Tag Archives: Tragedy

What Do You Say When No One Has Ears to Hear?

It’s been the span of just one month (at the time of writing this), and the amount of horrific tragedies having occurred all over the world have been nothing short of countless (while nothing compared to the amount that this entire year has wrought).
I say countless, not because these events have been innumerable, but because even just ONE of them is ONE TOO MANY.

It’s felt as if the whole world has just been soaked—steeped, like a bag of tea—in chaos; in darkness; utterly in a void.

And it didn’t take long for the Internet…well, social media, to follow suit. What I’ve witnessed it become, I can only describe to be some sort of collective madhouse serving to accomplish nothing but an overwhelming—damn near deafeningcacophony.

i don't know what we're yelling about.gif

Articles and blog posts after articles and blog posts after articles and blog posts.
Politicians and speeches.
Articles and blog posts about politicians and their speeches.
Tweets.
Facebook posts.
Facebook profile picture changes.
And all theLikes.” Ohhh, all the “Thumbs Ups” Facebook “Likes” and “Shares” and “Repostings” and “Thoughts and prayers,” after, “thoughts and prayers,” after, “thoughts and prayers.”

loud noises

And for reasons I’ll elaborate further on in time, through it all I’ve remained…uncomfortably silent. Not because I have nothing to say (quite the contrary, in fact), but rather, for motivations I’ve felt to be considerably significant.

I’ve remained silent because it’s been abundantly clear that EVERYONE has something to say…and NO ONE really seems to be doing any listening.

It’s as if whenever our world is steeped into the VOID, the only thing we ever find ourselves doing is nothing; nothing but stand at its precipice, and scream, and shout, and cuss, and cry out, all of it, into that VOID.
And it just feels like it accomplishes NOTHING.
I have seen so so much of people’s hearts hurting, aching, breaking, for all the suffering and tragedy and loss that has repeatedly occurred within this span of just one short month. Now whether these emotions are genuine or just for show is not for me to say; though I will state with certainty that I believe there is an unmistakeable distinction between having a big heart, and having a heart in the right place. And please don’t misunderstand me here, I am by no means criticizing (nor calling into question) anyone’s sentiment, anyone’s heart, and anyone who has found themselves on that precipice screaming and shouting and cursing and crying. Nor am I just cynically ranting about the pointlessness of social media and all that it entails (the fact is not lost on me that this very piece represents exactly what I’m eluding to…).
But rather, I am sincerely expressing the personal struggle I’m having with a question as difficult for me to find an answer to, as it is for me to just simply find the correct words in the correct order to correctly word the question itself. And it is a question I long to have answered both for my own selfish reasons, but also in hopes of righting all this wrong I’ve seen in response to the world unavoidably spewed and spewed and spewed all over the internet.

And I’m as much asking myself these questions (if not genuinely so much more), as I am positing them to you.

When you stand at the precipice—filled with emotion that you’re just longing to express—and you scream and shout and spit and cuss and cry into the VOID, just WHAT IS THE POINT.

What do you do when it seems as if NOTHING you say or do seems to make ANY difference?

What do you say when all you see is no one listening?

I mentioned before that through everything that has occurred recently, I’ve found myself in a place of tense silence. And to be fair, much of it had to do with timing, and a preoccupation with caring for my infant son. But the fact remains that these questions have plagued me long before thematically outlining this piece. As I said, I’ve personally had many thoughts about so much of what has transpired these past weeks, coupled with a desire to write them all out (I even had a clever, kitschy title summarizing what I wrote, “Teething, Terrorists, Trump, and Troubles.”).
What stopped me? Well initially I’d like to say that because no one asked my opinion or thoughts, I really didn’t give a damn about sharing anything.

And I know that there is at least a part of that remaining.

But the bulk of what’s been holding me back are those very questions I listed above.

When it feels as if all I’m doing is shouting into the VOID—when all I am doing is nothing more than adding to that VOID, WHAT IS THE POINT.

When I struggle with believing that NOTHING I do seems to make ANY difference, what is there for me to do?

And ultimately, regardless of anything I might have to say…about anything, when the response appears to be as if NO ONE has “ears to hear,” WHAT IS THE POINT of saying anything?

… … …

I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the phrase “ears to hear,” anywhere other than in a Biblical context; “for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” Though it’s a phrase that I’ve easily glossed over time and time again when reading Scripture, I’ve become enamored with it, because it truly captures both the simplicity and sincerity that lay at the heart of genuine Christianity like magic from fairytales being both the same and different, hard enough to build a foundation, but fluid enough that you never can quite think you’ve got them all figured out.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Simple and straightforward.
A phrase I’ve always (or, at least until recently) taken at face value.

