It is a moment I dread. My sweet, innocent, kind little girl comes home and tells me that someone at school was mean to her. I know it will happen someday, and I also know that my response would not be as cool as this guy’s. Khari is a rapper with a youtube channel, where he calls himself a “poet and published author.” His videos seem to have a largely positive message. At least a couple of his videos, “Through Thick and Thin,” and “Wonderfully Made,” are inspired by the beauty of his full-figured wife. The video below, he made for his daughters. It is everything I want to tell my girls. I hope that no one is ever mean to them. More realistically though, I hope that when someone is mean to them, they will know that they are loved.
A lot of awesome stuff happened in 1989. The Berlin Wall fell. The USSR ended their war in Afghanistan. A brave man stood in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square, inspiring millions in the hopes of democracy. The Velvet Revolution produced free elections in Czechoslovakia. The Boys of Zimmer won the NL East. Montana to Taylor won Superbowl XXIII. Taylor Swift was born, and there was a National Aerobics Championships.
Tonight, my daughters and I enjoyed a spirited dance party to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” in our kitchen. After finding this video, my only question is, “how did they get a camera in our kitchen?”
Seriously though, this video is truly amazing. It was posted on my Facebook as a link from Huffington Post.
Unfortunately the Huffington Post article, and the maker of the video incorrectly identify this aerobics championship as the 1989 season. This is actually the 1988 championship. It was hosted by Alan Thicke, and apparently, this happened too:
Tonight it was -8 degrees. The windchill is -27. So I put a pot of water on to boil, took it outside, and threw it up into the air. Most of it turned to snow before it hit the ground. I got a face full of snow, but it was boiling water a moment before it hit me. Kind of trippy. I never thought I’d have to type these words on my blog but please, don’t try this at home.
Few of us ever plan on going to prison. No one wants to spend time in a jail cell. Yet many of us spend time in one every day.
We spend time in jails built around us. Sometimes they are barely noticeable. Like the fish that doesn’t know it is in a fish bowl, or the bird that doesn’t know the world outside the cage, we spend our time in prison. These are the prisons of injustice. They are the prisons of systems that keep us from fulfilling our dreams. They are the walls that are built by those that want to keep others oppressed. Hope and possibility are kept out, and all that remains is a cycle of despair.
Sometimes we are in prisons that we built ourselves. We guard our pain and our torment and make sure nothing is able to penetrate the walls we build. We have been hurt too many times, so we build walls. We remain in the cell because the outside world is full of pain, and at least inside the cell we have the illusion of safety. Intimacy and friendship are kept out, and all that remains is superficiality.
Sometimes we are in prisons that have been built for us. These walls are built by sickness, or by those that hurt us. Sometimes great wrongs are inflicted upon us. Sometimes the tragedy is too much to take. Some say, “God doesn’t give us what we can’t handle.” I don’t believe it, because I don’t believe it is always God that is giving it. Sometimes the pain is just too much, and the walls of the prison are too strong to break free. Healing and joy are kept out, and all that remains is pain.
In Matthew 11:2-11, we find John the Baptist in prison. He was imprisoned by a King that did not want to hear the truth. John spoke the truth to power. He called for repentance. He called for a change of heart. He called upon people to follow the path of righteousness, and he prepared the way for the one that would come. But he was not imprisoned until he demanded too much of the King. When he impeded the powerful from having his way, he had to be stopped. He was kept alive, for awhile, by the will of the people.
John was called the “greatest of all those born of a woman,” by Jesus. And yet as he was in jail, he wondered. It can be dangerous to inject too much of our own thoughts into figures in the Bible, but here it is almost impossible not to wonder what John was thinking when he sent a messenger to Jesus.
“Are you the one? Or are we to wait for another?” he asked.
John was in prison, so all he could do was wait. And yet he wanted to know, “Are you the one?” Sitting in jail, still alive at the whim of a tyrannical King, looking back at his work, his ministry, and looking forward to a future that was unlikely to have a happy ending, he asked, “Are we to wait for another?”
And likewise I wait. I wait in my prison. I wait in the prison of sin that I have built around me. I wait in the prison of injustice that is all around. I look to Newtown and Columbine. I look to the Liberian Civil War and Apartheid South Africa. I look to violence on the streets of our cities, and violence in the homes our children. I look to hungry children at the school in my neighborhood, and to the cold families looking for coats at our Wardrobe ministry. I look into my own heart at the choices I make, the hurts that I cause, and the prisons I build. I wait and look back at my work, my ministry, and look forward to the future and wonder. “Are we to wait for another?”
Is the question a sin unto itself? Maybe. But at least I know that I’m in good company. I’ve never felt that doubt is the opposite of faith. .
So, trapped in our prisons, what do we do? What is Jesus’ answer? Of course, Jesus doesn’t give us a straight answer (That is why I think doubt is not an obstacle to faith, but lines the pathway of faith. If Jesus wanted us to never doubt or question, he would have given us more straight answers.).
“Tell John what you have seen,” Jesus says. Tell John to look beyond his prison walls. Tell him to look beyond the pain and the heartache and the bleak outlook. Tell John “that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
This Advent, we still wait. We wait like John in prison. Not held in by despair, but looking always outward. Looking from within our own prisons at the world all around. Waiting and watching with God’s eyes to see the signs. Waiting is never a fun activity. We do everything in our power to avoid waiting… for anything. We fill our time with noise. We go to restaurants designed to limit waiting as much as possible. We go to grocery stores where the lines are filled with things to read, and last-minute items to buy. What are waiting rooms filled with? TVs, magazines, some even check out ipads.
