Beyond Despair: Reclaiming JOY (Hint: Kill your Local god)

I am having trouble speaking today. And writing. I live on an island far away from drug gangs, abortion clinics and the violence that is terrorizing El Salvador right now, but it presses and silences my tongue today. It feels so close . . . To you as well, I am sure. Evil does this, travels across time and space to smother us. 

How do we live and praise today when we can hardly breathe? I promise you breath and beauty in a moment. We'll get there in just a moment. First, come with me here:

I do not want to know about all evils in the world. A few at a time is all I can bear. But even in the horror of it, I am relieved that Planned Parenthood has finally been exposed in these videos. Killing babies has done anything but "empower" these women in crisis. It has only "empowered" the PP leaders and clinics who have profited by trafficking in baby body parts. 

People who do not (yet) believe, and even those who do often challenge Christians asking, "How can a good God allow so much evil and suffering in the world?"  But many times we're asking the wrong question. We should be asking, "How can good people allow so much suffering and evil in the world?"  

We have allowed it. One step at a time. This is our own human-made evil---the jokes about getting rich enough to buy a Lamborgini off babies' bodies while munching on salad and sipping  wine. The "technicians" casually separating human organs in a  pie dish to sell to the highest bidder here in this third video. . . .  We don't have to allow it. (Consider signing some of the online petitions such as this one.

Just one more: El Salvador. The country is spinning out of control as the drug gangs declare war on the government. Twenty-two people have been killed every day of this last month. My daughter, who lived there for 2 years, is in constant contact with friends there. Everyone is terrified to even leave their home.  

I ache for them, for all the good and lovely hard-working people there who cannot even imagine any kind of future. Who cannot even imagine having a job with a real living wage. Who cannot imagine lying down at night in peace and safety. 

So---how do we rejoice in the Lord today? How do we sing and praise and walk through our days in the joy of the Lord?

We can. And should. Every single day we awake and drink our morning coffee before rising to enter the swirl of work and people, there is enough evil in the world to overwhelm us with sorrow and despair and send us back to bed. And So has it always been. 

But when I let the dailiness of evil overwhelm me, I am blinded to even greater truths---the stupendous glories and mercies of God everywhere around me. My eyes can be so downcast at what is happening there I miss all that God is and all He is doing here right in front of me. Does God not care about your here as much as he does about their there? 

Does God not desire and deserve to be loved and enjoyed in ALL the ten thousand places Christ is at work and at play?

Here, would you walk with me for a moment through this week on this Alaskan island?

Dear friends, if God is so present to us in our days and backyards, in friends, flowers, starfish; through storms, work, and daily fish, can we believe that He is even more present to those in faraway yards, who are afraid and suffering? Do we not believe that God will be true to His word and lead ALL his people through the valley of the shadow of death, that He will deliver them to quiet waters and green pastures, as He has done for us so many times? 

Is our God so small that because WE are not there in those valleys, we do not quite believe that HE is there?

Can we get rid of our tiny, local god to embrace the Real God, the Omnipotent, Omnipresent God over All That Is??

Let us believe God's promises for others as much as we believe them for ourselves. And let us pray these promises for them! God wants this, that we share their burdens through prayer, believing that God WILL be to them just who He said He will be. Just who He has been to us. 

Believe this. And then pray. Join me in praying for El Salvador, the only country who bears His name (It's original full name was "Provincia De Nuestro SeƱor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo" ["Province of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World"], abbreviated to "El Salvador" [The Savior].

And---please join me in helping to take away Planned Parenthood's federal funding. 

THEN, full of prayer, praise and joy, go out into your day, your yard and your work with eyes open for all the ways God is already redeeming Creation, redeeming His people, for all the ways God is ruling as King here and there even now. 

Even now. 

Believe it.

When Survival Isn't Enough: A Better Way to Live (and Die)

How has your week gone? It's been a busy week here at fish camp. The salmonberries have come ripe, meaning forays into my island jungles and brambles, kayak trips to gather berries and fireweed, and pots of simmering jam. 

The eaglets are almost out of their nest entirely. 

The field has been cut.

And there's been excitement too. A few days ago, it was blowing 25 mph Southeast. Duncan and I were both traveling back from Larsen Bay, with wind and grey water whipping around us, the skiff pounding through every wave, our bodies rattled and wet on every landing. And then, in a moment, we were out of gas. Dead in the way-too-alive water. We had more than a mile to go. The insistent wind and waves wanted to push us to a crashing cliff-lined shore. Out came the oars, ancient oars with half the paddle gone. We looped some line around the oars for makeshift oarlocks, and both of us began coordinating our oars to keep us off the cliffs and straight down the channel. We would hit our island eventually. If the wind had been blowing any other direction, we would have been lost for hours, or worse. 

And----a few days later, another emergency on the water. Another prayer, another crisis to survive . . . 

And last night. Last night I trotted up the gravel hill and through the entryway to our house, and suddenly I couldn't breathe. A noxious gas nearly closed my throat. My eyes stung. I could hear a hissing sound. I stood for a few seconds, as long as I dared looking for the source of the sound, then burst through the door to the house and closed it, sucking in clean air. Ammonia. My 30 year old refrigerator was leaking ammonia. At high enough levels, it kills people. If it had happened in the night, while we were sleeping . . . (Imagine that on your tombstone "Killed by her refrigerator"?)

We all have these moments---the rattling plane, the sinking boat, the tornado too close, the thief with the gun, the car over the edge . . . But we make it. We survive. We'll do anything to survive, anything to see another day. 

