Why This Thanksgiving Should Be A Happy One

In what has become a tradition on this blog, this is the week I like to look back on a presidential Thanksgiving proclamation and take a moment to reflect on its significance. Thanksgiving may be a uniquely American holiday, but it is a universally needed and spiritually beneficial practice. This year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1941 stood out to me:

I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate and set aside Thursday, the twentieth day of November, 1941, as a day to be observed in giving thanks to the Heavenly Source of our earthly blessings.

Our beloved country is free and strong. Our moral and physical defenses against the forces of threatened aggression are mounting daily in magnitude and effectiveness.

In the interest of our own future, we are sending succor at increasing pace to those peoples abroad who are bravely defending their homes and their precious liberties against annihilation.

We have not lost our faith in the spiritual dignity of man, our proud belief in the right of all people to live out their lives in freedom and with equal treatment. The love of democracy still burns brightly in our hearts.

We are grateful to the Father of us all for the innumerable daily manifestations of His beneficent mercy in affairs both public and private, for the bounties of the harvest, for opportunities to labor and to serve, and for the continuance of those homely joys and satisfactions which enrich our lives.

Let us ask the Divine Blessing on our decision and determination to protect our way of life against the forces of evil and slavery which seek in these days to encompass us.

On the day appointed for this purpose, let us reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God and, in giving thanks, let us pray for a speedy end to strife and the establishment on earth of freedom, brotherhood, and justice for enduring time.

There are lots of good thoughts in President Roosevelt’s proclamation. His recognition that there is a “Heavenly Source of our earthly blessings” reminds us that everything we have ultimately comes from God. His thankfulness for “opportunities to labor and to serve” reminds us that we can be thankful not only for what we have, but for what we can do. And his invitation to “reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God” is certainly well taken. Thanksgiving, at its heart, is an act of worship.

But it is the historical context that surrounds this proclamation that was especially remarkable to me. President Roosevelt issued this proclamation on November 8, 1941. A month earlier, on October 6, the House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day. Up to this point, the day of Thanksgiving was not officially set and different presidents chose different dates. Two months later, on December 9, the Senate amended the House resolution to fix the date of Thanksgiving on the fourth – rather than the final – Thursday of November to account for those occasions when November has five Thursdays. President Roosevelt signed the resolution into law on December 26. What makes all this so interesting is what happened in the midst of this legislative history on Monday, December 7, 1941. The United States was plunged into a second world war. And yet, even while our Armed Forces began fighting and our nation was reeling from that “date which will live in infamy,” Congress and the President still found it important to declare a time for our nation to give thanks. They recognized that giving thanks is not only important when times are good, it is also critical when times are terrible.

Though we are blessedly not embroiled in a world war, 2020 has nevertheless been a difficult year for many. This is why it is so important that we pause to give thanks. Giving thanks is not and cannot be based on how well things have gone. It must be a recognition of how gracious God is. As the Psalmist says:

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

God’s goodness and love remain steadfast even when this world’s brokenness shakes us to our cores. Indeed, God’s goodness and love are so steadfast that God steps into the brokenness of this world in His Son to suffer with us and for us. This is why we cannot only give thanks to the Lord, we can give thanks for the Lord, for the Lord has come for us.

This Thanksgiving, may that be our thanksgiving.

November 23, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Discerning Right From Wrong

File:Italy, Bologna, 17th century - Jacob and Laban with Rachel and Leah (recto) Sketch of Two Men and Other Va - 1939.666 - Cleveland Museum of Art.jpg
Jacob and Laban with Rachel and Leah / Italy, 17th century / Wikipedia

When Jacob marries both the daughters of his uncle Laban in Genesis 29, it is difficult not to suspect that these marriages will go nowhere good fast. The story goes that Jacob falls in love with Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel, and agrees to work seven years for his uncle as a kind of dowry to gain the girl. But after Jacob’s seven years of service are completed, his uncle gives him his older daughter, Leah, instead, insisting:

It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the other one also, in return for another seven years of work. (Genesis 29:26-27)

Jacob is so smitten by Rachel, he gladly obliges. The problem is that now Jacob has two wives – and one is clearly his favorite. Unsurprisingly, this causes a host of problems in both marriages. At first, only Leah is able to bear children for Jacob, which was critical in the ancient world. The continuation of a family line was a primary source of pride in this culture. When Rachel sees that Leah is bearing her husband children, she becomes jealous and gives Jacob one of her servants named Bilhah to sleep with, so he can have children she can claim through this servant. This arouses Leah’s jealousy, who responds by offering to her husband her servant, Zilpah, through whom he can have even more children.