Jesus is recorded frequently finishing whatever he was speaking with that phrase: “for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” And THE closest I think I come to understanding it is essentially saying, “for those of you that are truly actually paying attentionfor those of you that are truly actually listeningYOU’LL get what I’m saying.

I quite often find myself easily bombarded by a mess of bright and spastic, overwhelming visuals that…I fail to really see.

And even more frequently do I find myself comfortably consumed by the cacophony of long winded explanations and pompous justifications that…I fail to really listen.
When I find myself staring at the VOID too long? That’s all I start to believe.

And voids are anything BUT simple, and anything BUT sincere.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

What is the simplicity promised within these words?
What is the sincerity promised within them?

What are the words?

Echō ous akouō akouō(!)

Echō (G2192: to have, hold)
ous (G3775: the ear, ears)
akouō (G0191: hearing, to hear, listen)

Echō ous akouō, akouō(!)
Whenever Jesus finished with these four words, it was never a conditional statement.

It was a PROMISE!* (*Yes, exclamation point included.)

Jesus wasn’t concluding by saying, “for those of you actually listening, you’ll get it.”
No, Jesus was making a promise:

Oh listening ears, listen!*”

(*rf. Greek grammatical notes on Matt. 11:15)

Were there those ears that didn’t listen? Of course there were.
And neither is it any different today. There are those that just DO NOT LISTEN.

There are those who—for whatever reason—cannot hear the “Word(s) of God,” instead hearing only thunder*, and there may very well continue to be so.

(*rf. John 12:28-30)

There have been—and may always be—“children” in loud, busy marketplaces, willfully and firmly placing their fingers in their ears and making whatever cacophony possible in order to drown out the music that would compel them to dance; who preoccupy themselves with countless distractions of their own design so as to never hear the “dirge” and mourn; simply and sincerely, mourn*.

(*rf. Matt. 11:16,17)

The reality of the world we live in seems far too clear:

EVERYONE has something to say, and yet NO ONE is listening.

EVERYONE has enormous hearts, but enormous hearts that have become hardened and calloused.

There have been, and always will be, people who make so much noise—who make the most noise—not out of a desire for themselves to be heard. No. We all have that desire, and not all of us struggle with it that way. There have been and always will be people who make as much noise as they can solely (dare I say spitefully?) to KEEP TRUTH OUT. Whether it’s truth in the form of thunder, or truth much less in the form of a whisper, even a whisper sharp enough to cut through prideful, arrogant, opinionated, cacophony.
There have been, always will, and may even currently be, people you know, people you’re related to, people on Facebook, and people staring at you every time you look in the mirror, who boisterously spout off their views and opinions not because they long to have them heard—not because THEY long to be heard—but because in doing so, they effectively deafen themselves, drowning out anything and everything else…especially truth.
Because truth isn’t safe.
Because truth can (and quite often times does) hurt.
Because truth quite literally forces us to face an end of ourselves, the end of ourselves.

But at the end of ourselves is something so much bigger, and—trulyso much better.

The truth of the matter…the truth of ALL matterthe truth of everything THAT matters is this:

We ALL have ears to hear, and those ears were MADE TO HEAR.

And whether you’re unable to hear due to impairment, or due to affliction, out of violence, or out of fear; or whether you’re unable to hear because you’ve spitefully crammed your fingers in your ears and are screaming at the top of your lungsJesus made a promise that ALL WILL HEAR.
And I may not be able to convey in detail and with certainty just HOW that promise will be kept, I do know He’s pretty good at keeping His promises…at keeping His Word.

Oh, and when He does make due on His promise?

That moment ALWAYS tends to be enough to melt hearts and get EVERYONE listening:


What else is there to leave you with but this:

Echō ous akouō, akouō(!)
“OH, You listening ears, LISTEN!”

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September 11th, Stranger Than Fiction

As I’ve been thinking about September 11th this past week (I’ll admit, drawing my thoughts to it have been rather forced than natural), I can’t shake the feeling that it all just sounds like a bad joke, that starts with “a(any random) disgruntled employee goes to work one morning,” and ends with “BAM! A 747 flies right into the building and kills everyone!

Funny, right?

10 years ago, hordes of New Yorkers woke up and followed their usual routine…and then the story “ends” (or is it begins) like an easily read mystery novel setting up the “punchline” of the novel: “little did [they] know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in [their] imminent death”.

3 years prior, in the spring of 1999, hundreds of high school students reluctantly dragged their feet to go to school; take a test that day, eat lunch, study in the library, and… “little did [they] know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in [their] imminent death”.