Of course. We cannot give up on this life. But living is not enough. Self-preservation is not enough. It's really not. 

I've had struggles of another kind this week. In between the writing, the salmon-filleting and jam-making, the feeding of a full table, the loving of children, the mending of nets, the gathering of fish, the emergencies . ..  I've been visited by Anger. Do you know what its face looks like when it bursts into the room of your heart? Have you looked it straight in the face and seen how much it looks like you? 

This Anger tells me it wants to save me. It says it's for my own good. That I need it to set things right. This Anger tells me I am right--I have been wronged. It says it loves me, that I need it to survive. And I know, I have seen how anger keeps some people alive.

 I am the same as everyone else----I have cause to answer the doorbell and welcome her into my house, to give her my feather bed and pour her tea in china cups every morning, taking notes while she tells me, smiling between sips, what I've been doing wrong, how I've let injustices pass, the ways I've been robbed of my power and my rights. 

There IS a righteous anger that brings life out of death, that calls out abuse and oppression. But this anger promises survival and happiness, but when I lean in to listen closer, I hear a hissing, like the ammonia from the fridge. My eyes sting, my throat closes and I should run, but I don't. I stay. I think these noxious words will make me strong.               

 Have you seen your own face in the morning after you have slept with ammonia in the air? 

This Anger only wants to suffocate and kill. 

I'm kicking it out of my house.  I'm letting go of my fists, my rights, my wrongs. I know these words are true: 

"Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.
 God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. 
So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life."

Already I can breathe. I have taken back my bed, my house, my tea cups.

I see this salvation-garden just outside my house this very night. 

Will you join me?

Let Anger go.

Kick it out.

Let God make a salvation-garden of your life.

8 Ways to Love Your (Hateful) Neighbors

I am just back from sitting in a circle of whales. Five fin whales, the second largest whale in the world, galloped and blasted their immensity just feet away from my trembling body.  I am lousy with love. I see it everywhere this week:

Which brings me to the topic at hand: Hate. And specifically, haters. We all have them in our lives.

If you hold to any political position and you enjoy discussing honestly and fairly with others, you have them.

If you are different from others in your family, you likely have them.

If you're a writer and you posit thoughts in an online journal or magazine or blog about a controversial subject---or, heck, any subject at all, you will attract them.

If you're a writer who writes from a position of faith, you're in the worst position of all: you're drowning in them. 

 Why are so many Christians so mean to one another? Why have we so little grace for one another? And let me be more specific: why are so many Christians so mean and graceless online?  

 Nearly every article I've published online has awakened the ire of two or more Perpetually Irate Christians who are trying to Save the World from Apostates. This week, one of my pieces (Yes, the gender piece) has received a lot of spread, discussion and shares---and some astonishing comments. As in, astonishingly hateful. As such things always go, the responses are based on misreading, misinterpretation, logical fallacies and projection of the commenter's own experiences and fears upon the writer. These two men go so far as to cast aspersions on my marriage, and of course on my faith and salvation. 

(One commentator feels sorry for my poor husband whom I'm clearly abusing and in charge of. If you know my husband, you will die laughing at this!!)

These kind of readers not only attack the writer, but they also lie in wait and pounce on anyone who might support the writer's view. 

How do we love these PIC's in our lives? And love them we must. They are our onscreen neighbors, at the least, and even if they're our enemies, we're still called to love. 

Here are some possible ways we can Love our Hateful Readers:

1. Love them by doing for them what they have not done for you: listen respectfully before reacting. Align yourself with their words first rather than against their words as you read. Despite the hate and the hurt, there may be truth and corrective there that you can profit from. IF so, then----

2. Love them by thanking them for their interest and time, and for that helpful piece of advice or corrective. Identify what was helpful. Shower grace upon gracelessness (But only if you can do it sincerely.) 

3. Love them by staying silent, no matter how outrageous the accusations against you. Don't feed their dis-ease by responding. There are many dear people out there with mental and physical health issues whose only social outlet is the internet. Any response at all may prolong both your pain and theirs.

4. Love them by listening between the lines for the real issue, the deep hurt that they're writing from. If the Holy Spirit prompts, respond kindly and with concern, not to the issue at hand, but to their own experience and well-being.

5. Love them by calmly and respectfully inviting further dialogue with them through personal email rather than a public site. But only if prompted by the Holy Spirit and only out of concern for them rather than for a righting of your own reputation.

6. Love them by reminding them you are a real human being with feelings, a family, a dog, and kids you're trying to get through school. In other words, help them re-attach words on a screen with the human beings who wrote them.   

7. Love them by praying for them. Yes, really. They are likely more hurt and damaged than you are. 

8. Love that reader and love your future readers by not allowing the hurtful commentators to steal your voice and shut you down. Too many writers I know have given up on publishing because of the haters. This is the least loving response of all. 

And do you know----like this, some attackers have become allies, some antagonists have become partners, some enemies have become friends? It is true.

One more thing. 

What do we do when other writers are under attack? Don't engage with the pit bull commentator. Write a note of encouragement to the writer herself in the comment thread. Let her know how much you appreciate their words.  Simple words of thanks mean SO much to writers. I have been the  grateful recipient of so many kind commentators. In the midst of the many doubts and hurtful words, those words help keep us going. 

There is never enough love or grace in this world. And do you know who needs love more than anyone? Yup. The haters. 

Go out and love them kindly and well. Onscreen and off. As the Lord has flung his profligate mercies upon us, let us do the same for them.