Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can I Be Angry With God?

Mad as Hell; And Still a Christian

I recently had a friend send me a message seeking some advice and words on a myriad of subjects.  They were all tied to the fact that she recently experienced a great loss. They were all interrelated. And, they were all very heart-wrenching to read and difficult to answer.  There is one question, however, that is quietly universal. And, I coin it as such because it is a question that almost all of us have asked at some point in our lives. But it relates to an action that very few of us are willing to admit to having.  She simply asked "Does God understand my anger?".  What she wanted to know was if God knew that she was angry with God and if God understood why she was angry.

What a powerful question. What a hard place to exist. What an awe filled moment; that time when you come face to face with the fact that you are mad as hell with the God that you love.  And, because I know that others have been there, I thought I would devote some time to this question.

For those of you who know the story, I want you to think back to Mary and Martha when their brother died.  (For those of you who do not know the story, here is a link:  I want you to focus on what Mary and Martha say to Jesus when he finally shows up. I want you to look at what Jesus asks them to do in response to their comments about "if you had been here". And, I want you to think about how you would have felt if you were them.  For this moment only, forget that Lazarus is a part of the story other than the fact that he is the source of their pain and grief.

OK! Now, let's deal with the quiet question as to whether God understands our anger.  The short answer is "YES!".  At this point, many of you can navigate away from this page and move on with your lives.  For those of you who elect to stay, there is more.  

Let's start by understanding that Mary and Martha were both angry with Jesus. They are not calm people who come out and say in a nice manner, "if you had been here, he would be alive.  But, it's alright. We understand".  They were upset that he did not come in time. They were upset that he was not doing anything and still did not come. They were upset that he was supposed to be their friend and still he did not do anything. They had did all that they could to help Jesus and his ministry. They were friends of Jesus. They were believers. And, despite all of this, when they needed him the most he did not show up in time.  They were hurt. They were sad. They were disappointed. They were human. They were angry.  They still believed in the Resurrection. (Just look at what the one sister says about believing that her brother will rise again at the second coming.) But they were angry and HURT. This is a normal response to unfortunate things that occur outside of our ability to reason with or explain away those things; innocent people who are hurt or killed by senseless violence, hurricanes that kill thousands, and children being taken from us for "no reason at all".  

It is normal to be angry.  It does not make you evil or different. You get to have that moment or moments.  You get to be angry and hurt. And there is not a time limit on that. And at this time, you get to go to your God and talk to that God.  Mary and Martha say "if you had been here", and they are hurt and angry. But look at what Jesus asks them to do.  He doesn't say "you better not be mad at me, I am all powerful".  He says to them, "Take me to the place where you laid him". He is asking them to take him "to the place where you are hurting". Take me to the place where you gave up and thought all was lost. Take me to the moment you gave up on me and thought all was lost.  God wants you to take him to your tomb and to be honest with him about where it is.  Take him to your place of hurt and be honest with him about it. Tell him what hurts you and stop trying to mask it under the cover of "I am a good christian. And, good Christians don't get angry with God". Be honest with God about where you are and where your hurt is. The brother cannot be raised, if the sisters are not honest about where the brother lies.  You cannot be healed as long as you lie about where your hurt is, or if there is even a need to be healed.  Stop allowing people to convince you that you don't have a right to be whatever you are in terms of dealing with your burden or pain.  

Now, when you get there, you need to be prepared to work a little.  Have a strong community around you. You will need help with some of this work. Don't be afraid to seek professional help, the guidance of your elders,  or the loving embraces of your friends and family.  There will be a lot of stones to roll away.  And, for starters, you will need to roll the stone of pretense away. Be prepared for the hurt that will come while trying to work through this process. And be assured that whereas this process will not bring loved ones back (as was the case with Lazarus), your savior can and will raise your life again. But first you have to be honest and OK with the fact that this is not fair.  Be honest that this was not what you wanted. Be brave enough to say that this was not GOOD for your life. And, even though you know it will work for the good, right now it stinks.

So, be mad with God. But, continue to seek God. Be hurt, because that is normal for humans and Christians alike. Be honest with yourself and others. Be prepared to work. Be prepared to receive your resurrection. And, above all, be blessed in the God of all things.

I love you,


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Racism Is Stupid

Racism is stupid. There I said it. I feel better. Now let me explain why I think the way I do. (This is what happens when Charlie goes to sleep and leaves me up alone.)   

