Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lord have mercy.

From time to time, I'll see a post on social media or receive an email poking fun at safety for kids. You know the one that says baby boomers grew up without wearing bike helmets, batting helmets, mouth guards and safety belts while running our neighborhoods unsupervised until the street lights came out. Yet we survived.

On the other hand, back then, we never considered training our teachers to pack heat in order to protect us from mayhem. Nor did our houses of worship hire security forces to watch the front and back doors for gunmen. We didn't wonder if someone in the theater would open fire with an automatic weapon during the double feature. The action was on the screen or at the candy counter.

There is no safety gear to protect a child or adult from the kind of trauma that occurred at the synagogue in Pittsburgh yesterday, where a gunman slaughtered 11 congregants and injured two police SWAT team members. Police said the shooter was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns. This was a hate crime against Jews. Coincidentally, next month will mark 80 years since Kristallnacht, "the night of the broken glass," November 9, 1938. Nazi's rioted in Germany and massacred nearly 100 Jews while they damaged their synagogues, businesses and homes. World War II and the Holocaust were brewing and about boil over.

Hatred always fuels mass murder. And because our media has become ubiquitous, we see it vividly displayed daily. I wouldn't dare compare my childhood to the insanity kids are exposed to in these times. The tragedy is, we boomers can't muster the courage to do something constructive about the madness. As children, we watched our nation send men to walk on the moon. But today, America, with all its financial power and ingenuity is unable or unwilling to solve this threat for our grandchildren and our neighbors.  So now, hatred, armed to the teeth, invades the places we pray, again and again. Lord have mercy.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

The nudge of an angel

I woke up bleary eyed Saturday but I needed to start earlier than usual to make my appointment. Before I put on my glasses, I checked the text on my phone. It was my cousin's wife sending me a picture of their son. He stood in military uniform, beaming alongside his army buddy. The scene was Camp Fuji, Japan. The two men smiled through tall grasses with the majestic, snow-capped mountain in the background. After training, they're headed to South Korea.

My cousin and his wife worry about their son daily. My best friend's son is in the U.S. Army Special Forces and another friend of ours has a son in army intelligence, deployed overseas. Those parents are living with one eye and ear on their phones and hoping no uniformed visitors come knocking at the doors.

Other mothers and fathers are praying tonight for sons and daughters confronting trouble at every turn. Lord, help them find a way to stand up to the pressure. Pass up the offers to make that easy money, selling drugs. Give them the courage to put down the handgun, or refuse to pick it up. Turn down that ride with the gang bent of revenge.

Whether your child is a role model or at-risk of becoming a statistic, parents worry ... and pray for grace and the gentle, swift nudge of their guardian angels.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fearless Sally

I met a very brave woman today. We'll call her "Sally."

She wore a blue striped turban and there were grey hoses or wires jutting out from the fabric at the back of her head. They were connected to a device on a backpack she wore.

"I have a brain tumor," Sally explained. Yet, on this gorgeous fall Sunday in Chicago, Sally decided to spend her valuable afternoon in a violent community, attending a fundraiser to help at-risk youth and young adults.

Before her illness, she had volunteered at the nonprofit community center and was now looking forward to returning soon to serve again. Sally said her illness helped make her wiser. She had gained a better understanding of what was important. What she required. And Sally said she is trying to learn how to overcome fear. Not an easy task when battling a life-threatening illness.

So, imagine, a brain cancer victim came to a neighborhood torn by gun violence to serve young kids who were born into chaos. And her reward is fearlessness. The power to live courageously. Unselfishly. To live as if today were her last and she were willing to give it away to help someone else. Someone she doesn't really know. And to love them like family.

Sally reminds me of the Psalm of fearlessness. She is living it.
"The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?"
(Psalm 27:1)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

His middle name is delight.

"You want to be what you see," explained Quincy Delight Jones, Jr.  in the new Netflix documentary bearing his first name.

At first, he longed to be a gangster. No wonder. Jones grew up on the South Side of Chicago, during the Great Depression. What he saw was chaos. His community was run by gangs. His father, a carpenter on the payroll of mobsters who ran the ghetto. His mother, a schizophrenic, was dragged away in a strait jacket when Jones and his little brother, Lloyd, were just young kids. Yet somehow he found the grace to rise above the insanity and became a legend. A Grammy, Emmy and Oscar winner, Jones is a music producer, composer, arranger, musician and film producer. A household name.

How did he do it? You owe it to yourself to watch this doc, directed by Jones' daughter, Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks. Jones shares a lifetime of wisdom and his degree from the University of HK (Hard Knocks).

Kids don't choose to whom they are born. Where or when. Too often we are quick to write off those who squirm under the foot of oppression that is racism, poverty and the trauma of crime, dysfunction, abuse and addiction.

For Jones, the example of his hardworking father inspires him to this day. Quincy Delight Jones, Sr. taught him how to toil, tirelessly. His father's mother was a former slave and she helped her son raise the boys. It was while breaking into the armory that young Quincy discovered his passion for music, as he tickled the keys on a piano there. His suffering mother once told him to write his music for God's glory.

Jones' story, imperfect like the rest of ours, is, however, a masterpiece in human frailty and heavenly intervention, including more than one near-death experience. In the film, he ponders the meaning of his life, treasuring a Christmas celebration in the context of his mortality.

Endless reports from around the world, featuring at-risk youth begging on streets to survive, living in cardboard boxes -- or those just around the corner dodging bullets to get to school -- build calluses on our ears and eyes. But beneath that mayhem are the souls of God's children waiting to fulfill his divine plans. "Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart's desire." (Psalm 37:4)
Lord help us to help them to live like each of them was born with the middle name, "Delight."