In the middle of this marital mess, Jacob sleeps with Leah and she becomes pregnant. She is delighted and proclaims, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband” (Genesis 30:18).

Really? Leah really believes that God is pleased with her for offering her servant to her husband so he can sleep with her? Morally, this sounds preposterous to us. But it seems to have sounded sensible to Leah. After all, the proof of God’s pleasure at the arrangement was in the gift God gave her – a son.  Right?

The Psalmist once prayed: “Who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). Human beings are so deeply sinful that, sometimes, we sin and don’t even know it. This is true of Leah. She is so desperate for her husband’s affection that she is willing to bring an extra woman into a relationship that is already problematically polygamous and then interpret the fruit of that sin as a sanction from God.

A story like this should instill in us a little humility. If Leah could think that something as deeply morally wrong as offering another woman to your husband is right, is there a possibility that we might get morally confused, too?

The prophet Isaiah once warned:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. (Isaiah 5:20-21)

Morally, we can often try to be too clever by half. We cleverly excuse our lies using a cloak of confidentiality. We cleverly cover our gossip with a patina of prayer. And we, like Leah, can cleverly misinterpret a blessing from God as a divine imprimatur on some kind of bad behavior.

To understand right and wrong, morality and immorality, righteousness and wickedness, we must constantly return to the clear certainty of God’s commands. He is the One who can take our worst moral instincts and replace them with a godly conscience, shaped by His Spirit and truth. So, let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s listen to the Lord.

November 16, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A Very Good Blessing for Esau…and Us

“Esau and Jacob” by Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari / Wikipedia

In the story of Jacob and Esau, Jacob famously steals his brother’s blessing from his father, Isaac. Jacob, who dresses up like his brother to dupe his near-blind dad, receives this blessing from Isaac:

Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed. (Genesis 27:27-29)

In this blessing, Isaac promises Jacob four things. First, he promises Jacob material blessing – he will be blessed with much food and drink. Second, he promises Jacob political power – that nations and people will bow down to him. Third, he promises Jacob familial patronage – he will be the patriarch and guardian for his whole family. Fourth, he promises Jacob a spiritual legacy. Isaac’s words “may those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed” echo God’s words to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:3). Jacob, rather than his older brother Esau, will be the one to carry the spiritual mantle of Abraham forward in the family – and for the world.

This is quite a blessing. And unsurprisingly, when Esau finds out that his brother Jacob has received such a stellar blessing, which his dad intended to be his, he is furious – and desperate. He pleads to his father, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me” (Genesis 27:36)? What his father musters for him sounds quite meager:

Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck. (Genesis 27:39-40)

This seems more like a curse than a blessing! Isolation from others and subordination to a scorned sibling hardly sound enticing. And yet, embedded in this “blessing” is a glimmer of hope: “But when you grow restless, you will throw off his yoke from your neck.” When Esau first hears these words, he immediately interprets them as a license for violence. In the very next verse, we find Esau looking forward to his father’s imminent death and saying to himself: “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41). Murder is how Esau believes that he will throw off the yoke of his brother’s betrayal.

But things don’t turn out the way Esau plots them.

Instead, Jacob, learning of his brother’s secret plot, flees. Over five decades pass before they see each other again. But when they finally do, the scene is moving:

Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. (Genesis 33:4)

At first, Esau believed that he would be able to throw off the yoke of his brother’s betrayal by exacting vengeance from him. But, it turns out, he was only able to throw off the yoke of his brother’s betrayal by forgiving him.

As the holidays approach, many of us have family members – or others – by whom we may feel betrayed. Perhaps this is the time of year to trade a weak hope for vengeance for a better blessing of forgiveness. This is the only way the yoke of the betrayal someone has committed against you can truly be removed from you. This is what Esau learned, and this is the way Jesus shows.

It turns out Esau received a pretty good blessing after all.

November 9, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Election Day 2020

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels.com

Election Day is one day away. And what an election season it’s been. In what has become a quadrennial ritual, campaigns have been waged, accusations have been leveled, statements that have very loose associations with the truth have been uttered, and our nation has become even more divided over politics than it already was.

It can be difficult for Christians to navigate through what feels like an exponentially increasing number of political landmines all around us. So, as we head into another Election Day fraught with fights and frights, let me remind you of two things.

