The Dust of Managua

We came back from Nicaragua this past weekend.  I have since walked through airports, through streets, through work and my home but I can still see the dust of Managua on them.

I don’t ever want it to go away.

You of course can’t see this but as I typed those last words I stopped for a minute.  

I’ll never be the same again.  I’ve breathed the air and felt the heat of the sun.  I’ve washed in their water and eaten their food.

And I’ve talked with the people.  

The children, the precious children have invaded my heart.  Their hunger for Jesus, their poverty and sorrows, their laughter and yes, in some, their anger have wrecked me.

It is good.

We go through life unaffected by those around us.  We see them but don’t know them, often don’t even want to know them.  And this is wrong.  It is just wrong.

We are made in the image of God and part of that image is love.  We have taken that off our hearts in the attempt to protect ourselves, to shield our souls from the dangers of this world.  And we are worse because of this.

The dust of Managua will fade from my shoes.  The memories will fade and life will go back to normal.  It is part of our humanity.  It is part of living.

And the only real solution is to let the memories change me.  Let them make me risk again, open my heart again, love again.

Anger and Vengeance 

Everyday we are offered opportunities for anger and vengeance.  As I listen to some, I think it is what gets them through their day.

It is cyclical.  People – anger – vengeance – people – anger – vengeance.

It starts with people interacting with their environment.  Alarm clocks, weather, traffic, work, food, music, talk, money, the list goes on.  We come in contact with the world around us and immediately there is conflict.  Much of it stays beneath the radar, beneath our consciousness.

I woke up the morning to the alarm clock.  It is cold, the bed was warm.  I do not want to be up.  I want to sleep.  I was torn between being actually too warm under the covers and not wanting to experience the shock of cold when those covers were removed.  I got dressed in the frigid air while my wife remained warm and sleeping.  I walked to the kitchen where there was no coffee and my lunch was not made.

In the space of ten minutes I had already been offended multiple times.  I had offended myself.  

This is normal.  But it can build.

Traffic.  Don’t get me started on traffic.  Worries start to bombard us.  And then we meet people.  The cheery morning person, the grumpy one, all take their toll on our sensitivities.  Everything is fine (sort of) until someone says something that can be perceived as against us.  We want to stop the offense, make it like it never happened, make it like it has no effect on us.  Sometimes, too often, it illicits a response of lashing out, verbally, physically, mentally.  We want to control.  We want to survive.

It happens at home, at school, at work, even at church.

I had a great day at church.  A great day right up until someone offended me.  It damaged the rest of Sunday, ruined Monday and began to poison today.  

Here’s the thing though, I talk to God.  The God who loves me unconditionally, who sent His son to bear my offenses and die for me.  I talk with a King who forgives.

Can I see that no one wanted to offend me?  Can I see that I am loved and appreciated?  Can I let go of my anger, my desire for vengeance and pour out the love that has been poured out on me?

It should never be that the Church of Jesus, our Messiah, is anything other than a place where all can find peace, all can find forgiveness, all can find love.

And it starts with me.

Right now.

People

I’ve been let down lately, a lot.  People have disappointed me, betrayed me, ignored me.

You hear the exclamations so often.

“Women!”

“Men!”

“Kids!”

“Parents!”

And yet we’re constantly still looking for that person, that moment in time, that event that will prove that we have someone we can count on.

I’m going to side step for a moment and shout something:

Dads, your family is counting on you.  Their need for you is great and your betrayal of them takes an act of God to even begin to heal. Don’t give yourself an excuse to let them down.  DO NOT LEAVE THEM!  No excuses!

The reality, the fact of life is that people will let you down.  Can you understand then why Paul declared, “My God will supply all your needs, according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

He will meet your needs.  If you look at emphasis on each separate word it may make it clearer.

He – He meets your needs.  No one else.

Will – He WILL do it.  Trust Him.

Meet – He will see your needs, take care of them, fulfill them.  Wait on Him.

Your – He is interested in you.  He loves you.  He will take care of YOU.

Needs – Not wants, not things that will hurt you further.  Your needs are not sex, happiness, a new car that you go into debt for, a nicer house, better kids, better spouse.  In fact, in our self-centered world, we don’t often know what our needs are.  Look to Him.  Listen to Him.  He is meeting your needs.  The provision is already there.

So friends, family, people let you down.  They’re letting me down.  Can I tell you in love, in honesty, to myself . . .

SO WHAT!

Trust in Jesus.  You’ll be golden.

A Cry for Help

I walked through the halls of my barracks, a Pepsi in my hand.  At the time, I usually either had a Pepsi or a beer.  Out of no where two guys jumped me.  You have to realize, I knew both of them.  It is still strange to me that they would attack me, knowing that I knew them.  And it is more strange to me that they would attack me over a can of pop.  But, attack me they did.

“Give me that.”  The one in front said, while the one in back grabbed me.

That was enough for me.  I did two smart things in the next moment.  First, with my free hand, I reached down and grabbed the leg of the one behind me, pulling up hard and sitting down hard.  The second thing I did was yell, “Schrantz!”

Now, my attackers were both bigger than me, stronger than me.  But they weren’t bigger than Schrantz.  And Schrantz, for reasons I will never understand, was my friend.  At the sound of his footsteps pounding down the hall, both guys disappeared.  It was magical.  I don’t even remember how the one underneath me got free.  I just remember that the next minute found them gone, vanished into thin air.

I thought of this during a time where I am struggling once again with attackers who seem bigger, more powerful, than I am.  I remember this just in time as I face, again, my greatest enemy.

It is not a guy thing.  It is not even particular to any one ethnic group or geographical location.  One problem so many of us face is the unwillingness to cry for help.  We view it as weakness.  We don’t want others to know our sins, our failings, our humanness.  So we try to fight on our own.  Even in churches surrounded by people we attempt to overcome satan and his forces, our flesh, our surroundings all by ourselves.

This is ridiculous.  It needs to stop.

In the Army, we each had our “Ranger buddy”.  The guy who we knew had our back.  The guy who, when everything went bad, stood beside you.  You covered them too and jumped in whenever they were in need.  There was no thought of convenience or time, no consideration of what might happen to you.  Because we worked under the knowledge that we would all face situations that were bigger, meaner than our ability to cope with, we just helped, we stood for each other, we survived.

Don’t go it alone.  Find that brother, that sister that will cover you, that you can cover.  They ARE there.  Don’t listen to the lie.  Don’t be afraid of the burn, the betrayal.  Find someone and stand together.

Cry for help!

Brothers in arms
Brothers in arms (Photo credit: John Wang Photography)