that I am able to persevere, to push through, to survive and overcome. Circumstance can defeat us only if we let it. Whatever you might be facing, big or small, do not think your life too insignificant for Christ. He loves you and will hold you when life happens. He will not abandon you. You may ask if there is hope and I tell you there is with confidence. There is hope…