When I was in the 8th grade, Greg G. called me a nigger on the balcony of some hotel in some city where we were playing in a basketball tournament. And, at that moment, I learned three very important lessons. I learned that Greg was not the friend that I thought he was. I learned to suspect that there were other people who smiled at me in one moment and secretly referred to me as a nigger in another. And, I learned that racism was stupid. I can still remember the misfortune of that moment as if it was 4 days ago.  I remember never wanting to pass the ball to Greg anymore after that incident. I remember not wanting to practice with him, speak to him, or be around him from that moment on. In that one moment, Greg by his statement and me by my response to it, made the team weaker and us more susceptible to loss. That is the price that we paid for Greg’s statement that I was, what he said I was.  Today, I wonder what it was that we paid so great a cost to achieve. What did we sacrifice out team’s strength for? What had Greg achieved by saying that? What had I achieved in my response to it? I was still taller than he was. He was still a better basketball player than I was. I was still smarter. He was still richer. Nothing was changed in that moment but our relationship and that strength of the team. There was no gain from his pronouncement that I was this thing that he said I was. And so much was loss from it. Racism is stupid.

It doesn’t gain any of us a single thing. If you say it is oppressive and it keeps “those people in their place” then you have to consider that no one benefits from the oppression of another. And, you have to see the empirical evidence that “those people” are still getting into places that were not originally theirs. What do we benefit from our racism? Our country does not benefit from it. Our communities do not benefit from it. Our work places do not benefit from it. And no person can be oppressed absent the constant effort and force exerted by another who is therefore free to do nothing else. Racism is stupid. It may grant individuals some fleeting sense of superiority. But, what good is that? And if that is all that you get by attempting to subvert the progress and growth of another individual, then you have “paid too much for your whistle”.  Racism divides our team and occupies our members in nonproductive exercises that lead to fleeting fruit if any at all.  So, why do we practice it? Why is it such a painful part of our culture and community, when it is clearly so stupid? Racism and our unhealthy distrust of and distaste for individuals solely because of their color keep our judicial scales from ever balancing. We make rules to “control” those that we see as uncontrollable. We create a judicial system that is less concerned about general deterrence and more focused on specific vengeance. So, when OJ kills and gets off some celebrate; not because they were sure OJ was innocent, but in part because they longed for the “other” to know their pain and live their existence, if only for one moment. And, when George gets off and blacks are thrust harshly and painfully back into the reality that brown boys’ lives may not be valued as much at their white counterparts, we cry foul and hurt and “damn this is never going to end”. We then turn our head toward the one that called us “nigger” and begin the process of depriving our team of the benefit of our talent and the talent of those around us. We start the process of setting our team up for loss. And the one who called us what they called us, (because he now fears for the life of “way” and “rightness”) attempts to kill any assertion that he was wrong for what he said, with no regard for and unapologetic for the hurt that he caused and continues to cause. Racism is stupid.

And so I celebrate every moment that goes by when one racist neglects to, or forgets to remind the children they are rearing that they too must be racist. I puzzlingly celebrate the life of every racist who dies not having had the chance to infect one of our babies. I pray that my children’s children will never have the stench of racism embalmed within their existence. I wish that the racists who win Pyrrhic victories would recognize them as such. And I hope that one day we will evolve to the point where as a country we can proudly profess that RACISM IS STUPID, and we aren't.

I love you each.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stones on Graves (Charlie's Bible Question)

Charlie’s Question Concerning the Jewish 

Tradition of Putting Stones on a Grave


It is a Jewish custom to leave stones on graves.

Though anyone may put stones on a grave, the practice is based in Jewish tradition. Most graves in Jewish cemeteries have at least a few stones on them because Jewish visitors leave stones each time they visit a loved one's burial place. The origins of this tradition range from the symbolic to the superstitious.

Ancient Marker

  • In ancient times, Jews buried their dead beneath markers made of gathered stones. Placing a stone on a grave symbolically contributes to the tombstone.

Symbol of Visit

  • For some people, placing a stone on a grave is equal to the gesture of leaving flowers. Placing a stone pays tribute to the dead and leaves the mark of one's visit.

Symbol of Memory

  • While flowers symbolize life's beauty and evanescence, stones symbolize the longevity of memory. By placing a stone on a grave, we enact our long-term commitment to remembering the dead.


  • Some Jewish people believe that stones placed on the grave help to keep the dead in the ground, preventing their spirits from haunting or harming the living.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April's Wrtten Sermon "Do Something"

Do Something
John 4: 11-30

"15": The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
"16": Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
"17": The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
"18": For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
"19": The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
"20": Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
"21": Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
"22": Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
"23": But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
"24": God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
"25": The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
"26": Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
"27": And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
"28": The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
"29": Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
"30": Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

