Why I marched with #marchforourlives

I should be focusing on Holy Week.  I am a pastor, and the services this week are arguably the most important for Christians.

But instead I find myself unable to focus on anything but the #marchforourlives movement and my participation at the local Williamsburg march.

Why did I march?  Because for the first time since Columbine, I sense that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of real change in reforming our gun laws.  

This morning I have read many articles about the march, both pro and con.  Some estimates say the total worldwide participation approached two million people.  Many touted the articulate students who spoke in the face of their grief.  Some recognized those people who supported the marchers by opening their homes, providing transportation, etc.  Many argue this is the face of real change.

Others are deriding the march and those participating as an “affluent” cause for people who want a “safe” cause to support, claiming that most who marched don’t have a direct connection to gun violence (e.g. losing someone to a gunshot) are illegitimate posers looking to “feel good” about protesting.   One article highlighted that protesters stepped over homeless people without noticing or caring on their way to the capitol.

So why did I march?  On Feb 14, the day of the Parkland massacre, as I prayed (yes, thoughts and prayers can make a difference in the life of the one doing the praying), I vowed I would stand up and be counted for substantive action to reduce the chances of this happening again.  Little did I know that the passion of the students of MSDouglas would lead to a real movement.

While I was researching gun violence in search of some inspiration for a sign, I learned some helpful facts:

  • The US has 4.4 percent of the world’s population and nearly HALF of the world’s civilian-owned guns
  • Most gun deaths are SUICIDES
  • Police are 3 times more likely to be killed on duty in states with the highest number of firearms
  • And (not new to me) the US has one of the highest death-by-gun rates in the world.  Countries with strict gun laws have far lower rates

(These facts come primarily from this VOX article and are supported elsewhere: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/2/16399418/us-gun-violence-statistics-maps-charts –  The suicide stat hits me very close to home.  An MW staff member killed himself with a rifle.  It was one of the most painful times of my life.)

Why march now, and why focus on gun violence when causes like reducing homelessness and bullying are equally valid?

  • This movement has clearly articulated, achievable goals.   Raise the age for legal gun purchase.  Require licenses, registration and background checks.  Ban assault weapons.   Mandatory waiting period.
  • This is a student-led effort — these youth are passionate about making Democracy work again.  And when they see they really can make a difference, I hope they will lead us to tackle these other issues.
  • More than #enough.  It has been 20 years since Columbine, a day I remember distinctly, as a nation looked on in horror.  Now school shootings are barely noticed.

I’m standing up against gun violence.  Lord, help me resist the temptation to sit back down.



Dance Off, Bro…

You may have heard there are health benefits to eating dark chocolate.  I choose to believe this is true.  My daily dose of this confection is usually a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate with almonds.  Back in the day when it was a Christian outfit, the wrappers contained a scripture verse. In its more worldly incarnation, it is more like a fortune cookie, doling out advice to make your life more positive.

Today’s advice?  “Solve arguments with a dance-off.”  Good advice.  You would think my super-hero mind would immediately dart to the climactic scene of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” in which the hero challenges the villain to a dance-off, distracting the villain and sealing his doom.

But no, my mind generated a meme, which I wish I was talented enough to create: Our President and Kim Jung Un facing off in some absurdly delightful movements with the caption, “Dance Off, Bro…”

If only solving the world’s problems were that easy…  At least I hope the thought makes you smile.

dance off


The Attitude of Gratitude

I frequently speak of my experience of striving to become complaint -free.  A corollary to that experience is cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  It is a lot easier to focus on and celebrate what you are grateful for when you are not dragged down by those negative nuisances that creep into your thoughts in form of complaints.

In fact, it is sort of a cyclical and symbiotic thing:  when you are thanking God for every aspect of your life, even the challenges, there is nor room for complaining.  And when you are not complaining, you become aware of so much more to be grateful for.

Here are two links that I think speak well to consciously developing an attitude of gratitude.  The first considers some biblical foundations for gratitude:


The second is more of a “how to” for working towards a life that expresses gratitude:

6 Ways to Keep an Attitude of Gratitude

However you get there, on the path to a more thankful life, a more gracious and compassionate life, it will be worth the journey.