On an undisclosed base in Germany (Bad Aibling)—which was already at threat con B (there’s four threat cons—A, B, C, D; D being terrible), the middle and high school students were informed that two bullied boys walked in to their school and took out their anger, and their desire—need, for control on fellow students and themselves, shooting and killing many, including themselves.

I gotta admit, while the tragedy of September 11th has left a place in my mind, the Columbine massacre would have to have left one 10 fold by comparison. See the year prior to the Columbine shootings I was victimized and assaulted (both physically and sexually) by a group of teammates I should have been able to trust; not only once, but twice. The result of which left me both physically and emotionally scarred. By the following year—1999, the entire small American school I was attending had not only found out about it, but thought it was hysterical—making ME then, the seeming punchline…of a (of EVERY, really) dirty joke just told.

Well the following year a number of things transpired. I retreated into a world crafted by my imagination and fascination with films. A school on a base at threat con B provided a perfect environment for the super hero in me just waiting to become manifest. I began to carry around a “just in case” backpack everywhere I went which contained the following:

– A change of dry clothes—long sleeve shirt, jeans, socks, underwear; all in plastic bags
– MRE’s (Meals, ready to eat)
– Water
– Water proof matches and candles
– An airtight water bottle containing various fireworks (so they couldn’t be ‘sniffed’)
– Pens
– A notebook

NEVER AGAIN. I would say. I was never going to have Hell happen to me again.

I would not only save myself, I would save the day.

If anything happened in my world around me, I would stop the trouble, I would stop the tribulation.

For everyone.

I would be prepared and ready for anything—JUST IN CASE.

But then things like September 11th happen. And I cannot do a thing.
I’m trapped. Helpless, hopeless.

And unable to save the day.

And yet we utter things in remembrance like “NEVER AGAIN.”
The same thing that scared little boy trying his hardest to be a tough man would utter to himself.

WHY?

Why do bad things happen that I can’t control?

Well if you have any sort of theological “faith” whatsoever, or—if you were raised like I was, you were taught that God created in the beginning, and God redeems in the end.
In the beginning…” God created.
That’s how the old book starts.
We have the first chapter (and part of the second) talking of how God created in 7 days and rested; for it was all good. Then we get into what modern Christianity has dubbed our “f*ck up of God’s plan.” (well, modern Christianity wouldn’t use that language…but I’m paraphrasing.)
We were given the choice and we made what was “good,” NOT GOOD.
This—amongst other verses was what I was told to explain the very simple, yet very profound question, “If God loves us, why do bad things happen?”

There have been many variations of these questions ranging from
“Why would God order women and children to be slaughtered?”
to,
“Why would God make Hitler?”
to,
“Why does God send people to Hell who don’t love Him back?”

All of these variations I was told were simply explained by our nature. Because we “fell” from Grace, bad things happen.
We f*cked it up ya’ll, and God’s been doing his damnedist to fix it.
Bad things happen because of us. If we never messed up, we wouldn’t have anything bad be in this world.

But there’s good news. God wants to redeem. And he’s gonna redeem. And all this suffering and pain is going to have been worth it once we get to heaven (provided you make the right decision and do the right things according to the right people, of course).

Further, there’s a time coming with immeasurable suffering and pain, trouble galore, a “tribulation,” if you will, where if you believe correctly, you won’t have to deal with. You’ll be “raptured” away from all that suffering.

No joke. That’s what I grew up with. Many of you can relate.

We have a story that starts with a Creator and our mess up of the Creator’s plan (His “intended will,” if you want the proper jargon), and that ends with things being great for us, paradise; and somewhere in the middle is Jesus.

But that middle part where He shows up is kinda lost in a sea of pain, trouble, hurt, suffering, death, sadness, tribulation.

It seems to me that whether I believe in God or not, I can’t live with Him, and I can’t live without Him.

I’m dead—I die with our without Him.

G.K. Chesterton said “I had always felt life first a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.”

Harold Crick was doomed to die in the film, “Stranger than Fiction.
But through some sort of magic, he was cued in to the plot of the story. He was able to hear the story teller, and know what the point of his life was—what the plot of the story was.

In the film he meets with literature professor in hopes of discovering just what is going on. He’s told that in order to figure out who the author is, he needs to figure out what genre his story is—in this case, comedy, or tragedy.

It astounds me how much we—humanity is similar to the character of Harold Crick in this regard. We desire to figure out the story teller by judging our lives based on whether they’re comedies or tragedies. And it can swing either way.

