Auschwitz. Cambodia. New York.

The extent of our lives, while filled with countless moments of ease, is also filled with moments of discomfort. We’ve all experienced such moments.

Some occur because of something we’ve said or left unsaid, done or left undone. Other such moments have been thrust upon us by the arrangements of others. But no matter the wellspring, when the whitewater has settled, we often come to the same realization of regret.

We wish we’d have done something differently to change the situation.

There is a moment in William Hazlitt’s “Sketches and Essays” when he writes so penetratingly, “We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.” His words need little interpretation, especially when coupled to another gathering of words he offers only a few short paragraphs later: “Reason may play the critic, and correct certain errors afterward; but if we were to wait for its formal and absolute decisions in the shifting and multifarious combinations of human affairs, the world would stand still… They stay for facts till it is too late to pronounce on the characters.”

On January 22, 2019—the anniversary of Roe V. Wade—the State of New York passed a law allowing abortion until the moment of birth. In response to this, New York City celebrated the new law by illuminating the World Trade Center’s tower in pink. Thousands of photos of Governor Cuomo’s delight while signing the bill have already been captured, perhaps matched only by the images of Hillary Clinton’s equal exuberance and the videos of the legislature offering a standing ovation at the bill’s passage. Lawmakers throughout the land have been emboldened. They’ve stepped up in support, which means other states will soon follow New York’s lead.

We’ve known this day was coming. NARAL has been openly lobbying for this for decades. The National Abortion Federation has, too. Planned Parenthood, the best known of the bunch, has been an advocate for such devilry, although it would seem they have betrayed a knowledge of the more sinister nature of such things because, for the most part, this arm of their efforts has been off the public grid.

Still, we’ve known this day was coming. At least the church has. How could we not? Knowing the truth regarding the unchecked human condition, as soon as the Roe v. Wade verdict was cast in 1973, we should have anticipated this day. The fellowship of humanity has more than proven that the pit from which it mines its wickedness has no bottom. One needs only to look at the last century. Auschwitz. The population transfers in the Soviet Union. Cambodia. Choose your genocidal atrocity.

Now we can add the State of New York to the list. It is now legal to kill a baby before the moment of its full-term birth. Very soon we’ll be adding other states.

But again, we’ve known this day was coming, and so Hazlitt’s words are piercing. They are piercing because so many continue to cogitate. We think on these things, but do not act. The world of our efforts to stop the atrocities stands still. We behold the resultant facts unfolding and only then do we pronounce on the characters. “New York is terrible!” “Governor Cuomo is a horrible person.” “The New York Legislature should be ashamed of itself!”

All of this, and yet we do nothing to actually stay the hand that slays. They continue to kill. We complain.

Perhaps worse, many of the Christian preachers are often the faultiest cogs in the machine. “The church needs only to pray,” they say, “God will handle this.” “Pastors, stay in your lane,” they warn. “Brothers, preach sin and grace, but do not discuss the government’s affairs.”

Nonsense. Utter nonsense. The pulpits are crowded with Christian preachers announcing that there is forgiveness available even to the abortionist (which of course is true), but there is an ever-dwindling number occupying the pulpits who are willing to urge their listeners to actually be who God has made them—to be those who exist in this ferocious world as ones armed with other-worldly courage for taking up a position between evil and its victims. This contingent of preachers, not the other, knows that the church—the body of Christ—is more than a theological think tank producing eloquent sermons, intriguing Facebook and Twitter posts, and cerebral committee meetings between the popular theologians sitting around drinking coffee while every now and then broaching the topic of how Nancy Pelosi and Governor Cuomo should be excommunicated.

The church is more than an ethereal collection of beliefs congealing into what can only be described as disembodied mush—an arguing for good theology without ever actually engaging in it. By the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel for faith in Jesus Christ, the church has the muscle for action.

Behold the words of Jesus in Luke 10:25-37, the story of the Good Samaritan. Behold the man lying in his own blood beside the road—beaten, robbed, dying helplessly. And yet, as Priests and Levites with churchly things to do, we pass him by.