Yet here we are waiting, but not idly. We are purposefully waiting. Waiting with eyes open to the love of God that is all around. We hear one of the Newtown mothers declare “Love wins,” and are left in awe of the power of the human heart to heal. We hear stories like the one Peter Storey tells here, of a woman in South Africa who said to the man that killed her son, “You took my son. So now you must be mine.”
Advent is a season to wait. Wait and watch for Christ in our midst. In a world addicted to instant gratification, the act of purposeful waiting is a revolutionary act. It is a soul-cleansing act. We wait with eyes wide open. We wait with hearts open for Christ, seeking the answers to our questions in the stories of hope and grace. We wait, seeking forgiveness. We do not rush into anything, because you cannot rush something as powerful and painful and precious as forgiveness.
This Advent, we wait like John in prison, who was called to notice the signs all around.
This Advent, we wait like Mandela in prison, who refused to let the walls hold him. We wait like Mandela, who transformed his prison into a crucible of learning, organization, and reconciliation. Who practiced forgiveness even as he was tormented. Mandela, who befriended white guards who were supposed to hate him, who used their friendship to secretly write his manuscript for A Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela, who wrote in prison, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death” (from A Long Walk to Freedom)
We are called to look beyond the walls of our prison. Don’t ignore the walls, but do not let them defeat you. Look beyond the walls, and do not let them contain you. See the signs of mercy, justice, and love. See Christ all around – not in holiday decorations or TV specials. See Christ in the hearts of others. The prisons made by sin and injustice can feel impenetrable, but there is freedom in Christ. No prison held Mandela. No prison held John. Let none hold you.
Little ones are infamous for their love of repetition. I swear my three-year-old daughter could watch the same episode of Daniel Tiger on repeat all morning and be happy. I cannot tell you how many times she has said to me, immediately after finishing a book, “Again. Read it again Daddy.”
Most of the time, the repetition can be a little tedious. Well, I found a video that Lucy wants to watch over and over, and I’m totally okay with that. Watch this video, baby. Watch it again. Watch it as you go to preschool. Watch it on my lap and don’t worry about the tears rolling down my cheek. Watch it when you start middle school, even if you don’t want me to walk with you to school any more. Watch it in high school, and before you go on your first date. Watch it when you go to college, and know who and whose you are. Watch it when you feel discouraged. Watch it when some one tries to tell you that you do not count. Watch it when you feel like you cannot make a difference.
You are Malala. You are infinite hope. Hear these words. Hold onto these words. Watch it over and over and know that as long as I have strength to stand, it will be by your side.
“It is time for you to decide. Would you choose to fight for what you believed in? Would you do what is right? If I need you, would you stand tall with me, right here by my side? Be the change you want to see. Take a look through my eyes.”
The fourth track on Michael Jackson’s 1987 blockbuster album Bad, the song “Liberian Girl” is not one of the King of Pop’s most popular. When the video was shared on Facebook by a West African friend of mine the other day, I watched it. Liberia holds a special place in my heart, so I was intrigued by the song title. It is a simple, beautiful song, but it was never released as a single in the US. The video however, is memorable.
It is veritable “Who’s who” of 1980s pop culture. See if you can name all the stars that appear in this video.
Katy Perry has done it again. Firework is one of my favorite songs. Granted, its not entirely her doing. Firework was one of the first song selections for my church’s Dramatic Worship team, which is a liturgical dance group. One the dancers is my daughter, so now I cannot hear that song without thinking of her and her best friend singing it out loud with all their heart.
Well, Katy’s song Roar is a similarly awesome song about conviction, courage, and strength. It is one I want my daughters to know and sing along to. I had heard it once or twice, and enjoyed it. Then I saw the video below, shared by a friend on FB through Upworthy on Tatiana Danger’s blog. It contained a crying warning label, but I’m okay with a few tears every now and then. I wasn’t expecting what came next. Tears. Then sobs. My heart was at the same time broken and strengthened. I was saddened beyond words, and yet inspired. The video is apparently a fundraising effort for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. I don’t know if it will help them, but I will never hear this song again and not think of the courage in that building, and all Children’s Hospitals.
And by the way, the girl in the purple tie-dye is an awesome performer
I’m not sure what product this commercial is selling. I don’t think I’m one of their intended customers. It, however, tells a beautiful story. A story that is ancient and timeless. It is a story of giving. What does it mean to give and expect nothing in return? This seems to be the heart of generosity, and the heart of the Gospel.
Jesus told stories like this. He told a story of a father that gave a huge party when his wasteful son returned home. He told a story of workers that were paid the same even though they did not seem to earn it. He told a story of a wedding feast where all the invited guests didn’t come, so he brought in the people off the streets.
And he told a story about a man, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. The man was passed by time and again until finally a foreigner found him. This man took the beaten man, gave him medicine, brought him to an inn, and gave him a chance to live. It’s funny, Jesus’ story that we know as The Good Samaritan didn’t have a neat little happy ending like the video above. I’m not sure Jesus would have made a great marketing director.
Instead, Jesus gave us the greatest ending of all.
5K 36:00 (Race for the Cure, Jun. '12)
35:15 (Firecracker Run, Jul. '12)
33:47 (Crimestoppers, Aug. '12)
31:40 (Lagomarcino's, Oct. '12)
26:52 (CASI St. Patrick's Day, Mar. '13)
26:28 (Railroad Days, Jun. '13)* *2nd place in age division
26:40 (Casa Guanajuato, Nov. '13)
30:30 (Modern Woodmen Knockout Hunger, Sep '14)** **3rd place in age division
Debut on 10/02/2008
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All opinions and ideas are my own, unless otherwise noted. All opinions and ideas are subject to change depending on my own social location, events of the day, or my mood (it's all about the context, man!)