Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reign Over Me

This could be considered a sequel to the Humanity post. When "Reign Over Me" was released I knew I wanted to see it, but for some reason didn't - until today. Okay, so am I the only person that sees so much of God's truth in Adam Sandler flicks? (see my post on "50 First Dates" for more) Well, this movie was not a comedy- and, as with most dramas, there are some very funny moments. But more than anything, it is overflowing with outstanding observations on humanity, and our need for the balance of truth and grace.

"Reign Over Me" is a movie that needs to be fully experienced. The blend of images, characters, and perfect soundtrack can't be spoiled by whatever I may share about it here.

Allen Johnson (played by Don Cheadle) is a successful dentist with strong moral character (and a bit of an issue with keeping healthy boundries). Allen sees an old friend from college, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) while stuck in traffic. He eventually catches up with Charlie, but Charlie is obviously not in his right mind. Rather than running from Charlie and his decline, Allen embraces the chance to get reacquainted with his old friend. Allen shows Charlie grace at every turn, even in the midst of Allen's own personal turmoil and pain. There are times in this movie where it seems Allen risks his dental practice, his marriage, his reputation, his pride- all in an effort to show some grace to his old friend Charlie. And he doesn't fully understand Charlie's behaviors. All he knows is Charlie had lost his wife in children in the 9/11 terrorist attack. And Charlie's response to his loss is to withdraw from any recognition of his life before that day. Allen doesn't pretend to have all the answers either. There are times where he is obviously baffled about what to do with or for his friend. But Allen never stops offering him grace. And slowly, in his own way, Charlie responds to Allen's grace. Yes, it gets messy at times. But isn't that true of anyone's life?

See, that is what is so amazing about God's grace. Whatever our truth is, wherever we are in our ability to deal with life or how we respond to pain... God is true to his promise of offering the most perfect grace anyone could ever want. And sometimes God uses us to show grace to others. We just need to have open hearts to the humanity of our lives.

Friday, January 25, 2008


This post is long...apologies in advance. Today my friend, Stacie, sent an email in response to this heartbreaking and amazing report ( - search: Our Hidden Communities) about 4 men who were stabbed through the heart in December, in a suburb of Cincinnati. I have copy and pasted the email below (with Stacie's permission & encouragement), which includes her message to the two journalists who composed the report. Stacie wrote:

"Ok. I just sent this email off. Because seriously? I'm a wreck. I know this is a big political/legal thing but the basics of the fact that people are so desperate that they'll risk their lives to try to make things better for their family? Floors me and makes me realize how not only are we so blessed, but we're so far removed from situations like this that we can't even comprehend what motivates people to break the law in order to survive. I hate that the fact that four men died and left behind family and friends who have to deal with the emotions AND how they'll survive. I feel helpless. I'm tired of feeling helpless. This was the only thing I could think of...

Am I losing my mind?! Why can I not just read an article, be "touched" by it then move on? Oy vey :-P

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Stacie
Date: Jan 25, 2008 12:10 PM
Subject: Immigration article - thank you

Hi -

I just got a chance to read your more in-depth stories about the four Mexican gentlemen who were killed in Sharonville. First I want to thank you for giving these men some humanity. I know the illegal immigration issue is something that has to be dealt with from an economic and basic infra-structure standpoint for the U.S. I just cringe at the thinking that seems to say it's ok to be anti-Hispanic "because they might be illegal" when the reality is that most people have no clue how the immigration system works. And obviously, you cannot tell if someone is legal by looking at them. And even if someone IS illegal, they're still a human being and deserve the same basic human rights we do while we try to sort out the rest.

Ok, sorry to rant :) We moved here from the Washington DC area a year and half ago and it's taking time to get used to it (I grew up here but have spent most of my adult life in Maryland.)

ANYWAY, the reason I'm contacting you. The basic sadness in all this is the humanity. That there are people back in Mexico who now have no clue how they'll survive. I know if I were to leave a comment in the article comments section about how to help the families of these men that it will most likely not go over well and may even be overlooked. But IS there some way to help these people? We're not "rich" and we live on a budget. But we're SO blessed. I just can't stand the idea that these men were killed in our city and that's the end.

We can afford come cinder block, PVD plumbing piping and whatever else it takes to make their lives a little easier. But I'm just one person and have never done anything like that before and don't know where to start. We're not currently affiliated with any church, I have no fund raising experience and having only been back here for a year (and living in the very suburbany suburbs... which... oy vey) I feel terribly disconnected and don't know where to start. If nothing else, is there a way I can send something to these families? An address? How can my family and I help? I don't necessarily need to start an organization or relief fund. I'd just like to be able to send them some money or basic items or maybe get some friends together and try to take care of this village a little bit.

Please know this isn't some temporary thought just brought up emotionally by your articles. It IS emotional. But it's also a realization that being "just one person" can make a difference to one other person. I know I can't change the whole thing by myself. But I also know I can go to the post office and mail something to someone to help them out. So, how can I do that?