Do something. Act. “We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it…”

Many of the religious among us are quick to pronounce judgment on New York’s governor and legislature, and of course this is certainly appropriate. They are monsters. They’re eating children. That’s what monsters do. But do not forget the ones among our own who continue to ring the dinner bell for the monsters by their fluent excuse-making and pious complacency, the ones who sit idly by as the body parts pile. Do not forget the Lord’s words to those church leaders:

“For with you is my contention, O priest… My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me” (Hosea 4:4,6).

January 22, 2019 was a moment of incredible discomfort. It was a moment of monumental regret. Could we have done something to change it? Yes. Unfortunately, in order to close this ever-widening gateway of legalized slaughter, it may take action requiring the same verve of the men and women throughout the generations who’ve heard the call to combat evil—slavery, genocide, and the like—and have responded with a willingness to put their lives on the line. I hope it hasn’t arrived at this.

Either way, I’m not going to sit around “hoping” that abortion will end. I’m going to pray and act. I’m going to pray that you will pray and act. I’m going to continue to engage in this way. I’m going to do this because I know that whatever is to be next, it’ll never happen until we come to the realization that we actually need to stop talking about it and act.

Far Better Than a Children’s Sermon

A few years ago, during the hymn at the retiring procession, my daughter Evelyn began pushing her way past her siblings in order to join her dad in the doorway at the back of the nave to sing. It wasn’t long before Madeline and Harrison began joining her. Over time, other little ones saw this happening and began to join in, too. Of course, the first time it happened, Evelyn’s facial expressions betrayed she wasn’t too pleased. She wanted it to be an alone-time moment with her dad. But now it happens pretty much every Sunday, and not necessarily with any of my own children. And by the way, Evelyn is perfectly fine with it, too, even as some Sundays there will only be two or three children joining, and other Sundays as many as nine or ten.

No matter how many gather there in the back, I love it.

Some congregations do children sermons. I won’t comment on that particular practice, except to say that there are some pretty good reasons I’ve never subscribed to it. (By the way, to give you a sense of my feelings for all things trendy in worship, take a look at this portion of the paper I gave at our recent “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference this past week.) Obviously, I do subscribe to what I’ve described happening in the back of the nave at the end of every service. It’s a unique moment at the outer edge of the congregation’s worship (that is, the benediction has occurred, the actual Divine Service is over, and we’re preparing to go out into the world as God’s forgiven people), and in that moment I’m able to kneel beside the littlest of God’s lambs and give them a little extra attention as their pastor. We sing together. I show them the hymn stanzas. Sometimes I explain what certain words mean. I most certainly show my excitement for their presence in worship. We make the sign of the cross and pray together, giving thanks to the Lord for the day.

I guess I’m sharing this with you because if your child suddenly tugs on your shirt sleeve and asks to join his or her pastor in the back the nave at the end of the service, you may just want to let them. It is by no means a bother to me, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It is the perfect, most appropriate time and way in a worship service for something like this to occur, and I’m glad to be able to do it.

Losing is Hard

A Post Election Message

Losing is hard.

I’ve never participated in the circulation of memes mocking folks like Whoopi Goldberg and Bryan Cranston who said they’d leave the country if Trump won the election. I didn’t participate, and not because I wanted them to stick around. Personally, I think that the dear Lady Liberty that America is would be a much better off if she weren’t always scratching at her celebritous fleas. Still, I never participated because, quite simply, I was dealing honestly. I know how hard it is to lose. I know what it’s like to have a long-suffering and hopeful expectation for victory building in momentum over the course of what feels like a calendar-consuming “forever” suddenly become something else in a little more than an hour of election result postings.

Losing is hard. It hurts terribly. And if one is not careful, it can negatively recalibrate so much more than emotions. It can lead to some of the deeper, darker places that would see words spoken between people—between families, friends, and neighbors—and to have those relationships broken beyond repair.

Losing is hard. Forgiveness—real, down in the filth forgiveness—is too. Look to Christ on the cross and measure the effort to win our forgiveness. It wasn’t easy. It was hard. Now, I’m not talking about the perfect love that put Him there. It’s God’s innermost nature to love us and want to save us. It’s His alien work to punish. In His truest nature, when God looks upon us, He does so in love. I mean, when Adam fell into Sin, He didn’t crash down with a thundering voice, “What have you done?” But instead, He called out, “Where are you?” His first work was to find us in our shame and bring us back. Of course human love doesn’t even come close to this perfect love. It’s tainted, and it doesn’t guarantee forgiveness. I can, in a sense, love a friend, and yet never be rid of the gnat-like memories of the times they’ve hurt me. Forgiveness, like losing, is hard.