The Ninth Hour

33And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”    Mark 15 (ESV)

It takes my breath away — the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf.  Last night Pastor Mark reminded us that too often the words of our faith, our litany, our praise and our confession all roll off our lips too easily.  Going through the motions without considering their significance.

On this most holy day, as Jesus’ blood poured out for me, the curtain of the temple was torn, from top to bottom. To Jews, the temple curtain was a barrier, where only the high priest entered one day a year to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people (atonement).  It was torn TOP to BOTTOM, because God was tearing it, not humans.  Christ’s death on the cross for me, for you, means HE is the atoning sacrifice, and there are no barriers between God and God’s people.

So today reminds me that NOTHING can separate us from the love God in Christ Jesus, not even death.  And it reminds me that I need to live in a way that reflects what I believe, what I know that is true.

Last night, as Mark and I stood at the back the sanctuary, watching the choir sing their final piece, we noticed the stained glass behind the choir looked like it was flashing, almost like lightning, as if God was endorsing the worship, the words, the music…   It reminded me of Amy Grant’s version of our final hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” a uniquely beautiful love song for a savior.

“Let me never outlive my love for thee”


I have a lousy memory.  This has not always been true, and I recognize that part of the issue is simply my getting older. My son says I shouldn’t be allowed to travel alone because I ALWAYS have to run back inside for something I forgot – my wallet, keys, cell phone – which some member of my family has dutifully caused me to remember.  My memory issues are especially apparent now that I am in a new setting trying to learn hundreds of names, and I pray daily that the congregation will be patient with me.  And in this era of information overload, I think remembering has gotten that much harder.

God knew that remembering is a struggle for the human family.  And so Jesus, on the night he was betrayed took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “Do this — Remember me”

And so it was, when I was 13 years old and my youth group was preparing to go on a mission trip, a young pastor came to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with us.  We sat in a circle on the floor of the church parlor, and he said the words: “This is my body broken for you,” and “This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, poured out for you…”  We were sharing the meal by tearing the bread from the loaf, and dipping it in the cup, then holding the the bread and cup for the next person (I now know this method of sharing is called “intinction”), and this startled me a little, it was different, somehow more real.  When the young woman next to me handed me the bread, she said, “This is Christ’s body broken for you, because he loves you and so do I.”

It was like a lightbulb went off in my head–no, maybe more like a candle was lit in my heart.  Jesus did this for ME, for me in all my insecurity and self-doubt and unpopularity and stupid petty teenage nonsense, for me!  Because he loves ME!  I finally understood…

You would think that something as important and life altering as Christ’s death on the cross, his love for me, his compassion for me, his rising and calling me to new life every day would not be that difficult to remember.  And yet every time I complain instead of compliment, every time I cut someone off in traffic, every time I let anger cloud my judgement, every time I gossip…  I forget.

I need to remember.  Maybe you do, too.  Tonight is “Maundy Thursday”, so called because Maundy means “commandment.”  On this night, as he celebrated the passover feast with his discciples, Jesus said “This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. No greater love has anyone than this, than to lay down his life, her life, for friends.”  And so he did, lay down his life.  Tonight we remember.  And in remembering, we hope to live closer to fulfilling that commandment, to love others as Jesus loves us.

Not every church has a service tonight, and if yours doesn’t let me encourage you to find one that does,  Yorkminster Presbyterian Church has a service at 7:00, and you are welcome.  Or simply take a few minutes to read John 13-17, or Luke 22, and close your eyes and listen for God calling you

to remember.

Thinking Out Loud

Writing is one of my Lenten disciplines.  My hope with this space is to share ideas or insights that create passion or inspire.

Anyone who has been around me for more than about 10 minutes knows that I have a habit of talking to myself.  And while this may drive others crazy, it helps me sort out my thoughts or remember something that really needs remembering.  There actually is science to it – verbalizing a thought gives it two extra chances to be remembered, both through the speaking and the hearing.

So journaling or blogging, for me, is essentially thinking out loud.  It is taking thought and giving it dimension–and this often produces more insight and ideas.  And when it becomes a conversation, then the contributions of the community escalate that insight exponentially, and often the Holy Spirit’s work becomes evident.

So welcome to this new blog.  May God guide your thinking and insight.