Regardless, thank you for the time and effort and obvious care you put into your work on this story. " -Stacie

I was deeply moved by Stacie's reaction and promptly wrote this reply to her:

Well said, Stacie! I do think it breaks God's heart and therefore it SHOULD break our hearts too. There is a song by U2 that captures this emotion for me...maybe this will be my Blog post for the day... but here it is for YOU:

When you look at the world
What is it that you see
People find all kinds of things
That bring them to their knees

I see an expression
So clear and so true
That changes the atmosphere
When you walk to the room

So I try to be like you
Try to feel it like you do
But without you its no use
I cant see what you see
When I look at the world

When the night is someone else's
And you're trying to get some sleep
When your thoughts are too expensive
To ever want to keep

When theres all kinds of chaos
And everyone is walking lame
You don't even blink now do you
Don't even look away

So I try to be like you
Try to feel it like you do
But without you its no use
I cant see what you see
When I look at the world

I cant wait any longer
I cant wait 'til I'm stronger
Cant wait any longer
To see what you see
When I look at the world

I'm in the waiting room
I cant see for the smoke
I think of you and your holy book
When the rest of us choke

Tell me tell me
What do you see
Tell me tell me
Whats wrong with me

When I hear this song I hear it as a conversation Bono is having with God about how hard it is to be human and see other humans suffering, and how easy it is for humans to just look away when they see tragedy. Our hearts are hardened out of self preservation it seems. I think it is a song of questions, questioning God on how are we supposed to deal with it all?
You are great, Stacie! I know it is easy to beat ourselves up when we are having more emotions about something than the people around us. But it doesn't mean our emotions are wrong or that we should be able to read about a tragedy and just feel "touched" by it. I know, I know.

Thanks for writing that letter to the authors.

In His Grace,

Thanks, Stacie, for keeping the eyes of your heart open to humanity. And thanks for sharing your genuine agony over how to offer grace to those grieving in Villa de Ramos, Mexico.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lyrics du Jour- The Freest Man

This is sort of a follow up post to the Encouragement subject. This one is particularly about encouraging a friend who may be working through issues and the importance of showing them grace in such a way they really feel grace. This means that sometimes we need to go beyond the quick fix answers or the pat response of "Well let me know if there's anything I can do for you." However well intentioned that offer may be, a person feeling less than worthy or far from grace may need a little more nudging to KNOW that their vulnerable issue won't be mishandled. I feel today's lyrics du jour selection from Tilly and the Wall is spot on what I'm talking about.

It should be noted that these lyrics live in a most deliciously upbeat and fun environment. I first heard of Tilly and the Wall in a music review about a year ago in Relevant Magazine. The reviewer said, "This is the boy/girl sing along CD you never knew you needed!" Based on that I bought it and dubbed it a new favorite immediately. And as you will see, deeper than fun lyrics:

"this boy i know lives in a bell jar
it is balancing up on it's pedestal
he tries not to upset the weight of conscience
afraid it's so far to fall if no one catches him
but I've been there too, and I swear to god
if I can help you, please, you've got to tell me how
I know you've been away, and it can break you down
and I don't want you gone

all the cracks you see can be repaired
and if you start to fall, we will be there
don't drown yourself in all your old regrets
because that heavyness will steal away your breath

step out of that life
it's nowhere near your time

and don't forget that you called it all bulls**t
well it still is and if you stop giving into it
you will walk away the freest man"

These lyrics remind me on a soul level of Hebrews 10:24 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." When we do that we are encouraging freedom.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Recently a friend was sharing about a time when she felt “shut down” by a person in a leadership role. I find it heart breaking when I encounter a leader who doesn’t see how effective encouragement can be when given generously. Encouraging each other is talked about many times in the Bible. I think it is because grace can always be found there. God is all about grace. And when we encourage another we are showing that we believe in them. When I’m muddling through new ideas or considering new options for my life, knowing I have friends and family who believe in me is priceless. And something I know about the people who truly love me is that even if they don’t understand or see my vision, they will tell me so with a spin of encouragement.

One of my favorite songwriters, Ben Harper, captures the weight of encouragement well here:

“the good lord is such a good lord
with such a good mother too
they have blessed me
in the good graces of you

i have heard a hundred violins crying
i have seen a hundred white doves flying
but nothing is as beautiful
as when she believes in me”

In the leadership program I did, I was regularly reminded that my number one job as a leader is to say, “Yes you can!” People and teams are more productive when they know their ideas and contributions are appreciated, even if not implemented. And if a person in a leadership role doesn’t think the vision being pitched is a good fit for the cause, there is always a way to speak the truth with love and grace.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lyrics du Jour- The Logical Song

Supertramp had a few hits when I was a kid. Probably the most well known one these days is "Give a Little Bit" because the GooGoo Dolls did a cover of it not too long ago. The lyrics to that are great, too. "The Logical Song" was also on the radio back in the day. I remember liking it back then but not fully grasping the lyrics. Then in the mid 90's I was in a leadership program and one of the facilitators played it to get us to think about our adult roles differently. Ever since that day, I have a had a new appreciation for these lyrics:

"When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the worlds asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am."

I'm sharing these lyrics here and now because I've been reading "Searching for God Knows What" by Donald Miller. The chapter titled "Naked" unpacks the profound beauty of how God created us to be in relationship with Him. The chapter is titled "Naked" because it ponders in detail the story of the Garden of Eden. It's great stuff and I encourage everyone to read it for themselves. I can't do it justice here. But the lyrics above were playing loudly in my brain when I read this:

"If man was wired so that something outside of himself told him who he was, and if God's presence was giving him a feeling of fulfillment, then when that relationship was broken, man would be pining for other people to tell him that he was good, right, okay with the world, and eternally secure."

Yet another example of God's perfect balance of Grace and Truth. I bet Supertramp has no clue how their lyrics so accurately display some basics of Genesis Chapters 1-3.