Half-Mast

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For weeks now, flags have been flying at half-mast.

It is a consistent reminder that there is much to grieve.

It is like as a culture, we are all grieving, but because of the impact of multiple events one after another, we cannot finish grieving, so are left raw, and sometimes, desensitized.

A good friend heading 20-some hours on a bus down to training camp for National Guard, two weeks ago, was inundated with violent movies on the ride down by those in charge. One after another. He texted us at the 6th movie asking for prayer. “Could you give me some things to pray for?” He asked us. He texted later that that had helped but that they had just started the 8th movie. Eight violent movies in a row.

“What’s the purpose?” I texted.

He wrote, “I don’t know. Desensitization?”

In our lives and culture, that is what it is like for us. We get one event on top of another —  international events from Brussels, to Nice, to Bangladesh, to Istanbul, to Baghdad, to Munich, to Kabul and then local events, the stress of race relations, the shootings by police in Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, and Miami, and the shootings of police, in Dallas and Baton Rouge.  Does the grief become raw because we can no longer feel it any longer?  Or are we so desensitized to death, that we don’t feel the grief that might be normal?

One famous photo of the possible healing of race relationships is from December 2014 in PortlandPolice hug portland when Davonte Hart, at a protest in the aftermath of the Ferguson decision, was holding up a sign that said “Free Hugs.”

Portland police sargent Bret Barnum saw it and asked if he could have a hug.  The photo caught on camera by Jonny Nguyen became famous, a picture of what we hope would be the call and reality of this nation.

In the wake of the Dallas shootings in which 5 officers died, the people of Dallas poured out love on the police there, bringing cookies and treats to the stations, and lining up to offer the officers hugs.   In the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring” Galadriel tells Frodo:  “In all lands, love is now mingled with grief.”  Isn’t that true.

In Luke 7 we encounter the story of Jesus and the widow of Nain, when Jesus, filled with compassion, goes up to the widow as she follows her son’s bier out of the village to burial, and says:  “Don’t cry.” He then touches the bier, and the bearers stop, and speaks to the boy, saying, “Get up!”  At once the boy returns to life, sits up and begins to speak.  And Jesus restores him to his mother.

In worship recently, I asked the question, “What might we learn about Jesus and compassion that he says to the widow, ‘don’t cry?'”  And certainly, at first glance, we might wonder at his insensitivity.  Except that the text tells us he did this because he was filled with compassion for her.  If she was weeping, perhaps uncontrollably, as all her prospects for a hopeful future lay on that bier, then anything that Jesus did would be missed by her. One of the people at that worship service caught this saying, “Had Jesus not told her ‘don’t cry,’ she never would have seen her boy raised to life.  She would have missed what God was doing.”  This woman observed that Jesus had great love for the widow, and had told her “don’t cry,” or,

She would have missed what God was doing.

Perhaps in this era of being both desensitized to death and loss by the numerous losses, and in being raw with emotion, as we seek to grieve, we too can totally miss what Jesus is doing, we can miss how God has drawn near to us, at such a time as this, we can miss the intimacies of Jesus because of the emotions or the numbness we feel.

So, dealing with emotion has become a part of the preparation of the Camino for me.  The Camino, the Way, is not just my journey, but all of our journeys, as we find our way in this season in this nation in this world at this time.  It is a time to remember to look for God in the middle of numbing grief, and flags at half-mast.  It is a time to look up so that we can see what Jesus is up to. It is a time to embrace others with compassion, for we know that this life is much too short. It is a time to say “I love you,” as often as possible.  It is a time to remember that everyone around us feels emotion in different ways about the current events.  A guy at the pool told me yesterday he was “scared as hell” about what is going on in the nation as I reached out to him.

I think it is not easy when we are all at “half-mast” to remember that there is hope, there is a reason to ‘look up,’ but there always is.

One last line from the “Fellowship of the Ring.”  Galadriel tells Frodo:  “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  And that can be true of each of us as we but “look up” and see Jesus at work, joining him.

About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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One Response to Half-Mast

  1. Camino Way 2016 Shimer says:

    Reblogged this on caminowalk2016 and commented:

    It has been nearly a year since I first posted this, yet, today in conversations at Annual Conference, I heard again the same pain here expressed and the same need for love in perilous times. Hence this repost…

    Like

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