I.                   Be honest with yourself
a.     (Start with reading Verse 29) This woman leaves the scene where she encounters Jesus, and goes to the city and ministers a message, come see a man who told me all things that ever I did. And when she comes with this message, the MEN, and I would suggest to you many of whom she had had previous dealings (STOP).  I slipped that in, and let me talk to you about why I slipped that in.  She has had five husbands, and a “situation”.  And, when Jesus comes to her about the situation she (Verse 17) "17": The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:  Stop lying to God about your situation.  Stop lying to yourself about who you are or who you used to be.  Why?  She has had five husbands, and a “situation”.  And yet God uses her to be an evangelist because she has had a Jesus encounter. Look at what God does here.  He sends her to talk to the Men of the city, and because of her “level of comfort” with many of them; isn’t it funny how God can use something that once worked against and use it to work for you for the Kingdom of God.  This is how you know all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord.  Not all things are good for you but all things works for your good by the power of God.  She is able to persuade them because she really knew them.  Jesus could have called someone else, but she may have been intimidated by the men.  (some of them went just because they wanted to see who was this that knew what they thought no one else knew, but it doesn’t matter, Hook or Crook.  If you just get them to Jesus, he will do the rest.  What am I saying to you.  I am saying that you can spend the rest of your life feeling bad and hurt and condemned for what you used to do and where you came from, or you can thank God that you survived it, and ask him how you can use what you have THIS for your glory.  He used her to save the city and she was a woman
                                                             i.      Good woman,
                                                           ii.      Moral woman
                                                        iii.      Married woman, but still he used her. 
                                                        iv.      GOD CAN USE YOU, IF YOU ARE HONEST WITH HIM YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. 
b.    And stop lying to yourself about why you are not working.  (HOLE IN MY BUCKET)
II.                Do it in strange places and do it small
a.     Samaria.  Why Samaria?  They did not worship God, they did not have anything to do with God. But says in the forth verse that "4": And he must needs go through Samaria. So he goes to Samaria, and sits at the well and waits. 
                                                             i.      The orthodox Jews won’t come to this place because it is too dirty, and he waits.
                                                           ii.      The good Christians don’t hang out here, but he waits.
                                                        iii.      The Jehovah’s witnesses don’t knock on doors in this neighborhood……..and he waits
                                                        iv.      The Methodists have developed a method for avoiding this place, … and yet he waits.

b.     So why does he wait. He waits because no one else is willing to be here.  He waits because he knows that if he can get his message of salvation into the heart of one woman HERE, he can start a revolution.  And so the disciples come back and see him sitting there and nothing has happened but he is smiling.  No one has come.  He has not baptized anyone yet. He has not saved hundreds or souls, but he has put the seed of his goodness in one heart, and he is celebrating the SEED.  We have a penchant to want to wait for BIG things to celebrate.  If it isn’t huge, we don’t want anything to do with it,
                                                             i.      If you do it to the least of them
                                                           ii.      If you can save one soul
                                                        iii.      My meat is to do what he sent me to do.  I don’t get fed by the harvest.  I get fed by doing God’s will. 
1.     if it’s not big, I don’t want to do it.
2.     if I am not going to get a lot of recognition, I am not going to do it. 
3.     if no one knows about it, I am not going to do it.  Just shut up and DO SOMETHING.
                                                        iv.      If you can just plant the seed, I don’t care if you never see the harvest.

c.      Why Samaria.  (Good Samaritan)  (Differences in Theology)  (He was setting an example for how we have to Do what we Do)
                                                             i.      He is trying to tell you that I am going to save people, regardless of what they look like
                                                           ii.      I am going to save people regardless of where they come from
                                                        iii.      (HURT) I am going to save people that you don’t like.
                                                        iv.      Deacon Roberson story

d.     You don’t have to save the world, just save one soul.  You don’t have to do it big.  Just do it.
III.             Do it Now
a.     This woman leaves the well, she drops her water pot and goes to the city and says come see a man who told me all things that ever I did.  She does not wait go get her stuff together she goes right now.  (That’s too easy to preach, I am going to leave that one alone).  She does not stand there and marvel at the fact that Jesus just told her every thing that she just did, she goes now.  Think about it.  He just told her everything that she has ever done and she doesn’t stay there entranced by the process.  (Stuck in the Awe phase of what God can do for us, that we are not willing to allow God to work through us.)  NOW I got to go and add a verse 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?  Your problem is that you are always putting your blessing before you.  
                                                             i.      I cannot wait until 2010.
                                                           ii.      Cant wait until I get married
                                                        iii.      Cannot wait until I get there
                                                        iv.      Cannot wait until this happens.

b.     And the problem with that is that people who are always waiting for the right time to do something never get to the time when it’s right to do anything.  Stop counting down the days until you are ready to work, and get to work now.  And, I recognize my part in this.  I realize that I serve as a cog in a religious system that has peddled a prophetically powerful God. See religion has a tendency to  always put God’s power in the future of in the past.  (OLD TIME RELIGION)  (One glad morning when this life is over I’LL FLY Away)  Well the old time religion won’t help me now.  And Heaven won’t help me with what I am going through right now.  (I am so tired of people who are ‘BOUT TO PEOPLE.
                                                             i.      I need a God that will invade my present moment and illuminate it with light. 
                                                           ii.      I need a God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all and do it NOW
                                                        iii.      I need a God…………fiery furnace……
                                                        iv.      Open the red sea
                                                           v.      Heal the issue of blood
                                                        vi.      Raise Lazarus from the dead