But by God’s grace, and perhaps strangely, there is the opportunity before so many of us to see that losing and forgiveness walk in stride. Losing means someone else stands above us on the pedestal in victory. Forgiveness means putting aside selfish pride to be the victor and existing in humility below another, too. I dare say that with forgiveness as the focal point of losing’s horizon, things can and will be okay.

The Death of My Type 1 Cousin

Type One Diabetes is a stupid disease, and I truly despise it.

My cousin, Rick Boyd, was called into the nearer presence of Christ this morning at 12:45 am. He was 47.

In his youth, a stocky comrade, he was someone you’d want on your team when the neighborhood kids got together for a game of football. Flag football? No, that was for the weak. We were out for blood. And Ricky, when he had the ball, was pretty much a juggernaut. On more than one occasion, it took both my brother Michael (RIP) and myself to take him down, and that was only after he’d dragged us twenty yards.

Back in the day, no one used the term ADHD. There was no such thing. But if someone ever used the words “hyperactive,” Ricky came to mind. In fact, at some point along the way he’d been coached by someone to vigorously shake his hands when he could feel the energy building, except as he did this, it was less of a tool of release for him and more of an indicator that we’d all better get the heck out of his way. For those of us on his team, that was the moment you knew to hand him the football.

Ricky was a counterpart to so many of the adventures of my childhood—camping trips, late night gatherings with family and friends, endless biking around Danville, Illinois where we grew up. You name it, Ricky was often there somewhere. He didn’t have siblings. We were his siblings. His dad left when he was very little, and so we filled that void, too.

He also didn’t have a pancreas that worked the way it was supposed to. Like my daughter, Evelyn, he had Type 1 Diabetes. As a kid, I didn’t necessarily know the breadth of the disease my aunt would refer to when giving him a shot, but I knew it was there. It was the only thing that ever seemed to bring Ricky, the powerhouse kid on the team, to a halt.

I never really fathomed the seriousness of his plight.

Even as he grew older and we lost touch, having lived so far away from one another, I wasn’t kept unaware that his body had begun to succumb to the darker prospects of the disease. A few limbs were amputated and he eventually went blind.

Again, he died last night. Complications from Type 1 Diabetes is what will be printed on the certificate.

Having said all of this, it wasn’t all that long ago that someone said to me that there are so many children out there that have it far worse than my daughter. In the moment, I was really rather angry for the statement. Of course I know it’s true. Things could be worse. But still, it was a heartlessly ignorant thing to say. In a sense, I’ve held onto that ignorant lack of understanding of this disease, and I suppose it was for a moment like this.

Yes, we Christians know that no one knows the day or hour of one’s death—only the Lord. It could be fifty years from now. It could be tomorrow. But there is a statistical “normal” we have as humans, and the terrible truth is that people with Type 1, on average, live much shorter lives than those whose pancreases are intact. To be specific, they live an average of sixteen to twenty fewer years than others.

In this situation, Ricky lived thirty years less than a man my age probably will, and as you might expect, this is a terror that lurks in the minds of parents of Type 1 children.

Yes, I trust Christ. Still, when I look at my daughter, this little bit of ungodly information twists my insides in ways that result in the feeling of needing to micromanage the little things. I know Jennifer feels it, too.

With that, I’m not really sure what to say from all of this. I suppose I could offer that if you know the parent of a Type 1 Diabetic, know also that there are hidden concerns that might cause them to seem overly dramatic. Don’t tell them it could be worse. They already know it, and the hovering is the evidence. They already know that while they’re in charge of the care, every little bit of micromanaged success in the fight against this monster means a changing of the odds. To me, it means that for as long as I can, I’m going to work to make sure my little girl has a better shot at outliving me, and not the other way around.

Letting Her Go

(A Facebook Post.)

We just dropped Evelyn off at Camp Midicha, which is a week-long summer camp for kids with Type 1 Diabetes. Needless to say, I am experiencing a strange mixture of emotions.