First, Christians live as dual citizens. In his famous fifth-century work The City of God, the church father Augustine spoke of how Christians belong both to the City of Man and the City of God. Sadly, the City of Man is deeply disordered because of sin. Those who care only for the City of Man often gladly and unrepentantly operate in ways that involve much deception and transgression. Thus, though we may be among the City of Man, we cannot be in league with the City of Man. Our first, highest, and final allegiance must be to the City of God. This does not mean that we run away from the world, but it does mean that, in many ways, we refuse to operate like the world.

Second, the City of Man matters. For all its brokenness, God can still use what happens in the City of Man for His glory and the world’s good. This understanding of the City of Man was key to the success of the apostle Paul’s ministry. Paul, for instance, was not afraid to appeal to his Roman citizenship in the City of Man to protect himself from being mobbed (Acts 22:22-29). He also seems to have preferred his Roman name Paul to his Jewish name Saul. This is why, in the many letters he wrote to churches in the ancient world, he introduced himself as Paul rather than Saul, though he retained both names throughout his life (cf. Acts 13:9).

Why would this apostle prefer introducing himself using a pagan-sounding Roman name instead of his more traditional Jewish name? Because he fashioned himself as an apostle to people who were pagans in the City of Man – people who did not yet believe in the God of Israel and the Messiah He sent in Jesus. “I am an apostle to the Gentiles,” who were pagans, he wrote, and “I take pride in my ministry” (Romans 11:13). His Roman name – and his status as a Roman citizen – helped him reach pagan Roman citizens he may have not otherwise been able to reach with the gospel.

Some Christians can too often be tempted to leverage the resources of the City of Man primarily to win against others – political enemies, cultural contraries, and socioeconomic opposites. Paul, however, leveraged his citizenship – a gift bestowed on him by the City of Man – and his Roman name to win over people. He used what he gained from the City of Man to point people to the City of God.

In a recent article in National Review, Kevin Williamson wisely cautioned his readers: “There’s more to citizenship than voting, and partisanship is not patriotism.” Sometimes, I think we can be tempted to fall into the trap of believing the sum of our citizenship in the City of Man is winning an election through partisanship and voting. But being a good citizen in the City of Man goes so much further than that. Like Paul, may we use our citizenship in the City of Man not only to protect and further our interests, but to love and reach others.

That’s something we can all choose to do on Election Day – no matter who we vote for.

November 2, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

“Let us” vs. “I will”

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project - edited.jpg
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel (c. 1563) / Wikipedia

Human arrogance is nothing new. It’s as old as sin itself. Adam and Eve, after all, were tempted into sin by a delusion of grandeur – if they broke a command of God, they could “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

Another early instance of human arrogance comes in the form of an infamous building project:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1-4)

The arrogance of humanity in this project can be summed up in two words:

“Let us.”

“Let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly,” they say. “Let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves,” they plan. They believe that there is nothing they can’t do. They don’t need God when they have a “Let us.”

When God discovers the people’s plot, He stops them by confusing their language so they can no longer communicate with each other, which is why we now call this building project “Babel – because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world” (Genesis 11:9). But God does not merely judge these people by confusing their communication. He does something else. He does something more. He tries something better.

In the very next chapter of Genesis, God calls a man named Abraham and says to him:

Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:1-3)

God is not only promising to bless Abraham here, He is also working to undo the calamity of Babel by responding to humanity’s arrogant “Let us” with two words of His own:

“I will.”

“I will give you a new land,” God explains. “I will make you into a great nation,” God declares.

On the one hand, the words “I will” can trouble us, because what God will do always outdoes and overcomes what we might want to do. On the other hand, these words of God are a great promise for us. They remind us that our accomplishments, our worth, and our lives are not in our hands. We do not live by what we do. We live because of what God has done – and will do – for us.

At a time like this, the temptation to say “Let us” can become overwhelming. “Let us get a raise so we can live more comfortably.” “Let us airbrush our lives on social media so we can present ourselves perfectly.” “Let us win this presidential election so we can beat our opponents into submission politically.” What we need most at a moment like this, however, is not another “Let us.” We need God’s “I will.” “I will provide for you.” “I will grant you My perfect righteousness.” “I will be your perfect king and your loving heavenly Father.” His “I will” always works better than our “Let us.”