We look at ourselves and judge the story teller based on the story we know thus far.

Funny thing is, it still doesn’t allow us to escape our fate: Death.

In the end, Harold Crick must die.

In the end, we all must die.

But in Harold’s case, he’s allowed to see the story in its entirety. He’s allowed to know the plot and what he decides is that in the end, the story is better with his death.

What began as inevitable fate becomes a willing sacrifice of self.

Which changes the ending of the story; but not the plot.

What if my story, our story is still being told? And at the same time though, it is finished?

And when has a good story ever been void of darkness and “bad things” happening to its characters? It doesn’t make for a good story.
And it doesn’t make for a good character arc.

What if the story is our death.

But what if in death, the death of self, each and every self– be it in this life, of the next, Jesus is made manifest?

The Gospel of John calls Jesus “the Word.
In Him all things were made.

The Word,” in the Greek, is logos. This is where we get our English word, “logic.” To the Greeks, logos signified logic, reason, meaning, and even plot.

So…God is telling a story, and the “plot” of it all, whom all things…ALL THINGS were made (lit. came into being), is Jesus.

You know, I can honestly say that there have been many, many times I’ve come to the end of myself. Some by choice, others by circumstance.

And I’m tired.

I’m tired of hurting. I’m tired of pain. I’m tired of trouble and tribulation.

In John 16: 33 Jesus say to us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Over the years I’ve sort of become fascinated with that word, “trouble.” The Greek translation is thlipsis. It literally means a pressing together, pressure. It comes from the root thlibo, which is “to press, as in grapes” in order to make wine.

I was always baffled before on how and why Jesus lets us suffer. Why he lets us have thlipsis; more specifically, why he lets me suffer and have thlipsis.

Well there seems to be two responses taken when one is in a position of asking these questions.

For one, we try to prepare. We try to control. We say things like “Never again.” This pain and suffering will never happen to us or anyone we care about ever again.

And we prepare for everything we can think of. We build for ourselves our own “Just In Case” backpacks in order that we might protect ourselves.

Save ourselves.

But in the end, we still suffer, and we still die.

The other option seems to be that we “turn to Jesus,” in hopes of saving us not only from suffering in this life, but the ultimate suffering of Hell.

But in the end, we STILL suffer, and we STILL die.

It’s interesting to look back on my life and see just how geocentric my views and questions on suffering have been.

I used to belt out the old hymn “I’ll Fly Away” as if it were my own personal anthem.

“Some glad morning when this life is finally over,
I’ll fly away.”

I’ll finally escape it all. I’ll cheat suffering and death, by flying away to heaven.

But what If I’m not to escape? What If I’m not to be raptured?

What if, in the end, the point of it all, is that I die?

Well then there’s no escaping it.

We can’t live. With or without Jesus.

The old hymn becomes more of a sad U2 song.

I can’t live.
With or without you.

(Author’s note: for the remainder of this post, have this song playing in the background, click play above)

So what’s the point? We die either way.

Well then what if like Harold Crick, we accept. And what begins as inevitable fate becomes a willing sacrifice of self.

The ending of the story may change; but not the plot.

“In this world you will have thlipsis.” In this world you will have pressure; you will be stomped on like grapes.

“But take heart. I have overcome the world.” Don’t worry. It’s me that’s making the pressure; it’s me that’s doing the stomping.

But it’s because I’m making wine.

Wine for the eternal party that begins now, IN every now.

The story IS finished, but it’s still being told.

Which means, God is finished creating, but we aren’t finished being created.

So what if in death, the death of self, each and every self– be it in this life, of the next, Jesus is made manifest?

Well then, it means God can command a nation to slaughter another nation to survive, knowing that they WILL come to know Him, and be with Him in paradise.

It means that thousands can die, while millions more suffer around the world, but God knows each and every one of them more than any of us ever could.

It means God can beget a Hell to exist which can be experienced in this life or the next, which is a tool to have us die; a Hell which isn’t forever, but exists on the same time line as our earth, as us, and will perish like it says in Revelations, when God finally calls everyone home.

It means that the physical and sexual abuse I had as a middle-schooler and the Hell I endured for years will not only be brought into justice and life, but redeemed–as will those who inflicted it upon me.

It means that there’s a point to my wife’s kid sister dying of cancer while a 78 year old woman who got shot in the face three times is still alive.

God is telling a story.
The plot is Jesus.

And He is making all of us in His image–whether it takes this life or the life after.
And just like it was for the character of Harold Crick, God’s ultimate desire is merely for all of us to submit to the plot of the story to BELIEVE in the plot of the story, and ultimately, help Him tell it.

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