In one sense I’m terrified. And why? Because no one knows the particulars of her disease like her parents—not her doctors or her friends. Not even her siblings have it wrangled like we do. We know her numbers, and we know her physical cues. But we’ll be offline for a week—unplugged from her care while others do the tending. In a way, this teeters at the edge of nightmarish.

In another sense, I’m so happy for her. In fact, she was sitting on my lap while we waited to register and she leaned in and asked, “So, everyone here has Type 1?”

“They sure do, honey,” I replied, kissing her cheek. “All of them. Even most of the counselors.”

She gave a sigh. “I’m not alone,” was her priceless reply.

That’s right, you’re not. You’re going to meet so many other kids who are fighting this monster just like you. And although it’ll be lurking there in the midst of the camp, you’re all going to have so much fun, it’ll be like a collective punch to the fiend’s face.

Lastly, I feel guilty. Why? Because as I said in the beginning of this little jaunt, Jennifer and I are now completely unplugged from the scene. In a sense, we get a break from the constancy of our daughter’s care. But I don’t want a break. She doesn’t get a break, and so I don’t want a break. It’s with her day and night, and so I want it to be with me day and night. I want to carry as much of the load for her as I can. With that, there’s guilt.

In the end, I know the experience will be a wonderful one for her. She’s going to make a lot of friends and she’s going to learn so much about how the other kids wrestle through it all, too. Who knows? Maybe by the time she gets home she’ll finally be convinced by a cabin mate that she really should try an insulin pump. Either way, I know the Lord will bless and keep her in His loving care. And when she comes home, we’ll be here to scoop her up, hear all of her wonderful stories, and then continue on together from where we left off, knowing that one day, in the realms of heaven, this stupid disease will be a thing of the past.

But again, until then, we’re in this together and we’ll keep going.

Worship Where Anything Goes

(A Facebook Post.)

I’m sure this has the potential for making a few friends into enemies, nevertheless I’m beginning to wonder if the Christian political activists who claim conservatism and yet exist in the “anything goes” styles of worship and its subsequent theology, both of which are expressly designed to make the church more palatable and the community more inclusive, I wonder if they actually realize the incredible sticking point when facing off with a world trying to shove the LGBTQ agenda down their throat, demanding palatability and inclusivity and a willingness to accept the possibility that, indeed, Jesus is an “anything goes” kind of Savior. In other words, there are contours—limitations—and eventually someone has to say no. Even Jesus. “No, that actually isn’t appropriate in worship,” or “No, God does not speak to you personally and tell you what to do. He speaks through His Word, as the Word itself declares. Period.” The seemingly endless permissiveness in what so many are willing to call Christian churches bears a similarity to the personal subjectivity of the culture, and I dare say that the Christians who fundamentally miss the actual distinctions between the Church and world may not be fully equipped for engaging in the combat of the public square.

Stop It! You’re Not Helping!

(A Facebook Post.)

The Church is neither a fast food restaurant nor a service tantamount to a trip to the Secretary of State—that is, a place you visit only when you desire a particular service. In the case of postmodern Christendom, such services are baptisms, weddings, and funerals. As hard as it may be to hear (and barring a few exceptions), just because you were a member of a particular church at one time but haven’t stepped foot in that same church for twenty-five years does not obligate your pastor. Do not be confused in this. Pastors are not in place to punch your “life event” card and give you a receipt showing that your Christian “tags” are up to date. And pastors who do allow for the church to be used in this way, be warned. Even as you may be working beneath the guise of being “loving,” without clearly communicating that love as it emerges from Law and Gospel, ultimately resulting in the fruits such love produces in Man, you are doing the people a grave disservice and making life so much harder for the Church as a whole. You are training human beings to see the efforts of the Church and the ones who stand in the stead and by the command of Christ Himself as negligible, cheap, and of no real consequence to the totality of one’s life.

Stop it. You’re not helping.

If anything in this regard is to be done in love, let it be that you speak kindly the truth of God’s Word, encourage faithfulness to it, and be found secure enough in your vow to hold the line against the abuses even when you sense the heat is getting turned up on you as an individual.

No, you’re not being unloving. You’re being honest. You’re being faithful.