The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

October 26, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Just Passing By

In Mark 6, Jesus’ disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Late into the night, Jesus decides to hit the water too, but instead of chartering a boat across the lake, Jesus steps out onto the lake. Mark tells the story like this:

Shortly before dawn He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. (Mark 6:48-50)

Three of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and John – recount this story, but Mark adds a unique detail that is not found in the other accounts when he writes: “He was about to pass by” (Mark 6:48).

This detail reminds us that Jesus is doing much more than simply trying to work a miracle. He is offering His disciples some revelation. He is showing His disciples who He really is.

In Exodus 33, Moses requests to see God. God reminds Moses that although he cannot see Him face-to-face:

There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by(Exodus 33:21-22)

Moses may encounter God, but it will be only for a cursory, partially concealed moment. Moses will only get to encounter God as He passes by.

Likewise, in 1 Kings 19, when God reveals Himself to the prophet Elijah, He says to him:

Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by. (1 Kings 19:11)

After the announcement of God’s arrival, there is a hurricane, an earthquake, and a fire, but God is not in any of these things. Instead, He passes by in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).

Like Moses, Elijah gets to encounter God, but it is only in a cursory, partially concealed way. Elijah only encounters God as He passes by.

This is how God consistently revealed Himself to His people of old – by passing by. So, when Jesus begins to pass by His disciples as they are sailing along on the Sea of Galilee, He is making a claim about His identity: He is the same One who passed by Moses and Elijah. He is God!

But in Mark 6, the story takes a surprising turn. Because instead of being there one moment and gone the next like God was when He revealed Himself to Moses and Elijah, Jesus, as He is about to pass by His disciples, instead:

climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed. (Mark 6:51)

Before, when God met with His people, He only passed by. Now, when God meets people in Jesus, God gets in.

During difficult and uncertain times – like the ones we are experiencing as a society – it can be easy to wonder: Where is God? Why hasn’t He shown up? Mark 6 reminds us that Jesus does not just pass by us in our pain, in our uncertainty, and in our fear. He gets in. And because God gets in, He and we are all, as the saying goes, in the same boat.

Christianity is unique among the world religions in that it teaches that there is a God who does not just look down on our pain, but actually joins us in our pain. Jesus joins us in the boat.

The seeming absence of God, then, is undone by the presence of Christ. So, if you’re looking for God, you don’t have to look far. He’s right there. And He will not pass you by.

October 19, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Name-Calling

Credit: Craig Adderley / Pexels.com

One of the most common responses to last week’s vice-presidential debate that I heard was that of a sigh of relief. It was noticeably mild-mannered compared the first presidential debate held a week earlier. Both President Trump and Vice-President Biden came under sharp critique for their name-calling of each other. Check out these headlines:

‘Will you shut up, man?’: Debate devolves to name-calling as Trump derails with interruptions

First Trump-Biden Presidential Debate Devolves Into Interruptions, Name-Calling

First Presidential Debate Turns Into Fighting and Name-Calling

Quite apart from politics, name-calling, in general, concerns me. As anyone who has been badgered or belittled on a school playground knows, sticks and stones may break some bones, but names can also hurt you.

Last week, as I was preparing to lead a study on Isaiah 1, I came across this passage:

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to Me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure.” (Isaiah 1:10-11)

Isaiah encourages the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah to hear the word of the Lord. Historically, the prophet writes these words around 740 BC. The towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, however, were famously destroyed by fire and brimstone some 1,300 years earlier. They no longer exist. So, to whom is Isaiah speaking?

Here, the famed cities are being invoked metaphorically to refer to the rebellious people of God – the Israelites. Isaiah is making the point that the wickedness of the Israelites has become so great that they might as well be the people of Sodom and Gomorrah – cities renowned for their depravity. In other words, Isaiah is calling the Israelites names.

Name-calling seems to be an awfully unbecoming behavior for a prophet of God. And yet, what sounds like disrespect at first is actually an act of desperation. He asks earlier:

Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. (Isaiah 1:5)

Isaiah longs for the Israelites to repent before they become afflicted by God. Isaiah’s name-calling, then, is not meant to insult, but to implore. The prophet is imploring people of Israel to understand just how precarious their spiritual situation really is. So, he uses the most jarring example of systemic and sanctioned sin he can think of: the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Of course, this is not the only time Isaiah calls the Israelites names. Later in his book, he writes:

But now, this is what the LORD says – He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

God calls the people of Israel names to help them understand their sin. But He also calls them a name to promise them redemption from their sin:

Mine.

I’m not big on name-calling, but that’s a name I’d love to be called by God any day. Because of Christ, I know I am. And because of Christ, you are too.

October 12, 2020 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

The President Tests Positive for COVID-19

Disease doesn’t discriminate. Anyone – high or low, rich or poor, powerful or powerless – can fall ill – sometimes mildly, sometimes seriously. This reality was brought forth in stark relief early Friday morning when the President of the United States tweeted that he and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19. Blessedly, their symptoms, so far, have been relatively mild and, according to his physician, the president is doing well.

But all of this has not quelled the barrage of questions that inevitably comes at news as big as this. People want to know: What is the fuller picture of the president’s health history? When, exactly, did the president first suspect or know that he had contracted the virus? Should the people in his inner circle have been more cautious in their meetings and interactions? From whom did the president contract the virus? What will happen if the president falls seriously ill? Will a second presidential debate be possible in a week and a half? And, how will all of this affect the 2020 presidential election?

Just as the brokenness of sickness can affect anyone – no matter who they are – the promises of God are offered to everyone – no matter who they are. As the Psalmist writes:

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike. (Psalm 49:1-2)

God wants to speak to everyone. This is why, in the Scriptures, we read stories of God speaking to kings and to peasants, to the wise and to the foolish, to the righteous and to the depraved. Disease doesn’t discriminate. But neither does the Divine. He calls all to repentance and He promises all those who trust in Him salvation.

At a moment where so many are in danger of contracting a dangerous virus, I take comfort that even those who are high risk have a Most High God. He rules over these uncertain times and He will see us through to what will hopefully be better times.

I pray for the President and First Lady’s speedy recovery and I praise God that, even if many of the questions we have during a time like this are still unanswered, the God we serve is faithful.

October 5, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Loneliness and Depression in a Time of COVID-19

Credit: Jeswin Thomas / Pexels.com

More and more research indicates that COVID-19 is affecting not only our physical health, but our mental health as well. David Kinnaman, who is the president of the Barna Group – a Christian research organization – outlined some of his organization’s latest research on just how lonely people have become because of the isolated situations in which so many of us find ourselves. He writes:

In a snapshot poll we took during the pandemic, we found that half of adults said they experience loneliness at least weekly. One third of adults (32%) say that loneliness affects their most important relationships.

As disturbing as a statistic like this may be, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The pandemic is creating and heightening all sorts of mental health struggles. In another statistic, David notes that 39% of people say they have become so depressed that their depression is destroying their relationships.

Speaking of depression, in an article for The Player’s Tribune, Kevin Love, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, opened up about his personal struggle with the disease. The whole article is worth reading, but Kevin’s explanation of how he tried to achieve his way out of depression is especially striking:

Everybody who goes through mental health issues has a unique story, but for me (and I think this is probably true for a lot of people), my entire identity was tied to one thing in a really unhealthy way. Way before I was in the NBA or even in college, my self-worth was all about performing. I was what I did, which I think a lot of people can relate to, whether they’re a chef or a lawyer or a nurse or whatever the profession. I just happened to play basketball. 

When I wasn’t performing, I didn’t feel like I was succeeding as a person. 

I didn’t really know how to be comfortable in my own skin. I could never just be unapologetically Kevin, walking into a room. I was never in the moment, alive. It was always the next thing, the next game, the next, next, next. It was like I was trying to achieve my way out of depression.

Kevin goes on to write about how, years earlier, he had broken his wrist twice and was not able to “achieve” like he wanted to and what he wanted to in basketball. His depression became overwhelming for him:

The future started to feel meaningless. And when it gets to the point where you lose hope, that’s when the only thing you can think about is, “How can I make this pain go away?”

I don’t think I have to say much more than that. 

If it hadn’t been for a couple of my closest friends, I don’t know if I would be here today telling my story. And 99.9% of the people in my life probably don’t know how bad it got for me. But as hard as that might be for them to hear, I feel like I need to get that off my chest for the people out there who might be in a similar situation right now …

All I can say to you is this: 

Talk to somebody. 

You would be amazed at how freeing it is just to talk to somebody, and tell them the truth about what you’re going through. 

And listen, I’m not trying to sell you some fairy-tale version of mental health. It took me years and years – hell, it genuinely took 29 years for me to realize what I needed. 

I needed medication. I needed therapy. 

I still need those things now, and I probably always will. 

This is incredible insight. And it goes to the heart of why David Kinnaman’s statistic on loneliness is so sinister. Loneliness cannot win if we’re going to be okay. Isolation cannot carry the day. We need each other. We need to talk to each other. And we need to be there for each other. This does not mean that we disregard protocols to protect our physical health against a serious virus. Social distancing, masks, handwashing, and avoiding large gatherings are still wise ideas. But none of these protocols need prevent us from picking up a phone and talking to each other, or FaceTiming with each other. None of these protocols need stall us in seeking professional help. None of these protocols need stop us from loving each other.

If you’re struggling right now, listen to Kevin Love:

Talk to somebody.

You’ll be glad you did. And they’ll be glad you did, too. Because they love you.

September 28, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1933-2020

screen-shot-2020-09-20-at-8.27.35-am

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1977 / Credit: Lynn Gilbert


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a remarkable life. Appointed to the nation’s highest court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she presented herself as someone who was soft-spoken while also distinguishing herself a firebrand of the court’s progressive wing and, in her octogenarian years, a cultural icon, being dubbed “the notorious RBG” by her fans. Her death on Friday brought raw mourning, moving tributes, and a looming political melee as Republicans and Democrats began to draw their battle lines with President Trump already preparing to nominate a new, likely far more conservative, judge to serve as the justice who, if confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, would fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat.

There has been much that has already been said about Justice Ginsburg at her passing. And, with the hindsight afforded us by history, there will surely be much more to say into the future about her and her legacy. Her judicial philosophy alone will no doubt be the subject of many yet-to-be-published books as we, as a nation, continue to debate the merits of Constitutional interpretation philosophies like textualism, originalism, and her preferred method of seeing the Constitution as a living document, subject to broader interpretations that can reflect our zeitgeist.

Philosophically, I have questions about Justice Ginsburg’s method of Constitutional interpretation. I have reservations about many of the opinions she rendered. I stand opposed to her view of and her advocacy for abortion. Nevertheless, many of the stories that have been shared about her upon her passing deserve our reflection. In an article for Slate Magazine, Dahlia Lithwick recalls Justice Ginsburg’s humble sense of self. The justice knew she was the beneficiary of the hard work of many who came before her. She may have been called a pioneer, but she never forgot that she was also a payee. Ms. Lithwick writes:

Whenever she spoke, Justice Ginsburg was at pains to say that she stood on the shoulders of giants. At her confirmation hearings, in her prepared statement to the Senate, she was meticulous about who truly deserved the credit for her landmark career, and it wasn’t RBG: “We could not have come to this point – and I surely would not be in this room today – without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams of equal citizenship alive in days when few would listen. People like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman come to mind. I stand on the shoulders of those brave people.” I never heard her give a public speech in which she didn’t thank, by name, the allies, champions, fighters, of whom she inevitably saw herself as a beneficiary; she cast herself as someone lucky enough to be in a long line of champions and fighters, and also as someone set and determined to pay it forward to the people who would someday stand on her shoulders.

Her gratitude for how others had shaped her and paved the way for her is something worth emulating, for we too ought to be thankful to those who, by their sacrifices, have made our lives better and our opportunities broader.

But it wasn’t just Justice Ginsburg’s gratitude for others that endeared her to so many; it was her warmth toward others. Her friendship with the late devotedly conservative justice, Antonin Scalia, has become the stuff of legend. Upon her death, Justice Scalia’s son shared a story from Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who clerked for Justice Scalia in the early 90s, who admitted to being confused by Justice Scalia’s close friendship with Justice Ginsburg:

During one of my last visits with Justice Scalia, I saw striking evidence of the Scalia-Ginsburg relationship. As I got up to leave his chambers, he pointed to two dozen roses on his table and noted that he needed to take them down to “Ruth” for her birthday. “Wow,” I said, “I doubt I have given a total of twenty-four roses to my wife in almost thirty years of marriage.” “You ought to try it sometime,” he retorted. Unwilling to give him the last word, I pushed back: “So what good have all these roses done for you? Name one five-four case of any significance where you got Justice Ginsburg’s vote.” “Some things,” he answered, “are more important than votes.”

As we enter into what is sure to be a contentious nomination fight and presidential election, maybe we should let Justice Scalia have the last word as we remember Justice Ginsburg: some things are more important than votes. Why? Because better than the wielding power is loving people.

His words are words to live by as we energetically debate in the months to come who should fill her seat.

September 21, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Older Posts


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,086 other followers


%d bloggers like this: